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Blog Entries posted by MacabreEternal

  1. MacabreEternal
    It is no secret by now that I have a lot ( i mean a fucking lot) of time for Ulcerate.  I have been listening to metal for over 30 years now and I am sadly at a time now were very little excites me in the way of new releases.  I have over-indulged in the past, trying to consume as many new releases as possible in a given year and just ended up stuffed with underwhelming music that makes no impact on what little hunger of mine still remains for the pursuit of new releases.  If I look at the music library of today and compare it with the music library of 30 years ago it is clear that I had a lot less back then, relying on a family member's collection to get me going on my metal journey and saving what little money I had to buy music of my own every few months or so.  Back then buying a record, CD or cassette made me feel excited, awash with the hope that I was about to be treated to several tracks of metal mayhem that would keep me entertained for months to come.  I long for that feeling again more than I acknowledge but what is clear to me is that there are only a handful of bands whose pending releases can make me feel that passion for metal rekindle again.  Ulcerate sit in the top two of such bands (Gorguts lead).
    To say I am astonished by the continued development of the New Zealand death metallers is an understatement.  They have consistently but together intricate and involuted music for virtually their entire recorded careers.  Their music is now in such a hybrid state that it is equal parts monstrous as it is complex; impenetrable and labyrinthine beyond any puzzle the mind could fathom yet still conveying enough atmosphere and emotion to speak volumes to me.  The past two releases that precede Stare Into Death And Be Still have been nothing short of superb, with both Vermis and Shrines of Paralysis sounding as fresh and challenging today as they did when I first purchased them.

    Putting into words the success of their latest offering is difficult, since despite multiple listens to it there is still so very much that I am learning about this serpentine coil of explosive and expansive death metal.  It is however an obvious success in terms of it following the aforementioned two albums and it still displays so many trademarks of the band whilst also pushing their sound forwards and in more exploratory directions.  What is massively obvious here in 2020 is that Ulcerate have found the perfect means to apply rich and voluptuous melody to their sound without sacrificing any of their trademark ferociousness and clinical pursuit of swarming and menacing music.  The ariouse nature of some of the music on display across the eight tracks available here border on being dulcet.  They pinch like the disscordance of a Blut Aus Nord yet give a warmth akin to some of the more ethereal elements of Drudkh.  The placement of melody in this huge wall of noise that the threesome generate is in itself a massive achievement.  Musically the album feels like it is shifting like tectonic plates, giving the rumble of impening doom yet when fissures crack they spew canorous jets of calming and emotion enducing moments that temper the overall threat of the album beautifully.
    This isn't technical for technical's sake.  It doesn't feel obtuse or showy at any point it just simply smells of well written and well thought out songs that encompass an array of ideas that are arranged to deliver optimal impact.  Quite where it leaves Ulcerate as a musical force is frightening because surey at some point they are going to hit a wall after nearly ten years of flawless music?  I don't have any criticism of the album, which is rare for my grumpy old ass.  The only fear that I have is this unwillingness to consider that I will ever stop being excited as I was as a teenager about the release of any future Ulcerate material, and I hope that they continue with their God like powers for years to come.
  2. MacabreEternal
    Fucking hell.  Where to start really?
    Nu-metal is apparently alive and well in 2018 and I don't like Nu-Metal, so the prospects for positive words in this review are slim.  It is not that I don't like Machine Head.  I mean I am not one of the mindless internet troll brigade who respond to every release with "These guys made "Burn My Eyes" and listen to this!".  Get over it bell ends, there's no more "Burn My Eyes" nor is there anymore "The Blackening" left to come.  Whilst I will openly admit to enjoying most releases since "The Blackening" there is no denying that the sound of MH has become increasingly diluted over the albums since their "comeback".  "Catharsis" is the end point for me.  It is so diluted it is like wearing my once dark black hoodie after it has been bleach hand washed and then boil washed - it kind of has lost all substance.
    The rapping is back, as if the first time round wasn't enough of a fucking car crash.  "Triple Beam" is without doubt one of the worst pieces of "music" I have ever heard.  When we aren't being treated to poor attempts at lyrical rhyming we are drowning in dreamy, hazy clean vocals that seem to be aiming (yes actually aiming) for harmony.  Yep, there's some catchy riffs but who fucking cares if you have to drink from the toilet to realise all you'll ever find in there is shit?
    Why this all has to go on for 15 tracks is a mystery?  I'll be honest, the skip button got used at least 13 times in writing this review.  For all the (frankly excessive) marketing that has been done for "Catharsis" I don't think I could feel anymore of an anti-climax.  Robb Flynn is all over every mag cover, web and video interview defending "Catharsis" and that's his entitlement, he didn't write any of this for me.  It is still terrible though.
    0 horns out of 5
  3. MacabreEternal
    ***This artilce was originally written for my blog back in 2017***
    In comparison to most I am relatively late to the Kreator party.  One of the first digital albums I ever bought when settling back into metal after a brief hiatus some 12 years ago was "Pleasure To Kill" and I have spent many a neck snapping evening in its company since, but only over the past 18 months or so have I developed my exploration of the discography further than the excellent 1986 sophomore release.  Furthermore, I now own the complete eighties albums so though it an excellent opportunity for a blog post.
    1985 - Endless Pain - NOISE Records 
    Recorded in ten days (a whole four days ahead of schedule), you could quite easily think that the record was done in one take end to end.  There's nothing polished here, no frills, no bullshit just straight up rabid as fuck thrash metal delivered with a wild simplicity.  At this stage the band are roughly 18/19 years of age and it fucking sounds like an album made by teenagers, full of energy and loose almost reckless playing at times it is almost thrash metal made with a black metal mentality (there's debate to be had about "black metal Kreator" elsewhere on the internet).
    With vocal duties shared between Petrozza and Ventor on alternate tracks the variety is subtle yet still noticeable.  Full of NWOBHM riffs and chops sat alongside chaotic, sonic leads and pummelling drums there's rhythm to "Endless Pain" that sticks with you throughout the record.  Only once do things let up for the intro to album closer "Dying Victims" but this too soon evolves into some primitive auditory assault.
    Personally, I find Kreator's debut record up there on my list of top ten all time favourite thrash records just based on pure effort alone.  It is as solid a debut as I can remember and the foundation stone this album is for the rest of their eighties output is an obvious basis for the band to grow from.
    1986 - Pleasure To Kill - NOISE Records
    The evolution in twelve months for Kreator is in many regards not that dramatic.  The fact is that "Pleasure.." picks up exactly where "Endless Pain" left off in terms of the vitality, the relentless and oppressive charge of the riff infantry that drives the sophomore release forwards.  The only obvious difference is that the production this time was more professional.  I wouldn't call it polished or slick to be honest, just better.  As a result the aggression of Kreator comes across as being a little more focused than on their first outing, more channelled and direct than its more wild and loose predecessor.  I am not really a fan of the drumming on here, I find it a little wet sounding and a bit cumbersome, although somehow the riff work carries it throughout.
    The energy of the first two Kreator albums are what make them stand out for me, whilst they weren't anymore blistering than Destruction or Sodom they pound for pound took both on points decisions with their sheer, unadulterated youthful explosion of energy.  What also becomes obvious on "Pleasure.." is a sense of maturity in the songwriting, we have an intro to open the record with, as "Choir Of The Damned" promises a little more restraint than the listening experience ends up delivering over the course of nine tracks.
    Importantly, the great work the band put in on their debut that raised the awareness of the group continued on "Pleasure..", elevating the band even more and setting the scene perfectly for what was to follow.
    1987 - Terrible Certainty - NOISE Records
    Although no less rabid than its predecessors, Kreator's third album somehow seems more thrashy than what came before.  From opening track "Blind Faith" with its chanted chorus line and choppy riffs this impression is as immediate as it is impressive.  I hear bits of Anthrax intermittently on "Terrible..." although it is still distinctly a German thrash album.

    Instantly I like the drums more, they sound like a part of the music this time as opposed to a slightly misplaced backing track accidentally playing in the studio as the real album was recorded.  However, I do find the production this time to be at the expense of the band.  The sound comes across as being a little muted or restrained in the main often having to rely heavily on Petrozza's demented shrieks to carry the tracks through when perhaps having the riffs a little further forward in the mix would contribute more to a "whole" sounding experience.

    Let's not take anything away from the excellent lead work going on here though, as ferocious as any of the riffs or accompanying drum work, they work perfectly to give a real sense of passage to the tracks, rounding out the song structures well.
    There are unfortunately moments when it doesn't all come together as well as you would hope.  "As The World Burns" becomes a bit of a mish mash of a track as it progresses and actually appears in places to be suffering from timing issues.  Whether a result of the production or a conscious event the energy levels appear to drop for this release and overall I feel the album suffers from being a tad front heavy with a subtle yet obvious decline as the record progresses.  But it is by no means a bad record it is just perhaps my least favourite record in the chronology of the order thus far.
    The evolving maturity of Kreator is obvious and the song writing has improved with each album to this point as the band expand their instrumental capabilities and prowess.
    1989 - Extreme Aggression - NOISE Records
    The last of the 80's releases, "Extreme Aggression" marked a change in producer again with acclaimed producer Randy Burns put behind the knob twiddling desk.  The album itself was actually recorded twice after the initial studio used was deemed to be too basic for the requirement Burns had for the album, so after initially completing recording in Berlin in Sept 88, the album was redone in Jan 89 in the States.
    Still I find the sound to be muted and the guitars a little sterile this time out, although the drums are standout in the mix here and when the mix is right the blend of the guitars is great, it just doesn't happen often enough.  With the band opting not to use Phil Lawvere for the artwork for this release the band went for the "group photo" approach this time around after being let down by the quality of the work from a recommended artist from a peer.  Sadly, the image work is indicative of another change with the band as "Extreme Aggression" I find to be ironically neither "extreme" or that "aggressive" in comparison to the majority of its predecessors.  The sterile production aside I still think it is a further step down in the energy stakes yet it is still commendable as a solid as fuck thrash record.  I just never feel I want to listen to it the whole way through and whether that changes with repeated plays only time will tell.
    Nonetheless this is by no means a turkey of a release to end the otherwise impressive 80's discography of one of the world's most important thrash metal bands.  Petrozza admits to the band listening to a lot of Rush around the time of writing and recording of the record, and whilst that is not obvious in the sound of the record, stylistically the structures do have a progressive tinge to them at times.  It works too, harnessing that ever-growing maturity I keep harping on about nicely.
  4. MacabreEternal
    Whichever tier of thrash metal you consigned Sacred Reich back in the 80's/90's they still had their moments.  "Ignorance" & "Surf Nicaragura" did a great job of establishing the band, whereas "The American Way" just got a little too comfortable and accessible (the title track grates nowadays) for my ears.  A couple more records better left forgotten about and then nothing for twenty three years.  2019 alone has now seen three releases from Phil Rind and co.  A live EP, a split EP with Iron Reagan and now a full length.
    Notable addition to the ranks for the current throng of releases is former Machine Head sticksman, Dave McClean.  Love or hate Machine Head, McClean is a more than capable drummer and his presence here is felt from the off with the opening and title track kicking things off with some real gusto.  'Divide & Conquer' and 'Salvation' muddle along nicely, never quite reaching any quality that would make my balls tingle but comfortable enough.  The looming build to 'Manifest Reality' delivers a real punch when the song starts proper.  Frenzied riffs and drums with shots of lead work to hold the interest.

    There's a problem already though (I know, I am such a fucking mood hoover).  I don't like Phil's vocals.  I never had if I am being honest.  The aggression to them seems a little forced even when they are at their best on tracks like 'Manifest Reality'.  When he tries to sing it just feels weak though ('Salvation') and tracks lose real punch.  Give him a riffy number such as 'Killing Machine' and he is fine with the Reich engine (probably a poor choice of phrase) up in sixth gear.  For every thrashy riff there's a fair share of rock edged, local bar act rhythm aplenty too.
    Let's not poo-poo proceedings though, because overall I actually enjoy "Awakening".  It is stacked full of catchy riffs that are sticky on the old ears.  Whilst not as raw as perhaps the - brilliant - artwork suggests with its black and white, tattoo flash sheet style design it is enjoyable enough.  Yes, 'Death Valley' & 'Something to Believe' have no place here, saved only by Arnett and Radziwill's lead work but 'Revolution' is a fucking 80's thrash heyday throwback to the extent that if you turn the TV on during it you might catch a new episode of Cheers!
  5. MacabreEternal
    Up until two weeks ago, I hadn't even heard of Mizmor.  One look at that cover and I had this record in my ears within thirty seconds.  Good album artwork should pull you into a record, give some promise of what lies beneath but then also not give everything away.  The songwriting, like the artwork, follows this thesis perfectly.  I have listened to this everyday since discovery and I am still learning more and more about it.
    'Desert of Absurdity' sets the tone perfectly with its acoustic picked strings like some desolate flourish that seeps into the harsh and abrasive wall of blackened sludgy guitars before equally acerbic vocals add a further layer to proceedings.  The unmistakable BM influence rides high in the saddle for the majority of the opening track, charging at the listener yet the reins are held tight enough to always give a sense of control.  When the pace does let up, it brings in the harrowing and melancholic doom influences that are balanced so well they give a real feel of transition and growth to the track.  Even at over ten minutes long the track never gets boring.  As it progresses through BM to death/doom soundscapes it all just keeps the attention effectively throughout.

    The most memorable part of the entire four tracks on this record are the banshee-esque howls that sit at the start (proper) of 'Cairn to God'.  They are so penetrating and incisive that they shatter my very aura every time I listen.  I sit through the atmospheric intro, waiting for them to blast me with their astringent allure like some small piece of prey who knows there's nowhere to hide and the game is up.  The doom influence sits much higher here than on the opening track, which on a piece that runs over eighteen minutes is hardly surprising.  The start, stop use of the riffs to structure around the vocals works really well, giving a real sense of build to proceedings.  Punishing though this creation is it is equally as captivating.
    Mizmor means "psalm" in Hebrew and track two certainly feels like a sacred song or hymn that praises the infernal misery of life.  It is a nihilistic anthem for the extreme pessimist to condemn existence to.
    'Cairn to Suicide' follows a very similar format to track one.  More aggressive to start but well paced enough to hold the attention.  It holds less memorability for me and that is not necessarily because it is a poorly constructed song, more because it follows such a sprawling and exhausting masterpiece and the brain needs time to adjust.  For this reason I imagine the album plays best as an LP since the vinyl offering comes over 4 discs which would essentially showcase the comprehensive skill on show on each track.
    Album closer 'The Narrowing Way' goes heavier on the doom again and is a fitting and clearly expressed end point to proceedings.  There's a lot to take in over the one hour of music on offer here and not everyone will have the patience to sit through it I am sure.  But for those that do the rewards are limitless.  Serious contender for album of the year.
  6. MacabreEternal
    Surprises are nice aren't they?  I mean, not socks for Xmas type surprises.  Not even tax rebate on your birthday-esque proportions either.  I am more concerned with those times in your life where you tell yourself you will hate something before you even get round to trying it, convincing yourself in the process this unheard, untasted, unseen or unfelt thing would be a waste of your time.  When you eventually throw caution to the wind and give it go you find no repulsion, no bile in your throat just the recognition that you might just have been denying yourself some entertainment or genuine fun for a proportion of your life.
    This is has been my experience of "Ritual" by Soulfly.  You see I made my mind up that after "Arise" Max Cavalera was a spent force.  "Chaos AD" had its moments but largely left me a bit, "meh!"  When I tuned out of Sepultura activity entirely shortly afterwards I was aware that he had cropped up in various other guises over the years (Nailbomb, Cavalera Conspiracy) but understood Soulfly to be his nu-metal/world music project.  Twenty-something me had no time for his fucking around and since Sepultura offered nothing interesting the Cavalera contribution to my record collection was over as far as I was concerned.
    There's been 20+ years since Max and Sepultura went their separate ways and it's far to say that in those two decades, Soulfly have matured a bit.  Yes, there's still the fucking pointless moments ("Soulfly XI" - saxophone and acoustic nonsense that has no business being here) where styles get mixed up and world influences intervene unnecessarily.  Yep, there's still nu metal sounds too (the melodic parts of "Bite the Bullet" for example).  But there's also a fucking raging bull of anger, dissent and venom crashing through the political, social and religious delicacy of this particular china shop in which we all live.  It kicks and charges relentlessly at times, and despite the risk of becoming speared by a horn or trampled by rampant hooves you just find yourself running alongside it riff by riff.

    There's no wheels reinvented though.  Anyone familiar with the band might be going "just another Soulfly album dickhead!" but the point is that I had real fun playing this.  I pulled silly faces, made lots of silent shouts and nodded along appreciatively with all the catchy and familiar riffs on display.  It opens with the tribal sounding title track but this soon descends into a chugging monster of a track, well paced and accessible without sacrificing any momentum.  As the album plays we get groove, thrash and a fury long since thought gone from the Cavalera repertoire to my ears.  There hasn't been a lot released this year to really get my juices flowing and my blood pumping and Soulfly scratch that itch perfectly here.  In any other year with consistent high quality releases, "Ritual" would have much less of an impact I suspect, but as with most releases I have lauded this year (Judas Priest, Saxon..) it is the old guard doing a shift again and putting a lot of newer bands to shame in the process.
  7. MacabreEternal
    2019 is slowly unveiling some fine releases.  With Altarage, Overkill and Candlemass all making me grin thus far in the past three months, despite a slow start and some disappointments (Venom, Queensryche and Legion of the Damned).  Naturally, your ears prick up when you hear Flo Mounier, Rune Eriksen and David Vincent have decided to get together and make some unholy communion.  Straight away I thought we had potential AOTY material right here given the obvious talent and experience present on this record.  I wasn't disappointed.  Whilst not flawless, 'Something Wicked Marches In' is a glorious display of DM, performed by intelligent and capable artists who manage to individually stamp their authority on the record yet at the same time are mature enough to work as a complete and cohesive unit.
    Let's start with David Vincent.  He's by no means at an 'Altars...' or 'Blessed...' level of stature here yet his performance grabs the attention, not in the least due to the vocals being so forward in the mix.  His grim and menacing style compliments the music perfectly, adding atmosphere and clearly enunciated declarations of wicked intent alongside his familiar growls.  The painful memory of 'Illud...' is put to bed firmly here, much more effectively than Morbid Angel's mediocre follow up offering of 2017, it has to be said.

    The dissonant , gnawing and at times melancholic guitar of Eriksen builds Mayhem-esque structures within solid chugging death metal riffs, offering variety and diverse pace throughout.  Again, whilst sounding like Eriksen throughout the record it never feels at any point like his guitar work is dominating proceedings.  His work moulds well around the percussion and vocal performances, crafting a real sense of balance and true artistic unison.
    Then of course we have the machine that is Mounier.  The famed Cryptopsy skin-basher is as you would expect on good form here, the varied pace of the album lending well to showcase the many sides to the repertoire of the Frenchman.  Whether it is the faster pace that dominates much of the album or the more mid-paced tracks or passages that populate the album in abundance, Flo is there blasting and pounding as required with all the surety and aptitude you would expect from a man of his experience and ability.
    Standout tracks include the title and opening track that sets the tone so well for the rest of the album with its multifarious pace.  Straight away the performance feels tight and professional and as the blasting opening to 'Praevalidus' smashes into the listener like some DM freight train the quality level is immediately maintained.  The ritualistic feel of 'Monolilith' with its chanted admiration of the demon of the night is superb and as enticing as the subject matter herself.
    As I say, it is not a flawless record.  For a start the bass is virtually lost in the mix (not 'And Justice For All...' lost but, nonetheless, undervalued somewhat in the mix.  There are also times when you forget you are listening to an album as such since some of the tracks merge together a little and sound the same, almost like you are listening to established group jamming in their studio instead of recording a full-length.  These are only minor quibbles since when 'Something Wicked Marches In' is on point it is fucking amazing.
  8. MacabreEternal
    Okay, I am going to be honest.  This is my first taste of Memoriam, albeit the release that is purportedly their best; according to the internet at least.  Things start well, on the riffing front at least.  'Shell Shock' motors like a fucking tank, being driven with precision through its destructive and relentless path.  Similiarly, 'Undefeated' with it's groovy as fuck riff and chopping rhythm continues in a full on attack of the senses.  The sophistication and poise both come up a couple of notches with 'Never The Victim', with its defiant mood and melancholic melody. By this point my initial concerns about the vocals being too buried in the mix appear to be just confined to the first track as they sit perfectly well by this stage.
    The politically charged 'Austerity Kills' takes things off on a crusty/hardcore slant with the visceral hatred for the subject matter barked out by Willetts in an almost matter-of-fact way.  It feels relevant, modern and appealing to listen to, whilst at the same time the echoes of Bolt Thrower still ring in distant chambers somewhere behind.  The more melodic start to 'In the Midst of Desolation' soon builds into a chunky riff monster whilst maintaining a brooding sense of looming danger throughout. 

    The experience and ability is obvious here.  Whale's drumming is on point from start to finish here.  Willett's vocals are as strong as ever and the performance of Fairfax on guitars is nothing short of superb.  Healy, meanwhile is a bit drowned in the mix which is not necessarily a bad thing that detracts from the sound in any way, it is just obvious.   
    As we get towards the final third of the record things show no sign of calming down.  I will have the scathing riffs of 'Refuse to Be Led' on my brain for the rest of my time on this mortal coil for sure. There's no obvious drop in quality, energy or pace it is pleasing to note.  The toying delivery of 'The Veteran' just marauds and mauls the listener's ears into submission.  The title track just cements the foundations of what has been built over the seven tracks prior to it. Washing over the listener with wave after wave of brooding tremolo riffs. As the band launches into the defiantly titled 'Fixed Bayonets' with the gusto of a quickly forming infantry, those heady days of Bolt Thrower at their very best are inevitably rekindled.  This is the only track that sounds like a Bolt Thrower b-side.  Don't get me wrong there's hints throughout but on this track it is much more obvious.  As the band closes proceedings with the instrumental 'Interment' there's a real sense of justice to the victorious, soaring guitars on show as end to end this album is a complete triumph.
  9. MacabreEternal
    Full length number 19 from overkill certainly makes a splash in the energy stakes, I mean there's some modern thrash bands that are a good two decades younger than Overkill who can only hope to achieve the levels of spunk that New Jersey's finest produce here.  That in itself is an achievement, for a band of Overkill's stature and reputation to be able to still sound relevant four decades into their career is no mean feat.  Even in the albums weaker moments it never gets redundant and the energy levels remain high.  There's a real sense of a band in a state of some renewed vigour, helped in no small part by the addition of Jason Bittner on drums.  The former Flotsam & Jetsam skinsman is nothing short of superb throughout "The Wings of War" and seems to have squeezed a little extra out of the rest of his peers.
    The album kicks of with a great build to opening track "Last Man Standing" and for the first 4 tracks of the album the Overkill crew stomp, bash and groove their way to a solid level of consistency.  The lead work is of particular note and Blitz sounds as sneery and scathing as ever.  The album is well produced and mixed too with all parts of the thrash machine audible as the five piece hammer away at your skull with the usual blend of chugging riffs and infectious anthems.  It isn't even all thrash either, one thing that is also obvious in abundance here is the melody present throughout all 10 tracks.

    There are weak moments as mentioned but they are more a victim of how good the strong tracks are.  In it's own right "Distortion" is a solid enough - if not slightly varied a journey from the last offering - but it just doesn't stand up well against a "Bat Shit Crazy" or a "Head of a Pin".  As the album draws to a close you get the increasing impression that the last few tracks are rescued really by some great solos and stomping skin work which is a shame because trimming of a couple of tracks may have made this less obvious.  That having been said, last track "Hole in My Soul" is a cracking finisher.  As I said though, the energy level is consistently high and there's a real sense of the band having created something they can be really proud of.
    I am scoring this a 4 out of 5 just for the fact that even at the mediocre stages the album is still another great example of the old guard giving a Metal Music 101 lesson to all aspiring young metal bands out there.  
  10. MacabreEternal
    Immortal Bird have been on my radar for some time now.  Having thoroughly enjoyed their debut full length of 2015, 'Empress/Abscess' (and their debut EP - 'Akrasia' some 2 years earlier) I have been eager to see what their sophomore full length would offer.  The label I commonly see applied to the band is of a "blackened crust/sludge metal" description which whilst accurate for the fledgling part of their career does not by any means cover the plethora of styles, genres and sounds explored on 'Thrive On Neglect'.  I always hate writing how much a band have matured as I always feel it sounds condescending, but here the phrase is perhaps never more applicable.  Immortal Bird have honed their  playing ability to a level of sophistication most bands can only dream of.  Whilst the album is undoubtedly the familiar band sound throughout, there is so much variety to the pace of the record that compliments the more technical parts perfectly that it is impossible to not be enamoured with the content.
    There's still enough "biff", "pow!" and "clank" here to give Batman and Robin a run for their money.  Opening track 'Anger Breeds Contempt' blasts off the record in furious enough a fashion but even within the three and half or so minutes of this attention grabbing track there's layering going on, creating constant build as well clever additions of atmosphere with the bass.  This early sense of structure is a theme prevalent throughout the whole record.  At the same time the almost "n'roll" feel towards the end captures the fun element of the band's sound perfectly also.
    'House of Anhedonia' is where things start to get to a format, structure and texture akin to the styles of the Krallices of this world.  The build here feels almost tidal to start with as the track is allowed some slack to build but is never allowed to race away recklessly, always being kept on tight enough a leash to show the progression.  When it rips, it fucking rips, giving a stark and yet near harmonious juxtapose to the overall structure.  This is a well written track from start to finish, teasing the listener, keeping them guessing, working the crowd whilst unleashing fury in well rationed amounts.

    Third track 'Vestigial Warnings' picks up immediately where we just left off only this time we have a more choppy feel to the riffs that couple seamlessly with those near mathy rhythms.  Again the pace is cleverly tempered here with a mid-section to the song that allows for breath yet lets the structure really shine.  Rae's vocals sit as demented, blackened iterations throughout, even with time changes, pace changes and atmospheric ludes, they are still the harsh and abrasive core of the measured chaos in which they sit.
    By the time we get to 'Avolition' there's still two overriding themes to this record.  Firstly, it is still building even at track four, still improving with each new track.  By comparison the other dominant force here is the confidence of the artists in the band.  They sound like a cohesive unit.  Picillo's bass rumbles along, never becoming "twangy" or overbearing.  The drums sit perfectly in the mix, driving the sound along but letting Madden's riffs and melodic moments shine perfectly.  Dave Otero did an amazing job here with the production of this record and the freedom of the instruments is never better exemplified than on 'Solace in Dead Structures' with its atmospheric build into a tempest like maelstrom of a composition.
    I just can't praise Immortal Bird enough here.  Every once in while a record comes along that challenges me as a listener to absorb more than one style, expect the unexpected and still formulate the record into some cohesive whole in my brain.  Despite all the power of the almost avant-garde divisiveness of IB on their fourth offering, it does still feel like a whole offering, one that can be digested in as many sittings as required by whoever's palate needs satiating.  There's nothing showy here, it just sounds like a band who have done their time on the road, learned from it and took all their experience and ability into the studio with them and through organic process come out of the other side with a real gem.  As I sit here listening to the (literal) bend of the track that closes the album I feel educated, like I have learned something new about both metal and Immortal Bird.
  11. MacabreEternal
    The first entry in this new blog section celebrating the Finnish BM scene is dedicated to one of the finest split releases I have ever heard.  In July 2004, Grievantee Productions released this split EP from two of the most established and revered acts on the BM scene in Finland.  A split of real contrast, this offering gave two sides of the coin in every aspect.  The lo-fi production of Horna with the shrieking vocals of Corvus at the front of the delivery giving marked difference to the scathing yet melodic attack of Behexen.
    I have read much criticism of Horna's contribution and to some degree I can understand this.  The almost soulless performance sounds empty and devoid of depth in some ways.  Yet this in so many ways is also why it works so well for me.  The performance sounds authentic and atavistic, like the awakening of something believed to be long-dead and forgotten, now brought back to some living/undead state to unleash its ancient threat on an unsuspecting world.  Punky stabs underpin the relentless delivery giving space for some respectful foot stomping as well as neck snapping.
    The grim and dank nature of Horna's four tracks here match perfectly the artwork that adorns (this version) of the release.  It feels like Finnish BM, full of such cold hatred and pure, unbridled suffering.  Its grimness punctuated by the already mentioned vocal prowess of Corvus.  Horna here remind me of the understated riffing of Darkthrone elevated in an absolute maelstrom of pitch black darkness.

    By way of contrast, Behexen have a cleaner sound from the off.  Obviously more melodic yet still racing and aggressive to make them marginally more accessible than Horna.  Hoath's vocals are more buried in the mix than Corvus' but the intense gallop and scathing delivery somehow elevates them just enough.  There's definitely more of a feeling of there being a "wall" of noise  on the Behexen contribution but the tracks themselves have a more discernible series of transitions that fill the soundscape perfectly, permeating the parts Horna's contribution cannot reach.
    Despite the marked difference in production values, the Behexen tracks compliment the Horna ones perfectly (and vice the versa).  The combination of the two styles make the EP a triumph of opposites and I find this EP works really well on shuffle to emphasise this.  Of the Behexen tracks, "A Distant Call From Darkness" is my preferred choice with its blend of galloping riffage, scathing vocals and melancholic melody.  The guitar sound on this track is fucking pandemic level infectious! 
    I would encourage any BM fan to purchase and embrace this most essential of Finnish BM releases.
  12. MacabreEternal
    After a few changes of band name, Valgrinder and Prokrustes Thanatos eventually settled on the name Förgjord (Swedish for 'destroyed') and since 2001 have been releasing demos, compilations, full lengths and splits.  "Ajasta Ikuisuuteen" was the debut full length release from 2008 on Hammer of Hate Records and is probably not a record you would hear discussed in the same pages as releases from Horna, Behexen or Beherit.
    The most prominent factor in the sound of "Ajasta Ikuisuuteen" is its barbaric crudity coupled with a clunky and cumbersome sense of melancholic melody, delivered at times with an almost obvious lack of playing skill and instrumental prowess.  After the instrumental opening of "Alkusoitto" with its vaguely entrancing draw, pulling you into some dark, dank and fathomless void you are straight into the slow picked intro to "Kristuksen Malja, Ruumis Ja Veri" with the off kilter timing of the picked strings that eventually start to build cleverly into a solid riffing pattern over spoken word incantations, that eventually gives way to authentic second wave tremolo guitar riffs as good as any Norwegian outfit could deliver.  It sounds bewildering to describe but in fact comes together really well.
    As clunky and awkward as the track sounds to start with the pacing is done well, creating a great sense of an increase of intensity whilst thundering along with some good ole' fashioned punky undercurrent at the same time.  The instruments sit very well in the mix, considering that production values are not top of the agenda here, even in the midst of the frantic pace, double layered vocals and suffocating melancholy of "Veljeskunta" you can hear the motoring of the bass whilst still being aware that the drums are still there (perhaps low in the mix or maybe just a little bit bordering on the lost side of things) tapping along as required.

    As the pace changes in "Suohauta" show, Förgjord can work really well as a cohesive force without necessarily having to be masters of their instruments.  They are even happy to throw in an atmospheric piano outro to the track to add some further depth to the sound.  Vocally you get some pretty standard Black Metal croaking for your buck here, but these croaks are delivered with sufficient venom to remind you that these are not the ramblings of some insane old man, they are the sputum laced rasps of a band in their prime, sharing their Satanic devotion in a frenzied and authentic manner.
    With its use of song structure, the record feels like it is more melodic in direction than it actually comes across as being in reality.  The more melancholic and icy cold piano and slow picked sections don't ever seem out of place, however limited they are in range or skill, even when they appear during the progression of a fast-paced BM assault of a track.  The primitiveness seems to add to the melancholy and atmosphere without detracting from the more forceful passages of the tracks.
    I think the real treat in "Ajasta..." lies in the layers that you have to peel back like some ghastly autopsy on a leathery, decayed corpse.  There's some real work involved in places to get under the skin but you surprisingly find flowing streams of life hidden beneath the hide.  In other places the flesh appears to fall away easier only for you to find that there are still some horrific sights, smells and sounds that are as putrid as they look at first glance.
    (as promised @Balor, @Fjara)
  13. MacabreEternal
    Two reviews in one weekend?  All work and no play makes Macca a dull boy!  Wait a minute...not when I am reviewing top notch releases such as the latest from Overkill and Candlemass.  I mean it is like I fell asleep on Thursday night and woke up in the eighties on Friday morning.  Like Overkill, the Swedish doom legends are enjoying a new lease of life, this time in the form of Johan Languist (yes,him) who returns to the band after a 32 year gap to ingratiate the memories of anyone with a copy of "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" and an original Master of Puppets t-shirt.
    Candlemass 2019 are epic.  I mean in terms of the sound at least.  This plays more like an epic heavy metal record as opposed to a doom record.  Yeah, the heavy drudging riffs are still there but there's a real sense sword-wielding, bicep popping warriors flanked by women in metal underwear sat on spiky horses type fantasy.  Opening track "Splendor Demon Majesty" is an unashamedly dark opener full of occult promise that pulls of a perfect balance of menacing worship of evil deities whilst also pacing superbly to open the album strongly.  Even the most doomy tracks here are still laden with such vocal stylings. "Astorolus - the Great Octopus" (great fucking song title) is an obvious choice here, even given Iommi's input it still doesn't stray to far away from the epic nature the song title and feels well balanced.  It rumbles and rolls like a great Octopus would do assisted by some superb lead work along the way that stab through the menacing atmosphere.  Likewise, the gallop of "Death's Wheel" drops down in pace to doomy depths for the chorus to become one of the nearest experiences to the 1986 debut heard on here.
    Let's be honest though folks, this isn't "Epicus..." part two.  Not that anyone really wanted that though, right?  On its own, "The Door to Doom" stands up as a fantastic record for a band who haven't released anything notable since "Tales of Creation".  It is not that recognisable as a Candlemass record though which will no doubt get the diehards moaning into their retro flares and skull effect candlestick holders whilst crying into their earthen drinking vessels full of mead.  The only real reminders on here of the doom relationship is the fact that the record on the whole reminds me of a much better version of "13".  As I sit listening to "Black Trinity" I hear so much similarity to numerous tracks from Sabbath's last full length that I had to look twice in the instrumental parts to make sure I didn't have the library on shuffle. 

    That withstanding, "House of Doom" is a superb doomy romp with monumental riffage and pace and horror themed synths to build the atmosphere to boot.  This was on the the EP of the same name from last year and is probably may favourite track on here certainly in terms of its authenticity to the Candlemass sound of old, chiming church bells ringing to fade as the track closes.  If anything the record gets doomier the final 2 tracks.  Check out the riffs on "The Omega Circle" if you still need your bed wetting from some punishing doom metal before the band signs off on a job well done.
    There is only really two criticisms I can level at the record, one being the utterly pointless filler of "Bridge of the Blind", a crap ballad dropped in after just 3 tracks of excellence is just out of place both in terms of the timing of its placement and the marked difference in pace from the rest of the album.  Secondly, too many tracks start the same way.  There's about 3 or 4 that start with some slow picked strings and Languist crooning as an introduction to the tracks proper.  It just gets old after the second or third time even though on each occasion the track is soon hit by an epic riff or stomping pace change, 
    Sadly, if it wasn't for the shit ballad this album would have afforded a higher rating as it makes very few bad steps along it's length.  Buy it for the love of metal though, not just because it's Candlemass.
  14. MacabreEternal
    I call false album title.  There's no doom on here folks.  Any flare-wearing readers can stand down at this point of the review.  I imagine the doom aspect of the title refers to the medieval threat of some Tolkien inspired fictitious army that Summoning have kindly recorded a soundtrack for.  If you are familiar with Summoning there's little in the way of anything new here as the Austrians again bring their own brand of epic/atmospheric black metal to 2018.  I would be interested to know what @Requiem makes of it of course as I imagine this album could accompany many night of his sat at home alone playing Warhammer.  
    The problem I have with "With Doom We Come" is that it doesn't really "go" anywhere.  It could quite easily all be one track with seven pauses given the sound and structure varies very little from track to track.  That is not to say it is a bad album, it just drips into the water without ever making a real "splosh" at any point.  There's the usual gruff vocal style and occasional chanting over keys galore whilst the guitar just sits in the corner with a tea and some crossword books to bide the time one presumes.
    Sarcasm aside, fans of the band will like this albeit without any truly remarkable moments to cement it as a stand out album.  Usually, I can't sit and listen to Summoning without doing something else and this made a great accompaniment to some shelves I hung this morning, very rousing at times to the point of making me forget about my hangover altogether.  The atmospheric magic never really finds any identifiable peak though, beautiful though the record is at times nothing really stands out overall.
    2.5 Horns out of 5 
  15. MacabreEternal
    Last Rotting Christ album I enjoyed?  "Triarchy of Lost Lovers".  Last Rotting Christ album I bothered to listen to upon release?  "Aealo".  It is fair to say that the Greek stalwarts of the Black Metal scene now have a sound that rarely ventures into the territory so well tread on "Thy Mighty Contract" and "Non Serviam" but it is also fair to say that "The Heretics" sounds from start to finish like a band who firmly stamp themselves on the metal map for 2019.  What album number thirteen from Rotting Christ does is take a measured approach to variation and repetition to build a memorable and lasting experience.
    The sound itself goes from dark and brooding metal and hard rock to almost Gothic metal proportions.  Yet at the same time that familiar melodic warmth remains in situ throughout.  More often than not there's that big soaring melodic riff riding the vocals like a surfer with his board.  "The Voice of the Universe" does this superbly as does "The Sons of Hell".  The overall feel the record as a whole leaves me with is one of ritualistic allure, tracks like "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Fire God and Fear" build well like powerful incantations being cited from voluminous tomes, flooding forwards intermittently with flowing dark melodies.

    It does remind me a lot of Behemoth ("The Satanist" Behemoth, not last years pompous bollocks Behemoth), with the theme of religion so heavily referenced but at the same time it feels like a much more cohesive effort than recent Behemoth keeping a level of consistency and restraint to the songwriting which holds the attention well.  Only once does the album visit anything like Black Metal on "I Believe", here they base a poem by Nikolaos Kazantzakis at the centre of the chaotic and frantic pace and sadly it fails miserably on my ears, coming across as just filler.  My only other criticism is that it does get a bit samey in places (namely the intros to each track).  Otherwise it is a perfectly respectable piece of dark metal.  C'mon, we can't this black metal anymore folks.
  16. MacabreEternal
    So here I am reviewing the new Drudkh album...oh...wait a minute...no apparently it isn't Drudkh, it is Windswept.  A quick look on the internet tells me that Windswept are Drudkh minus keyboards in terms of members.  Therefore Windswept is just a less atmospheric version of Drudkh?  That's not really a question as I have heard "The Onlooker" and I know it is in fact a statement of truth.
    I don't get it.  If I want to hear a Drudkh record I will just put one on.  Similarly, if I was a member of Drudkh and I wanted to make a new record, I'd just pick up the phone to my bandmates and start the writing process.  The fact that the majority of the band have made a different band just to not have atmosphere seems a little grandiose to me, although I get that the stylistic integrity of Drudkh is maintained. 
    It isn't that the album is bad.  Perfectly solid and driving, melodic BM cleverly framed by a music box intro and outro is what you get here folks.  It just sounds so much like Drudkh I can't get my head around the fact that it is just a below par Drudkh offering.  The one thing the record is crying out for is some atmosphere - THE FUCKING IRONY!

    If you can forget the existence of a Ukranian BM band called Drudkh, or perhaps have just been born into the world of BM and have no previous concept of the 3 band members here being involved in anything else then you will no doubt easily spot the merits of "The Onlooker".  For me it served no other purpose than to give me a really short review to write this week (and to put some Drudkh on).
    Based on it's merit as a standalone album = 3/5
    Hideously critical mind of a Drudkh fan rating = 2/5
  17. MacabreEternal
    When it comes to death/doom, variety is not necessarily top of the average listener's appeal list.  Usually when I review such a release I find myself typing "doesn't reinvent the wheel but does the genre justice with this solid offering" or words to that effect.  Ossuarium's debut full length falls under that banner most definitely.  Nobody is fucking around here with a saxophone to make the offering standout with some eclectic and unnecessary deviation from tradition.  If you like your death metal doomy or your doom metal deathy then chalk up a tick in your respective box folks!
    As predictable as the "Incantation influences aplenty on show here" references are, what "Living Tomb" does do is show some variety in terms of the band wearing their influences on their sleeves.  Yes, Incantation is an obvious comparison but I also get the clumsy and cloying lead work of Autopsy in here too.  There's also clever, atmospheric structures in places you wouldn't expect, like mid-track on the superbly titled "Vomiting Black Death" which remind me of dISEMBOWELMENT.
    What is also obvious after a couple of listens though is the production job, in terms of how bad it is on the whole.  It sounds like the rhythm section has cloth over it and yes, I get that the genre is supposed to sound gloomy but this isn't good gloomy, this is (slightly) muffled gloomy and that detracts from the whole experience unfortunately as I find it quite noticeable.  The slower sections of most songs suffer more obviously with this and so I find this is where the brain switches off or goes wandering.

    Let's not get too bogged down in production though as the skill of the band is still obvious and we can just imagine how strong the sophomore release is gonna be if they get that production/mix issue ironed out.  The potential of Ossuarium is as huge as the riffs and as intense as the melancholic leads that guide on this dank journey.  The artwork here depicts perfectly what you get on the record.  Big looming structures, menacing atmospheres and ugly sounds (check out the guitar at the start of "Writhing in Emptiness").  These boys can write and play also and you will struggle to find better built death/doom this side of Spectral Voice and Tomb Mold, it just needs a better environment to really show all these good bits off a bit better.
  18. MacabreEternal
    The roar has always been approaching.  As far back as three years ago when Altarage dropped their debut full length 'Nihl', this scribe could already hear the threat of their ability, feel the menace of their presence from over hills far away and sense the nefarious intent as the raw fury howled over my skin.  Sophomore effort 'Endinghent' further cemented the prowess of these blackened death metal Basque country residents.  Although slightly less of an impact than the opening salvo of 'Nihl' it was obvious throughout their second offering that Altarage were refining their strategy and making the style of attack more calculated.
    Album number three is no longer an approach though.  It's an arrival.  Arguably now on a par with the bastion of death metal chaos that are Portal now, Altarage are right up there with their own stamp on the principles of this most unwelcoming and inaccessible form of extreme metal.  What they did so well on 'Nihl' was shift multiple times the pace, atmosphere and direction of a track.  Doing so with such effortless and frankly unexpected subtlety that I just could not be anything but astounded.  At the same time they could drop a grinding slab of unrelenting, blackened fury with scant regard for pacing or measure and still have my jaw on the floor.  'The Approaching Roar' takes those foundations and adds maturity, dexterity and skilled songwriting to them to produce some complex and yet - in parts - more accessible pieces of Altarage.

    Last year's Portal release 'Ion,' saw the band's sound lifted out of the traditionally murky depths that familiarised their sound, in favour of a more coherent aesthetic - which worked well.  Altarage are still firmly writhing in their own filth and murk here, despite the odd glimpse of a clearer stab of accessibility.  The menacing flamenco promise of the acoustic intro for opening track 'Sighting' is the first flash of this but in mere seconds the full on face stripping fury that we all know is coming is right there, detaching retinas and bursting ear drums.  Even just one track in, the shifting/morphing of pace is obvious and the hidden melody of the final minute is reminiscent of your mum playing Smooth FM in the another room, just audible over the chaos that envelopes you at that time.
    'Knowledge' is a big, chunky riffing monster of a track that builds like an army getting into formation for some devastating attack on the enemy.  'Urn' takes a brave step at track number three on the record by building a hazy and funereal intro that sounds like a dial slowly being notched up over a couple of minutes.  Eventually (of course), the gates of hell themselves are then flung open with abrasive vocals and churning instrumentation.  It is at this point that I first fell the drums are a little to low in the mix sometimes, stifled of air a bit by being a part of the roaring chaos as opposed to being allowed to breath a little at times.  Again the song-shifting occurs here with the final two minutes of the track being some of the most coherent Altarage to date.
    As you take in the ebb and flow of 'Hieroglyphic Certainty' and obscure grinding riffs and tribal percussion of 'Inhabitant' it occurs to you that this listening experience is akin to a very cleverly engineered virus, the strain of which threatens to consume your entire existence.  The deftness of the structure of 'Chaworos Sephelin' with its haunting, lo-fi cello tinged atmosphere that gives way to the crashing fury of waves of pummelling riffs and percussion is a joy to behold.  The final two tracks finish the album just as we started it, still full of ideas and dripping with the promise of still better things to come.
    Altarage might be shrouded in mystery with their secretive nature (the Members tab on their page of Encyclopaedia Metallum says "none") but the music that they deliver shows them sharing only the most potent and valuable artefacts from the darkness which they inhabit.  The roar is now and always will be with you.
  19. MacabreEternal
    There's life in the old dog yet it seems.  In terms of original members only Phil Fasciana remains in the ranks of Malevolent Creation now and after the passing of Brett Hoffman last year you could almost forgive fans for thinking the curtain had fallen on Malevolent Creation.  The fact is that whilst "The 13th Beast" reinvents no wheels it does exhibit the sound of a band in the throes of something of a regeneration phase.  There's nothing tired sounding here, no dull interludes to build unnecessary atmosphere.  As soon as the spoken word intro to "End the Torture" finishes it is straight up thrashing death metal until the very end, some 11 tracks later.
    Although all debuting in the Malevolent full length stakes here, the 3 musicians that join Fasciana on this record are all clearly capable and qualified purveyors of their art form.  Again, I highlight that this is not far above your average DM record yet it is so assured and solid you can easily forgive it to some degree.  Lee Wollenschlaeger gives a good acquittal of himself as an established and competent vocalist, filling Hoffman's shoes nicely.  Phil Cancilla is a machine on those skins, blasting his way across the soundscape yet also using the percussion well when the occasional let up in the pace permits.  Fasciana and Wollenschlaeger work well together to keep the chug of the riffs motoring along whilst Gibbs plonks, twangs and rumbles his way through every track, allowed to be heard in the mix and show his variety without ever showboating.  For a band together for only 2 years as a four piece they sound tight and committed.
    There's no metal fan worth the denim their patches are sewn onto that doesn't look at that album cover and mouth a "fuck me, dude!"  I mean, come on, it is fucking awesome.  Like a more ornamental Predator head on a ghostly green background.  I love it when album covers are matched by the content of the record inside, and whilst there are obviously some shortfalls here, still in the main "The 13th Beast" delivers.  When they keep the track length short and succinct, Malevolent Creation are at their best.  "The Beast Awakened", "Agony for the Chosen" and "Knife at Hand" all kick serious ass.  By the same token "Born of Pain" at nearly 7 minutes long doesn't really do anything or go anywhere to justify the length attributed to it.
    Overall, I would have preferred a shorter record.  At 11 tracks the band cover a lot of ground in under 50 minutes but not all of it really needs treading.  That withstanding, never does it get grating and still the accessibility factor remains consistent enough to forgive the extra excursions present.
    So, having started slowly, January 2019 has finally delivered something worthwhile and a first physical purchase also of a new release for this year.  3/5
  20. MacabreEternal
    Variety is the spice of life, so they say.  Someone might want to mention this to Legion of the Damned.  Picking up right were Venom left off last week in the the generic stakes, "Slaves of the Shadow Realm" churns out largely unvaried, unremarkable and unmemorable thrash metal with the odd splash of death and black metal smatterings here and there.  To give you some idea of how hard going this is I have to wait three whole tracks to here a lead guitar!  I love good chug fest as much as the next man but when it is the only flavour in the dish its impact on the palette diminishes quickly.
    I can't honestly tell if the album is supposed to be one long song accidentally edited to give gaps to give the illusion of it being several tracks?  Some tracks just start very lazy (Slaves of the Southern Cross) whilst others just allude to some slight break of pace from the previous track before going off on the exact same pace, in the exact same direction (Nocturnal Commando).
    The frustration is that when they get it at least half right and vary things just a touch, they can put together some enjoyable pieces (Warhounds of Hades) but the memorability factor still struggles to register much above a 0, even in these moments.

    By far the pinnacle of the record is "Black Banners in Flames", a menacing thrasher of a track that allows for some relent in the ferocity stakes to apply some melody to create that aforementioned menace.  Otherwise I feel that I have had a sub par meal at a restaurant.  The chefs are perfectly competent (no Michelin stars here though folks) and the ingredients are all of reasonable quality, sourced responsibly enough, but there's little attempt at seasoning and so everything just seems bland.  It sounds like the vocalist is holding this together really.  Swinkel's performance on all tracks is obviously a notch up from his band mates' which is a shame because he deserves better really.
    Painfully, I streamed the version with two bonus tracks on, which didn't help me digest this any better.  That having been said "Priest Hunt" is way stronger than most of the regular tracks available here.
    2/5 (2019 is not starting well)
  21. MacabreEternal
    So, my first review of 2019 is of the latest offering from UK legends Venom.  37 years after the debut full length and the band are still active, albeit as a much changed line up from that which recorded "Welcome to Hell".  I'll be honest, I haven't bothered with Venom beyond "At War With Satan", so I really had a blank slate in terms of expectations when I put "Storm The Gates" on this afternoon. 
    To say it is generic is something of an understatement.  Each track just morphs into the next, displaying no discernible milestones to give any track a shred of memorability.  The instrumentation is capable enough and competently performed but to record 13 tracks of the same structure and format gains no favour with these ears I am afraid.  Riffs become beyond infectious and hit pandemic levels of boredom when given this level of over play.  Yes, they chug and occasionally show real promise of bite but this is fucking Venom guys, not some Friday night cover band down the Rams Head with a £2 a pint Happy Hour.  Where's the menace?  Where's the atmosphere?  And, no I don't expect "Black Metal" part 2 or a follow up to "At War With Satan" but this at times sounds like Cronos is in a band with one of his kids and their mates, all competent musicians but not really doing justice to what is promised by the names involved.
    If we look back at 2018 and to Saxon and Judas Priest, we can see easily two acts still writing entertaining and stylistically recognisable material without having to try that hard.  It is hard to make 13 tracks of the same format sound like you are trying too hard, but the fact is that Cronos and Co. are doing such a monolithic job of flogging a dead horse it just comes across as exactly that.  The overarching part of Venom I enjoyed was the fun, (dark) comedy edge to the band - even if they did take themselves seriously when I never could - but this has a real mood hoover run over the shagpile here, sucking any creativity, energy or integrity out for good.

    I am supposed to balance my reviews with both positive as well as negative, but I am fucking struggling here folks.  Erm...the artwork is competent and that band logo still gives me pangs of past glories.  That's about as far as I can force the good vibes with this.  So, there you go.  Review number one of 2019 and it is a record that chalks up a rating that means the only way is up from here for the year (although, sadly the same probably isn't true for Venom).
  22. MacabreEternal
    At the start of pulling this list together I had thought it to have been a "light" year for BM releases.  It was only when I got into compiling my "Best of 2018" that I realised it had in fact been quite a good year.  2018 in BM saw the return of some well established acts, some of them doing what they have always done well whereas others took to the recording studios minus long standing members.  When all is said and done, I think it all turned out rather well.
    Honorable Mentions
    It is a Top 10 folks and sadly not everyone has a place, so appreciative nods in the general direction of:
    Shining "X-Varg Utan Flock"; Alghazanth "Eight Coffin Nails"; Summoning "With Doom We Come"; Varathron "Patriarchs of Evil" and Watain "Trident Wolf Eclipse".
    10. Panopticon "The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I & II"
    By far the latest release on the list in terms of me catching up with it.  Usual atmospheric BM goodness on disc 1 and not too shabby folk/bluegrass/dark americana on disc 2.  Does grow on me the more I listen.
    9. Wallachia "Monumental Heresy"
    A recent revisit to this album boosted it into the list. Those lush orchestrations supply a great foundation to those tremolo riffs and acoustic passages throughout "Monumental Heresy".  Nice work.
    8. Wiegedood "De Doden Hebben Het Goed II"
    Aggression is the name of the game here, as death and anger are thrust at you from every corner.  Can pass you by completely if you don't give it proper attention, and doing so will reap rich rewards as there is so much going on here beneath the surface.
    7. Die Kunst Der Finsternis "Queen of Owls"
    Another fine slab of vampiric,  gothic and horrific BM from Sweden's finest lord of the night.  This truly is the art of darkness at work right here.
    6. Craft "White Noise and Black Metal"
    Dodgy record title aside, Craft return with a real class release some seven years after their last outing.  Catchy and scathing at the same time, the Swedes fifth full length make it two back to back releases from the country of IKEA into my top 10.
    5. Drudkh "They Often See Dreams About the Spring"
    Still no bad releases from Drudkh after 15 years of atmospheric BM.  The atmosphere is just as prevalent as ever on release number 11, built into the intelligent song structures and mature riffing and growling we have all become ever so familiar with. There is just no getting away from the feeling of vastness on this record as it swallows you up track by track.  Sadly this is also its main flaw as the attention required to fully enjoy this is a little too intense for my aged metal brain, otherwise it could have placed higher.
    4. Immortal "Northern Chaos Gods"
    Abbath who?  I mean this is one the most Immortal sounding Immortal albums ever, right?  Showing Demonaz as the real songwriting force behind Immortal, "Northern Chaos Gods" is just chock full of FUCKING RIFFS MAN!  I mean play this in a dark room, get up to switch the light and you will trip over at least 4 riffs whilst trying to get to the light switch!  They have song called "Blacker of Worlds" on here, I mean if that doesn't get your average corpse paint laden BM teenager wet then there's no hope for humanity.
    3. Marduk "Viktoria"
    Ok, this caught me completely off guard.  I mean, pants down, around the ankles, pooing in a bag, in a forest in hi-vis work gear - caught off guard!  Now I have stopped shitting in the woods like some giant luminous bear I am just having the time of my life listening to the short, sharp yet thoroughly enjoyable blasturbation of Marduk.  Cold and melancholic melodies swirl throughout the album and fill your head like for days afterwards.
    2. Sargeist "Unbound"
    Another band that simply can do no wrong in my book is Sargeist.  I am at the point now where I listen to each new release with trepidation, just in case this is the one that drops a bollock the weight of Finland itself as the band have decided to go all Euro Pop!  Thankfully, "Unbound" is most definitely not Euro Pop.  It is a furiously trve representation of Sargeist's traditional sound that is complemented superbly by melodic stylings from a largely new and reinvigorated line up.  No Sargeist entry at Eurovision this year folks!
    1. Winterfylleth "The Harrowing of Heirdom"
    So, controversially not an actual BM record but most definitely a release by a BM band.  I can't quite put into sufficient wording just how much I enjoy this record of acoustic storytelling.  I sing along to every line, I get teary at every lush piece of instrumentation and atmosphere and I smile content as a Bond villain at every warm tone that washes forth from my speakers/headphones.  An earthy, emotional and endearing experience that sits proudly atop of my list for 2018.
  23. MacabreEternal
    Behind every great man, there's a great woman.  Behind every camped up, shape throwing, garrulous Black Metal vocalist there's a great song writer.  Both of these statements are true, except the second one actually does not commend Abbath as being the imaginative, creative and artistic driving force behind Immortal.  This is blatantly obvious if you have heard his solo pop/rock record of a couple of years ago.
    What "Northern Chaos Gods" does is essentially pull off one of the best tattoo removal jobs in the history of "I Love Sharon" ink stains on most truck drivers (married to a woman called Rose) arm's being obliterated by lasers.  Despite a big character no longer being present on this record, I don't for one second miss Abbath.  Demonaz and co manage to put out an album that sounds so much like Immortal of old you could be forgiven for crying "Fake News!" at every mention of the turmoil and split between the founding members given the music is as strong as it has been in some while.
    Demonaz even sounds like a more in control albeit slightly more subdued Abbath.  But it isn't the vocals that will get you sweating like a blind lesbian in a fishmongers.  Nope, IT'S THE FUCKING RIFFS MAN!!!!!!  It is genuinely like getting twatted by an octopus for 42 and a bit minutes, listening to this record.  Utterly relentless in their delivery, Immortal just pummel away at you, occasionally throwing an atmosphere building intro before thundering off on hoofed steed to epic landscapes such as "Where Mountains Rise".
    There's no Judas Priest or Iron Maiden esque dip in output here in the absence of their established  frontman here.  Demonaz and Horgh have - to put it in layman's terms - just picked up and ran with the established format.  Don't get me wrong, it isn't anywhere near the quality of "At The Heart of Winter", alhtough it does piss all over "All Shall Fall".  Think of it as being the record "Damned In Black" could have been as a better precursor to the great "Sons of Northern Darkness".
    They have a song called "Blacker of Worlds"!!!  I mean what grown man with the mind of a pubescent boy doesn't think that is cool as fuck??? If the start of closing track "Mighty Ravendark" doesn't bring you out in goose pimples, you're dead inside.  Fist pumping, neck snapping metal right here folks.

  24. MacabreEternal
    The first song I heard ahead of the full 2014 release ("The Satanist") from Behemoth was "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel".  It immediately peaked my interest, setting the tone nicely for what was to become one of my favoured full lengths of that year.  This time around I heard "God = Dog" (which I think means the band are more cat people?).  It sounded blunted and frankly restrained.  Yes, there was a brief passage of some interesting string work towards the end but generally it just passed me by.  Sadly, just as my experience of the lead song/single from 2014 was an excellent benchmark for my expectation of the full length, the same has happened in 2018 but with a very different outcome.
    "I Loved You At Your Darkest" rarely achieves touching distance of the band's previous full length.  There's lots of things that stop it from doing this, indeed the list is as long as either one of my lanky and lengthy arms.  The songwriting is poor, it lacks any real structure the majority of the time.  As a result there is a constant sense of this just being a very hastily written, rush of ideas.  Tracks like "If Crucifixion Was Not Enough" and "Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica" show this in abundance, the former nailing the lid down on its own coffin with one of the laziest attempts at a menacing riff I have heard in a while.
    When we do actually settle into some sense of structure it actually works well.  "Bartzabel" is a sole triumph in the songwriting/structure stakes here and this is almost ruined by the annoying double layered, chanting backing vocals.

    Next on my list of grumbles?  The sound.  It is one of the most sterile and strained sounding mixes I think I have ever heard on a record.  The drums sound like they were tracked for a completely different purpose on some of the tracks, "Wolves ov Siberia" and "Rom 5:8" in particular.  I can't believe that this was the intended sound the band wanted to achieve.  I follow Behemoth on Instagram and they make much majesty and menace over their theatre and general pomp when performing live it seems.  Surely then they haven't listened to the final playback of this record?
    Now then.  I don't recall chanting children on a record ever working well?  But there's a couple of tracks here of children chanting their disdain for Christianity alongside Nergal and co.  It sounds frankly fucking ridiculous and trite even over only two tracks!
    In summary, this is a massive disappointment whether you enjoyed "The Satanist" or not.  Hastily put together, poorly arranged and mixed terribly to boot.