Transcending Obscurity India, 30.10.17
Indian Fragarak delivers a work of epic proportions with their second album, A Spectral Oblivion.
Especially if you thought Domgård's Ödelagt was time consuming.
The quartet does not serve up more than eleven songs, but when several of them pass the ten minute mark, the duration exceeds the maximum capacity of a CD. The Indians offers no less than 84 minutes of proggy melodic extreme metal. But as long as the quality is good and the material is varied, they manage the feat of keeping the listeners attention without much difficulty.
The Indians play a form of death metal with lots of emphasis on melodies and guitar works. Influences from black metal are also present, but what primarily characterizes the music is its progressive structured nature. Fragarak avoids the most jazzed prog-tendencies with its apparently random rhythmic changes and haphazard melodic antics. The songs' development has at all times got a comfortable and natural flow, although the songs change character through countless transitions. The album is also a concept album, revolving around a lunatic and his psychotic and paranoid visions.
The four members have surprisingly and impressively apparently no previous merits to show for. On A Spectral Oblivion, the drums are left to Louis Rando, also known as Dizazter of Singaporean Impiety.
The compositions feel clever. The lads flair for good melodies and massive variation via sliding transitions, along with good instrumentation, good sound and various types of well-performed vocals from three of the members, makes A Spectral Oblivion a release I'd easily recommend you to check out. Despite the fact that I haven't heard the album more than five to six times. This is due to the ambitious duration of this digital release.
It feels as if the disc has been spinning on repeat for ever so long, and I can feel the songs sprout and grow. They've begun getting their claws in, and begin to root in the cortex, but it takes time. A lot of time. With twice as long playing time as the debut, A Spectral Oblivion is clearly far too long. The music is good, but the length undeniably becomes an objection. Although I can't say much about growth potential or durability, I've begun to sense the former, while my gut feeling has good faith in the latter.
As such, I should strictly speaking have settled with an Impression. Nevertheless, the music is perceived as very good, despite its somewhat preliminary rootless distance, and I've gradually become confident in its qualities. This massive work may not be entirely on level with mighty Hidden in the Fog, but fans of the Germans should definitely also check out Fragarak. I'm left with a very good impression, but please take the rating with a pinch of salt, and listen for yourself if this genre entice you. Rating: 4+
Carnal Records, 01.12.17 Domgård has 20 years under the belt, but fear not if you can't recollect that long a relationship with them. After the first half of the career, the Swedes only had a single demo to show for, and all three full-lengths, including this one, have been unleashed this very decade.
I've encountered the two previous albums, even though I haven't listened to them enough. None of them, however, impressed me quite as much as Ödelagt (meaning Destroyed). Nifelhels Skygd (2010) had a whiff of fresh meat combined with new blood, and the sound on Myrkviðr (2012) wasn't exactly optimal.
Domgård came together in October 1997. In 2000, the band was forced into an involuntarily hiatus when three of the members were convicted and sentenced for church arson. After some years behind bars, the demo Blodskald was released in 2004. After various dropouts and replacements, Vindkall was the only remaining original member when the debut album was finally released. Guitarist, vocalist and keyboardist Vindkall and drummer plus vocal contributor Hrimner, are the only two who have now participated on all albums. These two of four current members also play in Nox Aurea, another band that has excelled a whole lot in the current millennium in my ears. Thus far, that band hasn't been more active than Domgård prior to Ödelagt, and their current status is uncertain. Musical links to Nox Aurea's exceptionally atmospheric nature are palpable in the thick atmosphere we find in the midst of black metal from Scandinavian forest on this here release.
Many are they who produce smouldering hatred and antagonistic disgust, or primitive rawness, but not everyone radiate the intrinsic nihilism of xenophobic fury that you might expect from shady trolls, goblins and stranger creatures dwelling in dense, old-growth forests. Here we encounter primal human-hating malevolence from Swedish devil-trolls, inhabiting the raw, damp and chilling caves of the mountains. In addition to a gloomy atmosphere, I get some of the same bewitching feeling of deranged, warped, hysterical and belligerent witchcraft that I got from Grafvitnir.
The biggest problem with Ödelagt is the playing time. One can always argue that almost an hour and a quarter gives plenty of bang for the buck, but in my opinion, albums are best enjoyed in its entirety, and life doesn't always leave that kind of vacant space in between its infinite series of unfortunate events.
Some lard could and should have been trimmed. The intro Niþanvarþa, the song Grottkvinnans Hemlighet and the oversize outro Ødhe Vi could have been sacrificed, and the duration would have been reduced to somewhat more surmountable 60 minutes. However, there's no immediate obvious answer to what else could have been cropped, for the quality is generally very good and stable. You won't find no truly inferior songs or sequences. Nuances eventually separate the wheat from the chaff, and the best 40-50 minutes alone would have led to a higher rankings. It would probably have been favourable to have some of the material released on a separate EP in advance, but we're all caught in our common perception of time, thus that observation becomes fairly redundant at this point.
Musically, aggressive anger and hostility from the impish beasts of the underworld is mixed with hypnotic melancholy from unspoiled nature wrapped in ghoulish mist. Out of this cauldron flows black magic that is hard to resist. And who, besides pietists morbidly obsessed with obsolete cultural values, would ever argue that temptations should be resisted? Ödelagt fascinates all the more with a bit of punch from the speakers, so crank it up a notch. Rating: 4+
Svartdjupets Lockelse has become something of a favourite, but the three songs Töckenhöljt, Kynjagaldr and in particular Ödelagt also does the trick as pre-listening.
Sliptrick Records, 17.11.17
If anyone can revitalize classical heavy metal, and reset it to its heyday about 30-35 years of age, it must be the Swedes. No one tries harder than the Swedes to safeguard hairy 'n' hard metal of yore.
Fuck, and Fuck alone, knows exactly where this constellation hails from, and who makes up the membership. The band prefers to let the music speak for itself.
In any case, the band does do a good job as ambassador, or perhaps conserving antiquarian, for the eldest metal expression: classic and timeless Heavy Metal.
My love for the genre has probably died out a bit over the years. In the early nineties, after a few years of restlessness, Heavy Metal went out to buy cigarettes. Heavy Metal never came back. When Heavy Metal knocks on the door in its ordinary unaffected and nonchalant manner after all these years, it is apparently with unreasonably high expectations of being meet with the same eager as before. So, Heavy Metal... Where the fuck have you been all these years?
Poison Pill can hardly be blamed. Poison Pill has, on the contrary, brought Heavy Metal back from induced coma. But the mood is somewhat stifled. Have I lost my feelings for the genre in its absence? Would it have happen anyway? Or is Poison Pill just not on par with the favourites of the 80's? The Swedes deliver authentic goods, but this work is probably no timeless classic, and for whatever reason, classic heavy metal may just have lost some of its former glow of glory.
And also, Accept has never been my biggest favourite, although a few albums were embraced about 25 years ago, and if there's someone Poison Pill sounds like, it's the German veterans. There are two vocal styles here. The somewhat more rough, yet more ordinary, and the Udo-vocals. The latter is sometimes surprisingly similar to the original, without necessarily raising a suspicion of attempted imitation.
Associations to a few other bands also appear at times. In Redeye, we stay in Germany as we move over to Helloween, complete with those nifty duelling twins, while Terminal Limit provides an almost believable illusion of being teleported to Britain, and Judas Priest. Between these, the song Poison Pill show up. This sounds surprisingly punkish, a bit like NOFX. In spite of the fact that this is both title track and self-titled song, which is kind of equivalent with “signature song” (or tentatively so), this one does not fit in entirely. The guitar solo is killer, though.
Not everything on the self-titled disc is on par, unfortunately, and in general, I miss a bit stronger melodies in what is a varied material where the songs are blessed with proper identity that separates them from each other. Better and longer solos is also a wish, despite a number of already burning shredding licks. I know I'm acting like a spoiled brat now, but after all, I'm brought up on the cream of classical metal. 'n' for the record, I do enjoy Poison Pill although I bitch a lot!
Fans of good old heavy metal, and Accept/Udo in particular, should obviously check out Poison Pill. Rating: 4