Napalm Records, 24.02.17 Ex Deo from Montreal have, with the exception of a brief hiatus, been symphonic playground for
Kataklysm's front man Maurizio Iacono since 2004. Additionally two Kataklysm
members and Dano Apekian from Ashes of Eden quickly reported their interest, and by 2015, all
members of Kataklysm were involved.
The Immortal Wars is the side project's third full length album, and the band, as you might know,
plays symphonic death metal.
It could have been logical to compare them to another long-established band in the same category, namely Fleshgod Apocalypse,
but the two have very different signatures. Ex Deo use the heyday and conquests of the Roman Empire as thematic
concept, and the music is less intense and more epic than what the Italians represent. As deeply integrated as the orchestral
goodies are, I would actually dare claim that The Immortal Wars has more in common with Septicflesh.
Ex Deo is admittedly not quite on par with the Greeks in terms of song-writing, but then again, who is?
The multifaceted spirit of the symphonies dominates this work to such an extent that, at least to begin with, it impresses
more than the metallic foundation, but it is of course the omnipresent totality that forms the finished product. A product in
the shape of a puzzle for the mind. It takes time for the album to sink in. Rome was not built in one day, you know. While the
pieces slowly fall into place, the album may fortunately be enjoyed from the first moment, albeit not without a certain meagre
creeping scepticism toward the intrinsic strength of the compositions at first. The pieces eventually form a majestic, or rather
imperial framework that convey dramatic intrigues in a Roman tragedy, worthy of a performance in the very Colosseum itself.
Ardek from Carach Angren has been given the task of orchestrating this epic work, and as always, he does an
outstanding job. The interaction between Ardeks contributions and the band's metal is magnificent, and the vocals
provide colourization to the dramaturgy. The music is performed with immersion and presented with bombastic sound.
The band's first album, Romulus (2009) indicated a promising future, but it was the sequel Caligvla
(2012) that verily made the band fulfil their potential. Although the genre itself is no longer original, there
is still distinctiveness to retrieve for those who put their souls into it. With solid quality in all aspects, and a concept
that becomes elucidated like a precise tone painting, Ex Deo's third album becomes a release that confirms
the band's distinctive signature.
I vacillated between ratings of 4 and 5 for a long time, and still do to some degree, but despite competent song-writing, the
material doesn't become enormously memorable, regardless of fairly ample depth and substance. I think it might have
to do with the structures of the songs which could have been a wee bit more refined. But even though The Immortal Wars
isn't perfect, it's still unmistakably recommendable for fans of symphonic extreme metal. The performance
is solid, the atmosphere is moving, the production is rich (albeit sporting low dynamics) and the songs of course don't lack
finesse and details as such. Rating: 4+
Hypnotic Dirge Rec.&Black Plague Rec., 16.02.17 Obitus is a duo from Gothenburg, and Slaves
of the Vast Machine is their second full length album. Anders and Johan started the band in 2000, but after a demo and contributions to
a split, other projects took up most of their time. Material intended for a debut was largely shelved or downright
discarded as the band felt they had evolved and grown away from it. Three songs intended for the never completed
album with the working title Sonnilon were experimented with and released as the EP
Strategema before work on the debut The March of the Drones were initiated.
As with the first album, Slaves of the Vast Machine consists of 45 minutes of raw and aggressive
black metal. But where the debut consisted of seven songs, the music is this time collected into, or rather composed
as a single seamless composition. When you learn that the album consists of a single 45 minute long song, your sceptical
consciousness might just raise a few critical questions, but once you've start listening, it's a fair chance you'll
simply continue at it, through all three quarters of an hour.
Whether the album was initially supposed to contain a single composition, or if the song-writing simply evolved in that
direction, is an open question. The track has a natural drive with constant progression, and although this is not common
within black metal, it never feels wrong.
Slaves... is my first encounter with the Swedes, and I was quickly spellbound by their intense war machine.
I don't know much about the album's concept, but they paint a dystopic scenario in an Orwellian setting. A scenario of
all-encompassing denial of personal freedom in a futuristic autocratic world infected with absolute surveillance and full
governmental control in a society where citizens cope with unhappiness, misery and nervousness.
The music is completely antagonistic and entirely warlike. Expect no pit stops or breathers. Apart from a few sequences
where the pace calms slightly, only constant, ill-natured and and impetuous rush is offered. Marduk would have
been a typical reference. Not because of great similarities, but because of aggression, temperament and lack of respect
for the speed limit.
For a while during my first listen to the album in its entirety, I feared that boredom would eventually come crawling.
Not everyone is able to pull off full throttle for three noninterrupted quarters without gradually emerging as monotonous.
Obitus, however, achieve this feat in impeccable manners by providing adequate variation in sharp riffs
and striking rhythms. This is authentic black metal, full of rage, disgust and eeriness. The melody lines you can dig out
of the ice doesn't qualify for the term melodic, but contributes to an icy malignant mood, and the razor-sharp vocals
gives a beneficial contribution to a vicious circle, spiralling straight down to Hell.
Slaves of the Vast Machine is a fierce and fiery display of true Nordic black metal:
cutting, biting, odious, uncompromising, profane, violent, intense, hostile and militant. Rating: 5-
MDD Records, 18.11.16
The eponymous album from German Ctulu is the band's fourth album, but also my first
encounter with them. Some months have passed since I first heard the song Treibjagd. The song never quite
ceased to gnaw on my cerebral cortex, and finally I found it safest to transmitt a promo inquiry.
More time have been running out like sand into a sinkhole since I was granted audience in Ctulu's
world of burning fiery resentment, but not without a gradually increasing acquaintance with the album's
essence via sporadic listening sessions and an intense final sprint.
There's something about the chasing rhythms, the genuinely pissed vocals and transitions that fits like a glove, that made
said song a direct hit. It should be said that the rest of the album doesn't strike as immediately, and the album at first
appeared as somewhat less good than originally anticipated. That's more or less the very definition of disappointment, but
ideally one should never jump that quickly to conclusions, although both I and most likely even more patient souls have
made that mistake a few times. Expectations are a double-edged sword, and time is the antidote. A befitting approach is to
put the album on the shelf for a few days, get some distance and reset the expectations. It did the trick this time as well.
The band was founded in 2004, and according to Encyclopaedia Metallum, they've got twice as many former members as present
ones. The number increases if we include information from the press release, suggesting that the bassist is out of the race.
Messrs Mathias Junge and Arne Uekert both partake on guitars and crazed rancid vocals, while the latter
handles bass. Infernal Desaster, who did the drums on the last album as a guest, is back behind the kit
as a permanent member.
Despite the band name, and the fact that the trio are inspired by you-know-who, the mood of the album is not as linked
to R'lyeh as one might think. Ctulu don't play traditional black metal, but rather a hasty and often
rushing variant with traces of death metal. The tempo is kept fairly high, but not quite at speed metal level. Something
about the atmosphere of hostility holds the pace back, too busy barking and lashing out in all directions to keep up with
the darting rhythm. It's as if they race against Marduk, but lose because they stop to yell at the spectators.
Musically speaking, there's nothing wrong with that, and aside from the bolting hast, I don't mean to propose any comparison
with the Swedes.
The music is, however, not the result of haste. It seems thoughtful, but not too calculated. The expression has an inherent
character of pagan metal. Pagan metal which in this case have lost its temper, spitting and spewing bile in all directions.
I enjoy the raging madness, even though the album does not excel tremendously. The albums is basically good, but the uniformity
in the most breathless parts can become an objection. It should be pointed out, though, that Infernal Desaster
creates decent variety, and that the riffs don't allow mere monotony.
Another one of my favourite songs is Serce krwawe. It kicks off the album, but could certainly have been
place further out on the album, for variety is the spice of life, and this precise song is the only one where the pace
is tethered and restrained with leaden chains, offering on rich, dark and doomy disgust with atonal spices. Also
Rozgoryczona, rozczarowana, a gotowa na wszystko stand out positively with solid obscure mysticism.
With more killer tracks like these, and generally a bit stronger variation in tempo outward the trail of the album, it
would have appealed even more than what it ends up doing, for the three aforementioned songs are among the first four
of eight songs. The quality of the song material is slightly varying, but on average I call Ctulu quite
a good album. If you favour rabid furore, you certainly get your fix for it from these competent barbarians, prowling
the German forests. Rating: 4-
Black Lion Records, 18.02.17 Sons Ov Omega from Umeå, Sweden was started by two guys in 2012, but quickly increased to a quartet.
The years before going into the studio in 2015 to record this debut album, was used just as much on finding a common
identity as to composing material.
Those who judge this album by its cover is also most likely doomed to get it wrong. The cover is detailed and dark, and bear witness
to technical perfection. The guys are indeed competent enough, but I was expecting quite a bit rawer black/death, and
a more experienced bands.
It's a mild and gentle form of extreme metal with a moderate sensation of the Middle East that meets the listener.
Reign has a hint of traditional melodic and progressive metal and a touch of youthful “modernism”.
One of the founders calls himself Tiamat Invictuz, which is quite appropriate given that Tiamat
is one of the bands I find similarities to. Sons Ov Omega is probably a bit sharper in the edges
according to what I can recall, but these younger Swedes can also be a bit polished. Especially in the clean vocals.
The sound is clear, but the mix some times tend to favour the vocals which drowns out the instrumentation a bit. There
are small debris to nitpick at regarding different aspects of sound, song-writing and performance, but no major blunders.
My main objection is misplaced tenderness in the expression, which becomes a little too neat in combination with extreme
elements. At its most polished, the music feels just as incompatible as nu-extreme metal with hints of grunge, which
becomes a little too schizophrenic for me. These are admittedly just mental prejudices and difficulties at adapting, but
that's how it is with stubborn and headstrong musical taste. That the album in addition lasts for 65 minutes gives quite
a lot of music to absorb, and a bit too many undesirable debris to comply with along the way. When the Swedes steer clear
of clean vocals and their most modern whims, they dish up quite nifty metal however. Take finishing Cthulhu
(track 11) as an example of properly dark and powerful metal.
It's always a possibility that we will see a more streamlined expression from a band that increasingly finds their own
identity and niche the next time around, when the band has had more time to mature. These songs are written over a period
of several years, not that it necessarily means anything. The Swedes do seem coordinated in their direction, although the
expression has a hint of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Sons Ov Omega will certainly find its audience, but for
the time being, I don't belong in the most enthusiastic fanbase. Rating: 3
Hells Headbangers, 17.02.17 Loch Ness Rising is the first sign of black magic from HaXXan, a band founded by American
Killjoy DeSade (Wurdulak) and band colleague Shawn Slusarek from Necrophagia
in 2011. During the last year, the two remaining Necrophagia members joined the ranks of HaXXan,
practically making this a side project.
Killjoy is a long-time admirer of Aleister Crowley, and the album with the fairly odd title is conceptually
based on the founder of Thelema, a philosophical religion based on an astral message received telepathically.
The music surrounding the concept can roughly and simplified be called horror-infused black doom. The style is a little of
both, yet not entirely any of them. The band defies genre restrictions, and uses the riffs and playing techniques they see
fit. The leisurely pace and the dim atmosphere works well regardless of pigeon-holing.
The music's rather viscous flow and lightly groovy approach to proto-black is not the easiest to express in words. It's in
no way dated, but still feels as if it has its origins in a bygone era, albeit in a timeless manner. I pick up some
Celtic Frost vibes, but struggle to come up with more relevant references. Loch Ness Rising has become a fairly evocative album with a sense of classic metal in riffs, where
Killjoy's crazed vocals of the dark arts becomes the most extreme element. The somewhat ominous moods we are exposed
to, are those of black magic, without this feeling very ominous. The music is occasionally sprinkled with samples of old
recordings, likely by Mr. Crowley himself. These don't have a lot of effect, though. Recording technology and what is known
as Mid-Atlantic accent makes all old recordings sounds exactly the same. It could just as easily have been Winston Churchill.
Loch Ness Rising is not an invaluable album, but I enjoy it, and good variation in the material makes it a
likeable 42-minute affair. Sometimes, the task of conveying the essence of a release grow to a near insurmountable task, but
know this; the album is better than this review! Rating: 4-