Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Kriegsmaschine - Deathdriven: Archive 2006 - 2010

By releasing this compilation, Kriegsmaschine now have a really tidy discography: Prism: Archive 2002 - 2004, released in 2014, covers all their material prior to the debut Altered States of Divinity, this one covers the two splits they released in between the debut and Enemy of Man, and the rest are the infamous full lengths. Neither the split with Infernal War nor the split with Szron come quickly to mind when thinking of the band, especially when they have released such monstrous albums recently, yet the quality of the material is equally powerful and in a structural sense, even more approachable than the slow-paced yoke they enforce with what came afterwards. In this time period, Kriegsmaschine laid the foundation and were slowly taking form, before exploding with Enemy of Man in 2014, one of the best black metal albums of all time. 


Deathdriven starts "backwards", as the first thing featured is the Transfigurations split that was originally released in 2010. Both tracks are massive, the guitar work is exceptional and the evoking atmosphere is naturally closer to what was composed for the full length that followed. These two pieces are hidden gems in the band's discography and they get along really well together, how one gives way to the next almost feels like it is one whole piece. "Onward Destrudo" has this KSM crushing tempo and quite memorable riffing here and there, while "Fear and Loathing in Gesthemane" can't help but make someone wonder where they thought of the title? Could be slight reference to the unconventional black comedy Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the eight minute song describes Christ's struggle from an absolutely human, regretting angle, but I think it doesn't really depict Kriegsmaschine's finest lyrical work. On the other hand, "Onward Destrudo" is perfect in all sections.

Following are the three tracks from the Szron split from 2006, and they lay in the same area as the material from the album they are closest to, Altered States of Divinity. The familiar, painful shouting vocals, along with chants, are present, at times the band goes full speed, which became sparser and sparser until it completely disappeared later on. This is an extra reason to listen to this compilation if you're a fan of the band mainly for the latest records. For example, parts of "E" as well as "The Fall in All its Glory" employ the traditional black metal framework of frenetic speed. The lyrics are nothing less than impressive and the talent of this band in general, gloriously shines through this release.

Sometimes compilations are void of meaning, but Deathdriven is a good opportunity for you to purchase and own this part of Kriegsmaschine's discography. The five tracks contained have been possibly left on the shelf due to the exposure the last two full lengths have gotten, but I don't see anything lesser here in terms of quality. A blast from the recent past to remind their audience of their early endeavors, and to never skip a mini-release. In my opinion, Deathdriven is totally worth it and makes up of a fine listen, something that is quite rare among compilations even from well-acclaimed bands.

Find it here: No Solace Store
 

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Converging singularity - Interview with Utkena

Whoever listened to Utkena's EP last year, The Firmament's Hand, should have been very positively predisposed for their debut full length Nex Fornix, released this June on Pest Productions. They offered an even more compelling listen on this record and showed that they are currently in a great orbit, as a band that is quickly rising and growing with top-notch material. References can be found when listening to their music, yet the sound of Utkena is definitely unique and sincere, making them a group that is worth the attention of everyone in the underground. In this interview, concepts behind the band and the album were discussed, as well as the ongoing situation and their plans.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2020

On Myrkur's "M"


This is a piece I wrote five years ago when Myrkur released her debut album M, through Relapse Records. During the period 2014 - 2015 there was a lot of talking around this project and especially their initial self-titled EP, there was still a lot of mystery surrounding it so the actual first full length was a bit of a big deal. The following was more of a rant, a series of thoughts I had for the record and its conditions, unfiltered and not written down as proper text, but more like a reaction. I hadn't posted it here then and it's interesting to read it in retrospect, half a decade later with more Myrkur material to contemplate upon. 

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A new Myrkur release inside 2015 was a given in my mind, when I was thinking of upcoming releases back in the beginning of the year. With the ridiculous amount of promotion this project got when the debut, self-titled EP was released in 2014, it was only reasonable to continue and bring together a full album while the news are hot. It seems like this Danish woman managed to draw the attention of the whole metal scene and with her brainchild “M”, all the hype and the fame is put to the test.

The record contains eleven new compositions and a total length of thirty six minutes of music, sticking to Danish titles instead of English, as in the EP. It was produced by Ulver's Garm, a person who has stayed close to the band from the start and naturally, Myrkur remind of Ulver a lot. I would not hesitate to say they reach the magnificence of Ulver's early discography, but it is in the same spectrum and that's good for the fans. The core of “M” is it's atmosphere, which is built by ambient sounds, ethereal vocals and the slow-paced guitar melodies. One can understand the essence of the record if one looks at Amalie Bruun's musical roots. She has stated that she grew up with classical and choral music, and how “M” is a combination of classical music and the traditional black metal feels of nature, mountains and forests, rivers and fogs. So, if you can imagine spending time alone in the forests of Denmark, this could easily be the soundtrack of the adventure. Being a pianist as well, there are a lot of moments of keyboards around the album too.

What seperates it and makes the sound distinctive is definitely the vocals. There are multi-layered choral vocals everywhere, much more often than the harsh black metal screams and I believe it's what characterizes the album and the musician behind it. There are tracks with vocals only, like “Vølvens spådom” and “Byssan lull”, which combines her supernal voice with a soft piano line. Apart from Garm, there are other famous musicians involved in the record, like Teloch from Mayhem and Øyvind Myrvoll from Nidingr. In “Mordet”, which is one of the most direct metal tracks of the record, no other than Christopher Amott of Arch Enemy did some of the guitar parts. “M” is mostly middle paced and it's guitar lines are close to post-black metal and a bit of doom, at some points and some riffs. It's soft and dreamy for the most part. It flows naturally, even when it gets angrier, like in parts of the first two tracks or in the penultimate, “Skaði”. The outro is a melancholic and lovely piano piece that I absolutely enjoyed.


However, after spending time on it, it hasn't quite settled and it hasn't left me impressed. It's not like the times when you listen to Wodensthrone and you feel it in your bones, you feel like “yes this is atmospheric pagan black metal”. It is one of the times that you are baffled by a band's reputation compared to their music. Myrkur are already an act everyone knows and when you listen to the music, you know it's Myrkur for sure. Amalie has fused her tastes perfectly and she has created a wonderful, easy-listening record that praises, above all, nature and many people will be blown away. In hindsight though, I'm not sure if I myself am completely convinced with the result. Some elements are somehow rudimentary (like some of the guitar ideas) and it holds a position where, it unfolds a bit of a more violent side with excellent screams but then again focuses on the melodic, clean atmosphere. I would like more intense black metal in the record and the record itself demands it at times. With it's strong moments, it also has other parts where it's just generic.

I was frustrated with the way Relapse treated Myrkur, giving them so much push everywhere with advertisements, mini movies and bold statements like “the future of black metal”. Really? This is surely NOT the future of black metal. I would label the band being much of black metal either, apart from a couple of aforementioned tracks, since the influences from atmospheric, classical and folk music are stronger in my opinion. In fact, this is less black metal than Myrkur was in the EP. Amalie's music is unrestrained and tricking fans into believing this is black metal does not stand well for me. It was all about a mysterious female nymph living in the woods and creating music, for some time the world didn't know her identity and I felt like it was all an income driven manipulation for the metal listeners.

With the explosion of atmospheric black metal the recent years (and many bands being born for this reason only, sadly I don't know if Myrkur come from that basket yet) I'm gonna be mentioning again and again the French act Alcest, because they should finally get the attention they deserve. As for Myrkur, I think “M” is a “proper” album that fits its purpose and will get solid feedback. Many people, and most of them outside black metal or even metal, will totally dig its content. Then again, I don't consider it a groundbreaking record and the next big thing. I will recommend it around for people to see for themselves and I have picked standout tracks like “Skøgen skulle dø” and “ Skaði” but that's about it. The story of a “black metal girl” reaching the stars of the metal world with her music black metal is nice indeed, but I would not approach the record like that. At all. 

It would have been much more fruitful for her to go full neofolk and release a purely acoustic record of some sort, without any metal elements. 

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I'm quite happy to see that last sentence actually came true now in 2020, with Myrkur's latest release Folkesange. In a few days, M will turn five years old and whether it will still stand in some time from now (or if it is even standing now) is something for you to think about.

Listen to M:

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Black Curse - Endless Wound


April 2020 | Sepulchral Voice Records

All too often go supergroups get formed, and all too often they crush and burn. The first time I heard Black Curse's demo in late 2019 I had no clue about the band members and kind of moved on after I listened to it a couple of times, noticing some rather good tracks but that was it. Only when the debut Endless Wound came around in April, I noticed the talk the album raised and looked closer to the line up, which includes people from impressive bands in modern underground extreme metal from the US (specifically: Spectral Voice, Khemmis, Primitive Man, Blood Incantation). However, the record would have been an even bigger bummer if it didn't deliver, yet it totally does. Black Curse stomp through with a murky, aggressive approach to black / death metal, with generous doses of slower rhythm parts that bring up a little bit of doom, highly venomous solos all around and above all, the most amazing characteristic of it, the vocals (courtesy of Eli Wendler - Spectral Voice). The awesome growls and paranoid shrieks take the compositions to another level (listen to the ending of "Seared Eyes", which is just one example), still the album holds a lot of intensity and power from the very first moments "Charnel Rift" comes in. Everything does its part properly, from the cavernous production to the thick, powerful compositions, and it gets better and better the more you listen to it. Apart from an instrumental track in between ("Lifeless Sanctum") which is a bit repetitive, the rest of Endless Wound is on point, backed up by top-notch music and lyrics of desperation. Great work from musicians who have been very active the recent years.

Listen to Endless Wound:

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Spirit Possession - Spirit Possession


Before listening to Spirit Possession, I had the impression that I will be met with some raw black metal record of the US underground. As I completely missed their demo from the beginning of the year, the project form Oregon quickly laid in bed with Profound Lore and already has put forth their first full release, a self-titled record of thirty five minutes of length including new tracks and re-recordings of their demo tracks. I imagine it is one of the acts by Ephemeral Domignostika, a rather busy musician who has been involved in Pale Chalice and is the frontman for Ulthar, not to mention various projects he runs on his own, where in Spirit Possession he is joined by a second member named A. (Tarus, Ormus). While described as black metal, this album is a lot more inclined towards a certain guitar variety of frantic and very harsh thrash metal riffs of the old order, played in unusual rhythm sections and flirting with old school heavy and speed metal, constantly keeping the intensity levels high. 

The harsh vocals surely keep in touch with black metal as well, even though there is too much reverb used for my likings, and there are surprising noise additions in the intros of a couple of tracks ("Twin Tongued Pathways" and "Swallowing Throne"), which suggest some influential ground to the exact opposite of the traditional nature of many of the thrash riffs executed in most of the record. What Spirit Possession achieves is to combine elements that are seemingly already known in an efficient way that even makes the album feel as a breath of fresh air in an area with a strictly old school doctrine. Late 80's - early 90's black metal, from a time when it was still undefined, heavy thrash metal, keeping an eye to the future, but above all furious and energetic with a bunch of fine musical ideas. 

It would be really interesting to take a closer look to the lyrics of the album too, because they are not currently available and it's hard to decipher anything from the vocals themselves. The titles of the tracks are quite intriguing, adding just a little bit that is need to make Spirit Possession more memorable than the average out there. Produced by Colin Marston (Behold The Arctopus, Krallice, Dysrhythmia), the record might not hit stellar heights for some but gives its own interpretation of things well established. That on its own, is a feat. 

Listen to Spirit Possession:

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A Diadem of Dead Stars - ... Of Green Pastures

Things have been quiet the last few years for A Diadem of Dead Stars, the atmospheric black metal band from Volos, Greece with -from its band name- obvious influences, yet a new single was posted some days ago. The song is mostly acoustic and captures feelings of primordial Greek folk atmosphere, with echoing clean guitars and sounds of birds, building up to chanting vocals and touching flute melodies that made the track appeal to me more than much of Pilgrim's other material. Fans of pagan folk / ambient and all forest children should check ...Of Green Pastures and include it in their late night walks playlist, it won't dissappoint.


Gloosh - The River

I came across this EP from the Russian project Gloosh only to realize that they had already released a full length this year, earlier in February. Apart from the stunning artwork, the professional production of The River would easily place it among atmospheric black metal releases that would be long awaited for 2020, yet Gloosh is still relatively unknown. Can't help but think a little bit of Drudkh when listening to this, yet the project has more of its own sound and often employs lively and intriguing guitar parts, the use of ambiance and acoustics is apparent and is worth not only listening, but looking into the concepts of the releases (this one and their debut Timewheel).

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Interview with Forsmán


New blood in an all growing Icelandic black metal scene, Forsmán's debut EP release has been under work for some time and is now right around the corner. A short talk was done to get some insight on the band, who will surely draw major attention in the future, just before it opens its wings.

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Welcome, feel free to share a short bio of Forsmán to introduce yourselves.

Hello. FORSMÁN is a black metal band formed in Kópavogur, Iceland in early 2019.


What is the meaning behind your band’s name?

Forsmán is a strong word for disgrace/shame.

 

How is the composing process going for your first release? Are there any information you can say right now?

We have finished recording our debut EP, which will hopefully be out later this year or early 2021. Stephen Lockhart of Studio Emissary took care of recording, mixing and mastering.

 

You have participated in some concerts with other Icelandic bands so far. How are the relationships among young and older black metal bands within the country?

Nothing but support from the other bands in the scene. We are all good buddies and get along quite well.

 

How would you describe the music of the group to someone who has not listened to Icelandic black metal before?

Harsh riffs and melancholic melodies.

What would be some bands that directly influenced Forsmán? Do you have any non-musical influences too?

We don’t really like to go into that, as we feel the work should speak for itself.

 

As it is sometimes a common practice, are the members from Forsmán included in other projects as well?

Yes most of us are in other projects of varying genres.


Are there any bands you are collaborating at the moment, or ones who have helped you so far?

No collaborations at the moment.

 

What is the conceptual core in the lyrical subjects and themes of your tracks?

Misanthropy, religion.

 

How has the corona pandemic affected you in Iceland, in your lives and as a band, apart from live shows getting canceled? How did you get through it there and how serious was it?

It hasn’t been too bad, compared to the rest of the world at least. Iceland has quite a small population so social distancing has been fairly easy to maintain. We have mainly been using the time to finish the EP and writing new material.

 

Do you have any plans for the band in the next couple of years, assuming the global plague gets settled at some point?

Release the EP and start work on our debut full length. Then hopefully book some tours. Only time will tell.

 

Thank you for your time, the last words are yours.

Fölsk boðorð skulu lögð í glötun!

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| Find Forsmán on Instagram | 

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Baptism - Grim Arts of Melancholy


Baptism kicked back wonderfully with the release of Grim Arts of Melancholy in 2008, three years after their least appealing release, which in my opinion was 2005's Morbid Wings of Sathanas. In this album, they improved on several sections that they needed work: the compositions are much more crushing and addictive, the sound is dusty but not inaudible, the vocals are comprehensible and the body of the record is thick and solid, setting Grim Arts as a glorious representation of what Baptism can achieve musically. They don't fall into the stagnating trap of sounding like any other Finnish black metal band out there, they dance between slow, depressive melodies and faster parts with all-in-all impressive ideas and menacing riffs. The album is emotionally charged, channels its negativity and communicates the message of the band rather convincingly. Of course, Baptism went on and released more quality material the following decade (As the Darkness Enters in 2012 is still one of my favorites from the 10s era), yet this is the album to come back to when thinking of this band. Tracks like "In this Painful Life" and "Only Death" flirt with DSBM directly, the opening "A Dream of War & Illumination" is a true black metal anthem, while "Depressed Void" is one of the most memorable songs they have ever composed. Grim Arts of Melancholy is a well rounded record, emotionally charged and with strong attitude, in what could have been the peak of the band at the time.

Listen to Grim Arts of Melancholy:

Monday, 6 July 2020

The Wizard - Imperial Stout by Strange Brew / Midnight Circus / Dark Crops

On the 13th of February this year, we celebrated 50 years from the release of Black Sabbath's first and self-titled album, and also the acclaimed "birth of heavy metal". This historic anniversary was also the motive behind the collaboration between three infamous Greek microbreweries, Strange Brew, Midnight Circus and Dark Crops, to join forces in creating a beer as heavy as the magnitude of the occasion, resulting in a 9.2% American Imperial Stout named "The Wizard". As they state on the can:

"Brewed on a misty morning,
Dark, heavy and loud,
This beer tastes like
The music that we love,
For 50 years now,
And on, and on, and on..."


I will avoid getting too technical describing the intense taste of this thick, plain black stout, but below is an appropriate short playlist that almost created itself during the process of enjoying it. Of course it could have been Black Sabbath songs only, but hey: