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It is fair to say that the Greek stalwarts of the Black Metal scene now have a sound that rarely ventures into the territory so well tread on "Thy Mighty Contract" and "Non Serviam" but it is also fair to say that "The Heretics" sounds from start to finish like a band who firmly stamp themselves on the metal map for 2019. What album number thirteen from Rotting Christ does is take a measured approach to variation and repetition to build a memorable and lasting experience.
The sound itself goes from dark and brooding metal and hard rock to almost Gothic metal proportions. Yet at the same time that familiar melodic warmth remains in situ throughout. More often than not there's that big soaring melodic riff riding the vocals like a surfer with his board. "The Voice of the Universe" does this superbly as does "The Sons of Hell". The overall feel the record as a whole leaves me with is one of ritualistic allure, tracks like "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Fire God and Fear" build well like powerful incantations being cited from voluminous tomes, flooding forwards intermittently with flowing dark melodies.
It does remind me a lot of Behemoth ("The Satanist" Behemoth, not last years pompous bollocks Behemoth), with the theme of religion so heavily referenced but at the same time it feels like a much more cohesive effort than recent Behemoth keeping a level of consistency and restraint to the songwriting which holds the attention well. Only once does the album visit anything like Black Metal on "I Believe", here they base a poem by Nikolaos Kazantzakis at the centre of the chaotic and frantic pace and sadly it fails miserably on my ears, coming across as just filler. My only other criticism is that it does get a bit samey in places (namely the intros to each track). Otherwise it is a perfectly respectable piece of dark metal. C'mon, we can't this black metal anymore folks.
So here I am reviewing the new Drudkh album...oh...wait a minute...no apparently it isn't Drudkh, it is Windswept. A quick look on the internet tells me that Windswept are Drudkh minus keyboards in terms of members. Therefore Windswept is just a less atmospheric version of Drudkh? That's not really a question as I have heard "The Onlooker" and I know it is in fact a statement of truth.
I don't get it. If I want to hear a Drudkh record I will just put one on. Similarly, if I was a member of Drudkh and I wanted to make a new record, I'd just pick up the phone to my bandmates and start the writing process. The fact that the majority of the band have made a different band just to not have atmosphere seems a little grandiose to me, although I get that the stylistic integrity of Drudkh is maintained.
It isn't that the album is bad. Perfectly solid and driving, melodic BM cleverly framed by a music box intro and outro is what you get here folks. It just sounds so much like Drudkh I can't get my head around the fact that it is just a below par Drudkh offering. The one thing the record is crying out for is some atmosphere - THE FUCKING IRONY!
If you can forget the existence of a Ukranian BM band called Drudkh, or perhaps have just been born into the world of BM and have no previous concept of the 3 band members here being involved in anything else then you will no doubt easily spot the merits of "The Onlooker". For me it served no other purpose than to give me a really short review to write this week (and to put some Drudkh on).
Based on it's merit as a standalone album = 3/5
Hideously critical mind of a Drudkh fan rating = 2/5
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!
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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...
There's life in the old dog yet it seems. It terms of original members only Phil Fasciana remains in the ranks of Malevolent Creation now and after the passing of Brett Hoffman last year you could almost forgive fans for thinking the curtain had fallen on Malevolent Creation. The fact is that whilst "The 13th Beast" reinvents no wheels it does exhibit the sound of a band in the throes of something of a regeneration phase. There's nothing tired sounding here, no dull interludes to build unnecessary atmosphere. As soon as the spoken word intro to "End the Torture" finishes it is straight up thrashing death metal until the very end, some 11 tracks later.
Although all debuting in the Malevolent full length stakes here, the 3 musicians that join Fasciana on this record are all clearly capable and qualified purveyors of their art form. Again, I highlight that this is not far above your average DM record yet it is so assured and solid you can easily forgive it to some degree. Lee Wollenschlaeger gives a good acquittal of himself as an established and competent vocalist, filling Hoffman's shoes nicely. Phil Cancilla is a machine on those skins, blasting his way across the soundscape yet also using the percussion well when the occasional let up in the pace permits. Fasciana and Wollenschlaeger work well together to keep the chug of the riffs motoring along whilst Gibbs plonks, twangs and rumbles his way through every track, allowed to be heard in the mix and show his variety without ever showboating. For a band together for only 2 years as a four piece they sound tight and committed.
There's no metal fan worth the denim their patches are sewn onto that doesn't look at that album cover and mouth a "fuck me, dude!" I mean, come on, it is fucking awesome. Like a more ornamental Predator head on a ghostly green background. I love it when album covers are matched by the content of the record inside, and whilst there are obviously some shortfalls here, still in the main "The 13th Beast" delivers. When they keep the track length short and succinct, Malevolent Creation are at their best. "The Beast Awakened", "Agony for the Chosen" and "Knife at Hand" all kick serious ass. By the same token "Born of Pain" at nearly 7 minutes long doesn't really do anything or go anywhere to justify the length attributed to it.
Overall, I would have preferred a shorter record. At 11 tracks the band cover a lot of ground in under 50 minutes but not all of it really needs treading. That withstanding, never does it get grating and still the accessibility factor remains consistent enough to forgive the extra excursions present.
So, having started slowly, January 2019 has finally delivered something worthwhile and a first physical purchase also of a new release for this year. 3/5