RELAPSE RECORDS, 21.08.15
The second wave of black metal encouraged creative diversity and embraced (to some extent) musical variety. Despite an
anti-conformist attitude, Darkthrone's formula has nevertheless become kind of a template for a more streamlined
expression. As soon as black metal adds elements from outside, or mixes and cross paths with other genres, it waives the
right to automatically be accepted as true black metal; raw, primitive, icy, inaccessible, misanthropic and dangerous.
There's almost as many opinions of what black metal is, and where to draw the line, as there are followers. More than a
handful of bands have been maligned for lack of credibility, whilst just as many have gotten away with metal in the borderland.
In an era characterized by extensive genre mixing, I see no reason to get heavily provoked by a single band, whose expression
does not follow orthodox policies. Certainly, one needs to have a very flexible view of the genre and also considered full
individual freedom, even musically, as a vital part of the black landscape, to regard Myrkur as black metal.
Myrkur has some elements of the genre, but more influences from outside, and personally I don't consider
the band as black metal. But off course that's no criticism of Myrkur but rather of aspects outside her
control. The music stands on its own, and will of course be judged as such.
That some promotes the band as black metal is their business, and that some virtually consider and describe Myrkur
as the saviour of the Nordic black metal heritage, shall definitely be left at their own expense. It should be
obvious that anyone off course is free to form their own individual view on the matter. The only ones I wish to reprimand
is those shoving their opinions down other folks throat. Take that, missionary bastards.
Danish Amalie Bruun, otherwise residing in New York, blends as said black elements into her multifaceted
musical work under her artist/stage name Myrkur. I find it hard to agree to both that black tones supposedly
dominates M, and that it in addition is supposed to have such a strong mark of the black Norwegian nineties.
Lest you look outside the aforementioned genre.
Here are fair and fairytale-ish, almost sacral parts with a taste of both Theatre of Tragedy and The 3rd
and The Mortal. Here are sequences of subdued, hushed post-metallic character, where Alcest meets hints
of Seigmen. Piano, fiddle and fair maiden vocals also provide partly folk musical moods, but there's not many
acoustic nature moods in the style of Ulver (and later Empyrium). I mention the latter because
Myrkur is often compared to Ulver, except I can't find any considerable similarities beyond a blissful
blend of delicate bleak and black fragrance.
And then there's the elements of raw black metal, naturally. Some of these has a traditional approach. Some fractions even
has a hint of the first wave, particularly evident in Mordet (The Murder). Most is still of a rather
eclectic character. Without other particular similarities, its the peculiar and bizarre, dissonant and unforgiving spirit
of bands like Slagmaur, Angst Skvadron and Den Saakaldte I primarily think of.
To further set it in perspective; among the 11 songs and 37 minutes on M, only two songs, Mordet
and Skaði, has copious black impulses, against five songs with little or no relation to the
genre, plus four songs that doesn't contain metallic elements whatsoever.
The album is enormously varied, but bound together by a dreamy mood, sometimes slipping into nightmares. The melodies
are often good, even catchy, without becoming too candy-coated or far too available in a commercial sense. Myrkur sings like an angel from Hell. The elf-soft clean vocals is crystal clear and ravishing pure as
the nature it belongs to with its earmark of graceful milkmaid or more risky and seductive
(the Scandinavian forest nymph), while the black variety though is sharp, shrill and harsh, and may require
some familiarization. Everything delivered with wholeheartedly compassion and immersive spirit. She has composed all the
music and lyrics herself, and handles both guitar and piano in addition to superb vocals, impressive enough. Along with
her is a sizeable horde of guests. Teloch (Mayhem, Nidingr et al.) handles bass and additional
guitars, Håvard Jørgensen (ex- Ulver and Satyricon) plays acoustic guitar and Øyvind Myrvoll
(Nidingr) batter the leather interior. Various violins, tuba and horn is handled by an additional leach,
and Christopher Amott (ex-Arch Enemy) contributes a little extra guitar on Mordet.
The instrumentation is of course flawlessly executed. As is the sound.
The album was recorded in several places, including Tomba Emmanuelle, and Garm (Ulver)
has been helpfully involved in production and mix. The sound of fair(y) vocals and acoustic elements are pure and clear
as a mountain stream, while the guitars offers contrast with its discordant appearance. In the blackest moments it sounds
pointed and jagged as the mountain pinnacles. Slightly more raspy and grinding than sharp and cold, admittedly.
I like this album very good, but the celestially soaring music probably forms a record that might be picked up infrequently,
rather than being played at all hours. With songs of partly poppy leaning (Dybt in Skoven) and harmonic,
acoustic folk/art songs that operatic folk/pop artists as Sissel Kyrkjebø or
Christine Gulbrandsen could easily have sung, such as the Scandinavian lullaby Byssan Lull,
M offers a little too much of a “good” thing to climb higher in the rankings.
The expression isn't significantly changed since last year's self-titled EP, but both compositions and sound quality is
improved a few notches since then. Myrkur delivers pleasant moods. Too good for those whom the band is strange enough targeted and
promoted towards. I would rather recommend it to fans of atmospheric nature-devoted and folk-inspired metal, soaked in
ancient romanticism, than to black metal followers. Myrkur, I hereby baptise thee “fairly ambient and partly medieval folk/black”. M is released in all formats, and Myrkur plays live in aforementioned Tomba Emmanuelle in
Oslo on August 28th.
METAL BLADE RECORDS, 07.08.15
The seventh album from San Diego, California based Cattle Decapitations was released two weeks ago.
(One week before this review was initially published as a guest review on another Norwegian site). The albums reception
has been absolutely overwhelming.
But its quality couldn't possibly match the colossal amount of unison media acclaim, now could it? I set forth with an
effort to reveal the hype. It was time to let the cat out of the bag, or possibly to surrender and admit that the media
conglomerate was right.
I am not basically the most obvious guy to take on The Anthropocene Extinction. Despite knowledge of
Cattle Decapitation, I have never bothered kicking their tires. A deathgrind band obsessed with gore,
named after the beheading of livestock, consisting of up to several vegetarians sounded like a hefty audible diet, with
indigestion as a result. Something my impression of albums like To Serve Man and Humanure
more or less confirms.
I mostly find deathgrind, deathcore, goregrind and correspondingly brutal death metal (whatever it's all called)
exaggeratedly focused on brutality and speed. Willingly sacrificing the properties required to challenge the mind and
consolidate its position as real quality metal, just to deliver the rawest, most unrelenting savage and carnage. The same
applies to the most exaggerated examples of apparently chaotic, aimless and meaningless technicality in extreme metal.
Yet, the song Mammals In Babylon that was premièred in advance of the release seemed particularly promising.
Also, I'm to naive to have adopted good routines for corruption, thus I might just be the right guy to provide the
ultimate honest and impartial answer.
It doesn't take long before a wall of low frequent, distorted and down tuned guitars slam against me as hard and brutally
as the heat wave as you exit a temperate plane in the tropics and get heaps of flaming hot degrees glued to the skin and
sucked into the lungs. The next thing that catches me off guard is not the large amount of technical refinements, but how
controlled and structured they are, and the extensive diversity of extreme branches that are sewn together. The third
revelation consists of the amounts of melody, its pleasingness and availability. Despite the band's barbaric past and the
powerful and frenetic brutality they have in their expression, this doesn't sound nearly as inhospitable and unaccessible
The vocal styles vary a lot on the album. Various forms of growling, from deep guttural to ultra-deep industrial
vacuum cleaner, are also visited by a blacker vocal offspring. The most startling vocal form is still the clean singing,
sounding a bit like an annoying, nagging young prat. I take note that not everyone is equally enthusiastic about this, but
the melody lines this vocal form provides constitutes the albums most melodic aspect. It creates praiseworthy contrast and
dynamics in the music.
Eventually I realize that the voice can remind a clue about a contrived childish Udo Dirkschneider, and I also
find sequences that provide small associations to ICS Vortex. Mainly in the melody lines.
On previous occasions the band's technical slant occurred to me as fairly random and messy. Albeit that's only to be
regarded as a first impression, as I haven't really heard any of the band's previous six albums. The Anthropocene
Extinction gives a totally different impression from the very first moment. The technicality is toned down to
make room for other inputs, and it's structured in a mature way as well. To me, the difference is like when a kid with
wild, tousled and tangled hair comes out of the hair salon with a clean, neat and precise haircut, to use a corny analogy.
The pace differs profusely as the band alters between various deadly expressions and sub-genres. Expect everything from
from death/doom to gorecore speed/death and anticipate abrupt, lightning-fast transitions in tight synergistic interaction.
Mighty and elitist as Nile, yet eccentric as Tetragrammaton by The Monolith Deathcult. (Quite
eclectic, but not completely burlesque, that is).
The band's history stretches almost 20 years back in time, even if no one in the current line-up was part of the original
troop. Vocalist Travis Ryan is still practically to reckon as an original member. The band seems in all
cases to be highly competent in all respects.
The album was produced, mixed and mastered in Flatline Audio in Colorado, USA. The sound is very massive and
forceful. It is unfortunately also unnecessarily compact (or dynamically compressed, with its DR5), but I shall let that
pass. A couple of places a hissing/crackly/jarring sound is used as an effect. It may have been stylish the first time
an industrial band did so, but it's not particularly tough any more. And that's pretty much all I can find to nitpick at.
Cattle Decapitation surprises me significantly with an extravagant display of “catchy” bestial aggression
characterized by intricate diversity. Purely subjective, I find some modern rhythmic antics and related components that
don't appeal much to me. This prevents full score.
I thought the emperor was naked, but the decadent hedonist indeed has the most elegant leather coat money can buy.
No wonder I didn't notice it, after all it turns out to be tailor-made out of human skin.
SEASON OF MIST, 27.07.15
What can be said about an old classic that hasn't already been said by everyone else? Not much, but one may as well
try to recruiting new fans. But seriously, there's likely to be some individuals predisposed to this type of metal
that nonetheless has missed out on this technical death/thrash gem, originally released back in 1991. There are also
those who's got old worn out records ripe for replacement and further, certain fans that will be ecstatic due to the
massive amount of bonus material.
With its technical, jazzy, proggy and melodic twists, Unquestionable Presence doesn't come across as
what is normally associates with technical death metal as of today. The music is not harder than melodic thrash, and
should be able to appeal to fans of both melodic death and thrash as well as classic heavy metal.
The songs aren't as “conceptually” coherent in form as many other classics, as they are a bit more jazz-progressive
in structure, although the songs in no way appears to be spontaneous and loosely structured either.
The band Oblivion was born in Sarasota, Florida in 1984, but changed the name to R.A.V.A.G.E.
the following year. After three years and a small handful of “misc-releases”, primarily demos, the band went through
another change of name, and finally ended up as Atheist. Their second, and unarguably (it seems) most
popular album came out in 1991. It has been the “victim” of a wide range of re-releases, but conceivably never with as
extensive an amount of extras as this package offers.
With continuous variation, good melodies and unexpected transitions, the album appear as a half-hour victory lap where
tracks with distinctiveness still glide well together. The instrumentation appears almost surprisingly solid, and
Atheist makes their antics sound so darned effortless and playful. The drummer seems to have arms as
an octopus, and the guitarists shines with exquisite classical solos, whilst hefty changes in riffs and proggy bass-lines
keeps the pace unproblematic. The performance is tight as a tick, a tiger, Dick's hatband or any rusty old hose clamp.
The production is clear and detailed, but not polished. The sound is more in the vein of good, old-fashioned and analogous,
with a dynamic lifelike touch. The album was originally recorded in Morrisound in Tampa, Florida, just about 60
miles (100 km) from their natural habitat.
Whereas the original master had sovereign DR13 as dynamic range, this has shrunk to still respectable, yet
somewhat more modest DR8 over the years. A graphic representation of the opener Mother Man shows how this affects the final result, where the high
pinnacles are ground down a bit. However, there are many examples of far more sinister nature.
This re-release comes in a digipak packed with additional material. First you get six pre-productions, followed by three
demo, drum tracks etc. The most interesting thing about these is that they differ slightly from the final results, not
just in sound but also in instrumentation, something fans that knows the record by heart presumably will find pleasure
In addition, the release is accompanied by a DVD. It serves up rehearsals, interviews and two concerts;
Live at the Waters Club 1990 and Live in Bradentown 1991.
No small amount. I have no idea what has previously been available, and how, though.
Unquestionable Presence is undoubtedly an old classic that has stood the test of time. Something the
albums ranking as number 170 on Metal Storms Top 200 albums can testify to. So whether you need a new copy of an
old favourite, or just is a fan of technical, progressive and melodic landscaped death/thrash without knowledge of the
album, I without a doubt recommend this treat.
The genre isn't my absolute favourite, especially considering the aforementioned jazz/prog structure, and purely
subjective I could have contended myself with 4 points. Yet, the album has exceedingly strong qualities, and I
like its stunning peculiarity a lot.
Die hard fans will probably still think that any character below 6 points is much too little.
CENTURY MEDIA RECORDS, 29.05.15
This is a completely pointless review that still provides a form of sense.
On one side:
Anyone with an interest in Paradise Lost have probably heard The Plague Within and made
up their own mind, and every magazines and fanzines with respect for themselves, both on paper and online, have made up
their opinion and shared it with anyone who might be interested.
(If I lack self-respect in that regard, it's probably just due to general misanthropy).
On the other side:
I have not written a dice-based review in almost a month and The Plague Within has eventually been played
so many times it was only natural that it was judged in this column. The irony is that this one is reviewed because it has
been given low priority, since I did not get a promo. (I probably shouldn't say that loud).
Full-length number 14 came 25 years after the first album. Even before the album came out, the antennas in the underground
begun vibrating. Something different was brewing. Quite right. Our British friends have finally reversed the trend. But
wait... Did the turning point come now?
At the end of the 90s the British disappointed most fans. The poppy crap album Host was not just a temporary
downturn. The sequel Believe in Nothing disappointed almost more as I personally was certain that they then
had to face the fatality and offer penance. But no, again and again, smooth and boring products were delivered, until one
gave up and stopped paying attention. Paradise was lost, I believed in nothing!
From 2007, however, a presumably futile turnaround began. Could it be possible to turn a high inertia giant on its way
towards, and perhaps even over the edge of the precipice? Hardly.
As you already know, this small miracle did happen, and it happened in those days, and in those days it happened, and thus
disciples, wise men and wise guys, started speculating in whether Gregor Mackintosh's harder tones in
Vallenfyre and Nick Holmes growling entry into Bloodbath had given a taste for blood.
Much could be said about the band, their history, and their new album especially. Others have already taken care of that.
All I have to do is to present my own view, and a simple synopsis should be enough. Thus you've read this far to
no avail. Mohaha... What did I say? Misanthropy! Paradise Lost have many years of experience and of course they know that first impressions and last
impressions are important aspects in many a context. Even so on albums. No Hope in Sight kicks of with
sharp guitars, heaviness and gloomy melancholy. Along with great melody lines in well interwoven parts, this song works
as a hypnotic gateway to The Plague Within. The three tracks toward the leaden “mid-song” Beneath
Broken Earth is not quite as strong, but it is still the most solid material our returning friends have delivered
in over fifteen years.
Toward the terminal monolith Return to the Sun it's a bit up and down, but even this alternates between
“good” and “very good”.
When the Brits once again has resorted to really hard and heavy songs with good melodies, I am certainly satisfied.
That Mr. Holmes again growls constitute a far from insignificant icing on the cake. The combination with
pleasant clean vocals is as always unbeatable. Gothic spices in the form of strings and piano represents the last frosting
on the cake.
I've faltered so much between 4 and 5 that I eventually found out that a solid four would be appropriate. Moreover, I gave V
points to eight out of nine releases on the
previous page. But what the hell. It feels good to have Paradise Lost back in true vigour, so I'll
reward them by rounding off up to 5.