Friday, 29 November 2013

Moonblood - Blut und Krieg (1996)

Country | Germany
Genre | Black Metal
Label | Majestic Union
Dynamic range | DR8

| Under the forests, the mountains |

Perhaps one of the most respected names in underground black metal, through hard work and many releases, with a firm stance for over a decade, they carved out their own name in the history of the scene. No other than the infamous Moonblood, the German act of Occulta Mors and Gaamalzagoth, still continues to have a strong impact even after they disbanded in 2004. Blut Und Krieg is their maiden full length album after many rehearsals and demos, originally released on cassette and later re-released by many companies in all physical forms possible that's it's now hard to recognize originals from zine / label copies. The originals, adopted by Moonblood themselves, were only cassettes and vinyls, since "CD versions were very easily accessible by everyone". This band is my own personal favorite, and the very first I heard of black metal. Maybe a little unorthodox beginning, but I am glad that I have discovered them.

True to the essence of unclean production, the band does not spend time perfecting their sound in the studio, with a purpose to create something totally primitive. Every instrument is audible and that's satisfying, but the mixing and mastering seems incomplete. Many fans have this band as a comparing standard when talking about how raw a different band sounds, but it's distinguishable and completely epic from the start to the end, don't think that it's noisy and unlistenable. The musicianship does not consist of instrument machines and there is no shredding anywhere, both members possess the vision and the talent to compose great songs of accurate lines, and not necessarily complex or difficult.

The album starts with an atmospheric introduction with interesting samples and a church bell . It takes less than a minute, but it is more than enough to create the right, dim and dull atmosphere. First track "In a Bloody Night of Full Moon" enters at medium speed , with simple riffs and drums, based on a melody of a synth and it's pretty epic. It can be compared with "Det Som En Gang Var" by Burzum, having the familiar style of Moonblood and quite good for the first track on the disc. The second track is called "Shadows" and it is relatively fast and more "uplifting", as in the introduction there is a 80s heavy metal riff with solid screaming, later including a good tremolo melody. The drums are faster and closer to the style of the genre than in the previous track. The "... And The Snow Covered The Lifeless Bodies" begins with a cold melody, which compulsively creeps up the main part of the piece, having nice guitar lines. It keeps a constant rate and no major changes during it's nine minutes of length.

The next track is called "My Evil Soul" and it's a track from a previous rehearsal they had recorded, one of the strongest tracks on the album . It's faster and more direct than the rest, the combination of orchestration and unearthly voice creates an awesome effect. The title track begins with a melody similar to "... And The Snow ..." and slows the album down again, as a nostalgic synth line shows itself. The "Kingdom of Forgotten Dreams", has interesting riffs and works as a standard Moonblood track. Then, "Under the Cold Fullmoon" is an amazing track. It combines slow-moving melodies with epic moments , all instruments perfectly coexist and the voice is incredible. The last track "I Am All" follows the footsteps of the previous one, with the same duration and intensity. The album closes with a two-minute outro, consisting of keyboards and vocals, without being anything special .

As a whole , the album is very good , and it has dedicated to one attention and time. The particular production is this that makes the assembly stand , which is quite dirty, but without burying a component of music. The vocals are a little louder than they should be throughout the disc, but not to a point that they ruin the result. Even though a full length might be irrelevant with these guys, since the production and sound of their albums is very similar to the demo recordings (anything cleaner is of no need), it's good to have some specific points of reference. Blut Und Krieg is such an album for this band so if you want to get into them but you're confused with the large number of rehearsals, demos, splits etc.. Start from here! Great band with a great admiration of their own spirit.

DAMAGE: 8.25/10

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Archgoat - Whore of Bethlehem (2006)

Country | Finland
Genre | Black / Death Metal
Label | Osmose Productions
Dynamic range | DR9

| Against all white light |

Each genre and sub genre is characterized by a couple of breakthrough bands that first started with that particular music, motivating many others with their albums. In a way, ungraceful black / death metal is not an established subcategory (as symphonic black metal for example) but there is a whole scene based around it, starting back in the early nineties. Now, it's true that most of the bands in there are nothing more than whining drunks with a very immature and easy to go touch in their stuff, which consists of a lot of swearing, genitalia and upside down crosses. Tell me when I have to get scared.

One of these milestone bands for this genre are indeed Archgoat. Despite having very few releases and only some years activity in 1989-1993, it seems to be one of the major influences around here. Coming back from the dead in 2005, Whore of Bethlehem is in fact the debut full length album by the band. I would be happy with a trve kvlt record in 1992-1994 because it would surely be worshiped later on, but hey, it's never too late. So, what do we have to expect from the first full album by Archgoat? Not much have changed and it should stay that way, with the dudes focusing on pure madness and bestiality for about thirty five minutes. If you have heard their first EP Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration) and loved it, with a silent wish of a longer record in the back of your mind, this is for you. After a nonsense MCD in 2005 which almost buried them alive, they pick things up right from where they left them in 1993 and put out a -by all means- solid record.

Of course, the genre is somehow doomed to mediocrity inside it's own borders, since bands like these never demonstrate something unique or fascinating musically. I doubt they give a damn about it either, since the sole purpose is to be ugly and attacking, so every bands that succeeds that can be considered "good" by me. I don't have a lot of complaints about Whore of Bethlehem, as it balances nicely between pure blasphemy and musical structure, without giving emphasis on one of the two alone. The same ingredients are used once more, from the filthy black / death riffs, to the monstrous vocals and the hard hitting drums, as well as a steady bass sound, is the alpha and the omega for the band. The sound of the album is low pitched and scourging, lacking variety for it's own good. The old but adored church bells and synths are included in a couple of songs, like in "Dawn of the Black Light.

It's not creative or rich, but it feels great to listen to. It's typical Archgoat but in a larger proportion, dressed in a dusty and hostile production, putting it right in every playlist, when you feel like sacrificing goats in the name of Lucifer, while cursing religion in any way possible. You are not going to fall apart from it's sheer musical genius, but surely it has the needed brutality and rawness.

DAMAGE: 7.25/10

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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Archgoat - Angelslaying Black Fucking Metal [EP] (2005)

Country | Finland
Genre | Black / Death Metal
Label | Hammer of Hate Records
Dynamic range | DR7
 With a few short releases, Archgoat decided to split after the release of their debut EP Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration), only to come back to life eleven years later and start working on new material. Angelslaying Black Fucking Metal was what the band decided to offer to the hungry fans that have been anxious about it all this time, another EP one year after the regroup, pretty much in the vain of their older stuff. However, this record much weaker and more shallow, compared to previous stuff.

If one thought that Angelcunt was short, lasting only thirteen minutes, they should check this out. Three songs that barely pass five and a half minutes in total, certainly too short and to quick for one to notice in a load of music or similar. These three tracks combined could easily be used as one filler track for an actual whole album, it contains such a small amount of music. That was a cruel comeback dudes. I believe they were in a hurry to release a full length (that came out in 2006) and wanted to put out something before it, so the EP was created in something like a day or so, like the listeners would not notice.

However, I think many fans that like this band are satisfied by the EP, which doesn't lack anything for the standards of Archgoat. It's not friendly melodic, instead it still is uncompromising, raw and heavy. The compositional level is not hard to reach, but it seems like they had better things to do during the conception of this, as if it's something they hadn't completely think through. The production is more polished and doesn't have the filth of the early nineties, which was lovely. Instead, it has created a metallic sound for the guitars and left the drums a little behind, making the sound cleaner but not improved by any means. Even the vocals don't have the bits of diversity they had on Angelcunt, they are limited to monotonous growling only.

There is "Penis Perversor", aggressively opening the record with some screaming samples and the same old riffs, for about two minutes. It is a punching track but doesn't get out of the bathroom. The second "Thrice Damned Sodomizer (Stream Of Blood)" is the longest and most solid song here, it gives the impression of a full song and has a couple of nice synths here and there. The last track "Satanic Oath" lasts 43 seconds and it's relatively useless. Again, the band does not stray from the cloud of death metal that much, meaning very un-technical and watered down death metal over the actual genre. Therefore, this EP sucks in two genres.

I enjoyed the first EP very much but almost hated the second. Maybe I had negative thoughts about it before listening, but if it had anything interesting, it would change my mind. With a stomping title and some empty songs, it seems like they tried to recapture the love of the scene from nothing and if this is considered a return, it's a god damn lame one. Hopefully, their later full albums were meant to repay me and everyone else in full or even more...

DAMAGE: 1.0/10

Monday, 25 November 2013

Archgoat - Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration) [EP] (1993)

Country | Finland
Genre | Black / Death Metal
Label | Necropolis Records
Dynamic range | DR7

| The black crusade |

Finland's Archgoat were active during the second wave for a few year but disbanded in 1993, only to regroup in 2004 and continue the bestial black / death metal madness they had been spreading from the beginning. Their music is not that hard to get into, having plain ideas and delivering them as raw as they can every time. After a couple of dirty demos, they released their first EP Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration) in 1993, which has seven tracks and lasts only thirteen and a half minutes.

For some reason, many bands of this style use intros and outros in their records, most of the times being aimless and vapid in content. While this is one of the most unconventional forms of black metal, they use half a minute or a whole minute tracks with random screams and sounds, doing nothing at all. This is also the case here, track one and seven (the first and the last) are just boring instrumentals. The drumming is right on the spot, very organic with good fillings. Unlike many others, it has it's own character here and it's damn audible. The sound of the guitars and the bass is pretty down tuned, to create an unclean sound that they might name as "unholy", for that's what the band is all about. Even though there are no lyrics available, it's not hard to recognize the anti religious, blasphemic concept Angelcunt includes. They are indeed tales of desecration.

The main part of the record starts with a heavy track named "Rise Of The Blackmoon", which is one of the best in the record as well. It depicts Archgoat as a whole too, focusing on filthy riffs and monster-growling vocals, while there is a really nice bell sample in it's middle paced moments. "Death and Necromancy" includes the same amount of aggressive and uncompromising fury, switching between a fast and a slow tempo. It also has some solo like guitar parts that remind a lot of the death metal solo techniques of that era. The fourth track "Soulflay" starts of with a slow, groovy line and contains a church organ synth behind the instrumentation, as well as some demonic voice notes, a bit different than the regular growls they are using. "Black Messiah" is a faster song in the same spirit as the previous track, while "Jesus Spawn" is quite shorter than all the rest and quite fast as well. Most of these tracks had been on their previous demos as well.

Even though the production and sound of the record is crummy, I didn't think it got repetitive at all, since they are constantly changing speed, keeping it a little bit more interesting. It draws influences from the early days of death metal (especially demo recordings) and the few but sweet samples and synths also add some extra points to the whole result, granted that one completely overlooks the instrumentals, as I did. I say it is above average and a crucial release for this genre, as Archgoat has influenced a whole lot of bands that came out later on.

DAMAGE: 7.0/10

Friday, 22 November 2013

Ildjarn & Hate Forest - Those Once Mighty Fallen [Split] (2013)

Country | Norway / Ukraine
Genre | Black Metal
Date | October 1st, 2013
Label | Osmose Productions

| Mighty fallen heroes arise |

Sometimes, records get enormous hype before their official release and every last person interested into that particular genre is looking out for it, regardless of their taste on the band(s) and / or out of curiosity, they end up listening to it. It's not often but it's reasonable, since people want to be informed on the most important news of their scene, have an opinion on them etc... The split release of Hate Forest with Ildjarn was breaking and unexpected news. It described each blackster's terror and joy at the same time, for a result that had potential for a win or an embarassing loss, as everyone was excited, I know you hoped it is not a fiasco of two of your favourite bands, ruining their image and reputation. When you are informed that these are old recordings remastered, isn't there that awkward moment when you don't really agree with the label's decision but you can't judge either, if they are respected to the scene? Come on, when labels need money, they find shitty, forgotten rehearsals that the (by now famous) band hates, they remaster them and re-release them, hoping for any profit. Am I right?

The situation grows worse when one of the bands is Ildjarn, the epitome of disgusting sound. It's so dirty that it has divided the black metal community into two sides, the ones that consider all his work garbage and the ones that see him as the one and only purist and visionary. Ildjarn is notorious and a famous misanthropist after all. I have to admit that I would listen to this record and leave a sigh when it finishes, for no new music and yet new records, for recycling old glory, for not leaving one artist to rest in peace when they choose to etc.... One the other side, Hate Forest have been raped by re-releases of their hidden recordings several times after they disbanded, which is somehow funny, a band no longer active to release a demo, a split, a compilation and now a second split. It seems like they rushed it. It's natural that the label probably takes the band's permission for all these new albums, but I would prefer they quit the bullshit and get together for new music if they want new albums under their name. Hate Forest are excluded, since I am a huge fan of them and I can't take a black metal fan seriously if they haven't spent time on this fundamental European band.

Dilemma rises when the above thoughts spin around your head and at the same time it's Osmose Productions that organizes the release. It's not the non-existent rip-off label of your fraud neighbor, it's THE Osmose Productions. A look into their roster and history will help the people unfamiliar with it to understand the level of professionalism and accuracy of choices that goes on in there, so this isn't either a joke or a false statement. You are actually going to have a split between two of the most controversial but also approved acts in the whole genre, which is somehow,  a historic event. It might just be my overexcitement and big mouth, but still I was very curious to listen to this, since I like specific parts of Ildjarn's discography and loathe a fair part of them as well. There are times that I do feel the organic, nature-driven raw sound he intended to make, but it's not always undeviating and capturing as it should, resulting in a missed shot. According to the information we have, Hate Forest's side was recorded in 2000-2001 and Ildjarn's side in 1994.

Starting off with the first six compositions by Ildjarn, which are, as relieving as it can be, something more than astonishing. Truly amazing, straightforward tracks of pure, delicate black metal for every fan out there. The atmosphere, the feeling of isolation, the hatred for mankind's idiocy, everything flowrishes wonderfully in it's most primitive and basic form. This might be the root of the tree for sure. This material belongs to the solid side of the band and delivers equal strength to Darkthrone's unholy trilogy, equally dirty, destructive and unhuman. The noisy guitar sound, the clear bass, the definition-of-the-genre immense vocals, the banging drums and some additives of keyboard melodies that remind of nostalgic, medieval ambient is what the package contains. There is a decent proportion of synths in the songs, as much as needed, without deviating from the original angressiveness. Track two "Ashes of Stars" and the short "Gates to Bottomless Halls" include some classic Norwegian riffing, while "Birds of Misty Dusk" and "Mountains Covered with Snow Forever" are more atmospheric, in their own unique way. "Forest Crypt" is the opening track and goes through all the elements of Ildjarn's music during it's seven minutes of length.

Descending further into Hate Forest's offerings, they open with "Cimmerian Shadows", which is a beautiful dark ambient piece as an introduction, pointing out the closure of the first part of the record as well. I don't know what recordings are these and under what treatment they went, but it's a crystal clear sound, similar and even cleaner than some of their own albums. The signature of the band shines from the guitar work again, which sounds and feels like Slavonic black metal, a bit less furious than the first but largely epic. The vocals are similar to regular Hate Forest, which might sound unusual to a person that has never listened to them before, because they lean towards death metal. These are deep, old school growls for the most parts, could easily fit to any death metal band of that period and I can't say I would prefer traditional screams, since the instrumentation goes along with the voice perfectly. I liked the first three tracks after the intro, being a great agglomeration of Hate Forest's own style, in both fast (track "Howl of Hyperborean Winters") and middle paced tempos (the penultimate eight minute "Crowned with Crescent Horns"). I was a little dismayed by the beginning of the last track "Abyss Wanderer", which reminds me of weird electronic genres I don't like, as it contains such synth lines at the background. That's why it's the weakest track of their side to me.

I would laugh if you had told me beforehand, that I would enjoy Ildjarn more over Hate Forest (excuse my ignorance). Both bands demonstrate the best of their abilities and their personal approach to the genre, writhing precisely between atmosphere and roughness without getting too repetitive at all. Of course these tracks all come from the long gone past and that's why I enjoy them even more, because it's unheard music of the best era for black metal by two really good acts. Whatever doubts I had before getting into this are gone now and I salute Osmose for this creation, as well as the bands for the original compositions. Under it's sharp surface, the record depicts the nature of it's harmony, bitter and very artistic. Highly recommended for the fans.

DAMAGE: 9.0/10

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Warwulf - The Archetype of Destruction (2013)

Country | USA
Genre | Black Metal, NSBM
Label | Thor's Hammer Productions
Website | Facebook

| Spirits of the Old |

This band is an one man project by a guy named Wulfskrieger, who has also done the vocals for Battle Dagorath's debut Eternal Throne in 2008, apart from his vile creation named Warwulf. The band has released four demos and a split in a period of almost ten years, which is not that frequent at all, but at least we finally have a full album The Archetype of Destruction, the most complete offering by him to date. I found out about them from the latest volume of the underground compilation Morbid Tunes of the Black Angels, which has always been in favor of D.I.Y, noisy black metal, the sound Warwulf have as well.

If you are a fan of bands like Satanic Warmaster or Goatmoon, this is for you and you will love it. The atmosphere is built on a thick, harsh guitar sound that overshadows almost completely the drums and the bass, while leaving a lot of space for traditional screams to unfold and dominate. While the riffs have a lot of variety and perception, it might sound repetitive to someone who hasn't spent time on bands like this and it is rather meant to be appreciated by the fans of the scene alone. A feeling of epicness and elation derives from the dynamic guitar lines, showing how careful the guy was when he composed this, having a clear aim and achieving it with a few tools only.

Even though the band originates from the US, one can hear elements of the Finnish scene a lot. Musically, there are no tricky moments and everything starts and goes on as usual in such situations, it is a straightforward album that only goes a little more atmospheric and sorrowful with the last and instrumental song "Of What Remains...". Other than that, it's proud of it's influences and pure in it's entirety, but I hoped it would last a little longer (half an hour of music, broken into seven tracks).

The fact that there are labels close to NSBM that release this, and that some of the bands subjects are elitism and anti-semitism, do not make it a pure NSBM band. Needless to say, I'm not a supporter of that particular ideology but I still don't turn down a good band immidiately only because of it. There are a few and discreet references to such themes in the album anyway, judging from the song titles, since there are no lyrics available. The music itself is worth checking out.

DAMAGE: 7.5/10

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Quo Vadis - Forever... (1996)

Country | Canada
Genre | Melodic Death Metal

| Find your own reality | 
 
I have connected melodic death metal with state of the art bands of today even though it has somehow been around from the mid nineties, mainly in Sweden but in other places as well. Even though it was not complete formed, it was already seperated from pure death metal because of the significantly less agressiveness and more melody, Quo Vadis being such a band. Listening to them, you probably won't say you were blown away by their raw brutality and I hardly think it will move you at all.

It's not that something is missing. On the contrary, the album has all the elements of melodeath, from acoustic / violin parts, to shreddy riffs and changes between high and low growls, at the appropriate level of complexity and variety and the musicianship is remarkable. The talent of these guys was not missing back then and the musicianship on the record is remarkable, but it is overshadowed by milestones of it's time like Slaughter of the Soul or Heartwork. That shit was memorable, while Forever isn't. What is more, the production really keeps everything back here. It's not clean enough and a bit fuzzy in the main parts of the album and while it might be considered solid for then, it would be much better if a better arrangement was done.

The pace is constantly changing and the tracks don't lack musicality, each musician in the band is a beast. There is an excellent guitar work with lot's of fast riffs, the bass is clear and ultra heavy, the drums are magnificent and the vocals include more than one style in their calibre. The album seems to be constantly expanding with new elements and sounds, even though they are missing a purpose. I didn't discover an overwhelming moment in the album, even though it doesn't fail in terms of technicality. The potential of the band can be heard on each note, but in a young and immature stage. Several experiments went on, like the female vocals on "Nocturnal Reflections" that didn't work out at all, while the use of the violin was average.

This is a legit album as a whole. While all the components are here and with plenty of possibilities to rise succesful, Quo Vadis throw a stone in the water and nothing happens. There are some narrating moments of atmosphere with clean vocals and all that mellow song writing that reminded me of gothic metal and I really didn't like it. I would say this is a viable album for melodeath fans, since the band is somehow popular and this was their first attempt. But for me, I don't think I'm coming back to this release anytime soon.

DAMAGE: 3.5/10

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Cellgraft - Cellgraft LP (2012)

Country | USA
Genre | Grindcore
Date | July 29th, 2012
Label | Self-released

| Gain and dejection |

Cellgraft was a short lived band from Tampa, Florida (the birthplace of a whole bunch of death metal bands) that was created in 2008 and ended in 2012, with a couple of demos, EPs, splits, sadly no full length. They were heavily influenced by Insect Warfare (they have taken their name from a track of this band), using the same album structure with many songs of a short length, and a repetitive, chaotic sound as grindcore has.

In their short jam period, they pretty much rocked the house with powerful releases and stayed "true" to that scene, even though the underground grind bands are known to have plenty of passion. Cellgraft EP is the swan's song of the band and it's a twelve minute EP that contains 17 tracks, ranging from a few seconds to two minutes, right in the spirit of the genre. The production is very polished and creates a massive, heavy sound like a brick wall coming your way as the intro song "False Sequence of Value" plays, the slowest song in the record and the only one that reaches two minutes of length.

Already, one can feel the massive ear assault  the band has composed, which is not at all long but very cool for it's style, with nice riffs and vocals of growls, screams and growls / screams at the same time. You can't really tell the difference between the tracks, except "Ley Line" which only lasts five seconds, but if you look at them as a whole, it does give sense to insanity in a very distorted way, as if the notes sound random but were given care.

The grindcore freaks out there should receive this like a Christmas present, as I believe they will be blown away. As it was supposed to happen, everything ended too quickly for me to get an idea so I had to listen to it a couple of times more in order to point out some nice moments, like the sweet lines in "Conduit Conversion" and "Ebb of Cipher", while the short length is a bit disappointing after all.
As a fan of long, droning albums, I would like even more madness of something like thirty tracks, hoping that the band would have been able to create such a thing without overstaying in the same spot for too long. The album was never released in physical form and only exists on the interwebs, that's why you can buy it for free (or by naming any price) via Bandcamp.

DAMAGE: 7.25/10

Official blogspot

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Satan's Host - Virgin Sails (2013)

Country | USA
Genre | Blackened Heavy Metal
Date | November 19th, 2013
Label | Moribund Records

| Darkness casts its shadow on man |

I thought I would never fully enjoy heavy metal again because of the bands' constant and maybe unwilling struggle to get too shreddy or too old school, with ballarina singers and unexceptional songs, effect-driven, lacking spirit. Even when a new band arises that I find solid, it's because of their passion to bring the eighties back and succeeding in that. Now, Satan's Host avoided all this and made their way to a new album that I enjoyed the most for this year when it comes to clean singing metal. Maybe because they went through a period of black / death in the nineties, which is pretty much a Midas touch for any band. Just kidding of course, but with a sincere perspective.

The band was created in 1977 and I have only heard their debut album Metal from Hell that was released in 1986, which was right on the spot for it's time but yet not completely bewitching. I lost track of them and only came across the new release because of the amazing cover (as usual) and the funny album title, hoping for something at least bearable. Lot's bands fade away over the years and these guys have a huge run already.

Right of the back, the concept revolves around darkness and evil with some shots of occultism, the perfect and appropriate themes of bands into the originator of extreme metal, much better than fairy tales and pink make-up, as most of the mainstream bands do nowadays. Finally, I get to read some wonderful lyrics from a newcomer heavy metal band, since i'm way too critical on the matter, this is serious business. The have done Necronomicon references in the past and their approach once again is poetic. Naturally, they are accurately embellished by the marvelous voice of Leviathan Thirisen, the band's singer (who played in Jag Panzer before Satan's Host). The vocals sound direct and powerful, hitting high notes as well as a few torn out screams and growls, as If the guy was born for this position. The double singing in various moments in the album is magnificent and the whole performance delivers exquisite singing fortitude.

Musically, Virgin Sails is one interesting and mauling composition after the other. The production is polished and presents a very friendly environment for the listener to headbang on, while the songs offer plenty of neckbreaking moments, built on furious riffs and solos, as well as pummeling beats all the way. The drummer of the band is called Evil Little Hobbit and seems to be influenced by classic heavy and death metal drumming all the way. While the main fills are close to the regular pattern, there are several moments where he gets more intense will blast beats and complex playing, making the contribution of the drums notable during the album. The reason they are now labeled as blackened heavy metal is not only because of the lyrical theme, but because of the music itself, which is one step further than most of the scene's bands, with more variety as well.

I noticed allusions to various genres in the songs, like the stoner-like riff in the middle of "Dichotomy", the harsh vocals refering to black / death in "Reanimated Anomalies", the Enslaved-driven introduction guitar melody in "Infinite Impossibilities" and the black metal part of "Vaporous of the Blood", not to mention the grungy interlude "Taromati". The groovy beginnings of "Of Beast and Men" and the self-titled track remind of modern groove / death metal too. The overall guitar work is astonishing and worthy of any title, because of the hammering riffing that co-works with the coming and going, wondrous solos.

From what I heard, this is a great album with lot's of ingredients for everyone. I guarantee you won't be listening to the same song again and again, more like you'll be astounded by the variety. It focuses and stays close to the core of heavy metal, but often wanders off in other subgenres without losing track of the flow, keeping up a standard of quality as a whole.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

I Shalt Become - Louisiana Voodoo (2013)

Country | USA
Genre | Black Metal, Ambient
Date | October 29th, 2013
Label | Inspired Hate Records

| As the bodies drift away |

Coming from Illinois, he has been active since the mid / late ninenies and he counts six full lengths so far, including this latest offer Louisiana Voodoo. The project moves towards the desperate, razor sharp void of Xasthur-like DSBM but is subjected to experimentation, or just his own perverted visions for his art. I surely don't what's all the big talk about this project and I don't think it's as good as everyone says, because of the mediocrity and repetitiveness of the content, but this album was a little different.

There are a lot more synths this time and the emphasis is given to them, leaving the rest of the instrumentation behind. In fact, the guitars are used mostly to create a dim atmosphere while the drums are extremely typical and maybe not needed at all. I feel like he tried to accommodate a sick feeling as Pensees Nocturnes do, but instead leaned towards more theatrical lines similar to Bishop of Hexen and  most of the songs have pretty nice melodies in them.

The production is a bit weird, as if the sound has been volumed down or torn out, like the soundtracks of old movies that have glitches and noises. No instrument seems to be completely clear and it's like the listener has to overcome a layer of dust in order to dig into a melody or pay close attention to something, making it a bit less enjoyable and more tiring as a whole. Behind the buzz of the sound, there is hidden talent on the keyboards, composing haunting atmosphere close to the grandiose, avant-garde feeling, as if Arcturus spent all their money to drugs and reduced their artistic power to the one tenth, only to release a noisy, low budget dirty album. The last song "The Rats in the Walls" is by far the longest in the record, lasting eighteen minutes while the rest of the tracks vary from three to seven, and it's more into dark ambient than ambient black metal, using the known pattern of a couple of parts repeated for more than one time.

I have mixed feelings for the album and while I like "Strangers", "Drowning" and "Braquemard" a lot, I don't think the album is consistent at all. There is a general randomness of various synths mixed together (the Eastern voices in "Brief Glimpses of Death" describe my point, not fitting at all), vocals popping out of nowhere and sparse, weak atmosphere.  It's different from what I have heard from him so far but it's not any better or any worse either, just a little bit more interesting.

DAMAGE: 6.0/10

Monday, 11 November 2013

Ravencult - Morbid Blood (2011)

Country | Greece
Genre | Black Metal
Date | March 18th, 2011
Label | Hells Headbangers Records

| Ancient gospel of the unblessed |

The cauldron of Ravencult had been boiling for about a decade when the information of a sophomore album spread, by the looks of it, we would be dealing with a precise, polished and factual record. Good compositional signs had already been known with their debut Temples of Torment and this one was highly anticipated by the underground scene here and abroad, as the skillful aspirations of the band were about to be shaped into sound. Morbid Blood came like a blast, with an excellent cover and artwork (the booklet reminds a lot of Watain's later albums) and slightly different music than the raw and arduous debut, more catchy but fairly cold in it's own way.

With an improved sound, the band has abandoned the primitive black metal approach many bands follow at their first steps (because it's cheap and accepted) and constructs a piece of well-written, personal compositions, relying on the notes and the headbanging moments instead of the poor quality. Apart that, the tracks completely present European tradition, this time closer to the black / thrash sound of bands like Desaster and Nifelheim, or Aura Noir.

The band has a talent in creating memorable riffs and Morbid Blood is full of them, when several choruses or rhythms might stay in your head after a few listens and while the music is not completely innovative, it's really distinctive. If a track comes up and you listen to it somewhere, you will recognize the band even if you haven't heard that particular track before. The record is not overburdened with introductions, acoustic parts and other silent moments, it's riff driven and created to move a little bit more when listening to it, instead of sinking into it's atmosphere at a cold corner of your house. Again, it's black / thrash, bravely stepping into the rock'n'roll area with some Venom references in songs like "In Sacrilege of Death", "Black Rites of Execration" and "Morbid Blood". I always feel excited to read the lyrics of the band, mainly revolving around darkness and satanism. A dose of grim poetry can be found here as well, featuring some killer lines here and there in the songs.

The tempo is mostly fast and sometimes uplifting in it's entirety of 37 minutes, mainly depending on the delicate guitar lines and bitter, distinguishable vocals. Ravencult does not stop for a moment to catch a breath, they throw one solid melody after the other, combined with violent words and punching drums. The album is at it's peak in "Snakes Crawl" and "Hail Revenge", my two favourite tracks, even though each one of them has something to offer. Morbid Blood might not contain breathtaking, life-changing moments, it might not be a classic in fifteen years or so. It does have it's own pace and offers plenty of entertainment though, worshiping old gods and having numerous above average ideas. I leave you with this:

Deep in the veins of this earth
In solace we're breathing for ages
Underground unearthly seed
Aborted through past congregations


DAMAGE: 8.25/10

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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Ravencult - Temples of Torment (2007)

Country | Greece
Genre | Black Metal
Date | April 30th, 2007
Label | Dark Essence Records

| Where gleaming shadows crawl |

Even though the formation of this band came later than the era of the second wave, it does not differ that much from the early bands and is a high quality act in the extreme underground. Ravencult have been riveting from their first demos and EP in 2000 - 2005, a force slowly gathering strength only to unleash it in 2007 with their debut full length album Temples of Torment. The band bows to the northern legends of the genre, fueled with an old school, pure anger and resentment.

The guitar work here is very much influenced from the Norwegian scene and bands like Immortal or Enslaved, missing a bit of variety in the long run. However, there is an immense success in the collection of riffs that makes the album quite amazing, while the sound is edgy, agressive and forthright, crushing the distorted melodies into your head. From that angle, the album is a non stop bombardment of the time honored cacophony that we all love. Each track has memorable moments and the overall vibe represents what the music is all about perfectly, from the aesthetic to the lyrics and the compositions themselves. It might not be the most original album you have ever heard, but it is produced in a way that the similar points can easily be ignored, providing a highly enjoyable outcome.

While the band has studied well the ideas of the Nordics, something that can be recognized from their immidiate, cold riffs, personal nuances are not amiss. The album contains fast paced tracks as well as slower, agonizing moments and there is a slight punk influence in "Onlsaught Command", mainly because of the speed and the drum pattern. Moreover, tracks like "In Times of Demise", "The Nightsky Codex", "Utter Cold Void" (which reminds a bit of the introduction of Gorgoroth's self-titled track on the guitar) are painfully stagnant, while "The Sigil Of Baphomet", "Blessed In Heresy" and "The Needles of Truth" are swift and cadaverous. The last track, which is "The Needles of Truth", is 31 minutes long in most versions of the CD, but it's mostly silence and contains a hidden track somewhere at minute 23 with a cover of Bathory's "Sacrifice". The main song also has one of the most incisive and powerful riffs in the whole album.

I personally like all the tracks of the album except "Blessed In Heresy", which is a bit fuzzy and unplanned, maybe meant to be used as a filler track only. It still has some kick ass lines and apart from that, the remaining seven tracks are exactly any blackster's cup of tea. It starts and ends with church chants, alluding a connection with the orthodox black metal scene, where bands often use such samples for the appropriate atmosphere. Played by exquisite musicianship and accurate song writing, Ravencult is all you loved of the original Scandinavian scene with some extra, sprinkled throughout the whole record. The band was not eager to re-record tracks from their demos (which are full of amazing tunes) to fill up their debut, instead they built one from scratch and did a fine job with it.

DAMAGE: 8.0/10

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Eulogy - Three Dead Sheep [EP] (1993)

Country | Canada
Genre | Old School Death Metal
Date | 1993
Label | Body Bag

This is a band trampled by time and with very few information to look for, other than the Metal Archives profile. The band had a short life of five years with one official release and a faceless demo, making this EP the only record available by them. There are many bands with the name Eulogy but only these guys come from Canada, just to avoid the confusion. The band landed a record deal with Body Bag for Three Dead Sheep, which is a label as unknown as the band.

These guys embody an old school and enticing form of nineties death metal and especially American death metal, from it's compositional ideas to the song structure and overall sound. A sound that has not been buried under poor, low badget production, in fact it's actually quite legit and at the same level as the sound of other big bands' full lengths around that time (Kataklysm for instance, who are also from Quebec).

Most of all, there is an audible, stomping bass in every song, which is important when many bands just ignore it. The bass lines are clear to listen to in most parts of the whole mini album. The work of the drummer is fairly fascinating, with awesome fills and good blast beating, most of all for his busy lines and awesome  guitar followings. The two elements I am usually let down by, the drums and the bass, are translucent and unclouded, given the proper attention and played sweetly. The guitar always deliver solid riffs, very much in the spirit of their era and location and under a lawful variety, while the rooted growls sound like they come from the depths of the pits, brutal and demonlike.

It's possible that the title Three Dead Sheep referes to the three songs of the EP, I don't know what they have in common with sheep or their corpses, but still it's a funny title with a great cover artwork. There is one sample of screams used in the introduction of the self-titled track which does the job for a short, creepy beginning of a good journey. I enjoyed all three tracks a lot, but mostly the last one "Crematorium", since it has a great, big balled groove in some of it's parts. Also, it has a solo-like moment, something that is missing from the EP and is somehow surprising. Many bands had solos then and still do.

Who knows why Eulogy had to split up with such few tracks produced? I am sure that if this EP was a full length album with eight or ten tracks, it would be a cult album for death metal archaeologists today and it's first press copies would be rare and expensive. It might be a bit early to say that this is one of my favourite pieces of forgotten extreme metal, but it's definitely on the list. You won't be disappointed.

DAMAGE: 8.0/10

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Door to Door Promotion - Australasia & Sokushinbutsu

http://www.walltor.com/wallpaper/heavy-metal-art--hecate-extreme-tattooing-and-piercing--16001200-86924
Picture found here.
These releases were sent to me via email and they are posted by request.

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Australasia - Vertebra


The band described their music as post-rock with elements of post-black metal and vintage electronica. This is exactly what this album sounds like and it's one of the most amazing post related records I've heard this year (even though I don't dig too deep into these genres). There are breathtaking piano lines, nostalgic melodies, Alcest-like heavy moments and generally a breath of fresh air compared to the repetitiveness of other bands. Australasia prefer lot's of short songs (4-5 minutes) instead of long tiring ones and this keeps the interest alive through the album, and thank the gods it's instrumental. Apart from some ethereal female chants, there are no vocals in the album whatsoever and that is so much better, leaving the listener with a lot of space to imagine, think and dream  with the music. The electronic additions come and go and often have the leading role of the song, while the guitar work is accurate, well written and meticulous in it's entirety. I can only think of positive things to happen to these guys in the future. A unique album from fans and not only.

http://www.australasiamusic.com/

Listen on Bandcamp

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Sokushinbutsu - Holy Ground


First of all, I like this band's logo. It's great. The music is a chaotic, intense piece of grindcore / death metal, combining the speedy and brutal lines of typical goregrind / grindcore with pure death metal vocals instead of ass gnarling that actual grind bands use. There are even doomy passages that remind of Autopsy (I'm positive that any slower part I lately listen to in death metal reminds me of them) like the one in "Nail Through the Immortal Hand" and "Skorne" I liked this more than a lot of respected bands in that genre and it definitely worths your time if you're into stuff like that. Some elements of dirty hardcore and powerviolence are also out and about in the record. Short but really cool.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Axeslasher - Anthology of Terror Vol. I [EP] (2013)

Country | USA
Genre | Thrash Metal
Date | October 31th, 2013
Label | Self-released

| Tales of vintage gore |

I don't usually like bands with funny lyrics or joking subjects and titles, since they seem generally offending to the rest of the scene of hard working musicians. This includes comedy metal or crossover thrash, goregrind and other inconsistent genres, they seem to have a very immature and temporary approach to music. Before you freak out, of course there are exceptions and Axeslasher from Colorado is one. The odds to like this new band are a lot, starting with the perfect cover right out of the classic horror cloud, it's colourful and very realistic, something I fell in love with on sight (because Ken Sarafin is a genius).

Anthology of Terror Vol.1 is the first EP release (containing six tracks) by the band and from it's good ratings, I would say people can recognize solid thrash metal. The production of the record is clean and harsh, creating a direct and cutting sound, deriving mainly from the guitar noise. The guitar work comes down to cutting riffs and solos as well as some groovier, hardcore lines to boost the headbang even higher. It is not easy going and doesn't rest a minute, it does not remind of any other band and it's pretty heavy without necessarily sounding old school. All the vocals are shrieked and there is no clean singing at all, like these were some Skeletonwitch rehearsals or early steps. In this kind of edgy music, any cleans would ruin everything anyway. The drums are pretty full and rely on blast beating rhythms a lot, I could live with less of them but they are solid in general, energetic and present at all times.

The record opens with a one and a half minute instrumental track, the infamous "Mark of the Pizzagram" which has hammering blast s and a nice guitar melody, as "Invasion of the Babysnatchers" introduces the full potential of the band for the first time. It is a short song and leaves space for the standout track of the EP "Woodland Tortuary" to unravel. Awesome, lovely murder case samples and well written parts, with fast and middle paced moments that make it the one song to check out if you don't want to listen to the whole thing. "The Axeslasher" and "Order of the Coven" continue in the same vein, wielders of a diligent and productive mosh, while the last track "Gucci Gucci" has it's moments but is not as good as the previous three.

The concept of horror is also obvious, from the titles and the artwork (more and more bands adapt it lately, or?) if one excludes the ridiculous song names "Mark of the Pizzagram" and "Gucci Gucci", the source of my lean antipathy, even though I love pizza. And I'm sure Satan loves pizza to, so these guys totally have deep meanings behind their songs that I can't get.  This is a great debut release for a newcomer band, the assiduous effort is clear and should be left with some feedback. Judging from the title, I hope there are more volumes coming, with more horror inspired thrash metal and less goofy names, despite the fact that they are entertaining. Make sure to buy a pizzagram patch.

DAMAGE: 7.25/10

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Friday, 1 November 2013

Kvele - Necrohill (2013)

Country | Greece
Genre | Black Metal
Date | August 2013
Label | Metal Throne Productions

| Deathlike echoes |

Kvele were created by the infamous Ungod, who is involved in many underground Greek acts like Necrohell, Sad, Slaughtered Priest and others, while managing a small label named Metal Throne Productions. This record was put out by his label as well as Self Mutilation Services as a co-release. His bands usually play straightforward thrash or black metal, in an unfriendly and gruesome form that only anti-mainstreamers can enjoy. This project is no exception, and here's their second full length album Necrohill, a wonderful piece of black art.

The compositions are respectful to traditions and don't approach any kind of modernity, there's a lot of solid riffing going on. The band has improved in many ways and finally they released a full length that is full by definition, lasting 36 minutes. Unlike their first full length Dawn of the Impaler, which was only 24 minutes long and a bit sloppy as a whole, Necrohill represents the band's signature more, which is a combination of standard characteristics of the genre. The production is generally pleasing, with a nice and warm sound that accolades the powerful guitar playing and the overall epic atmosphere.

They didn't experiment a lot with the structure of the songs, which is relatively simple and hinged on a couple of melodies. However, the consistency that was missing before in the band is now established, with more connecting points into each song. There are nice ideas that remind a lot of Norway and the days of the old school, without pretending to be there or one of them. Credits given for the D.I.Y. attitude of the bands, since the members record and produce alone, taking care of the artwork and layout of their albums.

I didn't like the drum sound that much, given that the toms are more like computerized clicks than hits, but still the performance of Ungod (who plays drums and bass here) is appealing. The recommended track I would point out is "Mortuary Winter Souls" and despite the repetitiveness of the vocals, they work fine over the cold layer of the instrumentation. I enjoyed Necrohill because I enjoy their style, even though it does not have something really impressive to show. I'd say this is for black metal fans only.

DAMAGE: 6.75/10

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