Agonia Records, 30.06.17
Three years ago, give or take just a few days , the Americans in Origin released their sixth full length, Omnipresent. Time is now ripe for a new round of sonic beating with death as result.
Origin plays brutal death metal of the technically competent variety, where supersonic riffing and hyperbeats are accompanied by playful technical details and clever variation.
Unparalleled Universe doesn't feel quite as heavy as Omnipresent. The music is still freaking fast and extreme, but it may be a bit lighter on its feet. Chaotic pitched guitar scales bounce around like the Gummi Bears on a trampoline. Riffs and vocal, on the other hand, flow loud and dark out of the ajar trapdoor to the basement. And the drums crackle like a bunch of rattlesnakes between pots and pans in the kitchen cabinet. If you feel familiar with the description, you need to get something done to your house.
Unlike traditional brutal death metal, which tend to prioritize raw aggression over content and distinctive ideas, Origin offers a lot of substance and variety. Constant rhythmic transitions and rifforamic fineness, along with strange bass scales and roars and screeches in a hysteric pace, make Unparalleled Universe a barbaric rabid universe beyond compare. The entertainment value is about as good as the genre can become without resorting to a more melodic approach.
After Unequivocal, a mammoth of a song on ten minutes, consisting of surprisingly frisky, almost beautiful and atmospheric guitar works, the band round off with Revolucion, a thundering kick-ass cover of utter insane Brujeria.
The expression is a stereophonic chain collision, the sound is like a fist in the face and the force is like an anvil dropped on the head. The band have employed the same men on the production side as on the previous album, including Gorguts bassist Colin Marston for mastering. The sound is more or less as good as on Omnipresent, but the dynamic range has been raised from DR7 to DR9 since then, which gives a more natural difference between the amount of punch the listener at any times is subjected to. The only sound aspect I'm not too excited about is the drum sound, which is quite plastic.
The album ain't necessarily better than its predecessor, which probably deserved a bit more than the four points I gave it. Both are tougher than the train and full of hooks. If brutal fatality is your thing, you can't get around Unparalleled Universe, and if it isn't, you should still give it a chance or three. On high volume, of course. A more thorough explanation is unnecessary. Words fall short. Turn up the volume and let the madness speak for itself. Rating: 5-
Throughout 25 years, Black Messiah have gradually developed their pagan metal, now presenting its sixth and most classy album to date.
I haven't heard the German's first album, and the two consecutive releases wasn't all that much to write home about, even though they offered listenable blackened symphonic folk/viking.
With their fourth album, the expression had become more refined, while album number five offered on better compositions.
This promising progress was, however, broken with Heimweh (2013), whose material was almost as prosaic as the cover art, with sound wrapped in wadding. Thus I actually disapproved of it in an early Norwegian Impression.
The band's music has always circled around melodic pagan black metal with suiting elements of folk tunes and orchestral instrumentation. On Walls Of Vanaheim, which continues a concept started on First War Of The World, all these elements meet in a pagan waltz with epic overtones of power metal.
Six of the album tracks, as well as a sequence in the epilogue, are monologues where a narrator supported by samplers and sound effects tells the main features of the story of the murder of the jötunn Mimir, and how this leads to Odin gathering the Æsirs in Valhalla to war against the Vanir of Vanaheimr. These segments make up 12 of a total of 72 minutes. You have probably already formed an opinion as to how fun all this storytelling will be in the long run. But if you're familiar with First War..., at least you know what you have in store. Thus the two albums retell the mythological story of the Æsir–Vanir War. Tom Zahner, a German actor who's done voice-over for a number of cartoons, video games, et al., has done a great job breathing life and dramaturgy into the concept.
It looks as if most members have been replaced, but what is now a sextet is as always led by Zagan, who in addition to vocals also handles one of a total of three guitars, as well as acoustic guitar. Quite unusually, the band's violin virtuoso ain't a dedicated violinist who solely lures serene tones out of his Stradivarius. Zagan handles the fiddle himself, and that in an entirely spectacular fashion. The fiddling alone actually raise the impression significantly.
The memorability and recognisability of the various songs, as well as their ability to captivate, vary among these very melodic compositions, but none of the nine proper songs are weak. On the contrary, we find some unrivalled moments on this theatrical work. In this respect, the material is in the top echelon of what Black Messiah have crafted through their discography. The sound is also clear and full of punch. In fact, the wall of sound almost has a bit too much force, as the dynamics are weak, but I'll look the other way on this issue as it doesn't affect the overall impression too much.
Among lots of good music there's a few amazing song that stands out as veritable festivities in the ears. Among the good I can mention Satisfaction and Revenge's light-hearted tones, Mit Blitz und Donner's galloping nightfall, A Feast of Unity's threatening waltz rhythms and the grandiose ending with Epilogue: Farewell. My absolute favourites however, are without a doubt Mime's Tod and The Walls of Vanaheim, where cheerful tones from superb instrumentation led by the violin meets relentlessly enraged vocals in exquisite contrast. Thus far there's no preview available, but hopefully I'll be able to share some of these gems with you when the album is released on Friday.
Be back then. And bring popcorn. Rating: 4+
EDIT 30.06.17: Sorry about the delay. It's been a busy day and it's been, and still is, a lovely sunny day where I live. And neither beer cans nor wine cartons are going to drink themselves. Someone has to make a fucking effort.
As promised; Here's a video. Behold the making of the still unpublished video for The Walls Of Vanaheim as well.
Napalm Records, 30.06.17
Having left earthly nature in favour of the stars, taking a closer look at the universe through a technical approaches to progressive Sci-Fi related metal, before anew approaching Mother Earth through three of the four elements, Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund has now returned to the nature from which he once came and made his entrance. The circle is complete. Andreas didn't intentionally set forth on creating a sequel, but when natural inspiration led him back to wild nature and rugged terrain under snowy peaks, he simply followed his heart and the call of the grey summits.
Under normal circumstances, it's normal to compare a new work to the previous one. In this case, it feels more natural to compare with the original, Till Fjälls (1998). However, to compare quickly with Naturbål (2014), it feels in many ways as if Vintersorg has come home this time. Naturbål was good, but the folk-tuned melodies we find here, simply areVintersorg.
Comparing objectively with Till Fjälls (meaning To the Mountains) isn't entirely easy. Long time fans of the debut through almost two decades have their own irreplaceable relationship with it, and Del II (Part II) will never take over the throne. This year's album nevertheless follows in its ancestor's spiritual footsteps, and Del II of course sounds more professionally conducted. Newer fans may even put the prince above the king on the hill.
Discussing each of the nine new songs (and four elder that we'll return to) would be rather excessive, but let me at least mention a few. The album opens with melodic black elements before the melodies reveal majestic nature and a mighty calving glacier threatened by climate changes. Jökelväktaren (The Glacier Guardian) is a loosely based sequel to the song Jökeln (The Glacier), and contains plenty of melodic folklore, while the next song with becoming orchestral spices also has themes relating to ice and snow.
After tumbling down the hillside in the avalanche called Lavin (Snow/Landslide), Fjällets mäktiga mur (The mountain's mighty brick-wall) follows as a sequel to the title song from the debut. Vinterstorm (Winter storm) must also be mentioned. After a bit of orchestral drama à la Grieg, a storm is brewing, blowing up to epic proportions with solid folk tunes in the gusts. As in many other cases, this looks promising for those who enjoy a good Swedish sing-along in the refrain.
During the formation of the band, some 11 years ago, in the transition from the band Vargatron to Vintersorg, the EP Hedniskhjärtad was written. A number of other songs and ideas were composed during the same period, without getting past the writing phase. Andreas came across an old recordable tape labelled “Vargatron rehearsal” in the basement and found that the time was adequate to wipe dust off these songs. The raw material was reworked and recorded as a bonus EP titled Tillbaka till källorna (Back to the sources). While Till Fjälls del II lasts for about 50 minutes, the EP clocks in approximately 25 minutes. Ergo, we're served a lavish meal this time.
From the beginning, this was a one-man band, but guitarist Mattias Marklund entered the band for the third album, and the crew has since been stable. Vintersorg has never had a drummer as far as I know. The drums have primarily been programmed by Andreas who has also handled bass, keyboards and extra guitar in addition to his acclaimed vocals, of course. Simon Lundström who did session-bass on Naturbål (Nature-camp/bonfire) is now a permanent member. It can also be mentioned that Cia who sang a bit on the debut also adds some vocals to the song Vårflod (Springtime flood, or Freshet).
I've always considered Ödemarkens son (Son of the Wilderness) (1999) to be a very worthy sequel to the debut, and with Till Fjälls del II, you could almost say that Vintersorg has created a folk-metal trilogy. Weighing these albums against each other and ranking them is not only a difficult job, but also a most unnecessary task. If you like one of them, you're quite likely to enjoy 'em all. With such a melodic expression, single songs will always stand out and excel so that all albums achieve some favourite sequences.
That said, I can't say that Del II will knock out Till Fjälls, or my personal favourite, Ödemarkens son. (Yes, it seems I'm a deviant.) Del II contains some segments that don't appeal and impress equally much, but it also has several tall peaks of nifty metal with a precious spirit of wilderness from the woodlands together with more harsh moods of relentless cliffs and thickets of thornbushes in more inhospitable, cold and deserted regions. We better give this one nearly 20 years to mature, too.
There might be some excitement associated with where on earth (or beyond) Vintersorg will venture after this. Will there be more folk? Will an album with a theme revolving around water see the light of the day so to complete the tetralogy of the four elements? And just where the hell is the new album from the side-project Otyg, where both Andreas, Mattias and Cia are involved? It was announced that it was written three years ago, Andreas. Well, at least we've got a solid dose of great folk metal on the best Vintersorg record since the first two. Thus, I'm not complaining. Rating: 5-