Self-Release, 17.11 (digitally) & 22.12 (CD)
Today's sonic portrayal of hell-fire comes from a new act. An American ensemble that apparently doesn't seem to waste unnecessary time on the demo phase. “Why not simply get to the point and be professional from the very outset”, seems to be the trio's mindset.
I hastily mentioned a few impulsive words about an appetizing hors d'oeuvre presented on No Clean Singing under Impressions six weeks ago, before the actual main course Shurpu without warning came along, striking me as lava coming out of a clear blue sky.
Sar Isatum hails from Colorado, and is naturally accustomed to a majestic and magnificent grandeur. With respectable stubbornness and unyielding determination, the gentlemen refuse to appear as less mighty and magnificent than their domestic lavish vistas, the Rocky Mountains.
Despite inspiration from a number of Scandinavian “true” black metal bands, Sar Isatum have chosen to go for an epic variant where orchestral elements help to highlight mental visions of eternal torment in the sea of flames. With a flair for structure and melody, the band summon flickering shadows on colossal sooty mountain walls in Hell Inc., Department D - Purgatory. The last song, Halls of Pestilence, is admittedly written by Lord Dahthar, but still blends well into the inferno.
In the abyss, cutting guitars and thunderous drums resound while demonic voices hiss from the blazing monolithic flames. If one wishes to act as experienced and professionals artists at the height of their career, as that's obviously where Sar Isatum has set their minds on being, a production that doesn't reek of bedroom is also required. That's where Shane Howard (Martriden) in Sawn & Quartered Studios comes into the picture. Shurpu is all dressed in a sound-costume that practically puts the speakers on fire. (I'm afraid my unfortunate predisposition for metaphoric descriptions can cause me to leave a somewhat fervent impression.) Audio dynamics, as is so often the case, unfortunately ain't much to write home about, but juicy intensity and fiery punch is definitely present.
The band has found thematic inspiration in elder civilizations, such as Mesopotamian Sumerians and their ruling deities of the underworld, Anunnaki, which gives the lyrics a slightly different twist. Even the band's name is borrowed therefrom, meaning King of Fire in Sumerian. Take the song Chenoo as an example. It deals with an evil human-eating ice-giant by the same name. Chenoos are derived from legends of the Wabanaki culture (indigenous folk originating from the eastern boundaries between the United States and Canada), and are former men who have been obsessed by evil spirits or who have inflicted a curse upon themselves. Those who performed unforgivable acts according to prevailing customs, such as cannibalism or not sharing their food with a starving person, could risk having their hearts freeze to ice, and becoming a Chenoo.
When Sar Isatum kicks off with fierce riffs, thrilling and blistering drumming, coal-black vocals and bombastic symphonic moods, I'm by no means hard to please. The sound could have been more dynamically inclined, and the material could likely have been more imaginative and memorable, but that's nitpicking. Especially the latter. For the band has assembled a collection of gripping songs with good variation on their 35-minute debut, and I relish as hell whether they floor it or grind through tortoise themes. Rating: 5
Right now, only the title track is streaming on Bandcamp (below).
In addition to the embedded lyric video for Chenoo, you can see a picture-collage video for the song Sar Isatum, and hear the song with the apt name Black Gate on YouTube.
Agonia Records, 17.11.17
French Aosoth are back with a vengeance, with a blistering malstrom of atonal black tones.
As the numerical Roman character V implies, this is their fifth album.*
Even though we have visited the band once in connection with the split with Order of Orias, it's still only appropriate to present Aosoth properly, as this is my first review of one of their albums.
The album IV: Arrow In Heart from 2013 did appeal. It was nevertheless bypassed in silence when I launched Gorger's Metal in late autumn that year.
*I'm not counting Variations of Violence, which consisted of instrumental versions of the songs on the album III - Violence & Variations, and Aosoth obviously don't take that one into account either.
The band was started by vocalist MkM (Martröð, ex-Temple of Baal), who also founded Antaeus. It also consists of bassist INRVI (founder of VI and former member of Antaeus) and guitarist Bst (The Order Of Apollyon, VI, Temple of Baal, live for Antaeus et al.), who has composed the material on this album, and who has even served as producer in his BST Studios. The trio has also requested services from guitarist Saroth (The Order of Apollyon, Temple of Baal, live for Antaeus and Aosoth, et al.) and session drummer T.
Inbreeding, as we all know, is a family phenomenon within the black metal scene.
For any potential uninitiated reader, Aosoth plays chaos-dissonant kaleidoscopic black metal, a sub-genre it took me relatively long to get under the skin. I didn't belong to the congregation when Deathspell Omega launched their first works, but the genre has crept up on me with reptilian stealth, and crawled under the skin like nasty parasites over the years. The four years I've spent evangelizing putrid metal, infested with perverted profanity, have really done wonders. I'm still not entirely certain that alone is the reason why I'm putting this record over previous works.
The Inside Scriptures is a good example of the type of disgusting musical expression I'm referring to. Atonal tones with unpleasant moods are presented in a cacophonous vortex of brutal riffing, outlandish guitar sounds, swirling drums, and deranged disgust from hell's throat. The music nevertheless pleases me. It flows naturally with good variation in the various instrument sections. Macabre moods of discontent and dejection ebb and flow, bends and turns in uncomfortable suffering. High paced and intense sequences, and slower parts glide imperceptibly together into a merging coherency. And I don't think I have to tell you what nefarious moods this emanates.
The sound is rich and resounding, like bouldering echoes from caving tunnels deep underground. And the rockfall never ends. There's namely some length to Aosoth's compositions. Three out of six songs lasts for about nine minutes each, while the remaining splay in length, but keep an average of seven. Thus, we're talking eight minutes as total average. With six songs, that amounts to a duration of approximately 48 minutes.
I've only heard albums number III and IV from the frantic Frenchmen, and it's been quite some time since I last heard them. All in all, I believe I've spun V a bit more. Thus, the gut feeling wants me to favour this last piece from the foul Frenchmen. The wits, however, tells me to hold my horses and throw cold water into the bloodstream before getting too hot-blooded. One thing is certain after at least a dozen of spins, though: V: The Inside Scriptures grows into one hell of a demoniacal spectacle! Rating: 5+
EDIT 17.11.17: The album is now streaming in its entirety on YouTube.
Einheit Produktionen, 20.10.17
German Thakandar, whose name was inspired by the fantasy novel The Wheel of Time, where the area “Thakan' Dar” has become a lawless cesspool, was started in 2008.
The band released demo and EP in 2009 and 2011 respectively, moving from death metal to melodic black metal.
The Germans have since taken their time. Patience has nevertheless payed off, for the debut album Sterbende Erde is solid in composition and execution. Although not everything engage and please to the same extent.
A leitmotif can be followed throughout Sterbende Erde (Dying Earth). The decadent and all too demanding parasites of the planet; the human race, has left the planet barren and desolate. Again. Every new start after the fall of humanity has resulted in a new demise when power, greed and pollution anew throws nature out of balance. A scarce number of human beings, now scattered to the four winds, have survived. They are now fighting their individually battles for existence in this dystopian post-apocalypse. For the well-read, it can be mentioned that the band is inspired by Stephen King's The Dark Tower and Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos.
The concept, of course, comes with a good dose of social criticism, which is carried out in rasping German. A becoming language for sharp rebuke of the current reckless conduct. Only the song Signal of Sorrow is performed in English. This also contains gorgeous cello, performed by Lestaya (Ferndal). In addition, Ricarda Krabbemeyer guests on piano in the second to last song and vocal on the second song as well as on the English-sung track. Furthermore, Alboin (Ferndal, Eïs) provides keyboard contributions on three songs.
The band's black metal is of a woeful nature, and suits the concept well, with cold, naked melodies, sharp vocal and relentless drive. The band is compared to acts like Helrunar and said Eïs, and it's not difficult to find similarities between them. The music has a chilling, ill-fated atmosphere of hopelessness, and does in a way feel monotonous, although enough goes on in rhythms and guitar work to prevent a fully repetitive whole. A certain similar sounding atmosphere can't to be avoided, however. I enjoy the expression, but I still tire somewhat during the first half of the album.
Still, it picks up toward the end, as the last three of (a total of) seven songs create greater evocative immersion with this listener. After delightful In der Asche der Alten, a slower song with steadfast moods and fervent raw vocals, Todesmarsch II: Verbannung also manage to stand out quite a bit. Even if I were to ignored the captivating Viking-themed melody lines, the rhythms have a idiosyncratic drift of their own, which is amplified by frothing vocal curses. The following title track, which conclude the album, lasts for ten minutes without in any way overstaying its welcome. This starts off muted and calm, but the song is multifaceted and offers plenty of good melody and flow.
The album was recorded and produced in Klangschmiede Studio E under the direction of owner Markus Stock (Empyrium, The Vision Bleak, et all.). The sound is fittingly intense and rich with punch, even though the dynamics have been sacrificed for fiery temperament. It still sounds good, and when the music is at its best, I enjoying it as hell. The first half of the album ain't bad, but still adds a slight damper to my desire to applaud the music overeagerly. On average I land on four points. To conclude in a gentle fashion, you might say that the last 22 minutes is on its own enough to justify an investment. Rating: 4