Hellthrasher Prod.&Blood Harvest Rec, 10.03.17
Based on the cover art and the airy tones that fill the room during the two minutes long intro Escalation Of Darkness, I prepare for melodic death metal or atmospheric death/doom based in Finland or possibly Germany.
There's no denying the associations to Wolfheart* and their ilk.
As soon as The Halls Of Grim Eternity tumbles out of the speaker like a rotting carcass with lead weights around its legs, the mistake is however immediately and unmistakably revealed.
These three guys are messengers of “the man with the scythe”, as we call him in Scandinavia (we says it as we sees it), but you will know him by the name the Grim Reaper. The cold, grey reality of Scandinavia is as alien to them as their Turkish residence is for us. The apostles of death plays aggressive extreme metal that insists on reminding you of your own inevitable mortality. Coarse guttural vocal quiver in anger over hasty resounding riffs and frantic violence against the drumkit. And above the cloudburst; the restless and spastic, almost erotic, dance of the death angels. Albeit in the form of thin vibrating steel wire, so you'll have to provide the mental images yourself.
The genre has been around for thirty years, and there is nothing new under the Death Star regarding pure death metal. Yet, sometimes one encounter bands that sound fresh simply because their insidious message is delivered with panache. Engulfed delivers a juicy and ferocious drive with ruthless riffs and ominous tones of haunted souls. Mustafa displays good skills on the guitar. Drummer Aberrant gives the music an increased dynamic feel by putting in plenty of variation, and vocalist/bassist Serkan deliver in the lower frequency register. The trio gives it all they've got, and their enthusiastic immersion is palpable.
Engulfed in Obscurity offers three intense quarters. Almost a bit too intense. Especially in the treble, which may be a clue deafening a few places. Otherwise, the sound is adequately resounding. Time-wise, 45 minutes of downpour within rigid musical frames, can be something of a sumptuous meal as well.
Despite a few debris... The Turks delivers an infernal racket, but controls the cacophony well. Fans of lethal furore know what they have to do before they draw their last breath. And you never know when that is! Rating: 5-
PS: Vinyl to be released on Blood Harvest Records around April/May.
In the mean time, Hellthrasher Productions delivers the goods on CD.
Via Nocturna, 28.02.17 Varmia from Warmia, a historic region in northern Poland, is once again a new acquaintance. Newcomers keep pouring into the scene at all hours, thus the need to separate the wheat from the chaff is as important as ever. Why settle for simple and boring wheat bread when there's so many exciting types of grain bread to choose from. But that's a digression, for Varmia are interesting enough, although Z March twych ain't sensational.
The quartet is inspired by an ancient era and plays a form of pagan black metal with partially slower pace, mournful moods and a good deal of clean vocal usage along with the extreme vocals. By some kind of situational irony or poetic justice, the band dreams of a pre-Slavic time, but nevertheless eventually ends up with Slavic influences.
The album lasts for 50 minutes and is recorded without any data equipment in a barn. All in one take, reputedly. The sound is good, and I find no technical flaws, and there's no live-in-studio feeling to it either. No wonder a sense of distrust quickly emerge. When all is said and done, whether a band have opted to record in their house, cottage, boathouse or studio, really doesn't matter anyway, as long as the end result pleases the individual listeners sonic palate.
Z mar twych can apparently be translates to “From your nightmares” or “From the dead”. Google translate doesn't come to the same conclusion, but it might not be very skilled in dialects. The music is based on a black ground, but is not pitch black. It has a becoming folkish Eastern European flair, and some usage of folk instruments. The melody lines are not very melodious, and the expression has a partly monotonous feel that doesn't becomes too tedious. The album has a dreamy quality of nature and history that comes alive and puts my mind into a hypnotic state.
I have a taste for Z March twych and recommend fans of things in the region surrounding for example Zgard to take a listen. Still, the hooks don't penetrate very deep, and the album don't paralyse more than what I'm able to cut loose from. It's certainly alright, but not remarkably good. Maybe next time. The band is at their best when the guitar shines. A factor I'd like to have more of when our paths cross again. Rating: 4-
Eisenwald, 10.03.17 Pillorian consists of somewhat renown names, something I had long forgotten when I finally got around to to hearing Obsidian Arc. No wonder the music in many ways was quite impressive.
Stephen Parker (Maestus, ex-Arkhum), John Haughm (ex-Agalloch), and Trevor Matthews (Uada*, ex-Infernus*) started the band last summer. During the timespan of a pregnancy, this collective have thus given birth to their firstborn.
The music lies in a dark and mysterious landscape ravaged by grief and distress, yet marked by beauty. With elements of dark and black metal, added atmosphere, woodland-moods and an adequate amount of doomy post-apocalyptic dystopia, the trio set out to create something unique. They have to a certain degree succeeded. They haven't exactly created a new genre, but they have to their best ability rewritten the recipe after persistent experimentation with familiar ingredients.
Snowy acoustic landscape in the wake of Agalloch meets Uada's inhospitable barren landscapes and life-threatening terrain under partly intense circumstances. It's not solely a cuddly camp-fire that awaits on Obsidian Arc.
The trio are excellent professionals who delivers the goods both in writing process and during recording, and they are professional enough not to settle for compromises in any aspects. The music is evocative and relaxing, dreamy but sometimes disturbing and the sound brings out the best in the soaring post-existential atmosphere.
The single Stygian Pyre was released a month ago with exclusive music on the B side. The song is not the uttermost representative one for the album, as it's quite extreme compared to much of the remaining material.
They're playing the Inferno Festival in Oslo this easter, and you can catch them at various other gigs and festivals all over Europe in April. Rating: 4
code666, 13.03.17 Gnosis is the fourth album from my Belgian favourites, and I'm rivetingly excited to explore and discover what's hiding behind yet another lovely cover art.
In addition to the music, we find a concept. Not in the form of a story, per se, but rather in terms of a particular theme. Gnosis, Greek for knowledge, examines myths, philosophy, beliefs and legends in a pot-pourri of history and fiction, as Saille embark on a journey portraying creativity, boldness and originality after Promethean ideals, bumping into its Luciferian counterpart along the road.
With the debut Irreversible Decay (2011), the band gave us a display of wonderful symphonic horror metal with bizarre details of theatrical, gothic and occult undertones, with links to bands like Gloom Grim*, Arcturus*, Hortus Animae, Tartaros, Limbonic Art, Dimmu BorgirObsidian Gate, Ancient Wisdom and such.
Sophomore Ritu (2013) moved into a more mighty and mysterious realm where hints of Behemoth, Septicfleshet al. created an epic and ethereal atmosphere. The most playful antics were filed down a bit, while the symphonic aspect took a slight turn for the more epic and melodic. Inspirations from themes like ancient death rituals and H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos also gave the album a slightly darker feel, and I crowned the album with a rating of 5 points.
Isolated, out of context, Eldritch (2014) was a very good album. The album failed to touch upon the two first albums, though. The expression was somewhat more down to earth and straightforward, as the orchestra was dimmed. The album was admittedly not completely stripped of assorted burlesque spices, but as I wrote in my review almost two and a half years ago: “Gone are the acoustic guitars and the psychedelic, Limbonic Art-flirting circus moods. Vanished are the lurking and creeping psychotic traits of Morgul and Gloomy Grim. The grandiose megalomaniacal moods à la Nile and Fleshgod Apocalypse* are missing too. Melodies and structure ain't maintained quite as carefully either.” Eldritch was nevertheless good and murky, with a concept built on horror literature. It was given a rating of 4 points on the stone dice.
How ever cosy it is to reminisce, we'll have to enter the present. Not an inconvenience, considering Gnosis is yet another well above average nifty album from the Belgians. The band is still a quintet, but two of the band members have been replaced since last time. The music has also undergone minor changes, although it retains the basic expression.
A storm is brewing when thunderclouds collide. The air is electric. Gnosis has an air of mystique. The album is dark and enigmatic. And pretty intense. Intense as a thunderbolt. Saille still has a lot of depth and substance, and an unmistakable flair for the theatrical. We still find orchestral elements, albeit to a lesser extent than earlier in their back catalogue. Subtle strings and occasional grand piano keys or brass emerge, but a discreet usage of synthesizer is the most permanent component. It's nevertheless the metallic instrumentation that helms this show, and the metal just as easily compose its own symphony. Notice for example, how elegantly the guitar replicate the violin and invade its territory just over three minutes into Before the Crawling Chaos.
Although the band have put the most schizophrenic antics and caprices behind them, they continue to offer surprises. The music is full of changes and transitions, and you need to have good insight into its labyrinthine corridors to anticipate what's behind the next irregular curve. You might perhaps meet Charach Angren* or maybe come across Dismal Euphony. The variety is diverse and the number of elements in the soundscape is ample. The songs, or compositions as it is tempting to call them, are not made of typical traditional melodies, but they still have a leitmotif-like coherency, an even, unbroken flow that binds each song into a complete targeted and purposeful piece. Each of the nine songs have this precious intrinsic value, and the album's three quarters of an hour contains no standstill sequences. The atmosphere is not the easiest to pinpoint, but the album has a kind of whiff of daring and fearless decadence with restless undertones.
The sound is out of the ordinary. Just listen to the first guitar strokes in Benei ha'Elohim below. It feels like a cross between symphonic black metal and melodic death metal with some odd, or at least unexpected use of fuzz pedal. I'm not sure where the recording has taken place, but mixing and mastering is done by the Wieslawscy brothers in Polish Hertz Studio. The brothers are renowned for creating good sound with low dynamic range, but despite an average of DR4, ⅔ of the tracks actually only reach DR3, which is outrageously low. It sounds compact but peculiarly not too compressed.
Of subjective reasons, I still favour the two first albums, but I've really come to get a taste for Gnosis, which admittedly has claimed a lot of time to consolidate its position. I have come to the conclusion that I prefer this a notch higher than its predecessor, which in practice means that it wavers, or let's rather say “balances on the razor's edge” between 4 and 5. Not the latter means the same, but it undoubtedly sounds a whole lot cooler. And Gnosis is both grim and fascinating. Just like the blazing flare of lightning and its appurtenant blaring and roaring thunder. Raing: 5-
For the time being, only the song Benei ha'Elohim is streaming on Bandcamp, while Genesis 11:1-9 is streaming out of SoundCloud. You can also watch the lyric video for Benei ha'Elohim. In addition, I strongly recommends you check out Saille's discography on Bandcamp.
Black Lion Productions, 20.02.17
To reduce jet-lag we only move approximately 1,060 km (660 miles) from southern Brazil to São Paulo in the south-east.
In 1999, Dizruptor embarked on his musical journey, even he with Norwegian black metal as inspiration. He soon picked up other members, although they've come and gone during the years. After a demo and two albums, Carpatus disbanded in 2010.
In 2015 the band was revived to once again attempt at recreating former black metal magic. The medium being Malus Ascendant, the band's first international release.
It's not difficult to hear where the inspiration comes from. Tinctures of various Norwegian acts can be picked up without Carpatus resorting to plagiarism. Dizruptor succeed in crafting black metal by the book, but of course that doesn't mean that he succeeded in creating magic.
Malus Ascendant consists of 40 minutes of traditional and unfortunately somewhat generic black metal. The songs, seven in numbers, have adequate variation and decent temperature. Semi-fast mid-tempo is most frequently used and Dizruptor sounds grouchy and irritable. His vocals rasps in a hoarse manner that is best characterized as snarling. Tough enough, but a bit monotonous in the length. The guitar is also decent, with dirty sound, but the riffs are seldom particularly memorable. The drums to some extent appear as rather staccato and the rhythms neither becomes exceptionally exciting.
On this first global strike, Carpatus is reduced to a one-man band where Dizruptor handles everything but drums. Morbus Deimos is hired to take care of percussion, while Mantus from Patria has created the otherwise nifty cover art. Marcos Cerutti, a Brazilian musician, art designer and small-scale producer, has produced Malus Ascendant, while Dan Swanö has mastered the album. The sound is a bit primitive and flat, albeit with ample bass. The production is not polished, but also not fiery. It's simply rather two-dimensional.
Most aspects of Malus Ascendant basically feels just fine, which nevertheless is not enough to achieve the greatest recognition. The band delivers completely straightforward black metal, and it's quite all right to listen to, but it doesn't really give me anything. Therefore a lukewarm and indifferent rating. If you're still tempted to take this for a spin, you can pay whatever you see fit on Bandcamp. Rating: 3-
Soulseller Records, 03.03.17 Patria plays black metal with roots in the second wave, and sound as if they reside in Europe. Based on the antagonistic but also quite melodic black metal, I would perhaps have taken a shot (in the dark) at Germany as hotbed if I were forced to make a guess. As you may know, the guys however hail from Brazil.
The duo consists of instrumentalist Mantus and vocalist Triumphsword, who through a run of almost ten years now have come to album number six.
For some reason, I imagined this being album number four, but that just goes to shows my lack of thorough knowledge of the band. Unless the reason is that their third album, Nihil Est Monastica (2013), was so flawed and feeble that it sounded like a debut. Additionally, the guys took a pretty solid step forward with the sequel to Nihil..., Individualism (2014), which in this sense could easily have passed for a sophomore album. The sound in particular was greatly improved, despite the fact that it was still reasonably cheep. But this is often the case with South America. The material wasn't remarkable, but the album was certainly listenable.
With Magna Adversia, the sound is once again improved. You can of course accuse the album of being a bit too polished, or just gentle, but a rich and rather clean sound with clear bass suits the band's fairly melodic expression, and notable dynamics also help improve the sound. Despite melodies, and a moderate epic approach with a touch of symphonic elements, the song material sadly didn't seem very memorable this time around either. The thing, however, is that I was sceptical of the material's inherent quality for the longest time. In the eleventh hour, though, while the finishing touches on this review was put down, the whole situation was turned on its head. After the longest time, the pieces finally began falling into place, and I was forced to listen through the album a few more times whilst editing large parts of this text.
Reviewing albums ain't no exact science. Let these previously misjudged formulations stand as an example of that:
“The album is in many ways good, and I'm enjoying myself quite a bit while it lasts, but I can't quite get the hang of it no matter how many times I try. I like what I hear, but I don't become overly impressed. Rating this is therefore no easy task. My weak recommendation is doubtful, but I'm not in any way going to discourage someone from lending their ear to this work.”
The songs don't necessarily lack the deepest hooks, but they ain't easily accessible, and the music is struggling a bit to find solid foothold before an unimagined number of spins have passed by. I'm not going to speculate on what is equipped with most teflon, Patria's ten new songs or my own memory centre, but even though the album gave a more than passable experience right there and then, little to nothing seemed to adhere permanently. Without that necessarily meaning anything.
It should however be said that I still noticed that the material had more substance than the previous two albums, and that Magna Adversia occasionally felt very all right, even before the final “breakthrough”. Mantus is riffing better and more varied than before, and the drums are for the occasion entrusted in safe hands with experienced Norwegian drummer, and former Scream Magazine staff member, Asgeir Mickelson. The only single aspect I still struggle a bit with, is the vocal. I don't quite get along with Triumphsword's hoarse grunting vocals. I feel that the music deserves more blistering force, for the instrumentation is highly competent.
The album has a moderate touch of orchestral tints and shades, created and facilitated by Rebaelliun's Fabiano Penna, while Borknagar's Øystein G. Brun has been responsible for mixing and mastering. A dynamic range of DR7 is a notch better than what Winter Thrice achieved. Thus, Øystein has something to strive toward on the next occasion.
From being uncertain whether or not this was at all approvable, via a reticent recommendation, I finally conclude that Patria in this case deserves my unreserved recommendation. It's been an unexpected long run, but the album never appeared as directly mediocre. Patria does a good job demonstrating a will and ability to improve. The songs initially have okay melodies that gradually and slowly grows to strong songs with great structures and variety. Those who like their black metal a bit gentle is thus definitely advised to hear Magna Adversia with their own ears.
There's also a lot more stuff out there that is way crappier. I refuse and turn down more anaemic and toothless black metal almost daily. I noticed early on that Magna Adversia didn't belong to the bottom class, but that they rather had something special going on. Perhaps that is why I repeatedly, time and again, made an effort at getting the album under my skin with untiring patience. But I'm glad I did. If you've read this far, you have scarcely become any wiser, for it's nevertheless up to you now. You must decide whether the rating is too warm, too cold or just right. Much like in the fairy tale. And snip, snap, snout... Rating: 4+