November 30, 2014

Sundays of Misfortune 4: The Locust Years

By Andy Osborn. What does a band do after such a perfect output as The August Engine? Do they switch it up and forge a new path or keep going with what worked so well previously? Impressively, The Locust Years sees Hammers of Misfortune doing a little of both
By Andy Osborn.

Early this year Hammers of Misfortune made their discography available on Bandcamp (everything except for 2011's 17th Street). In the Sundays of Misfortune series Andy Osborn takes a look at each of the albums, continuing here with 2006's The Locust Years.

Cover art by Thomas Woodruff

What does a band do after such a perfect output as The August Engine? Do they switch it up and forge a new path or keep going with what worked so well previously? Impressively, The Locust Years sees Hammers of Misfortune doing a little of both, albeit with enough restraint as to not exceed their grasp or limit their creativity. Part of this change is a shift in the lineup, foreshadowing much bigger changes that are soon to come. Jamie Myers of Wolves in the Throne Room and Sabbath Assembly fame replaces Janis Tanaka on bass and backup vocals, both of which are more pronounced this time around. The rest of the band sounds largely as they did before, with the exception of Sigrid switching from piano to Hammond organ. Its unmistakable tone gives a circus-like feel to the tales of dystopian politics gone mad.

Some familiar tricks are employed as Cobbett and Co. recycle a few choice riffs to maximize their impact; once again the (partly) instrumental intro acts as the reservoir for these fantastic streams of sound that grow into raging rivers as they reach their apex. Overall the music strays closer to the ballad side of things, with emotional slow burners like “Famine’s Lamp” and “We Are The Widows” dominating the mood. But the guitar-forward epic “Trot Out The Dead” and the painfully pretty “Chastity Rides” are the highlights of this more somber album.

The key to Hammers of Misfortune’s success is, as I’ve hinted at this before, their ability to balance all the ingredients of their complex recipe. At once playful, deadly serious and forward-thinking, there’s just the perfect amount of prog in their prog metal. But that’s prog with a lowercase “p” because there’s not a hint of pretension or weird for weird’s sake to be found. Just a group of musicians growing comfortable together, learning from one another and pushing each other to make devastatingly captivating music.

Bits and pieces of The Locust Years are easily as - and sometimes more - memorable as The August Engine, but as a whole it isn't quite as perfect. This slowed down and more reflective version of Hammers of Misfortune doesn't reach the grand scale they’re capable of. But that’s hardly a criticism. If anything, this third full-length solidifies their rightful place as a band to be reckoned with. Their quirky individuality, songwriting genius and the unstoppable duo of Mike Scalzi and John Cobbett make The Locust Years a fantastic addition to the Hammers catalog.

Dhwesha - Sthoopa

Guest review by BreadGod from Servile Insurrection

I don't really review a lot of metal that comes out of India, mainly because most of the stuff they make doesn't really appeal to me. Luckily, I finally managed to find a band that interests me. Their name is Dhwesha. They formed in Bangalore in 2008 and released their full-length debut, Sthoopa, eight years later. This album is a great homage to death metal's early days.

The music these guys play is mid-paced and crushing. It sounds like a mix of Bolt Thrower and Morbid Angel. The bass is played by guest musician Avinash Ramchander. His performance is really high in the mix, which means the rest of the music sound dark and gritty as a result. Many modern death metal bands don't pay attention to the bass. It's good to know that the Indians are holding true to the old ways. Drummer Tushar Bajaj eschews rapid fire blast beats in favor of steady mid-paced rhythms that sound like a wave of cataphracts charging across the plains. The snare sounds like hammer blows and the cymbals sound like the clashing of steel. He also spices things up by playing a few elaborate patterns and fills that are influenced by traditional Hindi music. This influence becomes most apparent at the end of “Yuddhabhumi”. I loved that song.

The vocals are performed by Ajay Nagaraj. He belts out growls are dark and cavernous. He sounds like an army of ancient soldiers that had been risen from the grave. The guitars are performed by Somesha Sridhara. He has no interest in shredding your face off. Instead, he chooses to play lots of crushing mid-paced riffs that sound like the stomping of elephants from hell. These riffs possess a dirty, old school sound that would make the death metal gods smile. These rhythms eventually give way to piercing, high-pitched riffs and solos that radiate grace and beauty, a perfect contrast to the meaty old school riffs that dominate the album. As with the guitars, they also take the time to play a few riffs that are inspired by traditional Hindi music. This can be seen on songs like “Sabhe”. I love it when foreign metal bands spice up the recipe by mixing it with their culture.

These Indians have made something special here. Whereas most modern death metal sounds squeaky clean and sterile, these guys play it the way it originally was: dark, disgusting, and evil. They pay homage to legends like Bolt Thrower while also throwing in bits of their own culture into it. The end result is music that is powerful, aggressive, and unique

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November 29, 2014

Meat and Potatoes with a side of Dal Bhat

Written by Kevin Page.

Sweden's version of Bolt Thrower, Just Before Dawn, returns for their sophomore effort of war induced death metal, aptly named, The Aftermath. This is the brainchild of ex Amon Amarth guitarist, Anders Biazzi. Following the path of its predecessor, it's loaded with guest appearances from well known members of the scene (too many to list, you can see who after you click the link and listen). It's death metal, its mid paced, it's like getting hit by an artillery strike. This should come as no surprise as the band isn't looking to reinvent the wheel here. If you'd like to know more, read my interview over at No Clean Singing.

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Yes, more Swedish death metal. Is that ever really a bad thing? Featuring Per Boder and Björn Larsson of God Macabre fame, Mordbrand have released multiple splits and EP since 2010.  Imago is the band's debut full length and finally something that clicks with me.  It's not that I disliked their prior material, but it just never did much for me.  I can't put a reason on why or what it is about this album that resonates with me though.  Did they finally wear me down with their take on the style?  Did I have an epiphany?  I dunno, I just like it.  It's thick and heavy but with a looser and dare I say "bouncier" vibe than most bands doing the 'ole Swede thang.

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Another Swedish band, really? Well, Pyre are from Russia, but they sure sound Swedish. Think of an old school Dismember, during their violent and angry era (Like an Ever Flowing Stream/Pieces). I wrote about their prior 2012 EP here and stylistically they haven't changed one lick. And why should they change? They've only gotten better and better with each release. But before you roll your eyes and think they are yet another band mining the same overused well, give it a listen. If their conviction and energy don't win you over, the earworm riffs will.

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Now what do you we have here. This band from Nepal unleashes their debut album seemingly out of nowhere. While they refer to themselves as Hindu/Vedic death metal, it often straddles the line of brutal death metal. The use of traditional ethnic instruments, along with chants and some female vocals add to the diversity. At times this works flawlessly and at times it feels slightly jumbled. When the band turns to blastbeats and treads into the brutal death metal category, it usually feels underdeveloped and/or "old hat". Overall there is much more to like here than be critical of. This is a band that is just screaming out for a more polished and refined sophomore record. I hope they can pull it off when that day comes.

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November 28, 2014

John, the Void - John, the Void

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Whenever an album has some kind of intro and outro tracks, I take it as a hint that probably listening to all of its tracks in the given order might make sense. And it obviously does in the case of John, the Void’s self titled EP of six songs and a total playing time of nearly 36 minutes.

An instrumental track called “The Eleventh” opens the album with dark metallic sounds like hammer on steel, creaking, grinding metal and distorted voices, accompanied by a dark ambient atmosphere as obscure that it leaves you wonder which direction the whole thing might take…, it could lead into some dark ambient industrial sounds as well as into the realms of post metal.

The following track “In Rows” though, leaves little doubt that this will become a post metal experience enriched with big portions of drone, doom and noise to create dark apocalyptic images and atmospheres. Any traces of doubt still left will be destroyed when the vocals set in for the first time at about 1:45. Harsh, growling screams that support the vibes of bleak, cold violence perfectly well, alternate with ambient instrumental parts, moments of quiet melancholy and despair carried by beautiful, emphatic melodies.

The rare wan rays of light and hope that are detectable through the otherwise cold and lonely darkness of “In Rows” are getting totally obliterated by the devastating heaviness of the next track “Quiescence”. This, being the longest song of the EP (and my favorite), shows the excellent songwriting skills of this five piece band. The nearly 9 minute song is filled with several build ups and a variety of moods and tensions. Layers of sound slowly grow into thick and heavy soundscapes and the ambient instrumental parts with their haunting, somber melodies are no less intense than the depressive crushing doom.

The “The Reversionist” continues the slow painful agony of destruction with forceful strained vocals at the start and menacing ambience evoking gloomy emotions. “The Ascension” contains the explosive energy of a final uproar ending in black and bleak nothingness, and the outro track “The Seventh”, as if it were possible, seems to even increase the nothingness, but adds a soft droning ambience that is almost soothing and consoling. This is also an instrumental and the complementary to the intro track and closes the album.

Within each song there’s an excellent balance between the heavy parts with their strong vocals and the instrumental ambient ones with this unique melancholic quietness still full of tension and a huge emotional impact. The album as a whole has its own build up as well as each of the songs and makes it all sound perfectly organic.

The icing on the cake is a stellar DIY production.

The five piece band from Pordenone/Italy formed in 2012, the current line up exists since 2013 and this self titled EP from June 2014 is their debut release !!!

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The song "Quiescence" is featured on a The Wicked Lady Show 73.

November 26, 2014

Barbelith - Mirror Unveiled

Written by Matt Hinch.

Art by Art by A.B. Moore

Regular readers of Metal Bandcamp should know by now that this writer has a bit of a love affair with just about everything coming out of the Grimoire Records camp. They've got a stable full of well-bred stock competing hard in the USBM race. The latest charger to burst out of the gate is Barbelith and Mirror Unveiled.

The horse metaphor comes into play as Barbelith combines unbridled power with an inherent beauty as they marry up blistering black metal with spacious post-rock melodies over the course of four tracks and 27 minutes.

In general, the band dynamic relies on athletic percussive violence, harrowing vocal delivery and guitars that weave amongst themselves in fierce opposition while synchronous at their core. Barbelith's dichotomous nature works to not only scorch the earth to eradicate the negative but cleanse it as well allowing a fresh perspective to take its place.

On the longer tracks a cyclical pattern emerges moving from pure raging fury to serenity and back again while incorporating a mix of tempos. Galloping jaunts, skittering shuffles and a pseudo-groove all find a place alongside the ensuing madness and empyrean melodies. Among the obvious black metal comparisons (WITTR, Bosse-de-Nage) one can hear gentler passages reminiscent of Yakuza, Explosions in the Sky and even Pallbearer.

Most often the emotional cacophony builds to a crescendo as it spirals high to unleash a venom across the astral planes between bursts of energy and recovery. The rage seems necessary to clear clouds of melancholy and let peaceful, healing light bathe the listener. It's the juxtaposition of blasting drums and soaring, intimate melodies that really connect on multiple levels. Such as the anger that follows in the wake of hurt, or the fear that precedes opening up your heart and the relief that results.

One can feel a determination and drive to rise above the despair as Barbelith cycle through emotional states making minor changes along the way as no two experiences are exactly the same. And their tendency towards the mix of scorching black metal hatred and emotional melodies mirrors human nature in that the world is not black and white and nothing is fully understood on the superficial level.

Mirror Unveiled is a convincing and compelling album full of emotions both destructive and passionate. It hits the sweet spot balancing the furious with the halcyon, the raw with the refined. It's quite obvious that a broad palette of influences colour this majestic and triumphant work of art, filling all available space to create a surreal, enveloping and at times transcendent experience.

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November 25, 2014

Kingsblood - Trudging Through the Field of Crows

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Columbus, OH is an unlikely place to find a ravenous Viking horde, but from such humble geography Kingsblood have sprung. Their seven-inch, Trudging Through the Field of Crows, crams as much blood-drenched intensity as possible into the spare two tracks, making the most of this limited space with searing death vocals, a relentlessly driving pace and viscera-shredding, battle-heralding riffs.

"Hordes of the Night" has a vast, cinematic grandness that evokes sailing across oceans and through storms in a long ship in search of new continents to plunder. "The Howl" best showcases one of the strongest elements of this EP: the exceptional drumming, which drives the music forward and is full of unexpected, yet not overly showy, fills, all precise aggression and muscular violence.

Trudging Through the Field of Crows is an excellent, if brief, offering for those who prefer their Viking metal drenched in heaviness and light on theatrics, like an axe thrown lovingly into the back of a skull.

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November 24, 2014

Hope Drone - Hope Drone

Written by Justin C.

I've been listening to Deafheaven's Sunbather lately, "Dream House" in particular. The close of 2014 is kicking me around a bit, so I've felt drawn to music that wears its blackened heart on its sleeve. I haven't wanted to be intellectually engaged as much as I've wanted to be emotionally engaged. Very recently, I stumbled across post-black metal band Hope Drone and their self-titled album, and it scratches a very similar itch that Deafheaven does.

Like Deafheaven's George Clarke, Hope Drone vocalist Chris Rowden sounds as though he wants to obliterate human language and turn it into pure emotion. His vocals sound like they're physically painful to produce. Occasionally, like during the end of "Finite," he sounds nearly unhinged, and it's glorious. But I don't want to belabor the comparison between Deafheaven and Hope Drone too much, because that would be overly reductive and a bit unfair. Hope Drone occupies a similar post-black metal landscape with tons of atmosphere and washes of sound, but they are their own band.

You'll get all the tremolo guitar and blast beats you need here, but there's a great variety in the performances. Album opener "Advent" has guitar that sounds like an electrical storm turned into music. The rest of the song features slower riffs punctuated with tremolo rips. The intro riff for "Grains," although relatively quiet, still has an intense, stabbing quality to it. The drums also add plenty of nuance on their own. Between the requisite blasts, drummer Francil Keil plays everything from straightforward fills to oddly compelling, pulsing flurries.

On the Bandcamp page for this album, one of the buyers, Matt Kaminsky, says this album "gets me right in the feels." That's as succinct a summary as I could come up with. If you're in the mood to get your feels exercised with some gorgeously harsh black metal, you'd be hard pressed to do better than Hope Drone.

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November 23, 2014

Sundays of Misfortune 3: The August Engine

By Andy Osborn. There are a handful of albums that are really special to me. Albums that transcend the descriptor of “great music” and represent something more meaningful. I will always remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard The August Engine.
By Andy Osborn.

Early this year Hammers of Misfortune made their discography available on Bandcamp (everything except for 2011's 17th Street). In the Sundays of Misfortune series Andy Osborn takes a look at each of the albums, continuing here with 2003's The August Engine.

Cover drawing by John Cobbett

There are a handful of albums that are really special to me. Albums that transcend the descriptor of “great music” and represent something more meaningful. I will always remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard The August Engine. Setting up a tent during a camping trip on the Olympic Peninsula, I felt like listening to something new and exciting, hoping it would strike a chord. I had just graduated from college and landed my first real job; the sun was shining, the beer flowing, and I hit play. So many chords were hit that I will never forget that moment, one of the rare occurrences where the music you’re hearing describes your thoughts and emotions better than any other medium ever could. It’s what music was meant to do: act as a translation of the human experience.

The experiences begins with the fiery “The August Engine Pt. I,” the ultimate in epic instrumental intros. Where most metal bands will throw something together with a couple synth effects half-baked orchestrations, Hammers lay the foundation for the entire sound of the album over the next five minutes. They tease out the melodies and ideas that are going to be explored en masse throughout the rest of the work. Keep in mind what you hear, because it’s coming back when you least expect it. This taste is captivating and fun with it’s buttery smooth chugging riffs and flowing tempo changes. It even ends perfectly as a transition into “Rainfall” where acoustic guitars take charge to mimic the pattern of the song’s title.

John Cobbet 2011. Photo by Taylor Keahey.

The band is playing with longer, more epic tracks than on The Bastard and they’re hitting their stride. Their cross-genre experimentation is in full effect but they never hide their love of NWOBHM in their tasty licks and dazzling vocal harmonies. Scalzi and Cobbett’s leads are world class, endlessly building atop each other to create a fucking majestic attack. The first album with Sigrid Sheie, her subtle piano is the perfect addition to this crisply produced classic. But it’s not just the individual performances that astound, it’s the effect of a perfect group of musicians firing on all cylinders from every direction that pushes The August Engine into the realm of revelation.

Sigrid Sheie 2011. Photo by Taylor Keahey.

Aforementioned patterns become more clear on “The August Engine Part II” with its entrancing second half, another block of dizzying instrumental play. “Insect” as a single track is the best representation of the album as a whole. Every singer is contributing their voice over another beautiful acoustic ballad that then explodes into a familiar chug that’s one of the most satisfying transitions in metaldom. Finally, “The Trial and the Grave” sees the two women again contributing their vocal skills on a slower track, but this one is more heavy than playful, an experiment in somber doom that provides a perfect end to a perfect album.

When I first heard it, The August Engine clicked with me in a way I still can’t adequately describe. I was at once excited, anxious, prone to reckless experimentation. And without even diving into the lyrics I knew, deep in my bones, that this is what this album represents, despite what its true intent may be. And after all these years it evokes the same flood of emotions. I long to call this a masterpiece, but that’s just too ineffective a term; one simply cannot categorize a work of art this transcendental.

November 22, 2014

Blliigghhtted - Which of You Have Done This??

Written by Matt Hinch.

Swallowed by the darkness

Which Of You Have Done This? is a half-hour of some of the most chilling ambient blackened noise you may ever hear consisting of one track titled “The Lords”. Blliigghhtted as an entity comprises three members, Yayla's Emir Toğrul (guitars/vocals), Viranesir's Ruhanathanas (conduction/vocals/lyrics) and Destroyer of History's Merdümgiriz (synths/vocals).

“The Lords” as described by the collective is a “psychodrama for exploring the history and philosophy of dark spirituality through correlations and juxtapositions of tradition and degeneration in essence and form.” Heady stuff. Even if you choose not to delve into those lyrical realms, WOYHDT? still offers plenty to penetrate and corrupt the mind.

Droning guitar and organ usher in ritualistic spoken voices of varying intensity. The voices range from possessed incantations through ghostly vocal emanations, deepening the sense of unease brought on by the instrumentation.

Hypnotic percussion provides a slow and steady pulse while the guitars, synths and vocals tumble through the ether in a chaotic haze. It's desolate and introspective as the outpouring of ultimate sorrow separates the listener from the warmth and light.

Vocal demons inflict a myriad of feelings from all sides, none bright, as the eerie, psychedelic synths enhance the air of mystery and ancient evil and the free-form guitars scrape away at mental barriers with arachnid-like terror and excise any hope for escape.

The sense of dread deepens as the members continue to layer their convocations through a mind-numbing fog. They overlap and distort perception like infinite ripples in a pool of never-congealing blood. It's instinctually unsettling yet oddly calming as if the realization has been made that it's only just a nightmare. Or death. And no amount of worry will end the desperation.

WOYHDT? is a captivating and entrancing release of inspired yet twisted vision from these strange and esoteric artists guaranteed to break your nerves and bend your will and cast you into their slow-boiling pit of madness and despair.

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November 21, 2014

Dordeduh - Dar de Duh

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Cover art by Costin Chioreanu

After departing from Romanian black metal act Negura Bunget in 2009, Hupogrammos and Sol Faur founded their new project, Dordeduh. Their first full-length album, Dar de Duh (which translates to "gift from the spirit"), contains many of the influences they had previously worked with in Negura Bunget, including soulful, sparkling interpretations of nature-based black metal and elements of Romanian folklore. Dordeduh take a distinctly more ambient approach, however, working less with sheer muscular force in the music and much more with shimmering, ethereal atmospheres. There's still a primal current of danger, as good folk metal often reminds the listener that the natural landscape is as deadly as it is lovely, but the thematic focus of Dar De Duh is definitely the sublime.

Photos by Dvergir

The traditional instruments are deployed deftly and intelligently, deepening the emotional impact of the sound. The complex and beautiful structures of the tracks are often dazzling, such as in the way the various elements of "Calea roților de foc" dovetail seamlessly with each other (i.e., the pleading percussion and the flute-and-guitar countermelodies). When Negura Bunget split in half, it could have been the band's death knell; instead, each half sprung up into a new beast, each a more evolved and refined version.

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This Bandcamp link is for the regular version of Dar de Duh. There's also a (more expensive) version with 3 bonus tracks. And you can check out the Prophecy Productions Bandcamp here.

November 20, 2014

Falkenbach - Asa

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

The sixth full-length release from German Viking metal project Falkenbach is a misty, mysterious atmospheric adventure that, for all its subtlety and filmy texture, certainly doesn't lack drive or energy. While many blackened folk metal projects are defined by large and diverse line-ups to cope with the demands of various folk instrumentation and the complex compositions, Falkenbach is a one-man effort — the work of Vratyas Vakyas. His work possesses focus and fire — there's deadly precision to his compositions and an almost preternatural perceptiveness that set Falkenbach apart in an oversaturated genre.

While the black metal riffs swarm like circling carrion birds and the sepulchral coughs of the harsh vocals seem to carry corpse dust with them, it's the trembling vulnerability of the clean singing and urgent, compelling melodies that give Asa its strength. "Stikke Wound" has a stirring, hard driving heathen power behind it, while "Eweroun" is steeped in a deep, restless yearning, drenched in silver moonlight and strings. Asa is not quite as exquisite as 2005's Heralding - The Fireblade, but it most definitely ranks amongst Falkenbach's best.

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This Bandcamp link is for the regular version of Asa. There's also a (more expensive) version with 4 bonus tracks. And you can check out the Prophecy Productions Bandcamp here.

Farsot - Insects

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Insects is the first album that German experimental black metal band Farsot have produced in four years, the most recent being their debut, IIII, also released via Prophecy's Lupus Lounge imprint. Farsot provide an excellent example of what's possible for black metal with excellent production.

Defining themselves as "progressive black metal," Farsot choose not to hide behind the obfuscation of corrupted recordings and instead let the skillfulness and subtlety of their work stand for themselves. For example, each trembling note of "7" has its own distinct identity and illumination, like a dust mote in a sunbeam. On "Vermillion Trail," the twisting, coiling nature of the song construction and churning guitars are brought to the forefront, emphasizing the muscular force of the piece while also allowing for the gentler, tremulous instrumental passages to hold their own.

Vocalist 10.XIXt (all the band members are known only by a string of letters and numbers) has a guttural, almost robotic tone that tends to make the songs heavier, sliming the delicate edges. Insects is an apt title for this buzzing swarm of an album, glittering with an alien intelligence and wriggling with uncanny strength.

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Check out the Prophecy Productions Bandcamp here.

November 19, 2014

Plague Mask - Failure In Repetition

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Having made a good impression on me with their EP The Frailty of Human Existence last year, 5 piece band Plague Mask, hailing from Syracuse/NY now present their new album Failure In Repetition.

Although I obviously didn't yell my complaints about the shortness of last year’s EP loud enough (the new album is not very much longer - 5 songs and 18:19 min.), I’m pretty happy with the mins and secs I am given.

On Failure In Repetition Plague Mask manage to refine their already individual blend of black/crust/sludge/stoner/doom sound. They use all the reliable ingredients like before, but made everything less erratic in favor of a more constant, cohesive flow and a prevalence of a gluey, sticky viscosity… it’s sludgy to the core.

The first and the last song are, like on the predecessor, a kind of “easy” intro with a long slow soft and acoustic sounding beginning, and an outro, beginning slow again, but more of the heavy kind of slow.

The alluring and seductive melodies are even stronger and darker than ever before and have a lurking malice that turns mellow doom riffs into crushing within a second. Combined with the unusual qualities of the vocals, being demonically abrasive and snarly yet with a somehow mellifluous dark soft tone to it (falling even deeper in love with these vocals right now), a very special eerie and dangerous atmosphere emerges, where the soft darkness and the brutalizing harshness don’t oppose, don’t contrast, but entwine and entangle into a bittersweet “something” that makes Failure In Repetition really excellent and unique.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The song "MKUltra" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 69

November 16, 2014

Sundays of Misfortune 2: The Bastard

By Andy Osborn. I was working as the Metal Director for my college’s radio station when Metal Blade reissued the Hammers of Misfortune discography, giving me a crash course in what would soon become one of my favorite bands. I absorbed their albums voraciously
By Andy Osborn.

Early this year Hammers of Misfortune made their discography available on Bandcamp (everything except for 2011's 17th Street). In the Sundays of Misfortune series Andy takes a look at each of the albums, continuing here with 2001's The Bastard.

Artwork by Lorraine Rath

I was working as the Metal Director for my college’s radio station when Metal Blade reissued the Hammers of Misfortune discography, giving me a crash course in what would soon become one of my favorite bands. I absorbed their albums voraciously, but it was only when I revisited them all last year that I realized how much I truly adore them. There has been a Hammers of Misfortune fanboy lurking within me for years, and now I finally have the means to properly convey my feelings for the band formerly known as Unholy Cadaver.

Rebranding themselves as Hammers of Misfortune, the quartet tried a more streamlined approach to songwriting on The Bastard. The meandering experiments explored previously are left behind as the Bay Area prodigies continue with their classic approach to extremity-infused progressive metal. And if that wasn’t enough to appeal to the tastes of the discerning metalhead, the album is a concept of epic proportions. With a tale of dragons, witches, trolls and revenge it’s a veritable Game of Thrones season imbued into sonic wondry with fantastic neoclassical melodies and dialogue to match.

Every track is efficient and to the point, each its own chapter in the fantastical tale. But despite the short and sweet approach to the songs, The Bastard is an incredibly fluid piece meant to be absorbed as a whole, although its individual parts taken out of order can form the most metal Choose Your Own Adventure ever penned. As the tale progresses it becomes clear dialogue is what breathes life into the dragon’s fire behind the record. Not just the dialogue in the story itself but the back-and-forth between the grand, sweeping lead guitars and the conversation-like tone presented in the various singers as they present themselves. The band is fully comfortable with one another, a far cry from the slightly awkward interplay shown with Unholy Cadaver. But the crowning achievement is the guiding star of John Cobbett’s regal voice, a perfect fit for the medieval setting.

Galloping and blasting their way through kingslaying, enchanted axes and sacrifices, Cobbett and Co. excel without so much as a misstep or unnecessary diversion. This conceptual journey is trimmed of its fat, more Pratchett than Tolkien. It’s exciting and thoroughly rewarding, with nuanced plot points revealing themselves upon subsequent listens. With this debut the Hammers have arrived, and this is only their first pounding at the metal forge.

Abigor - Leytmotif Luzifer

Written by Craig Hayes.

There’s one glaring problem in deciding who is the evilest black metal band in the land; namely, most of the bands from the sub-genre are just circus performers at best. Of course, talking about authenticity in the world of performing arts is obviously fraught with philosophic potholes anyway, and that’s not to say that all the unholy theatrics embedded in black metal aren't endlessly enjoyable.

I’m all in favor of stoking the pyre with plenty of inflammatory material, but black metal bands that actually get under your skin are rare. Funeral Mist are a great example of a band that does that well, because the band shreds the nerves, and fellow black metal terrorizers Abigor are another band that sounds seriously and genuinely diabolic. Abigor are most famed for a series of villainous and sacrilegious releases in the 90's, and the band's vocalist during those early years was none other than Silenius, who exited the band and went on to a much-lauded role in Summoning. Silenius is back on board for Abigor’s latest album, Leytmotif Luzifer – although he is listed as a guest, rather than formally joining the ranks – and along with the band’s long-time multi-instrumentalists, T.T and P.K, the trio have crafted Abigor’s best release since their prime.

The essence of pure evil distilled on Leytmotif Luzifer is impressively discomforting. Each song on the album is prefaced with the "Temptation-” tag, should you be in any doubt about the iniquity on offer, and Abigor sound more energized and angry than they have in years. Album opener, "Temptation I - Ego", bursts from the gate with frantic guitars, blast beats galore, and a fiendish vocal line that crawls right up the spine, and on it goes. Sonic chaos is piled on top of thematic horror. Right through to the 11-minute blood-curdling finale, "Temptation VII - Excessus”.

The key to Abigor’s sound has always been in the band’s layering of guitars, and they’re stacked high on Leytmotif Luzifer. It’s all a pyramid of dastardly sounds, with Silenius’ vocals (chanted, spat, croaked and growled) adding to a singular wall of demonic aggression. Even when those walls of noise fall away on Leytmotif Luzifer, and riffs and vocals are less fevered, the album is still deeply unnerving in its overall malevolent mania. Much like the aforementioned Funeral Mist, it’s that sense of black-hearted insanity that pervades all that ensures Abigor remain a credible force for evil.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

November 15, 2014

Sadness - Close & Fading Days Away...

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Metal has many genres under it’s big umbrella. Of all of those sub-genre’s Depressive Suicidal Black Metal may be the most niche. A sub-genre usually defined by low-fi production and wailed banshee like vocals. And like many DSBM bands Sadness is a solo project. Unlike any, as far as I am aware, is a solo female. Now the proliferation of females in metal is nothing new, but in this genre, I believe it's a first. And hopefully not the last.

What really sets Sadness apart from other DSBM bands is the way she juxtaposes the music with the vocals. The music is more post-rock oriented, at times even upbeat. But the vocals are what bring the depressive atmosphere along with song titles like, "Useless", "Lonely", and "Something Hurts". The buzzy guitar sound usually found in this genre is instead replaced by a cleaner more shimmering style. The vocals are unlike any that I have heard before. Yes they are the tortured banshee wails DSBM is known for. But the way they sound, almost as if they are cried and screamed at the same time make for a very unique sound. The fact that they are being delivered by a woman may have something to do with that. Either way, I find them to be one of the things I enjoy the most.

Sadness has released two albums this year, and though only separated by two month there is some growth between them. The second album, Fading Days Away… is not as low-fi and have a different thicker atmosphere. Songs are fuller, and that’s a good thing. If Close was the feeling of a dark haze, then Fading Days Away… is like being surrounded by a dense fog.

DSBM is a pretty simple no frills style of music for the most part. Heavy on mood, light on virtuosity. But it is a style that I’m drawn to like bees to honey. To be able to evoke that kind of emotion from a listener without a bunch of bells and whistles is what I like about the genre the most. Sadness’ albums do just that. There is no real big thing going on. Slowly strummed/picked guitars with tortured vocals over the top. But when you hear the songs you realize they don't need anything else to convey the emotions Sadness is trying to get across.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

November 13, 2014

Track premiere: Wayfarer - "Cities Built on Conquered Ground"

Today we have a track premiere for you. "Cities Built on Conquered Ground" is a previously unreleased song from Wayfarer's debut full-length Children of the Iron Age which will be released on Nov. 24 by Prosthetic Records. The press release mentions that Wayfarer has been described as a "cross between Agalloch and Amon Amarth", the band themselves calls it "music for mountains". And yes, this falls on the black metal side of the fence, but it is very atmospheric, very melodic, and infused with an epicness that does recall high peaks more than deep forests.

Photo by Jenni Fae

While "Cities Built on Conquered Ground" is certainly a good song, I think it becomes even better when combined with the other two songs songs streaming from Children of the Iron Age. All three shows that Wayfarer writes complex but melodic material, and each of them has that special part that make it stand out - check for example the riffing that begins at 01:00 in "A Place Among Stars", or the anthemic ending to "Cities Built on Conquered Ground".

More bonus points for the vocals and the production. Wayfarer's initial demo was all instrumental, on Children of the Iron Age three band members contribute to the singing, and together they do a great (and varied) job. The production is gritty, but also clear. It doesn't get in the way of songs, sounding neither under- nor over-produced. Children of the Iron Age is a very solid offering so far, based on these three songs Wayfarer have a winner on their hands.

Here's the player with the new song "Cities Built on Conquered Ground":

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

And here's the player with all three songs available from Children of the Iron Age plus the pre-order link:

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Mad Max's Wheels of Steel #4

Written by Maxim Björky.

The inconsistent nature of this article is something I’m hoping to change but amid changing my employment, shuffling my living situations, and booking my sure-to-be comical trip to MDF –think Ernest goes to Baltimore—it’s been a rough go. Hope everyone had fun arguing about how Hallmark might rebrand Columbus Day, now let’s get our hands dirty with some fetid death metal demos that I think will earn your affection.

Deathcult is probably best known as having just been joined by Bölzer frontdude Okoi Thierry Jones. They're probably close to third in the pecking order behind the vaunted Kiwi outfit Witchrist, whom he likewise recently joined up with. While Deathcult might not rip the plane of temporal existence like Bölzer, they do crush skulls and bring the riff, which, as I recall, were among the reasons we all got into these death metal shenanigans in the first place. Likewise, if Bölzer’s knuckles simply don’t drag low enough for you, rest assured, this Swiss outfit veers much closer to Blasphemy and Bestial Warlust. Nothing much to dissect or mull over. Just spin it and maybe try to track down a tape. Sounds like they're a hot commodity. These guys also have a recent EP out on Me Saco Un Ojo Records with Jones actually on vocal duty in the studio; it’s not yet on Bandcamp as far as I can tell, so keep your brainshell on a swivel for that.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

This band is cool because early Bathory can never be replicated but modern production allows us to create the same unfiltered aggression while allowing the instruments to actually, ya know, be heard. Now this may sound like a dozen other bands I've written about (Bewitcher, Antichrist, Infiltrator, Hedlok, et al), but their rippin’ jams are also applicable to fans of more visible touring acts like Witchaven. Nor does it end there. There’s also an obvious 70s punk vibe going on somewhere under the surface, though the obligatory cover of “Necromansy” at the end of this demo makes me want to renege on giving them even that nuance. I swear there’s more to it than just Bathory worship and if you think there isn’t, have another beer and gaze longingly at a picture of Glenn Danzig.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Let’s just keep rolling with these roman numerals. Now for my favorite part of the program where some semantically OCD doofus aspiring scholar of musical historiography will tell me this is black metal and doesn't fit the theme of this week’s WoS but I arrogantly beg to differ. Though this band displays many landmarks borne by contemporary adherents of the second wave, there’s plenty of death metal flexing goin on. Sure these guys would be perfect on a bill with Mgła and Svartidauði but they could just as easily share the stage with Malthusian on Demilich's Reunion Tour (now wouldn't that be neat!).

See you guys same time next time!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

November 11, 2014

Author & Punisher - Women & Children

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Author & Punisher is the dark, industrial drone project of Tristan Shone, who makes use of a bleak, blackened, drone-heavy palette that swings between organic, gritty fuzz and cold, mechanical violence. After the much-lauded release of 2012's Ursus Americanus, Shone has followed it up with another exceptional release with Women & Children, a viscerally uncomfortably and exquisitely menacing record. This album sounds as though unfeeling machines performed it and was composed by angry ghosts — a wrathful, impotent rage somehow filtered through chilly alienation.

Photo by Karen A. Mann

All of the machinery and electronics Shone utilizes he built himself, and there's a sense of eerie sentience to even the coldest and most removed passages. Shone brilliantly blends the mechanical and organic, heavily processing his voice to an inhuman rasp and warming up gelid feedback until it seems almost alive. Whether via the angry, industrial throb of "In Remorse" or the broken crawl of "Tame as a Lion," Women & Children is a record that wants to hurt you and never stops probing your psyche for a weak spot.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Inter Arma - The Cavern

By Celtic Frosty. Inter Arma’s The Cavern tells the tale of a lost and dying soul in the desert. Our hero eventually comes upon a cave where he awaits his final fate
By Celtic Frosty.

Inter Arma’s The Cavern tells the tale of a lost and dying soul in the desert. Our hero eventually comes upon a cave where he awaits his final fate, and in the end is consoled by a death-like figure who welcomes him into the black. It seems a fitting and somewhat inevitable tale for the likes of Inter Arma. After all, the band’s last album was called Sky Burial, a reference to a Tibetan tradition of laying the dead to rest on a mountaintop to be eaten by birds of prey.

But it’s not the story that makes The Cavern remarkable. From pounding, doom-laden riffs and throaty screams to proggy instrumental passages to clean vocals and violins, Inter Arma is intent on taking the listener through a musical odyssey that captures the imagination and surprises with its ballsy twists and turns. The degree of difficulty here is immense, and the cohesiveness with which Inter Arma pulls it all off is an impressive feat for even the most seasoned of bands.

Photos by Carmelo Española

On a granular level, the musicianship on The Cavern is sublime. The drumming throughout the song’s 45 minutes is expressive on an almost primal level, pounding out the long arc of a solid and massive backbone. The clean instrumental passages that roam the mid-section of the track build patiently toward those exhilarating peaks of masterful, extended guitar solos. Chunky, slow-burning riffs round out the composition, digging the deepest valleys and delivering hooks all the way down that claw their way in and settle for days.

In a way The Cavern seemed inevitable, and it may yet turn out to be Inter Arma’s greatest musical achievement. It’s a statement of refusal to be categorized. The edges of a half dozen genres bleed together in a dark and beautiful tapestry that covers a wide swath of the musical landscape. With this statement, Inter Arma thrust themselves onto metal’s center stage and demand our attention. Nothing left to do except shut up and listen.

November 9, 2014

Sundays of Misfortune 1: Unholy Cadaver

By Andy Osborn. One of the greatest catalysts in bringing metal to the front of the cultural psyche was the Bay Area scene in the 1980s. The region gave birth to the some of the most famous and pioneering thrash bands of the era, many of whom are still alive and kicking today.
By Andy Osborn.

Early this year Hammers of Misfortune made their discography available on Bandcamp (everything except for 2011's 17th Street). In the Sundays of Misfortune series Andy takes a look at each of the albums, starting with the material from pre Hammers of Misfortune band Unholy Cadaver.

Artwork by Lorraine Rath

One of the greatest catalysts in bringing metal to the front of the cultural psyche was the Bay Area scene in the 1980s. The region gave birth to the some of the most famous and pioneering thrash bands of the era, many of whom are still alive and kicking today. But less well-known is the scene the area produced in the 90s, which spawned a batch of bands who dabbled in both extreme and more traditional forms of metal to create something entirely new. (For an in-depth history on the scene, check out Invisible Orange’s fantastic three-part series on the era.) One of the more unique bands birthed from this perfect storm of reckless experimentation and a crust-punk outlook on life was Unholy Cadaver, a weirdo heavy metal group that would later rise to fame under a new name, Hammers of Misfortune.

Essentially a testing ground for their future Unholy Cadaver only released one demo, before changing their sound and their name to what we know them as today. Though they had recorded an entire album's worth of material, the rest remained unreleased until 2011, when Shadow Kingdom Records released the Unholy Cadaver LP. But as it was the first time the unstoppable duo of John Cobbett and Mike Scalzi (of Slough Feg fame) would perform together, it marked an important turning point for the two musicians, each just years away from their definitive releases.

If you enjoy Hammers, you’ll likely enjoy Unholy Cadaver. But I won’t go crazy with the comparisons because while many similarities exist, this short-lived project was clearly its own wild, skeletal beast. This first incarnation of the lineup borrows heavily from more extreme subgenres, while keeping a glimmer of trad roots with varying song styles; some are long and wandering, others are quick, relentless, and to the point. And a few feel like half a dozen ideas compressed into a single track, separating the influences into clearly defined passages. At its core Unholy Cadaver is a heavy metal record, but there’s so much to wrap your head around that even a dozen listens later it’s difficult to fully absorb it all.

Things start off with a slow burn, but when an errant shriek appears almost 5 minutes into “On This Final Night” you’ll quickly understand that there’s still an entire kitchen sink and more headed your way. The everything-goes approach begins soon thereafter with “Fuck the Galactic Police.” It’s definitely a bit of a head-scratcher, both sonically and lyrically. It’s a grinding foray void of any of the neoclassicisms Cobbett and co. are so fond of, and more intense than anything else the crew have done since. The next half-hour is a wild journey peppered with heavy ballads, NWOBHM-isms, traces of early black metal and whatever else the band was in a mood to throw into the middle of a song.

The longest track on the album, “Hammers of Misfortune” would actually serve better by the name of the former group as it captures all their quirky charm into one oddly shaped package. There’s the incredible dueling leads of a world-class heavy metal act, but also an odd dramatic section where a woman with a poor Russian accent is apparently being kidnapped. Around the 10:50 minute mark is where you can pinpoint the future of the band with their trademark 70s metal chugging and dueling melodic vocals. A wonderful taste of what’s to come. The album ends on a disappointing note though, as there is nothing of substance to be found in the grueling 9 minutes of “Kloven Septum.” It’s an odd assortment of noise experiments and a few half-baked jam sessions. At least it succeeds in helping to define just what an esoteric foray the project was.

It’s clear why Unholy Cadaver remained as a short-lived, singular entity. Their debut, while undeniably unique, seems to be pulling itself apart at the seams. Too experimental to be traditional heavy metal but not punishing enough to appeal to extreme metal fans, it still resides just too far on the edges of digestibility to elicit a wide appeal today. But there are some absolutely incredibly moments amidst the din, and it’s clear the band thought so too. Thankfully those choice cuts would be exorcised, reanimated and rewired shortly thereafter into Hammers of Misfortune, who would grow into one of America’s most revered prog metal acts.

Demilich - Nespithe - 20th Adversary of Emptiness

An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

Cover art by Turkka G. Rantanen

How to make a near-perfect record even it during a period where it isn't readily available, with intriguing new cover art in a limited edition 3LP or 2CD set, that includes what is very likely the entirety of what the band has ever recorded. Now, trust me when I tell you, that if you've been holding out on Nespithe and never had the chance to purchase it, this Svart versions release of what was originally supposed to be put out by Antti Boman and Demilich themselves is what you want. Yeah, I know firsthand, having the original CD or cassette is cool in of itself, but you're getting an enormous value that collects the demos and rare recordings in a comprehensive fashion so that you're no longer forced to mine for them online or receive them piecemeal through earlier issues of the CD. This is Demilich, and very possibly all that they will ever create, so what the fuck are you waiting for, and if you've long owned another version and are craving some vinyl, you may not get another opportunity like this.

The centerpiece of this is obviously Nespithe itself, and while a co-blogger of mine has already offered his two cents on the experience, with a perfect score (one I don't largely disagree with), I felt it appropriate to explain why I have so long enjoyed it, and why it's easily my favorite of the classic Finnish death metal works (at least on the uglier side of the equation). Originally a blind buy on tape through Necropolis/Pavement, and probably one of the last cassettes I purchased, as I was transitioning to CDs. I had not come across the band through tape trading, but the name instantly appealed to me through my love of Dungeons & Dragons and all things fantastic, metallic, evil and arcane, though this was a point at which I'd already cut my hair and become the college guy, listening to just as much new sound outside of metal as within it. And that's really part of the appeal of Demilich...their strange, atonal, Bolt Thrower-grooving take on the sound which relies heavy on the quirky repetition of evil note patterns and the amphibious, unaffected guttural rumble of Boman. Throw in the cryptic lyrical schemes and over-the-top song titles like "The Planet That Once Used to Absorb Flesh in Order to Achieve Divinity and Immortality (Suffocated to the Flesh That It Desired...)", and you've got a concoction that any death metal dweeb would (and did) find impossible to resist. And as much as I enjoyed other classics of this scene (Worth Without God, Slumber of Sullen Eyes), I felt this was mildly less tethered to the Florida/Swedish, this was something new.

With the 20th Adversary of Emptiness, you're hearing Nespithe like you've not heard it before, remastered from the original master tapes rather than the lesser version that had been reprinted in the past. The bass and guitars seem a bit more evil, the drums really pop out and Boman still sounds like an undead bullywug gurgling frogs. Yet, you still have that entire toilet-bowl atmosphere due to interaction of the deeper vocals with the swarthy bass and higher pitched grooving melodies. It sounds phenomenal, and every subtlety and detail comes out to the fore here, with some of the moodiest and most creative chord progressions you'll find in cult death metal hands down. These guys were just as off-the-hinge as a Cynic or Carbonized, well before stuff like Gorguts Obscura came down the pipe to redefine death metal's boundaries, and although it fits fully within the genre, the groove and jazziness certainly places it within reach of the 'avant-garde'. It's just one of those albums you hear once and never forget, for better or worse, and if I had to piece together a top 20 death metal record list of all time, it would feature prominently, even if it wasn't at the top. And that's only the first LP in this package, mind you...

The second, Em9t2ness of van2s1ing, features both The Four Instructive Tales...of Decomposition and the ...Somewhere Inside the Bowels of Endlessness demos (from 1991-1992), and while a number of the tunes are redundant to the full-length, they sound even uglier here, but with a lot of that same ridiculous quality to the vocals. The downside is that I always felt the instruments themselves (guitars mostly) just weren't as pronounced against Boman's void-swallowing timbre, though the crudeness is very likely to appeal to that minority crowd which simply prefers everything as rough and tumble as possible, and these demos certainly give a more squamous and grinding impression than the 'refinement' on the full-length. Of the two, Four Instructive Tales... is superior, since it has some non-album material which most people who loved the full-length forever would appreciate, only this has been put released before, I believe on both the Repulse and Century Media CD re-issues.

On the last record, V34ish6ng 0f emptiness, we're presented with the The Echo demo (also 1992) on the A-side, which is once again a bit redundant since it's almost all on the full-length, but for completion's sake why the hell not? More excitingly, the 'vanishing' sessions on the B-side, which were what I was most looking forward to hearing. A trilogy of tunes recorded in 2006 which are frankly excellent and aimed at what was essentially a Nespithe 2.0 aesthetically, the one difference being that the guitars are more raucous and grinding directly against the vocal gurgles. Riff-wise these are not a far cry from 1993, and I think for most people that would have sufficed. Personally, though I enjoyed these tunes, Demilich always struck me as the type that might try and go further 'out there', so I was a little surprised that the material didn't feel so alien, but who knows what might have occurred had this group continued its career from Nespithe onward?

Top this off with the usual boxed set stuff, like a poster, sticker, and a pretty comprehensive booklet which includes a lengthy interview, original artwork, and just about anything the completist would desire, and you have a package well worth owning, provided you don't have to sell off your little sister to acquire it. And even THEN, it might STILL be worth the trade...just think, no more potty-mouth bitching, no more Justin Bieber, no more lollipops, no more Ke$ha, no more My Little Pony...just an amorphous mass of primordial Finnish death metal that sounds like it was paid forward from the formation of a black hole. Do it, bro! Human traffickers are often just a phone call away.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

November 7, 2014

The House of Capricorn - Morning Star Rise

Written by Craig Hayes.

We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.
― Oscar Wilde
Obviously, we don’t need to point to supernatural entities to explain the evil that haunts this world. Human beings are perfectly capable of committing dastardly acts with no help from otherworldly forces. But that’s not as much fun as imagining a scoundrel like Satan wholeheartedly approving of our sinful yearnings.

Satan’s the perfect expression of all that’s so very bad, but so very, very good. He’s the ultimate supervillain, one we can all get behind, because he encourages us to yield to our darkest desires. We delight in all the hellfire and damnation symbolism for just that reason, and we should never forget that Satan has been our best friend forever.

He’s inspired endless amounts of the music we've enjoyed over the years, and Satan is certainly the prime motivating force in the world of fire-and-brimstone that “apocalyptic devil-rock troupe” The House of Capricorn inhabit. The New Zealand-based band blazes across the heavens with Ave Satanas fervour on their third album, Morning Star Rise. And released on the always exquisitely curated Svart Records, the album features nine tracks of pitch-black, doom-drenched, and 100 percent hell-bound rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s been quite the journey through the netherworlds for The House of Capricorn already. The band’s first full-length, 2010’s Sign of the Cloven Hoof, featured a dozen tracks of doom and stoner metal that were clearly stamped with the Devil’s mark. However, The House of Capricorn had remodelled their sound by the time their second album, In the Devil's Days, arrived in 2011. Their doomy mid-tempo stomp stuck around, along with the band’s Luciferian accent. But gothic rock, deathrock, and plenty of infectious hard rock—boiling with infernal intent—had a far stronger presence.

The House of Capricorn’s decision to evolve their stylistic approach on In the Devil’s Days was a wise move. The band instantly became more distinctive in the jam-packed halls of hellfire and heavy sulphuric rockers. With 72 minutes of infernal hymns on In the Devil’s Days, the album was wholly ambitious. But The House of Capricorn have reined in the song lengths and overall running time on Morning Star Rise, and there’s no question that’s made for a better album.

Morning Star Rise may be shorter, but it features plenty of black-hearted wickedness. The album is more concise and features tighter and more direct tracks. And that means its songs hit harder. Morning Star Rise also continues The House of Capricorn’s musical progression. The influence of heavyweight gothic titans like Babylon Whores, Danzig, Sisters of Mercy, and Type O Negative has never been stronger. For instance, on tracks like “The Only Star in the Sky”, “Watching Angels Fall”, and the punkier “Our Shrouded King”. The House of Capricorn’s shadowy songs explore enlightenment via darkness with anthemic momentum. The storming “The Road to Hell is Marked” and “Ivory Crown” are all the proof you’ll need of the band’s ability to do Satan’s handiwork with hook-filled tunes.

Elsewhere, guitarist Scott Blomfield wraps frosty black metal riffs around Marko Pavlovic’s croon on “In the Light of Lucifer”. And if the diabolic black metal scattered throughout Morning Star Rise appeals, you’d be well advised to hunt down Blomfield and Pavlovic’s side-project, Creeping, for more intensely fiendish fare.

Morning Star Rise finishes on “Dragon of Revelations”—a piece of darkly baroque theatre. However, while “Dragon of Revelations” is an epic close, bringing the band’s doom drawl to the fore, what is most apparent on the album is that it’s driven by an undercurrent of rawer punk-infused rock.

That’s no surprise, given that the hell-hammered melodies of Babylon Whores are a big influence here, but The House of Capricorn aren't dealing in mere mimicry. Instead, Pavlovic, Blomfield, and drummer Michael Rothwell (who also plays in the outstanding droning sludge band Shallow Grave) mix their unholy gospels with varying shades and textures of dark rock and metal—until it all coalesces into a sound that might well display its influences proudly but still sounds unique in the occult rock realms.

That’s the real clincher here. Because whether Morning Star Rise appeals or not comes down to how accepting you are of music that’s not metal, not punk, and not hard rock, but has a distinct gothic accent that falls somewhere between the three. If you can appreciate the majesty of a track like “Ashlands”—where the band channel The Fields of the Nephilim, Mortuus, Bauhaus, and Candlemass via a superbly grim doomscape—then you’re bound to enjoy the uniqueness that rests at the dark heart of Morning Star Rise.

Certainly, that uniqueness is helped along by Morning Star Rise’s evocative production, which finds Ulcerate drummer Jamie Saint Merat behind the desk once again, while Paris-based Francis Caste handles the mixing and mastering. There’s a crisp, vital bite to Morning Star Rise. One that captures all the diabolical vitriol on the album’s rowdier tracks, but lets all the graveyard murk seep through on the slower, ill-omened, and gloomier songs.

Morning Star Rise is unquestionably The House of Capricorn’s best release. All the villainy and sacrilegiousness ensure the album’s satanic seductiveness. But what seals the Mephistophelian deal, is that Morning Star Rise’s stripped-back and punchier songs deliver all that devilry with a gnashing and gnawing savagery not heard from band before.

Whether you believe in Satan’s palpable presence, or you think it’s his symbolic value that matters most, Morning Star Rise makes for a fine soundtrack to celebrate Old Nick’s ever-present and all-pervasive influence.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]