After a long period of daily headache I have nothing new to offer, but I have a solid stack of half-written drafts to pick from. I could fill a rack with releases labelled “bad conscience”, as there's a lot I haven't found the time to write about. Like this DVD, which I received half a year ago. The time is overripe for finally presenting Middle Eastern Battlefield, a double DVD with two concerts and six music videos as bonus material from Israeli Arallu.
When a relatively unknown band from a country with quite big income equality publishes a DVD, we know roughly what to expect. The technical quality is below par, but there's a lot of enthusiasm present, and despite a bootleg sensation, it's enjoyable to see a live document of a band that still belong to the underground.
Arallu has been active for almost 20 years and have five albums in their back catalogue. Their latest work, Geniwar, most likely never got quite as much attention as it deserves. After many years of experience, the band still feels somewhat underdeveloped and lo-fi in relation to the existing potential. One evolves with ones surroundings, and Israel is not exactly extreme metal's Mecca. If this band eventually evolves as much as I hope for, the guys could eventually give Melechesh some competition. The region needs bands with a little more reputation, and it would be fun to see Arallu fight acts like Behemoth and Rotting Christ for attention in a few years. I'm overplaying it a bit, but it's amazing what a little more attention can result in. My desire for local metallic growth has a twofold reason. One bands growth can rub off on others, dragging them into the undertow and creating a new spring with increased activity that'll benefit us all. In addition, a touch of folk from various regions of the world create a greater diversity than what Scandinavian and Celtic tones alone does.
Disc 1 – Live at the Club Gagarin, Tel Aviv.
Arallu reel off aggressive extremity where the extreme becomes almost profusely violent due to fairly flat sound, while the more evocative parts comes more to their own whilst sparking more life into the audience. The music has its local flair of the Middle East, something that is particularly evident in aggressive and driving percussion. When the long-neck lute is applied, the music even get a bit of beneficial melodic diversity that also gives the band some distinctive identity.
After five self-composed songs, two cover songs await their turn. Slayer's Evil Has No Boundaries is served without folk elements or particular finesse. Subsequent Powerslave does however benefited from a dark exotic flair. Both songs see guest-vocalists visit the scene, something that happens frequently throughout the concert. The music becomes best when the guys don't just shed of extreme black/death, but offers an original touch with a local whiff. the drum solo in the Sierra Nevada, performed on a darbuka type hand drum or similar, and lots of exotic goodies and killer moods in subsequent Coronation works very well. After a delightful retro-underground cover of Sepulturas Troops of Doom, Hayalim Almonim, a more stand-tall and epic battle-hymn with female guest vocals follow, before the song Milchama (meaning War) sees a guest singer about as angry as Jesus after hell knows how many days on a cross without access to cellphone or internet. Earlier The Bishop of Hexen vocalist Aviv Hadari, now in Magor, is the one contributing the blackest vocals of the concert. Three further tracks follow before the end of the show.
After a bit more than 80 minutes, the band has ploughed through 16 songs in a quite extensive, but varied set. The songs material seems to gradually improve, and the band drag one guest vocalist after the other onto the stage. Despite limited sound quality, the gig gradually develops into a kick-ass concert that would have been cool to have attended. The band immerse into the music and give it all. The response of the audience seems slightly sparse but we Norwegians are most likely not one bit better with our standstill concertgoer manner.
The picture is rather simple and slightly chaotic. The camera movements alternates between a small handful of stationary cameras at the edge of the stage and unsteady hand-held cameras at varying distances. The lads are impeccably dressed for the occasion, and floodlight flashes in assorted colours, but that's all the visuals there are. Even the backdrop only flag the name of the venue.
Disc 2 – Live at Reading 3, Tel Aviv.
On disc 2, nine tracks are served, totalling three quarters. Out of these, Metal Troops 666 is the only song that's not being performed on disc 1. Although there's certainly lots of punch in the venue, the DVD is again hampered by rather thin sound and wobbly image via a pair of hand-held cameras in the hall and a modern pocket camera with relatively good quality on stage. The whole thing is done by the classical underground do-it-yourself principle. Self-financed and low budget. I have a taste for the material and the band is tight. Thus this would have been cool with a more costly production.
In addition to the ordinary drum kit, we find a man armed with a pair of cymbals, a couple of big tom-toms, and a fixed djembe-type hand drum. Standing on the outer right flank, seen from the audience's perspective, it's not easy to keep an eye on his tasks on a DVD, but from his corner he also controls various exotic playback samples from a synthesizer and a laptop.
After a concert the was guaranteed better live than on tape, a few all right but not lavish music videos follows. Both discs serve three music videos each, which together make up more than half an hour.
There are better DVDs, with better visual appearance and higher picture and sound quality. The release is best suited for those with knowledge of the band. Becoming familiar with song material via this DVD will take longer than through an album format, as sound and image is marked by said bootleg feel. Although the soundstage could be fuller, I will not, however, say that the sound is directly poor. Drums, riffs and vocals is clear enough, albeit in an unfavourable raw and primitive way. Perhaps an advantage for those who dwell in the underground exclusively.
For existing fans, or others with unwavering penchant for exotic and obscure underground metal, this is a rich package with a lot of music and more than 2.5 hours of playtime. The density of highlights is thickest on the Club Gagarin concert.
Iron Bonehead&Altare, 17.03.17
We discussed Portuguese Onirik in connection with the band's fourth album, Casket Dream Veneration. This time we take a look at a new split with Belgian Grimfaug. Gonius Rex is still king and duke in the despotic monarchy known as Onirik. Grimfaug is however an unknown quantity to this cursed site. The band was formed in 2001 and released a demo and two albums during the millennium's first decade. It's been quiet from the band for ten years. They return with a new crew, now reduced to a duo, and only Norgaath remains from the original line-up.
Both bands contribute with four songs, half an hour of black metal and a cover version of a song from their split-partner. The title (2014-2016) most likely indicate the period in which the material was created.
Onirik is the first band out. They in many ways continue where they left off, but some of the lurking mood is replaced with more punch. Not to a very great extent, but the expression is somewhat rawer, and the sound is more powerful. The bass' far more distinct position in the sound is particularly evident. Even if the music don't stand out a whole lot, it's still somewhat thrilling.
The Portuguese don't create very intense or pitch black metal, but he composes songs with eventful structures and atmospheric/progressive undertones. The last time, I mentioned a trace of Hidden in the Fog. Let me throw in associations to for instance Kvist this time.
The cover version of Grimfaug is taken from the band's second album, Defloration of Life's Essence, but unfortunately I haven't heard the original, so I'll refrain from commenting further. Onirik deliver above average, that is: good, albeit not sovereign.
I have no relationship to Grimfaug what so ever, but unofficial songs on YouTube indicates that whipping winds of second generation black chill is the home turf of the Belgians. The band's three new songs offers supercooled guitar, rusty, cutting vocals and migraine-inducing drums. The guitar sounds distinct enough, but the drums unfortunately becomes an objection. During big chunks of the two first songs, they propel just about as fast as drumsticks can go without using blasting. I prefer the latter, as a volley of identical tom-strokes constitutes a monotonous and staccato rhythm that is more repulsive than diabolical.
The material seems alright, albeit partly ordinary but unfortunately often drown behind a deafening wall of banal drumming. Quite odd, given that Portuguese Menthor sits behind the drums. The man is involved in amongst other Enthroned, Lvcifyre and Nightbringer and I can confirm that he has delivered juicier contributions there. Norgaath also has connection to a wide range of more or less known bands, where bass execution live for Nightbringer constitutes one of the entries on the resume. Both men have also played live for Corpus Christii* in the past.
The drumming is admittedly not horrible, nor constantly monotonous. Especially the (third) song Hour Of Sacrifice shows the band from their best side. Through 8.5 minutes, treacherous nightmare moods churn out of the speakers, before the band ends with a cover version of The Hideous Realm, picked from Onirik's third album. I haven't heard the original to this one either, but the song is good, apart from the one minute before the middle of the song, where the drums again cause irritation.
MMXIV-MMXVI is not a mandatory split for anyone other than existing fans. The music can be said to fulfil my requirements for approval, but I wouldn't exactly recommend the release. At times it's good, but sometimes only so-so. Hence a somewhat strict grading.
Hear Onirik play The Pantheon Of The Tempter and Grimfaug perform Hour Of Sacrifice:
Inverse Records, 16.03.17
We stay in Australia, where another new project is about to take shape, but we move about 800 km (500 miles) south from Brisbane to Newcastle. A mournful Path became a reality last summer and consists of the brothers David and Michael Romeo. The men are currently working on their debut. Whether the result will be an album or an EP admittedly remains unknown.
As a foretaste, the song From the Wreckage of Humiliation is served in solitude, clocking in at five minutes.
From the Wreckage of Humiliation waste no time, but goes straight for the kill in yet another spontaneous berserk outburst of caustic magma. A mournful Path, like Consummation, is inspired by black Scandinavian disgust garnished in the form of a downward eclectic maelstrom. Dissonant guitars leads the way before frenetic drumming violently drill holes in the forehead. After barely 90 seconds of striking discomfort, the music seems to calm down, but it's only an illusion, a diversion in order to penetrate the mind with a new wave of anxiety-ridden frontal assault when the listener is distracting to lower his garde. From the Wreckage of Humiliation is intense and terrifying from start to finish, and vouch for yet another band to take heed of.
The duo has recently been on a pilgrimage to Norway and Iceland, and images from Fantoft stave church and the basement of the Helvete shop et al. can be seen on their fakebook.
Invictus Productions, 13.03.17 Consummation from Brisbane on Australia's east coast, consists of one or more members of Impetuous Ritual. The band dropped their first release, a self-titled two-track demo in 2012. They follow up with a two-song EP where the stakes are increased from 15 to 21 minutes.
The band plays a hybrid of death and black metal, but appears less cacophonous than Impetuous Ritual. Consummation preserves a touch of chaos, but in controlled ritualistic forms.
As soon as the gjallarhorn blares, The Weightless Grip of Fire sets full sail in rough seas. The music twists and meanders like a nest of snakes, while the song's swells crush against the ship's sides. The sea roll in a dizzying fashion, ebbing and flowing, causing vast seasickness. Despite its dissonant exterior and the turbulent environment, the feverish voyage feels dreamy. Are the sirens singing imperceptibly and hypnotizing, drowned out by the storm's deafening roar? Lashing winds persists unabated with gusts whose strength remains undiminished, even though the swell and the anxiety amidst the crew move in peaks and valleys. After a ten-minute voyage in waters whose spectacle and location ought not to be formulated in words, the ocean eventually calms down. Disturbing organ and thunderbolts however indicates that this will only be a short dramatic pause; the calm before the storm.
The title of the second track, Blighted Ovum, underpins the mood of ominous atonal dystopia. Most of us, however, are in need of an explanation. Another medical term for Blighted Ovum is anembryonic pregnancy/gestation, a false pregnancy where the gestational sac is growing without containing a developing embryo. A real phantom pregnancy or ghost gravidity in layman-terms.
A fairly melodic start gives false hopes, but when the worst damages to the ship is provisionally repaired and the vessel has set sail of the temporary port, there is no way back. As the low-lying clouds rapidly thickens to barely translucent, almost opaque, dark, grey fog, it seems clear the crossing of the point of no return was done in sheer ignorance. Only lightning can be glimpsed through dens sea mist, and in the fraction of a lit second; silhouettes - indescribable grotesque and malignant silhouettes. Occult powers are at work as the sea boils in a hellish manner.
Abominor* is mentioned as reference over at Encyclopaedia Metallum. The Icelanders are more aggressive in their claustrophobic approach, but sail the same odious waters. Take notice of the name Consummation if your darkened heart beat with fervour for disturbing kaleidoscopia. Ritual Severance is a very good EP.