Avantgarde Music, 29.01.18
It doesn't take a whole lot becoming somewhat disappointed when the expectations are high, but after hearing the veterans' tenth album Höllenzwang a fair amount of times, and even comparing it to a few other Abigor albums, I have to conclude that Abigor doesn't meet the expectations 100%. Höllenzwang (Chronicles of Perdition) is nevertheless no poor recording. Just be prepared for possibly having to lower your demands. For when the music is good, just not quite as good as expected, it can lead to a slightly weird ambivalent reaction.
As you might be aware of, the Austrian duo is back. In the summer of 2014, the album Leytmotif Luzifer was released. It appealed massively to yours truly. Meanwhile, they've been at it with several small releases, including participation on last year's split with Nightbringer et al., where they once again got vent to their whimsical notions of galloping lunar madness, clearly obsessed by the devil.
When the band released the previous disc, I wrote a Norwegian impression reporting on among other things their “creepy melodies and creative use of distorted guitar sounds”. The melodies on Höllenzwang feels restrained, and the atonal effects are somewhat muted. The band has at places chosen a more streamlined and simplified approach, more naked and straightforward. Although Abigor still delivers goods that are qualitatively well above average, the music is not as gripping and attention-demanding as before. Certain sequences actually feel a clue anaemic.
This isn't a frequently occurring issue, but several of the songs needs time to sink in to achieve the desired effect, much like a painkiller. And that goes for almost every single listen. When they start working, it's once again a devilish waltz we're witnessing. If not as febrile, wild and untamed as on the previous occasion, though. The atmosphere is still psychotically inclined, just not quite as eerie.
Another problem I want to address is the sharp intensity of the sound. If you crank up the volume, it easily becomes quite shrill, and one rather prefers to apply volume with some punch to it. Using a headset, you can admittedly find a compromise. But ponder on that word for a brief moment. Nevertheless, the dynamics (DR7) are greatly improved since Leytmotif Luzifer (DR5). However, the concentrated intensity is clearly compressed compared to the self-titled song from the above-mentioned split (DR10).
Just for the record, Abigor (as always) consists of P.K. and T.T., both of which handle guitar and bass, while the latter takes care of the drums. They've acquired Silenius (Summoning) as guest vocalist. Silenius was their permanent vocalist in the 90's and has put vocals on the band's new material in studio over the last five years. Who the female artist is, who speaks of the crucifixion with a voice full of sadistic desire in Christ's Descent Into Hell, the story, however, says nothing about.
Höllenzwang (Chronicles of Perdition) is a difficult, not easily digested album. Abigor still delivers solid stuff, but the material and its expression ain't fully on level with former exploits. For being so, it lacks the vitality that has given parts of the discography an aura of excitement and attractiveness. In addition, the soundscape is somewhat peculiar. Despite unfortunate flattened dynamics, the production of Leytmotif Luzifer sounded rich and flaming in comparison. Höllenzwang sounds a bit thinner, flatter and more meagre. This will likely make it a notch less interesting to take this down of the shelf. For me, that is. Some will presumably find this naked, primitive sound more appealing.
A definite answer, a common accepted truth, never exists. The fact, the way I see it, is that while Abigor doesn't reach full score, they are not far behind their former selves. These “annals of damnation” still deliver respectable ominous and atonal dystopia with proper eclectic structuring through 9 short tunes of 4 minutes on average. I just expected a little more. In most aspects. The album is undoubtedly good, but I wouldn't really call it very good. And therein lies some of the problem. On my part. Rating: 4
Black Lion Records, 15.12.17
In due time before Christmas, Swedish Mist of Misery released the second and last part of their EP miniseries. Those acquainted with Shackles of Life will recognize Fields of Isolation, both because of cover art and music.
Like last time, the release consists of several tracks with no direct affiliation with metal. The regular songs, however, account for about ⅔ of the playing time.
The music hardly needs any description beyond the one given on the previous occasion. The band shows its most gothic-symphonic side as they resume their timbre-laden musical dramaturgy.
The three songs on this EP holds high quality in terms of melody and composition. The fact that the two EPs have not been compiled into one hour-long album, might be due to the music's nature. The music on these two releases stands out from the album Absence, and the band might feel the need to experience somewhat with its more gothic-theatrical side, without necessarily allowing this slightly softer side of their personality to form a permanent part of their expression.
In addition to two solid self-written songs, and a cover version of Coldworld's Tortured by Solitude, which is perfectly adapted to this environment, we find no less than five shorter tracks. These are all quietly soaring interludes with string-quartets, grand piano, acoustic guitar or ambient synthesizer. The ordinary songs, however, work as hell.
Independent, 13.12.17 Hegemon released their two first demos about 20 years ago. In this connection, this jubilee EP was released at the end of last year.
The French Black Metal constellation was presented a few weeks after they released The Hierarch, their previous album, at the end of 2015.
Through 21 minutes, three re-recorded songs, a new song, and a cover song are served.
The EP was released on CD in 399 copies, of which 66 are hand-numbered issues.
The first three songs originate from old times, but surely sound better in new garment. The black tones that are conveyed are of an aggressive and warlike type. With fiery eagerness, glowing hatred and fighting spirit is conveyed. And it doesn't seem to have lost any of its sting over the years. On the contrary, the French seem to have preserved their blood-thirst. Rich punch is safeguarded through recording and production in WSL Studio, run by the band's own Darkhyrys. After three tunes where the artillery keeps blasting with unabated, hell even renewed strength, it's time for new material.
More than seven minutes long La Mélancolie de l'Abîme is intended as a kind of continuation and conclusion of the previous album. To some extent, it continues where the equally long song Hierarch: The Empire of Zero left off. The pace is lowered a bit, but the punch persists when emotions catch up to, and dawn on us. When the bombing has ceased and the dust has settled down, we see the cruelty of war in all its plain horror. Ruins, destruction, mutilation, death, loss. A stunningly dark and atmospheric composition that shows that the French are at the top of their game and going as strong as ever.
In connection with the review of The Hierarch, I mentioned the third album Contemptus Mundi (2008), which I quickly described as “an album with some vibes of Immortal”. It is precisely this Norwegian band that is covered when the Initium Belli EP round off with Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss, when Hegemon honours one of their first influences.
Caverna Abismal, 31.01.18
We'll make a quick visit to the province of Pontevedra in the autonomous region of Galicia, just north of Portugal, in the north/west corner of the Iberian Peninsula. The last time we visited this geographical region, was in connection with a release from Marthyrium* last year. However, there's something like 100 km between these bands.
In Pontevedra we meet Sartegos and Balmog. It's a small world, and I came across the former last year when they dropped a split with Ysengrin* that I never got around to cover.
While Sartegos has ten years and a small handful of small releases behind them, Balmog has fifteen years and about a dozen releases to show for. They have two full lengths behind them and one in front of them.
The one-man band Sartegos opens with the song Lume do Visitante - Morrer no Nascente on around 6.5 minutes. The band plays a barbaric, yet doomy and occult form of black/death with vocals from the grave. The band's music belongs to the underground. We've heard similarly alright, but somewhat anonymous metal before. I like the melody, and especially the guitar part from just over four minutes, although I'm not heavily impressed on the whole.
Venomous is the name of Balmog's contribution, which is only a few tens of seconds shorter than the previous song. This is of a more frenetic and flaming kind. The black metal of this band is compared to the countrymen in Sheidim* on Metal-Archives. A comparison I can agree with.
The trio's black tones appeal more this time around, even though I recall days when Sartego's contribution has come out just as well. All in all, this split achieves an approval. We'll most likely get back to Balmog when they release the album Vacvvm in March.