Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Essential Finnish BM Releases - Horna/Behexen split EP - (2004)
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.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Altarage "The Approaching Roar"
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.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, MacabreEternal's Top 10 BM Albums 2018
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.
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.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Immortal "Northern Chaos Gods"
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.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Winterfylleth "The Hallowing of Heirdom"
Okay, so I will admit that the prospect of an acoustic only Winterfylleth album didn't exactly fill me with joy. The pagan, black metallers have long existed on the fringes of my radar but never somehow managed to make much more than a fleeting blip historically.
The fact is that this is one of the most heartfelt records I have listened to in quite a while. I have more than once found myself stood stock still, completely captivated by the atmospheric beauty of what I have heard on this record. The album opens up with "The Shepherd" a track which starts with a rendering of the Christopher Marlowe poem "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and this is an indication of what you are in for as a listener. There's not one bit of BM on this record and it doesn't need any in any way, shape or form. "The Hallowing of Heirdom" is more folk than anything even remotely resembling metal. Imagine if Fleet Foxes dropped the irritation of that constant "hippy" vibe and showed some actual capable instrumentation also and you are loosely on the right track.
There's variety to it which is as unexpected as it is welcome and it means you never get bored despite the record clocking in at 55 mins plus. Over 12 tracks you are actually taken on a journey that stays with you long afterwards, which is what all good journeys should do, be memorable for all the right reasons. But don't get me wrong, it isn't OTT on the emotion front, that's not the strength on display here. No, this is one of the most balanced releases in my recent memory. It's like a picture album where the first picture is given to you (that cover) and then it takes over your head with numerous captures of the very essence of the land itself. You can smell the pine of the trees, the earthy tones of the fields and almost feel the breeze on your face even though you are sat in your front room with all the windows and doors shut.
As usual with Winterfylleth there's a theme of the old ways being lost, the album title itself harking back to the importance of "heirdom" as we all exist with clear ties back to people stretching far back into history but seem to rarely give that much thought. "The Hallowing of Heirdom" seems a fitting tribute to the ways of yore regardless.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Watain "Trident Wolf Eclipse"
Watain's last album "The Wild Hunt" got slated on one internet review for being "Nu-Dark Funeral with the heart of Bon Jovi". Whilst a certain amount of butthurt contributed the scribe of aforementioned review choosing such a frankly ridiculous statement, it was unfortunately indicative of the direction change of the album that saw the raw and ferocious nature of the band be trimmed back to make way for more melodic, progressive and accessible aspects.
"Trident Wolf Eclipse" is a return to that more traditional sound. Although melody is obvious throughout, it is more restrained. We have more Gorgoroth here than we do Bon Jovi that's for sure. No wheels are reinvented on Watain's sixth studio album. It is pretty standard BM fare, full of raw production values, tremolo leads and drums that can peel flesh from faces. You won't find a lot here that hasn't been done by Watain before but then again the fan base has been crying out for a return that more "underground" sound for four years plus now. As opposed to innovation let's just look at this albums raison d'etre as being to rectify the imbalance in their discography.
Even the album is more BM than your average Bandcamp BM demo release nowadays. Straight out of a 13 year old boy's maths jotter who gave up on trigonometry weeks ago. So, depending on whether the kvlt legions of troo black metal want to put their sacrificial goat carcasses down for long enough to give them a chance, Watain are back. Average at best, but back at least.
3 horns out of 5.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Shining "X - Varg Utan Flock"
Two album reviews in one day today. Boy, will I sleep tonight. Although perhaps not as easily as I might think. "X - Varg Utan Flock" has a bit flustered, a bit confused yet in a good way - like when I saw a magician at my friend's wedding and he wasn't just counting cards even though he didn't walk through a wall either.
Shining's latest album twists and turns as it unfolds in front of you like some venomous snake. Depressive tone? Tick. Demented vocals? Check! Sad piano track? That's a roger sir! All the stuff you expect to hear assisted by the usual clean and full production job we've all come to expect. "Han Som Lurar Inom" reverberates though your actual soul as it lurches through eight mins plus of spat lyrics, Behemoth like riffs and hazy reprises.
The classical keys of "Tolvtusenfyrtioett" are actually hauntingly beautiful and the bonkers vocal cabaret of "Gyllene Portarnas Bro" make it sound like a pisstake Eurovision Song Contest entry. Unfortunately it is this varied nature to proceedings that does become a little off putting on repeated listens. The latter mentioned track actually is more than a little awkward and closing track "Mot Aokighara" strays close to similar territory before a change of pace rescues it and takes it off in a much stronger direction.
Crooning aside, there's still lots to like on "X - Varg Utan Flock" and there's evidence of some strong songwriting skills and instrumentation prowess also. It might not all fit together perfectly but what is pieced together well is really solid.
3 horns out 5.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Morbid Angel "Kingdoms Disdained"
Is there any success in avoiding failure? I mean there are no bones to make about it, Morbid Angels last offering was fucking terrible. In comparison to that "Kingdoms Disdained" is an absolute triumph with all hints at "experimental" (or just downright "shite" bits) thankfully lost to the annals of catastrophic album releases from 2011. But is it enough to improve on one of the worst releases ever by harking back to what you know with such totally that, inevitably, you risk judgement of being considered to have just retreated back into the safety of straight up, no frills, DM? Albeit done with a poise and guile of the band of seasoned musicians the world knows you to be.
It is hard to criticise "Kingdoms Disdained". The wave of favourable reviews already popping up across the metal community is already testimony to this and rightly so that these reviews are favourable, because at it's core this is as solid a DM release as you will hope to find all year. No one with ears can deny the grinding death metal intensity of "Garden of Disdain" as it chomps away at your very being like some Pac-Man villain chasing the hapless yellow fucker. The ripping pace, chaotic structure and mental sonics of "The Righteous Voice" will have any DM fan in absolute fucking raptures also. The familiarity of tracks like "From the Hand Of Kings" as being straight up recognisable MA fodder will warm the heart of anyone wearing a "Covenant" tee also. All over "Kingdoms Disdained" there's bits of great DM, I openly recognise this.
Likewise, it is hard to write entirely positive things when in essence the whole thing is just too safe. Whilst I can hear the chaotic writing of Trey here an there it just feels like it is constantly being reined in or somehow stifled. Who wants to sit listening to an MA record and have to hope there's a blooping, looping, totally archaic piece of sonic fuckery just waiting to spin the planet off its axis? They should be there on all tracks not scattered throughout the record like some afterthought. In dumbing down/pairing back for this record MA seem to have dropped into some "pre-Altars" state of foetal development, only giving hints at what they are really capable of.
There has of course been a significant line up change with Bonkers Vincent now a "Country Musician" in his own right having left the MA fray to allow the return of Steve Tucker. Tucker is superb throughout the album, long may he reign (again). The replacement of Tim Yeung with Scott Fuller also proves a positive step forwards. Although at times a bit lost in the mix the drums are on the whole great throughout the eleven tracks here. Line up improvements aside, the production feels a tad sterile and stifling at times also - "The Pillars Crumbling" in particular stands out as being riddled with this problem. It is a similar production blueprint to the "Covenant" sound, an undeniably strong record with a sound that holds it back too much.
The overall opinion I garner from this release is that MA have returned to form, which let's face it folks isn't that fucking hard. There needs to be more here to hold my attention beyond the few listens I have given it so far. I have an array of similar quality sounding DM records already in my collection and I really wanted this release to standout from them. Sadly I find myself wanting to like it more than I actually do.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Electric Wizard "Wizard Bloody Wizard"
"Wizard Bloody Wizard" is like the lifting of a thick fog. From the off there's a feel of a dense weight being lifted from the band's signature occult/stoner blend of doom. By the time I get to track two "Necromania" things almost seem like a dark cock-rock affair which is odd. The over-arching feel though is of a band who have gone off the boil somewhat. Despite the aforementioned lifting of the heavy atmosphere "Wizard Bloody Wizard" seems more of ground out effort made under some duress resulting in the album being robbed in the main of any feel.
The stoner riff that opens "Hear The Sirens Scream" gets the attention but by the time Jus' vocals kick in it is already starting to grate like when your washer stays on spin for fucking ages. Instead of being a great hook for the track in becomes a centre-pin that loops unnecessarily throughout. The vocals almost sound too laid back here also, like they are almost too much trouble to have to do. When combined with the one dimensional structure of the song it all just starts to sound more than a bit forced. As a result the track completely outstays its welcome even managing to make near 9 minutes feel like 15. It's like your nagging aunt phoning for a "quick chat" only to spend an hour of your life hearing whose died recently and why.
The creepy organ keys of "The Reaper" don't actually fit the riff structure at all. The attempt at perhaps a drug infused chaos just sounds a clumsy and unnecessary 3 minutes of filler on a record that's only 6 tracks long anyway. "Wicked Caresses" offers the only hope for an actual bonafide EW track on the whole album, buzzing with hazy stoner riffs and solid plodding rhythm throughout but bubbling over with atmosphere to hold the interest better than anything before it. The vocals actually sound like they are being delivered with thought and meaning as opposed to a disinterested teenager delivering a presentation at school on "Geographical Inertia" done with minimal research and planning to ever hope of not getting to stand in the corner with a big pointy "D" hat on.
Unfortunately closing track "Mourning of Magicians" is delivered with about as much enthusiasm as the current Brexit deal and I just don't understand why? "Time to Die" wasn't flawless but at least it was alive - it had meaning and purpose, direction even - whereas the cold dead eyes of "Wizard Bloody Wizard" offer no icy spark of creativity or artistic merit. It is one of the most tired sounding things I have ever heard. I spoke to my Gran this morning, she's 91 and can barely walk anymore and currently has a cold and she still sounded more exuberant than all six of these tracks put together. My noodles at lunch had more kick to them, etc, etc... I could go on for hours about how much I dislike this.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Chelsea Wolfe "Hiss Spun"
Shut up, just shut up any naysayers out there already reading this going "Urgh, that's not a metal album and you can't review a non-metal album on a metal forum because it isn't HEAVY FUCKING METAL DUDE!" I have a Masters degree in pissing on other people's chips and so no amount of brandishing your "metul blud" at me will make me not do this. You frankly have more chance of setting up a successful business in North Korea selling BBQ's and Rimmel products (DISCLAIMER -other expensive face paint is also available).
Chelsea Wolfe does sound like the name of a lawyer who fights cases for poor people against big multi-national corporations and donates her fee to Greenpeace upon successful prosecution of organisations more complex and shady than any John Grisham novel could dream of. Thankfully, Ms Wolfe does not have any career in law and has instead dedicated her life to the ethereal, industrial, alt-grunge/death/dark rock stream of odd music to play at parties to make everyone leave early.
Madder than a box of frogs and more cooky than Cooky McCooky Cooky from the village of Cookyville, Wolfe once again spreads her virulent strain of poignant, emotive and melancholic vocals to a soundtrack with more clatter, rattle and intensity than a most soup kitchens see in a month. There's real pain here and thankfully it is measured superbly as it shifts form with each track, ranging from floaty, pop infused melodies through to harsh, industrial drone and onto reverb drenched grungey rock to boot.
When you have a voice more haunting than the average mother-in-law's face you could quite easily rest on it as your main "thang!" and let the rest of the instrumentation, structure and form go to shit. Not Chelsea Wolfe! She is to music what Steven Seagal is to Martial Arts - fat, orange and dangerous! No, I mean dangerous, edgy and unpredictable and this spreads throughout "Hiss Spun" as some tracks are accessible within a couple of bars and others are real slow burners that build into dark and solid forms of undulating, uncompromising and at times disturbing structure.
Check out, "Static Hum" for its use of the guitar to maul and taunt the vocals as the track builds and builds. Better still the well paced structure and subtle shifts of percussion that represent "The Culling" or the meandering, fractured and disjointed guitar style present on "16 Psyche". All are examples of the true talent of the lady herself and the musicians she surrounds herself with.
It isn't flawless though. Although I like them, the industrial/noise/dark ambient interludes that occur seem misplaced almost and some tracks ("Particle Flurry") are frankly directionless. I don't see "Hiss Spun" making many appearances on the turntable but it is most definitely a record that requires exploration as opposed to just a listen as background music, whenever it does get a play.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Cannibal Corpse "Red Before Black"
Whether you love or hate Cannibal Corpse, their penchant for churning out accessible, fun and consistent DM can't be denied. Yes when they suck they really do suck (Gallery of Suicide), but even if technically never more complicated than most Kinder egg toys there's always a familiarity to CC albums that appeals. I get those that hate that familiarity. If you prefer to become lost in a Portalesque vortex when enjoying your extreme metal then the obvious churn of CC won't be for you. However, for every complex and archaic DM record in my collection I like to have a fair amount of surety too (someone will be along in a minute to replace "surety" with "safety" no doubt) and "Red Before Black" is as familiar to me after a few listens as most of the band's previous outpyt.
"Red Before Black" reinvents no wheels, either in terms of DM in general or the CC specific brand. It is naive to say it has no variety as this simply isn't true, the pace of "Remaimed" for example goes from a slight itch to a raging STD style of a rash. Opening track "Only One Will Die" comes for you like a deranged serial killer, devoid of any bizarre macabre master plan to use your body in some horrific piece of death art, just driven instead by the need to rip your head off and shit down your neck.
"Firestorm Vengeance" starts like a thrash track, chopping away at the bars like a lumberjack on LSD defacing a tree. The mastery of "Scavenger Consuming Death" is undeniable as it chugs away sitting imperiously glaring at you like some cocksure domestic pet who just shat in your sock drawer! Sonically, the album seems a little more developed than usual without ever dissolving into the territory of "guitar wankery". My only instrumentation grumble is the slightly soft edge to the drum sound which taps along instead pummelling in unison with the rest of the activity on display here.
Whilst still being relevant (and it has achieved this without becoming "core" orientated either) and it staying in my head a lot better than the last two Suffocation records (for example) it sets nothing alight. As solid a DM record as this is my face isn't torn off at any point, my ears aren't battered and my neck doesn't get sore due to some over-exuberant headbanging session. Most tracks do dip away unfortunately.
Let's take nothing away from the effort though. To not be producing shit metal at this stage in your career is an achievement in itself, I just start to question if motions are starting to just be gone through?
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Blut Aus Nord "Deus Salutis Meæ"
Like some journey whilst blindfolded and hogtied in the trunk of a kidnapper's car, you never quite know where you'll end up with Blut Aus Nord. The blend of near poetic melody contrasted with their harsh industrial leanings and complimentary darkest of ambience across their discography can leave the average metalhead spinning on their metallic shoulders. Counter-intuitively you end up waiting for the next change, chop, turn or trick whenever you listen to anything new by BAN and this almost starts to detract from the experience as you wait like some cowering wreck for the sucker-punch to arrive.
Merciless though they are in the delivery of "Deus Salutis Meæ" (God of my Salvation) the twists and turns - although far from predictable - are as one would expect having heard anything by the band since "The Work Which Transforms God". Where "Deus..." differs slightly to me ears is the more obvious structure to proceedings, which obvious use of ambient tracks to pace the album over the full experience.
What occurs between these passages of dark reflection is just as chaotic and scary as you would expect it to be. There's little obvious "Memoria Vetusta" styling here but some of it is still present amidst the clashing percussion, churning bass and dense atmosphere of what sounds like a natural extension of the previously mentioned "The Work..." album. It is impossible to deny the power behind BAN's music and typically "Deus..." is a bashing of an affair. The thunderous opening of "Abisme" for example causes you to stop whatever you are doing and listen - like some industrial riffing dictator at some vast and menacing stage, addressing their crowd of loyal subjects.
Never content with just pummelling the listener with percussion there's a fair amount of mesmerising repetition also, like some endless coiling snake or fathomless vortex encircling the listener, crushing the very soul from their shell. "Revalatio" fades away but the same intensity of the track just churns on and on as though still playing now in some parallel universe, long after the reels have stopped turning here in this one! The void that "Ex Tenebrae Lucis" drops you into has no friendly alien lifeforms present as it taunts you like some inter dimensional bully after your cyber lunch money.
Criticisms? It seems over and done with too quickly, which whilst never coming across as disjointed or fractured does leave you stumbling a bit as the record just ends really suddenly. You end up feeling like a sprint runner, expecting the finish line but then suddenly seeing a wall just after it and having to slam on the heel brakes. The longest track on here is five and a half minutes and it almost feels like the album needs a couple of seven minute numbers to vary the experience a little. That having been said, "Deus..." is a still a triumph for a band who despite switching genres more often than some people change their duds still manage to produce challenging and though-provoking music.
Natassja gave a Damn to FatherAlabaster for a blog entry, Contrarian - To Perceive Is To Suffer
Contrarian is a sometimes international progressive death metal collaboration featuring George Kollias of Nile on drums, and on "To Perceive Is To Suffer", their second full-length, he steps up to perform vocals as well. If you like mid-90s Death, there's a good chance you'll like this album. Comparisons to the early Floridian prog-death scene are obvious from the outset, but this recording is no mere hero worship; it offers a fresh and sincere take on the style, brimming with intricate yet memorable riffs, intelligent harmonies, a strong sense of melodic interplay between the bass and guitars, and a sterling drum performance. The mix is clear without feeling sterile, and the reverb and delay effects on the vocals lend them an atmospheric quality that's uncommon in modern DM. Technical chops are here in abundance, but the focus remains on concise and enjoyable songwriting. The vocals are mostly delivered in a harsh rasp; tonally, it recalls some black metal, but the vocal patterns and pronunciation show a strong influence from vintage Chuck Schuldiner.
This album isn't flawless. The vocals are a bit lackluster; they fit the music well, both in tone and in placement, and they're certainly competent, but they lack a sense of emotive conviction that could make them truly shine. Kollias' high rasp on this album represents a change in direction from the guttural DM vocals of their debut, "Polemic"; I prefer the new sound, but fans of their earlier work may find it difficult to adapt.
Also, as an album, it suffers a bit from being too much of a good thing. Nearly every song on here is well-paced and well-structured, but each of them hovers around the same length and tempo; they all kick ass in the same way, with the same mix of elements, and the result is that, despite the catchy and memorable nature of the riffs, no song truly stands out. The exception to this is a somewhat incongruous cover of the first half of "At Fate's Hands", by Fates Warning - a slow, clean tune delivered in a stilted but pleasant sing-song, that breaks up the riff-fest nicely but doesn't really add anything of its own.
Regardless, this album is very good; I would highly recommend it to fans of old-school prog death, or any DM fan on the lookout for some exceptional melodic guitar work. Much like each individual song, it's short and to the point, clocking in at just under 35 minutes, and it's remained thoroughly engaging for me through many plays over the past several weeks. Get your ears on it:
Natassja gave a Damn to FatherAlabaster for a blog entry, Akercocke - Renaissance In Extremis
Akercocke has always been an eclectic band. Eighteen years after the release of their debut, they're more eclectic than ever. "Renaissance In Extremis" finds their trademark pastiche of extreme metal, progressive rock, electronic textures, and moody atmospheres at its most varied and dynamic. Yet, for all of its expansiveness, there's still an evident connection with the brutish black/death metal of their early years.
Longtime fans of the band (especially their previous two albums, 2005's "Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone" and 2007's "Antichrist") should feel right at home. For some newcomers, this album will be an acquired taste. The opening track, "Disappear", provides a fitting introduction to the variety of sounds on display: a thrashy DM gallop gives way to a short arpeggiated section that wouldn't be out of place on a late 70s Rush album, before dropping away into a lull of clean, atmospheric guitars and delicate vocals, and then building back up into melodic lead guitar excursions that swoop and dive through tasty chord changes. Later moments on the album offer dissonant black metal, restrained background keyboards, and even a lonely beach soundscape of birds and surf. In some hands, this kind of mashup could be a recipe for confusion; not so here. The songs are held together by excellent musicianship, a strong sense of pacing, and above all by the conviction with which they're delivered.
The production is tight and clear; guitar tones breathe, with more vintage grit than crushing gain. The band is deft and energetic throughout. Engaging riffs are underpinned by thoughtful bass lines and propulsive drumming, sometimes serving as a backdrop for graceful guitar solos that never outstay their welcome. The solos themselves are a highlight of the album, tasteful and technically accomplished to a higher degree than on their previous outings.
Technicality isn't the focus here, though; the main point of this album is the passion and human drama conveyed by the vocals. Frontman Jason Mendonça's voice is one of Akercocke's most defining features, and his vocals are at their most expressive on this album - snarling growls, blackened shrieks, stentorian bellows, and strained rasps, side by side with haunting cleans, frequently bordering on frailty. The overwrought theatricality of earlier albums has given way to a genuine, sometimes intimate quality that (to my ears, at least) is more mature, and no less powerful, than anything they've done to date. This is partly due to the lyrics; the overt, religious Satanism for which Akercocke is known has been put to the side in favor of songs about loss, personal struggle, and even some kind of redemption. The subject of the lyrics isn't always obvious, but the tension between despair, anger, and perseverance is clearly drawn. It's tempting to wonder what could have inspired this internal strife, and maybe that mystery is part of the appeal.
"Renaissance In Extremis" won't connect with everyone. The frequency of apparent genre shifts may throw some listeners off, and the vocals can be polarizing. I was introduced to the band through their third album, "Choronzon", and it took me several months of on-and-off listening to finally warm up to the vocal approach. I can also see how fans of some of Akercocke's earlier material might be put off by the comparative fragility of some passages on this album. If you find yourself in any of those camps, all I can suggest is that you give this album a chance to grow.
If, on the other hand, you're like me, this album may be the unexpected comeback you didn't know you'd been wanting for the past decade. In terms of texture, tonality, and vocal approach, it picks up where "Antichrist" left off; but it's far more focused, without the miscues and dead weight that made that album feel drab after the masterful "Words...". Akercocke may have been broken up for the past ten years, but they've returned with a vital addition to their catalog, retaining the essence of their sound while pushing their own boundaries. In terms of songwriting and production, this is their "lightest" recording to date; in my opinion, it's also one of their best, and my favorite release so far this year. They lost themselves in the wilderness, and now they're back to tell us all about it. Sit down and listen.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Bell Witch "Mirror Reaper"
An hour and twenty three minutes is a significant period of time. I could clean my whole house or prepare and cook a three course meal in that time. Thankfully Bell Witch obviously have a cleaner and/or a chef as they decided to write one track during the time it would take most of us to commute to work. Fans of Bell Witch will already know their sound to be unusual in the sense that there's no guitar and they produced one of 2015's best releases when they dropped "Four Phantoms" to the doom masses.
Far from being an inhibitor, the lack of any guitar simply gives the Bell Witch duo opportunity to make the very best out of the bass and percussion, feeding them with atmospherics from varying sources and types to great effect. I won't lie, this album is an acquired taste. The layers going on here are oppressive both in terms of weight and the amount of patience (and time) required to simply sit down and truly appreciate them.
This is not your standard Funeral Doom/drone album. In fact it is so much more than an album, something audible yet tangible at the same time to fingertips of anyone willing to lose nearly 90 mins of their day listening to an album consisting of just one track. The bass guitar for Bell Witch acts as so much more than a stringed instrument. Sure, the harrowing bottom end that dominates the majority of the track is an ocean of a million regrets churning its tide, smashing roll waves against roll waves, eroding cliff faces and laying ships to wreck. But at the same time the bass sings to you, a song of sorrow and fathomless anguish like a Siren-esque accompaniment to the actual vocals themselves. The delivery of the vocals is brilliant in keeping with the atmosphere of the record as they breathe in and out, formulating whispers, growls and clean, ritualistic verses whilst all the while the drums build their own crescendos of crashing cymbals and subtle rolls that fade and grow back like the embers of some undying fire.
There's textures here too, not always obvious but certainly the variety on display takes the listener on a journey through every passage of crushing doom on and into post (post-doom's a thing right?) and ambient structures of peace and tranquilty yet still the hazy and murky dirge retains the atmosphere all through out.
I am a sucker for any record that matches the artwork that adorns it's cover. The artwork on "Mirror Reaper" is more than matched by the music behind it, I could stare at the artwork for the whole duration of the record and live out it's ethereal and menacing story to the full whilst doing so. I am behind on my releases for 2017 but this is a firm contender for album of the year.
Natassja gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, The King Is Blind "We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer"
Essex, England is famous on Brit TV for reality TV shows portraying residents of the county as being sufficiently lacking in educational merit to be able to answer pressing questions like, "Which way is up?" without a significant pause for thought. Whilst the British TV watching public clearly enjoy watching the blissful ignorance of the beautiful but frankly thick as pigshit youth of Essex, the same masses are no doubt equally blissfully unaware of the mighty monolith of metal that is The King Is Blind who hark from that very same part of the world.
Steve Tovey (vocals) is an internet acquaintance of mine (as in we have never met in real life but we like each other's Facebook and Instagram posts regularly and exchanged post for a couple of years on another forum). As such I have been aware of the band from their inception, enjoying thoroughly their first two demos and EP as they churned out releases consistently over 18 months. By the time they dropped their debut full length "Our Father" in 2016 they had already become a well established outfit with their line up of former members of Extreme Noise Terror, Cradle of Filth and Entwined.
I was all over "Our Father" like an STD on anyone of Motley Crue's genitalia during the eighties. It was a proper journey too taking the listener from the familiarity of death metal initially before diving off into blackened passages and "core" edged crevices whilst being utterly monolithic throughout.
For the follow up TKIB have managed to punch any doubts of a sophomore dip firmly out of the ring and onto the bar at the back of the arena seating. Not only is "We Are the Parasite, We Are The Cancer" an obvious step up from its predecessor, it also one of the most consistent records I have heard in a long time. Whereas "Our Father" took you in all directions and lost you on more than one occasion in its majesty the result was not as memorable as you might have initially thought and as a consequence you did get feel for it being more of a collection of songs as opposed to an album from end to end.
"We Are the Parasite..." is a much more consistent and solidly written record with a real direction that remains obvious throughout. It has been constructed from the ground up on foundations of riffs that could have your teeth down the back of your throat quicker than Mike Tyson on a night out in Newcastle. The riff to "The Sky Is A Mirror (Plague : Luxuria" will knock you the fuck out quicker than Iron Mike ever could hope to with the power of it alone, never mind the relentless fury with which it is delivered.
The scathing blackened picks of "Embers From A Dying Son (Plague : Gula)" will exfoliate you faster than any beautician wired on crack could with a seaweed mask and a bar of coal infused soap. The build of "The Burden of Their Scars" becomes ever more oppressive as it crawls up your spine and grips your neck before Tovey's insane ramblings seep into your ear. Even former Bolt Thrower (and current Memoriam) growler Karl Willets makes an appearance midway through the album.
For a band in only the fourth year of existence to produce a piece of solid and thoroughly entertaining metal on just their second full length is testimony no doubt to the quality present within their ranks as "we Are The Parasite..." is clearly the sound of a band loving life together having gelled perfectly already so early into their career.