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Classic Gothic Metal Albums

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Saturnus - Martyre

Saturnus from Denmark released their first album, the fantastic 'Paradise Belongs to You' in 1997, and this post could easily be about that beautiful album, but instead I'm going with 1999's 'Martyre'. 

Yes there's doom here, plenty of it, and a bit of death, but as we are an equal opportunity thread I'm going to include this as gothic metal, and I think anyone who hears the album is going to see why. 

This is a special album for so many reasons. It's the last with founder and main songwriter Kim Larsen (they'll never be the same again). The opening choral piece '7' is haunting and perfect. The production is crisp yet warm. The vocals - in three styles by the almighty Thomas AG Jensen who speaks, moans and growls - are second to none in the doom/gothic scene. The spoken word vocals are just incredible. Evocative of some romantic era poet speaking odes to lost loves by haunted European lakes. 

The sense of quiet solitude and loneliness that pervades the album is so tangible you can taste it. Tracks like 'A Poem (written in moonlight)', 'Lost my Way' and the upbeat 'Empty Handed' are doom/gothic classics for the ages. A line from 'Empty Handed', "She's the lie I live by" really encapsulates the aura of unrequited love and obsession that pervades the album. 

With an iconic cover by Paul Delaroche which is actually a painting currently in the Louvre, the visual element of the release is also close to perfect. 

Here are the two first tracks, '7' and 'Inflame Thy Heart'. Check out the piano outro on 'Inflame the Heart' that complements the entire song.

 

 

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I went looking for this today to play but alas, couldn't find it. Perhaps it's upstairs.....Generally I prefer 'Veronica Decides to Die' over Martyre. I think it's their most 'accessible' album (lots of clean vocals, production very lush etc) and it's got quite a 'romantic' feel to it which sets it apart. My fav songs are Loss (In Memoriam), Empty Handed & Lost My Way.

Saturnus has no poor albums so while I prefer VDtD and Paradise Belongs to You, it's no way a criticism of this release; I do think they could have trimmed it down (12songs clocking in just over an hour).

But then again they are hardly the most prolific band in terms of material, so I should hardly complain

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I really need to dig out 'Veronika Decides to Die'. It's definitely a cool album but I just thought some of the magic was missing after Kim left and that it tended to plod along a little bit. It's been a few years since I've heard it actually, so this could be a timely reminder. 

As for 'Paradise Belongs to You' it's so good! There's that awesome doom innocence thing going on. That song 'I Love Thee' is a classic. Although I prefer the live version of 'Christ Goodbye' from the 'For the Loveless Lonely Nights' EP with the choir at the end. 

Saturnus are one of my favourite bands. Just amazing. 

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To/Die/For - Jaded

One of the results of Paradise Lost coming clean, Type O Negative in general, and Euro-pop, was the rise in the late 90s and early 2000s of a new type of gothic metal, based more on almost 80s style rock elements, yet with an all-encompassing gloss of darkness and gothicism. 

The Finnish band To/Die/For exploded on the gothic metal scene in 1999 with their 'All Eternity' album, and by 2001's release 'Epilogue', they were signed to Nuclear Blast and on top of the world. Arguably their masterpiece 'Jaded' followed, then two more amazing albums ('IV' and 2006's 'Wounds Wide Open') before taking a lengthy break to return with two passable yet disappointing albums in 'Samsara' (2011) and 'Cult' (2015). 

Their heydey was definitely 1999-2006, and 'Jaded' from 2003 is arguably their best. It's an energetic, upbeat yet atmospheric album, immaculately produced with twin guitars, keyboards and those tight gothic drums we all love so much (right??). This is the all clean singing, goth girls dancing part of the movement. The smooth, deep, vocals of Jape (which would unfortunately give way to gravelly harshness as he got older) are amazing here, and the songwriting is incredible. 

Tracks like 'Too Much Ain't Enough', 'Dying Embers' and the 80s cover song 'I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight' are so catchy they would make your grandmother put on some eye-liner, a black dress and dance around the old folks home.

Tonmi Lillman, drummer, keyboardist and producer, died in 2012. He played a huge part in the band's first three albums and really perfected that crisp gothic metal style. He was a true talent and it's little wonder albums like 'Jaded' aren't made to this standard anymore. RIP. 

Sure the cover artwork looks very dated these days, and it's ironically their worst, but there are polished audial gems within. 

Metal purists are going to hate this, but To/Die/For were at one time the catchiest band in metal, and this album deserves to be remembered and loved. They're one of my favourite bands and this is the first I ever got of theirs and (probably) my favourite. 

If you like your gothic metal Finnish, slick and - dare I say it - fun, check this out. Contender for catchiest chorus in rock n roll. 

 

 

 

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Paradise Lost - Icon

To put this album into context you have to understand what was happening in 1993. The answer is, not much when it comes to doom and gothic metal. It's the same year as My Dying Bride's immortal 'Turn Loose the Swans' and Anathema's first album, the awesome yet rustic 'Serenades', and in many ways a momentous year. But when you think of what is to come in the mid to late 90s, no one had any idea how huge this would all be. 

My Dying Bride and Anathema released absolute classics, but they were (beautifully) naive albums, and in many ways they struck it lucky. Paradise Lost, however, already had two albums out when they produced one of the greatest gothic metal albums of all time, 'Icon'. 

They were the first to bring a more rock orientated style into their sound which would become standard in three or four years across the globe. Songs like 'Embers Fire' and 'True Belief' are gothic metal classics with a great sense of melody and 'song'. They really set the path that would take quite esoteric metal bands into a more mainstream rock zone. 

Artwork is amazing, with a huge fold-out inlay that features a very young looking band on one side and the lyrics on the other. The stone statue images and green/yellow colour tone looks great, and the eye is drawn to all parts of the 12 panel fold-out.  

If you've ever wondered where the European gothic metal style and sound came from, it came from this northern British band in 1993. Name one gothic/doom band who was doing this in 1993: 

 

 

I hate to break it to you, but Paradise Lost had 3 albums out before Icon, Lost Paradise, Gothic, and Shades of God. As far as how their sound evolved, the raw doom/death of their debut was one of my favorites of their career, but the one that would be the least relevant to their development. Gothic saw the emergence of Gregor's signature melodic leads that would become one of the bands most prominent features, and would pioneer the more moody style of doom/death that others would explore a great deal in the future. The only gothic traits here, despite the name, were some interplay with operatic vocals and some gloomy atmospheres. Shades of God dropped most of the death metal influences, and brought a bit more of that gothic character out, but was kind of a clunky transitional album. Icon is indeed the first full on gothic/doom album in their catalog, and is really a one of a kind album. They reverted the doom in their sound to a more traditional style, and fused it with gothic melancholy and melodies that nobody has ever matched since. It's one of my favorites from the band, depending on my mood, but I don't really hear much rock entering their sound until Draconian Times. That album was a lot like Icon, but it shed almost all of their doom for a far more standard rock/metal sound. They were a great and revolutionary band, I just had to add my $.02 about a couple of things.

As far as MDB and Anathema go, I can't say that either if the albums from the same year were naive, especially since neither maintain that level of quality for long after their release. You also mentioned that doom didn't have much going on at this time, which was hardly the case. These were among the first releases of the romantic doom/death archetype for sure, but doom had been around for some time, and extreme doom variants were flourishing in the underground in a number of places. Raw doom/death was pretty underground, as it has remained, but it had a lot of releases at this time, and sludge and stoner metal were just breaking out as well. Funeral doom was right around the corner as well, and black/doom was getting going in a few places. You can probably tell that I'm a big doom fan, it just looks like you're not giving doom enough credit IMHO.

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4 hours ago, BlutAusNerd said:

I hate to break it to you, but Paradise Lost had 3 albums out before Icon, Lost Paradise, Gothic, and Shades of God. As far as how their sound evolved, the raw doom/death of their debut was one of my favorites of their career, but the one that would be the least relevant to their development. Gothic saw the emergence of Gregor's signature melodic leads that would become one of the bands most prominent features, and would pioneer the more moody style of doom/death that others would explore a great deal in the future. The only gothic traits here, despite the name, were some interplay with operatic vocals and some gloomy atmospheres. Shades of God dropped most of the death metal influences, and brought a bit more of that gothic character out, but was kind of a clunky transitional album. Icon is indeed the first full on gothic/doom album in their catalog, and is really a one of a kind album. They reverted the doom in their sound to a more traditional style, and fused it with gothic melancholy and melodies that nobody has ever matched since. It's one of my favorites from the band, depending on my mood, but I don't really hear much rock entering their sound until Draconian Times. That album was a lot like Icon, but it shed almost all of their doom for a far more standard rock/metal sound. They were a great and revolutionary band, I just had to add my $.02 about a couple of things.

As far as MDB and Anathema go, I can't say that either if the albums from the same year were naive, especially since neither maintain that level of quality for long after their release. You also mentioned that doom didn't have much going on at this time, which was hardly the case. These were among the first releases of the romantic doom/death archetype for sure, but doom had been around for some time, and extreme doom variants were flourishing in the underground in a number of places. Raw doom/death was pretty underground, as it has remained, but it had a lot of releases at this time, and sludge and stoner metal were just breaking out as well. Funeral doom was right around the corner as well, and black/doom was getting going in a few places. You can probably tell that I'm a big doom fan, it just looks like you're not giving doom enough credit IMHO.

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Well, firstly, I'm aware of Paradise Lost's back catalogue and own all their releases in multiple formats. That's why you won't find anything in my post that claimed 'Icon' was their debut album. 

The reason I included 'Icon' in this thread is for the very same points you make: 'Icon' demonstrated a style that shed much of the doom/death of their past while at the same time presenting a seminal gothic metal atmosphere that would become ubiquitous within a few years. 

The application of the word 'naive' to describe 'Turn Loose' and 'Serenades' is intended in the sense that they were created by musicians who were young and experimental, and that the freshness and joie de vivre of these albums is plainly audible. They are two of my favourite albums, but compare their structures and styles to 'Icon', released in the same year, and it's plain to see that PL were functioning on a different level as far as their approach to music is concerned. PL had already passed through the stage that MDB and Anathema now found themselves in during 1993. 

I also think you are overestimating the apparently glorious profusion of doom metal bands in the early 90s. Of course doom metal existed in various contexts, but in the broader public consciousness there was not a lot happening beyond perhaps Candlemass and a handful of others. Clearly the Peaceville 3 (PL, MDB and Anathema) deserve credit for helping to kickstart a movement. Their debut albums predated Skepticism, Saturnus, Shape of Despair, Katatonia et al. 

My short piece on 'Icon' wasn't intended to be an overview of the history of doom metal, and to read it as such is erroneous. 

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4 hours ago, BlutAusNerd said: I hate to break it to you, but Paradise Lost had 3 albums out before Icon, Lost Paradise, Gothic, and Shades of God. As far as how their sound evolved, the raw doom/death of their debut was one of my favorites of their career, but the one that would be the least relevant to their development. Gothic saw the emergence of Gregor's signature melodic leads that would become one of the bands most prominent features, and would pioneer the more moody style of doom/death that others would explore a great deal in the future. The only gothic traits here, despite the name, were some interplay with operatic vocals and some gloomy atmospheres. Shades of God dropped most of the death metal influences, and brought a bit more of that gothic character out, but was kind of a clunky transitional album. Icon is indeed the first full on gothic/doom album in their catalog, and is really a one of a kind album. They reverted the doom in their sound to a more traditional style, and fused it with gothic melancholy and melodies that nobody has ever matched since. It's one of my favorites from the band, depending on my mood, but I don't really hear much rock entering their sound until Draconian Times. That album was a lot like Icon, but it shed almost all of their doom for a far more standard rock/metal sound. They were a great and revolutionary band, I just had to add my $.02 about a couple of things.

As far as MDB and Anathema go, I can't say that either if the albums from the same year were naive, especially since neither maintain that level of quality for long after their release. You also mentioned that doom didn't have much going on at this time, which was hardly the case. These were among the first releases of the romantic doom/death archetype for sure, but doom had been around for some time, and extreme doom variants were flourishing in the underground in a number of places. Raw doom/death was pretty underground, as it has remained, but it had a lot of releases at this time, and sludge and stoner metal were just breaking out as well. Funeral doom was right around the corner as well, and black/doom was getting going in a few places. You can probably tell that I'm a big doom fan, it just looks like you're not giving doom enough credit IMHO.

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Well, firstly, I'm aware of Paradise Lost's back catalogue and own all their releases in multiple formats. That's why you won't find anything in my post that claimed 'Icon' was their debut album. 

The reason I included 'Icon' in this thread is for the very same points you make: 'Icon' demonstrated a style that shed much of the doom/death of their past while at the same time presenting a seminal gothic metal atmosphere that would become ubiquitous within a few years. 

The application of the word 'naive' to describe 'Turn Loose' and 'Serenades' is intended in the sense that they were created by musicians who were young and experimental, and that the freshness and joie de vivre of these albums is plainly audible. They are two of my favourite albums, but compare their structures and styles to 'Icon', released in the same year, and it's plain to see that PL were functioning on a different level as far as their approach to music is concerned. PL had already passed through the stage that MDB and Anathema now found themselves in during 1993. 

I also think you are overestimating the apparently glorious profusion of doom metal bands in the early 90s. Of course doom metal existed in various contexts, but in the broader public consciousness there was not a lot happening beyond perhaps Candlemass and a handful of others. Clearly the Peaceville 3 (PL, MDB and Anathema) deserve credit for helping to kickstart a movement. Their debut albums predated Skepticism, Saturnus, Shape of Despair, Katatonia et al. 

My short piece on 'Icon' wasn't intended to be an overview of the history of doom metal, and to read it as such is erroneous. 

I didn't make my initial discography comment because of any implication that Icon was the band's debut album, but you said they had two albums released prior to it, when in fact they had three. One of which, Shades of God, doesn't instantly spring to my mind when I think about the band because it is always like an awkward puberty phase for the band, but it is nonetheless and important step in their evolution.

I may have unfairly interpreted your use of "naive" as a pejorative in that case. Exploring the more romantic side of doom/death, these bands were in uncharted territory that was occupied only by the Peaceville 3 at that point (save for maybe The Gathering), but there was a whole lot more happening with doom metal than Candlemass. Public perception of doom isn't my concern, because whether or not the majority of metal fans were paying attention to it at this time, the musicians making it were.

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Moonspell - Irrelgious

Moonspell from Portugal are another great gothic metal band who are still going strong. Back in 1996 they released this amazing album, contributing to my favourite year of music releases. It's catchy, atmospheric and contains many of the gothic rock hallmarks that were in vogue at the time and would also turn out to be so influential over the next few years. The keyboards, the deep male vocals, the female guest vocals, the melodies - it's all here except done to a 10/10 quality.  

I was listening to this album and their follow-up 'Sin/Pecado' while living on campus at University back in 1998, walking around at night with my sunglasses on telling everyone that Moonspell made me do it. Good times. 

The sound is a product of Woodhouse Studios and this is another great Century Media release. They would go on after this to use more electronic elements (thanks again Paradise Lost... not) , culminating in 1999's 'The Butterfly Effect' with its strong, boring, industrial tinges, before returning to form with the almighty 'Memorial' album in 2006 (again just after Paradise Lost and Amorphis returned to / moved on to their heavier style). 

Highlights in 'Irreligious' for me include 'Awake', 'Ruin and Misery' and the mighty closer 'Full Moon Madness' which still closes most of their live shows today. But it's the great song 'Opium' that wins for me and is an outright gothic metal anthem. Many late 90s parties were rocking to 'Opium' let me tell you. 

Hail Lusitanian metal. 

 

 

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Moonspell - Irrelgious

Moonspell from Portugal are another great gothic metal band who are still going strong. Back in 1996 they released this amazing album, contributing to my favourite year of music releases. It's catchy, atmospheric and contains many of the gothic rock hallmarks that were in vogue at the time and would also turn out to be so influential over the next few years. The keyboards, the deep male vocals, the female guest vocals, the melodies - it's all here except done to a 10/10 quality.  

I was listening to this album and their follow-up 'Sin/Pecado' while living on campus at University back in 1998, walking around at night with my sunglasses on telling everyone that Moonspell made me do it. Good times. 

The sound is a product of Woodhouse Studios and this is another great Century Media release. They would go on after this to use more electronic elements (thanks again Paradise Lost... not) , culminating in 1999's 'The Butterfly Effect' with its strong, boring, industrial tinges, before returning to form with the almighty 'Memorial' album in 2006 (again just after Paradise Lost and Amorphis returned to / moved on to their heavier style). 

Highlights in 'Irreligious' for me include 'Awake', 'Ruin and Misery' and the mighty closer 'Full Moon Madness' which still closes most of their live shows today. But it's the great song 'Opium' that wins for me and is an outright gothic metal anthem. Many late 90s parties were rocking to 'Opium' let me tell you. 

Hail Lusitanian metal. 

 

 

Wolfheart will probably always be my favorite Moonspell album, but I've long devalued Irreligious because of that fondness for its predecessor. It was only on my last listen through the album a couple of weeks ago that it really hit me. Full Moon Madness may now be my favorite Moonspell song, especially due to Fernando's magnificent and impassioned vocals. The rest of the album is impressive too, but that's the obvious highlight. A great release from a very original band.

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Novembre - Novembrine Waltz (2001)

Italy's Novembre has long been a favourite band, but some albums I've preferred over others. 'Novembrine Watlz' from 2001 is their best by some distance and it's a true landmark in melodic/gothic metal. It was the culmination of a steady development for the band, and they really hit some gothic metal perfection here. 

The production is fantastic, and reminds me of how great this band can sound, and when I listen to later albums 'The Blue' and 'Ursa', both of which sound fuzzy and less defined. 'Novembrine Watlz' is warm yet clear, with the guitars and keyboards (and occasional accordian!) sounding great. Every guitar note is a tug on the heartstrings. Songs like 'Everasia' with the maritime style chanting, the melody carnivale that is 'Valentine', and the Kate Bush cover 'Cloudbusting' are some of the best songs you'll ever hear if you're a fan of dark, melodic music. 

The best thing about this album are the melodies. Being from Italy, I always get this sort of romantic, Italian piazza vibe from the melodies. Riffs, riffs, riffs. Check out the first song 'Distances' to get a sense of them, and feel your eyes mist up as you get visions of windswept piazzas, Roman architecture and renaissance buildings. And of course, dark-eyed, sultry, Italian inamorata.  

This is one of my all time favourite albums. It's a pity they never really hit these heights again, but we'll always have 'Novembrine Waltz'. If you have the inclination, listen to the first two tracks: 'Distances' and 'Everasia'. 

 

 

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The sticker on my Peaceville copy states "ignoring the existence of this brilliant effort means losing a part of the best music ever created. A masterpiece....".

 

I'm going to pop it on again now... been a long time.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, True Belief said:

The sticker on my Peaceville copy states "ignoring the existence of this brilliant effort means losing a part of the best music ever created. A masterpiece....".

 

I'm going to pop it on again now... been a long time.

 

 

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Peaceville have hit the nail on the head with that call. It's amazing how good an album it is.

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On 1/19/2017 at 9:05 PM, BlutAusNerd said:

I hate to break it to you, but Paradise Lost had 3 albums out before Icon, Lost Paradise, Gothic, and Shades of God. As far as how their sound evolved, the raw doom/death of their debut was one of my favorites of their career, but the one that would be the least relevant to their development. Gothic saw the emergence of Gregor's signature melodic leads that would become one of the bands most prominent features, and would pioneer the more moody style of doom/death that others would explore a great deal in the future. The only gothic traits here, despite the name, were some interplay with operatic vocals and some gloomy atmospheres. Shades of God dropped most of the death metal influences, and brought a bit more of that gothic character out, but was kind of a clunky transitional album. Icon is indeed the first full on gothic/doom album in their catalog, and is really a one of a kind album. They reverted the doom in their sound to a more traditional style, and fused it with gothic melancholy and melodies that nobody has ever matched since. It's one of my favorites from the band, depending on my mood, but I don't really hear much rock entering their sound until Draconian Times. That album was a lot like Icon, but it shed almost all of their doom for a far more standard rock/metal sound. They were a great and revolutionary band, I just had to add my $.02 about a couple of things.

Regarding the rock influences, I think Paradise Lost started making this more apparent on Icon. Are you familiar with Fields of the Nephilim? It would seem to me that they were a big influence, likely on Gothic as well. I would also point to The Sisters of Mercy and The Mission. I'm speaking more to the overall feeling, and the way the songs are crafted rather than the metal riffing itself, as well as some of the vocals. And of course, they embraced this wholeheartedly on Draconian Times.  

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I think The Sins of Thy Beloved debut album Lake of Sorrow despite the fact that is little-known deserves on a name of classic gothic metal album. Dark, melancholy, sad atmosphere, great vocals, lyrics about death, betrayal, hate and unattainaboe love and nice length of compositions. They released two lp, one demo, one ep and one concert video. Unfortunately they split up in 2013. 

 

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5 hours ago, Earendel said:

I think The Sins of Thy Beloved debut album Lake of Sorrow despite the fact that is little-known deserves on a name of classic gothic metal album. Dark, melancholy, sad atmosphere, great vocals, lyrics about death, betrayal, hate and unattainaboe love and nice length of compositions. They released two lp, one demo, one ep and one concert video. Unfortunately they split up in 2013. 

 

Cool entry! Like I mentioned in the other thread, I really need to pick this up. I remember hearing it when it was released and it didn't really do it for me, but I'd really like to revisit it properly. 

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    • Glen Benton is 51.  Fuck I feel old now too.  Deicide are 30 years old (32 if we count the Amon era).  Album number 12 from the fathers of Florida death metal is a strong effort considering yet another change of personnel has occurred.  It is bye-bye Jack Owen, hello Mark English of Monstosity fame taking up guitar duties and ironically I like "Overtures of Blasphemy " a lot more than Monstrosity's effort this year.

      Whilst it can never make the "beast of a DM record" title I would give to the debut or"Legion" for example, "Overtures..." is entertaining.  Whether it is the melo-death passages that litter the streets and alleyways of this record or the more familiar sacrilegious blasting fury of Deicide at their (old) best, there's plenty to balance the experince over these 12 tracks.  Take "Seal The Tomb" for example, it goes immediately for the jugular, relentlessly chugging riffs alongside Benton's usual demented growls only to be tempered by menacing and interesting leads and sonics that carry the song along well.  Listen once to this track and it is in your head for literally days after.

      Then there's the vehemence of the lyrics of "Compliments of Christ" were you can feel the spittle from Glen's lips splattering your ears as he spews forth the vitriol he is best known for.  "Anointed in Blood" opens like a lead jam session recorded mid flow before developing into a hellish gallop of fiery hooves, again perfectly completed by some well placed and well timed leads.

      This is were Morbid Angel went wrong with "Kingdoms..." safe DM with little if any attention paid to the sonic wizardry of their sound.  Take a leaf out of Glen's book Trey!

      It is clear that this is no nonsense DM that is not out to reinvent any wheels it still has enough equal measure of extremity and assured and unapologetic attitude to hold it's own against most of the DM records released this year.  It is not perfect by any means.  I lose it on more than one occasion if I am honest ("Crucified Soul of Salvation" in particular hits my 'standby' button really nicely) and it is a couple of tracks too long making for an almost excessive feel to the running time.  Whilst it is a well paced record there's definitely some "filler" present.  But very any turkeys in here there is still thankfully the brilliance of tracks like "Consumed by Hatred" to snap you back to attention.  "Flesh, Power, Dominion" is one of the strongest things Deicide have ever put to tape btw.

      3/5
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    • 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.

      5/5
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    • I invite you to come with me to a time before 2008. It may surprise you to learn that at this point, Circle II Circle was actually a pretty damn good band. They did eventually become prog Godsmack, as history will record with bitter regret chronicling the storied tale of Savatage. For now, however, let’s make like boomers and complain about how things used to be better.

      Burden of Truth sounds like sentimentalism, at times. It feels rather like Skid Row filtered through Phantom of the Opera, in that characteristically Trans-Siberian Orchestra fashion. The difference, though, is that Circle II Circle crank the technicality and bite of their music significantly higher than TSO’s comfortable bombast. It’s certainly a little saccharine, but performed with such conviction and talent as to make that nearly irrelevant.

      Zak Stevens’ voice is vital to this whole undertaking. His overbored bass resonates unstoppably through every song, an unmistakably mature vocal delivery that dignifies even the album’s most banal emotional turns (“How can we learn to live as one…” “I walked by the church and saw the children, and the world through their eyes…”). Moreover, it is very identifiably American, and that’s the biggest selling point of this album. It’s worth noting he layers very nicely with his backing vocalists. The “The Black” and title track have particularly good harmonizing.

      One might be tempted to snicker at some of these lyrics and the melodies. How antiquated the notion of melodic music without dizzying rhythmic changes or production magic out the ass. Yet, the sheer power behind it all is impossible to deny. The piano line on “Heal Me” would be insufferable if it didn’t drag you in immediately. Despite the sugar content, Burden of Truth is largely fat-free. It doesn’t fall victim to most metal tropes, including the prevalence of vibrato. It’s endearing too, in a sort of Andie McDowell in Five Weddings and a Funeral kind of way, or perhaps of Joy Davidson in Shadowlands – very American.

      The opening to Revelations? Badass. The crunchy riffs of A Matter of Time? Some slick shit. The entirety of Evermore? One of the most masterfully tight, pointed pieces of prog metal out there that still pounds away at the ears like a cannon blast. If you wanted an aspirational American soundtrack, this is it. Songs for an endearing everyman with more behind his ears than you might guess.
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