The sextet from Sandefjord, on the eastern side of southernmost Norway, is out with a new dose of gothic-sounding metal.
The last time we visited them were in connection with the EPen Forgotten Memories about one and a half years ago.
The band was duly presented in connection with the previous album, Trollspeil. Thus we can move on, straight to the musical content.
As before, I consider the band to be stylistically related to the Gothic metal that came out of the Stavanger area of Norway in the early nineties. But where bands such as Theatre of Tragedy et al. mixed gothic female-fronted violin-tristesse with heavier and harder tones à la death/doom, this band is a bit more light at heart, incorporating more symphony and folk. Their expression is thus more harmless. Where the band previously defined their own style as neo-folk metal, they have labelled themselves symphonic metal this time. As a hopeless quibbler, I hereby call it symphonic power/gothic folk metal.
Parts of the folk-elements have a mood of enchanted folklore. The song Trollskogen (Troll Forest) exhibit this to the fullest and get the best out of the band, with good and varied melody led by fair female vocal and piano. The princess' suitor takes part in the duet, but beware of the troll under the bridge. To be honest, I'm still not very excited about Truls' hoarse and hissing/wheezing coal-coke grey vocal, but Christina and Niclas still continue to impress.
Strong melodies and dramatic contrast between calm and serene elements like violin and piano, and harder thrust from drums and guitar, as well as the different vocal types, are a significant part of the Synkvervet brand, and Mistborn contains both to the fullest. Their music is like a gateway to a bygone era, a wormhole that leads more than 20 years back in time, to a time when bands like Dismal Euphony made metallic approaches to the Soria Moria Castle, Myriads dealt with vampire-bat romanticism and The 3rd and the Mortal depicted phonetic fairy tales.
The band, as such, is a curiosity in the presence. How big a target audience there is, is hard to say. But Synkvervet practically got the market to themselves. Their far from overcrowded musical segments help create diversity in the metal fauna. As one of the last of their kind, they ought to belong naturally on some list of institutions worthy of conservation.
Their sound have improved over the years, but debris still exists. Visiting a professional studio would probably have done wonders, something the fair tones are worthy of. For my own part, I'd also prefer a little more reverb punch from the guitars. Rating is no exact science. I see that I gave the album Trollspeil (2014) a weak 4. Retrospectively, that was a bit generous, and a strong 3 would probably have been more adequate, despite relatively strong material.
Because of a slightly "home-made" sound, though without critical flaws, as well as a gentle, or toothless touch if you will, which purely subjectively doesn't appeal all that much, I won't give an unreserved recommendation, even though the album is good in many ways. Ergo, a weak 4.
However, fans of said folkloric fairytale mixture can safely stuff their briar pipe with Mistborn. Rating: 4-
Season of Mist, 16.06.17
It doesn't feel like a long time since the new sympho-black phenomenon Carach Angren launched its first work, but nine years have passed since Lammendam, and the Dutch have reached album number five. Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten doesn't immediately feel as good as its predecessor, but fortunately it grows stronger after the first listen.
But can the latest addition to the dreadful and dysfunctional family achieve the same status as its elder brethren?
To my great pleasure, the lyrics are included in the promo this time. I missed that on the previous occasion, when the horror metallers launched a concept that made the fairytale of Hansel and Gretel fade, and the witch to go pale. This Is No Fairytale wasn't the band's strongest disc, but the gruesome concept still made the album unforgettable, something this unofficial fan video clearly prove with its visual aids. Disappointingly, it appears to have been removed from YouTube, probably due to copyright, although the video with its strong scenes is an excellent promotional tool for the album.
To my great disappointment, the lyric ain't entirely on height with previous artistic merits. Carach Angren doesn't offer any true concept this time, although parts of the album revolves around spiritism, ouija boards and haunted residences. There's not even a proper leitmotif present, except for the band's familiar horror themes. Aside from the fact that Three Times Thunder Strikes tie Charlie and Pitch Black Box loosely together, the lyrics seem to be completely detached.
I rarely emphasize on the lyrics of a release, but in the context of Carach Angren, they often contribute to create an extra dimension. In this case, however, they become quite flat and bland. The first two songs have stories that seems to be missing introduction and ending, while Charles Francis Coghlan is based on a real story, where the coffin containing the corpse of Mr. Coghlan was washed away by a storm surge, not to be recovered until seven years later, while the texts on In De Naam Van De Duivel reminds more of a feeble episode of the Twilight Zone. Ingenuity and depth become a privation, and Carach Angren without lyrics that sends blood chilling shivers of discomfort up the spinal cord and straight to the brain so that even the cerebellum gets goosebumps, is a paler and poorer Carach Angren.
The music ain't bad, though. The band still has their unique signature intact, of course, with hissing sawtooth-vocal over ominous aggressive riffs and clever orchestral compositions. The band delivers good and distinctive orchestral extreme metal as always, although the melodies are not on par with the band's best material. Ardek is an extremely talented composer, and his orchestral creation is in itself once again mind-blowing. Seregor's rasping voice and steel strings, as well as Namtar's hefty rhythms, are also quite flawless. In addition, the trio is assisted by Patrick Damiani on bass and additional guitars, and Nikos Mavridis that has added genuine violin to track 3, 4 and 9. The recording sessions has been distributed across three different studios. The mix is done by Peter Tägtgren in Abyss Studio, where the drums were also recorded, and the mastering was performed by Jonas Kjellgren in Black Lounge Studio. The dynamics are still almost as low as on the previous album, without this being very decisive for the sound quality which I'd call good.
Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten consists of nine songs that have their own identity, and that works well together, unfortunately without a sense of connection welding the songs together into a larger coherent entity. Thus, the album feels more like a short story collection than as a more comprehensive and complex work of art. Compared to other music, the arrangements and structures of the material must be said to hold high quality, just as the other aspects, like instrumentation and sound. But there's no denying that expectations and demands are somewhat higher for the Dutch than for just any old (or more often new) band.
The two minute intro Opening is exceptionally creepy. Unfortunately, the eight relatively song isn't. The first two songs are alright, but somewhat cheesy lyrics and a bit simple structuring in a C.A. context doesn't do them any favour. The album's longest song, In De Naam Van De Duivel, doesn't impress much either. But there is also more solid material to be found. Song for the Dead is short, succinct and catchy, with delightfully morbid lyrical gallows humour. Pitch Black Box, for its part, is hardly the most sophisticated track, but the riffing and rhythm is ass-kicking. My biggest personal favourites are nevertheless well-composed and hypnotic Charles Francis Coghlan as well as eerily disturbing and musically mighty The Possession Process.
The album does grow, and with just over 40 minutes available, the album will quickly become familiar, while numerous details will remain hidden amongst seaweed in the depths for a long time in anticipation of being discovered. However, the album doesn't grow as strong as its predecessors. I'm a little bit disappointed, for Carach's universe contain some very good releases, but there's still a lot of good music on Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten. In a larger context, the album is a whole lot better than a many of its contemporary underground releases. After all, I like this album, and as such I define it as good. Rating: 4
If this haunting band has passed you by like a ghost ship in the night, check out the rest of the discography.
PS: The album is currently streaming in its entirety on amongst other Zero Tolerance.
Agonia Records, 09.06.17
Swedish Svartsyn is astir on another raid to colour the sky black with ungodly furore, and the album don't show no signs of waning compared to former exploits.
The band was named Chalice for a couple of years in the very early nineties, but has now been called Svartsyn since 1993.
The band is led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ornias, who once again have left Belgian Hammerman in charge of the drums. Svartsyn plays pitch black metal and In Death is album number nine.
The band get straight to the point with full throttle black metal, but also incorporate a dark satanic atmosphere on its 46-minute journey through icy wastelands. There's surely more adequate references than Blodsrit, Ragnarok and Grafvitnir, but you should trust your first impulse, or so they say.
Ornias' signature vocal has a feel of raging wicked witch who in anger brew a hellish biological mixture that will lead to more heartburn than a Molotov cocktail, along with searing, pulsating blisters and fever with a fatal outcome. The deranged hag hand out curses like an avid parking guard delivers fines, and Hammerman is equally eager. The drums are striking. Only when the pedals becomes red hot, do the pace lower enough to incorporate hateful gloom. And layered guitars act as rotating knives in hazardous three-dimensional stereo.
Regardless of whether Svartsyn puts the pedal to the metal or stick to mid-tempo, guitar and cascades of blast beats wash over the listener as a constant pressure wave. Not to say that the drum performance isn't varied. He doesn't only hammer away on double pedals. The sound is generally somewhat rounder and clearer, or less sharp and filthy, than on the earlier works I've leant my ear to, but it still sounds reckless and killer. After recording in Mortsella Studio and mixing plus mastering in Clintworks Studio, we're left with an aptly spacious soundscape where rich resounding guitars nevertheless do theirs to fill the gap to the brim.
I played In Death a lot before the weekend, but writer's block forced me to put the album aside for a few days. When I pick it up again, I spend just three songs on reeling of at least half of this drivel. Fine. Then I can enjoy the rest of this ill-natured tsbm piece in peace and solitude. The songs could have been more distinctive, but it's not exactly a loss. The album as a whole is a coherent stream of black lava, and that suits me just fine. Rating: 4+
Black Lion Records, 12.06.17
In 1995, two young Norwegians started the band Permafrost as a not too serious symphonic black metal project. Eddie on guitar, and Kjell-Ivar on bass. Both handled vocals. Then, Øyvind joined on keyboard before the band near the end of the nineties changed its name to Ancestral Legacy.
The band gradually expanded the line-up and released a series of demos leading up to the debut in 2005. By then, a gothic slant had become apparent.
In 2010, the original trio founded Legacy of Emptiness as a direct continuation of Permafrost.
The band's self-titled debut was released in 2011, mostly featuring new recordings of former material that had also been featured on the early Ancestral Legacy demo Emptiness (2002). I was not expecting to hear from the band from Arendal in southern Norway again, but fortunately they're back. This time with new material, except for one song from the Permafrost era.
The music is an atmospheric mixture with links to both Summoning and Tartaros. The obvious reference Dimmu Borgir is mentioned with reluctance. Stylistically, common denominators exist, but the similarities are few. That the foundation has elements of black metal doesn't prevent elements of among others dungeon synth from weighing just as heavily. The result is atmospheric and soaring.
Like a faded kingdom, however, the music doesn't appear fully majestic, even though it emanates a somewhat epic ethos, as of mighty untouched nature. The King's castles and its royal estate are sleeping soundly. The kingdom is in hibernation, pending the breaking of the curse. But the air is electric. Magic forces are in motion. The use of banjo in the song Despair, performed by one Geir Emanuelsen, gives the setting a rural touch that underpins my hypothetical scenario. There is, however, no concrete concept on the album.
Although good symphonic orchestration is used, the usage is moderate and muted. The blend of hard riffs, hovering guitars, synthesizers, orchestra, instrumental sequences and vocal part are evenly distributed in well-structured songs with a lot of variety. The music provides a relaxing feeling with a myriad good and dreamy melodies despite rancid vocals that have lost faith in the ability of the throne to restore to its former power and status, accompanied by sharp riffs. Some comfortable cleans also appears from time to time, as in Angelmaker.
Over the Past is an album that requires time and patience to reveal its full potential. As a dragon, the album grows stronger over time. In my opinion, the album is both more clever and better than its predecessor, and the dynamics of both material and sound (DR10) are richer. The recording is mixed and mastered in Unisound Studios by Dan Swanö, who has also put down some nifty guitar work in the last song. Speaking of guests; Jesse Jolly (Promethean Horde) participates with additional vocals on Drawn By Nightmares.
The 48-minute album ends with a renovated version of Evening Star, a song written in the band's first period about 20 years ago. It blends naturally in among the other songs, only to confirm that Legacy of Emptiness has an authentic feel of a genre that resembles black metal's bastard son after black metal having its way, rolling in the hay with the princess one moonlit night. Rating: 5-