Spinefarm Records, 03.03.17 Tuomas Saukkonen is back and everyone that knows the band, also know exactly what they have in store.
The band tread a familiar path with their melodic death metal. Thus it feels unnecessary to describe the music in depth.
For those who for some reason don't know Wolfheart, I'll translate a few brief segments from my impression and review of Winterborn (2013), where I presented the band and described the style and expression in a still most relevant way.
How ever I once found the time to discuss a single album twice, shall forever remain a mystery.
Finnish Tuomas Saukkonen has discontinue his other bands to focus entirely on Wolfheart. The music is somewhat calm, melodic and mournful Death/Doom with progressive, symphonic and doomy elements. The guitar works are dreamy and soaring in a kind of atmospheric way.
It's not very dissimilar to his previous projects, like Before the Dawn, Black Sun Aeon and Dawn of Solace. After a quick comparison, I feel that Black Sun Aeon is the best reference.
Everything on the debut was performed by Tuomas, save for some guitar solos executed by Mika Lammassaari from Eternal Tears of Sorrow. Mika has since become a permanent member, along with two other chaps.
What can I tell you about Tyhjyy then, that hasn't already been said? Tuomas as always writes good songs, and everything relating to the recording, from instrumentation to production, is of course taken professional care of. To your irritation, you know numerous mindless excuses for two-legged creatures. Retarded and superficial individuals who stubbornly and without knowledge or wits insist that metal is just noise. Well, Wolfheart is metal of a type that can be pushed so far up their noses that it'll leave permanent scars on the hypotenuse.
As expected, Tyhjyy is pretty, well composed and well played. The downside is simply that everything is exactly as expected. I mentioned in connection with Shadow World (2015) that the project had taken a fairly predictable form. Nothing fundamentally wrong with that, there's still a lot of melodies and acoustic snacks to get to know. Lack of big surprises and a butterfly-in-stomach feeling of uncertainty, doesn't increase the excitement, though.
But if you know what to expect, you'll avoid those risky high expectations. In that sense, I can't imagine existing fans becoming particularly disappointed. Those who expect qualitative melodic extreme metal with lots of good and varied melodies and moods, juicy riffs and emotional solo guitars, impeccable instrumentation and some sprinkled stardust of piano and acoustic guitar, along with manly growls, will get all this in a grand bundle, packaged with good sound.
Tuomas can be said to repeat himself as he does just like he's done before, but the Finn always comes up with new and beautiful melodies which he fortunately performs with unsentimental punch. Dragons and knights can be glimpsed, but the power metal troubadour has long since been devoured by the dragon. We gaze upon a majestic landscape where both pagan metal and Vikings dwell, and symphonic undertones reinforces the impression of a vast vista. We encounter everything from the cosiness around the bone-fire beneath the massive spruce to mighty mountain passes, and it becomes impossible to punish Wolfheart for doing what comes naturally. In fact, I believe that Tyhjyy may just be one of the best albums released under the moniker.
In other words, Tyhjyy is yet a strong album. It is located so close to the tipping point that it practically balances between four and five points. At its best, it can be tempting to give the defendant the benefit of doubt. Rating: 4+
Sliptrick Records, 01.03.17
This symphonic black metal quartet comes from Stockholm and has spent quite some time crafting their first piece.
Time well spent, it seems.
The band was formed in 2006 and released their first and only demo a decade ago. Exuvian Heraldry, their first album, was released independently almost three months ago, but fortunately Sliptrick release the album now. Otherwise, Katharos would probably have sailed unnoticed under the radar, and disappeared into the horizon.
The reason why I'm glad that's not the case, is because the Swedes combine suppressed black anger with magical moods of symphony and stand tall attitudes, presented in the form of seven mighty opuses divided fairly evenly over the course of almost an hour. The songs have an inherent mood of antagonistic grandeur. Like the megalomania of a hostile ruler with a grand army at the disposal, in an age where catapults and battering rams were the most powerful available weapons. The sound of the blowing horn used as a bugle warn of grave danger and imminent disastrous suffering when the ruthless emperor's army mercilessly launch their bloody attacks, leaving everything with no economic or useful value in ashes and ruins.
The songs have a wonderful mesmerizing drift with delightful rhythm and beautiful guitars. The music is admittedly far from innovative, and it must be said that the symphonic aspect is so synthetic that it borders on late-90s nostalgia. Yet, the Swedes makes is work. One of the reasons is that the synth largely emulates “Aaaa-choiring”, which don't differ much from the real thing, especially when located behind a loud layer of aggressive black furore. The music is not really very orchestral. It's rather got a strong breath of powerful symphonic flair that contribute to a mood of cryptic orders shrouded in secrecy, but it doesn't contain the instrumental elements of a proper symphonic orchestra, such as Septicflesh does. We're basically talking pitched “monk-choir” with the occasional supplemented piano and harp, along with those unmistakable sounds of synthesizer. That's still more than enough to amplify the music's inherent epic touch.
The songs are very well composed. The dynamics of the material is vital and the span is large. We even come across a sequences of the industrial kind when Katharos during Schaktet moves a step closer to Mysticum. The music's chasing nature is lead by programmed drums, but as long as it's not too distinct, I have no major objections. The variation from song to song is adequate, while a coherent “red thread” run along the palace's floors as a discreet red carpet that in a theatrical manner leads the way through a chronicle of centuries of epochal intrigues and deadly plots.
The combination of aggressive intensity, theatrical expression and clever song writing, gives a hypnotic effect that comes into its own thanks to solid instrumental efforts and adequate bombastic sound. With drama, fairly memorable tunes and murderous punch, I doubt that fans of the genre will for a second experience boredom on Exuvian Heraldry. Rating: 5+
Hellthrasher Productions, 24.02.17
The Norwegian duo Gjendød is back eight months after releasing their self-titled demo. Gjendød seemed promising, although the demo left me lukewarm. The only thing I demanded was that they brought the mighty song Likdans along to their first full-length, so that we could experience it with better sound.
A solicitation the band has not followed up on.
Such does not go unpunished, but they're hiding in the woodland, so I'll have to make do with slandering the guys a bit.
The thing is that they've misunderstood the concept of black metal pictures in the woods. Such pictures ain't supposed to be taken in broad daylight while strolling around with paint dripping of one's fingers. Not paint, you say? Okay, I should perhaps tone down the backbiting a bit, but honestly, the cover looks like a not particularly tough picture from the inside of the booklet.
When Nedstigning (Descent) kicks off with Til Høsten (In Autumn), it's with mid-tempo and a bit of lax moods, which to some extent could belong in the atmospheric side-genre. The drums are staccato and the vocals nauseous. Yet the music gradually comes more into its own. The relatively low pace partly persists, although the pace is increased somewhat inward the hiking trail. The men's first album is however no veritable intense war machine. But Gjendød has another agenda.
Drummer and vocalist KK continues with relatively simple rhythms, but the intensity of morbid vocabulary disgust is increased. The man is not just feeling a bit unwell, he is possessed and vomits bile. Although the band's lowest pace has more in common with black/doom than dsbm or Carpathian black'n'roll, it seems clear that a pessimistic outlook on life in good combination with a spiritually warped ethos is the lads' modus operandi. The tones that guitarist, bassist and keyboardist K reel off, are of a deranged, degenerated and mournful nature.
Both the essence of the music and the sound has as expected developed somewhat since the demo. The music is a little airier, while there's enough intensity, and the sound is less stuffy. The potential is still there, but the sound, expression and songs still has a bit to go on. In comparison to other townsmen, or rather the better acts out of Nidaros, such as Celestial Bloodshed, Aptorian Demon og Katechon*, Gjendød is still lacking a bit in the song writing. And to a lesser degree in the atmosphere. The album admittedly has a kind of depraved and perverted mood that comes better into its own after a good handful of spins. The title song in particular, is a creepy bastard with bitter, perilous and odious atmosphere. But the rest of the record could have done well with more misanthropic malice. Nedstigning is still highly listenable, but not spectacular enough to be recommended wholeheartedly as such. They are slowly getting there, though. Rating: 3+
Svart Records, 24.02.17
Belgian Bathsheba are situated in the periphery of my regular patrol district, but when the sonar picks up strange activity on the border, I'm almost obliged to investigate the phenomenon closer.
The band plays what somewhat simplified can be called soot-coloured sludge/doom, but when the pace at times is increased, it's no longer that easy to brand the band. It doesn't happen too often, though.
I picked up jazz influences in the form of trumpet or saxophone early on, and halfway expected, halfway feared a surreal sight.
The female she-demon who front the band sings in a jazzy way. I think. Jazz is far beyond my jurisdiction. I halfway expected a psychedelic trip, but Servus is not quite that schizophrenic. The music is largely low-paced, resounding and evocative. Had it only had a stronger psychoactive effect on me, I would perhaps have enjoyed it more, but to me this is not all that exciting.
Bathsheba wants to convey the claustrophobic essence of an onerous reality that crushes all positive and happy feelings, much like an efficient car press. We are crushed between two walls, one made of knowledge, facts and truth by consensus, and one made of rumours, lies and conspiracy theories.
Servus is well designed and constructed, with adequate sound and ample mood. I highly recommend fans of sludgy doom to take a listen. For my part, I'll just move on, nimble and unaffected. Every man to his taste. Rating: 3-
Darkrypt is definitely a band you should take a note of if juicy death metal is your thing. The quartet apparently considers the little extra as important and has therefore ensured extended content of ingredient X.
The band is reportedly heavily inspired by Finnish death metal in particular and the Indians ain't inferior compared to what I've heard out of Suomi.
Delirious Excursion is a display of solid death metal with punch, depth and soul. The music has brutality, melodies, apt transitions and moods that covers the entire gamut from the mighty and grand to the creepy and ominous. Approximately the full range of barbed hook, in other words. Everything executed with absolute panache. Highly fitting melodic and rhythmic antics becomes a natural part of the music, and various passages and smaller snippets of soaring guitars, acoustic breathing pauses, technical refinements and so on, appear more frequently than expected, but not in an exaggerated manner. Nifty and deadly songs built on killer riffs have top priority, of course.
The death metal burns of gunpowder in all aspects, but offers exciting build-up and interesting segments around every corner. That the four Indians don't seem to have any registered experience and that Delirious Excursion is their debut, is nothing less than impressive. The band obviously got good insight into the traditions of the genre and flair for clever structure. They have even recorded the album on their own, which must have been done quite professionally, for although the two producers who has handled the rest of the production have indisputable expertise, they are not magicians. Greg Chandler (Lychgate) has been responsible for mixing at Priory Recording Studios, and Dan Swanö has mastered the gem in Unisound. The drums are powerful, the guitars rich and the vocals fiery. It simply sounds mighty.
Speaking of names. Renown Rogga Johansson and lesser known Nitin Rajan – from Primitiv, another death metal band from Mumbai – delivers guest-vocals on Cryptic Illusions and The Inducer respectively. Darkrypt nevertheless clearly stand steady on their own feet, and bring refined death metal with malicious intent to the table. Let's not dwell too much on every single detail. Listen and enjoy for yourself. Rating: 5