Monday, 28 October 2019

Mayhem - Daemon

Origin: Norway
Label: Century Media Records
Release: October 25th, 2019

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When the first single was released for the promotion of Daemon, it very quickly became the talk of the town. The black metal scene went frantic over the fact that Mayhem were actually orbiting very close to the musical patterns of their most famous album, and also most groundbreaking for the whole genre, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. As a few tracks were released one by one, it was clear that the band had decided to honor their grandiose debut with a similar minded record, and that new turn would definitely raise the eyebrows of everyone that ever had an interest in black metal.

It is very hard to compare albums of eras that different, and also no matter how diverse the mindset of any black metaller, it is wholly more or less agreed that Mayhem’s first album is literally untouchable, but it is also 100% accurate to say that Daemon draws steps in the same path in its every aspect. The band hadn’t won me the last decade, neither with Ordo ad Chao nor with Esoteric Warfare, albums that featured the modern Mayhem sound but weren’t as memorable as their material from the nineties, yet they earned my respect as unique parts of their discography. In fact, something sounding like De Mysteriis… was completely out of the question in my head, which had Daemon strike like a lightning on me but on a fair part of the scene as well.

The album has the same line up as in Esoteric Warfare, while the production was done by no other than Necromorbus, featuring artwork by Daniel Valeriani, a piece that might be my favorite cover they have ever had so far. The building up worked in the band’s favor, and ought to have the listener press play in a totally welcoming position, ready to go through the experience as if we all remember the first day. Ghosts from the past will be constantly dancing around while Daemon is playing, especially in pieces like “Malum”, “Aeon Daemonium” and “Worthless Abominations Destroyed”, where the resemblance is striking, but in general the record’s sound is as clean and powerful as 2019 allows.

Attila’s vocals are wonderful, since he offers his whole range of growls and insane high-pitched screams, the bass work is equally wonderful and audible throughout the whole process, but the hardest hitter is the guitar work. The guitar riffs of are pure gold, a glorious collection of melodies out of the most intimidating form Mayhem ever had, they are relentless and will not let go of the album’s grip up until the end. It is very hard to feel bad about an album like that, from one of the originators of this style, executed so powerfully.

One can only wonder about the motivation behind this choice of the musicians, who manifest a sound that will please as many fans as possible (me included), whether that was a product of artistic inspiration or a combination of that and the pressure of the world for them to give up on their new material from the last records and go back to something the public wants them to do. That would be a compromise difficult to forgive, especially coming from Mayhem, and I would perhaps give it a bit more weight if Daemon didn’t deliver, but it totally does. I loved listening to it and I will be repeating it for a long time, as this record is by no means a sad replica of De Mysteriis…, its merit directly stems from the talent of its members to produce exactly that. If we are talking about a case of fan service, it still is the best fan service I have ever had.

All the tracks are top-notch, brutal and aggressive, the musicianship is at its highest, and frankly this is what, in my point of view, Mayhem represents. It is compositionally potent and packed with awesome guitar lines, which makes it hard to ignore and a total pleasure to listen. . Listen to “Bad Blood” and tell me you were not moved by its intensity.

It is understandable that it needs to be promoted as such, with 51-year old Necrobutcher going out and saying he was also meaning to kill Euronymous back in the day, a statement that is giving out only weird feelings. We have not recovered from the movie still, now come interviews like that, all of this is really unnecessary and could have been avoided. The music speaks for itself, and Daemon is spectacular. All of the chit chat around it, even if it comes from the band itself, is just noises. You could replay this album for forty times in a row and still you wouldn’t mind. Focus on the content itself and you’ll be convinced. 

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Profanatica - Rotting Incarnation of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Blut Aus Nord - Hallucinogen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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