Blood Harvest, 21.04.17
In 2011, four experienced Swedes released a demo called The Merciless Light. In 2017, only two men are left, while all four songs from the demo are alive and kicking. This time on the album by the same name, along with three other tracks.
Those who have remained faithfully at their post are vocalist Master of the Watery Depths, formerly in Bestial Mockery, and the man with the less imaginative name Fredrik Helgesson on instruments. The latter has played bass in Bestial Mockery and drums in Grief of Emerald.
Tehom plays black-scorched death metal with lyricism that dwells on occult aspects of Sumerian mythology. The Merciless Light largely consists of fierce riffs and angered attitude. The riffs aren't of the most memorable kind, but there and then, ever-changing riffs and driving rhythms create moods of a glowing river of lava flowing through the pleasantly temperated realms of Hell.
I could do without the first two minutes of the first song. A voice speaks in an unidentified language behind an effect filter, and I simply don't see the point. Something similar is the case throughout the 3.5 minute long Tehom Invocation. Apart from these freakish experiences, The Merciless Light gives about half an hour of relentless aggression before the smoke of gunpowder settles.
Tehom delivers an album that probably won't leave the very biggest aftermath, but that's quite ripping right there and then. The vocal snarls rabidly, riffs and rhythms are hammered out with aggression, and a few dissonant undertones enhance the mood of flaming hellfire. The material varies somewhat in quality, but the lion's share is too good for me to go any lower on the grading scale. Nevertheless, neither the beginning nor the end lives up to the album's central tetralogy of songs.
In Faith from Water, the Swedes show themselves from their most diverse and substantive side. More memorable features with similar hooks could have give a stronger sense of recognition and hypnotic immersion, for when the drums crackle in semi-staccato pace and the music pound away straight forward on flat ground, there is little doubt that parts of the material are highly replaceable. Some songs can seem rather similar and interchangeable. This is also the case on most of the death records you own. The three biggest issues with The Merciless Light are pointless Tehom Invocation that's placed last but one, as well as the first and last song, where especially the drums are driving me fucking crazy. The four remaining songs could have made a volcanic eruption of an EP. Rating: 4-
The Smoldering Vessels is currently the only song streaming. Fortunately, it's one of the good ones.
Lamech Records, 22.04.17
Ukrainian Kaosophia was formed under the moniker Cotard Syndrome in 2009. They changed it two years later. In 2012, they released the demo Towards the End, before the debut The Origins of Extinction was released the following year.
Guitarist XRT and bassist KRZ haven't had any former permanent band membership, whilst vocalist Morthvarg has more experience. Amongst other from Semargl when they used to play real black metal. The band's previous drummer is out of the picture. He's hereby replaced by Jotunhammer from Kroda et al.
Enter the Devotion is the name of the first discharge, and that's a proposal I'm more than willing to follow. I'm guessing that the devotion the band refer to might be the devil-worship to which they swear. The band claims to preach an orthodox form of unconditional satanism, as well as resorting to pain as a medium to achieve a higher awareness of meditative escapism.
The song detonates heavily, oppressive and dissonant. Through a battlefield of mitrailleuse and grenades, coal black negative frenzy and unrestrained antagonistic disgust are conveyed. The song is like a bloodthirsty psychotic attack, a paralysing inner struggle. Cacophonic, deafening and repetitive as a deranged mental short circuit. Ill-boding guitar strings with a sensation of rusty scalpel along with reckless rhythm, provide gradual fluctuating currents of discomfort. The last 30 seconds in particular have a disharmonious character of heartless sadism.
The following songs depart somewhat from the atonal path, as if the declining panic attack leaves a new found calmness, a clear but twisted insight in an emotionally numb and warped mind. More pessimistically landscaped waters opens up, but the currents are still strong. Glowing aggressive black metal assume threatening shapes, that cold-heartedly and calculated advocates a murderous liturgy. The drums are veritably steaming. It seems like Jotunhammer, who's been drumming live for the band since last year, has become a permanent member. I surely hope so, for the man with the suiting pseudonym (meaning Jötunn hammer) is a wild animal, and I intend to follow Kaosophia's journey from here on. Morthvarg rages like obsessed in manic blind fury, and the two axe murderers follow the breathless pace with frenetic tremolo without any signs of exhaustion. These two string-benders have no other merits than as live crew for a few other bands, and their execution is impressive. Apart from the drummer replacement, the line-up has been stable since the inception.
Despite the fact that the continuation ain't quite as claustrophobic as the dazzling explosion that triggers the avalanche, there is enough evidence of anxiety-inducing atonality to be traced on the journey. Different sequences, segments and part provide differing seismic results. Eerie moments, uncomfortable industrial sounds and drops of morbid effects not entirely dissimilar to Slagmaur, occurs. The general attitude testifies to a band that largely detest and in the grand scheme of things don't give a fuck about established norms.
When gloomy and ominous Event Horizon ends, more of the dissonance returns in В Могиле Бытия. Probably to throttle the last hint of blood circulation using vacuum. Serpenti Vortex is a concise and succinct album in just under 34 minutes, that in a gleeful dystopic manner performs an effective assassination. «We shall all die», the whispering voices insist in an ascertaining demeanour, «so why postpone what is inevitable?» Rating: 5+
Hear Enter The Devotion and Fall Into Singularity:
Prophecy Productions, 21.04.17
German Farsot has spent quite some time since their previous album, Insects, released five and a half years ago. The critically acclaimed debut IIII was released four years earlier, and the band was formed eight years before that.
The band plays an atmospheric form of black metal with elements of post-black, and could probably be considered a natural part (albeit not playing a very central role) of the story of atmospheric black metal.
The Germans are presently topical with a conceptual album called Fail·Lure.
The threatening female figure on the cover - a sculpture created by French Denis Lavoyer - symbolizes the contrast between beauty and abhorrence, desire and disgust. The album, whose name mixes the words “failure” with “allure”, is based on the movie Drowning by Numbers and Art Nouveau literature. Fail·Lure examine and explore dilemmas as well as contradictory or related emotions, such as strength and weakness, fascination and obsession, and the always relevant distinction between the sexes. Fail·Lure is an allegory of life as a game that can't be won. A game where the sand of the hourglass is slowly and inevitably running out.
Intellectual or pretentious? That's up to you to decide.
As a rule of thumb, I consider an increasing number of what can be pigeon-holed as atmospheric black metal as uninteresting, but fortunately there are still exceptions. Farsot performs a largely melodic kind of black metal in calm dreaming mid-tempo. There's lots of moods, but it's not particularly hostile, nor very gloomy. It may rather be said to be resigned and bitter. And the melodies consist more of tones that flow with the tide than actual tunes.
What distinguishes Fail·Lure from the rest of the sheep and goats in the field is not quite easy to account for, and it took a few rounds before the inherent qualities appeared. I must admit that the first spin was a bit disappointing.
The guitars' timbre in a rich soundscape of electric and acoustic coexistence, the progressive drum performance, the soft caress of the bass, the resignation of the black vocals and the comforting gentleness of the clean vocals. The composition of all of this gives a hypnotic sensation of pleasant surreal well-being. And when the word “monotony” in addition ain't listed in the Germans' dictionary, it's pure therapy to just close the eyes and follow the foehn wind like a feather.
Fail·Lure is produced by V. Santura. Thus you know that sound and tone colour sounds rich and fine.
The quintet obviously don't break new ground. The mentioned clean vocal gives some associations to Agalloch and Alcest, something that's not unexpected considering the style. In general, however, the music don't remind too much of neither these nor others. The conclusion is that Farsot with style avoids stepping in the most generic traps.
And that the band's third has become a nice enjoyable album. Rating: 4+
Check out the bands discography on Bandcamp, and stream the album under the video for The Antagonist.
(Full stream is not available at the moment, but will probably be published in due time.)
Sepulchral Voice Records, 17.03.17
Last month didn't go quite as planned. One of the biggest blunders I committed was not getting around to present Venenum's debut Trance Of Death. Though new releases are queuing up, screaming for attention like PR-horny exhibitionists, it's definitely worth it to take a step back, or pull the emergency brake to pick up soldiers lost in battle, sprinting behind the runaway train.
The German quartet dropped a self-titled EP almost exactly six years ago, and finally debuted in album format a month ago.
Sombre cello with drips of piano open the intro Entrance, before the underground opens in almost nine minutes long Merging Nebular Drapes. Lethal unpolished punch and fierce moods paves its way with roaring riffs and poisonous swirling guitars before gloom seep out of the grave. Tough groovy riffs takes over, but nothing lasts forever. Transitions come and go frequently, and melts various killer passages into a malignant coherency.
Two tracks continues the wild hunt in the same irregular ways. It echoes, reverberates, drones and explodes of extremely dynamic structured songs where tempo, rhythm and riffs are constantly changing. The mood of persecution delusion is heartfelt, as if the music described a frantic escape driven by utter mania. With their lightly psychedelic undercurrents, the songs are rather erratic. The album has some of the same unruly unpredictability that we remember from Execration.
On Encyclopaedia Metallum, helpful and lost souls has named among others Grave Miasma*, Drowned and Excoriate (whereof the two latter are also German) as genre-wise related. I can confirm that Venenum operates in uneven terrains of a similar nature. We can throw in Autopsy* and Obliteration as bonus references, so that at least there'll be no doubt as to just how inhospitable the awaiting landscape is.
This does not mean, however, that Venenum “sounds like everyone else”. Just like the aforementioned bands each have their unique character despite stylistic similarities, these Germans also have a signature-strong calibre. And while the aforementioned genre-relatives belongs to the crème de la crème, the quality of Trance Of Death is indeed interchangeable.
The trilogy Trance Of Death occupies the entire second half of the album, and then some. Part I: Reflections don't differ more than what each and every song on the album does. Part II: Metanoia Journey, on the other hand, gives a somewhat psychedelic breather when the band's calmest aspects lend Hammond organ and expression from progressive hard rock. Throughout five minutes, calm ominous death metal blends naturally with elements of Pink Floyd and Deep Purple into pleasant dreamy moods.
14 minutes long Part III: There Are Other Worlds... takes the 50 minute album across the finish line. The ghostly moods are so abstract that you gradually realize it's all just a dream. But a lifelike dream that you just can't end nor leave, that also apparently lasts forever, will haunt you as a disturbing feverish nightmare all the same.
The song can be described as a powerful piece of music that bends and twirls like a spastic Jörmungandr, but that could just as easily sum up the album as a whole as well. Rating: 6
Dark Descent Records, 14.04.17
London-based Craven Idol released their first album in 2013. Towards Eschaton consisted of an extreme metal hybrid of old school black/thrash/death: relentless, hard-hitting and destructive.
With The Shackles Of Mammon the Brits takes another step back and blow life into still smouldering embers of a bygone era that refuses to die. Craven Idol has found inspired in proto-black and other elements of early savage and eeriness. The results is entirely on par with the debut, although the feeling of a civilization's demise ain't quite as imminent.
The expression on The Shackles Of Mammon is namely more airy, and the song structure more dynamic, which is fortunately also reflected in the production. Let's therefore begin with the sound. The album recording was engineered by Greg Chandler (last mentioned in connection with Corpus Diavolis a couple of weeks ago), and mastered by Dan Lowndes (Imindain*, Cruciamentum*) in his Resonance Sound Studio. The sound has a contemporary quality, but preserves aspects and charm of yesteryears. Where some albums are mixed/mastered so loud you'll have to turn down the volume to avoid deafening pain, a dynamic range of DR9 providing a spaciousness that allows you to crank it up instead.
Each malicious riff, every cymbal and every negatively charged drum-bash shines clearly with fervent zeal. The bass hides more in its own self-generated shade, but helps to paint the situation black. Vocalist/guitarist Immolator of Sadistik Wrath (Crom Dubh*, Scythian*) peels the skin off on the inside of his throat with distorted rasping as he convey his views on humanity's seemingly self-destructive nature. Whether the human race demolish themselves through irrational canons from pathetic man-made creeds or undermine all our common natural resources via mind-numbingly stupid conflicts created by the power-hungry. The quartet offers an immersive execution infused with energetic rawness, packed with an antagonistic atmosphere of the mid-eighties, that's quite pleasing to the ear.
Mammon that the album title speaks of, refers to the Latin version of an older Greek word used for wealth and power. The word is used today as a personification of - or optionally an idol - of greed, materialism, power-hungriness and unrestrained desire for earthly goods. The cover, created by Desecrator from Slaughtbbath*, is an interpretation of German artist Sascha Schneider's work Mammon und sein Sklave (Mammon and his slave) from 1896.
The only thing The Shackles Of Mammon don't always succeed at as well as those predecessors it's inspired by, is the melodic hooks. Some songs, like A Ripping Strike becomes a bit too straight forward and don't appeal too much. Other songs, such as The Trudge with its Viking approaches, or rather doomful Tottering Cities of Men, catch the ear in a very satisfactory manner. The album in many ways feel like a near authentic experience of an artificial bridge that spans three decades and unites two eras with a common insight; those who hunger for power, is rarely fit to have it.