Season of Mist, 27.10.17
Three years ago, Australian Ne Obliviscaris dropped their second album, Citadel. It wasn't as well received by yours truly as their debut, Portal of I (2012). The technical appearance of the album had a somewhat more modern touch that didn't glide quite as naturally, and parts of the vocals became much too poppy in my ears. It nevertheless received its approval without any real doubt, as the other musical qualities held water. Urn feels like a return to the original recipe, as their new work - which has already been out for a while - has a better flow and not quite as castrated vocal-works.
The clean vocal is still sung by violinist Tim Charles. He still sings in a very rounded, soft and clean, almost feminine fashion, but he avoids the overly bright tones that we witnessed last time around. As before, Xenoyr growls the guttural phrases. Basically, the line-up is pretty much the same as before. The only change in the crew from the debut and up till now, is that the band's bassist left the ship earlier this year. On Urn, the band has hired external reinforcements on (fretless?) bass and cello, in addition to two additional violinists.
As on the previous album, we find some songs that are linked in name and expression. Urn opens with Libera Part I and II, where the first takes us on a diverse carousel of melodically inclined progressive extreme metal. Approximately in the middle of Part I, the band's signature-strong gypsy-fiddle come along strongly in the midtro. Part II is a shorter instrumental, and as such, it's only natural that acoustic guitar is quickly accompanied by Tim Charles' unrivaled violin-works.
There is a hell of a whole lot happening in Ne Obliviscaris' often relatively long compositions. Disregarding Libera Part II, the average length of the remaining five tracks is closer to 9 minutes. For me to reel off one sequence after the other becomes a bit redundant, but the band has a lot of nice music in store, and as mentioned, the flow is far more natural than on Citadel. Gone are also the modern touch that bothered me a bit back then. The music constantly alternates between serene, tranquil atmosphere and heavier sequences with more powerful rhythmic drift.
The finishing duo Urn Part I & II contains some of the darkest moods on the release, where the band gives vent to their most pessimistic sides and heaviest ideas. Not to say that the songs are unusually disheartening or antagonistic, but they round off in a more than average aggressive manner.
On the whole, I'm very pleased with Urn. Compared to the previous album, Ne Obliviscaris surprise me positively. To grade such a multi-faceted work as this, is not the simplest job, but for the target audience, I would think this is another bulls eye.
For my part, the music can at times be a wee bit gentle, without this in any way preventing me from enjoying the music. Once again, the clean vocal are my biggest appeal, but Tim's got very good lady vocals, I'll give him that. Rating: 5+
Non Serviam Records, 31.10.17
The British black metal quartet Stahlsarg does not offer breakneck black furore, but rather focus on moods and dynamic diversity throughout the ten songs that makes up their second work, Mechanisms Of Misanthropy.
The band has been around since 2013 and released their first album quite accurately two years ago. The line-up has been relatively stable since the start. Stahlsarg received a helping hand from Hellhammer of Mayhem*, who showed interest in them early in the career. Something that in turn led to a support job for them together with Merrimack* in London, May 2014.
The band's black metal is of the midpaced, melodic sort, but the guys have a very good flair for melodies. They mix black metal with elements from pagan/viking, and at times they do it ever so killer. Some songs are of such a nature that I would want to increase the rating, but the drawback is that the album lasts for just over an hour, and the quality of the material is splaying a bit. With the carving knife, the guys could advantageously have trimmed Mechanisms Of Misanthropy, and as such have been left with a stronger product.
But in spite of some weaker songs and sequences, as well as a duration that in itself doesn't favour patience, the lads offer a lot of goodies and treats. The opening with Raise The Dead sounds good, but not all that idiosyncratic. It's only when the second half arrives with slow, moody atmosphere and eventually unpleasant melodies and driving black rhythms, that the song really shows muscles. Something similar is the case with Pharmaceutical Frontline.
Several songs, most I would say, go through different sequences and passages, where some of them sound relatively ordinary, while other parts really grab on to the soul with sharp nails. Far Beyond The Dragons Teeth, for instance, do this in reverse order. It starts off very well, but it's never quite able to release its potential.
A Will To Endure starts a bit like Black Sabbath's Children of the Grave, but the similarities end soon. The song rather take a drastic turn toward foaming seas and icy chill when injured Vikings move from the coast to snowcapped mountains. Here you can also hear bassist Destruction play tuba and trombone, something that quickly provides associations to Sear Bliss.
Mechanisms Of Misanthropy was recorded in HVR Studios with Danny B. Takoma behind the levers, and the sound is powerful and suitably raw. Stahlsarg use their music to highlight historical events characterized by oppression, resistance, death and survival. As in the song Burn and Destroy, which focuses on the destruction of Finnmark in Norway during World War II, where the Nazis destroyed the entire county as a part of the scorched-earth strategy. The album also tells stories about Norwegian and German members of the resistance, like Jan Baalsrud and Sophie Scholl.
The album ends strongly, moody and drifting with In The Lungs Of The Earth, but there's a certain danger that you've had your dose by then. The best segments from the most slaying songs invite to macabre pleasure and demand higher rating. Had Mechanisms Of Misanthropy only limited its exaggerated duration, it would no doubt have deserved five points. Rating: 4+
Agonia Records, 03.11.17
The miserable poles in Blaze Of Perdition were properly lauded just over 16 lunar cycles ago when they honoured us with Near Death Revelations. A disc that was both settlement and reconciliation with the band's collective traumatic events a couple of years earlier, and for the listener a dystopic escape from reality.
With Conscious Darkness, the poles continue to deliver esoteric black misery.
The band's new work contains no more than four songs, but these last from 8 to 15 minutes, and won't let go until the second hand is close to completing 45 cyclic rounds.
As last time around, the Poles combine unearthly travel habits with spiritual tourism in the hereafter. Exactly where the netherworld ends and the intergalactic void takes over, can be difficult to determine. The two overlap each other as layers of parallel dimensions on collision course.
Conscious Darkness has a somewhat more atmospheric soaring mood than what the predecessor had. The antagonistic raw material has been filed down, and the unyielding friction of the thorns has softened a little. Blaze Of Perdition serve their arsenic flavoured with lavender on this occasion. For my part, that means that even the hooks are somewhat rounded. But fear not, and don't misunderstand. There's plenty of foulness to be traced in the land of thorns. The moods the band offer still doesn't smell rosy.
Thus, I'm not saying that the album doesn't appeal. Near Death Revelations was admittedly a notch better in my ears, but the band also this time around offers on a grim gun powder and black flames with lots of moods adapted to the northern hemisphere's polar night. All baked into elongated tunes with intricate structures and sliding variations from the serpentine lair. And I thrive.
After a few years under the Perdition moniker, the band changed its name to Blaze Of Perdition 10 years ago. The road, as we have already discussed, has not been without pain and difficulty, but the guys have gained strength and once again deliver solid antagonistic crafts of a hypnotic and partly dissonant kind. Rating: 4+
Conscious Darkness is released now, under the watchful glance of the full moon, and after the weekend they head out on the road along with Ulcerate, for a tour across Europa. For more Blaze Of Perdition, check out Bandcamp.
Iron Bonehead, 03.11.17 Kawir belong among black acts in the Greek scene, but nevertheless stands out by treading a more pagan path, where cultural history and mythology plays an important role.
Their previous album, Father Sun Mother Moon, was received with mixed emotions a year and a half ago. It's good then that Exilasmos manages to get a bit more out of it. Exilasmos is an ancient word meaning to calm the wrath of the gods, and the album deals with two family dynasties whose bloodline receives the curse of Zeus.
Even though also this work wanders on a pagan mythological trail, it has an inherent glow of black antagonism. Much thanks to vocalist Porphyrion. His voice ooze of coal-black despair, and adds a biting edge to the album. Certain associations to good old Burzum can be traced when the man empties his lungs.
The music is otherwise based on harsh riffing with a somewhat melodic appearance, while lead guitars, synthesizers and traditional/untraditional instruments (depending on the setting) like bagpipes, wind instruments and psaltery (harp-like zither) do their part. Guest vocalist Alexandros (Macabre Omen) also contributes to the overall expression, with choir and clean vocals.
The melodies and structures don't stand out a whole lot on this occasion either, but grim vocals and playful instrumentation, as well as better sound, nevertheless make Exilasmos a far more positive experience than the predecessor. The start of Agamemnon shows the vitality of folkloric influences and lead guitars, while songs like Oedipus and Orestes offer great melodic drive, and the songs Thyestia Deipna and especially Tantalus offer more black and blistering frenzy.
In view of the coherent feel of the album, the diversity must be said to be respectable. British Greg Chandler (Esoteric, Lychgate) has given Kawir rich punch through mixing and mastering in his Priory Recording Studios. The soundscape is better defined than last time around, and fits the music well.
From an initial scepticism, I've gradually gained a bigger taste for Εξιλασμός, as it's called in Greek.
It's not a classic, but the album has grown into an alright companion in the darkness of autumn. Rating: 4-
Behind a beautiful landscape adorned with an ornamental logo, we find vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jori Apedaile, and his Eneferens. In The Hours Beneath is album number two from the American, and was actually originally self-released near the end of last year. In the mean time, this summer, Eneferens released the EP Eventide.
The band is nevertheless hot off the press. The start-up took place only last year, and the debut came out just four months before the sequel.
Jori takes us to the land of contrasts, where atmospheric, placid peace of mind must fight a sting of profound turmoil, sadness and unhappiness over space.
The contrast is extra strong between the opening song Morning and the rest of the album. I don't like the song, even though it picks up slightly at the end. The vocals must take most of the blame for this. The seven-minute song is unnecessarily gentle, but the vocal is worse. The poppy and whining voice that meets the listener simply threatens to deter potential listeners in a musical landscape dangerously close to U2.
The remaining three quarters of an hour comes more into its own. The clean vocal often becomes more muted. Affected by the gravity of the moment. In addition, growling brings misery. Or vice versa. When the music is calm, which it is surprisingly often, it ought to be able to be considered as balm for the soul, but a veil of melancholy still sticks needles into frayed nerves. When the music temporarily loses its temper, anger, frustration and despair come to the surface in the form of deadly doom with a touch of black dissatisfaction and aversion.
I like the contrasts, but the album must be said to be almost overly tranquil and not much metallic. Jori still composes fine melodies, and makes it work remarkably well despite a few nitpicks and a whole song that drags the overall rating down. All in all, I consider In The Hours Beneath as a nice piece of peaceful musical woe. Rating: 4
For the record, Nordvis Produktion handles European orders, while Bindrune Recordings takes care of the American marked.