November 20, 2019

Talsur - Eversleep

By Master of Muppets. Most people probably don't hear the term 'death doom' and think 'now THAT'S what I call bedtime music!' Say what you will about the time signatures or a perceived lack of energy when compared to, say, war metal
By Master of Muppets.


Most people probably don't hear the term 'death doom' and think 'now THAT'S what I call bedtime music!' Say what you will about the time signatures or a perceived lack of energy when compared to, say, war metal, but the staple growls and tomb rattling guitars of death-doom aren't exactly synonymous with lullabies, either. Typically I'd agree with the nocturnal naysayers, but typically my life has been spent unaware of Eversleep. Never before have I considered an album's ability to put me to sleep to be a glowing testament to its execution, but here we are, getting tucked in by Talsur.

Eversleep opens on a few deceptive notes of stoner doom, lazily lofting along and causing one to wonder just where this album's gonna wind up, but things quickly go downhill and subsequently uphill into mournful, ethereal doom of a much more straightforward melancholic variety, and that's where they remain for 54 minutes. Like any doom act worth the salt of their tears, weeping Katatonic guitars Enshine these otherwise darkened skies, illuminating a landscape of further crushing sadness forged by the harsh spirits of Novembers Doom and Swallow the Sun. Throw in some languidly lovely degrees of Draconian and Saturnus worship and BOOM, you have Talsur.

While the instrumental section checks pretty much every box I have for melancholic must-do's, one-man Russian army of doom Vitaly Surkov's vocals threw me a pleasant curveball. The easiest descriptor for his style would have to be 'Mikael Stanne's cleans on misophonia mode.' Surkov's overall pitch and tone is indeed highly reminiscent of Stanne's relatively rare demonstrations of clean croonery, but there's a certain rolling timbre to his deepest register that quite literally gives me chills when I hear it. This quiet thundering instills a sense of particularly believable despair, evoking an atmosphere of serene resignation to defeat rather unlike anything I've heard before.

In either a brilliant production move or else a happy accident, the consistently soft mix of Eversleep in turn offers a surprise of its own - namely in the muted manner that its most tumultuous moments are meted out; the most jarring moments of the album rarely get any louder than the softer surrounding soundscape, meaning you can fall asleep to this one without any fear of it ripping you back to consciousness when things get good 'n heavy. Intentional or otherwise, I adore this effect, and at the risk of a lawsuit I must confess that I've been sleeping with Talsur every night as a result.

All in all, Eversleep feels like a pleasant dream about a miserable home, or perhaps a nightmare about happier times. It's as soothing as it is sorrowful, as peacefully placating as it is powerful and plangent. It's a violent hug from a tear-soaked monster, and it's more than welcome to hide under my bed any night.

November 18, 2019

Epic Metal Roundup

By Calen Henry. Earlier in the month Wilderun released their epic third album Veil of Imagination so it’s a great time to continue the legend and break out some other epic metal. Metal is a genre prone to drama and grandiosity, in other words, it’s epic. Historically, though, epic didn’t simply mean larger than life
By Calen Henry.

Earlier in the month Wilderun released their epic third album Veil of Imagination so it’s a great time to continue the legend and break out some other epic metal. Metal is a genre prone to drama and grandiosity, in other words, it’s epic. Historically, though, epic didn’t simply mean larger than life, it referred to a specific long form of poetry best known through Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad (both of which have been the subject of multiple metal songs). Some albums tell stories in a dramatic fashion befitting the literary meaning of epic be they historical, fantasy, or science fiction. Epic also manifests in the modern sense with bombastic arrangements and long-form multi-part songs. Some albums may even pull off both. Here’s a trio of albums that each approach epic in different and interesting ways.

Artwork by Jana Heidersdorf.

Xanthochroid are top of the heap for high concept epic fantasy metal to the point that they’ll likely turn off some listeners. All of their albums take place in Etymos, a fantasy realm of their own creation. Their website even has a lore section. Of Erthe and Axen is the two-part prequel to their previous album Blessed He with Boils. In brief, it tells the story of two brothers vying for power, the love of a woman, and control of ancient forbidden magic. The concept is engrossing and involved enough that the albums include completely justified listening guides. They lay out not only lyrics but the full-fledged story complete with character dialog and a narrative connecting all the verses and songs together. The songs are so much related that the titles make up the final lyrics of Part II, tying everything together:

Open the gates, O forest keeper
To lost and ancient gardens
To higher climes where few might stand
To souls distant and dreaming

In deep and wooded forests of my youth
The sound of hunger rises
The sound of a glinting blade
The sound which has no name 

Reveal thy shape, O formless one
Of aching, empty pain
Of gods bereft of grace
Of strength, and the lust for power

Walk with me, O winged mother
Through caverns old and yawning
Through chains that drag us downward
Toward truth and reconciliation

Musically it’s symphonic black metal meets Alan Menkin for what really feels like a metal Disney musical. There is as much classical instrumentation (with a delightful amount of oboe) as metal and it features male/female vocal duets telling the characters’ stories throughout. It may not be every metal fan’s cup of tea and it may be too metal for die hard musical fans, but anyone who likes metal, fantasy, and musicals would be remiss not to check it out especially since all their albums are Name Your Price.



Though not particularly epic in the narrative sense, Lör are musically way over the top. They play what is best described as “turbo folk metal”. Though lacking much of the traditional folk instrument backbone featured in many “folky” metal bands they’re folk by nature of their compositions. Many of their songs start with rhythms and motifs from traditional instrumental folk music then crank up the speed, layer face-melting solos over top, and underpin it with machine gun double kick. There’s a classic thrash feel to it that brings to mind early 90’s power metal thanks to the high clip of the riffs, the guitar tone, and the way the synths sound unabashedly like keyboard patches rather than like a real orchestra. It’s a singular sound and one that took me a bit to get into, but man, does it rip.



Nechochwen present a different and somber version of epic. Hearkening back to historical epic poetry, Heart of Akamon tells stories of displaced indigenous people in eastern America and their journeys to find a place to belong and preserve their traditions. To accomplish this the band play a blend of visceral melodic black metal and folk. But even reducing the music to those genre demarcations is a bit disingenuous. Every track on the album is different from the last and each creates a singular mood that beautifully and terribly conveys each story and theme. The album comes with images of the CD booklet that I found to be essential to understanding and connecting with the album. Not only are the lyrics contained therein, but the band has written about the historical context of each song on the album. The album starts with first contact with Europeans in the ominous “The Serpent Tradition” and traverses themes of life, loss, violence, grief and ultimately hope on the album closer "Kišelamakong". Putting it all together with the lyrics and concepts reveals one of, if not the single best, folk metal album I have ever heard.

November 15, 2019

Abigail Williams - Walk Beyond the Dark

By M.A. Spiro. The enigmatic extreme metal collective that is Abigail Williams once again marshals forces to produce a fifth, and likely their most blistering, full-length recording yet. Walk Beyond the Dark, has been released on the group’s new label, Blood Music of Finland.
By M.A. Spiro.

Artwork by Mariusz Lewandowski

The enigmatic extreme metal collective that is Abigail Williams once again marshals forces to produce a fifth, and likely their most blistering, full-length recording yet. Walk Beyond the Dark, has been released on the group’s new label, Blood Music of Finland.

Championed by lead guitarist, vocalist, and primary composer Ken Sorceron, Abigail Williams’ new recording delivers a massive dose of rage-tinged pathos. The seven-track album spins a glistening narrative with themes of despair, longing, and destruction. Prepare for songs like “Black Waves” to tear your heart out and hand it back to you -- still beating. Brace yourself to be swept away by songs like “Born of Nothing,” which harkens back to the most unforgiving sections of the group’s 2012 offering, Becoming.

I reached out to Ken to talk about the album’s creation in detail. He composed most of the songs on Walk Beyond the Dark during the last five years in between contributing his talents to other musical endeavors, such as Cobalt, The Faceless, and Lord Mantis. Some of the songs reflect the black metal intensity derived from the places where he’s been spending much of his time: the otherworldly beauty found in the Pacific Northwest and the arid desolation experienced in the Texan outback.

I wrote all the songs except “The Final Failure,” which was a song that Ian Jekelis (Aborted) brought to the table back in 2014 when he was in the band. It morphed into what it is now after I fucked with it for years.

The everchanging lineups for Abigail Williams have always featured some of the most phenomenally talented musicians around. Joining Sorceron this time are drummer Mike Heller (Fear Factory, Malignancy,, Raven); bass player Bryan O’Sullivan (Altar of Plagues, Mortichina), and classically trained cellist Christopher “Kakophonix” Brown (ex-Empyrean Throne, Hvile I Kaos). Not since the album Becoming have the talents of a cellist been featured so prominently. In addition, Justin McKinney (ex-The Faceless) provides a guest guitar solo on the track “Ever So Bold.”

Unlike The Accuser (2015), which included guest vocals from Neill Jameson (Krieg) and Charlie Fell (Lord Mantis, Cobalt), Walk Beyond the Dark features Sorceron singing every tune. Listeners may be surprised at the fair amount of clean vocals employed here, but they don’t overpower the riffage.

Recording for Walk Beyond the Dark took place in Washington, New York, and Dublin, Ireland. Mixing and mastering were accomplished by Lasse Lammert of LSD Studio in Lübeck, Germany. Where the last two albums demonstrated a transition and maturation of the group’s sound, could one say that Walk Beyond the Dark most closely represents the Abigail Williams’ sound? Ken seems to think so.

It really has elements of all four previous albums in my opinion, so in that regard it’s the most ‘Abigail Williams’ sounding album to date. I think it’s a good culmination of everything I’ve done. All those sounds come together to create this album. The production is top notch while still retaining raw qualities. It’s dreamy and atmospheric when it needs to be and punchy and clinical when the song calls for it.

Like the master craftsman that he is, Ken never expresses complete satisfaction with anything he’s accomplished, and the evolution of Abigail Williams is no different. As a musician, he says, he’s

gotten shittier at some things but better at others. I’ve stopped listening to other bands, for the most part, and I’ve just been doing my own thing.

Has Abigail Williams attained its final form? Not likely. For now, Walk Beyond the Dark presents fans with the most accurate snapshot of the level of excellence that American black metal can achieve today. I am pretty sure this will be my album of the year or at least close to the top.