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:

Friday, 3 July 2020

Ondskapt - Arisen from the Ashes

Since the autumn of last year, Ondskapt were supposedly recording new material that is by now highly anticipated, as the band's next step after a whole decade since 2010's Arisen from the Ashes. While waiting for anything to appear at all, it is a good opportunity to revisit their back catalog, which consists of three brilliant albums and a fine debut EP, even though the first thing that always comes to mind when thinking of them is this release only. I still remember talking about it when it came out then with a good friend, who was also impressed and is still an admirer of passionate and well crafted Swedish blackness. Arisen from the Ashes puts forth a hefty amount of melody through its finely composed tracks, features some of Ondskapt's most memorable moments, especially in the venomous guitar lines of "Astute Spectre" or "Ominous Worship of the Divine". I slightly preferred the more agonizing sound of Dödens evangelium but Arisen from the Ashes too is well produced, with entertaining lyrics and hardly any weak points. Only "Killing the Human Mind" has grown a bit dull to me after all these years of listening, yet you are immediately rewarded with the epic self-titled track at the end. 

Listen to Arisen from the Ashes:

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Adept of an Ancient Art - Nocternity

I can’t be certain if this is the case, but I have a feeling Nocternity have always stood a bit further away from the rest of the Greek black metal scene, despite having a history of more than twenty years now and material since the late 90’s. Maybe it’s because of the fact that as a band, they don’t follow the standard recipe the country’s driven black metal style (not in music and also, not in the lyrics) that has been established since the second wave, but they drew their influences from other areas in more central and northern Europe, especially the Norwegian scene. The project is comprised mainly by Khal Drogo (who chose this nickname way before Game of Thrones came out on TV), and Merkaal, who has also been involved in Order of the Ebon Hand.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Yob - The Great Cessation

I recently went through Yob's 2014 masterpiece Clearing the Path to Ascend, several times on repeat throughout an evening while socializing with friends. In a sense, the balance in this band's body of work is unparalleled, the sound grows all around the speakers and becomes addictive to the extent you'll not notice yourself nodding after some time of listening. And while the elements employed are, to the purest, a well known combination of sludge / doom and post-metal, I can't think of many other artists that can touch the stars with flawless material, through hypnotic atmosphere and overwhelming talent. Yob's break in 2005 until 2009 feels to me -since I have no clue what actually happened to them during these years- as if this musical bull took a break only to empower and build momentum by focusing on a target, lowering its head and scratching the dust below. And that target was the whole underground scene, heck any subgenre around metal that dares to take it slow. 

The Great Cessation starts off with with one of the best tracks they have ever written, "Burning the Altar". The quintessence of crushing guitar lines, Mike Scheidt's vocal range is absolutely insane in whatever sound he chooses to make, from the screams to the growls or the cleans, it's structurally interesting and totally, totally heavy. The rest of the record doesn't stray from that path either, by going through tracks like "Silence of Heaven" or "Breathing from the Shallows" you can't help but feel the weight of the world in your shoulders, and there are no human words to describe the majesty of that 20 minute, self-titled track at the end. The 2017 reissue of the album featured a couple of more tracks, from which I particularly liked "Pain Like Sugar" for the hefty melodies, but as a whole each time I listen to this release I feel it has something more to give me. Very few records actually deserve a 10 out of 10, and in the case of Yob, it's even hard to choose which one from their discography would earn it. This is the definition of perfection.

Listen to The Great Cessation:

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Abigor - Channeling the Quintessence of Satan

Maybe because of their earlier catalog, I always felt Abigor's Channeling the Quintessence of Satan is a bit overlooked when thinking of their 90's material. While their first albums are undeniably spectacular touching classic status, one shouldn't miss out on the abundant intensity and power that is exerted from this record, with tracks like "Dawn of Human Dust" and "Equilibrium Pass By" being some of my favorite Abigor material ever. Recently, the band released on Bandcamp their 2016 vinyl master version of the album, which features rough recordings of the guitars and drums as they were done in 1998, along with re-recorded vocals and bass from 2010. I can't say which version of the two I prefer but this one offers a definitely less polished sound to the music, without throwing mud at the awesomeness of the compositions and made me listen to this fine release once again, as if it was a new experience. The guitar lines are amazing and often complex, Abigor at moments use samples to amplify the atmosphere, the energy in Channeling... is really unique.

Listen to Channeling the Quintessence of Satan:

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Death Courier - Necrotic Verses

The mere fact that Death Courier is active in 2020, makes an analogy case to a dinosaur coming back to life in the middle of a history museum. What may be the oldest extreme metal band from Greece, and arguably claiming the first death metal record from the country, is definitely part of the genre's history and the activity we're seeing since the last decades is by no means an irrelevant comeback. The name and logo have been kept intact, the music has been rejuvenated through the lens of modern production but the material itself serves as a reminder of how death metal sounded, when it had the simplest and most crushing form. The essence is in the thunderous riffs, the pummeling drums go along, songs in short structures and sparse solos around the place, with hardly any underwhelming moment except maybe the interlude in the middle of the record. Necrotic Verses is better than Perimortem. It's not Death Courier's extravagant playing that will win you, but the pure death metal bliss and character, coming directly from a veteran. And after all this time, a well designed artwork comes along too.

Listen to Necrotic Verses:

Friday, 29 May 2020

Behemoth are not in a forest anymore

News of coming Behemoth material are very hard to miss now and their new EP is a mini-release consisting of their adaptation of The Cure's classic song "A Forest", a live version of that and a couple of tracks from the I Loved You At Your Darkest time. Nergal also got ridiculously photogenic Niklas Kvarforth for a very fancy video clip, who was hired for his "psychotic appearance, attitude and vibe". If you're giggling already, just wait to watch the actual video.

While I enjoy the Shining albums, Kvarforth has been a shameless sell-out for many years now and just the fact that one person can maintain a self-destructive project for more than two decades gives me the shivers. Behemoth's The Satanist will probably be the last album I will enjoy by them, even if the affection has faded a bit after six years of listening, and I Loved You At Your Darkest really wasn't for me.

In my opinion, they didn't serve any good justice to the song at all, it doesn't fit their style and it was a baffling listen, apparently overproduced with a high budget, as Behemoth in general for some reason choose to come out as some kind of evil Power Rangers. The edge has completely disappeared from this band by now, so if you want some painfully mainstream metal just check it, but be careful if you are fans of The Cure. Frankly, Carpathian Forest did a much better job covering this specific track.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Armagedda - Svindeldjup Ättestup

A quick glance at Svindeldjup Ättestup could almost fool someone that this is not actually a new album by Armagedda but a remake of older material. Produced by Mgła's M.Z. at No Solace, an artwork done by Erik from Watain, at the same colors and aesthetics as where they left off in 2004, along with the first track after the introduction even named "Ond Spiritism", this record at first serves as a joyous flashback into their discography. As I have always been fond of this part of the Swedish black metal underworld, and the fact that Armagedda are masters of this craft, had me excited as a young child in a carousel and the music doesn't disappoint. The band proves they're always on point, they are so effortlessly dominating and mark a return of the project the best possible way, with some of the best musicians of the genre being involved in its release. Svindeldjup Ättestup is very well balanced, at times calm but strong spirited at the same time, definitely a highlight of the year so far not only for the captivating music but also for the fact that Armagedda showed such signs of activity again. Doesn't the beginning of "Ond Spiritism" sound like the intro part of Shining's "Du, mitt konstverk"?

Listen to Svindeldjup Ättestup: