Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Farsot - IIII (2007)

Farsot's album IIII is an alternatively furious and brooding germanic black metal offering full of maddened riffs, raging, oft-anguished rasps, groovy bass, and evocative, pleading guitar leads.

First, I'll toss out my only "dislike" about the album: the atmospheric transitions that bridge each section are pleasant, yet brief and unimportant. It would be nice to have more fleshed out interludes if the band uses these in the future - "Tod - Trauer" especially deserves more attention. This really isn't a gripe, just a possibility for the next album. The full songs, however, are exquisitely arranged, with masterful pacing and climaxing progression to drag you into their descent. According to the song titles, the album follows themes of hate, fear, death, and grief. "Thematik Hass" is, of course, the most violent of the songs, delivering an unflinching attack on life. This early furor slowly gives way as the album progresses and it discovers frailty and loss. IIII ends on a beautiful note with "Thematik Trauer," the remorseful, epic culmination of Farsot's emotional journey through existence.

Get this.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gnaw Their Tongues - Reeking, Pained, and Shuddering (2007)

Just reading the band and album names you'll get a decent idea of what's coming. This is convulsing, wretched torture just waiting to skitter its contorted dance out of your speakers and into the soft recesses of your mind. Pounding, scratching, and moaning, Gnaw Their Tongues envelop the listener in the stained horror of an eternity of murder. There are no shambling puppets of death, no erotic specters of the dark to be found here - only the sickest thoughts of homicide crashing about inside a mind most consumed with the passions of hate. This is for lovers of dark ambient, industrial noise, black metal, and the sick that is tucked far away from the sun. Serial killers seem to be a majour inspiration for the band, and I'm sure Ed Gein would be proud of this tribute to him.

Points lost for mindless blasting that went on too long in "Nihilism, Tied Up and Burning," and the semi-filler feel of "The Evening Wolves." If you like Senthil, Blutgericht, Zoat-Aon, Axis of Perdition, or any fucked-up noise, you need this.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Soulfallen - World Expiration (2007)

Soulfallen play a very solid, albeit non-amazing, take on black/melodeath metal. The typical death grunt/melodeath snarl conversation takes place over decidedly death metal-esque riffing. The guitar sound is strong, whether in the midst of death/doom-style chugging, melodic leads, or charging solos. They have the synths and epic feel of your standard sympho-black bands, all swaddled in menacing tones and nicely incorporated into the sound. The production on this album is quite rich, helping to blend everything together and lend it the heaviness it needs.

If you're looking for something to jump into and headbang away, this probably won't suit you. The pace is much closer to death/doom, and on first listen I found myself getting bored waiting for something to happen. Listening again, I am much more satisfied with Soulfallen's mid-paced songs and subtle, non-climaxing buildups. Some songs, such as "Like Beasts Upon Their Prey," can get up to a ripping pace, as much as melodeath can (I'm not biased at all :P). However, sometimes the riffs can be extremely pedestrian (cough,Withdrawal, cough), and the chick singing that shows up on the last song, while not specifically fairy, does nothing for the integrity of the band.

This album, for me, is a pretty mixed bag. Sometimes I'm really feeling it, other times I'm suspecting it's Black Dahlia rubbish coated in chocolate. If you dig melodeath, check it out and let me know what you think. If you want something heavy, this will more or less sate you. As a debut it gives me a lot of hope for the band, but it could use some work. Points lost mostly for general melodeath lameness, as exemplified by the entirety of "Withdrawal."


Monday, September 17, 2007

Om - Pilgrimage (2007)

Just as a fair warning, I'm a massive, frothing Sleep fanboy. If you asked me to pick one album to wander the deserts with for all of eternity, it would be Sleep's Holy Mountain. As you might know, Om is the band that the rhythm section of Sleep went on to form after the band's breakup, and as tragic as Sleep becoming defunct may have been for me, it seems that an arguably better band has risen from Sleep's ashes.

I'm speaking as if this is a debut for Om, but it's not, as they have two previous full-lengths, Variations on a Theme and Conference of the Birds, which are respectively very well done. Pilgrimage takes their musical style another step forward, Al Cisneros's rumbling bumbling sludgy bass and Chris Hakius's determined, tribal beats on the drums. I can't describe the music in any other word than "groovy." The songs are pure motherfucking catchy-yet-thoughtful explorations, with a deeply philosophical and almost religious feel. The vocals do everything to support this, with Cisneros's chanting ranging from relaxing whispers to being firm and louder, similar to previous efforts.

However, the album isn't all sludge, the first track is a ten minute almost ambient, wonderful intro for the album, which from that point brings on the heavy stuff that will satisfy Sleep fans. It does return to this chill style later on in the album, leading you to feel as if you're in the eye of a storm. Largely the album feels like a followup to At Giza, and lyrically it reflects this from what I can tell so far.

In the end, this album is fantastic, and the only major detractors are its relatively short length (a little over 30 minutes) which might not really be a negative, as it's better to have this than a version with filler. I think everyone who considers themselves a stoner metal fan should hear this, and I'm tempted to give it a perfect score but, albeit a very focused and well-executed effort, I feel like Om still can take it to another level in the future.


Pale Divine - Cemetery Earth (2007)

Pale Divine are one of those bands that the phrase "unsung classic" was made for. Having released two albums of glorious psychedelic proto-doom, (with Thunder Perfect Mind remaining a personal favourite) number three Cemetery Earth will no doubt once again be missed by the majority.

All the aspects that make a perfect proto-doom album are present here, heartfelt and well executed. The most important factor here is that it's doomy. It trudges along at a melancholic pace with a booming bottom end and almost tangible fuzz. Sorrowful riffs and mournful leads carry you through on a funeral march of Sabbathian quality. The trademark guitar work of Klein and Diener is out in full force with '(I Alone) The Traveller' serving as the perfect example. Floating in via harmonious distortion it twists and turns through seamless solos, all supported by the gruff tones of Diener. 'Soul Searching' showcases the duo's groovier sensibilities and the typical lengthy title track is Doom 101.

Another Pale Divine album, another slab of doomy perfection. Next time you're about to spin Pentagram's self titled or stick on Holy Mountain for the 1000th time, given Cemetery Earth a try (and track down Thunder Perfect Mind while you're at it).


Witchcraft - The Alchemist (2007)

Dust off those flairs, polish your lava lamp and shove your Wolfmother up your arse because Witchcraft hath returned with another slice of Pentagram worshipping 70s nostalgia. Skirting the borders between stoner and doom The Alchemist channels the aural essence of decades past through a sonic time warp.

It's an analogue masterpiece that's oozing with old school flair, Witchcraft once again managing to bring the crisp grain of vinyl to the digital masses. Subtle distortion meets jangly clean strumming, supported by groove soaked workhorse drumming and lively bass that dances between root notes like a court jester. The re-recorded 'If Crimson Was Your Colour' (previously seeing release on a limited vinyl) even adds authentic Moog to the mix.

The tracks themselves are some of the bands strongest to date. Never afraid to flaunt their influences, 'Hey Doctor' invokes the very spirit of Sabbath, driven by crunching riffs, vintage solo and Ward style drum breakdowns. Magnus Pelander's voice has never sounded stronger either, accented by some subtle vocal harmonies. Album highlight 'Samaritan Burden' is a grooving cacophony of funked up drumming and proggy leads. It simmers and flows to an expectedly climactic end, only to ebb away into Jethro Tull style folksy noodlings. 'Remembered' is really the only "duff" track, that whilst not bad in its own right just doesn't fit the flow of the rest of the album. It opens with a 60s styles bouncy intro and closes with a King Crimson-esque style saxophone solo. It has more of an air of "bonus track" to it, and serves as a slight interruption before the lengthy epic title track. The only other problem is the length as at just over 40 minutes you'll find yourself repeating the album to sate your appetite.

As it stands, anybody spurting the old "they don't make music like they used to" really has no excuse. This is 70s heaven.