Terror From Hell Records, 13.01.18
Twenty years ago, Italian Abysmal Grief released its first demo. The voyage became successful, the band made a name for themselves, and now they've released almost as many releases as active years - if counting the lot. Of these, Blasphema Secta is full-length number five.
My relationship with traditional doom metal is pretty much limited to Black Sabbath. I have therefore only run into Abysmal Grief in connection with a split with Danish Denial of God, just over eight years ago. And that encounter didn't leave a big taste for more.
The press release refers to Blasphema Secta as the band's most sinister album to date. I can't comment on that. But an impiously joyous, malignant haunted mood does prevail. Something that is made clear already in the intro with the telling title The Occult Lore.
The album's first and longest song Behold the Corpse Revived, opens with ominous violin. These synthetic strings sets a gloomy, heavy death/doom mood, even though the music ain't as leaden as the deadly sort; the bastard genre that put a mutual human face on death and doom. The exceptionally appropriate use of keyboard soon enough draw in an atmosphere of the barking mad professor who wants to lay the world in ruins. The brilliant, alas diabolical and utterly deranged genius, has constructed a ground-breaking weapons of mass destruction in his castle in the mountainside of the Alps. And he celebrates by playing in a demonic manner on his oversized pipe organ.
The journey proceeds through an apparently deserted fairground, closed down or abandoned in a hurry, only to become forgotten in a overgrown part of a forbidden area on the outskirts of town. Here's where the murderous clown reside, and he's anew ready to spread his cheerful, blood-dripping antics. The 51 minute odyssey also brings us to occult ceremonies. I wonder if most of what we “experience” isn't simply caused by the psychoactive substances in the welcome drink, handed out before the commence of this ritual seance, this satanic masquerade.
Four out of six tracks on Blasphema Secta lasts for around nine minutes each, something that forces the album's duration up to a total of 51 minutes. The album is equipped with an out-of-the-ordinary thick mood, which means that even someone who doesn't normally lend their ear to the genre, can find quite a bit to sink their teeth into and revel in. The dim use of lugubrious keyboard, performed by vocalist Labes C. Necrothytus, must in particular get its share of credit for such a sensational result.
His devilish vocal is also of significant help to someone who usually thrives in a more extreme metallic environment. Particularly in the song Witchlord, where parts of the vocal act as a bloodthirsty vampire in a manner that far exceeds the genre's conventional lack of raw vocals. He isn't entirely alone on providing vocals, however, but hell knows who else is contributing.
With Blasphema Secta, Abysmal Grief deliver a extremely pleasing blend of creepy doom, brewed with obscene witchcraft in a pitch black cauldron. Rating: 4+
Independent, 21.12.17 Euclidean from Switzerland plays a form of relaxing melancholic sludgy post-black that appeals more than the designation would suggest.
The band was started in 2010 and has had a rather stable line-up. None of the members of the quartet seem to have any previous significant band experience, but impressively enough, neither that nor the fact that this is a debut, is in any way apparent based on the music and sound on Quod Erat Faciendum.
This is by the way not a promo, but a web-based discovery. I'll make a quick presentation.
Quod Erat Faciendum goes on and on. A small majority of the eight songs settle for an average of six minutes. There's no stopping the three remainders, however, until they've reached more than twice the duration. In total, the album lasts for 74 minutes. That's not a major problem this time around, though.
The music moves through barren and rocky nature, poor in vegetation, but rich in terrain. The music does not offer lavish transitions, but floats calmly like a ghost ship in the fog. It nevertheless has a subtle portion of progressive means that contribute to comfortable flow. A persistent feeling of bitterness and isolation does not let go as long as the hypnotic effect remains.
I'm not going to say a whole lot more. Rather than (force-)feeding you my leading rhetoric, I recommend that you, on occasion, set aside the time needed to hear Quod Erat Faciendum in its entirety. If dreamy, doomy misery with black atmosphere sounds appealing, that is. This comfortable, well-constructed and gorgeously performed debut is available for an optional price on Bandcamp. Rating: 5-
Folter Records, 15.12.17
Once again a new entity creeps out of the shadows. Halphas comes from Mainz in Germany and was launched in 2014. The band was founded as a quartet by, among others, drummer Tempestas, aka Skullsplitter, from Nocturnal and Cross Vault et al. In 2015, the demo Demo 2015 was released, and in 2016 the quartet became a quintet. Halphas plays black metal.
The otherwise nifty cover art as such becomes rather misleading. It might reflect the lyrical content better, as the band does not preach the orthodox doctrine.
Some don't recognize a form of metal as true black metal without them stating their loyalty to the anti-Christian view on life. With lyrics about death, hatred, pain and the dark desires of the ego, the band can nevertheless be said to be devoted to a number of typical satanic values.
The music also consists of straight-out uncompromising black metal. With a dash of melody, that is. The black tremolo riffs are shot from the hip. The drums crackles and thunder away with qualitative control and variety. Vocalist Legatus screams till vacuum occurs in the lungs. The artistic immersion within this bloodthirsty ensemble is almost tangible. The force is strong with these Sith lords. Too cheesy? Sorry.
The material comes with devilish attitude, rolling rhythms and epic flair, and keeps the listener's attention through almost 50 minutes without apparent effort. The expression ranges from suggestive mid-tempo drive à la Immortal, to aggressive speed devils like Marduk. Without further comparison.
Halphas doesn't deliver enormously original material, but they deliver vigorous quality with zest. That I don't perceive the music as directly memorable, is likely due to my own saturated brain with outdated memory technology. For this is tough as a nail. If the album ain't remembered all that much, it still does the trick and then some while threatening to generate overheating in the electronic circuits of the amplifier.
The debutants enters the scene with resounding euphonia. No Darkthrone-clone ambitions, that is. But all is fair in loathing and war. I'm not one to complain about rich hell-fire from the speakers. It sounds vital and hungry. Something I also suspect that these Germans are.
When the last resounding tone of the mighty finishing Empire fade out, I can only take my hat off and highly recommend Dawn of a Crimson Empire to fans of grand, aggressive, melodic black metal with hateful attitude. Rating: 4+
Talheim Records, 16.12.17
Two years have passed since Nocturne released their self-titled debut. It received honourable mention from yours truly in fall 2016.
The Austrians' sophomore album don't offer any enormous changes. The duo has in many ways found their expression, and rather spend their time perfecting it. The band's melo-black also already sounds quite singular. One can hardly demand much more these days.
The line-up is also the same, but from the next release, redeployment will take effect.
I used words like mild, fresh and airy to describe the guys' melodic black tones last time around. I still had trouble putting my finger on something undefinable and impalpable. Alien and unexpected elements can be difficult to get a grip on, as the brain is used to looking for logical patterns, and pretend that nothing happened when out of place pieces in the puzzle threaten to mess up the harmonic picture.
There's nothing wrong with elements of Viking metal sneaking in. That some of the melodic passages become epic in a gentle way that tends toward power metal, on the other hand, is obviously something that falls outside the normalized square box that my mind automatically limits its search to. An expression that belongs to the outside of the box is nevertheless not erroneous, and only contributes to the fresh breath. For those who require trve black metal, Nocturne ain't a recommended companion in the night anyhow.
Said power vibes are also quite minimal, and should not scare away any fans of melodic viking/black. The material is again strong, and rather than tiring by the music after many spins, I just thrive better as time pass.
The recording started a year ago. As last, in collaboration with musician and producer Stefan Traunmüller (Rauhnåcht, Wallachia et al.) in Soundtempel Studio. This time, Dan Swanö has taken care of the mastering. Recording and production lasted until April, when live members Isiul (guitar), Kharn (guitar) and Martyr (bass) were introduced as full-time members.
On this and the previous record, Stefan Traunmüller guested on guitar and bass. The man also handled orchestration on the present album. From next release on, the band will have its own members on strings for the first time ever. How that will affect the expression, remains to be heard. Until then, give The Burning Silence a chance. Rating: 4+
Check out the teaser, and the song Hubris Virtue underneath, and listen to the title track The Burning Silence in its entirety.
Everlasting Spew Records, 30.11.17
Meet Engulf, a one-man death metal band from New Jersey. Hal Microutsicos has been working on material for the band since 2015 and has stockpiled some private demos in the drawer. Subsumed Atrocities is the first of three EPs in which Hal has recorded selected picks from his repertoire in a more professional way.
The first EP is short but well-aimed as a precise kick in the groin.
The two songs, lasting for nine minutes together, were first released in September, before Everlasting Spew took responsibility and ensured expanded distribution.
Aeons Of Hate opens as death metal tend to do, faithful to traditions, for better or worse. It's warlike and punchy, there's aggression and anger. It's not innovative, however. Not that it matter a whole lot. Especially when moods eventually manifest and contribute to suggestion.
Graviton competes with gravity itself about who has the most weighty effect on people. And just as in Aesop's Fables, it doesn't helps with pure strength alone. Cunning slyness is needed to affect human minds, and Engulf knows to manipulate by pressing the right buttons.
As a short and concise first EP, this is a nice teaser. I choose to let that aspect reflect the rating, instead of emphasizing the fact that this is obviously far from mandatory. Fans of death metal should make a mental note of Engulf. Rating: 4-