In solitary majesty, Swedish Astraeus is chief architect and autocratic ruler of totalitarian
Cwealm. Something you probably wouldn't have guessed based on the music. Cwealm continues indefatigably in down-snowed but never overgrown footsteps, first planted by
Dissection and later maintained by Mörk Gryning, Lord Belial, Sacramentum. Winterland et al.
In other words; melodic black metal.
Astraeus has insight and respect enough to create his own distinctive signature, without plagiarizing.
With Odes To No Hereafter he rather utilize unconventional means to recreate the bygone spirit of yore.
The music is a melodic outbreak of hell-fire from the north, a fast and furious cloudburst of toxic gases swirling
uncontrollably with gale's force in all directions. A manifestation of mental thunderstorms. The melody lines are
swarms of locusts devouring everything in seemingly spontaneous and irregular fractals patterns.
Just as normal voices become pitched as mice in faster playback, cascades of guitar tones obtain an unexpected effect
when approaching the speed of light. The guitar sound takes the form of digital audio signals with low bit-rate, and
emulates the peculiar sound of game soundtracks from the built-in 2.25" cabinet-speaker of an Intel 486 PC from 1992.
But don't worry about the sound, for there's nothing to nitpick at. The drums are recorded in Necromorbus Studio,
and the rest in Studio T4 Berghof, while the mastering was entrusted to Tore Stjerna.
The music is a fantastic display of innovative creativity that stands out in a time when the art of composing good melodic
antics in extreme metal can sometimes seem to be a forgotten chapter. The music succeeded in creating its own time-bubble
that never crosses the millennium-shift. The melodies are admittedly not conventional themes with persistent tone-rows
arching from start to finish, but rather disjointed, chaotic and unpredictable swarms of melodic swirling chaos. Besides
this turbulent tangle, resembling a feverish, boisterous procession of witches, ghouls and other hellish creatures
racing across the sky in pact with the devil during the wild hunt, early Mörk Gryning and Dissection
are the inspirations Cwealm resembles most.
The vocals is an infamous sulphuric sermon, chanted out between clenched teeth in blind hatred, while the frenzied
carousel of instrumental furore is spinning around and around like a tornado. Astraeus left the drums in the safe hands of Valkyrja's Jocke Wallgren, who by the
way has quit
October Tide and Astrophobos, and found employment in Amon Amarth.
The strangest structures reveals themselves in the chaos. The architectural frenzy gives a sensation of Hidden in
the Fog, with Limbonic Art's playful madness scrambling in darkened corners. Both accordion and piano
shows up in the swirling schizophrenic roller-coaster waltz, without taking on any other role than bizarre supernumeraries.
Who's got the most urgent need of emergency psychiatric help after this session, the creator or the victim of man's
megalomania, I dare not predict. Ingenious or insane. Clever, or wacky. Masterful or absurd. What do I know?
With slightly stronger overall melodies I would gladly have raised the score to 6 points, and I'm fairly tempted to do
so already, for Odes To No Hereafter is a brilliant display of eccentric idiosyncrasy and inscrutable
inventiveness, and an album that could just as well have been a 20 year old hidden gem. The five points are strong!
Season of Mist, 14.10.16
“Is this a joke”, is the first reaction I'd expect from true, stalwart Norwegian black metallers when the cartoon band
Sons of Balaur debuts with their tribute to the fictional demon Balaur.
That the band, who's supposed to be Norwegian, is impersonated (or rather caricatured) by foreigners, ain't hard to tell.
It's revealed as soon as the music unfolds. The powerful sound is plagued with bass from an amplifier that guaranteed
goes to 11. At least.
The graphic novel
Realm of the Damned offers an amusing story with lots of graphical goodies, and accepting the tongue-in-cheek
fictional Norwegian band was no hassle. When the band releases music, presented with a full falsified biography, however,
I get an ailing sense of disgust. Especially because the musical don't fucking match the concept. The music sounds like a
British newcomer who's inspired by anything third and fourth-generation black metal which in turn is indirectly inspired
by the second wave. The melody lines found in true old school black metal had intentional evil moods, but Sons
of Balaur provide harmless, balmy and temperate black metal without cold and grim moods. Based on the black metal
dogma that reigned in the nineties, I suspect that this toothless and melodic “Gothenburg version” would have been shunned.
Attitudes have basically become more moderate since the churches burned, but even if everyone ain't as rigid and pedantic
in their puritanical principles, Tenebris Deos with its melodies, rich bass and jocular fabricated lyrics,
scarcely pass as black metal. And as TNBM, this just falls through utterly. Based on my indoctrinated mindset, Sons
of Balaur in audio format just becomes a silly parodical portrayal and a sacrilege. I don't have the same issues
regarding the designer-band Dethklok, who have released four albums built around the satirical cartoon series
Metalocalypse. After all, black metal is deadly serious.
I've tried to view the music without focusing on the context, but it hasn't been easy to digest Tenebris Deos
when theory and practice diverge in such different directions. Objectively, there are quite a few good things here, but
subjectively it took a long time before I was able to listen to this without being plagued by a nagging frustration. When
I eventually got past this barrier, the following was what I found to report:
The music is related to black metal, but crammed with juicy punch, driving melody and ritch bass. The guitar sound is good,
but not sharp and stinging. The expression is rounded and streamlined, but not too polished. Just slightly. The
riffing has something of a black/thrash touch, but also a hint of proto-black, especially in the Immortalesque
resemblance of Balaur's Rise. The modern production don't gives me any vibes of primeval Norwegian black metal.
The vocal rasps in boiling antagonistic wrath, when not mimicking Attila in the middle of the second half
of Van Helsing Must Die. The rhythm in the insistent and intrusive vocals can admittedly be a bit pushy
in the length. The rhythm trot in various degrees of rocking midtempo, and slightly faster gallop.
The obvious advantage of the melodic touch the band uses is the ability to distinguish song from song and band from band.
Not that Sons of Balaur differs markedly from similar bands. I don't have any examples of the top of my
head, but there's no hiding the fact that oodles of similar metal exist. The downside is that the music is toothless and
easily available, and in the worst case a bit pompous when at its most epic. The melodies are at times furry like
Critters and the moods some times play tough in a fairly feigned manner. I'm not
entirely convinced, but there is lots of punch and drive, as well as quite good melodies with different characteristics.
The music is far from intolerable in itself, but presented as grim black metal, the band fall through as Y-generation poseurs,
and here they're even presented as TNBM formed in 1992. The music is decent, but the concept makes it completely wrong. Hence,
Tenebris Deosfails miserably at the given premises.
If you have no problems with a rounded, melodic expression with massive bass and lyrics adapted to a fictional story,
Tenebris Deos is clearly a fairly good album. I spent a long time accepting the parodic essence, but
finally succeeded in taking the music for what it is, without over-focus on obviously good reasons for deep and grumpy
frustration. Even if the concept becomes rather cheesy, not to say too much, given that the music don't correspond with
the intention. If the music hadn't been presented as it has been, I wouldn't have had the objection I have. Take that
into account, and make up your own opinion.
PS: the comic book was killer, and it's now also been transformed into a graphic animation.
Hells Headbangers, 14.10.16&High Roller, 18.11.16
Australian Peter Hobbs started his thrash metal act in 1987, and has likely always been something of an
underdog. The band has admittedly had a more or less renown name in the underground. Hobbs managed to
release two albums before going into hiatus in 1996.
In these days he's making a comeback. How long Mr. Hobbs has worked with the material for this almost
58 minutes long reincarnation is uncertain, but it commands respect delivering an hour of music without fillers.
Over the last two decades, the band has indeed resurrected from its comatose state as a live band, but new studio material
has been more than scarce. Heaven Bled is an abundant and welcome cornucopia to remedy this. I must admit
to having heard the name Hobbs' Angel of Death on many occasions. For some reason, I've still never checked
out the band. By now, I was curious and intrigued, but I didn't have the very highest expectations for a comeback
from a late-eighties underdog, but boy, was I taken by surprise.
Hobbs' Angel of Death anno 2016 can't be characterized as a reunion. Peter has teamed up with various
members on each album thus far. Italians Alessio "Cane" Medici and Iago Bruchi, both from
constitute the rhythm section on bass and drums respectively, while Swedish Simon Wizén from Ondskapt
and Valkyrie plays guitar along with the boss himself.
The music is a vital cascade of virile deathrash riffs and testosterone-rhythms, interspersed with howling adrenaline-filled
solos and a dash of jet black arrogant furore. The music lives its own organic life as an anthill in the sun. The band offers
its own whimsical but fitting twist on deadly arrogant speed, with unusual but creative solutions. Unexpected transitions and
rather peculiar strokes creates a cunning individuality when the pace unexpectedly changes rhythm or adds minor diversion to
the announced route. Suddenly, short solos shoots in, and just as abruptly, they vanish.
The sound is also great, with juicy, droning guitars, thundering drums, rich bass and good dynamic range (of DR8-DR9). Peter did in fact also record the album as much as three times before he was satisfied!
The vocals is like a mixture of an ageing Tom Araya and Tom G. Warrior who loses patience and temper when
the last drop finally makes the cup overflow. He snaps and snarls with a scarred, rough and dry voice, much like when a
furiously grumpy old man gives you a scolding where all the bottled up anger floods free when the dam caves in.
The music is a frenetic mix where the similarity to proto black metal and Teutonic thrash are the most pronounced ingredients.
Yet there's many other elements that apply as well. The music keeps giving me different associations unceasingly, but early
American thrash and various forms of early black/thrash, along with some traceable seasoning of mid-nineties black metal and
a teaspoon of testy death metal, are regulars. All wrapped in a killer contemporary production with an honourable respect for
the OS ways of yore.
The Slayer-vibes are evident in Son of God, while T.F.M.F. reeks of Venom.
When coal black blast beats abruptly fires on all cylinders, as in Heaven Bled, the music is quickly draped
in a black smog of Scandinavian black metal. Every song has its unique character, and let me also mention the latter half of
Abominations as a perfect example of the blazing guitar works.
Heaven Bled is not quite easy to wrap the head around, and exactly this multifaceted diversity and the
idiosyncratic and creative approaches makes Hobbs' Angel of Death very exciting, and Heaven Bled
a safe bet.
If the ultimate breakthrough hasn't come before, the time is definitely (over)ripe this time.
Debemur Morti Productions, 16.09.16
While synthetic symphonic black metal were hauled over the coals, avant-garde black metal strangely enough seemed to get
a warm reception and recognition from the hard-to-please black horde. Perhaps because this style never pretended to be
black metal in that sense? In The Woods... was one of several bands who chose to tread new paths by mixing elements of black metal
with other and strange inspirations in relatively queer ways.
When the band now returns after 16 years on ice, one thing stood quite clear to me. Pure must be
approached with an open mind!
After this many years of absence, there's good reason to believe that all the members have developed mentally and changed
enough to let their creativity choose new routes. Especially when they initially thrive in one of the most outlandish rural
areas of the conceivable musical universe.
According to the press release, In The Woods... was formed in 1991 by former Green Carnation
members when Tchort left the ship in favour of Emperor. Metal Archives, however, argues that the man
joined the Kaiser's army in 1993.
The hard core always consisted of the twin brothers Christopher “C:M.” and Christian “X”
Botteri, drummer Anders Kobro from Carpathian Forest, Svartelder et al., and a few others who
didn't return after the hiatus that begun in y2k. New man on vocals, keyboards and more, is James Fogarty,
the Briton from Brighton which also is part of the Svartelder line-up.
Four years after the initiation, their debut and crowd favourite HEart of the Ages was released. An
eclectic, experimental and exciting album by the standards of those days. Eventually the band became more eccentric,
and less (black) metal, or that was at least the impression I were left with, and the two subsequent albums was never
picked up by yours truly. It's now been 17 years since their last album, Strange in Stereo, but I can
only compare their new efforts to their firstborn album.
Pure still showcase elements that one can recognize, even after more than 20 years. They still mix a
hodgepodge of ingredients into a brew of their own, but the music doesn't feel as psychedelic and schizophrenic as it
once did. The polydrug display is toned down somewhat, and the scene has also become more accustomed to anything bizarre.
Elements of black metal in particular has almost been eradicated from the mix. What's left is a somewhat wistful blend
of epic progressive doom and beautiful atmospheric dark metal.
The most significant change since HEart of the Ages, besides from the absence of black disgust, is the sound.
After consulting my insider, YouTube, it may seem as if the sound quality has gradually improved, but with such an unreliable
source to phonetic quality, I dare not conclude anything at all. Besides, YT is too young to remember the 90s anyway.
In The Woods... anno 2016 in many ways appear as a doom/dark metallic version of melancholic prog in
the style of for instance Pink Floyd. Pure offers ten songs and 67 minutes of pleasant euphony,
with soothing clean vocals and good, calm percussion. The album is primarily quiet and melodic, and a clue hypnotic,
although elements from more extreme directions sometimes appear. The album ain't nearly as eccentric and peculiar as
one might expect, although it is of course progressive.
The album is thus pleasing, but not very memorable. The title song is a noteworthy treat, though, while the
remaining songs float past as an amiable but hazy dream, and remains about as vague when the music's over.
Instrumentation and sound is of course impeccable, and the Hammond organ in particular puts a superb flavour on the recording.
Pure is a reasonably good album, but not much more, and despite my open mind, I think you ought
to be able to expect a little bit more from the veterans. Still, it's a reasonable neat album worthy of
4 (a bit weak) points that suits the astonishing cover art created by Dr.Winter.
Northern Silence Productions, 09.09.16
21 years ago, Loïc Cellier from the Celtic region of Brittany in western France, started the one-man
band Belenos, named after the Celtic sun god of the same name.
Loïc was inspired by the Norwegian wave of black metal, which was no strangers to incorporating some folk and Viking
elements, and Belenos too blends black baselines with pagan/folk-inspirations and atmospheric elements.
During the latter half of the nineties, three demos were released before our brave Celtic Gaul, Cellierix
was eventually accompanied by several musicians on his heroic journey. Belenos grew rapidly in census and
released the debut as a full band in 2001. After two albums, however, Loïc returned to the lonesome format.
When Belenos now release its sixth work, six years has also passed since last time.
I've been following the band from a distance over the past ten years plus, and have a taste for the music to such an extent
that Belenos has become a familiar name. I know in what terrain I can find the band, but I still don't
have an overwhelming knowledge of their music.
Kornôg starts off with the title track which, after a lovely but oh so brief intro with fiddling, plunges
into melodic black waters where the sea boils and the sea spray is foaming white. The lively guitars have an exotic whiff
of one thousand and one nights, while deep Viking vocals sing their ode to homelands and legends of Ginnungagap from Viking
ships in uncharted waters. Just right audible bass and varied percussion creates strong drive, and the song must be regarded
as a perfectly wonderful start.
Sklosenn ur vag is set in motion by acoustic guitars and more excellent violin. Serene and quiet evenings
in beautiful surroundings and intense themes of conflict from perilous black forests occurs sporadically in good, familiar
and evocative contrast.
While E donder ar mor mainly focus on the intense, Lidkerzh an anaon to a bigger degree
deals with the emotional aspect of a reasonably moody album.
Few songs are quite on par with the first song, and the album would obviously have been even better if that was the case.
D'an usved is an honourable exception of (almost) entirely 13 minutes. Belenos presents
few songs with a consistently melodic theme on Kornôg. Most have more loosely interconnected melodic antics
that nevertheless creates a cohesive atmosphere. D'an usved however presents both aspects in a poignant
melancholy wrapping. Melody lines varies and creates drama with good flow in an utterly superb anthem. An otherwise ideal
and exemplary choice for the first online previews of the album.
When Sord-mor follows up with huge chunks of striking guitar works, especially when compared with other
bands in the atmospheric, melodic folk/viking/pagan black metal landscape, it's easy to forget (hell, even forgive) that there
are weaker moments and small skerry reefs in the middle of the sea. Some sequences can even remind of folkloric Sogna-metal,
while the violin also has the opportunity to show off through a few passages.
Kornôg haven't only got the band's most inviting cover. Even the music emerges so well executed, vibrant,
vital and varied that I think I'll declare this to be the band's best, despite some debris, and my halfway peripheral
relationship to Loïc's works. The album is well played, the sound is rich, and most compositions surpasses
much in related musical territories. Moods of Celtic and Norse origins, with flattering tones of raids in the Persian Gulf
and the Red Sea, tastes terrific.
Among the eight songs plus an interlude totalling close to an hour, there are three small things I'd like more of.
• That the least good songs were on par with the best.
• Better phonetic dynamics. This clever, refined and detailed music deserves more than DR5.
• More violin. Damn, that fiddle is gorgeous!
Otherwise, the album is excellent. For a long time, I landed on a slightly weak five points, but after repeated
listening sessions, you can pretty much remove the word “weak".
Iron Bonehead, 09.09.16
My very first attempt at the album with the gruesome title didn't seem very promising, and after reading a
review which was very restrictive and reticent with the
superlatives, the album seemed anything but inviting.
The French attempt at dark, occult and spiritual death metal with black vibes, where they try to catch some of the
transcendental sonic eruption of Abyssal and the ritual vibes from The Ruins of Beverast.
A such attempt might not be doomed to failure, but Aum is probably closer to traditional, somewhat hypnotic
death metal in this respect. They only succeed partially, as they can't compare with bands in the premier league, but
Om Ah Hum... is a decent first attempt that really ain't as bad as some would have us believe. Besides, they
can compete with many in the lower divisions. Maybe they should have tried harder to incorporate some of the exciting and
exotic essence of for example Cult of Fire, as well as some kaleidoscopic innovation à la Katechon?
The band plays dark death metal where fierce riffing and vibrant bass creates a quivering wall of barbed wires, like an
impenetrable cobweb of rough steel wire. The drums keep a steady inhuman pace and the vocalist does a pretty good job of
sounding as dark, dirty and occult as the music. The vocal style is akin to Necros Christos, albeit not quite on
the same level, that is. The sound has a bit of an old mark, which might result in mild nostalgia. It sounds both dirty,
rugged and sharp, but also clear, while the dynamic range measuring up to DR11 invites to turn the volume up.
The originality is of course not much to brag about, and the album has (not surprisingly) some generic sequences that blare
forth, running at idle. Even if the music has no clear goal beyond constructing dark occult death metal, it doesn't feel
direction-less, and even if the album does not stand out much, it is still nice to listen to for someone who enjoys the genre.
The songs have alright wholeness and rather good variety in both guitar and drums, and few sequences threatens with boredom.
The album works quite well on high volume in those candlelit late hours, although it does not necessarily do so better than
other debutants in adjacent musical territories.
The music as such may have no clear purpose, but the band actually has a pronounced spiritual intention, based on oriental
philosophies on the astral plane and such, and the music is characterized by some ethereal ambience that provides a few
breathers and a bit of spice in between songs, but no more than that. How much importance you put in this, however, is an
entirely different matter.
Of course there are better occult-sounding extreme metal, and Aum must grow bigger and stronger before they
seriously can cross blades with the big boys and grasp a bite of the cherry. There are also a lot worse metal out there. There
are actually very much that is significantly worse. Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum
is a more than tolerably good first effort from a band that still has a way to go to make their mark and earn respect and
positive attention. I wish them good luck and welcome back. In a new reincarnation, so to speak.
My journey toward this “Buddhist enlightenment” began well below average, but grew quickly to around average and than beyond.
After more than ten spins with these 41 minutes, I still don't consider the album to be particularly remarkable, but
it's still good. So good that I give this album approved with a few remarks. On reflection, this might as well be published
as a review. I content myself with a strong three points, albeit it's not far from the tipping point to a weak four.