M & O Music, 28.04.17
French Sinlust debuted with the album Snow Black in 2011. The album's dark fantasy concept, authored by vocalist Firefrost, also resulted in the novel Noire Neige, released under the pen name Nicolas Skinner.
With the sequel, Sea Black, the story continues. A book titled Noire Mer will be published on Nats Editions in June.
The quartet from Brittany defines their style as epic heavy black metal. However, the music is more melodic than epic, and apart from vocals and certain riffs and rhythms, it doesn't have a lot in common with true bm.
The band undoubtedly plays metal, but pigeonholing it ain't all simple. The music has melodic elements from classic styles like heavy metal, but performance and punch have more in common with extreme metal. The structure roam somewhere in between. There is at times a smell of pagan metal, as they sometimes have a folklike feel with roots in no specific forms of folk music. The music thus feels a bit indefinable. Without these classification-difficulties becoming a negative aspect or giving the band any form of identity crisis.
Firefrost's rasping croaks has a touch of Dagon (Inquisition), and appears to be a bit out of place among swirling melodies, which, in fact, do not exactly constitute overarching melodies. I have, however, gotten used to the vocals. The riffs may feel somewhat random in the more chaotic sequences, but the conjunction of different sequences gives a good flow, and guitarist Chris In Lust(!) wield the axe well. The steel strings shed a lot of goodies during the hour that Sea Black lasts. Likewise, drummer Infernh does a good effort characterized by variation, while bassist Rain Wolf makes good use of the moments when he is awarded a more prominent place in the soundscape.
The changing nature of the music, from calm and semi-acoustic to intense sequences, creates a dramatic character that can be said to provide an epic ethos. That's perhaps what the band refers to. I basically enjoy the album, but it does not leave en everlasting impression or form something I feel like revisiting in the future. Inherent qualities nevertheless make me recommend you to listen for yourselves. Rating: 3+
Ván Records, 05.05.17
German The Ruins Of Beverast seemed to make an impact in the underground early in the career. It's rather unbelievable that the band only consist of Alexander von Meilenwald (Truppensturm, Nagelfar).
It took four years between the two previous albums, and the evolution had left its mark. The fourth album, Blood Vaults - The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer differed a bit from its predecessors, and Exuvia again tread more experimental paths.
The debut Unlock the Shrine (2004) was gloomy, creepy and somewhat slow and occult. The sequel Rain upon the Impure (2006) was dark ritualistic and more doomy, dreary and uncomfortable. The development can give some associations to that of Negative Plane. With the album Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite, the expression became more speedy, and the band's inherent occult and atonal musical leaning bloomed. This one had more in common with Deathspell Omega than the first two. With Blood Vaults..., Alexander once again took his band in a new direction. The record has an experimental touch of occult, funeralistic and atmospheric death/doom, and more similarities to Necros Christos.
The cover art fits the spiritual, ritual and esoteric moods well. These are created in the intersection between folk music from indigenous people and calm atmospheric metal. Where the band previously conveyed black metal nightmares, shamanism and dreamy hallucinogenic trips characterize The Ruins Of Beverast at this occasion. Abstract sounds and volatile guitars, along with clean and guttural vocals and native song and choir, form a soft river that feels coherent even though the landscape that passes is gradually changing.
Despite a dreamy atmosphere, the music can be quite intense at times. It may also turn out to be too far out for the most orthodox of listeners. The music does however grow rapidly, and the the witch's cauldron of differing instruments, buzzing voices and bizarre sound effects, ranging from indigenous American Indian songs to flute and bagpipes, all wrapped in an outlandish soundscape, appear as different and fascinating, and ever so hypnotic.
Exuvia consists of six songs - four in over nine minutes on average, and two of a quarter each. Together they pass the hour with good margin. I was quite determined that three points would be more than enough given the German's rather alternative direction, but what initially appeared as disappointing has since grown on me an turned out to be a pleasant meditative work that could appeal to fans of landscapes from Saor in west to Zgard in the east. I was a bit disappointed with the EP Takitum Tootem!, but on the album, the music really comes into its own. With Exuvia, the German could almost have taken the stag at the Riddu Riđđu indigenous music festival. Rating: 4
Full stream can be found under the video for Towards Malakia.
Crime Records, 28.04.17
The melodic Norwegian thrashers in Critical Solution is back, and this time it's fairytale time.
The quartet's third concept album anew presents a creepy story.
A dark story, apparently with roots in real events.
The band's previous release, sophomore Sleepwalker, was well received by yours truly near the end of 2015. The classic melody-based structures that the band uses has actually become something of a loss over the years.
I mentioned bands like Metallica and King Diamond the last time, and again it is this hybrid of thrashed riffs, transitions, solos and a kind of narrative context and progress that characterizes the overall structure.
The theatrical rocker Arthur Brown is assigned the role as narrator, and opens the album by describing the dark forces that surrounded the bands local village in the 17th century, set to introductory gloomy church organ tones and fair choir. Barbara Belladonna, the woman in the woodland edge, turns out to have a finger in the bloody pie when people disappear in the surrounding forests to never be seen again. And the witch also turns out to be unusually difficult to do away with. She have presumably entered into a pact with the devil himself.
As a kind of missing link, the music has a lot in common with the mid-eighties proto-extreme metal in the transition from pure heavy metal to thrash and proto-black. An influence of hard rock, or should we say proto-metal, also shines through. In an attempt at simplified pigeonholing, one could always call it heavy/thrash.
The band succeeds with swirling melodies, which in itself have a dramatic touch of theatrical shock-rock. The moods are created in a suitable yet partly surreal melting pot of the 70's and 80's, while craftsmanship extend well into the 90's. The songs are boasting of transitions and stylistic changes, where even inspirations of musical classicism surface.
Where thrash is often led by aggressive vocals, and most of newer heavy metal tend to be accompanied by lamentable castrate vocals, Christer Slettebø sings with a fitting dark voice characterized by Hetfield-ish punch. Something that makes Critical Solutions expressive extra refreshing in 2017. The other companions also deliver, whether it's the steady rhythms, the galloping bass or flaming solos. With sound from Sonic Train Studios with Andy LaRocque as producer, an adequate soundscape is also thoroughly taken care of.
The Digipack, again featuring nifty art from the hand of Mario E. López, comes with a bonus disk. After a 52-minutes tale, the guys bring Covers From Hell to the table, an almost half-hour long CD where they mainly cover old classics.
I have no relationship to Locked Up in the Snow by Black Rose, a forerunner to Mercyful Fate, and Let it Die from Ozzy Osbourne's latest album, Scream (2010). The Motörhead classic Killed by Death, on the other hand, is a song that everyone should have a good relationship to. LaRocque and Whitfield Crane (Ugly Kid Joe) helps lift the roof on this one. Next, Black Sabbath's Iron Man, Deep Purple's Speed King and the Uriah Heep classic Gypsy featuring Snowy Shaw follows.
After a hectic week, I was almost ready to publish this review before the month was completed, far a-fucking-way from the keyboard under a long-awaited hot spring sun in a scenery of stunning nature. I'm sorry about not finding the time to alert my faithful/treacherous readers, but I obviously regret nothing. Rating: 4+