Signal Rex, 13.01.17
From Reykjavik comes yet another new band. I don't know much about Draugsól, aside from Volaða
Land being their first album, containing six tracks and just under 40 minutes of playing time.
I was a bit sceptical at first, as the band don't follow the neo-puritanical Icelandic recipe, but no more so than
deciding it was safest to examined their debut closer. Volaða Land as such don't disappoint, although it might have done so if the expectations were higher.
The album namely don't blows me away, even if it's of a highly listenable kind.
The bands who have put Iceland on the map during the past five years or so, have largely continued a kaleidoscopic
expressions inherited from French black metal. The Icelandic scene has gradually fostered other forms of black metal
and bands in adjacent genres that easier have been able to enter the world market, so to speak. Draugsól plays black metal, but still belong to “other, adjacent forms,” even though the press
release (which can be read on Bandcamp) angles it all a bit different. Interpretation is in the eyes and ears of the
beholder, and the perspective thereof. We all have our perceptions. I will as usual serve you my point of
view, and then it's up to you to use your own critical filter and ears to create your own standpoint.
I've had the pleasure of hearing Volaða Land quite a few times. No sarcasm there, I've thrived well
with Draugsól on my ears, although the album didn't make me exuberantly excited. You see it's got
this almost indefinable something that makes it stand out slightly. Putting my finger on what this is, however,
doesn't turn out to be the easiest of tasks.
After a calm, spiritual and ceremonial start via a self-titled intro, there's admittedly a kaleidoscopic fragrance over
nine minutes long Formæling, but it also has a rounded atmospheric sound that is not in agreement with
Svartidauði's atonal dissonance. Volaða Land is more melodic, and rather apply viable moods of
pagan and viking than dystopia. Albeit in subtle amounts. Not to say that Draugsól has a facility for
jollity. They also illustrate the school of hard knocks and appurtenant hardship in a convincing manner via melancholy.
The songs have a form of adequate variation which occasionally have a somewhat proggy expression, and the low-spirited
atmosphere has undertones of post-metal, although I won't resort to “post-kaleidoscopic” as a description. The occult
touch from the intro is not to be seen again, unless I really exhibit a proper portion of goodwill.
The song Formæling remain as a favourite, but the album is quite even, and my enthusiasm is as mentioned
fairly subdued. The album is quite good, and I wouldn't have had any trouble spinning it again, but if evil forces were to
eliminated Volaða Land from the face of the earth, it wouldn't have bothered me significantly either.
Ergo we cast the di(c)e and arrive at... Rating: 3+
Relapse Records, 13.01.17
The New York band Black Anvil released album number three in the spring of 2014. I gave the album my
approval and described Hail Death as a mixture of dirty but melodic death metal, occult 70s heavy metal
with touches of stoner, groovy thrash and black metal moods...
A description I've hardly been even close to using in any other context.
The men have a background in hardcore, but I heard no such influences in 2014, and neither this time around. Thus it
remains an insignificant aspect. Even Encyclopaedia Metallum, whose taxonomy seems to be fairly permanent, has (if I'm
not mistaking horribly) changed the classification for the band since than.
As Was is about 20 minutes shorter than the previous release, but 50 minutes is surely enough. The most
striking difference from Hail Death is the use of clean vocals that they now incorporate. An aspect
that for the longest time made me uncertain and hesitant of what to make of this album. Their new works also have a
more “smooth” touch, caused among other by better production, slightly rounder guitars and deeper and softer bass. Fear
not, though, for the songs are raw too. The distinctive combination nevertheless creates a singular expression that
probably gives the music a stronger trait of love/hate. One could of course accuse the band of becoming too polished
and pompous, but one should not forget that commercial measures tend to have the opposite effect within extreme metal.
Attempting to please everyone is the last thing a band would do if they wanted to retain some hint of integrity. Black Anvil has undergone kind of a mutation without taking anything but their own creativity into account.
The band still combines a myriad inspirations, but run through the funnel of time, the expression has become consistent
and coherent despite the almost contradictory diversity. The music is melodic, varying from the dreamy to the hostile.
Blissful moods of epic, atmospheric shoegaze, wrapped in a more round and resounding expression, can give a sense of
innovative and signature-strong post-metal. With Agalloch out of the picture, generic genre practitioners should
take heed and learn a thing or ten. The sacral clean vocal took some time to accept. A lot of time, to be honest. It's
in excess pitched and sacral, but it's technically good, and it works, somehow.
Rasping intensity occurs, albeit not very much overall. The mixture between the harsh, the laid-back equilibrium
and some kind of lightly groovy pulsating intermediate are strangely balanced. Through the hardest sequences, an offspring
of melodic black and thrash can be sensed, but the band don't sound very influenced by whoever their source of inspiration
may be. The band is still as difficult to pigeon-hole as the last time, even though the serpent has shed its skin.
As Was is a painstaking piece of work that you remain free to like or not. The composition seem painstakingly
and thoroughly engineered, and a solid production also help to make the album a moody affair. This is the kind of sound that
surrounds you without rasping you to blood. The most pure and innocent listeners risk some bruises, while seasoned extreme metal
fans rather interpret a punch or two every now and then as mere fondling. Some will feel nausea. Others will join in on the fun.
Some prefer rich, tender and intimate sound, others consider it as an anomaly. Where you draw your intimate limit, and
how often you allow yourself a hedonistic deviation from the norm, shall remain your private matter.
While I button my pants, I can tell you that objectively, Black Anvil has delivered a qualitative
(master?)piece that will still not appeal to everyone. But that's okay, as As Was is not designed
to follow the flow without friction.
How far past three minutes in the first two songs can purist black metal patriots get before losing it?
Seance Records, 09.01.17
By some mistake, the release date for Baleful Scarlet Star was set to October 9th in my almanac. I was
still determined to introduce the album on occasion, and I enjoyed the album repeatedly last month. Opportunity presented
itself when a digital newsletter dumped into the inbox late last night.
Ignis Gehenna consists solely of Australian Nihilifer (Erebus Enthroned) after
parting with his partner since the start in 2007, Archfiend from the US, after an EP released in 2010.
The music we find is aggressive, flaming and satanic, but also reasonably melodic black metal. The melodies offers on
lots of evil malice, though. As you'll eventually come to see, the music is an intermediate in several aspects. Among
other things, there are plenty of ominous moods on the album, without it becoming distinctively moody/atmospheric. A
touch of reckless pride with head held high is also felt throughout. Even a hint of pagan Viking vibes sneaks suitably
into the song Edict of Blood. Intensity and pace testify to a warlike spirit as Nihilifer
points the burner flame toward a barrel of black powder.
Workmanship and sound is far from lo-fi, but also a way from hi-fi. The sound is powerful but dirty as muddy slush.
Nice! The man does a good job, especially on the guitar, but other instruments are also handled with ease. The vocals
are rather rasping, but also halfway clearly articulated, and about as gritty as the sound. Baleful Scarlet
Star sounds neither directly home-made nor studio-produced, but rather as a kind of middle ground. Again. I
wouldn't have guessed a one-man band, but I wouldn't have ruled it out entirely either.
The man's black metal is raw, and the riffs are above average good.
Nearly 80 minutes of music was originally written for Baleful Scarlet Star, but lyrics for two of the
songs were not finalized. They were thus postponed to a subsequent album which is expected to be released next year. We
are already looking forward to it. What's that you say? Oh, the album's remaining duration is slightly less than 50 minutes.
The six songs on this album last from scarcely six to almost exactly ten minutes. Thus we have massive stuff in store
next year. Until then, enjoy the debut. Rating: 4+
Solitude Productions, 05.12.16
Portuguese A Dream Of Poe, a duo with stable line-up since 2005, recently released their third album,
and thereby concluding a trilogy concept of finding oneself and overcoming challenges. Or something like that.
On The Mirror Of Deliverance (2011) and An Infinity Emerged (2015), our protagonist
struggled with himself and his mental blockades or inner demons. Time has come to face the outside world. I missed out
on the debut, and didn't have time for the second album. If I'm going to take A Waltz for Apophenia as
an indicator, I might not have missed out on a whole lot.
As expected from Solitude Productions it's serene and fair melancholy that meets the listener. A Waltz
For Apophenia still ain't among the most grief-stricken albums from the label. The music is muted and heavy
death/doom is replaced with atmospheric death/doom, so to speak.
A bit like Lacrimas Profundere taking a more poppy and smooth trail in the vein of The Gathering,
Orphanage and various Norwegian Gothic metal band once upon a time, A Dream Of Poe (at least
this time around) is very round in the edges. We find a lot of gentle and sensitive clean vocals, and the music is full
of optimistic undertones of hope. The songs are pretty good, but also characterized by the contemporary curse; Low
memorability. I'll admit to not having spent quite enough time with the album to be entirely cocksure considering
its growing potential, but I feel that the material largely leaves the other ear without leaving much of a footprint. The
album unfortunately don't leave the greatest appetite for more either. After repeated spins in a row, these 62 minutes in
stead gradually became a test of patience, but after letting the album rest for a few days, it once again sounds a bit fresh.
In addition to being in excess gentle, the music isn't abnormally pretty. Properties like “beautiful and comfortable” are
practically the norm within qualitative death/doom in all its facets, but A Dream Of Poe's third full works
stand out only by not being quite as strong in this respect. It's of course possible that you will disagree, but
to me, A Waltz For Apophenia sadly becomes a fairly grey soul in the bustling crowd.
But don't misunderstand. The music might not appeal profoundly to yours truly, but it's still nice, and performed with
emotions. Of course there are sequences that provide a little extra, and when growls are at times applied, it feels
extra good. A somewhat rawer section from the middle of A Valsa dos Corvos, along with the last song
World's End Close, has a nerve that really appeal. In the latter song I even pick up a scent of
Kurt Cobain in the sorrowful clean-vocals. (Hear from 3:20.)
If you have no problems with a mild, gentle and rather smooth sound, this may very well be melancholy up your alley. Rating: 3-