Non Serviam Records, 15.09.17
A year ago, the first two digital singles from Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns, The Opposed and A Silent God were presented. And then, time kept moving on. Building permits and construction takes time, even with extensive grease palming and corruption. But now the doors of Zornheym - asylum for the criminally insane - are finally opened.
As mentioned back then, Zorn (ex-Dark Funeral, ex-Devian) is the man behind this debuting melodic, symphonic and dramaturgical extreme metal band.
Zorn takes care of lead guitar and bass, with Scucca (Encrowned) as rhythm guitarist. Angst (Diabolical, Craft-Live) has his seat behind the drums while Bendler (Facebreaker) takes his stand behind the microphone. The symphonic compositions are in addition conveyed by an authentic string orchestra named Dies Iona Ensemble, and a full choir called Chorus Tenebris. Additionally, Cain Cressall (The Amenta) and Jonas Magnusson (Facebreaker) are guesting on vocals on A Silent God and Trifecta of Horrors respectively.
The music is very melodically inclined, and not immensely brutal and extreme, even though the guitars offer abundant distortion, the drums thunder and the vocals rasp in disgust at what lays hidden behind thick walls and armoured doors in the cold, naked and impersonal cells of the institution. The music's structure is of the dramatic kind, where you can almost sense its storytelling. As such, the music might just as well be compared to Winterhorde or Forest Stream as the more archetypical sympho-black references.
The amount of orchestral music is balanced well and doesn't become more dominant than what fans of the sub-genre will come to appreciate. The album's symphonic ingredients and drift have a fairly strong touch of theatrical waltz. A little bit of clean vocal is also used as spice. This is very clean, on par with power vocals such as that of Mayan, but it's technically exquisite and used rather sparingly. It also suits the music and lyrics very well. The music is otherwise well structured while the melodies make it readily accessible. The extreme metal in the base, however, may still prevent Zornheym from alluring to Nightwish fans.
The album has a thematic frame, but not a conceptual story as such. Each song, 6 in the number, deals with one of the coercively hospitalized patients. In addition, there are three interludes. Everything must be said to be meticulously done, with patient records accompanying each of these lost souls, these deplorable inmates who will live the rest of their miserable lives behind whitewashed concrete walls and between cold steel grating and prison lattices, under General Bettleheim's cynical supervision. The cast of characters is established. We get to know the patients, their past and history, as well as their current status. I deliberately avoid revealing too much, but note that a curiosity of what'll happen next is being built up. Thematically, Zornheym presents a concept with a lot of potential that's just pleading for a continuation.
Sverker Widgren in Wing Studios has ensured good sound and acceptable sonic dynamics on Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns. Unlike the institutionalized clientèle, I have to say that I thrive very well behind the walls of the sanatorium. But then again, I'm just a visitor. I would rather take my own life by perforating the brain by pushing a blunt fork through the eyeball than being compulsorily admitted to Zornheym, that dreadful madhouse! Rating: 5
Solitude Productions, 15.09.17
It's not without a certain excitement I get started with the album with the short and succinct name S. S is the sequel to the monumental self titled debut Mesmur, released on code666 in December 2014.
The band's stated objective is to capture the sounds of a world that was doomed from the beginning, something they're doing from the outside this time, as their crushing claustrophobic funeral doom on S has a distinct ethereal feel of outer cosmos.
Something that ain't short and succinct are the songs. The debut's five songs lasted for a total of 50 minutes. Only four songs are presented this time around, but the total duration is shifted up to 53 minutes. The first three songs also clock in at a quarter of an hour on average.
Speaking of the debut. As my short Impression back then was in Norwegian only, why don't we just as well start with that one?
Fans of sluggish, syrup-slow, heavy and dejected funeral death/doom should sharpen their ears and welcome the American debutants in Mesmur, and their vision of absolute misery. For as the press release declare - Mesmur aims to capture the sound of a world that from the beginning of was sentenced to doom and destruction.
The five tracks range from 8.5 to 12.5 minutes and the total duration passes 50 minutes with good margin. Although the guys drag their feet in mud up to their knees when it comes to pace, they put in enough melody and rhythm to keep things moving in the mud. Sometimes slow and killing as a beefy constrictor that has coiled up around you, that gradually tightens its solid grip, and that takes its time. The melodies are good and constantly changing, producing a kind of terrified delight or fearful joy caused by its complete lack of light at the end of the tunnel, or an end of the everlasting mine shaft whatsoever. Here is no hope, only damnation. Beautiful, life-absorbing, hypnotic, fatal demise.
It is an incredibly strong debut this quartet has come up with.
If an extreme offspring of doom is your passion, do yourself a favour and check this one out!
As last time, heavy, slow doomsday poems are served with sorrowful moods and all hope annulled at the stroke of a pen. However, it takes some time to get the melody's despondency under the skin, but when the misery fortifies its position, all hope in cosmos is lost. The stars draw their last breath. Some in a breathtaking spectacle, leaving black holes that'll stay behind to clean up the mess long after the last heartbeat is registered in the universe. Other stars simply cave in and collapse. The light goes out and they die out quietly. Again, an all-encompassing destructive symphony is presented with beautiful but deeply tearful compositions, written as tribute to the end time.
My biggest critical remark is the sound, where something seems to be amiss. As a layer of cosmic noise caused by gamma radiation from the nuclear solar supernovae as the neutron stars detonate, radio interferes settles over the otherwise pleasurable resounding soundscape like a blanket sparkling with static electricity. I thought (or hoped) that this was just an audio-technical glitch. I tried with other headphones. I even downloaded the promo from another promoter. But the crackling persisted. This insistent grating harshness creates a lot of sonic friction in opening Singularity in particular, and pat me against the grain of my hair with sharp fingernails.
I doubt that the dynamic range alone is to blame, but I notice that the dynamics of the production have dropped from alright DR7 on the debut to weak DR5 this time. The band's mastermind Jeremy L is by the way the one responsible for mixing and mastering both albums.
Gradually, I start ignoring this frustrating disturbance, just as you would eventually no longer notice a ticking clock, a noisy computer fan, or a whizzing ventilation system. In addition, the effect is fortunately not omnipresent. It's muted a whole deal after the first song. All that remains is resounding doomsday prophecies transmitted from an unknown galaxy and picked up by SETI's radio telescopes after travelling for aeons through the vast interstellar void.
Mesmur is something of an international constellation. The protagonists are American Jeremy (guitar and synth) and John D (drums). Both of Dalla Nebbia. The guttural sigh of discouragement is performed by Australian Chris G from Orphans of Dusk, while former bassist, Norwegian Aslak Karlsen Hauglid, has been replaced by Italian Michele M.
The last track, instrumental S = k ln Ω, is almost for an outro to be regarded with its barely seven minutes. The title alludes to Boltzmann's equation. I've tried to wrap my head around this, but between the incomprehensible formula, my limited intellect and the heavy music, a triangular vacuum is formed, resulting only in high pulse rate, shortness of breath and nose bleeding.
To sum it up, I still favour the delightful first album Mesmur by a notch, but it should be said that it really blew me away, and that S is too a highly enjoyable journey amidst stellar darkness and astral vistas.
Tomorrow's release date is for the digital version. With a bit of luck, the apocalypse will wait a couple of weeks, so that Solitude Productions will have time to release S on CD on September 29th. For whence our own sun extinguishes, we will only have eight minutes before it gets very fucking dark and deadly fucking freezing. Rating: 4
Relapse Records, 15.09.17
Almost exactly three years ago, Myrkur released her first EP. At that time, the band was something of a mythical entity, with all kinds of rumours floating around in the underground (to much joy, I presume, for those who enjoy spreading or consuming unverified gossip).
The mystery gradually evaporated as facts was made available, although the music's nature and fairytale moods carried on the folkloric atmosphere on the first full length M released two years ago.
I establish as a fact already in connection with the EP that Myrkur hardly was something for black metal puritans, and made another point in connection with the debut album, stating that the Danish hulder's solo project, despite some borrowed plumes, don't play black metal as such. In the meantime, the live album Mausoleum has further emphasized my point. If anyone after Mareridt still feels any doubts concerning this, I'm not leaving their classification abilities a whole lot of hope. I capitulate, and I will from now on stop whining about this aspect.
Mareridt (meaning Nightmare) largely continues with the different elements Myrkur has already made its mark with, while Amalie Bruun also bring new folk music instruments to the table. Violin, mandola (mandolin's bigger brother), frame drums, nyckelharpa (ancient Swedish key harp), jew’s harp, contrabass and synthesizer are used in addition to choir. On the vocal side, kulning is used a lot when Amalie gathers her herd.
The music was created after a period of sleep paralysis and fierce nightmares after having returned from her first major festival tour. However, Amalie succeeded in transforming pain to art, something you can hear more about in the first video below.
On the previous album, the Danish mermaid received the help of several Norwegians to put her sonic vision into practice. On Mareridt, it's primarily Americans who have contributed. Among others, Aaron Weaver (Wolves in the Throne Room), who handled parts of the drumming and percussion.
Song-by-song reviews is a shunned variant of album evaluations, but Mareridt splay so much that it nevertheless feels like a natural approach. The title-track opens quietly with the milkmaid's herding calls, or “kulning”, this traditional Scandinavian form of singing, before Måneblôt brings both witch's grunt and angelic vocals set to distorted black tones with strange sound and fiddle-rubbing elements of folk. The Serpent begins nifty, but develops in a slightly wrong direction with poppy vocals over insipid music, while Crown brings it in an even more horrific poppy direction where only a touch of symphony makes me endure.
Elleskudt reminds me a bit of The Serpent, but with better structure and vocal that better fits the accompanying gnawing guitars. The traditional folk song De Tre Piker comes with heavenly herding calls and ethereal timbre. Funeral, written and performed with Chelsea Wolfe, returns to the gruelling poppy expression from Crown. Subsequent Ulvinde is comfortable schizophrenic, with a bizarre blend of delicate and dissonant black tones where the comely and graceful, yet buxom milkmaid without warning is transformed into a rasping vengeful witch.
Gladiatrix ain't a gladiator out of the universe of Asterix and Obelix, but once more a song that brings poppy sacral bliss and twisted barbed wire together in a weird contemporary musical manner. Kætteren leads us toward the last track with pure folk music with fiddle and jaw harp in this short but stylish instrumental. Final Børnehjem (meaning Orphanage) is a short and strange thing, where a child's voice that gives me associations to Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter speaks about her inner demons, with a very unpleasant fate suggested between the lines, accompanied by ethereal choir.
The last three tracks clocks in at less than three minutes, and only four out of eleven songs exceed four minutes. Myrkur this time delivers a series of peculiar and somewhat short compositions that I'm sure will appeal to some, but that becomes too eccentric, outré and schizophrenic for me to tag along with. Elleskudt and Ulvinde remains favourites, albeit not very strong such, with Måneblôt in third place. That's still not enough to save the overall impression from sinking to a certain depth. The rest of the material simply becomes too messy and/or soft. After five to six spins, I'm forever done with Mareridt. Let's hope that a promising career doesn't end here. Rating: 2+
I mentioned my scepticism to parts of the thrash genre in connection with Dark Ministry half a year ago. Many new acts smells cow patty, to be a bit rude. Thus, not much from that camp is presented on this site. It's nevertheless refreshing to hear from that area of the metal map once in a while (and it's truly a shame that I haven't heard Kreator's new jollification). Shrapnel doesn't belong to the very worst re-thrash acts who reel off cliché-thrash en masse, even though they neither revolutionize the genre nor manage to haul me voluntarily onto the dance floor.
For someone with a limited relation to “conventional” thrash*, it may nevertheless be difficult to come up with relevant references. Some associations pop up quickly, like hints of Megadeth and Overkill, whilst I have to take a “sneak peek” at Encyclopaedia Metallum's list of similar artists to remember others. Both Havok and Angelus Apatrida are on the list, something that might give connoisseurs a loose indication, if nothing else. There might be some similarities to Exodus, but placing Kreator on the list becomes a bit wrong in my ears.
(*The type more concerned with radioactivity, zombies and boozing, than war, violence and anti-religion, as opposed to themes such as social injustice and political protests, which almost seems to be universal.)
The quintet from Norwich in England was formed in April 2009, and is hereby soon out with their second album. The guys delivers quite solid, if not incredibly exciting things, and I can't say that I'm letting myself be carried away all the time. That the fun lasts for 48 minutes also becomes a disadvantage, as the band would have been better served by cutting away some excess fat and rather simply kept the best cards on their hands. The music's got punch, speed, solos and passages with atmosphere, but unfortunately also laps of generic melo-thrash that leaves me untouched and unaffected until the ears again detect transitions or something else that catch my attention.
The dark, but oh so short-lived moods in the middle of the opening track Hollow Earth, the screaming guitars in Complete Resection, the guitar works that shines several places throughout Jester, even as early as just one minute into the song, are just a few of the many arguments for digging the hell out of Raised On Decay. Still, I don't. The rhythms are galloping enough to make me sweat just by hearing it and the vocalist twists his uvula to such a degree that I get an itch in my throat just by listening, but much of what comes between the short gold sequences feels so stereotypical that it almost becomes streamlined considering the songs themselves don't offer a whole lot of identity beyond the moments of killer guitar works.
When the song with most compositional signature is called Antichrist and is a cover of a song released almost 34 years ago, you can draw your own conclusions. Shrapnel basically do their stuff well, but Raised On Decay just don't engage me. This might very well be a highly subjective matter, so do check it out for yourself if you never ever tire of metal thrashing madness. Rating: 3+
PS: I initially got the release-date wrong, somehow. This review is therefore published unusually early. No samples seem to be released yet, but feel free to listen to the previous album, The Virus Conspires (2014) so long. I aim to post the correct stream and a reminder under the Reviews tab when the release-date approaches.