Saturday, 12 October 2019

Profanatica - Rotting Incarnation of God

Origin: United States
Label: Season of Mist Underground Activists
Release: October 11th, 2019


A sparkle of excitement run through the underground scene in 2007 when one of the most infamous and vile bands from American soil released their first full length album, more than fifteen years after their famous demos in the early nineties. Profanatica have been steadily releasing records since then, while touring the world, they have significantly cleaned their sound but neither the drive behind the music nor their style has been altered since day one. It is a challenging band that causes distress even to fans of black metal, and it can be completely misunderstood at first glance. Their history is interesting on its own and the members have several side projects that are worth listening to, with their vision being at a love-it-or-hate-it condition, which is unique enough that it has never been replicated all these years. 

The new record Rotting Incarnation of God seems to equip Profanatica with new wings, as they have now moved to Season of Mist and some differences are noticeable, mostly in the area of promotion. They will be touring full time for the promotion of the album, they have done some professional photo shooting (farewell to the old days) and the record’s artwork was done by the goliath Paolo Girardi, whom you might have recognized from the artworks of Blasphemophager, the reissues of all Inquisition albums, as well as a bunch of other releases. Heck, the band seems to have their own clothing now, with the known Profanatica angel sigil, and the guys themselves are featured in the cover of the album (the majestic beard of Paul Ledney can’t go unnoticed). 

As an act that was once an outcast even among the underground, now it seems that it is finally appreciated and wholly embraced, and an advantage you can’t take away from them is that they haven’t really gone smoother musically either. Rotting Incarnation of God will blast you with many filthy riffs, slow guitars, ugly vocals, the characteristic, repetitive drumming and the killing of any notion of atmosphere for the sake of profanity. I found several tracks to be more memorable than their previous two albums, even though I loved last year’s EP, and while it isn’t different music, it still pinpoints and high peak of the band’s career so far. 

There are some issues with the production, which grants the instruments a great sound but I think the vocals are mixed way too high and at times it feels as they were edited in the studio to sound like a really loud whisper. For some short, faster moments in the songs, drumming could have been a bit fuller, but in general it is what Profanatica can produce and they nail it with Rotting Incarnation of God. Tracks like “Sacramental Cum”, “Mocked, Scourged and Shit Upon” and “Tithing Cunt” come consecutively in the album and are disgusting but lovely, especially the last of the three having some guitar lines that truly make the band shine. 

I enjoyed all tunes of the album almost to the same extent, maybe except the snail-paced moments of the self-titled track, which was just something minor in front of the whole offering that really makes time fly throughout the listen. All in all, Profanatica don’t diverge from their own self at all in Rotting Incarnation of God, they keep their compositional ideas and lyrics as we knew them, with a noticeable overall better crafted result for them as a band. I can’t say people that dislike them will have a change of heart with this record, but their fanbase should get ecstatic. Welcome to the death of melody.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Blut Aus Nord - Hallucinogen

Origin: France
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Release: September 20th, 2019


New material from diverse bands is always exciting news to listeners, with Blut Aus Nord being a grand example of this category and a project with hefty history and a fairly hefty discography on their backs. Mainman Vindsval is a unique musician who has never compromised, and his work is the proof for that. Throughout the years, I have praised but also discarded BAN’s albums without ever skipping a single release, since I consider this one of the biggest names to be constantly into someone’s radar.

This decade has seen no less than six full lengths by Blut Aus Nord, and they have left a bittersweet taste on me, as I am not the biggest fan of the 777 trilogy, I could not fully appreciate their previous album Deus Salutis Meæ in 2017, yet I think Saturnian Poetry from 2014 is their richest record and also one of the best black metal albums of the 10s. 

The band’s new album Hallucinogen came as a surprise to me, ever since I saw one new version of their logo in bubbly, floating letters a la Black Sabbath, or more closely like Electric Wizard. The artwork’s vivid colors give cunning looks to some darker Infected Mushroom even, with the concept being quite straightforward about hallucinogens and psychedelics, something that Blut Aus Nord haven’t expressed so far through their musical content (worry not about their personal lives). 

By slowly stepping into the compositions, an aural execution of these very subjects is apparent and pops out of mainly colorful guitar melodies, chanting vocals and this dizzying atmosphere. The band employs a combination of their own trademark sound with psychedelic elements, or at least tries to balance between its own identity and the urge not to completely be dragged towards that direction. Some sparse shrieked vocals are now the only characteristic that connects Blut Aus Nord to their old black metal self.

The first track “Nomos Nebuleam” was also released prior to the record and intrigued me, because of this new turn in the band’s music but also because I seemed to sincerely enjoy the tune. There are several moments of awesome guitar lines in it, most probably featuring a couple of the best riffs in the whole record. After listening to Hallucinogen till the end, the realization is that this track is indeed the best among a collection of sub-optimal pieces. After the second track “Nebeleste”, the attention starts to wear off and Hallucinogen becomes repetitive, circling around the same pattern of lively melodies, solos and cleaner ambient parts.

For instance, I could not grasp on how a track like “Mahagma”, a basic and unoriginal post-black metal piece, would end up in a Blut Aus Nord record. Only the closing part of that song saves itself a bit, but one minute is not enough. Tracks “Sybelius” and “Anthosmos” are also indifferent, with a few enjoyable parts but mostly containing ideas same as “Nomos Nebuleam”, but inferior. Hallucinogen is an album that can be felt completely, even from one single track, no matter which one you pick. 

 “Haallucinählia” is another take-home track as the first two, which features beautiful and slightly filthier riffs, as well as the calm ambiance that is used around. However, this resemblance between tracks doesn’t work on its favor, when you listen to the clean guitar part of this one and the ending of “Anthosmos”, can you really tell the difference?

I can see this record going places, and I expect it to be successful outside the boundaries of the underground. Its pleasant sound and psychedelic nature are a tempting fruit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they acquire new audience from it. Personally, Hallucinogen is a rather direct record that gives everything to the listener right away with its transparency, and that makes me feel a bit frustrated, coming from a notoriously enigmatic band like Blut Aus Nord. Depending on what you see as success, you can weight this album the way you want.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Mortem - Ravnsvart

Origin: Norway
Label: Peaceville Records
Release: September 27th, 2019

If the name Mortem doesn’t ring a bell to you when thinking about bands from the early Norwegian extreme metal scene, maybe it’s high time you went back to your history books, because this somewhat unknown act was a vital piece of the scene’s growth. Formed in 1987 by Marius Vold and Steinar Johnsen, who you might know as the mastermind behind Arcturus, their first demo “Slow Death” in 1989 featured gnarling death metal, during a time when the Norwegian black metal scene was still in a boiling, amorphous state. Mortem’s demo was produced by Euronymous and its artwork was drawn by Dead, which classifies it as a true and rare gem buried by time, since Mortem never got to release anything else. Until now. 

The act has reformed and among many bands that come back to life from the nineties, this was possibly the bigger surprise for me. The stellar line up does involve the Arcturus mainman Steinar, Marius Vold, the bassist of 1349 and Pantheon I, Seidemann, and the legendary Hellhammer himself. If the previous pieces of history and these musicians don’t get you hooked, I don’t know what will. “Ravnsvart” has wisely chosen its aesthetics close to their original material, since they haven’t changed their logo from back then, and also the art of the album seems like it is simply pencil drawn, definitely preferred to a possible digital design for this specific occasion. However, the musical content of the record is absolutely 2019 material, with a clean production and clear but cutting sound, it is well produced and has a healthy dynamic range. Speaking for the sound only, it was one of the most pleasing releases I’ve listened to recently and flows like a charm, showing the massive experience of the members involved. 

The Arcturian spirit is strong and present all over “Ravnsvart”, especially in the guitar lines and the background synths, which are constantly coming and going. It maintains harsh vocals, which makes the result come out as the uglier, younger brother of Arcturus, a reasonable situation considering the composer behind its creation. As a whole, Mortem reminds of Arcturus a lot and it should share its fans, yet the first band is just an ounce heavier. The album starts and hits hard with the self-titled, and highlight track, which spews the burning guitar riffs, vocals and synths in full blast, it was still the track I remembered even after the record ended. Middle paced pieces of course exist and rely a lot on the keyboards (e.g. the last two tracks), but the intensity doesn’t wear off completely anywhere (great is the track “Blood Horizon” too). 

I can’t say “Ravnsvart” is completely void of fillers, as parts of some tracks felt a bit underwhelming compositionally, and that is more apparent in the middle / ending part of “Mørkets Monolitter”, however these moments are rare, hopefully. In total, this record will feed all the nerds of the Norwegian black metal scene with a great treat, it is enjoyable to listen to and a solid addition to a collection of new releases by beloved Norwegian musicians. Until the new Deathtrip album is out, and in case you need a harder fix than Arcturus, this is for you.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Procrastinate / Myteri - Split LP

I was aware of this release but didn't realise it's also out on one of my favorite labels, Alerta Antifascista. I got into Procrastinate after seeing them live in a basement once, they only had an EP released then if I remember correctly. Short discography but a really promising crust band, and also their last two releases (this and the self-titled of 2017) have a kick ass artwork. Listening to this split again, both sides are definitely worth it.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Nocturnal Departure - Cathartic Black Rituals

Genre: Black Metal
Label: Self-released
Origin: Canada

Track listing:

1. The Incantation (Intro)
2. Dismal Existense
3. Ritualistic Vomit 
4. Astral Transcendence  
5. Mental Abyss
6. Ethereal Enlightenment 
7. Cathartic Black Rituals 
8. Monolithic Decay
9. Morbid Existence
10. Insidious Strangulation

The color purple is gaining ground lately in cover artworks.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Chalice of Blood (compilation)

A collection of highly infectious tracks by this Swedish awesome act, that has been around for almost fifteen years now but still lacks a full length album. In the meantime, check this wonderful compilation from a band that has meddled with acts of fine quality in the past and maintains a solid level of music throughout its discography. 

Listen (Bandcamp)
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