Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Grammy Awards 2019 - Best Metal Performance

A few days ago, the glamorous and glorious event of the Grammy Awards took place where an expertise group of people decides, as always, the best moments of music of the previous year. As much as it doesn't mean shit to actual music listeners, I realized it's just a lot of fun to follow it. 

The metal section this year had the following entries:

Between the Buried and Me - Condemned to the Gallows
High on Fire - Electric Messiah
Deafheaven - Honeycomb
Trivium - Betrayer
Underoath - On My Teeth

And for the first time in history, I was surprised and pleased by the result: High on Fire actually won this, which means: High on Fire now have a Grammy Award on their belts. It is like fake news, but it's real. I'm so glad the overrated as fuck Deafheaven lost. Take that, non-musical bands like Trivium and Underoath, yes, yeees! I would have never guessed this would be the outcome. Between the Buried and Me's track is rather fine, and I'm not a big fan of the winners either, but it is just wonderful that it happened.

No picks here are a surprise, and by no means "Electric Messiah" is the best metal performance of the year. However, compared to the rest of the bands, which are all in the bad part of the mainstream, came second to a stoner / heavy rock song. Times are wild.

If I were to put them in the right order: BTBAM, High on Fire, Underoath, Deafheaven, Trivium

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Aristocracy of twilight

Artist: Blood Tyrant
Genre: Raw Black Metal
Origin: Netherlands
Year: 2016
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions


There has been an uprising of raw black metal the last decade, and while the genre has some of its body parts into the mainstream, there are still dark corners where small closed groups maintain a cathartic approach to their music, constituting to what actually is the underground. 

This branch usually has a very simplistic, second wave black metal variety, often fusing punk elements and a rather dirty production that can easily go too far. The bands that don't play raw black / punk, often have dark ambient or dungeon synth elements, and lately I've come across zero fame demos from newcomer unknown bands that tread into noise as well.

There are a bunch of such artists from the United States, but some activity can be found in Denmark / Holland too. From the Netherlands come Blood Tyrant, a wonderful example an anti-popular and kick ass band that focuses around a concept and a mystery.

Aristocracy of Twilight is the only full length of this duet, but they have a few more releases that are all notable. This album is truly beautiful, and the way they present their thematics of blood and vampires, worships in an almost romantic way, the stripped down and as honest as can be side of black metal.

If you get your fix of black metal from well known labels, then it's possible an album like that will sound bad, but the ideas in it are amazing and its atmosphere dreamy. The instrumental parts, interludes and intro / outro, are exactly the kind of minimal dungeon synth / dark ambient that would fit is such a pure album.

It was a thrill to listen to excellent black metal tracks like "Engulfed by Purifying Flames" or "Barbaric Wampyrism".

Recently, I received a package I ordered which had the debut demo of the band from 2016, Night of Blood Moon. Aesthetically speaking, it is 100% what I ask for in a black metal album that doesn't aim to impress the whole of the musical world (there is nothing wrong with that anyway).

It is hand numbered, based on black and red and the best thing is how the CD is made to look like a vinyl record, with the characteristic circle lines on it, SIDE A and SIDE B notes, and of course, a lot of old English.

Other than that, their most recent release is a split with Departure Chandelier, another band of the same material by members of Akitsa & Ash Pool. Their debut coming out this month has kept me waiting eagerly.

You should check out Blood Tyrant, especially their first demo and full length. It proves the big gap that exists between the two borders of black metal, emphasizing how wide the style is after all.


Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Abandon all life

Artist: Nails
Genre: Grindcore / Powerviolence / Hardcore
Origin: USA
Year: 2013
Label: Southern Lord Recordings


The second album of a band that is loved by the media, is undeniably heavy, but also draws a lot of hate from fanatics in the true underground. 

Abandon All Life was the follow-up to Unsilent Death, which was praised like a god by fans of hardcore and not only. The album has a lovely total of 17 minutes, which is the starting point to get pumped about a record that you want to be hard-hitting. How hard does it hit, you ask?

Well, Nails is a kind of a band that seems like a constant, really angry thug. Merciless music, unforgiving lyrics, intense shows and playing, it doesn't give you a break and if you think it is easy to go through these seventeen minutes, you will stand corrected.

If I had listened to them in time, this would have been really high in my lists for 2013, as You Will Never Be One of Us was in 2016 (even though, this cheesy title is annoying). 

I think Nails have an awesome grindcore / powerviolence palette. They have nose-bleeding hardcore breakdowns and supreme vocals. The lyrics are sincere and agressive. Their metallic sound gives a hint of a slight, really slight though, look towards extreme metal. But their core is not in that genre.

This production, which is quite heavy on its own, makes them a bit more accessible compared to frantic, insane grindcore acts who play anti-music and talk about raping worms.

What I mean is, it is universally true that The Inalienable Dreamless is the best grindcore album ever. Nails have more popularity than usual, because their kind of extremity is actually media-friendly. They are guys to be featured on the fronts of zines.

That is not to undermine their music, as I enjoy all their stuff and I have listened to the b-sides too. Abandon All Life was an instant fall for me. It has a great title, improved artwork, improved sound (in my opinion), and much better vocals (my opinion, but also adjectivally true) than Unsilent Death.

Listening to Nails is a physical boost of testosterone and it's impossible not to get your blood going. The process of their songs is actually well thought. The death metal elements are wonderful. The band's solos are basically worshiping of early Slayer. What can go wrong? Only the fans can really go wrong.

I am very happy they are not a professional band but do this on the side, as they have their own families and lives. It's less compromising. 

I come back to Nails from time to time and share it with non-metal friends to scare them off, because to an outsider, all of us are an impassable grey, freaky cloud. Abandon All Life is one of the albums I listen to the most from this decade, when I don't feel like listening to my regular black metal playlists.

2019 might be the year they release a new album, if they keep being punctual with their releases (2010, 2013 and 2016). We'll see later this year.

Track listing:
1. In Exodus
2. Tyrant
3. Absolute Control
4. God's Cold Hands
5. Wide Open Wound
6. Abandon All Life
7. No Surrender
8. Pariah
9. Cry Wolf
10. Suum Cuique


Listen on Bandcamp

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

The call of the wretched sea

Artist: Ahab
Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
Origin: Germany
Year: 2006
Label: Napalm Records


In 2006, Ahab released what is undoubtedly one of the best and most unique funeral doom metal albums ever created. 

The band formed in 2004 and very soon moved on with a single the same year, but it was next year's demo that was the most important and the first installment to the known Nuntacket trilogy, featuring their first three releases, other than the The Stream: The Oath demo, The Call of the Wretched Sea in 2006, and The Divinity of Oceans in 2009.

In these releases, it seems like they had some struggles with recording and producing their music, or to put it more correctly: it is obvious that they moved on to a "professional" studio with The Giant in 2012. Of course, this has never been a problem for metalheads with trained ears in the harshest shit ever.

It turns out, the sound in the early Ahab records is soul crushing to heavenly levels, fitting the concept of the band ideally, as they only elaborate on ocean subjects, books about the sea and such. The Call of the Wretched Sea is also about my personal favorite book of all time, Moby Dick (hence, the name reference too).

Fans of such literature might be interested to check a couple of more books: Owen Chase's The Wreck Of The Whaleship Essex and Nathaniel Philbrick's The Heart Of The Sea, which were both influences for Herman Melville as well.

Ahab moved towards a broader sound later in their discography, bringing jam / rock elements as well, and more clean vocals of course. In my opinion, they have never failed. I don't know if they have become better, because their first recordings are amazing.

I wouldn't say they were ever neck deep into funeral doom, but there isn't another genre closer to the claustrophobic, haunting and unbearable heaviness and atmosphere of The Call of the Wretched Sea. If this band has a funeral doom metal album, that is it. Especially the first two tracks, "Below the Sun" and "The Pacific", had me hooked very quickly, and they haven't lost their initial beauty after a thousand listens until today.

The album's fourth track "Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales" is a reference to a chapter from Moby Dick, which you can read here.

There are not similar bands to Ahab, but if you are in the mood for their first album The Call of the Wretched Sea, it's safe to say that you should dig more into classic funeral doom metal bands. Mark my words that this is one of the best metal releases of the previous decade and a thrilling experience to listen through.

Track listing:
1. Below the Sun
2. The Pacific
3. Old Thunder
4. Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales
5. The Sermon
6. The Hunt
7. Ahab's Oath


Listen on Spotify | Youtube

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Winterwolf's debut: How I got my first LP

Artist: Winterwolf
Genre: Old School Death Metal
Origin: Finland
Year: 2009
Label: Xtreem Music


Deathchain are relatively known in the underground scene and considered a solid Finnish death / thrash metal band, plus their hefty discography has some really good albums. 

A lesser known fact is that the band were previously known as Winterwolf, between the years 2000-2001, before becoming to Deathchain in 2002. The band had released to demos as Winterwolf before changing name, and their sound back then was raw and closer to pure death metal.

Some of the band members decided to bring Winterwolf back to life in 2006, while Deathchain were still active, and their first and only album so far, Cycle of the Werewolf, was released three years later, in 2009. Antti from Demilich also took a part in the album.

I ordered the record when it was first released because I wanted to fill a request, but a fun fact is that I initially wanted to buy a CD version. I was confused and ordered an LP version instead, which was a big surprise to me when the package arrived.

I didn't (and don't) have my own turntable, and it was impossible to rip the album into my computer, and back then it was still not available online. I had the LP and couldn't listen to it, only after a couple of years when I used a friend's vinyl player. But at first, I was really eager to listen to it, I had it and still it was impossible for me.

Cycle of the Werewolf is obsessed with fullmoon and wolves, as in its booklet, the band has used simplistic, black and white drawings of werewolves transforming and similar scenes. All the lyrics and most of the booklet text is in classic, lovable old English font.

The tracks are all revolving around that subject, and the album was: mastered at Studio Perkele (Finnish as fuck), recorded at Moonlight Studios during fullmoon. Winterwolf are so focused on this classic horror theme, that it's what separates them from the rest of the death metal scene. The guys have all the time they want to express themselves through Deathchain, so they can go with something graphic and straightforward in a side project. 

Musically, Cycle of the Werewolf is not a revolution, but stays in Swedish / Finnish old school death metal ideas. The production is harsh and there also is a cover of the legendary track "Cenotaph" by Bolt Thrower

I have Winterwolf close to my heart because, through my ordering mistake, it was the first LP I ever bought when I first started collecting in 2008 - 2009. I used to get CDs then, but it's funny that my first LP came around like that.

The band released a split with Disma in 2011 (review here) but haven't done much since. Cycle of the Werewolf is intended for fans of old school death metal, and people who have been into the genre for some time. A second album by them is a kinky dream for me but I don't mind them staying in the shadows like that.

The album title is very possibly inspired by an awesome short horror story by none other than Stephen King, released in 1983. You can find some information about this book at Wikipedia.

Track listing:
1. Intro to Death
2. Phantoms of Madness
3. Cemetary by Night
4. Lycanthropic Aeons
5. nataS fo tsaeB
6. All Shall Be Eaten
7. Shadows, Howling and Doom
8. Wolf Skin Mask
9. Return to the Shadow of Death
10. Cenotaph (Bolt Thrower cover)


Similar to: early Entombed, Dismember
Café suggestions: Phantoms of Madness, Wolf Skin Mask, All Shall Be Eaten

Friday, 18 January 2019

1349 - Dødskamp (Single) (2019)

Artist: 1349
Genre: Black Metal
Origin: Norway
Year: 2019
Label: Season of Mist

1. Dødskamp

Track off the band's new EP, coming out on the 5th of April. The track is inspired by Evdard Munch's art piece "Dødskamp", which is also on the cover of the release. Very promising!

Listen (Bandcamp)
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