Hellthrasher Productions, 10.02.17
I have gradually become more and more picky in terms of what promos I download. The market is overflooding with releases, and the release rate just keeps rising year by year. To uncritically publish anything that is audible, but not even remotely close to contribute anything at all, is helping to undermine the scene by demoralizing those attempting in vain to keep up to date.
I have no idea how many generic albums I waste time on deciding to ignore because they should have no right to exist, before I unsentimentally move on. Dread barely made it through the crack at a push.
Back in the days, band had to release demos that never got any wide distribution, until they were mature, but now, kit and caboodle is heading for the open market to drown each other out. Half a year ago, the US one-man band Yith self-released a seemingly mediocre album called Dread. The story could have ended there, and for a long time I was inclined to believe that it should have, for Yith is still a fairly immature project. Something about Dread nevertheless insisted on being heard, and a hint of potential gradually grew stronger. I don't regret choosing to spend time on the album, although I can't give an unreserved recommendation.
Polish Hellthrasher Productions have previously shown good judgement by releasing delicious works by bands like Engulfed*, Ecferus*, Gespenst* and Serpents Lair*. As with almost any label, that still ain't always the case. It's been almost two months since the label released it on CD, and a little more than a month ago, Vendetta Records launched it on CD and LP. A human error had led to Dread being listed with yesterday as release-date on my otherwise eminent schedule.
Dread consists of nearly 43 minutes of sombre black/doom moods. The album is atmospheric, but too sharp and coarse to fit under the atmospheric black metal umbrella. Besides two shorter tracks sporting medieval acoustics and dungeon-synth respectively that's reminiscent of passages from Enslaved's Frost, the five songs lasts from six to eight minutes. They move between black metallic mid-tempo racing and meek pace with a feeling of grievance. The latter in slow, solitary bitterness, and not in the staged sorrowful procession of funeral. The sound is rancid and unpolished, and the material at first listen appear as completely average.
When starting on penning a draft after three or four spins, the slaughtering knife was sharpened, but that's when the pieces slowly began to fall into place. It sounds rough, and the expression is far from innovative, but the American has nonetheless constructed harsh music with plenty of emotional depression between the grooves. The song Resentment is not the only one exhibiting emotions of ill-fated sadness and loss, but it probably displays the most powerful suicidal vibes. The rest of the material develop little by little and after about eight spins appear as quite appealing, but the expression is still fairly simple and uninventive, without much substance save for graceful melodies all wrapped up in sharp guitar strings. After all, home-made emotional dystopia is really dime a dozen. Therefore, despite pleasing raw tristesse, I'm left somewhat more spiritless then enthusiastic. Fans of the genre will most likely enjoy the album, but be warned that a bit of time is required to build up a trustful relationship between listener and Dread. Rating: 3+, verging on 4-
We'll take a closer look at the Norwegians' second album, and cruise through over ten years of band history in a disrespectful pace.
Hailing from Hønefoss, the band was born in the ruin of the band Dim Nagel just over ten years ago, when Sorgar formed Endezzma in 2005.
Besides Endezzma front-man Sorgar, Dim Nagel consisted of Trondr Nefas and a pair of guys from Kvist. The band was started in 1993 and released two demos the following two years, before they eventually split up.
A new incarnation under a new moniker released the EP Alone in 2007. This signified cold, primitive and necrotic black metal, at least if we ignore the fairly prominent bass, something we may do as the sound wasn't particularly bass heavy. This was followed by their debut album Erotikk Nekrosis in 2012, which I at the time regarded as more pleasing to the eye than the ear. The album undoubtedly has qualities, but I've never grown very acquainted with it.
Nearly four and a half years later, the expression is hardly recognizable. The music is more melody affected and the sound has undergone a change as a jump from a cross between Watain's Rabid Death's Curse and Casus Luciferi to Lawless Darkness. The band has nevertheless kept a good deal of the compositional structuring.
The Arcane Abyss consists of black metal with an airy feel in the riffing. We don't find the most intense tremolo-picking, but rather fiery melodies that sparkles like tongues of fire in the night. As unpredictable flames, the music suddenly changes direction uncontrollably like a fighter pilot on LSD. We're even presented brief solos fairly frequently on the album's first half. Nevertheless, it's of course still black metal the band reel off. The drumming is fast, powerful and diverse, the music has an aggressive, reckless slant and Sorgar's dry and snarling voice, a bit like Nattefrost in Carpathian Forest (in lack of a better example), has a devilish touch.
The albums first half, counting Morbus Divina, has a hint of black'n'roll, with somewhat progressive structures and vital antics based on blazing melodies and diabolic attitude. After this, Sick Kulta Lucifer creates a moderate transition with its dark, doomy and infernal profane appearance. It's a less vivid, more gloomy band that continues after this. The proggy structures persist, but towards the end, the music takes a turn and moves more in direction of Tulus.
The difference is not overwhelming, but Endezzma shows of multiple sides through eight songs with strong identity. Those who don't like everything might probably think of the album as a bit wobbly, but it's not schizophrenic, and I find each song, and thus the entire material as a whole, to measure up strongly. Rating: 4+
Osmose Productions, 31.03.17
Fosen is a peninsula that keeps its crooked thumb as a shield for Nidaros. There we find Slagmaur, who grew out of the ashes of Norske Synder, started 20 years ago, releasing five demos before General Gribbsphiiser took his experimentation with eccentric and bizarre soundscapes to new heights.
Two months ago, I published a presentation of Slagmaur along with a preview of Thill Smitts Terror. As announced, the band is finally ready to distribute their third full-length album among you mortals.
Innferd (Inward voyage) begins the journey to layered and distorted eeriness with a delightful modern symphonic clip with similarities to Dance of the Knights* and a touch of the spirit of Grieg before Slagmaur ends this harmonic piece of shit with their distinctively unique atonal signature. Those who know their Slagmaur, also know what nightmarish perverted dystopia they're facing. In a sense, that's the album's Achilles' heel, as the news- and shock-effect no longer have the same impact. Apart from new details to digest, there's not all that much to fill you in on. Although this makes the task of presenting the album somewhat more difficult, it is however not a valid argument for degrading the overall verdict. The band presents six new songs plus intro and outro, but preserves their deeply rooted expression. *From Sergei Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Julie, used in Satyricon's Mother North video, and in the intro to Slagmaur's Skrekk.
Although you know what you're up against, you don't know the intricate details, and no one knows where this will lead. The written word can't prepare anyone for exactly what they have in store either. The constellation, as said, have a unique style where spine-chilling distorted dissonance sweep in cascades over the listener like a flood of corrosive acids in a chemical warfare genocide. Layer upon layer of phonetic torture forms the basis for the extremist's reign of terror. The music twists and turns in alien manners, with textures of noisy mechanical distortion, strange effects, echoes of diabolical choirs and anguished choirs of tormented angels, as well as heartbreaking crying and mentally corrupting cosmic noise.
Drummer of Tedworth should be familiar to existing fans, as the track with the warlike drums as far as I remember was the first to be streamed on-line. Bestemor sang Djevelord (Grandma sang Devil-words) is just as eclectic as the title suggests. Nifty piano playing fit in among sharp guitars in an abstract soundscape. The lyrics are often interesting in the band's jumble of sounds fluttering in chaotic patterns, but although I understand both Norwegian and English, they're not very easy to catch. It's a bit easier to follow the lyrics in Ja vi elsker dette landet, also known as the Norwegian national anthem (although it's never been officially enacted). The album concludes with Utferd (Outward excursion), which is the intro in reverse. What else did you expect?
I could personally have wished for more orchestral instruments in this deafening cauldron, as there's less of it this time around, among others to create a more dynamic feel, but even that can be regarded as nitpicking. Slagmaur delivers claustrophobic horror of another dimension, and if you've appreciated them before, I'm fairly certain you'll enjoy Thill Smitts Terror as well. Rating: 5
Finnish Deathkin is one of those bands that does everything right on first attempt. The band was started in 2010, and has admittedly released a couple of demos, but Kohti Kotiani Kaaosta, translating to something like “hither homeward chaos”, is their first album.
As is the case of almost any band, Deathkin are inspired by already existing acts. Where most bands are content “ripping off” the expression of a single group or style, the treacherous ravens in Deathkin pillage from a wide array and sew together their own Frankenstein's monster, rather than genetically engineering a simple clone.
There's no point denying the obvious similarities with Ajattara and Kuolemanlaakso in particular. It has nevertheless been many years since Ajattara dropped Itse, and the aftermath hasn't appealed quite as much. A new album is on the rise, however, and those of you who makes it till May will live to see. Likewise, Kuolemanlaakso sat down in the mud and tarnished its acclaimed name just last year, although the final say on the matter is guaranteed not yet uttered.
Deathkin ain't performing plagiarism anyway. They've written their own songs, entirely on par with their forerunners. Hell, even somewhat better if you like your gloomy and deranged moods performed with flaming disgust. Just like winds stronger than gale, the pace alternates depending on your perspective. The storm's howling gusts moves in a breathless pace, but those fighting their way toward the wind move as in slow motion, with the roars of the tempest ringing in the ear. One of several masterful aspects concerning Kohti Kotiani Kaaosta is the simultaneous combination of furious Marduk, Krater or Horna tempo, and sorrowful, hypnotic Eye of Solitude viscosity. Take the start of Käärmeenkuulija, where the drums suggest explosive acceleration while the melodies creep slowly as morning mist, as an example.
Building a review on similarities with other bands is something one normally does to emphasize the band's inability to create a unique expression of their own. Of course, that's not the intention in this case. Like kids on stilts in a candy-store, Deathkin have picked and chosen from the top shelf. With pride they carry the Finnish colours and wave the flag high, inspired by some of the best extreme metal acts that motherland and home planet has to offer.
Among less obvious reference are Shining, Schammasch and Mephorash. Shining* because there's something in the deranged frantic vocals and sore howls from the guitar at times, most noticeable in Varttuvista Veren Varjoista. Schammasch* due to a steady hypnotic flow through rugged landscapes. And Mephorash* more like a random representative for majestic sorcery.
Kohti Kotiani Kaaosta start off well and grows successively through its six tracks. Whenever I begin a new session, I'm just as sceptical about rewarding full score every time, but all doubts has vanished before I'm halfway. The rating may be a clue generous, but I will gladly give the debutants the benefit of the doubt. The album is packed with hypnosis, mighty breathtaking melodies, eventful construction, sombre Finnish moods and punch. The album's magnum opus, over ten minutes long Iänkaikkinen has everything needed to spellbind, and it's stringed together with the two successive songs via fluent transitions.
Topped with juicy sound from recording in assorted locations in Finland, and powerful mastering and respectable dynamics (DR8) courtesy of Tore Stjerna in Necromorbus Studio, Deathkin have constructed a perfect hybrid built on many of extreme metal's core values. This is in absolutely no way any kind of static, lifeless and generic carbon copy. The band consists of individuals whose identity is shrouded in mystery. Who knows, this could even be a “supergroup” consisting of members from said reference bands. Nah, supergroups practically never works out well. Rating: 6-
Temple of Darkness, 10.02.17
One of the first thoughts that strikes me when Finnish Cemetery Winds kicks off Unholy Ascension with timeless but far from ragged death metal, is “youthful enthusiasm” along with a sense of thorough song writing.
The next thing that strikes me is how fresh it all sounds. I come across teasers from a massive amounts of new releases, as I'm sure you do too. Among those, lots of similar sounding death metal. Unholy Ascension still effortlessly stand out from the barbaric horde.
The Finns plays deadly metal with a relatively good dosage of melody, as well as a whiff of the graveyard and shades of occultism. A scorched curse of disgust also rests over their first creation. Above delicious buzzing riffs, restless guitars hover around and mingle with ghostly synth that's barely perceivable as flickering shadows in the peripheral vision. The bellowing guttural vocals is blusteringly masculine and hateful, while the drumming is diabolically mean.
Unholy Ascensions is a riff-feast that may remind of classic Swedish death metal. Meanwhile, a foul necromantic spell rests over this aural substance. An ungodly mood of dark forces have taken residence in the release, and leaves such a mark on in the profane melodies that it gives Cemetery Winds an inherent timbre of black/death. The sound is raw and resounding. The soundscape is rich and resonant, but also rounded and warm in a diabolically alluring fashion.
The fact that Unholy Ascension is a debut impresses. The fact that Cemetery Winds is a one-man band is incredible. Janne Lukka has admittedly lured other musicians into this nefarious spell. Janne handles bass and drums superbly. Juho Manninen (Curimus), plays bass, while Marko Ala-Kleme (Nashorn) and Kari Kankaanpää (Solothus, Sepulchral Curse*) lets their throats take a beating. Marko with black rasps while the pupils take cover in the back of his head, and Kari providing fiery growls with murderous fire in his eyes. Kick-ass album. Highly recommended. Rating: 4+
Immortal Frost Productions, 27.03.17
The story behind Doedsvangr started in 2014, and has evolved steadily since. With some physical distance between the folks involved, patience can be a necessity just as much as a virtue. Doedsadmiral, vocalist in Nordjevel* and Svartelder*, formed the band as an outlet for different dark sides of his sinful self, and were joined by two prominent musicians; Tsjuder* drummer AntiChristian and former Behexen* guitarist Shatraug, only remaining original member in Horna* and the man behind Sargeist.
Together the Norwegian-Finnish constellation performs black metal with consistency as slimy and viscous black tar. On Satan ov Suns, you'll find links to both black'n'roll and black/doom, with most emphasis on the latter. Through well over 50 minutes the trio delivers poisonous disgust and misanthropic attitude. There's still a few aspects that prevent the debut from growing into an acclaimed new Nordic all-time favourite.
I'm not certain whether or not it's relevant to compare with Doedsadmiral's other band, as I don't know who's been responsible for the composing in Doedsvangr. But I'm left with the impression that everyone has contributed to some degree. Just like the music of those two other bands differed, so does Satan ov Suns diverge therefrom, and to a greater extent, as the music deviates further from more conventional orthodox Norwegian black metal. Doedsvangr, in my ears, ain't quite on par with the two, but that's solely a subjective matter of taste. Doedsadmiral wield fewer anguished screams in the night, but more rasping utterances with a creaking voice. The man snarls hoarse, yet whispering and bone-dry as an antiquarian book on legal regulations. Whoever prefers their black vocals with more punch will find the vocals a bit reticent and a bit monotonous, but the vocal suits their chosen expression. To compare with the aforementioned bands of Shatraug and AntiChristian, doesn't really do much good either.
The song material is not of the most remarkable kind, but the songs have moods and attitude along with nice flow. The variation both between and within each of the 11 tracks is adequate, but not impressive. The atmosphere is fairly ominous, though not dreadfully ill-fated. More foreboding than lethally threatening. At times, I miss a real testosterone injection to create hypnosis and invoke arsonist cravings, but taking your time might work wonders. The album grows slowly but surely.
The trio is malignant and has an inherent rawness, but with more pent-up and awaiting aggression than ferocious pummelling blow and warlike disposition. The songs slither forth as sleazy worms, sporting sharp riffs, varied rhythms and forked tongues, spreading unease and distress on its path. The sound, like the vocals, is dry and gnawing like steel wool on granite or sandpaper on brushed steel, and as such suits the sordid, devious and treacherous atmosphere.
I won't give Satan ov Suns an unreserved recommendation, but I do recommend fans of the genre to listen and form their own opinion. The execution is impeccably professional, but the style, not to mention the sound, is as mentioned a matter of taste. Personally I had quite a bit of expectations that wasn't met after the initial spin. Like a flock of vultures, however, Doedsvangr circle their prey. And before you know it, you're snared. By now I'm convinced. And entrapped. Send help. Rating: 4