Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Kawir & Nergal & Embrace of Thorns & Soulskinner - Emissaries of A Profane Advent (2012)

Emmisaries of A Profane Advent
Autumn 2012, Hammer of Hate Records


This 4-way split contains four acts from the greek extreme metal scene, all of them popular in the country. Kawir, a black metal band with heavy pagan influences about our ancient culture, Nergal, the blacksters with mainly satanic content, the blasphemous Embrace of Thorns, and a death metal band named Soulskinner, whose founding member is Gothmog (also known from Thou Art Lord). From the looks of it, it seems like a nice collaboration.

It starts off perfectly and my day is made with Kawir. They have their way with epic and melodic black metal riffs, a great production and amazing vocals. The song is fast paced and reminds heavily of the nineties. The pagan/folk element is present only at the end of the song with an acoustic part. As we continue, Nergal's "Flegethon" comes in. And here's the surprise. Nergal are generally raw and direct, but this is an ambient track. Not a simply ambient track that would fit in a black metal record, it is extremely romantic and emotional (the bad way). It almost sounds like the soundtrack of a mediocre love movie with an ultra perfect ending that makes you wanna puke. I was not sure if i was listening to the same split anymore. This was my main motivation to write a review, just to state, Nergal, dudes what the fuck are you doing?

As i later accidentaly realised, there was an announcement by the label and the band both. A mistake occured and that instrumental track is not Nergal's, but something else, random. They probably were releasing Barbie of Swan Lake the same day and confused the tracks during the printing process, but anyway... There are a few copies left and there won't be reprinted, so if you wanna grab this, avoid the second track. Whatever it is. We continue Nergal-less.

After the funny shock, Embrace of Thorns are the ones with the burden to bring back the darkness, and they sure do. A song as good as Kawir's, fast and heavy, intolerant and with a kick ass title. I cannot ask for more from this band, and they repay for themselves and Nergal at the same time. As the last song of the split starts, it has the scourging sound i approve, and its also fast-paced, which is something good. In the middle of the song though, they slow down and start some random riffs, which is disappointing. I also didn't like that they use the samples of Charles Manson interviews about killing and death. Enough with him guys. Focus on the music please. I also like listening to his interviews, but not his words in every band that can't actually bring up something musically listenable. (Aborted excluded)

As a whole, the split is just a little above average. Two of the bands gave their best self. Soulskinner's song was nothing important, and Nergal's effort was literally nothing. Its not the fault of the band or the other bands, but it sure hurts the whole effort. All the points go to Kawir and Embrace of Thorns. 

DAMAGE: 5.5/10

Monday, 29 July 2013

Embrace of Thorns - Atonement Ritual (2009)

Embrace of Thorns "Atonement Ritual"
Spring 2009, Nuclear War Now! Productions


Embrace of Thorns are infamous in the greek underground scene. Their macabre way of story telling can hardly be called an attraction, but for those who have worm ears, the band is a delight. Continuing from where they left in 2007, they come back two years later with a second full length album that contains the basic ingredients for dirty old school death, and more.

One of the bands that has a pact with the nineties and the underground, they have sworn to lurk around the shadows, not the spotlights of musical success. The influences from bands like Proclamation, Bolt Thrower and Incantation are easy to spot, even though this band has inserted ambient parts and variations more than usual, giving them some points of uniqueness. The cover art is coloured in blood, blasphemic, and weirdly artistic, in its own way. The content is strongly anti-religious if you look at it closely, it describes the music of the band.

The album consists of thirteen songs that clock 34 minutes all together. Apart from the intros/outros and the interludes, each track last around two or three minutes, a satisfying length for the painful noise they're displaying here. The sound of the album serves the compositions, since its chaotic and relentless, exactly as it should be. They followed the advice of their old school death idols and did not demonstrate a hell of a craftmanship in the studio. The production and mixing are simple, lacking tricks, straightforward filthy. They do not rest with this great production, instead they put effort on each song of the album, either it is a slow-paced torture tool like "Venom in Veins" or "Perished In Mortal Agony", or a fast-paced one like "Perdition Hammer" and "Hymn to Triumph". "Tombs Of The Desecrated Zealots" is also a standout track, for its amazing intro.

You have been warned about what you're going to listen to if you decide to dig into this band. The fans of the genre will absolutely love it, as its memorable and devoted to the scene.

DAMAGE: 7.0/10

Youtube Sessions (III)

 

Immortal - Pure Holocaust
1993, Osmose Productions

Some stunningly good melodies in here. Definitely one of the best albums by them without the tinniest imperfection. I love the drum work, and its done by Abbath here, he is up for any spot in the Immortal territory.

Darkthrone - Under A Funeral Moon
1993, Peaceville Records

What a playlist. A milestone for black metal, among the masterpieces Darkthrone released in their early days. The influences of the 80s underground scene are obvious.

Possessed - Beyond The Gates
1986, Combat Records

After a brilliant debut, that influenced many bands in the black and death metal territory, Possessed released another punch in the gut a year later. I love both their albums, but if one would be strict and judge equally, this one does not reach the highness of "Seven Churches".

Exumer - Possessed By Fire
1986, Disaster

A remarkable debut and thrash metal album in general, very well balanced when it comes to the instrumentation and vocals. There was competition in 1986, with Master of Puppets, Pleasure to Kill, Reign In Blood, no wonder why these guys were left behind.

Whiplash - Ticket To Mayhem
1987, Roadrunner Records

Never spent much time on these guys. Not that bad, even though I doubt i'll spin it again. Some slow and clean parts made it boring.

Ulver - Wars of the Roses
2011, Kscope Music

Not my favourite album by them, and there are many.

Agalloch - Pale Folklore
1999, The End Records

Amazing debut by an amazing band, very atmospheric and sorrowful.

Wolves In The Throne Room - Black Cascade
2009, Southern Lord Records

I can't hesitate to tell this is their best album, but it is an entertaining one. I don't mind long ambient parts or the average melodies.

Mystic Circle - Infernal Satanic Verses
1999, Last Episode

I can't listen to the variations of the guitars and bass because all my attention goes to the synths and the varied vocals. Interesting melodic black metal with symphonic elements, sounds like the road Cradle of Filth should follow. A great cover as well.

Stormlord - At the Gates of Utopia
2001, Scarlet Records

This is not my favourite album by them, it has all kinds of interesting sounds but that's the problem, they're too much. The synths are uplifting in some songs, not cool. I would prefer if they didn't add these power metal riffs and synths. I would also prefer the guitars a little higher in volume.

Till next time

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013)

Alice In Chains "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here"
Spring 2013, EMI Records


In the unplugged album of Alice in Chains in 1996, there was a sentence on Inez's bass: Friends Don't Let Friends Get Friends Haircuts. It was directed to the members of Metallica, who had then cut their hair. Today, Alice in Chains cut their hair as well. Years have passed, the blood boiling attitude of youth has faded away, right? And Alice in Chains are now... What?

"Black Gives Way To Blue" was a decent album, it might not fill the holes completely, but it had something. The absence of Layne Staley was obvious, but Jerry could still hold their sound together and that new singer seemed talented. Tragic news though, Mike Starr passing away a couple of years ago. Two founding members of the band are now gone. News of another album struck me with an amount of doubt, even though i always give them some space, since they are one of my favourite bands. Sadly, "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" does not live up to my expectations, since it barely touches mediocrity.

Maybe its because i generally disapprove the band's decisions and management the late years, they have stepped into the world of mainstream music, they are softer and easy-listening, comparisons with their first years are inevitable. The once depressive angry songs, are now mellow and unimpressive. The record starts with two solid songs that have the groovy slow riffs and the melodic vocals, a classic characteristic of them. A typical AiC fan will enjoy this two songs, as a substitute to the band's good years and a need for new music. From there on though, there are only a couple of songs that worth listening to. It might sound good to a person that has just found out about them, or a person that is into rock artists that promote themselves with video clips on TV, but it huts a little to the fan of the other side. I know a band might change throughout the years and they are free to do so, but this effort is not of their calibre. Five good songs out of twelve is not a good statistic, compared to the masterpieces they have released in the past.

"Phantom Limb" has a catchy intro, and a great build up, the main body is sweet as can be, generally it is a kick ass song. The rest of the songs around it though, are weak and lack emotion. I think that is the main disadvantage of the whole album. It sounds good the first time, everyone's talking nice about it, about how they reproduce grunge, but it really lacks the emotion and power it should have. Im a passionate fan of their first albums not just because they are better albums, they also have that rebellious attitude of teenagers on crack, you can feel they deliver. They are not 18 anymore, progress is natural, right?

In general, im not satisfied with this new album. It seems they have decided to change, im not judging on that and i will stick to the albums i like. AiC of 2013 are a different band, compared to AiC of the early 90s, and it will not be a band i'll be listening to from now on.

DAMAGE: 4.0/10

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Elysian Blaze - Blood Geometry (2012)

Elysian Blaze "Blood Geometry"
Summer 2012, Osmose Productions


When we're talking about really long album, Elysian Blaze's Blood Geometry should come to mind. This funeral doom/depressive black metal one-man project from Australia released this album last year in two CDs/parts, each one of them lasting around an hour. A monotonous drone is needed in albums like these, but if you decide to listen to this particular album as a whole, prepare to sink in the deepest void.

I am convinced that this is their best album to date. There is finally the perfect balance between the instruments and the guitars, in the first albums the guitar work was a bit unlear and cast aside by the synths. This is not the case here though, a previous flaw has been fixed and Elysian Blaze are even closer to excellence. The atmosphere of the whole album is magnificent, through its variety of synths, gloomy melodies and a sorrowful woe of screams. The whole idea is that the music stays slow, thick and depressive, so i would say its for the fans only. Inside the dark vibe of the whole album, i noticed an ounce of epicness at the end of the first CD in the self-titled track, an elegant ray of light between oblivion.

I personally love the way Mutatiis handles the pianos and the synths behind them. The ambience he creates is remarkable, and that places him among the top artists of funeral doom/depressive black. His music is complex and inspirational, by all means artistic. He is not hesitant to compose long tracks that go up to 36 minutes, a true manifest of pianos, orchestral parts, guitars, percussion and organs. Intriguing instruments are also used here and there, like this somewhat xylophone in the middle of "Pyramid of the Cold Sun". The ambient and black metal parts are close to depressive black metal, in terms of speed and sound, whereas there are groundbreaking funeral doom riffs as well. A surprise might be, that some guitar lines in the album are glorious and shiny, meticulously placed at the correct places, that can tend be uplifting, despite the general despair it provokes.

I didn't give this the attention needed the first time i listened to it and i came back accidentaly, now i can see what a fool i was. It is an amazing album by an amazing band, that will please the fans and not only. It is also one of the best active one-man projects out there, look out.

DAMAGE: 8.5/10

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Graveland - Thunderbolts of the Gods (2013)

Graveland "Thunderbolts of the Gods"
Summer 2013, No Colours Records


Graveland have walked away from the raw black metal path they used to follow back in the mid nineties, with a sound more towards pagan/viking metal nowadays. To be sincere, i have not listened to a single record by them after "Creed of Iron" but after seeing this hysterical trailer, i decided to listen to the new album. I kept in mind that disappointment is possible.

To begin with, the length of the songs is the regular Graveland usually pulls out, moving around 7 and 9 minutes, putting the album at a convenient total time of 42 minutes as a whole. The music is based on the atmosphere so there is no rush needed, he takes his time to present each piece with patience. As for the cover, it is artistic and as pagan as it should be.

I can't say Darken has improved his skills on the guitar or drums, but he can sure compose great epic metal, that's what this album is all about. As for the vocals, i naturally prefer the hollow screams of his first albums and not the gargling burps he does now, still i was not turned off by them. In fact, i think they fit better with this new style of mid-paced calm music he plays. Even if it seems like he boosts up the speed at some points, he really isn't. The production of the album is satisfying, in terms of the sounding purity, no instruments were left out.

A major element of the album is the keyboards. It brings up the ancient times that Darken is so nostalgic for and it adds a great flavor to the songs. Anything, from synths to chanting vocals, is used here very carefully to colour the otherwise dim compositions of the album. He has always been using keys for his albums from the early days, but now they are given more attention since its not straight forward black metal anymore. Its not as hateful and sharp as i remember either, he focuses more on a pure worship of paganism. There is a somehow wailful composition named "Chambers of Wicked Tears" that depicts this change, which is an amazing song as well.

This album is also full of gorgeous riffs, with efficient melody and old school grimness, combined with the synths and the vocals. Look out for the guitar lines in the second half of "Wolf on the North", in the middle of "Red Polaris" and in "Possessed by Steel". They are not hard to play, and solely not innovative, but as a whole they create an awesome vibe and atmosphere of a different time, it succeeds in creating the appropriate feelings as it was meant to create. There is a profound consistency in each track of the album, meaning that it has no weak spots or vulnerable moments.

There is always an ideological background that holds Graveland albums together and fuels them with inspiration. Even though his appearance and photos are theatrical to the unaware viewer (theatrical used with a negative meaning), he has not changed his views since he first started and he pretty much keeps his own way. The music itself, at least for this album, is interesting.

DAMAGE: 7.5/10

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Aracnophobia - Cult to the High Priests (2013)

Aracnophobia "Cult to the High Priests"
Early Winter 2013, Self-released

Listening Needs
 
This is a project from Costa Rica i was not aware of, with several releases already, all of them this year's. It is an independent act by a guy named  Eduardo Tencio, who is creating the music all by himself. I would say that the phrase "don't judge a book by its cover" does not apply here, because the sickness of the album art here can easily describe the sickness of the album.

Aracnophobia (Arachnophobia: the fear of spiders and other arachnids) plays a mixture of dark ambient and noise, the two bastard sons, the black sheep subgenres of electronic music, and when used properly, they are super effective to a sane person's mental well being. This is one of his early releases that came out this February, clocking 26 minutes, which makes it unclear for me if its a full length or an EP/demo. I am, most of the times, in the mood for such music and i was inclined towards this one because of the interesting cover and song titles.

As the album unfolds, the first song starts with distorted noises and a voice talking. What he says is indistinguishable, but of no importance as well, the result is pretty haunting anyway. The music is atonal and does not follow any pattern or structure, from the first two and a half minutes you have the idea of what you're going to listen to. The second song is richer in sounds, it continues with stinking screams but has a couple of nice samples and a basic weird sounding bass, which dims the room further more. The next song seems like it is a bit louder than the other two, it does not give anything new to the listener, it maintains the album's position and breeds the darkness.

The second half of the album contains the strongest tracks off it, with three tracks that contain various distorted sounds apart from the primary background noise. The fourth track is my favourite, for a really high pitched blare it has, not used in the rest of the album. The last two songs are the longest, over six minutes each, they are murky and ominous, just as the rest of the album. A zestful album, as a whole.

When i first gave a listen to this via bandcamp, the end of each track was brusque, and i thought that it was meant to be a long one track divided into pieces, so i downloaded it to see if it flows like that. Sadly, it didn't, so a downside of the album is the untimed and sloppy endings of each song. It might sound like its not that serious, but in dark ambient a non-stop monotonous album can inject madness in your head, whereas an album that takes stops every now and then, loses its power.

Facebook

DAMAGE: 6.5/10

Friday, 19 July 2013

Gorgoroth - Antichrist (1996)

Gorgoroth "Antichrist"
Summer 1996, Malicious Records

Song-by-song Examination

Two years after a spectcular debut, Gorgoroth unleashed their second full length album, "Antichrist". While it is close to the debut aesthetically, with a simple and similar cover, an obvious satanic subject and the same (short) length, a majority of the scene has mixed feelings about it. Truth is, it is not as groundbreaking as "Pentagram", but its not a waste of time either. With the addition of Frost at the drum post, it certainly worths a close look.
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En Stram Lukt av Kristent Blod: A twenty second intro with random growls and a risque title. Nothing important, nothing special. Gorgoroth's music is edgy enough to have atmospheric intros anyway.

Bergtrollets Hevn: A warm welcome to the listener, but not at full potential. There are nice riffs, solid vocals, good melodies, with a dose of epicness in them, but still it does not make the earth move. I have a feeling it is lowered by the production, as a little higher volume at the guitars would stress these nice riffs out more.

Gorgoroth: I was skeptical with this song at first listen, but now i think it is amazing. It starts of with a cold tremolo riff and then goes to a standard melodic rhythm. The whole composition bursts melancholy, and there are clean mournful clean vocals that confirm that as well. It is compositionally excellent, greatly produced with every instrument audible. I don't think the fans back in 1996 were used in a song like that, especially from this band, and that's what shows their talent.

Possessed (By Satan): After a nice trip to morbid melody, here we return to a rawer song that could be a part of "Pentagram" and no one would notice. Its based on simple riffs, it might stick in your head, even though it generally average. I don't like the drums here, they don't seem to feel the empty spots at some points. Towards the end, it gets a bit faster, and its enjoyable.

Heavens Fall: Apart from a shout/yelling and then laughter at the end of this song, it is fully instrumental. A nice demonstration of the ability of Infernus to produce solid black metal riffs, but still it didn't impress me.

Sorg: The longest piece on the album, just about over Gorgoroth. It is significantly slower and depressing, the title itself translates as "Sorrow". Im in for tracks like these but it didn't work as intended here. In the middle of the song, it feels like they were rushing to reach twenty five minutes for the album's length. The beginning with the shrieked vocals, and the end with the cleans and the thunder, are pretty nice.

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All in all, i am also one of the people that believe "Antichrist" is not as good as "Pentagram". They did experiment a little, it worked out at some points but didn't at some others. I don't think the whole album is rubbish, since there are a couple of awesome tracks in it, but still it will always be overshadowed by their first release. Im glad i checked this, even for the song Gorgoroth only. It stands among the greatest albums of its time, but it is mediocre compared to them.

DAMAGE: 7.75/10

Monday, 15 July 2013

Helrunar & Árstíðir Lífsins - Fragments - A Mythological Excavation (2013) [Split]

Helrunar & Árstíðir Lífsins "Fragments - A Mythological Excavation"
Summer 2013, Ván Records/Prophecy Productions


Helrunar and Árstíðir Lífsins not only share a common member, the singer, but also recount stories and events of similar themes, like nature, paganism and mythology. It has been a couple of years since we have last heard of each band, so a new anything is pleasing, let alone a split that contains new material from both bands. The release is also a collaboration between each band's label, Ván Records and Prophecy Productions. These labels are selective when it comes to band signing and that is the reason they only have amazing bands in their rosters.

The music of an album is not the only aspect that describes its quality, especially in metal, thats why most of the fans seek the ideology or concept of the bands they like and never stay for the music and only. As the title explains, this split is indeed a mythological excavation, that makes it even more beautiful, when one knows what the bands are referring to. The artists here have taken a small bit of the Greek and Scandinavian mythology and recite it in their own unique way. I was already familiar with the Greek tale (we have been taught the specific story at school) but had to search for the other one, which was also notably interesting.

Helrunar's subject is a part of the Homeric Tales, two capacious poems called "Odyssey" and "Iliad", counting 12221 and 15692 lines each, respectively. The specific incident they describe here is taken from Odyssey, which describes the journey of the hero Odysseus as he tries to return home, but faces all kinds of obstacles, since he is hated by the Gods for some of his past actions. At that point, he is trapped in a cave of an one-eyed giant with his crewmates, that keeps them there and eats one every day. Odysseus decides to offer wine to the giant, he drinks it and loves it. A while after, he is dazed by the sweet nectar and falls asleep, and then he is pierced through his only eye with a giant spear. He wakes up screaming and blind, Odysseus and the rest of the party grab the giant's sheep and stay under them while they move out of the cave, and that's how they escape. The giant's name was Cyclops or Polyphemus and the song title can be translated as "Wine for Polyphemus".

Árstíðir Lífsins take us to a different time and different location, way norther to Scandinavia. Their musical composition is strongly influenced by a poem called "Vafþrúðnismál" (and i have no idea how to pronounce it), part of a collection of Old Norse poems with the name "The Poetic Edda". In that poem, Odin asks Frigg whether to go at Vafþrúðnir's hall or not, and he is adviced against the idea, since Vafþrúðnir is a very fierce giant. Despite that, Odin heads for the hall and there plays the game of wisdom contest with the giant, which ends up to be a win-or-die competition. In the end, Odin asks a question that only he knows the answer, what did Odin say to Baldr's ear before his placement to the funerary ship. That is when Vafþrúðnir finds out about the identity of his opponent, and admits defeat.

Having read about all these, i went into the music itself. Helrunar hired the greek singer Hildr Valkyrie for additional vocals, specifically the chants that can be heard at the beginning and ending of the song. There is an ode close to the greek rhapsody style with the actual lines of Homer in ancient Greek, even though the band is from Germany, they managed to pronounce the words almost perfectly. After this three minute introduction, there is a mysterious melody with a clean/acoustic guitar, that opens the way to Helrunar's destructive black metal. It explodes with powerful riffs and vocals, fast paced drums and an awesome sound. There is more clean vocal narrating in between the intense moments of the track, that varies melodies throughout its fifteen minute length. Not tiring at all and very well crafted it is, it had me hooked the whole time. It finishes as silently and elegantly as it starts, with the voice of Hildr Valkyrie and pounding waves as a background.

The second and final track by Árstíðir Lífsins lasts nineteen minutes and it is about as flawless as the first. Their lyrics are fully Icelandic, and after a calm intro begins a monologue with deep clean vocals. As it continues, the instruments embrace the voice and lead the way to tremendous screams and howls. The track contains multiple violins, cellos, choirs, keyboards and acoustic moments, as the band consists of many people that commit themselves to each instrument. Transferring the song in its mother language leaves it unspoiled and even though I don’t understand the meaning without translation, it does have its own potent vibe. Due to the variety of instruments and singers, it is more musically enriched than Helrunar’s track, even though both tracks are remarkably good. It closes with a three minute melancholic outro, almost nostalgic of a long forgotten era of swords, magic and paganism. Árstíðir Lífsins have constructed a great atmosphere that is present during the whole synthesis, making it of grand musical merit.

Definitely one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, both for the music and the subject. Helrunar’s approach aimed straight to my heart, for the great story they chose to represent and their support to my country, whereas Árstíðir Lífsins dominated the second part of the listen with one of the most amazing songs of that length that I have heard lately, since Agalloch’s Faustian Echoes. This split is overwhelming.

Fuck materialism.


DAMAGE: 10/10

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Shining & Mortuary Drape - Into The Eerie Cold Where The Witches Dance (2013) [Split]

Shining & Mortuary Drape "Into The Eerie Cold Where The Witches Dance"
Summer 2013, Primitive Art Records


Sweden's Shining have grown very popular in the black metal scene and not only, mainly for the daring live appearances and statements by the band's mastermind Kvarforth now and then, but still he should get props for being an amazing singer and musician. He has proven himself a hard working man, since he does not hesitate to release more albums very often. Mortuary Drape, on the other hand, are a notorious band as well, with several cult releases throughout the years.

These two bands decided to unite their powers for a split release this June, with one song each, creating a record that clocks around thirteen minutes.  Naturally, several versions of 7" vinyls have been released already.

Shining open the record with the song Sensommar, which undulates to the recent sound of their last 2-3 albums, crystal clear and spiteful at the same time. A slow, miserable introduction starts and is followed by whispering/yelling screams, almost acapella, since the instruments behind the voice are elusory at the time. The second half of the song is faster, it has some more guitar melodies generally more energetic. After a beautiful solo, the silence takes control again. It is not the best thing Shining have offered and they are capable of more than that, for sure.

The second song by Mortuary Drape, has an obscure and noisy ambient intro. It prepares the ground for what is to come, almost making the air thicker. An amazing clean guitar riff and then chaos. It does not have the 90s rotten production that they previously had and the sound is improved, even though i sense this might dazzle part of their fans. I don't think they will be disappointed after they listen to it though. It is a fast song, almost approaching the grounds of black/thrash, with nice riffs and again, a solid solo. I like the fact that the bass is not buried under everything, as it happens in numerous bands.

Even if i generally enjoy Shining more than Mortuary Drape, i got the opposite impression with this split. What we have is an average Shining song and a cool Mortuary Drape song, putting the latter a little bit over the first.


DAMAGE: 6.0/10

Friday, 12 July 2013

Moonblood & Deathspell Omega - Sob A Lua Do Bode / Demoniac Vengeance (2000) [Split]

Moonblood & Deathspell Omega "Sob A Lua Do Bode / Demoniac Vengeance"
2000, End All Life Productions


Both of these bands have their own popularity in the scene and they are respected by many, for their ideological stability and musical consistency, with releases way above average each. This union took place thirteen years ago and it was one of the last official Moonblood releases before they disbanded. Of course, all of us know the path Deathspell Omega have followed since then and we are very pleased about it.

Even if the official copies were limited to vinyls only, some other distros printed bootleg CDs of it and i happen to own one of them. Kris Verwimp was the one that designed the spectacular art of the Moonlbood cover, a famous illustrator for metal bands. The split contains four Moonblood and three Deathspell Omega songs, lasting a little bit over fourty six minutes. I always have high hopes for quality bands like these and once again i was not let down.

The ceremony begins with the Moonblood side, which contains, to me, some of the best songs they ever recorded. The production is deliberately as dirty as it should be to give the appropriate feeling, and shrieked vocals combined with yells and screams make the tracks even more obscure than they were with the freezing instrumentation. Some of my favourite black metal riffs are contained here, and all the songs are amazing, if you are in the mood. The known habit of black metal artists to wander around forests (which is often mocked by everyone) aches in these tracks, and it wakes the urge inside you to do it yourself. "A Silent Dream of Impurity" and "I Hail The Night" are my favourite Moonblood songs and "Forgotten Spells In The Forest" is right behind them. The titles and lyrics are quite graphic and have become a cliche today because of the repetition, but no one reaches the level of these two guys.

We continue, as the Deathspell Omega side rises. It is definitely straight forward like most of the french bands back then, with very nice variations and riffology. It gives away a bit of the majestic sound they would produce some years later, but it is not fully shaped by that time. They can be described as the LLN descendants, with about the same sound but extremely improved musicianship. Three solid songs showing the first steps of this band, a must for the collectors.

If i was to compare the two sides, i'd definitely go with Moonblood. Their stuff here are mindblowing, so good that they make the mighty Deathspell Omega sound opaque. I enjoy the whole split and it has always been in my playlist, because of the effort these two bands have put into it. The fact that i prefer the one band over the other, doesn't mean that i don't like them both, a great collaboration that every black metal fan should listen.

DAMAGE: [8.0/10]

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Mysticum & Ulver - Mysticum / Ulver (1994) [Split]

Ulver & Mysticum "Ulver/Mysticum"
Summer 1994, Necromantic Gallery Productions


Apart from the unholy trinity of Mayhem-Burzum-Darkthrone and other famous ones like Enslaved or Immortal, many bands emerged from Norway during the early 90s that did not get that much attention, just enough so that they would become "kvlt" a decade later. Mysticum's only full length "In The Streams of Inferno" is an industrial black metal blast that was recently re-released and they are working on a new album right now. As for Ulver, they heavily changed their sound to experimental/ambient paths and managed to remain magnificent. This split was released right at the period when both bands were breathing black metal inspiration, angry teenagers against the world with a talent for music.

The two bands offer one song each, and that makes it a short release that lasts ten minutes. The track by Ulver is taken from their debut demo Vargnatt, released a year earlier, and Mysticum's track is taken from their demo Wintermass, also released in 1993. I always examine the cover of a release and this one is rather simplistic, some trees and fog, overused but essential arts for the genre that please my eyes. Only vinyls were released for this and i bet it looks pretty good on a 7" cover.

Ulver's track "Ulverytternes Kamp" reflects the music they were creating back then and for their first three albums, which is raw and agressive black metal filled with some melodic and acoustic parts. It sounds a little bit different than the version of the demo, but the two songs are basically identical.  I am fond of their early stuff and this song is no exception, it is awesome all the way. Mysticum's offering is in wronged by the production and its poorly recorded. There are some synths on the back but they are a bit hard to hear and the drums seem to cover the rest of the song at some moments. The compositional part itself is legit and innovative for its time, they proved that with their full release.

If we were around when this was released, we would not hear any new music by the bands. They probably were in touch from before and decided to throw out a release together, just for the sake of it. It is enjoyable but not something that i will return and listen to again, since these two have released much better demos and albums.

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DAMAGE: [7.0/10]

Monday, 8 July 2013

Neun Welten - Destrunken (2009)

Neun Welten "Destrunken"
Autumn 2009, Prophecy Productions


In Ulver's second full length album "Kveldssanger", there is a song called Naturmystikk, which can be translated as mystic nature. They were trying to create an acoustic folk instrumentation of nature itself, and they seem to have inspired many bands since then. Neun Welten is a dark folk/neofolk group that delivers that exact kind of music. From the name (nine worlds of the Nordic mythology) one can understand that their influences and the concept they deal with in the band.

"Destrunken" is the second full length album after 2006 "Vergessene Pfade". The magnificent illustration of the artwork has been drawn by Fursy Teyssier of Les Discrets, an artist i personally adore when it comes to artworks or animated videos. I can't think of a better fitting cover for this album, its warm, serene, a bit grievous, almost describes the music by itself. The whole booklet is based on this worn out brown colour with great drawings around it.

Here, we have a combination of post-rock and the clean parts of atmospheric black metal, executed under a folk aesthetic. Take Agalloch or Ulver, unplug them and add more piano lines, violin, clarinet, harp. I have read in interviews that the guys' first intentions were to make something like the acoustic form of black metal, but as more members joined, they followed a folkloric and melancholic road, it was exactly the feeling i got listening to it. The compositions are well crafted and they provoke a feeling of euphoria and calmness, with a touch of sorrow, which makes it even more artistic and enjoyable. The acoustic guitars create a very warm atmosphere, and they cooperate perfectly with the rest of the instruments in every song. There are also some female/male clean vocals in German, a characteristic i rarely like in songs, that has beaten the odds here, since they are wonderful whatsoever.

Standout tracks for me are Destrunken II, Jarknez and Schein, even though each one is special. If you are fond of tranquil sounds once in a while, give this album a listen with your eyes closed. Nature lovers will appreciate it very much too.

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DAMAGE: [7.75/10]

Saturday, 6 July 2013

All Pigs Must Die - Nothing Violates This Nature (2013)

All Pigs Must Die "Nothing Violates This Nature"
Summer 2013, Southern Lord Records


Hardcore is not my thing, and i generally avoid any bands that fall under that label. Typical hardcore bands like Terror, Agnostic Front or Sick Of It All have nothing to give me at all. I saw this album labeled Dark Hardcore somewhere, which is something i might give a chance once in a while. All Pigs Must Die is a project by members of Converge, The Hope Conspiracy and Bloodhorse.

Hopefully, they indeed take the straight-edge culture hardcore sound to darker paths, since by itself its unbearable to me. The band name is catchy, the album title is catchy, lets get on with it. From my point of view, this is a hell of an album to headbang to. These guys know their way around making hardcore melodies powerful and there is finally a voice i can stand, these sweet shouting vocals. The flirt with extremety, having ounces of grindcore here and there, their music is assaulting and pleasing to the ear. I can even hear some blackmetalish riffs in some parts, especially the introduction of "Of Suffering" or "Bloodlines". Always a good thing.

In general, the album is groundbreaking and skull crushing, i didn't see it coming at all. My eyes fell off while i was listening. Not because this is a musical extravaganza or a demostration of magnificent and complex musicianship, its just that they have hit the heart of the music they're playing, they have composed a very good album around it, with personal additions in the lyrics and the songs. Im gonna be replaying this a lot until i get sick of it.

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DAMAGE: [7.5/10]

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Impious Blood - Temple of Flesh, Pillars of Bones (2013) [Demo]

Impious Blood "Temple of Flesh, Pillars of Bones"
Spring 2013, Nexro Records


Im not sure that i know any acts in the black/death metal area from Malaysia, and when i stumbled upon this, i was doubtful. Impious Blood is a one-man project by this guy Blackblood Debauchery of Blasphemy (a ridiculous name, hands down) and this is the debut demo/release by this project of his. I have no clue about this weird label either, no page anywhere, might as well be his own business. Even though the odds were against it, it left me with a really positive impression.

Im very selective when it comes to demo releases and something my eyes are not hooked on something easily, but with such an engaging title as this one, and a blood red artword with a legit logo, i would not miss that. The demo lasts only nine minutes, and it basically consists of two songs, with three very short instrumental tracks (intro, interlude and outro). These three compositions create a little impact, just some random samples put together making something noisy and obscure, and thats about it, since they are not captivating at all. I was glad they flow through quicky, since i found myself waiting for the full songs to start.

From that point on though, the two main compositions of the demo are startling. Very well composed black/death metal with a clear production and an excellent sound to keep it all standing, i instantly appreciated the effort of this guy to produce something decent and be succesful at it. All the instrument lines here are great, from the guitar riffs, to the potent drumming, to the deep growling vocals. It reminded me a bit of Blasphemophager, with a better production and a bit worse musicianship maybe. It tends to follow the unattractive style of Blasphemy/Proclamation but with a tangible improved studio work, and that's what makes it worth listening to. This would be the appropriate band to replace the goofy and witless Von from the United States in 1990, if it had existed back then. Occult, anti-religious, hateful and with the proper music to support it.

The demo is easy to listen and finishes before you even know it. As amazing as the songs are, that much it needs some changes. I would not mind at all if the three istrumentals were completely left out and i don't think you will care any more about them either. Also, i hope the mainman changes name, or just leave it Blackblood, because it sounds, to me, hysterical. I can live with both defects whatsoever and i will be replaying this for some time.
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DAMAGE: [6.5/10]

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Lord Impaler - Admire The Cosmos Black (2011)

Lord Impaler "Admire The Cosmos Black"
Spring 2011, Self-released


The Greek underground metal scene comprises numerous solid bands that never get huge attention, or choose to never get huge attention for that matter. I can't say Lord Impaler are not in this list, but still for those who delve into the scene they are of great importance. After several demos for over a decade, they finally released their first full length in 2011.

Lyrically, the band deals with subjects often talked about here, staying true to the purpose of our own culture or just avoiding improvisations and following the beaten track. While anti-christianity is common among many black/death metal bands, the pride of ancient Greece can be found mainly in Greek bands (not only, of course) and what stands out here is the poetic lyricism of these guys' stories. They don't follow the blasphemic type of lyrics, which is easy and really doesn't shock anyone anymore. Im generally never into spending time on lyrics of bands because i chiefly focus on the music, still this one is an enjoyable read and sing-along.

The band used to have no drummer at all and they would change for shows and releases. The wheel of the drumming was held by Hellhammer himself in this release, a semantic figure in all of black metal, with an infamous history behind the kits of both Mayhem and Arcturus. Moreover, the mixing and mastering of the album was done by Knut Valle in Molla Lydstudio, Norway. That being said, you would expect a norwegian sounding album, right? Well, no. Lord Impaler have adopted the talent of the above artists into their own unique music, which is melodic and atmospheric as well as heavy and acute. The songs are a demonstration of accurate riffs and cordial vocals, enhanced with furious drumming, co-existing perfectly throughout the whole album. The ambient parts and synths are also very nice, "Void" and the second part of "Celebrating the Elder Spirits" have a wistful feeling, similar to the samples of Lustre. Some ambience can be found in "Hymn to the Nymphe", which by the way is a tribute to the greek pagan folk/black metal act Daemonia Nymphe.

Clean vocals are used very slightly in a couple of tracks, in the form of a low voice of a narrator in greek. All the songs vary from three to eleven minutes and the whole album lasts and hour and something, which is more than enough for a full length release. My ideal duration is 35-50 minutes and i rarely enjoy longer releases because they fall into repetition, but that didn't happen here. Even though i enjoy each and every song, i still think a whole hour of music for one album is a bit excessive. Apart from this somewhat insignificant note, the album is strongly recommended.

"Δεινέ λαοψαρά, που διαφεντεύεις τον κόσμο από τον αχυρένιο σου θρόνο
Πότε θα μας αφήσεις να δούμε τον ήλιο με τα δικά μας μάτια;
Πότε ν' ακούσουμε το κελάρυσμα του νερού;
Ο τόπος σου κι αν είναι γαλήνιος, στεγνός ειν' από φώς και ήχους..."

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DAMAGE: [8.0/10]