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January 2015:



Devouring Star - Through Lung and Heart Approved

Daemon Worship Productions, 01.02.15
From Finland comes a new band consisting of three(?) mystical characters who performs an intense offspring of black metal. Had anyone told me that these madmen came from Iceland, I would not have been taken aback for a second. The music is namely akin to Svartidaudi, Sinmara and Carpe Noctem.

Intense, as said, seemingly monotonous, and frantic dissonant black metal of this kind creates a morbid atmosphere. Not without a certain suggestive effect to it. Devouring Star has an eclectic feel that may be located a tad closer to band as Ævangelist and Portal.

Currently there are a few great bands leading the way, but I hold a mild concern for the future. Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor, Enslaved, Gorgoroth, Burzum and more demonstrated right from the start (of the second wave) that black metal can be performed with variety, uniqueness and individuality. I'm afraid this new bastard will not bear the inflation equally well, and it doesn't take as much time to dilute a sub-genre as in the 90s. When “everyone” wants to perform similarities, I fear that everything will eventually sound awfully alike.

Through Lung and Heart is a dystopian affair with five infernal tunes. I'm no big fan of e.g. Ævangelist and I have full understanding for those who do not see the artistic value in this form of cacophonic extremity. I like this in moderate doses myself. And I'm not thinking solely of the playing time, which here is less than 40 minutes, but of how often I listen to that sorts and also how many bands that pollute life and existence with furious frenzies and discordant malice.

Thus it is important to enjoy the rabid madness as long as it is virile and idiosyncratic. Devouring Star delivers a phonetic hell with thunderous sound, solid variation in tempo and percussive style. The guitars are suitably overbearing and fussy with psychedelic sound, and the vocals is demonic. The band delivers solid craftsmanship in a malicious and ferocious genre and has created the right disharmonious, claustrophobic and hypnotic moods here.

Fans of this type of morbid misery, appearing in the wake of Deathspell Omega, are likely to embrace Through Lung and Heart!

PS: In case I do not have time to write about them, I can also tip you off about Tod Huetet Uebel who released the album Malícia approximately a week ago. It unfolds within the same mentally deranged framework, and what little I've heard seems promising.

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Shallow Rivers - The Leaden Ghost Medium

BadMoodMan Music, 26.01.15
This Russian band has been active since 2007, and has reached their sophomore album. They may appear to have been reduced to a duo recently, but at the time of writing this, my internet connection is utterly miserable and I can't do any research. Henry Longfellow's “The Wreck of the Hesperus” is supposedly the basis for the lyrical concept. Beyond that, I have nothing to tell you, with the exception of some kind of an attempt to describe the men's music, naturally.

The band plays death/doom with a slightly eclectic twist. It's primarily the rhythm which is difficult to get to terms with. The band admittedly doesn't play the slowest form of death/doom, but the drummer's got ants in the pants. Maybe he believes he'll be home for dinner earlier if only he gives full throttle. Without full concentration it feels like the sound of the drums are coming from a different source. But there are no tabs in the browser on my laptop playing music in the background. The band also alternates a lot between classical genre-style (à la My Dying Bride), a more atmospheric expression and a kind of "technical" approach.
The result is, as you surely can imagine, a bit schizo.

There is still something fascinating about The Leaden Ghost. The guys knows how to play. There's some fine guitar playing at hand here, amongst others. The vocals are good and the song structures are thoughtful, meaningful and varied. The sound has low dynamic range, but the production is good, thus it's less important. The album lasts for about an hour and is as original as it is distinctive. Somewhat of both. Pretty exciting, and Shallow Rivers all in all offers reasonably good music.
If you like to decode the cryptic, this challenge might be a breeze. If you're as slow as me, however, it may take a little longer to wrap your head around it.

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Exgenesis - Aphotic Veil Approved

Rain Without End Records, 25.01.15
Jari Lindholm from Stockholm has got some bands behind him. Among other dissolved Slumber, that I see got huge acclaims for their only full-length album. A few years ago, he started Enshine as a solo project, but began to cooperate with a French man already before the first demo. The début Origin was featured as my ninth review back in November 2013, and I gave it 4/6 points.
Exgenesis is Jari's side project, where he has brought along Colombian Alejandro Lotero.

Their “first-born”, a five track EP, consists of barely a half hour mournfully death/doom. Jari proves once again that he is a magician with melody lines. The Guitar reverberation tears good in the ear hairs, and Mr. Lotero (whose first name gives repulsive associations) performs both scorched black and death rattling vocals in eminent manners. The Columbian has written the song Futile Horizon, which shows that he's absolutely not a lost cause either.

The melody lines on Aphotic Veil set the tone for all your moments of crisis, both those you thought you had put behind you and those you have in store. No one is listed as a percussionist, but Jari is credited for programming. I've never been noteworthy hung up in such, as long as it doesn't audibly affect the authentic nerve in hard manual labour, but obviously it's unfortunate when machines take over our jobs. They varied rhythms in any cases fits well with the heavy, mournful music.
The EP is only released in 300 physical copies (6-panel digipak), so you better order rapidly. Otherwise, of course, digital files can be copied in unlimited edition, just as long as you remember to pay for them.

Listen especially to Concrematio. When was the last time you hears something so damned beautiful?
I think you should treat yourself with this if the genre pleases!

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Iron Lamb - Fool's Gold Medium

High Roller Records, 30.01.15
Let's take a trip to Sweden, and a portion of rock 'n' metal. Out of the ashes of bands like Repugnant, General Surgery, Dismember and Bombstrike, Iron Lamb arose as a long-haired leather phoenix in 2009. They débuted with The Original Sin in 2011, and has other than that some occasional mini-releases to show for.

The band is largely inspired by Motörhead, and does not hide it. They sound there after. There are exceptions, like the more Billy Idol sounding Leave Me Be, where they alter the style a bit. Rob Coffinshaker guests on lead vocals on this one, and Victor "Rage" Larsson guests on backing vocals. It is still primarily in the vain of the motör skulls 1976-1982 era the band likes to do write songs. Fast Eddie Clarke is the big hero. With Daniel Bragman behind the microphone they succeed in creating the right mood. He's not far away from Lemmy's voice, which Deadend Blues may stand as a fine example of.

Thus you roughly know what to expect from Fool's Gold. If you're still reading, it's probably because you want to know the rest: if the songs measure up. The answer is... 50/50. It works just fine, but I find no new classics here. The guys have certainly had a lot of fun in the studio, but I'd rather play the 30-40 year old Motörhead albums.

Check the links above and stream Backstabbers here:
(It's got slightly different sound than on the album, as it is taken from a 7").

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Kevlar Skin - Transmigrator Approved

Eclectic Productions, 28.04.14
One easily develops an involuntary "perishable"-relationship to music when one writes about it and sets release dates as deadline for oneself. It's been a while since this dumped into my digial mailbox, but I've had to prioritize fresher releases. Of course, good music never expires, so I snuck an occasional listen, in addition to a few more intense rounds just before scribbling down a few words.

This band comes from Spain and plays death metal of fairly technical and brutal character. They started up at the end of the nineties and released a number of EPs and split the first ten years. After this they seem to have had their focus on full-length albums, and this is the third in line.
The nine songs we find here is often in the range of 4-5 minutes, and holds okay variation. The Spaniards often change rhythm and alternates frequently between traditional death metal and said subgenera. The vocalist basically growls pretty cool, but he also takes an occasional detour, be it in the direction of wheezing or gurgling vacuum cleaner. The rest of the staff seems competent and comes up with many spicy sequences.

With an occasional exception, this is not death metal of the particular atmospheric variety. The main focus is crushing riffs, fast and extreme segments and loads of antics and strange snippets. Industrial sounds, whimsical melody choices, bass lines with slack strings, rhythm gymnastics, samples, solos, frequent transitions...
I can't say that I find this death metal extremely interesting, but the Spaniards has woven lots of things skilfully together into a listenable and fairly exciting unit. I should think it would take time to get properly into their schizophrenic works, and I have an impression that you will be able to discover new details for a long time. Not because they are particularly hidden, but because there are so many of them.

Not quite as sterile as much else in modern genre deviations and certainly audible. At first listen, I was nowhere near as positive as I became after three-four. If you enjoy many of the genre forms, you should check out Transmigrator. I'm not hugely versed outside the conventional death metal-path, but I actually think Kevlar Skin has what it takes to stick a bit out with their well-balanced death metal quilt.

Watch the video for the title track Transmigrator, and listen more here:

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Lord Dying - Poisoned Altars Disapproved

Relapse Records, 26.01.15
I can't stand albums I don't even have what's required to categorize*. That probably sounds judgemental and prejudiced on several levels, but the reason for my inability to pigeonhole this is because it's music I don't like, never listen to and thus ain't able to explain.
This American gang plays a kind of aimless modern metal with feigned stoner nostalgia, and I have no idea where to place the vocalist in the musical landscape.

The first few minutes sounds quite cool. That was why I plunged into Poisoned Altars in the first place. It doesn't take long however before the material starts to get tedious and direction-less, though. Where any properly classic song often leaves the listener with an impressed feeling that it could and should not be different in any way, this leaves me with the exact opposite feeling. Any track could, and should, have been done in a different way.

The music is hard, but in a contrived manner. The drums are well (enough) done, but far from exciting. The material is completely meaningless. Random stereotypical riffs, rhythms and melodies are put together by the book of arbitrary. The music is as virile and lively as a shoegaze band on sleep medicine.
And then there's the vocals. We get a little bit of clean vocals, without much masculinity or character, but the main vowel is a shouting semi-half growl with as many shades as a blank sheet of white paper. It's plausible that this form of vocal has a name in the terminology in the circuits where this simple emo-metal finds its listeners.

The label recommends Poisoned Altars to fans of High On Fire, Red Fang, Valient Thor, Coffins, The Sword, Kylesa, Weedeater and Black Tusk. I have heard of some of them. I do not intend to compare the music. You probably got your own impression by that assembly of references, and if you didn't, that pretty much speaks for itself.

I am strict today, but sometimes it feels good to skin someone alive without holding back. Take this highly subjective tongue-lashing with some pinches of salt. However, I don't demand forgiveness for commenting on music styles I have no knowledge of. I know quality music when I hear it, and this is duller than an old black and white musical duet.
PS: Apparently, this is what they call sludge. I call it nonsense!
It's a pity though, for the cover art is magnificent.

*To clarify. Some difficultly definable music may be very exciting!

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Archgoat - The Apocalyptic Triumphator Approved

Debemur Morti Productions, 26.01.15
I remember Whore of Bethlehem (2006) as a rather bestial and staccato affair (with Faecal Sludge Truck vocals). It was probably my last meeting with the morbid Finnish Satanists. My first encounter was the EP Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration), which came out in 1992. Admittedly I didn't hear it until ten years later. Not particularly intricate, macabre black death metal with sludgy sound don't appeal a great deal to me.
Not then, not now.

Time goes by fast as hell, and infernal black metal performed with death-defying rabidness had to give way to other musical priorities. The trios history stretches back to 1989, and they released their first demo in 1991. In 1993 they entered the studio to record their début album. However, disagreements arose between them and the label, the album was not released and the band was split.
In 2004 two of the dead corpses resurrected and teamed up with a session drummer for a year, before a permanent replacement was in place. For ten years the crew has now consisted of Sinisterror on drums, Ritual Butcherer on guitar and Angel Slayer on vocals and bass. Meanwhile the guys has released a disc in 2009, as well as a number of splits etc.

The band sounds darker and more obsessed than what I can remember. On The Apocalyptic Triumphator they incorporate more blasphemous moods than what the earlier sonic frontal attacks I've experienced has contained. Not that the change in expression is immense, though. With intro on both vinyl sides, ten songs remains with playtime from just above two, to a bit more than five minutes. The pace is often kept high and demolishing, but the guys also drive in a lower gear at times. Even then it sounds as if the band wants to grind the world to gravel.
The vocal grunts occult curses, death drums oozes of pure hell fire and the strings convey the self-fulfilling prophecy of the scaremongering old testament preachers, unless they run amok in frantic and howling torment (just as the preacher himself will scream when his skin catches fire from the burning flames of hell).

The Apocalyptic Triumphator has got good variation in speed and a fine balance between the extremes and the atmospheric. The vocals rumbles like a balrog instead of the mentioned Sewer Sucker, and the sound is dark and rumbling. This surpasses the 2006 version of the band with decent margins on all counts in my ears. This engages yours truly more than the albums by Teitanblood and Morbosidad did last year.

Fans of the band can safely find their Visa cards. Five years ago, the same label released the compilation The Aeon Of The Angelslaying Darkness that sums up the past. Probably an interesting affair for new fans of the genre.
Check the album here, and be sure to hear Those Below (Who Dwell in Hell).

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Vivus Humare - Einkehr Approved

Eisenwald Tonschmiede, 23.01.15
Vivus Humare, from the state of Thüringen in Germany, came together in 2007 and released the demo Prolog the next year. The four guys have had some delays, but is finally ready with their début.

Two short and three long songs are placed in symmetrical order with a total time of about 37 minutes. The Germans play black metal with a whiff of French spirit. Especially the deliriously sounding monologues we find in each track, performed with rather hysterical clean vocals, drags my mind towards the métal de noir et miserable. These monologues apparently sums up the theme in the lyrics, but unfortunately I wasn't very focused in the German subject at school. Also, some stripped down, almost out of tune guitar melodies seems inspired by snail eating LLN-followers.

Generally, a mellow aura of ethereal frenzy and misery rests above the quartet's début. The atmosphere on the album is dark, melancholic and dank. The black metal alternates excellent in pace and musical expression. Don't let a hint of amateurishness in sound and workmanship fool you. The audio has good dynamics, suits the music well and creates an appropriate black charm.

I've heard this quite a few times without having had time to write something, so I know with certainty that Einkehr has become a solid phonetic curse where raw disgust and mentally sick moods are united in joint discomfort. I have a greate taste for the album and look forward to hearing more from Vivus Humar. Teaser and ordering available at Eisenwald.

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Desolate Shrine - Heart of the Netherworld Approved

Dark Descent Records, 13.01.15
Prepare your oxygen tanks and keep the Prozac within reach, we shall dive down to the heart of the underworld to, if possible, avert utter doom and damnation.

In chilly waters, deep beneath the surface, lies a terrifying creature lurking. Bred of loneliness, discouragement and impure intentions in ancient times. Manifested in an obscene and hideous abomination. With inhumane forms and shapes. With incomprehensible and heinous proportions. By unthinkable and abnormal dimension. Swathed in blue-black texture, with filthy shiny, sticky exterior. Latent dormant until now. Ready to terrorize Earth's unsuspecting residents by driving them to the utmost frenzy by telepathic means. Ready to disperse perverted delusions, horrifying terror and bottomless, tearful grief in an unimaginable scope. Despicable torment and destruction with contours being beyond any comprehension.
We're going to die down there in the dark. In the eternal depths. For he, it, has awoken, and it is prepared to initiate the nightmarish horrors and despair. And we know that Leviathan can not be defeated.

Desolate Shrine hails from Helsinki, and Heart of the Netherworld is their third offering. LL has provisioned all instrumentation and production with misanthropic character. He's also been responsible for cover-art and mixing, where the dynamic range has got enough depth to accommodate the monstrous beast. On vocals we find both RS (Lie in Ruins and Perdition Winds) and MT (residing in many bands. Earlier in Sacrilegious Impalement). The vocal forms are extreme and relentlessly infamous in all its depraved disgust.

Heart of the Netherworld is an hour-long nightmare in seven acts, where the grotesque and claustrophobic death/black metal tightens around the throat like a cold, wet rope.
Watch the lyric-video for Black fires of God and hear the album via Bandcamp while you order it, for this is worth owning.

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Sotajumala - Raunioissa Approved

Sotajumala-Yhtiöt Oy, 16.01.15
This is the fourth album from the Finnish death metal ensemble Sotajumala. On Raunioissa they run through forty minutes of smashing and heavy armoured death metal with ominous Finnish vocals.

The band consists of five men, whereof Mynni Luukkainen (Horna, ex-Alghazanth, ex- Ajattara and more) is to be found behind the mic. The man has actually played guitar, bass and sung clean vocals in several of the constellations he's been in, but growls as if he had never done anything else. The phonetic clarity from the beast's throat makes Sotajumala remind a bit of a death rattling variant of Ajattara.

The sticks and pedals are handled by Timo Häkkinen, a man with rich background during the past thirteen years. With full control he provides rhythms with good diversity and fine pace.

In addition to its heavy weight, the death-metal holds enough melody to create a sombre, deranged mood, as well as variety and ingredients enough to keep the listener interested. Without compromising on the demands of potent lethal deadliness, the death metal incorporates squiggly melody lines and killer solos from two guitarists. The atmosphere is sardonic, diabolic and violent just for the hell of it. The material's got buckets of that “little bit extra” which sets a band apart in the piles, stacks, bunches and heaps of bands out there. Although it would be most natural to visualize these Finns with angry frowns on their faces, I won't dismiss that an occasional grin can sneak up on them while playing. I namely suspect that there's a good portion of enthusiastic satisfaction for what they are doing within this quintet.

The sound is thick and comfortable but I'm a bit bewildered concerning what sounds a bit like “crickets” singing somewhere in the background. Is it the resonance of the bass strings that create this effect? Slightly odd, but it also provides some wilderness feelings.

For me, until now unknown Sotajumala delivers with compelling force on this album. They've spent four years in the making of Rauinoissa and have paid everything from their own pockets. If our Finnish friends are to continue composing and creating creative outbreaks of phonetic decay, they depend on getting the expenses covered. So if you like juicy, killer death metal, check the bands download site and read their message.

Vierekkäin tulemme kohtaamaan ja valloittaa kuolema!

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Winds of Genocide - Usurping The Throne Of Disease Disapproved

Pulverised Records 22.01.15
Infernal death crust has never been my cup of radioactive waste. Thus, I add this one mostly as a tip to those of the readers who consider the sound of pneumatic drilling as head-banger friendly.

With nine years of experience and exclusively mini releases behind them, English Winds of Genocide is an album debuting quintet with penchant for ado and turmoil. With vociferous and thunderous sound they bruised the shit out of nine so-called songs. If you need a break from all intellectual activity, this is a good option. Liberatingly free from progressive depth and tranquilly scenic parts.

Do you hate your neighbour who loves to tell you that metal is only noise? Turn the volume to twelve an give the son of a 2 dollar skank a taste of Usurping The Throne Of Disease! He will never consider more conventional metal noise again. Try if you may to visualize (or rather audiolyze) the sound of Venom falling off the tuff train during a tour in a war-torn country in the early 80s and landing on their instruments, without a residential permit. Such things leads to clamour, racket and tumults.

I don't intend to sink to the rock bottom level of musical ignorants by calling this "noise" (even though a band of this calibrated might possibly consider that a compliment). I hear quality in the chaos. The guys master the genre in which they operate, and the sound production fits this brew well, but to me this "uproar" becomes fairly meaningless. It is naturally a highly subjective point of view, and I must admit that it's bad-ass in small doses. I still choose to be a bit strict. If you are one of those who enjoy "noisy" crust, you don't need to take my word for it. These explosive 30 minutes of filthy chemical waste may be just what you are looking for. If so: Go for it.

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Satan's Host - Pre-dating God Medium

Moribund Records, 19.01.15
Satan's Host started as a heavy metal band by guitarist Patrick Evil in 1977. After a time he was joined by vocalist Harry Conklin of Jag Panzer. Harry took the stage name Leviathan Thisiren and, along with a few other members the début Metal from Hell was recorded and released in 1986. The quartet also recorded the sequel Midnight Wind that should have been released in 1987. However, the label Web Records went bankrupt, and this has subsequently only been obtainable in the form of various bootlegs.
After this, Harry went on to Titan Force, and Satan's Host was split up.

In 1999 the Denver, Colorado -band re-emerged a melodic black/death metal band with L.C.F. Elixir as new, and far more extreme-voiced vocalist. Under this constellation, five albums were released. After the last of them, Power ~ Purity ~ Perfection...999 Elixir left the band, and the power-vocalist Leviathan Thisiren again came into the picture.
The music took a more power-extreme-metallic direction with By the Hands of the Devil in 2009. The next album, Virgin Sails was released 14 months ago, and I was not benevolent (rather malevolent) in my review of it.

Pre-dating God:
2 single CDs totalling 80 minutes is being released today. Do I have I reason to be more gracious now than not much more than a year ago?
Where Virgin Sails felt a bit dreary, Pre-dating God actually feels a little livelier. The band has got the same line-up. (Besides the aforementioned, we find Margar on bass and Evil Little Hobbit on drums). Still, the drum beat feels less staccato this time. The vocals also emerges as somewhat more powerful and varied. The two discs are analogous in quality and style, and both have a lot of variety and some good melodic ideas.

I am still not entirely friend with the band this time either. Not all the melody lines feels like they lead somewhere. There are many minutes among these 80 where I, even after three spins, feel that they just stagnate and rotate on the same spot with no progress or sense of direction. If the quartet had carved away some padding and merged the best ideas to one CD, it would likely emerged as much stronger. As it is, it's another middle range release from the power/heavy/extreme hybrid-band Satan's Host.

Stream the albums at the Moribund Cult, og check out one stream from each album here:

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Thurisaz - Live & Acoustic Medium

Sleaszy Rider Records, 21.01.15
As the title suggests, this is a live acoustic album from the Belgian band. The concert was recorded in a sold out GC Forum in the band's hometown Wervik, March 1st last year. It is now released as a double disc, featuring the entire concert respectively on CD and DVD. I've probably heard all albums from the band, without much having stuck to my mind. The band usually plays a form of atmospheric death/black with a gothic/symphonic flair, but I would never have guessed based on this stripped version of their music.

During a short hours they perform quiet and tender versions of songs they have not performed live before, including three cover songs. With two violins, cello and female guest vocalist it clearly sounds good, but it's not metal at all. Acoustic versions of “familiar and esteemed” tunes is a curiosity that few other than the fans (or possibly fans in general of acoustic pop/rock) will embrace. I don't recognize anything until My Kantele (Amorphis) emerges as the penultimate song. Finality (Woods Of Ypres) and A Natural Disaster (from Anathema's newer "alternative" period) doesn't make my mental bells chime either.

Absolutely beautiful and relaxing, but not something I would run out to purchase myself. Are you versatile in your musical taste, this can however be a nice album to ease off to. Rumour has it that a new studio album is only a few months away. Check the link above, as well as Years of Silence.

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Vardan - Verses from Ancient Times Medium

Moribund Records, 20.01.15
Do you like necrotic black metal?
If not you can definitely steer clear of this one!
We shall once again visit a one man band. Italian this time. The man behind this band has baptised it in the same infected brackish water as he has baptised himself. In other words, the project is self-titled. The guy started up in 1997, but did not put out more than a demo for the first ten years. Then the pace increased fast. This is the eighth album since 2007. The previous two years Vardan dropped a total of six albums. That kind of quantity always makes me sceptical.

The music is cold, with dirty, necrotic, rasping sound with no hint of dynamic range. It is not very fast. The man has (to my sardonic delight) placed greater emphasis on mood than speed. Vardan has come up with some fit dystopian tone rows. The first and last song (of four) ticks in on over ten minutes, while the other two cross the lines of seven and five. There are variations within the songs, but not in direct abundance. The goal is dystopian suggestion, and it succeeds partially. Tough, raw, antipathic and... simplistic.

I like this kind of contemptuous musical disgust, and these 35 icy minutes works fine for a blowout. However, you will not find the depth and substance that creates tenacious duration in an album here. I've only heard it twice, but it would surprised me immensely if this contains any hidden details. This is simply not music for deep or frequent hedonistic pleasure and thus I end up on middle ground, so to speak.

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Grimoire - L'aorasie des spectres rêveurs Approved

Eisenwald Tonschmiede, 23.01.2015
Grimoire is a one man band from the Canadian Quebec province. Grimoire was formed in 2010 and debuted with À la lumière des cendres in 2011. The man behind is Fiel from Forteresse and Csejthe. Still, when the music flows out of the speakers Québécois black metal isn't the first thing that strikes me.

This EP opens with quiet, slow-moving black metal with pleasing melodic guitar work and piano notes. More aggressive drumming and black vocal appear after a while, and eventually some growl as well, but the guitar is still very friendly and melodious, and the tunes remain mournful and beautiful. Despite elements from scene Fiel belong to, his music in this band lies closer to post-black metal. Last track can be regarded as a four minutes (pro)long(ed) prologue. It consists of dreamy, esoteric tones, piano melody and hushed, hovering female choir that's almost carried by the wind as it rises and falls in strength.

Besides the last track, which is a little too sugar sweet and Enja-sticky, this 4-track and 25-minute EP has got more than 20 minutes with raw post-black of the lovely and rather hypnotic sort. This "Québécois post black metal" fusion can be purchased on 12", cassette and digitally.

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Against the Plagues - The Extermination Event Approved

Kake Multimedia, 06.01.15
Chicago-based Against the Plagues was founded in 2005 and in 2007 they released the debut The Architecture of Oppression. This was reissued in a remastered and partial remixed edition with new drum tracks under the new title Decoding the Mainframe in 2009. The following year they released an EP called The Quaternion. I'm fond of the debut album which consists of melodic extreme metal with skilled technical instrumentation, synth-based orchestral touches and well-structured songs with good variety.

The band has recently released a two track EP. The quintet has moved somewhat away from the Limbonic Art sounding symphonic style, although they still have some elements therefrom. The Extermination Event has got more in common with technical death metal. This is not a development I applaud, but even though I'm a little disappointed, I must admit that these men are still talented and they compose songs with good diversity and rather vehement instrumentation and strong drive.

I like the second song Enblighted best, but it's the first song Terrorform they've chosen to make a video to. No one ever asks me first.

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Chalice of Blood - Helig, Helig, Helig Approved

Daemon Worship Productions, 15.01.15
After thundering death metal, it takes time to readjust the ears to sharp black metal. Chalice of Blood released a split with Israthoum just before Christmas. I couldn't accumulate my largest enthusiasm, as it held less then ten minutes of music. However I did prefer Chalice of Blood's contributions, where the stench of burning sulfur were strongest.

The band hails from Sweden, and consists of three members who use the shady pseudonyms I, II og III. It is ten years since their foundation, and they now have one demo and three splits on their consciousness. With an EP consisting of five tracks and about 19 minutes, the guys show that they want to be part in the fight for the black-clad listeners attention.

The sound is exceptionally sharp. It cuts like razor blades through the earwax. It sounds pretty home crafted, but the EP is actually produced by Lars Broddesson (former Marduk drummer) in Twisting Serpent Studios. The music is pitch-dark, misanthropic and aggressive. Here honor is defended by the principle that attack is the best self-defense.
The vocals is a classic case. The throat is so obsessed that the uvula has called for an exorcist.
The guitar play is fairly plentiful. The riffs are icy and the strings picks moods from the unearthly beneath.
The drums provide some diabolical excursion that is bewitching in my black book. Admittedly there are some tedious and stalling strokes, but the guy is technically competent, and delivers both rapid, varied and well-acted parts.
Thee bass? Which bass?

Beside the exaggerated sharp sound, I could nitpick at some protracted parts and lack of innovation. This doesn't in any way prevents me from appreciating three Swedish devil worshipers that hasn't even debuted in album format yet. With better sound and a little more refined song material, these Swedes can go far.

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Infra - Initiation on the Ordeals of Lower Vibrations Medium

Nuclear War Now! Productions, 15.01.15
This barely 13 minutes long 7" from Portuguese Infra suites the name “Initiation on the Ordeals of Lower Vibrations” perfectly, at least if one considers the vibrations to be frequency generated. It is namely in the lower part of the frequency range these guys revel and thrive. The word ordeal can be explained by the fact that this constellation is new, and this debut is their initiation and trial.
The members, whose name I do not know, has reportedly made Iberian Peninsula unsafe for years through other band.

This band plays thunderous, fairly sluggish death metal where the vocalists rabies-infested growl fits the rabid music like a knuckleduster. The guitars creates diverse eeriness, but the music still has a certain monotonous feel that's broken by the drum-bashers untiring efforts.

The men succeed in spreading something satanically evil in their discouraged and hostile moods, but one has heard more interesting metal with such properties before. However I'm not dismissing this band altogether. They may very well prove to be more devastating, wrecking and sinister when they first become properly warmed up.

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Gnosis - The Third-Eye Gate Medium

Nuclear War Now! Productions, 15.01.15
Gnosis is a debuting quartet (which seems to have increased to a quintet after the recording process) from Florida, but who is hiding behind the initials is not easy to say. They have reportedly experience from different bands of different nature. I could have told you what the name Gnosis means, and made a point out of the band, like its name, has a Greek flair. Searching for some complementary information beyond what the press release had to offer mostly led to me finding repetitions of this note. Thus it would have been appropriate if I could come up with a more profound analysis, but I'm afraid I can't.

Everyone seems to compare Gnosis with old Varathron (which I'm not too fond of), old Rotting Christ (that I'm not in depth aquainted with) and the second album of Brazilian Mystifier (that I haven't even heard of). Thus it becomes a tentative and blindfolded explanation.

Gnosis plays dirty black/death with occult undertones at swift midtempo speed. The atmosphere reminiscents evil cut clad alchemists who in the dark of night is out to rob innocent virgins who is then forced to brush crystal balls, sort chemicals and clean up tarot cards and test tubes. Or whatever they use young maidens for in such circuits.
The drummer does a good job when he wants to, and he does a lot of proper beating her. Unfortunately he often choos to do a run (of-the-mill) with staccato “broken record rhythm”. The bass player contributes in a nice way. The bass doesn't just follow the other, it doesn't drown completely in the sound, and it is also not too overemphasized. The sound is otherwise fittingly raw and rough, while the soundstage has vast dynamic range which in particular suit the drums well. The vocals is in the landscape of Necros Christos, gnawing at the soul like a High Priest of Satan, casting curses during a black mass.

37 minutes long The Third-Eye Gate is close to approved. The album is not bad. Fairly old school and evil. I've heard more evocative thing, but this does tho job to. My self-imposed role is not to praise, however, but to separate the wheat from the chaff. No misplaced kindness, no charity. Despite a number of positive aspects this doesn't entirely meet my strickt criterias for top rating. After five rounds, I eventually decided. The album is certainly audible, but the song material is below par and unfortunately makes the album unexciting. It doesn't help that parts of percussion is rather annoying either. Maybe next time.

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Myrkgrav - Vonde auer Approved

Selvfinansiert Utgivelse, 06.01.15
Lars Jensen is a member of Quadrivium, ex-member of Sworn and he has contributed as a background vocalist, drummer and sound engineer for Voluspaa. With his own band Myrkgrav he performe folk metal with elements from viking and black metal. He has released one full-length album, and misc. smaller releases since its inception in 2003. Late summer 2012 Lars moved to Turku, Finland to study folklore with ethnology as a minor subject, but the music is still wholeheartedly Norwegian

Vonde auer is a single laid out for streaming in December, that is now available for purchase in digital format. The single consists of the six-minute long title track as well as a barely three minutes long “traditional version”. The former has great folky melodies and a bit progressive structure with all its glory packed in hard metallic sute. Here, Lars takes care of vocals and all instruments except from the Hardanger fiddle. The latter track is a stripped-down version, completely rearranged for the beautifull sounding fiddle. Olav Luksengård Mjelva handle the traditional instrument, and the result is a slått (traditional Norwegian fiddle tune) with fully authentic feel of the olden days. A magnificent piece! One can only hope that Mr. Jensen (despite hes studies) will have time to compose a new album soon.

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Woebegone Obscured - Deathscape MMXIV Approved

Solitude Productions, 22.12.14
On more than 42 minutes these Danes only find space for five sorrowful songs. We will again embark on a fairly sluggish funeralsk landscape, but with varied content of rather unearthly and esoteric form, and a bit eclectic art. The band comes from Midtjylland, Denmark and have two albums on their conscience.

Rasping demented growls, dramaturgical and plaintive song with clean vocals. Partly polyphonic. Dissonant as well as more traditional melody lines. Jazzy rhythms and plenty of transitions. Acoustic guitar and the sound of rain. This is among the elements that characterize the two first song that also occupies the first half of the album. Thereupon follows a quiet, comfortable and relatively short track, with some Asian touch. Almost like a transition from the selfmade content and over to the last two songs which are cover versions of Bathory and Dead Can Dance respectively.

The Danes adds their own touch to «Call From the Grave» and doubles its duration, by wrapping it into their own format and sound. I had actually forgotten that Bathory had thrown in a part of Chopin's Marche Funèbre as icing on the cake on this one. I have no relationship with Dead Can Dance or their song «Xavier». In Woebegone Obscured clothing it emerges as a dreamy journey to the stars.

Woebegone Obscured presents funeralia with a dirty dark metalic twist that gives them a sound of their own.
Deathscape MMXIV never becomes so weird that it falls outside my comfort zone.
The album weld a lot of individual elements well together and is occasionally farely gorgeous. Absolutely not bad.

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Helevorn - Compassion Forlorn Approved

BadMoodMan Music, 22.09.14
I received a small digital stack of releases from Solitude Productions and this sub-label a while ago, and I'll try to squeezed them in occasionally between all new promos. Today, after some “eenie meenie miney mo”, I picked Compassion Forlorn as it seemed appealing.

The Spaniards have been at it since the end of the nineties. They released their first albums in 2005 and 2010. Almost five years later, they are ready with their third record. The first one, Fragments, was not much to brag about. Forthcoming Displeasures was far better, although I must admit not having listen much to it.

The music they are performing on Compassion Forlorn is mournful death/doom with Gothic vibes, which alternates between leaden and featherlight in expressions. Just like a main character in a dramatic play can alternate between hopelessness and glimpses of hope, the music shifts between gloomy tunnel-sight on existence, and portions of positivity. The music has a hint of catchy kindness, while not directly poppy. Perhaps this sound a bit “scary”, but do not despair. Beautiful compositions prevents simplify, and a rich and full sound where metallic punch gets reinforcements from piano and strings, helps to strengthen a massive expression. The clean vocals are very clean, but also good and natural. Moreover, there's enough growls to make the plasterwork crackle and sprinkle from the walls.

All in all, a very good and fine album, and very possible the best from Helevorn thus far.

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Volahn - Aq'Ab'Al Disapproved

Iron Bonehead Productions, 09.01.15
The story behind Volahn and Black Twilight Circle is more exciting than the music, so let's start there. Just like the infamous Norwegian “inner circle” there are other "black metal collectives" spread around the globe. The early French second wave black metal warriors formed its Les Legion Noires, Russian NSBM-bands formed Blaze Birth Hall in the mid nineties, in Argentina you'll find Southern Elite Circle, in Slovakia Underground Black Metal Resistance and in Australia reportedly Southern Tyrants Circle. (And this is only (some of) the scenes that have chosen to put a name on its legion).

In California, we find Black Twilight Circle, a grouping inspired by proto-American culture, i.e. the indigenous people of the “new world” before this civilization was overturned by Spanish speaking squatters and immigrants, or so called colonists and settlers. Black Metal is mixed with traditional instruments and passion for ancient traditions, shamanistic rituals, or native occult theology, and it's all taken very seriously. The label Crepúsculo Negro was formed by Volahn, or Eduardo Ramírez which he's really called, to release music created within the circle. Aq'Ab'Al was released on cassette by this label in September and is soon out on vinyl and CD via Iron Bonehead.

The band Volahn is the man's solo project and was formed in 2003. He's released one previous studio albums, a live disc and various splits. As is often the case with such "circles", ideology comes first, and the music is meant to be be primitive, naked and violent. Here we find black metal with cold sound and rather awful sound quality. The vocals is as phonetic mouth herpes, but the music is not quite as aggressive as one might think. Albeit it sounds intense but that's caused just as much by the sharp unpleasant sound, as the mixture of monotone and chaotic parts. It is in some ways quite melodic, although the melodies emerge as rather meaningless. The extremity is only relieved by sections of acoustic guitar and flute. These Mayan values constitutes an intriguing concept, but I can do without an hour of esoteric and hysterical cacophonies.

Listen and judge for yourself, and if it should appeal to you, it can be obtained on cassette, the sonically most appropriate format, via The Ajna Offensive.

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Perdition Temple - Sovereign of the Desolate Medium

Hells Headbangers Records, 29.12.14
This 7-inch is an appetizer to the sophomore album by Tampa, Florida quintet Perdition Temple. The first album was released in 2010, and bore the name Edict of the Antichrist Elect. Next album, The Tempter's Victorious is scheduled for release on January 31st. This EP can not be considered a preview, as both tracks are exclusive to this release. It contains a title track and a cover of Blasphemy's Weltering in Blood.

It is filthy, nasty and aggressive black/death band reel off. One has heard both better and worse in that regard. Here is enough brutality and punch to satisfy the most bloodthirsty. Decent variety and some guitar solo is also provided. Originality, surprises or depth is as expected not to be found. Thus you probably have a presumption whether or not these 6.5 minutes is for you.

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Nefandus - Reality Cleaver Approved

Daemon Worship, 22.12.14
Swedish Nefandus released their first demo ten years ago, and have now come to their third fullength. The band has been practicing both as a duo and a trio but now operates as a quartet. Reality Cleaver was originaly released on CD in July. I actually heard it back then, but did not get to writing anything about it. Just before X-mas, Reality Cleaver was released on vinyl, so let's take this opportunity to do a short review.

After Ascension's assault on the senses Nefandus midtempo black metal appears rather toothless. The Music is neither particularly grim nor intricate. Nefandus prowl in the lower area of the midtempo spectrum, and it is quite melodic. Let's call it melodic doom/black. The biggest drawback is that the melody lines are neither particularly evocative, eventful or momentous. Not cheerful, but not realy gloomy either. Not directly monotonous, but not rich on substance either. Yet the album is quite alright to listen to, and when it settles a little it appears reasonably comfortable and relaxing.

The instrumentation works fine. When the tempo is slightly increased during the course of the album, the drummer increasingly get to show what lives (or have taken residence) in him. The vocals are performed by Michayah Belfagor (Ofermod mm) that bleats like a wolf in sheep's clothing. After seven songs the album finishes a bit different with calmer Scorn of the All-Mind, where I could swear that parts of the clean vocals were female, although Thomas Sabbathi (Griftegård, Year of the Goat) is the only one credited as guest vocalist.

In a larger context, Reality Cleaver can possibly be percived as a tad mediocre, but the album is certainly audible regardless of viewpoint. Personally I find it more satisfactorily by each spin, and I recommend it for black metal patrons that wants to relax a bit after a strenuous day. Not a strong approval, but the scales tip in its favour.

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Witchrist - Vritra Medium

Iron Bonehead Productions, 31.12.14
Hey, you. Yes, you. Do you have ten or eleven minutes to spare? Well. Then you'll have time to attest Witchrist's funeral. You heard me right. This is the New Zealand based bands swan song. Welcome to the burial ground.

The band have released two albums (2010 & 2011, as well as some other releases), that apparently was well received by the crowd. Unfortunately they blew past my radar. On this, as well as on a split with Antediluvian (released the same day via Martyr Doom Productions), KZR from Bölzer takes care of the death grunts. The musical is blackened death metal, that sounds both grim and crushing. These three songs does however lack the "little extra" that is required to stand out. The limited playing time also prevents the music from creates its own little universe. The music hardly has time to get started before it ends. Vritra is decent, neither more nor less. I strongly suspect that the albums were better.

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Lebensnacht - Uudelleensyntynyt ikuiseen pimeyteen Approved

Naturmacht Productions, 11.11.14
Robert Brockmann, the man behind the Naturmacht label, is also the man behind this one man band. His musical journey began in 2008, but the first sign of life did not erupt before the split with Agael in 2012. Two full-length albums was released in 2013. The music is a form of black metal that alternates between the raw and the atmospheric, with snippets of piano and the sound of floundering waves.

The quiet sequences is a tad avantgarde in the edges. At its most weird and synthetic these items remains less interesting in my ears. It is the black part that captivates me. The vocals are sore, but raw, partially in the vain of elder Burzum recordings. The black metal has a primal, charcoal and depressive character. The legacy of bands like Wigrid, Angantyr and Nyktalgia is lurking in the shadows. The album has a rather homemade touch. This actually has some kind of charm, where self-done is well done, and determination and stubbornness overrides all possible limitations. This gives Uudelleensyntynyt ikuiseen pimeyteen a sense of genuine credibility not necessarily fond in generic (or well produced) black metal releases.

This album does not reach the top range, so to speak, but it has a rough charm that manages to fascinate somehow. I wobbles slightly between vx and V, but I eventually give this one the benefit of the doubt. Not mandatory in any way, but if you enjoy some tranquil soundscapes aalong with passages of mid-nineties Burzum-synth, you may very well give this a shot.

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Luna - There Is No Tomorrow... Approved

Solitude Productions, 01.01.15
We might as well begin the new year with a little New Years gift from Solitude.

Ukrainian Luna debuted with the album Ashes To Ashes half a years ago. Their symphonic and majestic twist on funeral doom pleased me enough to result in a five point rated review. This time we are served a 13.5 minute EP. Whilst Luna's debut lasted for almost an hour, and contained an entire meal (a heavy meal for impatient souls), this therefore comes across as a lighter dessert. (A cup of coffee, a glass of cognac and a cigarette?).

The two songs sound much more vital than what Ashes To Ashes did. When all ideas should not be painted all over a reasonably long CD, but rather is conveyed in a more easily digestible time interval, it's easy for the pace to increases and the overall expression to glide closer to death/doom than funeral. Still, the band has retained their weight and orchestral signature. Sonically there are actually improvements to be traced, as the rather synthetic-sounding elements that I picked on are reduced. The variation is also slightly improved or at least it's not drawn out over time quite to the same degree. This is still a one-man band, impressive enough, and it is still instrumental. Not exactly revolutionary, but mighty and delightful.
This gift comes with the promise of yet a heavy year from the label, and can be downloaded for free.

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