NATURMACHT PRODUCTIONS, 20.02.16 Naturmacht Productions was the first label i received promos from, thanks to an initiative from
Dàublòdir (Blodstaur, Gandreid and more).
I have reviewed releases from the label for a few years now, and the German behind Naturmacht, Robert
Brockmann have regained about fifteen links in return. Of those, more than half has been written in Norwegian
only. It must be allowed to call it a display of trust, I could have been writing gibberish. The same
Brockmann has since 2008 used the moniker Lebensnacht to ease the pressure behind his own needs
to transform artistic ideas into phonetic representations, inspired by Mother Nature, and with the intention of exploring
the relationship to nature and to come to terms with its selfish children – us.
When Brochmann's creative whims strikes, black metal is generated, and now album number four is knocking
at the door. Robert is still the one who writes the music and takes care of everything except from wooden
sticks, as he's been joined by drummer Martin Krell, aka Lord Skull, from Sado
Sathan among others.
Previous album, Uudelleensyntynyt ikuiseen pimeyteen,
generally felt a bit more aggressive, primal and negatively charged. Somewhat in keeping with old Burzum
and Wallachia perhaps. When writing about it about 13 months ago, I also mentioned a certain legacy from acts
as Wigrid, Angantyr and Nyktalgia. This can be said to fit a rather slipshod production.
Contrary to what the title could indicate, A Raging Storm of Apocalypse is more like a brewing
storm, building up in the horizon. It's not exactly quiet before the storm, though. This album also has its pitch black
parts, but generally, it's got a slightly more atmospheric feel. Still, the sound is still jagged. I was quite sceptical
during my first listen. Primitive sound may fit a hateful expression, but it ain't always suitable in more soaring music.
A grieving string quartet, raindrops and a little bit of discreet female choir opens, before quickly morphing into mournful,
primitive black metal with a backdrop of atmospheric synth. The sharp guitar tones gradually diminish, allowing for dramatic
narration to take the spotlight, before razor sharp guitar strings again tear a rift in reality, as a sharp dagger carving
and slicing a colourful canvas.
Moods are dominant on A Raging Storm of Apocalypse, and sorrow, followed by hysterical outbursts,
constitute the primary essence. The atmospheric and soaring must often give way to insane black anger and bottomless
depression. The songs are more like a coherent expression of these changing moods, an account of nearly 42 minutes in
bottomless despair and mental imbalance with hateful thoughts obsessed with revenge, than traditional independent songs,
but I like the atmospheres they convey.
The sound is still a little objection. Some will certainly consider the raw and minimalistic sound to be appropriate to
this genre, but on a bands fourth full-length album, in year 2016, I actually expect a bit more. When necrotic sound is
simply a natural consequence of necessity, as was often the case some 25 years ago, that's one thing, but I see no reason
to strive for a sound akin to a moist concrete basement rehearsal room. It does sound raw, though, and it doesn't ruin
my experience, but I would prefer a little richer production. This smells like an unprocessed pre-production, though not
totally putrid. The more serene elements does sound very clear, and the bass are good the few places where it can be
found. Listen to the start of From Fire To Ice, for example. On the other side, this authentic touch
of the genres origin does have its charm. It still takes some time getting used to, and that goes for every single spin.
Robert has created an evocative portrait that is clearly rewarding to listen to, but that still line
up nicely in among many other good albums, without distinguishing itself strikingly. Fans of primitive black metal with
influences from atmospheric and depressive varieties, should give this album a chance or more, for just one round ain't
sufficient to provide the full benefit. If you don't like such brands, you won't like Lebensnacht either.
I like the genre and I enjoy this album, despite nitpicking slightly at a few minor flaws; the subjective low-fi sound
debris, and the fairly objective lack of distinctive character. All in all I simply call this a “Good album”.
PS: You can examine the album before determining whether or not to purchase it by downloading it for an optional donation
PS: This translation was published some time after midnight CET, but fuck it, it's still 19th February in UK & USA.
SEASON OF MIST, 12.02.16
This time the Greek veterans releases an album that truly fits its title.
This is simply the band's most ritualistic record to date, and the Hellenic giant are offering a feast of guests,
assisting in leading the ceremony.
The band's history stretches back nearly thirty years, and their back-catalogue now consists of 12 albums.
Is thirteenth time a charm? Not quite, I'm afraid.
I'm going with a song-by-song approach this time, to get some overview of the album course. The reason is that I've
obtained a somewhat ambivalent relation to Rituals. The material is slightly inconsistent, both in
style and quality. On one side, the music is clearly bombastic and catchy. On the other hand, I miss the lively antics
and the more interesting compositions.
The brothers Sakis and Themis (guitar/vocals & drums respectively) goes majestically
to work with heavy, slow and swaying rhythms and delightful melodies, along with hypnotic chanting vocals in
In Nomine Dei Nostri, where Magus from Necromantia contributes. With its differing and strong
passages, this is the song with the most elaborate structures. Certainly one of the three strongest tracks.
Ze Nigmar follows, without fully following up. The music is still mighty, and some more or less local
folk elements (giving vibes of the Middle East and northern Africa) fits perfectly. The good melody lines must however
give way to a ritualistic feel of a routine seance.
Elthe Kyrie yet again brings strong melodies to the table. Danai Katsameni from National
Hellenic Theater has been offered the role as ranter. Her raving yelling makes me glad she ain't my wife. Still, it's
funny what you can get used to, because it actually works suitably, once getting used to the tirade. The song is very
good, and stands out as one of the better tracks here, with amusing bagpipes and luscious guitar works.
Vorp from Samael reads aloud from Les Fleurs du Mal in forceful Les
Litanies De Satan, a song with a bit of tension in the air. It works well, even though this song also lacks
those seriously good rollicking tune-doodles Rotting Christ are so skilled at creating.
Apage Satana returns to ritual chants with primitive jungle rhythms. My first impulse is that it might
as well be left out. If you can get through the first half without skipping to the next, you may as well finish the race.
All in all a very weak track. An alternative for digital playback is to simply delete the track from the play-list.
With Tou Thanatou, both melodic and structural pieces fall into place. It doesn't matter that the track
reminds me of the previous album, Κατά τον
δαίμονα εαυτού (2013), but when it remains one
of the best songs on Rituals, it gives yet another clear indication that this album does not quite live
up to its predecessor. This song also provides bagpipe and delicious guitar playing.
For A Voice Like Thunder sees Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost use his voice as a god
of death. Surely, it must be Hades we're dealing with. The vocal tracks are at times layered, which gives a good effect.
This is yet another heavy, mighty and tough track, but again, this offers no particularly exciting structures or vital
melody lines either.
Komx Om Pax basically shows signs of exactly the same flaws, although the melody-series towards the end
show signs (but only signs) of improvement. The song is weak.
Devadevam gets hypnotic vocal contributions from Kathir, of Rudra. This song also has
a ritual character, but the song is also evocative and trance-inducing. The exotic strings fits like a glove
The Four Horsemen ain't exactly the most original song title, but the song stand out a little bit on
Rituals. This moves a bit away from the ritualistic style, nor does it offer the most bombastic moods.
The song contains scenes of combat, as if the Spartans and the Persians clashed on the battlefield anew, but also a
slightly ethereal feel, as if the bloodshed was witnessed from afar. Possibly by the Greek gods from their home on Mytikas,
the top of Mount Olympus, at 2,918 metres (9,573 ft). (That's ⅙ higher than the two highest Norwegian peaks.)
Jens Bogren has been active lately. Again, it is the Swede who acts as “mixmaster” along with
Sakis, who also produced the album. As with the music, the sound is mighty and magnificent, but the men could
have worked a little more with the dynamics to create a more vivid and natural expression.
It feels a bit simplistic and safe from the Greeks this time, and that's not particularly impressive. I only classify
three songs as really good, while five are listed as middling in Rotting Christ context. The remaining
two tracks could simply have been rejected in their entirety.
At the same time, there's something about Rotting Christ's sound that appeals. Where previous albums
have had a more warlike touch, Rituals is more soothing. Almost stupefyingly narcotic. There must be
some magic in the incantations and spell they are chanting.
This is probably not an album for any occasion, but rather an album for the right mood. I end up with a rather weak four
points. You will have to decide for yourself which musical aspects you find most important.
UNDERGROUND ACTIVISTS, 12.02.16
Welcome to the seventh and final album from Urgehal.
When vocalist and guitarist Trondr Nefas passed away in May 2012, the band was immediately dissolved.
He left behind some new material that the band has decided to complete and release as a last salute. His final legacy
makes up approximately half of Aeons in Sodom, while guitarist Enzifer has written
To finish the album, and make it a worthy homage, a rich arsenal of guests has provided various contributions. All
of them former collaborators from other bands and projects Nefas has been involved in. Everyone asked
confirmed their readiness to pitch in to this commemoration without hesitation.
Unfortunately I haven't heard all six of Urgehal's albums, released between 1997 and 2009. Among those
I have a relationship to, however, Through Thick Fog Till Death (2003) stands out as the sharpest,
most gleaming metal-stake in the heart of Christ.
It's generally a somewhat more mid-tempo affair that meets the listener on Aeons in Sodom. The first proper
song, The Iron Children for example, has a rank and foul odour of vulgar and vile Carpathian Forest
grooves. The remaining songs however keeps a bit more distance to this black'n'roll expression. A touch of reckless fuck-all
attitude is nevertheless a common denominator through this nearly fifty-minute album.
The material follows familiar traditions, where slow and speeding parts trade place, interconnected as links on a chain.
That we're not touching upon any innovation with progressive approaches and clever depth, doesn't matter. At least not to
me. Within the sphere of black metal, there are other values that weighs more. The songs are good, and they have the authentic
feel of pure, blind and unadulterated hatred, insane rage and primitive, pitch-black blasphemy.
Occasional sequences on the albums even provides my favourite moments; Icy moods of pure murderous evil, sending shivers
down the spine.
When the market is flooded with mediocre amateur black metal, Aeons in Sodom stands as a lustrous black
opal of delightful, professional, straight in the face, violence-glorifying, profane, not to mention heartfelt,
artistic display of misanthropy. The album may not be quite on par with Through Thick Fog... but it would have
struck me as a fucking bombshell if it were. It's actually fucking close, though.
The sound has become richer over the years, but I'm certainly not complaining over juicy, dirty and powerful sound with
lots of punch. Black metal is a genre exempt from conventional rigid audiophile rules, but there's still no harm to a
little dynamism in the volume. With DR7 the album maintained both intensity and vitality.
Surely, the album is a tribute to Nefas, enthroned next to Satan, concocting new ways to torment
perverted preachers and fallen martyrs. The album still comes out as an exhibition of praise to lord Lucifer. One
needs not have lyrics at hand to pick up the infamous sulphur stench, and the reek of decay and burning flesh.
Twelve tracks, all with a genuine satanic signature, includes intro, outro and two cover songs.
An intro that reverberate with the devils breath, followed by something I suppose is a recording of Nefas
voice live, while the outro is like a funeral ceremony. Woeful church organs fills the air, complete with distorted wobbling
pitch, as if taken from an old Italian horror film on VHS/VCR.
The first cover song is Funeral Rites, picked from Sepultura's black/thrash era, a good
alternative to the usual Venom, Celtic Frost and Slayer covers. This version is a bit stripped
down when it comes to occult moods, but they make up for it with sheer rawness. 30 years after the original was released,
the thrust in the sound is obviously a whole different ball game. Nice to see that Urgehal choose to give
an approval nod to on one of the better black/thrash bands that was spawned during the first wave. Finally, they honour
Autopsy by performing the song Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay from the band's sophomore Mental
Funeral. This one looks good all dressed up in a new suit of Urgehalification as well, 25 years after
it was first released.
To report every instrumental and vocal detail on Aeons in Sodom without omitting parts, is far too much
to convey. The people involved are all experienced folks, and the vocals and instrumentation is obviously qualitatively
all around. I would especially like to highlight the howling solos as icing on the cake. The album slays in blasphemous
ways, and all musicians delivers the unholy wares. I'll only present a list of those implicated, as it's not exactly
fucking trifles we're dealing with.
Trondr Nefas, posthumous
Guitars & bass
Uruz (Blåhø, So Much for Nothing)
Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone)
Vocals on track 2
M. Shax (Endezzma)
Vocals and lyrics on track 3 and lyrics on track 5
Byron Braidwood (Monumentomb)
Guitar solo on track 3
Vocals on track 4
Vocals on track 5, bass on track 12
Malphas (Endezzma, Hagl)
Guitar solo on track 5 and 12
Niklas Kvarforth (Shining)
Vocals on track 6
Sorath Northgrove (Beastcraft, Vulture Lord)
Vocals and lyrics on track 7
Nattefrost (Carpathian Forest)
Vocals and lyrics on track 8
Guitar solo track on track 8
Vocals on track 9
Diabolus (Vulture Lord)
Guitar solos on track 9
L.F.F (Angst Skvadron, Tusmørke, Three Winters)
Keyboards on track 10
Bay Cortez (Sadistic Intent)
Vocals and bass on track 11
Rick Cortez (Sadistic Intent)
Guitar solo on track 11
R.M (Angst Skvadron)
Vocals on track 12
Urgehal has been among the royal warrants of unadulterated satanic black metal since the heydays.
Before sentimentality kicks in... The band has already been missed for several years. O damned soul, rejoice rather in
this memorial, packed with depraved hymns of true Norwegian black metal!
This is without any doubt recommended to all hostile heretics throughout this godforsaken planet.
PS: It should be said that these five points are a bit weak, as the album according to objective assessment might not
be spectacular, per say.
I still enjoy the hell out of Urgehal's orthodox approach to true satanic black metal! To hell with
objectivity, I say. Fuck religion, and fuck this world! (I blame exposure to Urgehal and the beer at
hand. I should really sue Season of Mist and the Brewery for having such bad influence on me.)
ORKJA PRODUKSJONAR, 15.01.16
It was in fact not the spectacular cover that triggered my curiosity when I discovered Nifrost. It was
actually my better half who made the finding. With sadistic delight she forced me to guess, based solely on listening,
until, after half an eternity “on the rack”, I was finally provided with a solution to the enigma.
I quickly picked up that this was Norwegian, and something in the melodic black metal and vocals pretty soon revealed
vibes that led me in between vast fjords and majestic mountains.
But... as none of the monikers I rattled off did measure up, I eventually had to hoist up the white towel. I would never
have managed to guess Nifrost anyway. It was about as impossible as guessing that the little gnome in
the woods was named Rumpelstiltskin.
The quartet from Jølster in Sogn has admittedly played together for over ten years, but they've kept their heads cool
and waited until time was ripe. Patience can be quite an ordeal, but when at last the final piece of the jigsaw is
puzzled together, it is also a virtue that lets one reap the rewards.
I would never have guessed that this was a debut either, although good debuts do pop up now and then.
My first impulse is to call this Sogna-metal. I don't know how widespread this Norwegian designation is amongst
English speaking metalheads. Windir founder Valfar came up with the term, named after his village and
county primarily to mark musical difference between his folk/viking approach and the more (in)famous TNBM. Nifrost
chooses to use the phrase folkloric black metal. It's probably likely to have a broader international
appeal. Nifrost might also like to stand out from the crowd themselves. However, just like the very first
front line of Norwegian black metal bands, I feel that most blackened metal bands with folk-influenced melodic tuns and
slight Viking aesthetics from this archetypal postcard-picture area has succeeded in creating
their unique expression. Nifrost sounds sogna metal, heart and soul. Not that I'm complaining. The style is familiar, and the
band don't score any points on originality. Still, the genre is geographically narrow, although there are examples of
similarities even abroad. Noctem Cursis might serve as an examples, and Gladius Sky even more so. The style, however,
hasn't fostered so many albums that I fear loads of generic mass productions any time soon.
The ten songs we find on Motvind (Headwind) are five years old, but the band has chosen to wait for
the opportunity to do a proper recording. A smart move, for this album sounds surprisingly professional. The band has
tried a few times before, but they weren't satisfied with the result, so they've retried until they were pleased. The
sound is more or less constantly loud. Not too loud, but close. The dynamic range meter only goes to DR5, at
times touching upon DR6. It can be a bit intense in some sequences, giving an “imploding” effect where the music kind
of drowns itself a bit. This is still not a widespread problem. Mostly, the album actually sounds very good. The
production has highlighted favourable aspects in the mix, making acoustic strumming and finger picking, for example,
come into its own. Also, the rich and prominent bass is just magnificent. All in all, this is probably one of the
better debuts within the genre when it comes to sound.
While the music has a strong sense of local flare, these songs stand on own two feet, so to speak, and the dynamics
of the song material is very good. The melodies the band has come up with are splendid, although the album features
less immortal classics than Windir in particular offered. The alternation between sequences of intensity,
mid-tempo or toned down expression works perfectly, and the songs have the drift and progress as rough waters when
springtime forces snow to melt in the mountains. The songs have continuous advancement, and work well together, while
having their own personal whims. Much like the seven dwarves, in other words. Admittedly, each and every segment ain't
equally lively and exciting, but all in all, the songs are strong.
The riffing is sometimes hasty and angrily, often accompanied by a fierily vocal located in front of the mix. The
scraping hoarse shrieks are just raven black enough to let occasional words be deciphered, and (for a Norwegian) the
distinct dialect of said area is unmistakable. Another vocal form we find a lot of is manly chorus, which colours the
expression just as picturesque as tole painting (aka rosemaling.)
Of course, some minor, sporadic nitpicks don't impair the effect of a highly solid and enjoyable album, although it
prevents it from reaching top score. The album is on the verge of very good, and I've been wobbling between 4
and 5 for a long time. I enjoy my Motvind as I also enjoy my Abbath, thus a very sturdy 4 feels adequate. Meaning that
those who like obvious reference bands like Windir, Vreid, Sigtyr, Mistyr, Feigd, Cor Scorpii, Ulcus (Molle)
et al. will surely appreciate Nifrost as well. The band is however, as I've already mentioned, no
carbon copy. Some of the melody lines are absolutely brilliant. The title-track that concludes a delightful album, is
a magnificent masterpiece from start to finish. Our apprentices have thus earned their diplomas.
The band has finally completed 55 minutes of music, and released the marvel on their own label. I reckon they've carved
out a number of new melodies and riffs, considering the five years that have passed since this material was conceived,
and the wait will hopefully not take too long before more material is available. With a bit of buzz here and there,
chances are some label reaches out to takes this rustic band under their dirty wings. Nifrost delivers a very good start, and the band will be exciting to follow in years to come.
NUCLEAR BLAST RECORDS, 05.02.16
As those of you with fine tuned antennas surely are aware, our extreme symphonic Italian friends have just released a
new album. Labyrinth (2013) has gained status as worst case scenario of poor dynamic range. The industry did
perhaps need such a victim to wake up and smell the brickwall. Too bad it had to be an album of Fleshgod
Apocalypse that had to pay with its life on the alter of dynamics, though.
I crossed my fingers and can now rejoice in the fact that band has learned from the cramped compression that the previous
album fell victim of. Hopefully, others have learned a lessons too. King has become a far more
Even King has a rather packed dynamic range, as metal and full orchestra takes its toll. This is a
wall of juicy sound from virtually hundreds of instruments, but even if the wall is compact, it's not compressed. Every
brick of this colossal construction can be inspected at fairly close range, as the details of a high resolution digital
image. Labyrinth was in comparison as a low-resolution image, with blurred pixelation as the only results
when zooming in on the details. The band has, like Borknagar, visited Jens Bogren in Fascination
The band released their debut Oracle in 2009, but it was likely first with sophomore Agony
in 2011 that the band's name spread like wildfire, and echoed in the scene. This is often regarded as the ultimate fusion
of death metal in style with Immolation and Sulphur Aeon, and fully fledged symphonic implementation,
in the style of Carach Angren and (later) Septic Flesh. Here one does not find fragmented divisions
and separation between the orchestra and the metallic elements, as was often the case with symphonic black metal in the
nineties. King (not surprisingly) continues this trend. The few cases where this fusion is not implemented one
hundred percent, it's the symphonic section that is victorious, as in the epic intro, the piano outro, and the interlude
opera sequence Paramour (Die Leidenschaft bringt Leiden). I don't know if this qualifies for the term
“aria”, 'cause I'm not that well versed in the world of opera.
King is an album with strong individual songs. Each song has its individual character, but essentially
they form a magnificent coherent whole. The album don't hit me just as hard as said Oracle. Besides from
the sonic aspect, King don't come as no surprises in the same way, which is only natural. What sound
concerns, King outperforms its ancestors.
I register that some people don't appreciate bassist Paolo Rossi's clean vocals. For my part, it's
rather surprising that some chose to nitpick at that aspect as debris in an otherwise well-oiled machine. In an
expression where even the string section contributes to a mighty intense touch, the clean, melodic parts are among
the contributions that creates the most melodic contrasts, and some of the most characteristic sequences on
King. I absolutely wouldn't have been without those elements!
If I were to nitpick at something, I would rather choose said Paramour..., as opera has never
been my thing, but Veronica Bordacchini's soprano works fine together with the other elements in the songs
Cold as Perfection and Syphilis. Nevertheless, Paramour... works as
a breather before it kicks off again.
Except from this, Tommaso Riccardi's rich growls constitutes the primary vocal form.
The band is generally equated with the orchestral segment in the sonic expression, but picking out individual riffs and
bass lines in such a massive sound ain't the easiest. It's not particularly necessary either. The main focus
is on the whole. It should be noted that there's lots of good work behind metal strings though, and Francesco
Paoli works zealously behind the battery. The orchestral elements in general sounds very lifelike. It is,
however, generated solely by software, presumably compile from a rich library of samples. The ensemble consists of about
hundred unique tracks. Even the chorus is synthetic. The band wishes to be able to go the extra mile one day, and work
with real symphonic talents in flesh and blood, as Septic Flesh and Dimmu Borgir has done. With gigantic
Nuclear Blast in the back you'd think that would be achievable.
The album holds a concept, but that aspect I leave for you to explore on your own.
In addition, I should mention the available bonus disk version, although an extra CD with the orchestral elements alone
must be considered something for those with above normal passion for such. Than again, this is possibly something you can
listen to amongst non-metal folks, as you, and you alone, will associate it to extreme metal.
Opinions will differ as to whether Agony or King is Fleshgod Apocalypse's
definitive masterpiece. As the name suggests this is a majestic piece of symphonic death metal. The element of surprise
has of course faded, but on the other hand, the sound is finally perfected. I see no reason to go lower than five points,
as this is a very good album!
RELAPSE RECORDS, 05.02.16
In 2010, I gradually begun to rate albums for myself, to provide much needed support to a diminishing long-term memory
in a time of more releases per day than movies in the Friday the 13th series.
The following year German Obscura released highly acclaimed Omnivium, a furious
display of technical/ progressive death metal. I have noted 2+ of 3 stars, the equivalent to approx. 5 points on a
If, as a fan of the (sub) genre, you missed it, you can safely buy both of these albums blindly.
Those who aren't as big fans of the sort can attempt to envision a collective where Ihsahn writing some songs
and takes care of some vocals, Beyond Creation contributes its distinctive bass, last year's most successful
(though highly seasoned) debutants Alkaloid assist in composing and contributes with instrumentation, and Meshuggah
have moved out, but left some rhythmic inspirations. Septic Flesh has admittedly never lived in the collective,
but they have been visiting, and lent away some of their orchestral gears.
The relation to Alkaloid is however more than just a reference, as bassist Linus Klausenitzer dwells
in both bands.
Akróasis is yet again an album with quality in every aspect, but unbiased qualities aside,
Omnivium hit closer to bulls eye. The album was number three from the Germans, but was still my first meeting
with them. Thus it came as more of a surprise to me. Like the cover art, it also had a slightly tougher style. The
atmosphere it conveyed was more as if someone with very little to lose should have released all their anger and
frustration in an uncompromising and reckless outburst. Akróasis feels a bit more controlled and relaxed. Not that the album feels calculated or laid-back, but
even after many rounds, Omnivium remain undefeated. Narrowly, though.
Akróasis is again a very enjoyable album that fans of extreme prog and technical death metal should (and fans of both
can) not miss out on.
The only thing I have to nitpick at is the use of auto-tune effects on the vocals in some places. Imagine a synthetic,
metallic sound to the voice, made famous by pop stars like Cher and Danish Olsen Brothers. The band would never have
receiving my approval for this usage, but as this fortunately only make up a tiny part of the whole, I'll let it pass.
The wholeness is characterized by extremely well played death metal with gorgeous, unpredictable structures, progressive
transitions and twists, and shifting time signatures. In addition to exceptionally vital drumming, delightful guitars and
an ace fretless bass that lives a life of its own. On top of this, symphonic elements are applied, woven so naturally into
the material that it can be easily overlooked in the comprehensive wholeness.
Do I need to mention fully professional sound? Well-known V. Santura has again adjusted his many console
knots to achieve amazing sound. Yet another link to The Malkuth Grimoire, by the way. The dynamics of the sound
is however at generic DR6, and leaves no room for any extraordinary impact force.
The moods are this time located in the dim layers at the intersection between the mechanical and the organic. Just
as eager scientists and those helped by genetic engineering, biotechnology and implants are reluctant to talk of the
technology's downside, something dark and concealed hides in the atmosphere.
I'd like to award Akróasis with four points to mark the distance to its predecessor. This album is a
little more rounded in the edges. The quality and execution that the band displays, nevertheless deserve five points.
If someone gives Akróasis a ranking that corresponds to less than 4 of 6 points, that's probably
caused by lack of interest in the genre, or that the person concerned has heard the album too few times!
CENTURY MEDIA RECORDS, 22.01.16 Borknagar is one of those bands with the ability to appeal to a wide audience in the metal scene,
from black metal fans, via folk & viking zealots, to prog-metal followers and supporters of melodic metal in general.
The previous album, Urd (2012), only got one foot in the doorway of my mind, but I must probably
Winter Thrice is reminiscent of anniversary concerts where ex-members stand in line to cheer and
pay tribute to old colleagues. And indeed, this is a jubilee. Borknagar's 10th album marks the 20th
anniversary of the eponymous debut. Hr. Vintersorg has been the main vocalist since ICS Vortex
first resigned after three years of activity in 2000. The latter came back as bassist and second vocalist in
2010. Besides from them, even keyboardist Lazare seems to shed some trilling vowels at times.
They've also hired original vocalist Garm of Ulver fame, who sings on the title track, as well as
putting some vocals on closing Terminus. Also live member Athera, known from Chrome
Division and (ex-) Susperia, puts his throat at their disposal in the song Erodent.
All these magnificent voices naturally sets their mark and diverse flavour on Winter Thrice.
At first listen, the first two songs kind of seems to spend all the best ideas of the 50 minutes long album at once.
The remaining material slightly fades in comparison. This is probably due in part to these two songs being available
as previews a while before I got a chance to hear the album in its entirety.
I granted myself some lazy relaxed preliminary rounds with this album, letting the music slowly seep in, and the
subconscious absorb without my full attention. It's rather comfortable to let the music sink in almost intravenously,
without any great effort of concentration on my part. That's not something I often treat myself to.
The band has gone through a couple of metamorphoses during these 20 years. The musical universe that Borknagar
soar through this time, is close to the style we know from Urd. I haven't been following the
band closely all the way, but I have an impression that the band has had a fairly natural progression. With a slightly
more bumpy and variegated development through the first half of the discography, admittedly.
Despite its progressive character, the music flows so naturally that it feels a little low on friction compared to for
example Quintessence (2000). That was probably why I gave up on Urd so quickly, and
it's likely one of the main reasons why it takes quite a few spins before songs manifests as memorable. Winter
Thrice doesn't flow unnoticeable “as one”, though, but its dreamy atmospheres doesn't offer the deepest canyons
and the highest pinnacles. It rather hovers effortlessly and majestically over such landscapes.
When nuances start to become much clearer, the band show a very melodic side of themselves, with seamless progressive
structures bound together by virtually overlapping melodies in continuous progression with dreamy moods and massive
sound. The melody lines must be said to be far more crooked up close.
Elements of Opeth, Vintersorg, Amorphis and Ereb Altor et al. can be traced, but
most of all, Borknagar sounds like themselves.
The album doesn't bring any surprises, and the word exciting can hardly be taken into use, but the songs are
beautiful and drifting, and it sounds marvellous, while the performance is professional. The music is not the easiest
to explain with words, but the feeling that it yields after a few dozen spins, is like floating on an air mattress
under hypnosis (or sedatives).
The music is dynamic, while the sound is not. It's brimming with instruments and vocals. It's as compact as it can get
without sounding compressed. Nothing oozes out of the mackerel box, but there would hardly have been any room left for
more tomato sauce either. The sound is full-bodied, rounded, comfortable and very clear. Every detail seems to have
been well taken care of, thanks to Jens Bogren's mixing and mastering in Fascination Street Studios.
Some extra praise is awarded for the bass' central presence in the mix.
Composer, founder and band leader Øystein Garnes Brun, along with Jens F. Ryland,
ensures progress in the songs with excellent guitar works, although even different vocals and Lazare's
keyboard takes the leadership at times. Especially the use of Hammond organ gives the music a boost. Baard
Kolstad gives the album the vital rhythms it deserves, while Vortex adds a little extra with
his “authoritative” and extraordinary bass playing.
The band is a well-oiled machine, maintained by experienced professionals.
When one hears Winter Thrice for the first time, it will likely appear as al right, but probably
without the immediate hooks, but when the album eventually begin to seat, slowly as a solitary electric radiator
gradually distributing heat in a previously freezing room, the gorgeous melodies, structures, the versatile vocals
and instrumentation also warm the heart like the honey coloured rays emitted from the sun after a long winter. Winter Thrice is perhaps a product of winter, but it bears promise of brighter and warmer days.
SEASON OF MIST, 22.01.16
Allow me to start with stating the obvious, even though you'll perhaps consider it old news.
After 25 years, Abbath has left Immortal, the band he formed with Demonaz, after
having played together in Old Funeral at the end of the 80s. The decision to “go solo” came after a period of
internal strife, amongst others over the rights to the moniker, after Demonaz and Horgh, according to
Abbath showed zero initiative to what he saw as necessary progress.
As expected, the other party's version is a completely different story, as they claim it's the other way around.
Abbath teamed up with the anonymous Creature and (in)famous King,
whos should need no presentation. For the sake of clarity, the bassist is, or have been active in Ov Hell,
God Seed and Gorgoroth among others.
In the web-based era, mystique is reduced to a challenge where it's only a matter of time before someone finds an answer
with double underlines. The mysterious critter Creature that rages behind the drums, is revealed, or
unmasked if you will, as Kevin Foley of Benighted fame.
Abbaths former partner from I, King, handles the bass, and he has contributed
with compositions. Yet, Abbath had prepared parts of the material in advance, as he reportedly was
racing his motor to get going with Immortal, and some material was indeed intended for them. That it tastes a bit
Immortal of this debut is of course as expected. Also because Abbath was the “mother band's”
primary songwriter. Surely, that's no nuisance for us, but the protagonist presumably wish to create his own unique
identity, and the self-titled debut is a fine first step in this regard. Whether he eventually will distance himself more
musically through natural evolution, or whether there will always be an unmistakable whiff of Fimbulwinter in his
creations, only time will tell.
For all we know, he may even be reconciled with his old brothers in arms someday.
Cold northern wind from Blashyrkh (of the more melodic kind that we know from the last half of the discography),
and westerly winds from Between Two Worlds (I), but also a breeze from the 80s, and other air
currents finds their way on to this here record. Thus Abbath itself is located somewhat in
“between two (or more) worlds”.
With the rhythmical solutions the album opens with during the first minutes of To War!, one can easily
fear that the veteran has taken a bit too long steps away from the roots, but it doesn't last long before powerful
black'n'roll with strong vibes of stout, windswept Northerners, with proud posture and firm, diabolical glance, blows
from your speakers. When the song Winterbane kicks of, there's no longer any doubt as to where the
chief originates from. This could have been plucked straight out of Sons of Northern Darkness. The
soft finger picking towards the end instinctively gives vibes of Blashyrkh (Mighty Rave Dark), although
the similarity is really far from striking. Ocean of Wounds is King's creation, a mid-tempo, slightly monotonous song, which blows
as an ice cold wind across the frozen tundra. With suitably subtle nuances and effects, this is a moody tune that fits
nicely into the album. With its calm and chilling touch, this becomes almost like a ballad before all hell breaks loose
with the great grinding grater Count the Dead, a lively piece where the guitar occasionally almost
sound as trumpets. (Something we actually do come across in Ashes of the Damned.) Peculiar? Nifty! Do
you remember the opening riff and rhythm from the opening song I Don't Know on Ozzy's solo debut
Blizzard of Ozz? Imagine a hybrid between this and an Immortal song with a juicy, thrusting drive, as
One by One in particular. The result is a wicked headbanging copter in the living room. Alright!!!
After Fenrir Hunts, which offers even more frenetic and aggressive drifts, things calms down nearing
the end in mid-tempo and atmospheric Root of the Mountain, that also would have worked better as closure
than Endless in my ears. Not that the latter is bad, hell no, but I feel that it would have fitted better
in between for example Count the Dead and Fenrir Hunts.
Abbath has his powerful rasping and croaking vocals, and an almost equally strong guitar signature.
He even throw in some solo licks. King is a talented bassist who refuse to simply follow, accompany
and “colour” the music, but that steadfast treads his own path. It would admittedly not have hurt with a somewhat more
markedly appearance of the bass in the production. The drums on the other hand are very distinct, and that's a good
thing, for Creature offers exquisite vital drumming, which fits very well with Abbath's
Where the album was recorded, and who has produced this and processed that, the story says nothing
about, but it sounds solid, juicy and thrusting, and not too compact, although the dynamics of DR7 don't
leave much elbow room behind.
Fortunately Abbath has a solid name, an iconic brand, to build on, and he's got songwriter skills along
with vocal and instrumental muscles. He's never been good with lyrics, though. Demonaz has always taken care of
them. Who's been writing the lyrics this time, and what they're about, I unfortunately have no information of.
There are many cool pictures of the man with the bat shaped axe. They have nevertheless opted for one of the least
complementary photos of the man with the characteristic panda make-up, just to have mentioned my inherently murmuring
dissatisfaction with the cover art. The artwork for the single
Count the Dead, on the other hand...
If performing the almost obligatory comparison to Immortal, this album ends up sort of middling the road, and
it might not be directly mandatory for the common crowd, but for the big gun, this is a necessary first step to create
a new playground to express his creative ideas.
Fans of the charismatic front man's exploits during the current century, will most likely dig this, as Abbath
is a strong album, with tough, headbanger-friendly drive that'll make your feet itching to rock. But beware,
the darned foot-tapping might not give you any rest. There's still a pretty hefty puff of Immortal to
Abbath. Still, you get a flavour of some of the man's inspirations, like heavy metal approaches à la
Motörhead and an atmospheric touch of Bathory, in addition to a good pinch of I. This mixture is
added lots of punch and a few new faces, and run through a grinder of dirty, heavy, groovy, rocking and frosty melodic,
but not hostile black metal.
The 4 of 6 points are solid as granite, mind you!
Danish Serpents Lair released their demo MMXIV in 2014, and their debut album should
be available in all formats by now, even if exact release dates have been difficult to confirm.
The music, a raven black, occult hybrid of nineties icy Nordic atmosphere, the family's depressed black sheep, and the
French/Icelandic downward spiral of deranged disgust, is virtually perfect in its negatively charged appearance.
Circumambulating the Stillborn is not built by altering between the calm and the frenetic, or the
atmospheric and the aggressive, to the same extent as we're used to. Here comes all that is painful and evil in a seething
maelstrom. The album is downright hostile and dangerous, at any time evocative and uncomfortable. Likewise, one is at all
times accompanied by swirling and changing melodies. These offer no mitigating musical circumstances, however. They are
drench in satanic corruption and laden with unrest. Meanwhile, the execution is fast-paced, irate and hateful.
Every glimpse of light and hope is extinguished and wiped out. This is truly a blasphemous product of black and unpleasant
The press release uses the term “dissonant, kaleidoscopic black metal”. More and more refer to the new wave
of Íslenska svartur metal et al. as kaleidoscopic black metal, where kaleidoscopic means shifting, motley, complicated,
multifaceted, cumbersome, cryptic, abstract, complex etc. That part of the description fits superbly. That it's described
as dissonant is also natural, but the albums sharp, swirling guitars and unpredictable progressive structure creates
its own resonance, its own unreal universe. Just as a whirlwind - not even consisting of solid matter - still keeps
its own structure intact, Circumambulating... also form a whole, a harmony. But not necessarily a
benign, harmonious whole. In the name of Chaos, we force the opposites to meet in the middle, and name this
paradoxical phenomenon “dissonant harmony”.
The crew of this unholy staging has not been disclosed, but the undead is located on Skjælland, and their professional
conduct is not proportional with a status as beginners. The drums vary violently and delivers masterful vital drive,
along with all the swarming strings. Everything from surging scarabs (or dung beetles) to the zinging mosquitoes, where
sharp strings picks eerie moods over hefty tremolo, while the cellar-echo of the bass is dark, lonely and abandoned in
On top, a vocal that regurgitates caustic green bile in the very best Exorcist-style, crossing and rejecting all genre
stereotypes. Sometimes with a little of Attila, and other times with a bit of Kvarforth, as his voice
twists and distorts, cracks, breaks and disfigures as bodily joints in the most unnatural positions.
The recording and production compliments the music by letting it sound enraged and frantic, while every aspect of the
nightmare still appears exceptionally clear and lifelike. The recording and mixing was done by J. Stick, and
took place a year ago. The mastering was then taken care of by Tore Stjerna in Necromorbus Studio.
-"What about the dynamic range, then?", you might ask, as I so often rehash about it. Well, what do you fucking
know? It actual reaches DR10 and it sounds absolutely fantastic!
To claim that Circumambulating the Stillborn is directly original is probably to exaggerate a tiny bit,
but they definitely stand out plentiful in the crowd anyway. We can certainly recognize styles, and gain a few associations
to one and another band, but that's more like steam, volatile and short-lived.
For middle-aged men, there's hardly anything that's memory friendly until kingdom come, but if I fail to remember all the
details when Hell freezes, I only have to pick up the album again, and that'll definitely be my pleasure. None of us wants
a catchy Serpents Lair, that's for damned sure.
Circumambulating the Stillborn is an album that moves with natural progression, while it simultaneously
coils around itself as tens of snakes in a den (also known as a serpents lair). It doesn't need a goal and a direction
in the conventional sense. It is already where it belongs. In Hell. It comes to you in dreams, and connect to some
latent part deep inside of you. As hallucinations, it invade the maze of your subconsciousness, and you instinctively
feel a strong affiliation, you feel at home.
I was for a long time uncertain as to whether to go for the highest grade, or to hold back a bit. Yet, the damn vortex
was just so bloody strong. As nicotine, the album demands a new spin, and a new. Again and again...
It has taken residence, I am bewitched and possessed. I have no doubt any more. This is worthy of six points. If anyone
wonders why I attached a small minus to Chthonic Cult yesterday, Serpents Lair can be used to set a prime example.
This album shows how unbelievably killer music can be, and only releases at this level deserves top ratings. Everything
else is appropriately “cut down to size”, to show the difference of class amongst all the albums oozing out of the
underground like ectoplasm, separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, the men from the boys, and
everything in between.
The date at the top is barely indicative. Circumambulating the Stillborn was released
independently and digitally in November, and can just like Demo MMXIV be downloaded for an optional sum.
The album is available on LP via Duplicate Records in Europe, and via Fallen Empire Records in America.
Hellthrasher Productions will most likely ship the CD version during this month, and pre-orders are available now.
Hear what thou wilt, for every song is sovereign, but hear at least one song in its entirety.
Or better yet, buy the album and enjoy it 'till death!
PEACEVILLE RECORDS, 18.09.15
A few months ago, after some pleading, I received the promo of the already a few months old twelfth studio album*
from the British death/doom pioneers. (*If we ignore Evinta). Since then, everything
else got in the way. Chiefly a flow of new releases of various character.
I have followed this dying bride since I discovered Turn Loose the Swans, around the time when
The Angel and the Dark River was released.
We'll begin with a quick guide through their discography. For the benefit(?) of new MDB fans and to give you an idea
of my relationship and taste concerning the band, in order to better balance my view on their newest work, yet mostly
for my own pleasure.
25 years prior to the release of Feel The Misery, nearing the the end of 1990, four young men dropped
a demo titled Towards the Sinister, opening with the fantastic Symphonaire Infernus a Spera
Empyrium (which luckily can also be found in an upgraded version on the Trinity (1995)
compilation). With the bands humble beginnings out of the way, we'll concentrate on the full-lengths.
As the Flower Withers (1992). After a few years under the mark of pure death metal, the band slowly
started incorporating doom and gothic elements on their debut album, leading to the basis of a new genre. A classic,
despite a somewhat primitive sound. Turn Loose the Swans (1993) is considered one of the band's best works. Not without reason. The album
mixes death metal and doom with very good songs, full of variety, dynamics and tristesse. The album takes their new
direction all out, complete with piano, blast beats, brass, growling and violin. With a song like The Crown of
Sympathy, one can safely add a monumental touch to the band's new and characteristic style. My favourite album,
without a doubt, but the experts argue. The Angel and the Dark River (1995). The band adopted a more gothic approach and launched once more
a set of very strong material, and many of the same instrumental elements. I picked this one up quite late, and I didn't
really get the relationship with the album that I've noted that the exceedingly strong tracks undoubtedly deserves. I
have no problems seeing why some consider this the band's opus, though. Like Gods of the Sun (1996) divides the fans a bit in half, if not as much as the next release. The
style didn't change dramatically, but the songs are not as strong as on its predecessor, although a few songs, particularly
A Kiss to Remember and For You maintains a high level. 34.788%... Complete (1998) received exceptionally poor response, and the expectations thus sank
dramatically. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I bought the album. Its monotone and completely depressed style
differed from its predecessors, but its hypnotic effect and sorrowful melodies appealed, and I sighed with relief that
at least, it wasn't worse off. This was also the very first album since their debut subject to lineup changes. The
absence of violinist and keyboardist Martin Powell, is in particular noticed. The Light at the End of the World (1999). New drummer again, this time Shaun Taylor-Steels.
Also, guitarist Calvin Robertshaw has left. MDB leaves the experimental path and concentrates on what
they do best. The songs' somewhat tedious and atmospheric nature don't manage to enthral as previous occasions. A slightly
anonymous album for my part.
The Dreadful Hours (2001). Guitarist Hamish, now in Vallenfyre, comes into
play, but the violin is still a loss. Although traces of (synthetic) strings exist. The album was still a step back in
the right direction, to gloom and more good, memorable tunes. Songs of Darkness, Words of Light (2004) succeeded to a greater extent with what I believe characterizes
the predecessor. Against all odds, the band composes their strongest songs since the heydays, about ten years ago. Grief,
despair and tearful mournfulness has rarely been so beautifully. That a few tunes are unable to keep this pace, lowers
the general impression a slight clue. The album also marks the entry of keyboardist Sarah. A Line of Deathless Kings (2006). Hope and expectations had been given a new lease of life, and the
EP Deeper Down, released a short month earlier, put no damper on a lovely forecast. On the contrary.
It couldn't prepare anyone on the slightly more alternative style the band now had chosen to adapt. The disappointment
was like a cold shower, and the album has gathered dust for ten years now. And it will continue to do so. The band
utilize hired guns for rhythm this time. For Lies I Sire (2009). I remember the cover art, but nowhere else. The album appeared to be better
than its predecessor, but it didn't really excite me then and there, and I didn't get no imminent sense of growing
potential, so I dismissed it rather quickly. Probably too fast, for it doesn't seem so bad when given a spin.
The album saw a lot of changes in the crew. The original bassist Ade had left, as so had
Sarah. A new drummer had been found, and Ade was replaced by Lena Abé. Also,
after 12 years without this almost vital element, the album offered a pleasing reunion with the fiddle. It's A
Forest of Stars violinist Katie Stone that comes to the rescue, and also handles keyboards. Evinta (2011) is, perhaps, a full length album, but not an ordinary such. The double CD (and triple
CD version) contains symphonic adaptations of melodies and themes from the band's discography, marking two decades of
doom and gloom. Aaron worked with keyboardist Johnny Maudling (Bal-Sagoth) to realize
the project, and the other musicians are contracted for the occasion. A number of slow, low-key and anaemic versions,
with partial synthetic orchestrations and operatic vocals, leaves deformed sequences of the bands catalogue beyond
recognition in a pretentious, atmospheric, almost avant-gard style. These discs must be hell to suffer through. I
wouldn't dream of making the toilful attempt. A Map of All Our Failures (2012). Katie's been replaced by Shaun Macgowan
on violin and keyboards, and they hire the former drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels. The album
has the band's classic expression more or less intact, but even here I'm not becoming too friendly with the
songs. It starts strong, with solid Knee Till Doomsday, but few other songs have the same memory
friendly melody lines, and some of the material must unfortunately accept being called humdrum.
Hear part of My Dying Brides occasionally eminent discography
Feel the Misery
Vocalist and front man Aaron Stainthorpe and guitarist Andrew Craighan, are the two
only remaining original members, but with Feel the Misery, original guitarist Calvin Robertshaw
returns. (Albeit he guested on Sear Me III on The Light at the End...)
Hamish is now out of the picture, but both Lena Abé and Shaun Macgowan
has become settled in. Once again it is contracted muscles that matters when the rhythm are to flow like syrup in archaic
British style, and Dan "Storm" Mullins (who played on For Lies I Sire) does the honour.
The album begins beautifully with And My Father Left Forever. Potent melancholy notwithstanding, the
bottomless grief and the grand majestic frames we have previously witnessed, is not quite as pronounced here.
Like Mr. Holmes of Paradise Lost, Mr. Stainthorpe has decided to revive the guttural part of
his throats register for the occasion. Growling has most likely not been used in My Dying Bride since
Songs of Darkness.... To Shiver in Empty Halls opens with animalistic snarls. This yet
a mighty fine song, which admittedly doesn't kick of on the level of classics, but that improves considerably during its
stay. Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of different sequences that this track consists of. Aaron's growling ain't quite what it once was, if the somewhat raspy grunts ain't intentionally, that is,
but the 48 year old has really kept his clean vocal splendour, a vowel that acts as the personification of grief itself.
Four of the album's eight songs lasts from five to seven minutes, while the four remaining stretches from nine to eleven.
Altogether they transcends an hour with little margin. Compared with the back catalogue, that's a normal duration for the
British. With the exception of the 45 minutes debut (and Evinta), the band has remained close to an hour.
The album's first single and the tittle song, one of the four shortest, required a few laps to sit comfortably.
Despite its partly uncomplicated pattern, it has sufficient heavy grieving and such a graceful expression that
it's difficult not to become fond of it. The two bridge, with wonderfully elegant fiddles and melancholic piano,
also contributes to the success. I Almost Loved You has a repetitive piano line reminiscent of one something or another. Dimmu?
The four longest compositions, three of which opens the album, while the longest turns out the lights and closes the
door behind it, are most certainly the strongest contributions. At times, the moods and structures recalls bygone
greatness. The church organ in concluding Within a Sleeping Forest even creates an epic touch that
part of other material lacks.
Not everything runs smoothly this time. The shortest songs ain't bad, they all have distinctive melodies, but
structurally and content-wise, these will generally come up a bit short, compared with the four long compositions.
A little slimming, or cutting and pasting the better parts of the less good songs into a single monumental sonic
document, would've lifted the record a notch.
The sound is clear and nice, as usual. The dynamics of my promo alternates between DR6 and DR7, but reportedly there
exist versions with significantly improved (or technically: less damaged) dynamic range. Anyway, I'm not going to
complain. This doesn'tt sound brickwalled in my ears.
The wholeness initially feels slightly second-rate in My Dying Bride context. That's simply caused by
the simple fact that the best stuff is also best remembered. Thus, that's what anything new automatically gets compared
to. Many young and promising bands in the genre would probably have killed for this song material. During this hour, I
feel torn between 4 and 5 points, and I sometimes get a glimpse of dice number 6, which shines like a fata morgana
through darkening clouds.
Eventually, after 20-30 spins, I land on a little weak five points, though it probably marks the beginning of yet another
year characterized by reviews with 5 points as the generic score.
PS, 24.01.16: And yet I managed to glue Dice number 4 in the top right corner. Turns out manual inputs don't
mix well with an absent-minded personality.