Amor Fati Productions, 08.06.17 Saqra's Cult is a new and hopeful band from Belgium. Only he in hell knows when the band was started, though. The band dropped the demo Initiation to Forgotten Rites in 2015. An apt title, as it contained two songs from this album.
The band is now ready to perform these lost rides. That is, the album has actually been out digital and on vinyl since January, but at least they're ready to invade the sphere of your pitiful shack.
The band has every reason to be proud, for with this debut they deliver a black occult ritual that stands out well from the rest of the dregs of society. Available information concerning the band-members' identity is however vague, and there appears to be an error on Metal Archives. The band seems to consist of the two gentlemen Disgusting Semen on guitar and Alkhöloïkh on drums. Not until long after I initially let myself be absorbed by Forgotten Rites, did I discover that both of them also play in Maleficence.
The Belgian duo doesn't save the best for last, but play one of their strongest cards right away. The song Solemn Sacrifice last for ten minutes and occupy one quarter of the album's total duration. It spend a few minutes building up the mood, using sounds that give associations to hostile native Indians in the Amazon rainforest, infamous for their human sacrifice. Additional atmospheres from the South American jungle is also found in Uku Pacha, where something tells me that the medicine man has smoked too many strange plants and herbs, gone insane, and transformed into a malign necromantic witch doctor.
Solemn Sacrifice soon enough turn to gloomy riffs and thundering war drums topped by sharp, cutting black-vox with a reek of exotic witchcraft, and an occasional spine-chilling witching shriek. Alternating (but not exaggeratedly) rhythms and memorable riffs accompanied by deep resonating background chanting, sets the agenda. The vocal must be emphasized, although I can't say with certainty who's shrieking. The thorny scream are superb, while the voice's transitions to deeper and more distorted intonation also create diversity and a sense of barking madness. I also really have a taste for the clarity that appear in the articulation. Outstanding!
The music is generally intense, black and glowing like hell-fire, with rapid passages and sick fucking drift. Still, the music has a form of spaciousness and room for moods, whilst sticking out both in sound and performance. There is something distinctive about the guys' expression that can hardly be described with words. Something about the music makes me think of Cultes de Ghoules' peculiar soundscape and distinctive atmosphere, without the two sounding directly similar. Perhaps the twisted and distorted vocal is to blame? In any case, I can't come to think of any apt reference bands.
My association might also be due to the fact that the sound of Forgotten Rites also has a distinct individual uniqueness. The sound is a bit peculiarly, but it's also refreshingly luscious. The drums and the exquisitely serrated vocals sound stunning and the guitars are equipped with a peerless outlandish sound, especially when the guitar's whammy bar is used as distinctively as at the beginning of Mesak. That the band comes from Belgium is easy to forget. An undefinable occult mood, as of hindu idolatry demon worship or belligerent voodoo, spreads like a toxic chemical agent in the ventilation system. Last but not least, it's delightful to play the album loud! Every song has a dynamic range of DR9, except for the first song that arrive at DR11.
Saqra's Cult offers magic mysticism for 40 minutes, and I've long since lost count of the number of spins I've enjoyed. With wonderful instrumentation, deranged vocals, good material, quaint sound, diversity, dynamics and idiosyncratic originality, this is a crystal clear top-ranking in my non-humble opinion. Killer album! Rating: 6
Caverna Abismal Records, 04.09.17
For fans of blistering extreme metal permeated by occult moods, comes a relatively new band that may be well worth noting.
The Chilean quartet Praise The Flame was lit on fire in 2012, and has previously released demo and EP before participating on a split.
The album Manifesto Rebellion ain't brand new, but the version that's now being promoted, still has sticky ink on the booklet that'll hopefully dry up before the fans get their clammy hands on it.
We're talking cassette. The mother of all retarded formats in my narrow-minded opinion, but the format is alive and well, thriving in the underground all the same. The album fortunately also exist on CD, released in September 2015, and apparently still in stock over at Memento Mori.
The approximately 45-minutes long debut reminds me of a live-seance. The way the instruments gradually and cautious probingly enter before the vocalist grunts his utterances to guitars with slightly shrieking feedback before hell
breaks loose, has a touch of concert opening over it. Likewise, all aspects of the instrumentation at the end of the last song have an unmistakable appearance of three sweaty guys who round off the gig after reeling through the set-list. From the final thundering ride over the toms, to the screaming guitars and exhausted, roaring vocalist. All that's missing is a “thank you and good night”.
Whether the pace is high and breathless or slow and threatening, the music is filthy and dirty in the right chaos-gnostic ritualistic way. I have no doubt that this will catch on among the right audience in the underground, but at the same time, the structures becomes quite smeared. The music is tough, rough and violent, and the atmosphere of collision course and consecutive mutilation after being hit by the train, is good. The memorabilia is still only so-so. When you wake up from the coma with a fragmented skull, and you're strolling home from the ER with the brain in a plastic bag, you might simply not remember all that much of the ritual.
Manifest Rebellion is still a good half an hour full of aggressive sepulchral death and memory loss. With a bit more solid riffs with even stronger infectious effect, the Chileans can really become a name that spreads in the nether region of the scene. Tough, albeit with some unredeemed potential. Rating: 4-
Season of Mist&Prosthetic Records, 01.09.17
In these days, our Greek friends release their tenth album, the fourth after the reunion and a minor name alteration ten years ago.
The band has, as on the three previous albums, used an authentic symphony orchestra. Like the two previous discs, this one consists of ten songs and lasts for about three quarters of an hour. And as the previous release, the music's expression is cast in the same mould.
Whether or not these factors contributed to harden my pursue of the right words to convey it remains unknown, but this has been one long-in-the-making review.
In June 2014, Septicflesh released their previous album, Titan. I quickly became hooked on my daily fix of putrefactive flesh. I still thought about holding back a point on the rating as I regarded the band as having some wiggle room for further development. Also, the album could have had a more distinctive character compared to previous material. The music was still just too well-composed and incredibly well-done, and since I was completely absorbed, there was no other option than rewarding it 6 points.
After the release of Sumerian Daemons, Septic Flesh broke up. When the band made a comeback with Communion in 2008, it was under the moniker Septicflesh, a small change that distinguishes two distinct eras. After the return, it was a far more symphonic band we were witness to. Those who have followed the band since the mid 90's have almost been spoiled with altering expression from album to album, from a band of high musical integrity, inclined to thread new paths. Although the orchestral aspect created a common thread between Communion and The Great Mass (2011), Titan was probably the Septicflesh album that was closest to its previous release in style and expression throughout the discography. Until now. For Codex Omega resemble Titan more than its two predecessors mimic each other. Therefore, this translation consists of a mixture of my two Norwegian reviews of Titan and Codex Omega.
For many, one of the most negative aspects concerning both Codex Omega, which feels a bit like Titan Part II, and Titan, that felt a bit like The Great Mass Part II, is going to be just this uniform feeling. Another objection is the shortage of raw diversity for which the band was renown in its earlier era. This, in a way safe, expression, deprived of evolution and innovation is nevertheless the most rational (and only objective?) cavil concerning the Greek's two latest albums, albeit it would be partly based on expectations and wishful nostalgic desires.
In my ears, Titan was a magical, entirely engrossing work. Its addictive effect on me made me listen to the disc time and again without ever tiring or getting enough. As I wrote in 2014: “Titan is a most enjoyable masterpiece for one who have a weak spot for powerful and juicy orchestral soundtracks from a full symphonic orchestra. Here we find good melodies, seamless transitions and grand, intricate compositions.” The addictive effect appeared to be missing on Codex Omega, but listening over and over again has nevertheless been quite pleasing. After over a dozen rounds, the pieces eventually began to fall into place. The album isn't as exciting, however, considering the recipe hasn't changed. On the other hand: No one complains if they're served the same cake every three years, as long as it's a tasty cake.
And you know that cake baked with septic meat tastes delicious!
Christos Antoniou (guitar) is the man behind the orchestral arrangements, something he is undoubtedly highly suited to with his bachelor in composition and master degree in concert music (composing & orchestration) from London College of Music and Royal Northern College of Music. He is also awarded a number of honorary prizes for his compositional work. For the fourth time, Septicflesh have visited the Czech Republic. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, according to Metal Archives. FILMharmonic Orchestra of Prague, according to the press release. (I don't know if it makes any difference.) The conductor is Adam Klemens, a man with a good reputation in the circles, or so it seems. On Communion, 80 musicians and 32 singers were employed. I have no numbers regarding the last two albums, but in connection with Titan, the orchestra had to be divided into two groups, as it was too big to get enough room. A child choir was also part of that recording. This time, the choir consists of three sopranos, three alto-singers, two tenors and two bass-singers. In addition, the short-necked lute oud is used on the songs Martyr and Faceless Queen, and the antique wooden flute duduk is applied on the song Portrait of a Headless Man.
The symphonic instrumentation is just as mighty as this suggests. The sound is solid and majestic. When this many different elements of sound are to share space, there's in many contexts a tendency for the instruments to fight over the space and to interfere with each other. In Septicflesh's case, orchestra, band and choir collaborate and form a whole where the only victim of drowning is the listener, who is hit by a tsunami of euphony. Several studios and sound engineers have been involved along the way, but Jens Bogren can probably be said to have been given the main responsibility for the sound of the final product. As expected, the sound is powerful and clear, but the dynamics are rather disappointing. With poor DR5, the intense expression of the music can be a bit less vivid and more tiresome than strictly necessary. Admittedly, the predecessors don't have that much better statistics to show for. Titan was just a single notch higher on the scale. To what extent it's harder to achieve better dynamic properties with this many elements fighting over space in the soundscape, is not for me to say. Even though higher dynamic quality gives a more comfortable listening experience, I'm not going to emphasize this one aspect a whole lot when the sound is otherwise impeccable.
I don't intend to go into single songs, as in my ears they create an unrivaled totality. In addition to the philharmonics and the choir, the band also makes a solid effort. I have already mentioned Christos. New drummer since the previous album, Kerim "Krimh" Lechner (ex-Decapitated), as his predecessor, is a firework behind the drum kit. The remaining two are Spiros Antoniou (or Seth Siro Anton) on bass and vocal, and Sotiris Anunnaki V on guitar and clean vocals. The superb vocal is the icing on the cake, where both vocal forms are beautifully adapted to the music.
Concerning Titan, I wrote that it could all-in-all have been crafted in a more brave and exploring fashion compared to The Great Mass, but if considered isolated, it was an opus of titanic dimensions. I wrote that the band could always have made an album with more diversity and more intricate and progressive structures, but that the focus at the time had been on the grandiose, epic and majestic, and that it would have been unreasonable to complain about the lack of one thing when being served the other. The same words can be used again, as the similarities between the two releases are many.
Codex Omega has been a solid musical work from the first listen, but it's been more difficult to get under the skin than its predecessor, and it hasn't grown unexpectedly much. The album still becomes stronger when the material gradually becomes more familiar. The expectations also tend to increase violently when Septicflesh releases new material. All in all, the band is more proficient at composing complex compositions on a completely different level than most bands who reel off metal in the traditional lane. Codex Omega may not climb to the very top sphere within the band's own universe, but when it comes time to summarize the metal year 2017, I believe you'll find it on many a list. Rightfully deserved, of course, for the Greeks have once again delivered a magnificent hybrid of glorious stalwart extreme metal and flamboyant sophisticated classical symphony. Rating: 5-
EDIT 01.09.17: A brand new video is added. The Bandcamp stream is temporarily deactivated as the album is streaming in its entirety exclusively through a number of selected sites. Including Antichrist Magazine.