January 20, 2020

From The Metal Archives Vol. 10 - Black Lion Records

[Welcome to another special edition of From The Metal Archives. This one is meant to showcase that January is name-your-price month on Black Lion Records' Bandcamp page. Here's three epic black metal (somewhat of a Black Lion specialty) releases for you to check out.
By the reviewers from The Metal Archives.

[Welcome to another special edition of From The Metal Archives. This one is meant to showcase that January is name-your-price month on Black Lion Records' Bandcamp page. Here's three epic black metal (somewhat of a Black Lion specialty) releases for you to check out. There's more good stuff over there (also in other genres) and nearly all of it is available as name-of-price downloads.]

Artwork by Alex Tartsus.

[The Metal Archives reviewer Lord_Lexy said]
In 2013 the four instrumentalists of Bal-Sagoth reunited under the name Kull, got reinforced by new vocalist Tarkan Alp and recorded their first, promising demos. There was definitely potential in these new tracks, but it was clear that Alp needed to mature as a singer. And of course Kull needed a label to release its début. Black Lion Records stepped forward.

And this brings us to Exile itself. The musical pedigree is very clear, though the sound has evolved into something more raw than what we heard on The Chthonic Chronicles and with a bigger emphasis on the black metal elements of the music. Alp clearly grew as a singer and can now showcase his own vocal sound.
[read Lord_Lexy's full review here]



[The Metal Archives reviewer Paganbasque said]
The single “Orin Kozh” was a first taste of the (finally) upcoming debut entitled Hanter Savet. The band has decided to play homage to its roots writing the lyrics for the debut in Breton, the ancient language of Brittany. This album opener was the perfect presentation of the album and a confirmation that the core sound of Vindland was still there. The track has the traditional combination of fast tremolo riffs and an excellent taste for the melodies. Anyway, my expectations were absolutely fulfilled with the next single and second track of the album, “Treuswelus”. This song broght back the up beating and incredibly beautiful melodies influenced by Valfar´s unique style. It’s impossible not to headbang with this track which is epic beyond words.
[read Paganbasque's full review here]


Artwork by Simon Bossert.

[The Metal Archives reviewer Edmund Sackbauer said]
The greatest aspect of the album is how the harmonies of the lead guitars and the symphonic samples have been woven into the whole picture and how they work as contrast to the aggressive riff attacks. The band members have a fantastic talent for creating haunting and beautiful melodies that feel melancholic and depressive but also offer a glimmer of hope at the same time. They have worked with the interaction of musky moments and lighter pieces and have melted all those elements into one great piece of sinister and eerie art.
[read Edmund Sackbauer's full review here]

January 17, 2020

Lotus Thief - Oresteia

By Justin C. I’ve seen a lot of talk about Lotus Thief being post-metal or post-rock or post-whatever, but let’s get something straight: Their latest, Oresteia, is a rock opera, and a damn good one. Remember The Who’s Tommy or Husker Du’s Zen Arcade?
By Justin C.


I’ve seen a lot of talk about Lotus Thief being post-metal or post-rock or post-whatever, but let’s get something straight: Their latest, Oresteia, is a rock opera, and a damn good one. Remember The Who’s Tommy or Husker Du’s Zen Arcade? Yeah, I know, they all happened before you were born, but that’s what we’re looking at here. A concept record telling a story over its length. Except instead of a deaf and blind pinball wizard, the source material comes from three linked tragedies by Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides, a 2500-year-old trilogy of plays known collectively as Oresteia.

Lotus Thief’s self-designated genre of “text metal” might still be the best way to think of them. Having grown from a one-off contribution to a Botanist album, the band has put out three striking albums inspired by and devoted to books. Oresteia is probably the most ambitious in scope and sound. The project has grown into a full-fledged five-member band, helmed by frontwoman Bezaelith and her otherworldly vocals.

Given the plays used as inspiration are Greek tragedies, you can probably guess the general themes. In "Agamemnon", the titular King of Mycenae returns from The Trojan War only to be murdered by his wife, Clytemenstra. Revenge is called for, of course, so in "Libation Bearers", Agamemnon’s son comes back, as ordered by Apollo, and commits matricide. His son then flees, pursued by "The Furies", seeking justice for his act of...seeking justice.

The music itself walks right up to an intersection of artful rock and musical theater, of all things. Just a step or two further, and Lotus Thief might have gone over the top for my own tastes, but they walk the line between the nerdy sincerity of musical theater and a more natural expression of feeling that you’d expect from such a skilled rock/metal band. Tension builds and flows with the plot of the plays, but even if you knew nothing about them, the vocal and instrumental performances are top flight. There are no searing displays of technicality, but it’s not that kind of music--this is music based on superior songwriting and flawless execution. The interludes between the songs that represent the plays set the appropriate moods (“Banishment”, “Woe”, and “Reverence”) flawlessly, cementing the show-stopper pieces together seamlessly.

And those vocals. Way back in 2014, I was listening to Rervm while recovering from surgery. I missed the release date of Oresteia. because this time my fuzzy buddy, Marshall the Cat, was having surgery while I simultaneously suffered from a turn-your-body-inside-out stomach virus. It’s bad luck, but it’s hard to think of a voice I’d rather have in my ears at these lower times. Bezaelith croons, soars, and even snarls with a little 70s rock swagger in "Libation Bearers". Some may find the harsh vocals too few and far between, but they act as perfect counterpoint to the rest of the bravura performance.

Will some find this all a little too much? Too dramatic, too literary? Sure, maybe. But it’s their loss. If Lotus Thief decides that their next album will be an ode to the phone book or the source code for Microsoft Windows, I’ll be listening.

January 14, 2020

Hermoðr - Forest Sky

By Master of Muppets. The sound of winter is more than a Bush song. It is a living silence, a sentient storm and a shimmering array of frozen colors; it's far beyond my abilities to properly describe the sounds of the snowiest season, but I know it when I hear it.
By Master of Muppets.


The sound of winter is more than a Bush song. It is a living silence, a sentient storm and a shimmering array of frozen colors; it's far beyond my abilities to properly describe the sounds of the snowiest season, but I know it when I hear it. Simply put, Hermoðr's Forest Sky sounds like winter. It's cold, beautiful and utterly unforgiving, and it's about time you learned to appreciate it.

A solo project created by the one-man Swedish army, Rafn, Hermoðr boasts an impressive discography, something to the tune of 40+ releases. Many of these are longform singles or EP's, but the key takeaway here is that if/when you fall in love with Hermoðr, there's a lot of material available on Bandcamp for further exploration - and it's all dirt cheap. I envy anyone just beginning their love affair with Hermoðr; you've a long and lovely ride ahead of you and it's hardly going to break your bank.

The particular offering being discussed today is a 10 track adventure, fueled by a poignant and potent blend of tender melancholy and raw black fury - or is it perhaps a mixture of violent sadness and gentle rage? "Winter Storm", for example, is as mournful as it is menacing, while "My Reflection in the Ice" feels like an ode to wandering off and dying alone in the snowclad wilderness; With a mix as raw as the flayed heart on its sleeve, Forest Sky is as emotionally evocative as atmoblack gets, and (surprise, surprise) none of it is immediately or overly positive.

Stylistically speaking, Hermoðr haunt a particularly harrowing patch of tonal turf directly adjacent to Woods of Desolation. Fraught with tremolo picking and harsh shrieks, the songs stay true to the rough aesthetic of DSBM, yet by and large Forest Sky is a very melodic ordeal. Delicately dour atmospheres are often brought to life by fragile clean guitar passages, and even the most aggressive moments are soaked in the tears of minor scales. Essentially, Forest Sky is what one might expect to hear if Winterfylleth were perpetually depressed and putting their best, saddest foot forward.

Hermoðr is nothing less than a goldmine of raw black goodness, and Forest Sky is a gem in its own right, one that belongs in the hearts and musical libraries of every fan of melancholic black metal. One could get lost for days in Rafn's woeful wonderland, and listeners are encouraged to do so immediately; tons of top-notch tunes at bottom-dollar prices are what you'll find, and if you're into that sort of thing in general and depressive atmoblack in particular, you're in for a tearfully tasty treat.