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FatherAlabaster

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  1. Horns
    FatherAlabaster gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Gorguts - Full Length Discography Review (1991 - 2016)   
    1991 – Considered Dead – R/C Records
    It is hard to remember Gorguts as anything other than boundary pushing, avant-grade and unique purveyors of some of the most challenging music out there.  But everybody has to start somewhere and their debut was a straight up death metal record.  No evidence was shown in 1991 of much of anything in the way of technicality with the focus instead being on the release of the familiar sound that was infecting much of the metal world in the early nineties.
    It was well-played stuff most definitely with the band having retained three quarters of the line up from the ’89 demo …And Then Comes Lividity barring the replacement of Chouinard on guitar by Sylvain Marcoux.  Here there were catchy riffs like other death metal bands were knocking out as well as similar levels of frenzied intensity.  But Considered Dead is by my own admission and underrated album of the death metal genre.
    Yes, it reinvented no wheels but at the time there was no need to.  Imagine if the debut sounded anything like Obscura; the band would probably have never gotten past one record.  Intelligently Gorguts created a notch for themselves on the wall of death metal by just doing what others were doing really well and without bluster.  No gore obsessed lyrics, no demon worshipping here folks, just some spooky looking artwork and a suitably extreme sound to back it up.
    Whilst far from being my favourite release from the band, for a debut record there was little to argue with here.  It was a solid foundation for some of the layers of avant-garde and challenging death metal that were to be built on top of it over the coming three decades and throughout all that experimentation and out of the box thinking the band never stopped sounding like a death metal band who cut their teeth with the best of them.

     
    1993 – The Erosion of Sanity – Roadrunner Records
    I often think that Gorguts grew almost too quickly for their own good.  I mean an album of the ilk of Obscura getting dropped by a band just three records into their career is mind-boggling, even with a five year gap between its predecessor.  Already by the time the band got around to their sophomore record you could practically hear the cogs whirring around in the heads of most DM fans wondering how a band could develop and mature so quickly in just two years.  The Erosion of Sanity was a real beast to have to contend with as a standalone record, let alone a follow up to an already solid and very capable debut that had heads looking at the band already.  When a band hones its art that quickly and that deftly you have to forgive those that get left behind in the fan base.  If you got stranded at The Erosion of Sanity by Obscura I kind of understand it.  I mean the second album from Gorguts is superb.  Varied, dense and technical are just some of the words you could throw in its direction but overall it is still a solid, consistent and pummelling experience for the die-hards of the scene to lap up.
    There’s an almost inevitable comparison with Suffocation here with the influence of that band painted all over the walls of this record.  As a result the album has a constant weight to it no matter what the frequency of the tempo being played is.  This density provides atmosphere for virtually the whole record, even on the acoustic strings that introduce the closing track Dormant Misery there is a sense of impending peril in the air.  Yet at the same time the whole record has a rabid and urgent style to it that instils a sense of nervous anxiety in the listener as they track the intense and unrelenting delivery of some fine death metal.
    The technical aspect to the sound goes slightly unnoticed at the first couple of listens making this an album that rewards frequent visits to it as you start peel back the initial layer of acute brutality that 
    you think is the sole purpose of the album to find further layers of textures beneath for you to assess and understand.  Tracks like Orphans of Sickness are what true technical death metal is all about, shifting and surging like some turgid river in the midst of monsoon season.  The song feels vile and putrid yet there's no doubt that fiendish and devilish hands were present in its construction to provide a masterful and unsettling edge at the same time.
    I am slowly getting to owning all physical copies of Gorguts' discography because they are a band who have yet to put a foot wrong across a career that has seen them take a well-known genre with a distinct sound and direction and push the boundaries of it into the outer-stratosphere.  The Erosion of Sanity is when the rocket boosters kicked in and took them clear of most of the competition at the time.

     
    1998 – Obscura – Olympic Recordings
    Enter the avant-garde, bass twanging, bone-jarring branch of Gorguts that seems to cause equal amounts of praise and revulsion across the death metal fan base.  I sit firmly in the praise camp.  Not that I don't get the challenges that people have with this directional shift from the bands previous releases (all respectable enough DM records), but for me what impresses me the most about Obscura is the sheer range and scope of the album.  It isn't perfect by any means but, as per my love of Colored Sands this record likewise retains death metal as its core source, despite the multi-layered influences on display here Obscura does still come across as a raging death metal record full of energy and rampant angst.
    Lemay's trademark demented shriek accompanies the instrumentation perfectly.  I find the music twists and contorts brilliantly throughout, taking the listener on a real journey.  The only real downside to that journey perhaps is the length of it.  Clocking in at an hour in duration, the record does meander a bit unfortunately.  Although it is stylistically refreshing it is not controlled enough in its delivery to be able to sustain a presence for such a long period of time.  To compare it with the aforementioned Colored Sands is a fair contrast really as the latter album absolutely nails the delivery of the avant-garde/experimental aspect by integrating it into the overall sound better, even though the run time is more or less the same the 2013 album feels more palatable.
    From reading the criticism of Obscura there's definitely a feeling of the album being something that is done to the fans as opposed to being something they feel is introduced to them.  As full on as it is, the record is still fun and an entertaining enough curved ball.

     
    2001 – From Wisdom to Hate – Olympic Recordings
    At some point (may still be his view) Luc Lemay viewed From Wisdom to Hate as the natural progression from Erosion of Sanity as opposed to appearing after Obscura.  What Gorguts' fourth album represents is a mellowing of some of the avant-garde elements that made the previous album more jarring and obtuse to some listener's ears and reverted to some more familiar atavistic death metal that has become pretty much the trademark songwriting of the band.  Whereas Obscura was at times untidy amidst the rampant entertainment value of the record, From Wisdom to Hate offered a compositionally more grounded outing that relied on good songwriting as much as it did the challenging aspect of its predecessor.
    There had been a three year gap since their previous release and the bulk of that time had been spent on tour as well as (for Luc at least) some intensive study taking up non-road time.  The large gap and distractions proved too much for an impatient Steeve Hurdle and he had chosen to leave the band over the inactivity whilst Patrick Robert had vacated the drum seat for the returning Steve 
    MacDonald after the touring life proved too intense for Pat.  Having poached Martyr's Dan Mongrain into the Gorguts' camp, Luc set about teaching him the band's back catalogue and quickly found that the guy was pretty much a natural (he learned 4 songs from Obscura in just one evening) and so Mongrain got straight onto the songwriting credits for some three songs of his own and one co-written with Lemay.  Despite some pretty significant personnel changes, the band landed on their feet with a familiar face wanting to return and some highly-skilled, new blood to flex their artistry also.
    The effect is obvious as the band bridged that gap between the inventive and eccentric nature of their last outing and the more familiar hue of more traditional death metal that charged the still pioneering direction band with an energy that most bands struggle to retain beyond their debut.  Although arguably for me the album needs a tad more of the Obscura vibe, From Wisdom to Hate was a fine pre-cursor to the next stage of Gorguts where the real clever stuff started to happen and their ability to write structural and deeply textured songs really took off.  Hearing what theof the band are putting out now can have those roots traced back to their fourth outing.  As solid as it is, there's a real feel for boundaries still getting pushed, only this time it is more subtle in how it delivers that, abandoning the full-on assault approach for more strategic-based deployment of their forces. 
    For me there was some danger of this release getting lost in the discography as a lot of my attention has been on the third and fifth releases from the band.  I am glad I revisited this (purchasing a CD copy along the way) because From Wisdom to Hate is an essential release in the Gorguts' catalogue.  It takes the gold dust of Obscura and blends with the promise of Colored Sands and represents a band at the turning point in their career, fully-matured like some fine wine and ready to provide richness to the already plentiful dinner table.
     

     
    2013 – Colored Sands – Season of Mist
    Twelve years after their last full length, Gorguts returned as more or less a new band.  Lemay was the only original member and he recruited three of the most gifted and adaptable musicians to record hands down the best record Gorguts ever made!  Colin Marston from...well every band in the world seemingly picked up bass duties whilst the well-travelled John Longstreth joined on drums and with Kevin Hufnagel picking up guitar duties alongside Luc, the credentials of this line up were immediately obvious before a note was even recorded.
    Colored Sands delivered on every level.  Detailed and considered songwriting, variety in approach and delivery and skill displayed without arrogance or wankery.  There are parts to the record that stay in my head for days, changes of pace that still catch me off guard after nearly seven years and moments of sublime tenderness that touch your very soul.
    An assault on the senses like any Morbid Angel or Deicide album only with so many layers added to take that extreme sound and push the boundaries of this genre to even further reaches of extremity with a deftness that most can only dream of achieving.  This wasn't garish and jarring like Obscura was, this was more refined, all of those off-kilter elements were there but had more precision and integration applied to their inclusion.  At this stage, the songwriting capability of the band is unrivalled in the metal world as they draw up vast blueprints to near unfathomable structures that require lots of studious reviewing to really get the full picture and attempt to understand what it all means.
    The above withstanding, I still find this to be one of the bands more accessible releases but I am now so attuned to Lemay’s thought process that I may actually end up on an album soon enough myself (I fucking wish).  This was my gateway album into the band, and what an introduction it was.  Imagine my surprise working my way back through their discography from this release to find all manner of further attempts at the avant-garde mashed up with pure, straight up death metal also.

     
    2016 – Pleiades’ Dust – Season of Mist
    The barrage of bass-heavy, spiralling, rarefied, abstract and arcane death metal that Gorguts create on Pleiades' Dust just happens to be one of the most well composed pieces of music I have ever heard.  The fact is that the instrumentation on display here is sheer artistry, it isn't supposed to resemble much of anything else out there it is unique and distinctive without relying on being quirky or turgid to deliver its message.
    If I am honest, I had my doubts when I heard that this album was going to be one continuous song.  Even knowing the skill of the musicians involved I was dubious on how this could be delivered effectively without feeling bloated or bombastic.  The result is nothing short of astonishing though, maintaining flow and storytelling whilst still showing that they are a band rooted firmly in the ground of death metal yet some two decades in to their career are now producing some of the most challenging and cabbalistic music in existence today.
    Taking into account that it was recently announced that Gorguts are working on new material for their next release, you have to wonder exactly where the band are going to go next with this ever-evolving and increasingly eloquent brand of death metal.  They are almost the band I wished Death had become (instead of morphing into Control Denied) as with every release they have pushed their sound forwards and with it the boundary of death metal as a genre overall.  That having been said, they have never compromised or lost any of the aggression or extremity to their sound.  Sustainably over their discography they have left that golden thread in their sound that can be traced all the way back to their debut which is now nearly thirty years old.
    In my book there’s a handful of bands who can produce a solid run of albums and get better with each release, but eventually most of them fall after four or five albums (Metallica, Sepultura I am looking at you).  The strata of bands that sit in the rarefied atmosphere for having nearly flawless discographies has even less occupants (hence I don’t write too many of these type of articles), with perhaps only Death being the obvious co-inhabitants of Luc and co.  They might have lost fans along the way in some quarters but to me they have grown as a band over thirty years and used the downtime to their advantage, applying their understanding of music superbly, upping their game with each outing.
    Constantly exploring stories within their own story the band show a knowledge of history not always taught in high school and revisit these times of old.  Their music is insightful and conscientiously written and makes me wish History was this interesting when I was in school.

  2. Horns
    FatherAlabaster gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Ulcerate "Stare Into Death And Be Still"   
    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.
    5/5
  3. Horns
    FatherAlabaster given a Damn from True Belief for a blog entry, Obsequiae - The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings   
    Obsequiae established a very well-defined style on their first record, and they've stuck with it ever since. The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings is their third album, and much like the second one, it offers subtle refinements and expansions of their sound, but no big surprises. If you haven't heard them, it's a great place to start; if you have, you know what to expect.
    That's not a bad thing at all. If you like what they do, you'll like this album. It's chock full of flowing, triumphant medieval-European-flavored melodies and dual guitar interplay, reminding me of certain parts of Opeth's Orchid along with some other 90s melodic death, black, and folk metal. The songs remain generally mid-paced and propulsive, with the occasional blastbeat or meter shift, but nothing outlandish; the expected harp interludes are pretty-sounding, moody without being gloomy. The sense of atmosphere is well-realized and pervasive. A caustic vocal rasp echoes from within, I dunno, monastery walls? Tombs of ancient warriors? Something.
    So, what's different this time around? More complex, layered songwriting and musicianship; more prominent and interesting bass lines; a detailed, full-sounding mix that's a lot more clear than their debut and more powerful than the sterile sound of their last recording; a couple of sections with clean vocal harmonies that fit in nicely, and even a spoken word bit. The details add up to a compelling experience.
    My one real complaint about this band has been how homogeneous their stuff is. Every song tends to sound like a variation on the same couple of ideas, and that can make it all come across as a bit of a gimmick. I'm a fan of melodic metal and I love medieval Western music, so it's a gimmick I've enjoyed. This album doesn't feel like a gimmick. It's not some great departure, but it's not a mere rehashing, either; it's deeper, clearer, more varied and nuanced than their other material. I have a special place in my heart for the energy and rough edges of their debut, and there's plenty of nice stuff on Aria Of Vernal Tombs, but this might actually be the best thing they've done.
  4. Horns
    FatherAlabaster given a Damn from MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Obsequiae - The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings   
    Obsequiae established a very well-defined style on their first record, and they've stuck with it ever since. The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings is their third album, and much like the second one, it offers subtle refinements and expansions of their sound, but no big surprises. If you haven't heard them, it's a great place to start; if you have, you know what to expect.
    That's not a bad thing at all. If you like what they do, you'll like this album. It's chock full of flowing, triumphant medieval-European-flavored melodies and dual guitar interplay, reminding me of certain parts of Opeth's Orchid along with some other 90s melodic death, black, and folk metal. The songs remain generally mid-paced and propulsive, with the occasional blastbeat or meter shift, but nothing outlandish; the expected harp interludes are pretty-sounding, moody without being gloomy. The sense of atmosphere is well-realized and pervasive. A caustic vocal rasp echoes from within, I dunno, monastery walls? Tombs of ancient warriors? Something.
    So, what's different this time around? More complex, layered songwriting and musicianship; more prominent and interesting bass lines; a detailed, full-sounding mix that's a lot more clear than their debut and more powerful than the sterile sound of their last recording; a couple of sections with clean vocal harmonies that fit in nicely, and even a spoken word bit. The details add up to a compelling experience.
    My one real complaint about this band has been how homogeneous their stuff is. Every song tends to sound like a variation on the same couple of ideas, and that can make it all come across as a bit of a gimmick. I'm a fan of melodic metal and I love medieval Western music, so it's a gimmick I've enjoyed. This album doesn't feel like a gimmick. It's not some great departure, but it's not a mere rehashing, either; it's deeper, clearer, more varied and nuanced than their other material. I have a special place in my heart for the energy and rough edges of their debut, and there's plenty of nice stuff on Aria Of Vernal Tombs, but this might actually be the best thing they've done.
  5. Horns
    FatherAlabaster gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, The Fallen Ones   
    @BlutAusNerd
    @Iceni
    @NTNR
    @Midi
    @Frostaudn
    @jfk36
    @Black Milk
    @SBird94
    @~Mere~
    @mindy6158
    @Ghouly
    @forge
    @salmonellapancake
    @Thrashman
    @Skull_Kollektor
    @Ikard
  6. Horns
    FatherAlabaster gave a Damn to MacabreEternal for a blog entry, Ossuarium "Living Tomb"   
    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.
     
    3.5/5
  7. Horns
    FatherAlabaster 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.
    5/5
  8. Horns
    FatherAlabaster 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.
    4/5
     

     
  9. Epic
    FatherAlabaster given a Damn from dilatedmind 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:
    https://contrarianmetal.bandcamp.com/music
  10. Horns
    FatherAlabaster given a Damn from MacabreEternal 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:
    https://contrarianmetal.bandcamp.com/music
  11. Horns
    FatherAlabaster given a Damn from MacabreEternal 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.
     
  12. Horns
    FatherAlabaster given a Damn from Natassja 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:
    https://contrarianmetal.bandcamp.com/music
  13. Horns
    FatherAlabaster given a Damn from Natassja 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.
     
  14. Epic
    FatherAlabaster given a Damn from dilatedmind 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.
     
  15. Horns
    FatherAlabaster 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.

     
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