Svart Records, 13.10.17
No matter whether music is pitch black, depressive, hateful or gloomy, it can be hard to judge exactly how deep the intentions in reality go - how heartfelt its respective emotions and words are.
In the case of Hallatar, this uncertainty is absent. Swallow the Sun's Juha Raivio lost his life partner last year. Aleah Starbridge, who played with her husband in Trees of Eternity, passed away on April 18th 2016, and No Stars Upon The Bridge is a eulogy written by Juha in sorrow and loss, in memory of his deceased loved one.
Juha started gathering poetry written by Aleah to safeguard and keep these dear memories close to heart after what he describes as the blackest day of his life. A day when the world as he knew it collapsed. One month after this fateful day, Juha decided to pick up the guitar in order not to break down completely. After a week that in retrospect stood as a blurred fog only, all compositions for No Stars Upon The Bridge was completed. Juha chose to keep the music as it was, as a moment frozen in time, without further compositional rework.
The hapless widower takes on the duty of strings and keys. When asking his friends and fellow musicians Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) and Gas Lipstick (ex-HIM) if they could assist on vocals and drums respectively, both gave their unconditional yes without thinking time or having heard a single note of the finished song material.
The music is, of course, of the saddened and tear-dripping kind that in bitter agony shouts “WHY?” toward the rainy sky without getting an answer. The first song Mirrors can remind somewhat of My Dying Bride, while the rest of the music naturally is sort of related to bands like Mourning Beloveth, Novembers Doom, Doom:VS and the likes, although Hallatar is not the heaviest member in the class.
Only a proficient songwriter would be able to compose such good material in such a short period of time. In addition to slow, deeply mournful death/doom with elements of desperate aggressive anger, we find sequences with poems written by the late Aleah. These are read by Heike Langhans (Draconian), who also sing on the song My Mistake.
Not just poetry but indeed all the lyrics are written by Aleah Starbridge, and existing recordings of her has been used so that she, with her angelic voice, could participates on the album herself, on the final song Dreams Burn Down. Those who have heard Amorphis' latest work, Under the Red Cloud, or any of the last three albums by Swallow the Sun, may have taken notice of her fair voice.
No Stars Upon The Bridge is a wistful piece of music that conveys genuine feelings of sorrow, loss, pain and emptiness. The uncalled-for needlessness and unfairness in the deprivation of someone held near and dear, when life's autumn arrives already in springtime, is a heavy burden to bear. Juha Raivio has transformed these painful feelings into a beautiful piece of musical tristesse. Rating: 4+
EDIT 22.10.17: See the video for the song My Mistake as well.
Avantgarde Music, 03.10.17
Last year, I missed out on the first part, I - Dark Dragons of the Cosmos. That must be said about most of Battle Dagorath's discography. Five full-lengths and a split, this album included, that is.
I've heard the second album, Ancient Wraith, but I can't brag of having any real knowledge of the band. Battle Dagorath was started by American Black Sorcerer Battle in 2002, and has had varying line-up through the years. On this and the previous record, the band has worked as a duo...
...with BSB handling everything besides keyboard, which has been left to Vinterriket (Scandinavian for Winter Kingdom), a German residing in Switzerland.
Battle Dagorath performs a rather intense variety of atmospheric black metal. At least this time around. II - The Frozen Light of Eternal Darkness has an ethereal feel that smells of spirituality. The mood of the music nevertheless rest more in between intergalactic waters and the astral plane than in the ceremonial corner. As in the case of Raventale, a sense of sadness lies heavily around the axis of music.
The music moves slowly. Riffs changes glidingly, as in slow, viscous lava. Still, the percussion gives a sense of supersonic speed through outer space. It's not easy to determine what pace is an illusion or what is reality in these alien waters.
The somewhat sharp, but also high pitched guitar tones, and the angered rhythm create said intensity, despite a soaring epic spirit and the slow-moving volatility of the music. Also rasping vocals, rough enough to scratch the skin of the knuckles of those who dare get close, help strengthen the music's ostentatious power.
I have to admit that a certain scepticism was present during the first listen, especially through the first half of this work. II - Frozen Light of Eternal Darkness also provide a lot to digest. In addition to a short intro, we find six songs of about 10 minutes each, and one that is twice as long. The band thus fills the CD's playing time to the bursting point. Some of the material exudes a mighty, magnificent aura. Especially the 19-minutes long Cast Their Ashes to the North Wind takes me away to unexplored dimensions. Unfortunately, the sound changes a bit and not all the material reaches the same high level. The last hour therefore mostly remain my favourite.
After all, said scepticism was basically wiped away relatively quickly when furious tones drilled into the soul via headphones and appropriate volume. The flaming nature of the music, its extraterrestrial essence, and its cutting thorns, cling on and gradually fastens its meat hooks in soft tissue. Despite a bit of exaggerated duration and some other nitpicking, the lasting impression is largely good, for the music's dreamy loathing and wrath is pleasant and quite mesmeric. Rating: 4+
Ashen Dominion, 05.10.17
We took a quick trip by Raventale and their teaser for the album Planetarium via the single New World Planetarium some three months ago. The album is long since released, and so it's about time we take a closer look at how the overall release sounds. Planetarium is the eighth full-length of Ukrainian Raventale, an atmospheric black metal one-man band with 12 years of experience.
Except from on the sophomore album, Astaroth has admittedly left the vocal commitments to others.
Atmospheric black metal is a genre I've generally grown a bit tired of, and Planetarium is possibly closer to the genre's distilled core than what Raventale has mostly been up to. Fortunately, however, there are still a few acts able to develop enough mood and dynamics in the material to create immersion even for demanding sceptics. Raventale has grown with the task and knows how to please the listener with resounding hypnotism. The previous record, Dark Substance of Dharma received its approval, albeit with some remarks, a couple of years ago.
The single track New World Planetarium finishes off this 39-minute work, although the version we find on this disc differs slightly from the single version. The soundscape has been processed further and an outro sequence of almost two minutes has been added. Before this we find three songs, of which the first song Gemini - Behind Two Black Moons is the shortest one. In excess of six minutes is abundant in most contexts, but seems almost short and succinct under these conditions. The song drips of ethereal melancholy, where the mood indicates that intergalactic loneliness is about to drive someone from their mind. A sense of troubled restlessness, of despair that tear and rip at a lost soul, persists as the interplanetary void is penetrated throughout the album without any signs of life suitable for social interaction.
Bringer Of Celestial Anomalies and At The Halls Of The Pleiades both lasts for about 10½ minutes. Infuriated but melancholic guitars are mixed with drums that pound in a rage to overcome and rid off their bottled up frustration. At the same time, the songs are draped in a suitably subtle use of synth. As on four previous albums, Astaroth has again persuaded his colleague Athamas from Balfor to growl his ill-tempered profanities in deep resentment.
Parts of the secret to Raventale's success, the way I see it, is the band's ability to convey a hybrid of atmospheric sadness and charcoal blackness without letting the mourning reduce it to a monotonous porridge of post-metallic whining. Raventale has, at least in my mind, to some extent been associated with same-sounding songs and at times repetition, but in the case of Planetarium, I think the balance between elongated mood-sceneries and variation works very well. The disc also appeals a lot more than what Dark Substance of Dharma did.
Raventale are blacker round the edges than bands like Monolithe and Below The Sun, but their interstellar approach on Planetarium is probably recommendable to fans of both calm and atmospheric pagan as well as devotees to heavy and gloomy funeral doom. Rating: 5
One winter day in early 2015, in Gjøvik - some 100 km north of Oslo - a guy named Håvard Lunde decided to start his own band, which he named Moonscape.
Now, some thirty lunar phases later, the complex and elaborate first-album titled Entity is finally finished.
The music is versatile, but can safely be placed in progressive landscapes.
The album is a concept and the guest list is long and impressive.
The story focus on a man who no longer can stand reality, and who chose to shut his eyes and shut the world out, only to encounter his own demons from the past. This man is personified through Matthew Brown's (Arkhane) clean vocal lines, while the demonic voice of the past is growled by Kent Are Sommerseth (Unspoken). On the outside of his closed realm, we find the man's father, portrayed with a somewhat deeper clean vocal by Jim Brunaud (The Gaemeth Project), representing a glimpse of reality that seems, to some extent, to penetrate into his subconscious.
Håvard has been inspired by as diverse acts as Edge of Sanity, Entombed, Ayreon and Opeth, as well as a variety of progressive rock from the 70's. Thereof, Yes and Genesis are mentioned as examples. It's notable that the scope of Mr. Lunde's taste is wide, for the music alternates between different styles. Everything from jazz to extreme metal is represented, but the flow feels natural and the transitions are good. During the clean vocal sequences, the music might get a vibe of power metal, though not too much.
The material is well composed and structured. The expression is rather gentle, but not too mild. Håvard handles most instruments, but as mentioned, he has received help from almost a dozen musicians in addition to vocal contributions. The list is too long to reel of, but those with a nerdy interest can find a complete list by clicking on the heading and then on Lineup on Metal Archives.
The forty minutes that Entity lasts for, is assembled into a cantata of multiple movements. On the CD, the album is presented as a single continuous track. The digital version, however, is divided into nine tracks. The album has good sound and impressive dynamics on as much as DR10, and can all in all be called an impressive debut. Rating: 4+