Panzerfaust - The Suns of Perdition - Chapter II: Render Unto Eden

Last year, I had almost skipped Panzerfaust's Chapter I: War, Horrid War. When I finally listened to it, it didn't take me that much time to place it among the albums to return to for the rest of the year, and until now. A band completely unknown to me with a long history starting from the early 00's, which lived through a very obvious change in their path by releasing War, Horrid War in 2019, which lifted them from the average underground corridors of extreme metal to the high peaks of artists to constantly keep an eye out. Momentum has now been growing even more, with the second chapter in this concept tetralogy, Render Unto Eden, attracting the attention of an even bigger portion of the scene. And it's by no mistake.

From all the war-themed metal albums in the world, how many would you tell manage to convey the message and provoke the feeling adequately enough to avoid being crushed by their own pretension? The atmosphere Panzerfaust construct is unique, and with subtle compositional fixes show how well they know how to play and what they're doing. By nature, Render Unto Eden has space for interpretation (compared to a more direct War, Horrid War in my point of view) and has been improved in terms of musicianship, production and mainly, flow. The band masterfully builds the album's intense moments, maintains a dim, menacing character throughout the listen, having placed together five tracks that go along in absolute brilliance. 

While the sound is very characteristic of them by now, slight traces of other famous bands of our time can be found in sparse riffing and the more general approach of their aesthetics. Mgła influences can be found in some potent guitar melodies of "The Faustian Pact" (and the stunning structure of this song), but more clearly in "The Snare of the Fowler", just by listening to the drumming session in the middle of the track and on. In Render Unto Eden, the guitar lines have grown, the bass work is impressive and should not be overlooked, drumming is on point, and the depth of the compositions certainly surpasses its predecessor. 

Apart from Arkona's Maria Arkhipova, who is featured and contributes to a breathtaking part of the introduction track "Promethean Fire", I also adore the chosen cover for Render Unto Eden, which could be taken from the works of Käthe Kollwitz and specifically The March of the Weavers in Berlin, one of her more popular pieces. Other than the fine aesthetics, "Areopagitica" is the total banger of the record, deserving to get higher exposure, as it is addictive from the first seconds and quite memorable. I think all five tunes are of high quality, but only once the listener invests into the band's world. The closing of Render Unto Eden with "Pascal's Wager" is plain melancholic, offers a smooth transition back to reality and makes up for this hell of a listening experience.

There is backstory to the tracks and the complexity of the album is not so much in terms of technicality but more in the level these musicians understand what they want to write in their music. In my opinion, it's really hard to achieve this and shows endless compositional potential. I know for a fact that the band can be mistaken for nothing special as I almost was in that loop once, yet Render Unto Eden can make a lot of extreme metal records obsolete, and it just makes me wonder how will the next two albums look like in this story. Until then, listen to Panzerfaust and listen to this, but as a whole. 

Living life with mods

Among the gazillion comment sections where people argue about the case of 1000mods, a user was pointing out -in support of them- how the band has now traveled to the US and Latin America for concerts, something that no other Greek band has achieved and mainly it's what shows their success and quality as a group at the end of the day. This single comment can by extrapolation depict a pretty big chunk of the fanbase that annoys music purists or nerds, without this meaning that these people have any kind of jurisdiction on the scene's boundaries, norms or anything of the likes. However, it does describe the overall situation at least within the country, because I don't know how big or packed the following of 1000mods is outside Greece. The alternative youth glorifies them, the concerts are lit and the movement that started with them worked as a wave that carried fans who are actually into rock music, plus listeners without that background or passion for the growth of this specific musical field.

This situation creates a self-preserving loop of cause and effect that feeds itself, and expresses itself in almost any conversation about 1000Mods that includes a few scene kids and at least one person who feels more entitled. To be specific, some of the long time underground fans have either inner or outer complaints about the excessive exposure the band gets while being a bit hollow musically, and they tend to believe this view more and more when they see the band's directionless audience, which is in their minds a valid reason of the band's potentially negative mainstream nature. At the same time, the fans who have just gotten on this wagon the last few years have no clue of how have we arrived where we are now, were never into this music in the past, not in terms of taste but in terms of mentality, wouldn't get along with the stuck up purists mentioned before. The disagreement between these two groups relies on a set of arguments that all of us have heard again and again in the past, but what matters more, is 1000Mods a good band or not?

Going back to the initial comment, by having said the above, the average 1000Mods listener thinks it's the first band from the country to go to America? I'm sure Rotting Christ are already laughing, having toured to most of the corners of this Earth for thirty years now and even at a time when their music was a real counter-culture, not an overly more accessible and easy-listening sound that goes with the flow. Septic Flesh have done it as well. Not to mention -and I will get a little bit deeper now even though it's unnecessary- Varathron and Kawir, with the latter being inspired from their Latin America tour so much that they immediately composed and released an album after they got back. Heck, Barb Wire Dolls moved and stayed in Los Angeles, after being chosen by Lemmy himself, but I'm sure you already knew all that! Of course all these artists are not in the same sub-style but from a little far away, we can set similar standards for most of the Greek underground scene. Or, did this user mean “the first stoner band from Greece to tour abroad”, though I'm pretty sure it was not that but their ignorance.

As in the whole world, rock in Greece had some leaders each decade starting from the 70's, and possibly the 10's will be connected in the future with bands like 1000Mods. I first listened to them with their debut Super Van Vacation in 2011, I had mixed feelings and there was still no frenzy about them. Therefore, I had the chance to follow them as they released their following albums, as the fanbase grew and what it swallowed on the way. In retrospect, the band had tremendous potential from their very first steps, and they have never been the standard, boring stoner group. They have grabbed life by the balls, living the dream as a band especially with the recording of their last album Youth of Dissent, exactly in the eye of the storm: engineered / mixed by Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon, Russian Circles, Pelican) in Seattle.

For getting into the band, these are the albums you should be familiar with:

  • Nirvana - “Bleach” 1989
  • Kyuss - “... And the Circus Leaves Town” 1995
  • Lowrider - “Ode to Io” 2000
  • Soundgarden - “Badmotorfinger” 1991
  • Truckfighters - “Gravity X” 2005

Before Super Van Vacation, 1000Mods had a handful of mini-releases, namely two EPs and a split with Wight from Germany, which also contained tracks from their second EP, and that was it. The material was more raw, with a semi-acceptable production, yet a lot of blistering moments in the songs. Going through 2006's Black Reality, you can tell how the band was still in its very first steps but listening to “Dope” or “Blank Reality” or “Boor” should give some hints of compositional mastery. Interesting, above average ideas, nice tempo changes, well written fuzzy stoner guitar melodies and a very accurate “desert” feeling. The sound was slightly improved for Liquid Sleep EP in 2009, with this era of the band being lesser known in general, as the big hit into the stoner scene happened after the iconic debut, and the growth into the worldwide alternative rock scene with their later albums Vultures in 2013 and Repeated Exposure To... in 2016. You can find nuances of grunge in these two EP releases, so their turn towards this direction with Youth of Dissent should not be a surprise as it is based very strongly on the same influences as the ones the band had since day 1 (except if you were also surprised when Darkthrone turned towards punk). 

"Pearl" LP (Maxi Single)

This sparked another series of new discussions on where is the band going next, how they abandoned the stoner sound into something more generic. Since Super Van Vacation is the album that created almost all the stoner backlash in Greece, they have been rigidly connected to the genre. It was inevitable for them to grow and after paying attention to the structure of their tracks, just a little bit more than nodding to the groovy riffs, you'll understand they were never purely “stoner rock”, but instead quite independent from the label. They are catchy, sometimes too catchy for their own good, but they are never dull. “Valley of Sand” from the EP with the same name, released in 2012, a seventeen minute, laid-back, spectacular track, showed how good they were in drawing in the listener. It's still one of my favorite tracks by them, or maybe the favorite.

There's a lot to absorb from their latest Youth of Dissent, especially when compared to previous material. It's not a perfect record. There are weak moments and weak tracks that feel like fillers. It made me wonder of their inspiration at times, but I am very glad for this release. 1000Mods are putting pressure of themselves and pushing forward. A few tracks are nothing less of amazing, and they maintain the same attitude as when they played for just a few people in 2011. When I purchased the Pearl Maxi Single, I just painted a picture of the distant future in my head, within the circles of record collector maniacs talking about rare side-releases of old classic albums and mentioning this very single. From a banging stoner tune like “7 Flies”, to a track like “Young” or “Mirrors” from them, it says a lot. Of course, “Pearl” is the album's absolute highlight in my opinion, but each one has their own. Surely part of their popularity comes from the overall positive trend towards stoner music the last decade, but this is not the only reason. I can think of many many worthless stoner bands, several from Greece. This one is indeed different.

All in all, I can't take a side in this debate. I don't care what other people listen to except if they ask me, but I have never felt shame for enjoying 1000Mods albums just because of so many “clueless” people like them. Frankly, saying you are into stoner in Greece most of the times means the holy triad of Nightstalker – Planet of Zeus – 1000Mods, which is a bit sad and funny, but not as pathetic as someone who would just shit on a person for not knowing better than that. For a band getting this big worldwide, 1000Mods would naturally receive some hate, but the points of view are all completely wrong, and their music not shallow. And if it seems like that, it's you who listened too quickly and moved on. Who's the music nerd now?

 

Whoredom Rife - Ride the Final Tide / Pakt

Apparently, Whoredom Rife have another full length in the works and until then, this EP was released with material that depicts the "more aggressive side of the band" and for that were not meant to be included in that album. Their previous works have been notable to say the least, yet I am wondering about the direction of the new record just from that statement. In the meantime, they released a fully acoustic EP at the end of 2019 and a split with almighty Taake a few months ago, named Pakt. This new EP features two tracks, "Ride the Final Tide" and a cover of "Maanens Natt" by Manes, from their first and monumental for Norwegian black metal album, 1999's Under ein blodraud maane. Whoredom Rife covered this gem of a track wonderfully, they implemented background layers with synths / chants behind the slow-paced main melodies, and they played all of the original's parts with the guitars (if you've heard Manes's version, you will surely remember the vivid keyboard sessions). This choice makes the song slightly darker than what it was, more in the territory of Whoredom Rife themselves. As for the self-titled track, it is worth mentioning that it has a video clip that is actually bearable to watch. That said, it's fairly fast and full of great riffing, you won't be shocked but it isn't conceivably an unpleasant banger. 

For Pakt, it's another two new songs by the band, this time including one in Norwegian "En Lenke Smidd i Blod" (=A Link Forged in Blood"). This tune employs more melancholic guitar lines, placed in middle speed and gets more and more epic as it progresses, before concluding Whoredom Rife's side with an acoustic outro. On the other hand, the opening "From the Nameless Pagan Graves", undoubtedly heavier, is as violent as Whoredom Rife usually get. I'm not going to deal with Taake's indifferent part in this that much, however if you're a Sisters of Mercy fanatic, maybe you would find the cover of "Heartland" interesting. I don't know if these mini-releases set the ground for the upcoming full length of Whoredom Rife, but I wish the material in there will at least be of the same quality. The band has been on a good trajectory since their first steps, trying hard to bring their country's scene to the forefront, and it's one of the bands that can actually deliver with their music as well. 

August 28th, 2020 | Terratur Possessions

Listen to Ride the Final Tide:

Precambrian - Tectonics

This is the second time it's happening. Back in the middle of 2019, one day I decided to re-listen to Wintewolf's debut Cycle of the Werewolf (which was also my first vinyl purchase) and at the end of that post, I was wondering about the future of this project, if there was any. Soon afterwards, they surprise released a second full length (review here), which had me scratching my head as if it was a joke then. Fast forward to this year's May, I also re-listened to Precambrian's discography up to date, the two EPs they released in 2014 and 2016, through the 2019 compilation that contained them. In my thoughts, this compilation was more of a concluding mark for the band, but little did I know that they were about to start on fresh, with not an EP, but an actual full length this time. 

When the album's single Cryogenian was released some time ago, I didn't believe my eyes that another side-project I was very much into and recently wrote a post about, spawned a full length unexpectedly. Tectonics is barely half an hour long, it contains five new tracks from the band, which has chosen the stripped down, straightforward and combative approach they have been following since day one. Thematics revolving around climatology and geology, thick sound and often incredibly heavy tunes is what characterizes Precambrian, unlike their members' other projects that tend to infuse a lot of melancholy and melody in their music. Though you will not find that kind of atmosphere here, with Tectonics there are some concealed, well placed melodic parts in the songs, that turn events into more epic directions.

For those new to Precambrian, prepare to be met with material that is dense and hostile, where the tools are simple: potent repetitive riffing, hard hitting drums and above all, monstrous growls and screams. The vocals take the record to a different dimension (the singer's growls have been a long time favorite of mine) and make the already impressive, minimalist structures of the compositions even stronger. Moments in "Fossilization", "Archaebacteria" or "Cryogenian" feel like a bulldozer, in a way that is almost rare to find in black metal nowadays. Precambrian have not chosen a color outside black - grey - white - black yet, they don't talk about the typical uninteresting subjects you are used to and above all, are talented in what they do.

"Volcanic Winter", a rather interesting phenomenon on its own, is also a highlight track. Traces of the aforementioned melody are present, along with some of the most monotonous parts of the album, and it works great. One will notice how abruptly tracks get cut when they end, as if there was a continuation that is not in the final mix, a choice that I sense was done consciously and aims to not have a comfortable flow. In normal conditions I would be alienated by this, but Precambrian is not the project that aims for anything different than what they offer. Since this project is very specific musically, I don't know how they want to continue with it but a synth based album, Ildjarn style, would be interesting to hear.

Once you've taken a course in Hate Forest's albums, the next step would naturally be to check and invest into this rather quiet an unknown side project from the universe of Drudkh. Not many bands sound like them and there is nothing friendly in this album, in a sense its release was a very satisfying event for me and another secret wish I had came true. By all means a release that is worth your time, especially if you are into underground extreme metal and you're looking for elements that have been coming and going the recent years during the musical expansion of the genre. Precambrian creates its own thick layer, with hardly any outliers. And for that reason, Tectonics can be assimilated and appreciated as it should. 

August 21st, 2020 | Primitive Reaction

Listen to Tectonics:

Primitive Man - Immersion

Three years after Caustic, Primitive Man releases an album which is half as long in duration, and also the shortest of their three full lengths, including the debut Scorn from 2013. For some reason, this was the first characteristic that drew my attention before getting into Immersion, which has already been widely praised by everyone who knows this band. Primitive Man have been relatively active in between the full lengths with a lot of split releases, most of them with quite interesting underground artists, however I have to admit it's only Scorn and Caustic that I had heard of them until now (and of course, the cover of "Sweet Leaf"). The band dictates its own law with immeasurable heaviness, playing one of the most direct and ugliest forms of doom out there, and to even call it like this feels slightly out of place. Doom metal can be beautiful.

The sludge / noise combination of elements, widely used by bands from the United States in the recent years, along with openly expressive lyrical negativity, has been a weird growing trend over there. Primitive Man leave no space for anyone to doubt their sincerity though, and this comes from someone who wouldn't claim to be their biggest fan. For the first time with this band for me, I gave them points and acknowledged the album's title being aligned with its effect, as Immersion can get quite immersive. The band's music was harder to follow with Caustic, a record which was over an hour. The content has been distilled multiple times now and the result is more consistent, more solid, and not at all less violent.

For its own sake, Immersion has an amazing production. The natural and pleasing sound of the drums makes each snare hit directly through your heart, the monstrous growls are unsettling, and the guitars are ripping all along during the album. No unwanted dust can be found in the overall sound, except when Primitive Man wants it to be there. Noise touches are of course present like before, especially in "∞", even though the real terrifying moments for me with Immersion are when they play faster. Parts of the closing track "Consumption" and the introduction of "Menacing" (one of my favorite tracks from them by now) display this clearly. At the same time, most of Immersion is painfully slow, putting shame to a big chunk of the scene that includes bands that even touch the same musical subgenres.

Arguing that Primitive Man got more accessible is false argument, they just got better. The tracks in Immersion are all memorable and they co-exist in one album perfectly. As a band that can achieve heaviness like no other, one couldn't say that the same verdict has not been delivered once again. Generally, I do believe that bands from the US today tend to get too much promotion and too much praise. Especially experimental artists, who touch a bit of grindcore / black metal / noise, seem to get into a wave that favors them even though the music is supposedly extreme. On the other hand, Primitive Man I can stand and admire. Immersion could be their best album to date, not much more to say for it.

August 14th, 2020 | Relapse Records

Listen to Immersion:

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
 

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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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: