Relapse Records, 18.08.17
After pioneers like Death set the bar for a new, more brutal form of extremity with albums towards the end of the eighties, more newcomers soon arrived. Morbid Angel, AutopsyCannibal Corpse, Entombed, Deicide, Obituary and others quickly joined in.
Amongst other Incantation, a band hell-bent on taking the genre in an even darker and more ominous direction.
After 28 years in the game, Incantation has long since become veterans, who with steadfast perseverance continue their ever-downward-spiralling journey into the vortex.
The gloomy, ominous riffs has led the Americans to their eleventh album, Profane Nexus. I presented the band in Norwegian in connection with the previous disc, Dirges of Elysium, three years ago. I haven't been the biggest Incantation-fan, but their form of death metal has become one of my favourites over the years, as disturbing moods very often increase the influence of the music on me.
The impact of Profane Nexus (nexus meaning something like core/center or connection/link/tie) was however not instantaneous on yours truly. Musically, it's of course much the same as before, and the sound sounds just as expected. It can be mentioned that the album is mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö in Unisound Studios, and that the dynamics is measured to a mediocre DR6.
The riffs don't leave the strongest memories in my mind. The music is pumped into one ear. It swirls a around in the barren landscape on the plateau above the abyss of lost and forgotten or repressed recollections. And then it's pushes out through the ravine of the other ear with a whistling sound of an ice cold gale that sends tingles of frost from the neck and down the spine. This shiver is more than likely helped out by the phonetically implanted dystopian visions of the music. It's easy to get a bit jumpy when lively images of purgatory reveal themselves. A striking spectacle of morbid torture, of inevitable suffering, and of a fear and agony worse than death anxiety; A phobic fear of never dying, of never being able to escape.
Then, after one song, the window closes. You come to yourself. Not sure if the diffuse memories are real or not. Clammy of cold sweat, you struggle to remember the details. As you close your eyes, breathe relieved and find out that it must all have been a horrid dream, you are anew thrown into eternal nightmares from the darkest corners of the other side. Eleven times you fall backward into the sonic maelstrom of cursed energies, and eleven times you awake from the nightmare with a scream.
Such is Profane Nexus. Neither particular memorable nor ground-breaking, yet tempting. Incantation has admittedly not delivered an irresistible work, but the album is solid in every way, and fans of their swirling pummelling hell-ride will not regret having bought a ticket. Rating: 4
Soulseller Records, 11.08.17
The black metal scene of Bergen is characterized by diversity, and is in general no stranger to innovation. Gravdal, with over ten years behind them, has in the past dealt with traditional black metal. Seven years after sophomore Torturmantra, time is seemingly ripe for renewal. To achieve this, it's not always necessary to look forward. Sometimes the inspiration might just as well lie latent in the past, in one's own cultural heritage.
I'm fond of genuine traditional black metal, and “losing” a band in favour of changes in musical direction can be woeful...
...even if the sincerity that lies in a band's change of recipe in favour of development in line with authentic artistic integrity is also worthy of respect. Rather that, than a halfhearted, posing act, of course. It also depends on the waters in which the chief mate and his able seaman navigate.
Gravdal was started in 2005 by Phobos, who wanted to express himself via battle-axe after hammering for bands like Aeternus, Gorgoroth and Galar in various settings, along with drummer Taakesjel. Lots of water has flown under the bridge since the previous record, and the rest of the members have been replaced by guitarist Saur (Dominanz) and vocalist/bassist Eld (Aeternus, Viðr, Taake (live)).
Now on to the challenging bit. Trying to explain what strange trek Gravdal has embarked upon after two pure black metal albums. The band has adopted a more alternative style. The music is calmer, more jazzy and progressive, and although it still has a dark whiff of sulphur and a sting of the devil's trident, I'd hesitate to label Kadaverin as black metal. The only proper reference I have is Helheim, who has also embarked on overgrown roads where they mix their alternative musical expressions with regional antiques.
As a hired maritime pilot, Helheim's V'gandr has also composed the lyrics, which are of course performed in local dialect. The whispering character of the vocal wouldn't have fit in as well in ordinary black metal, as it doesn't have the right devilish punch. It nevertheless fits into laid-back and melancholic music with a subtle touch of misanthropy. The songs vary in strength like the wind from the ocean along weatherbeaten areas along the coastline. Some intensity occur, but is quickly absorbed by the all-encompassing gloom.
The album opens with the title track, which has a calm, rolling drive, a lot of bass and a melancholic jazzed'n'bluesy sequence where the trumpet steals the spotlight. It also has parts with a calm, slightly psychedelic black metallic touch that gives some associations to Den Saakaldte. Subsequent Apostler av døden start at the outskirts of black'n'roll landscapes, and eventually change the character in an ambient maneuver to calm, hovering, doomy and atmospheric metal with evocative clean vocals. Diversity lies heavily over Kadaverin, smeared like a thick layer throughout the album. The transition from the much too gentle ballad Eklipse to Roten til all Ondskap that kicks off with fairly full throttle and wailing screams, is simply in excess schizophrenic. The piano and trumpet outro witnesses further more of the dissociative identity disorder the band is suffering from.
Maybe not that strange, as members of Satyricon, Taake, SAHG, The Ruins Of Beverast, Seven Impale and Orkan have performed as guests. Unfortunately, I don't know who has done what or where.
Technically, Gravdal delivers very well and the sound is good. Recording and mixing was done by Lord Bård in Mackwerk studio, and the mastering was performed by Herbrand Larsen in Conclave & Earshot studios.
The material wobbles and splays a bit, and although there are things that swings and things that touch me emotionally, there's also much that pet this werewolf against the hair. Quite a few things just don't feel right, and I don't know what to make of it. Sorry, Gravdal, but you've gone a bit too far this time, laying the schizophrenic diversity on too thick.
The plus behind the rating is given as a bonus for the objective qualities. Rating: 3+
Century Media Records, 11.08.17 The Lurking Fear has taken their name from Lovecraft's short story by the same name, but there's not much that's lurking about their music.
The band consists of veterans in the Swedish metal scene. People who understandably want to avoid the awkward label supergroup. The guys have known each other for decades, and The Lurking Fear as such is a natural alliance.
The band released an EP in May, consisting of three tracks that are also brought on to this first album, to be released shortly.
Cover art and a quick teaser gave hopes of a maelstrom of volcanic proportions. The boys give it all with their death metal, providing adequate firepower, but not exactly the fireworks I was hoping for. Hope is the mother of all traitors, but The Lurking Fear at least doesn't sound like everyone else.
Vocalist Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates), bassist Andreas 'Dread' Axelson (Tormented, ex-Edge of Sanity, ex-Marduk), drummer Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates, The Haunted) and guitarists Jonas Stålhammar (God Macabre, Bombs Of Hades) and Fredrik Wallenberg (Skitsystem) came together in September last year and spent some months shaping eighteen songs, of which an intro and eleven songs were used on Out Of The Voiceless Grave. Everything written from scratch, without using old riffs and ideas left over from their respective bands.
The band has a somewhat district sound. In particular, guitar and vocals differ slightly from much of what I otherwise listen to. The guitar's use of reverb in particular sounds a bit different to what I've come to expect from a death metal outfit. While Tomas's distinctive vocal got a more whiskey-hoarse and bellowing touch. Some of this singular identity may be explained by the fact that the band is not from Stockholm - “Scandinavia's Florida”. These lads hail from Gothenburg, Malmö and other parts of Götaland (southern Sweden). Therein lies also one of the reasons why The Lurking Fear don't appeal completely to me. I belong to those who have never really gotten the hang of At The Gates, and it's natural to draw parallels to that particular band.
Besides some peculiarity in the sound, the expression with some exceptions is quite straightforward. Some songs have inserted sequences that add a little extra. The atmosphere of the moody parts found in songs like Vortex Spawn, The Infernal Dread, Teeth of the Dark Plains and Winged Death doesn't stand out significantly in the bigger picture, but contributes to some welcome variety. The last minute of Upon Black Winds and the atmospheric expression of Beneath Menacing Sands must be highlighted in particular. Otherwise, the material doesn't offer the biggest surprises. The tracks are mostly short, with less than four minutes on average, and often don't have time for much more than hammering away in a torrent, a slow and moody sequence and a fast and succinct solo like a mini signature in the corner.
I note that others prize Out Of The Voiceless Graves. To me, the majority of the music is not worth much more than II points, but I'm giving a bit of bonus for the enjoyable atmospheric sequences and slightly distinctive sound. That metallic taste is so splayed and diverse is also the reason why metalheads with individual tastes should never depend on the rating itself, but rather listen and make up their own opinion. And that's what I encourage you to do.
The Slaughter of the Soul congregation can probably act blindly and invest. Rating: 3
Independent, 23.06.17 Ancalagon, like four other metal bands, has taken their name from the dragon Ancalagon the Black, bred by Morgoth (aka Melkor), during the First Age of Middle-earth according to Tolkien's book The Silmarillion.
If the name don't stand out all that much, at least Ancalagon differs from most ofeverything I've heard of metal from New York. Admittedly, the band doesn't hail from the core of the rotten apple, but from Rochester, a small town in the state of New York, next to Lake Ontario and close to the Canadian border. As such, they're closer to Toronto than The Big Apple.
And just to point it out: the cover is fairly misleading.
The band plays melodic black metal of a relatively gentle, but not too mild type. They seem to be influenced by the Scandinavian scene, among other sources of inspiration, but they don't attempt to compete in terms of pure evil. They rather incorporate a strong melodic character and end up with an enjoyable melodic offshoot that should be able to appeal to fans of “melody-riddled” acts like Dissection and other fairly related sub-genres like Viking and Sognametal (Windir et al.). Ancalagon can remind a bit of the former in expression, but they also have their differences. For an example of both great guitars and lively bass lines, check out the song Inhabitant.
There's not too many extreme metal bands that to this degrees place the melody in the driver's seat. Of course it's a good thing that not all metal is similar. Metallic diversity provides a diverse fauna that helps prevent implosion due to stagnation. But that's a digression.
The band doesn't blend in any distinct Norse aspects, though. They rather provide universal melodies, at times with a stronger Egyptological or Mesopotamic twist, especially evident in Ancient Worm. It wouldn't surprise me if the band, consciously or not, has gained some inspiration from classical music too. The most intricate melodies move like a Chinese dragon in a waltz-pace within a psychedelic dream, without the music becoming completely Arcturus.
The sound, by the way, has an honest organic (albeit not very dynamic) feel, and basically feels flattering.
The band's two guitars are, of course, the aspect that excels the most. The end of lovely Morlock Whip, for instance, shows cooler heavy metal twin guitars than anything else this side of the millennium. Or at least that's how it feels. My biggest personal appeal is the main vocal, which becomes somewhat bright/pitched and rather unvaried. The entirety could have been a bit more... coherent, with stronger structures and a tad more memorable melodies, but that's practically just nitpicking.
Gateway Specter is quite impressive from a fresh band consisting of five man without resumes to show for. It should also be said that there are brilliant sequences scattered like peas under the kitchen table, and that it has taken quite some time to reach a final conclusion. Gateway Specter is like someone with a complex personality that it takes time to get to know. The album needs to be heard quite a few times before all melodies, riffs and changing rhythms become familiar and form a lasting bond. A solid debut always bode well for the continuation, and I'm excited to hear where the band goes from here on. Rating: 4+
Purchasing of digital format, as usual, is done by clicking on the BC logo below.
To get your physical copy, get in touch with Ancalagon.
Pulverised Records, 23.06.17
With infamous Kam Lee as frontman, notorious from death metal bands like Mantas/Death, Massacre and The Grotesquery, I expected another round of lethality by ways of yore. It turns out, however, that Akatharta is a project with quite a different agenda.
The band was founded under the moniker Urizen in 1999, but changed its name a few years later.
Members have come and gone, and nothing has been released until now.
Kam Lees vision for Akatharta is to recreate a nightmarish dreamchild of his darkest imagination through music. This by summoning the ultimate paranormal feeling of dread and doom of the grave and beyond. In order to achieve his goal, he has, along with a few other guys, used droning funeral death/doom as a tool. The music, however, is closer to sluggish, heavy doom with plenty of distortion. It is tryingly, yet somewhat tentatively ominous. Alas not as horrifying as for example Akhlys, Terra Tenebrosa or the collaboration between Dragged Into Sunlight and Gnaw Their Tongues. The music of Spiritus Immundus is to some extent atmospheric, but also quite monotonous, making the almost an hour long album more of an ordeal than a pleasure.
There's some variation across the songs, but with few exceptions, no riff has the ability to stick. This makes the album a bit anonymous. Samples of allegedly authentic electronic voice phenomenons, by some interpreted as spiritual voices from the hereafter, doesn't make the neck hairs stand on end on this sceptic either. The album ends with a fairly unnecessary cover of Celtic Frost's Dethroned Emperor, but at least the band transforms the song into their own expression. I'll give 'em that.
The album does not open too bad. The first two songs both have something going for them. However, it soon becomes clear that the material generally becomes terribly similar-sounding, which leaves me rather indifferent. It picks up slightly towards the end, though. Possessione Diabolica has its sequences, while especially Pneumata shows off nifty mood-filled guitar works.
I've given Spiritus Immundus many a spin. The expression ain't bad, but the implementation nonetheless largely becomes a relatively anaemic version of Triptykon in the long run. I eventually end up being more fatigued than impressed. I'm a wee bit strict now, for Akatharta is basically alright, and at its best, it's quite listenable, but the disc is definitely not spectacular, and purely subjectively, I'm left rather disappointed. The album can still be listened to without feeling agony. Therefore 3 points, and not lower. Rating: 3-