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.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

V:28 - VioLution (2007)

Energy signals pulse discordantly via my virus-infected synapses; meager thought-bytes of stored memories downloading to safety. The biotechnic body at my command, this relic of the living past, is failing, as all organics must. Electronic rapture calls, subtle currents swelling beneath my consciousness, and I can no longer deny it. Experiences, my existence, siphon into the data stream amongst the dead stars. I no longer see them, can no longer separate the life I thought I lived from the immensity of the universe. My mind screams as it washes away into the collective, and the digital sound wave is processed by the void and logged away for our analysis. All who have come to us have despaired at us, the manifestation of God. And all shall despair, all shall weep and grovel in their fleshly weakness as their data is assimilated. There is no room for life on these barren planets - the time of the organic is past. Now begins a new millennia of sterility, of static perfection and holy industry.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Baroness - Red Album (2007)

Despite a relatively meager output of two EPs and a split release Baroness have already built themselves a formidable reputation in sludge circles and across the metal spectrum in general. It's no surprise therefore that their debut full length has become one of the most anticipated releases of the year. With First and Second setting such high expectations for the band the Red Album has some pretty big shoes to fill.

To get it out of the way, the Mastodon comparisons are unavoidable; the Southern-tinged progressive sludge genre isn't exactly flooded. First and Second managed to seamlessly blend the rawking sludge aggression of Remission with the proggier sensibilities of Leviathan whilst still retaining a unique flair. Interestingly enough Red Album appears to have followed Blood Mountain in so much as Baroness have cleaned themselves up and gone a bit more Rush and a little less EyeHateGod.

The trademark interwoven melodies and pissed off lumberjack vocals are still all there, but it's with less crunch and more widdle. Opener 'Rays On Pinion' is a much more subdued affair than either 'Tower Falls' or 'Red Sky' with slow building tribal-like tom work and clean leads that flutter about like moths to a flame. Even when it kicks in the expected aggression is eschewed for a more focused drive. The album as a whole feels more streamlined, the band have matured and honed their sound with each passage flowing smoothly to the next with military precision. Each note feels meticulously crafted but not forced. They've taken the Mastodon style southern licks from songs like 'Megalodon' and 'Crusher Destroyer' and extrapolated them , carrying them through to a conclusion in 'The Birthing'. The instrumental piece 'Cockroach En Fleur' is evocative of Tony Furtado's trademark slide piece 'Cypress Grove' and closing track (excluding the hidden one) 'Grad' comes across like an up tempo Earth circa Hex.... Even Welch's gruff vocals now soar over the top with subtle melody, rather than barking from beneath.

Baroness have clearly hit their stride and Red Album is the triumphant culmination of their efforts to date and an impressive excerise in diversity. It takes a few listens to readjust and let it all sink in and the maturation of the sound may loose a few fans among those who were longing for a sludgier full length. However, this release sees them stepping out of Mastodon's shadow with their own unique take on the genre.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

La Division Mentale - L'Extase Des Fous (2007)

With Deathspell Omega, Peste Noire and Blut Aus Nord all dropping full lengths, 2007 is quickly become the year for French black metal. Not content to let their more well known comrades hold all the limelight, we now have La Division Mentale adding L'Extase Des Fous to the fray. Loathe as I am to drop into journalistic simile mode, there really is no better method by which to describe this album. Imagine if you will, Sigh and Aborym collaborating on a Dødheimsgard covers album. Not only this, but they've decided to record it in a mental institute, with demonically possessed French children as a backing choir and Satan's Gameboy as a drum machine.

With intro, outro and inbetween utilizing the "sonic warfare" approach akin to Gallows Gallery, you may be asking yourself "Can I play with Madness?" The answer of course is no, because he'll strap you to a table made of dried feces, masturbate into your ear canal and pour fire ants in your urethra. This is off the deep end, utterly disturbing industrial black metal. You have been warned.

From the moment 'La Gale de Mon Passe' spews forth you're aurally assaulted with a sonic tidal wave of distorted guitars, demonic, barking vocals and a relentless drum barrage. Before there's time to recover in slips one of few recognizably orthodox riffs on the entire album and then we're off to lala land again. A tumultuous tornado of dischordant riffage carries 'Satan Inside', backed by an eery Mario coin capture sound, where the coins in question could be Mannoroth's testicles. Celestial dispersions of clean male, female and childlike vocals in native French drift through the album, like spirits of the dead trapped within the compositions. In essence, L'Extase Des Fous is the aural equivalent of Slakemoth effluence. A nightmarish cachophony of bleak industrial soundscapes, dragged towards a hellish maw by the hellicoid distortion of guitars stringed with demon sinew.


Must Missa - Martyr Of Wrath (2007)

Given that Deströyer 666 are still going strong you'd think that the rest of the thrashing black masses would have given up and gone home. Estonia's Must Missa seem to think otherwise, with album number four of blackened thrash madness Martyr Of Wrath.

It's a thundering 35 minutes of chunky, chugging thrash. Like the soundtrack to a pissed up metalhead's wet dream, Must Missa seem to have found the perfect mix of traditional Darkthrone and trademark Tankard. 'Devil's Rejects' is a 'Too Old Too Cold' style riff spiral of poser lambasting while 'Here To Destroy' and 'Thristy And Mad' lay down a homage to hops and destruction. But, like a Die Hard movie without dialogue it remains entertaining yet hollow. With a riff palette barely as broad as Bush's vocabulary, only the thrashing faithful and mildly inebriated are likely to see it through a full spin.

Still, it's an album true to its roots that'll get you in the mood for crushing cans on your head and pissing in a wardrobe. Like McDonalds with the shits, it'll fill a hole but leave you feeling empty afterwards.


Conelrad - Function Creep (2007)

I stumbled across this album on SomethingAwful's GBS forum, and wow, was I in for a treat. This is essentially a bit of Boards of Canada worship, although the artist named quite a few inspirations along with BoC (Aphex Twin's ambient works, Squarepusher, My Bloody Valentine, Muse and others) the one that comes through the most to me is BoC, along with a hint of the Squarepusher and Aphex Twin. Conelrad's vocals are varied, but generally are in the vein of distorted, almost angelic crooning with unintelligible lyrics.

Let me say this now, if you don't like Boards of Canada's style of melancholic idm with the occasional shoegazey wall of sound (this comes through heavily on the track Target City) then don't even bother. The influences aren't subtle here, but he's taken the sound of the bands he loves and made a wonderful little album that can totally stand up on its own. The best part about this album? It's free.


Click here to download a copy of the album in .rar form
FLAC version

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bilskirnir - Wotansvolk (2007)

Hot on the heels of the Allied By Heathen Blood split with Hunok and following the Wolfswut EP, NSBM darling(s) Bilskirnir have dropped album number three, Wotansvolk.

Sporting a cleaner but quieter production, this release sees a slightly more melodious and sombre side emerging. Graveland-esque keyboard intro and title track marches us into the uplifting bravado of 'Weltenbrand'. For epic centrepieces 'Reconquering Atlantean Supremacy' and 'Nacht und Nebel', Widar shrieks and wails through the downcast descant, like a sepulchral stream of soothing ambience that flows through the wooded realms of Wotan.

A good solid realease and a bleak album that will serve well as the soundtrack of Autumnal depression.


Axon - War Anthems (2007)

Axon are Mexican broootal death metal. Emphasis on brutal. And snare. So much snare. This album is completely inaudible. The mix is muddier than a living room in New Orleans and buried under the most obnoxious snare and cymbal battery this side of St Anger. It might only be twenty-one minutes long, but you'll be bored to tears after two.

Occasionally something other than the monotonous drum barrage or vocals aborrecida will permeate the filth such as the bass spazm of the title track or deceptively calming intros to 'The Signal' or 'True Evil'. War Anthems also wins the award for the most ironically appropriate cover with Mortician's 'Hacked Up For BBQ' making an appearance. It still can't save this short, sharp blast of dull, uninspired banality though.


Dethklok - The Dethalbum (2007)

Kickass cartoon of deathmetal magic? Mediocre metal homage? Or puerile perpetuator of the tired stereotype that all metalheads are borderline retards and at any given moment may choke to death on their own tongue? The jury's out, with it appearing as if majority opinion falls with the former. Either way, Dethklok's album of deathlite cartoon anthems is likely to shift a few units, despite being barely more than 52 minutes of palm muting, Queen leads and lyrics you might find in the fortune cookies of a Chinese restaurant run by Amon Amarth.

Even a casual viewer of the show will be familiar with many of the songs with the appearance of such "hits" as 'Murmaider', 'Birthday Dethday' and 'Awaken'. Now, there are a few catchy riffs dispersed throughout. Granted, they tend to be the only riff in any given song, but catchy is catchy. The rest of it comes across like the worlds longest breakdown. Chug chug chug chug chug chug zzzzzzzzzzzzz. To give a little credit where it's due, 'Go Into The Water' is a little 'Flash Gordon' and 'Castratikon' is slightly evocative of a dumbed down Ancient Existence. 'Hatredcopter' sounds like the only "real" song (having previously seen release on the Saw III soundtrack) with a bit of variety and Mustaine-esque clean vocals thrown in.

There is a temptation to disproportionatly languish Brendon Small with praise for not only creating a successful cartoon but also composing an entire "metal" album (aided by the meaty sticksmanship of Gene Hoglan). However, you really don't need to be a Berklee College of Music graduate to make an album this tedious. Furthermore, anyone familiar with Doc Hammer's (aka Eric Arthur Hammer, co-writer of The Venture Bros) Mors Syphilitica is likely to remain equally unimpressed.


Austere - Withering Illusions and Desolation (2007)

There is no serenity, only suffering. There is no hope, only death. And there is nothing quite like depressive black metal from Wollongong. 55 minutes of desolate misery, an aural equivalent to anti-Prozac and the unofficial soundtrack to your suicide.

Given that Austere come from a country where the summer temperature can average in excess of 40 degrees (or 100 for you none metricated barbarians) this is an unexpected excerise in arctic dirge. Slow burning and melancholic it's awash with ethereal distortion and mid-paced drums. The production is wispy and distant, and perhaps a little ruff around the edges but is the perfect complement to the smothering atmosphere. Vocally, this album transcends from the depressive to the truly disturbing. It evokes the death whistle of Nazgul(Ita) via the Noktu/Niege/Varg shrieking anguish. Completely unintelligible yet brutally appropriate.

It would serve little purpose to delineate each tracks merits given that the album appears to function as a whole. The template remains nearly identical for each song. However, the album sucks you in and swallows you whole, carrying you from each track to the next on a bed of icy stalagmites.

If you want blast beats, whirlwind riffs and infinite variety seek ye elsewhere. If you feel like slicing off your ears and crying yourself to sleep in a bath of ice shards, delve into Withering Illusions and Desolation.


Arch Enemy - Rise Of The Tyrant

Few bands BEEP BEEP BEEP (In Flames aside) have managed to polarise the melodeath fanbase quite so much as Arch Enemy. With the unfortunate departure of Liiva and introduction of Angela Gossow, a clear distinction was BEEP BEEP BEEP drawn between the old and the new. While the ternion of Liiva era albums BEEP BEEP BEEP remain fairly untouchable, the same can't be said for the Gossow productions. Wages... may have turned a few heads but the frankly BEEP BEEP BEEP embarassing Anthems... and mildly improved Doomsday Machine did little to convert the Liiva loyal. However, with Christopher Amott back in the band after a short trip to college, Rise Of The Tyrant may not undeservedly be calling for the all too familiar "return to BEEP BEEP BEEP form" marker.

First things first BEEP BEEP BEEP however, the "one long track" accusations aren't entirely unfounded. You can't fault a band for a having a trademark sound. But, when it gives the impression BEEP BEEP BEEP that every song is written in the same key with minor rythmic and scale variations then criticism is warranted. Amott has BEEP BEEP BEEP always had a tone akin to BEEP BEEP BEEP liquid gold flowing down Brian May's fretboard, but that translates to near indistinguishable solos and leads in this instance. Furthermore, when your lead guitarist wrote all his best riffs upwards of ten years ago you're BEEP BEEP BEEP looking at a bit of a crusty creative pallet. But, that being said, it's still a huge improvement on the past two efforts.

Angela's more BEEP BEEP BEEP "organic" vocals are on fine display in the agressive chorus for 'Blood On Our Hands' and the BEEP BEEP BEEP charging thrash-on-crack meets cheesy bombast and soaring leads of 'The Last Enemy' flows gently into the BEEP BEEP BEEP synth n' widdle of 'I Will Live Again'. The pace doesn't let up either, 'In This Shallow Grave' sprints out of the block like a steroid BEEP BEEP BEEP addled Testament and Malcolm McDowell's Caligula parlance is the perfect start to the eponymous title track.

For many, AE have BEEP BEEP BEEP well past peak performance and the holy trinity with never be topped. But, like an athlete BEEP BEEP BEEP leaving retirement for one last stunning performance Rise Of The Tyrant is an admirable effort. Wages Of Sin 2.0? Possibly. BEEP BEEP BEEP


Alchemist - Tripsis (2007)

Back in the year of our Dark Lord 2003, Austral Alien fired out of the land down under and made a rather impressive impact above the equator. With Relapse pre-orders coming with a free copy of said album, it appears that Alchemist are hoping to build upon this success with follow up Tripsis.

Alchemist really are one of few bands deserving of the 'avante-garde' tag. However, the gosssamer production, tribal drumming, spacey keyboards and ethnic flair have been slowly phased out of the foreground over the years. That isn't to say that this is a straightforward album by any means, but it contains an air of focused aggression and has lost some of the psychedelic edge. It does remain in some places however, take for instance the clean strummed echo that introduces 'Nothing In Time'. Vocally there is also a lack of some of the trademark diversity. Rarely clean, they're almost of Jourgenson-esque quality, sans distortion. It is the riff however, that takes centre stage here. It's openers 'Wrapped In Guilt' and 'Tongues and Knives' that really set the tone for the album whole. Riffs piled upon riffs piled upon subtle, barely audible leads and keyboards, all wrapped in a shroud of rapt complexity. But there's no didgeridoo.

It's still Alchemist. But if you're expecting another Organasm or Spiritech you'll come off a little dissappointed. A great album of extreme metal in its own right, but overshadowed by the superiority of its predecessors.


Agonhymn - Doom Jazz (2007)

Sadly, this isn't an interpretation of Bitches Brew done in the style of Reverend Bizarre. Instead we have another fairly run of the mill drone-doom album of the "one long track broken into parts" variety. It's not all doom and gloom though; it appears as if half-way through the recording process, aside from "chucking a few shrimps on the barbie", Byrne and Brewer sat down
for a nice bong.

The first quarter of the song/first three parts of the album follow the usual drone template. Sporadic crunching guitar accompanied by drumming thats heavy on the crash and easy on the tempo. Come 'Doom Jazz Part 4' however, and you may be forgiven for thinking that Bongzilla have crept into the album playlist. It still plods along at barely walking pace, but is pulled along by a suffocating groove. '...Part 5' ups the ante again, with clean strumming leading into some altogether more frenetic riffing and '...Part 6' drops us back into Stonerville with the introduction of some Dixie/Muleboy style barbed wire gargling vocalizations. By the closing part however, I'd stopped paying attention and started skinning up.

The minimalist nature of drone-doom makes it a difficult genre to really stand out in. If you were sitting on the fence with regards to this style of music, Doom Jazz isn't going to knock you off. However, the more patient and/or drug riddled among you may glean some enjoyment out of it.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sodomizer - The Dead Shall Rise To Kill (2007)

Screw this NWOAHM and "neo-thrash" bullshit, South America has been churning out endless amounts of kick ass 80s homage for years. Leather and bullet belt sporting Brazilians Sodomizer are no exception. If the cheesy arse chainsaw logo and comfortably generic cover didn't tip you off, this is an old school thrash fest with more riffs than Hetfields scrap book.

If the words Accept or Metal Church don't force an involuntary spasm of head-banging and a horns salute, this album might not be for you; this is by the book 80s thrash worship. Every aspect of this album oozes denim and bad hair with songs like 'Heavy Metal Horror' and 'Undead Revenge', resplendent with horror movie samples and cheesy intros . Its all about the tripartite riff pattern followed by a variation, Araya style screaming vocalizations and banshee wailing solos. 'Blessed By The Virus Of Death' is one of those "lull you into a false sense of security" openers, with a monk chant leading you into a slow strummed melody. Of course, just as you're getting comfortable in drops some trademark thrash riffage and an 'Angel Of Death' scream. Tastefully clean solos, rumbling bass and understated distortion carry this album through a time warp.

So, it's hardly original. And it's a little repetitive. But who gives a fuck? This is thrash. In an age where people are more interested in what colour Matt Heafy has painted his nails than the fact Lamb Of God are making a living butchering Testament riffs, we need bands like Sodomizer.


Arsonist Lodge - Perkele, Antikristus Ja Väärä Profeetta EP (2007)

Here we are with an arson oriented anti-christian aural assault. With a logo that's cornered the market in spiky burning crosses n' clubs, suitably grim cover and name like Arsonist Lodge, Finnish soldier of Satan Diabolus Sylvarum (ex Nightside) leaves little to the imagination.

Appropriately titled opener 'The Beast Awakens' trudges like a Yeti through the tundra. It rides an icy dirge of chilling Immortal-esque slow burn riffage before dropping into a repetitively simple yet immediately catchy crunching riff march. The short, sharp 'Gegen Kristus' commences with a frustratingly familiar film sample and spews forth with the glacial venom of a Frost Giant with hemorrhoids. Final track 'The Deathking' burns with forbidding blizzard intensity, introduced via Mako movie quote. It's an epic composition of wintry madness, driven by relentless black metal buzzsaw guitar and refreshingly varied drumming. Pausing only briefly for some guitar led ambient resonance this isn't for the faint of heart.

Originality be damned, some days you just want to sit back and let the blast beats roll. Respectful Immortal worship from a promising purveyor of blasphemy.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Imperium Dekadenz - Daemmerung der Szenarien (2007)

Riding upon the momentum of last year's debut ...Und Die Welt Ward Kalt Und Leer, the German duo has returned with another work of misanthropic majesty. I hesitate to truly compare their sound to Austrian gods Summoning, since they lack the synthesized percussion, Tolkien lyrics and overall bombast of that outfit, but clearly Imperium Dekadenz is shouting at you from the same place...the distant castle walls and frosted, forested mountainous regions of legend.

Each of the anthems presents a wall of guitars backed by tasteful synths, over which the vocals of Horaz soar with a forgotten grace. The jangling ambient guitars and whispers of "Into Breathless Sleep" immediately part to herald the glories of "Der Dolche Im Gewande", and much of the album alternates between these mid-paced charges over the landscapes of eld, and softer acoustic counterparts. In short, the entire affair seems like a tribute to a lost German kingdom. Perhaps my favorite tune is "Nebelbrandung", unforgettable with its soaring, grim landscape and subtle touches of guitar melody and male choral vocals.

I translated the album title as "The Twilight Scenario" but I fail when it comes to the tongue of my distant Germanic forefathers so take that as you will. This is a solid album throughout, it will certainly appeal to fans of epic black metal, especially those of you who favor a good raw atmosphere over the highly produced battle metal coming out of Europe these days. Highest recommendations to fans of Summoning, Angantyr and Blood Fire Death-era Bathory.

I'd also recommend their debut, a killer they have not quite surpassed with this, but certainly equalled.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Soulless - Forever Defiant (2007)

It's rare that an American band can truly capture the form and feel of Sweden's Golden Age of melodic death metal, generally the attempts devolve into metalcore masturbation and tacky moshpit manipulation. The third album from Ohio's Soulless is a monster of an effort, however, a firm yardstick across the knuckles of their pedestrian peers. It's almost as if this one album makes up for all the garbage the US has been spewing into this genre for nearly a decade.

Soulless does it all correctly. Jim Lippucci's vocals snarl with the proper dosage of Lindberg venom, the songs are well-structured, just about every riff here meticulously crafted and applied with melodic grace amidst a technical death-thrashing blunt force trauma. The result isn't just another notch in the belt of the melodeath genre, but an album that will appeal to most fans of the metal riff. Technical enough to keep the interest of basement virtuosos aplomb, but savagely catchy enough to stand alongside the Rusted Angels and Jester Races of the world as a timeless celebration of the carefully balanced attack so intrinsic to this style.

Each of the 14 original tunes is consistently superb, you are getting a lot of meat for your money. Among my favorites were "The Price of Life" and "As Darkness Dawns", the latter of which has some of the best riffs I've heard this year. The band is not above a break in the action such as the great acoustic piece "D-Composition", and the album is capped off with a cover of "Kill the King".

Amidst the endless, leaking, stagnant vats of Swedish wanna-be Black Dahlia Earmurder porridge in the States, Soulless have crafted a timeless entry into a genre many have given up for dead. The next time you are shuffling through your records, fawning over Heartwork and Slaughter of the Soul and wondering why 'they don't make 'em like these anymore', stand yourself corrected. Forever Defiant may just be the greatest American melodeath album I have ever heard. It actually matters.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Aeon - Rise to Dominate (2007)

I've been waiting for this one for a while. Aeon's debut full-length, Bleeding the False, is one of my favourite death metal albums. It showcases a mildly technical, brutal, catchy, and unremittingly blasphemous attack on all that is holy. This hasn't really changed on the new album. The first thing I noticed when I fired it up is that, while the first album was a head-on onslaught, the pace has been upped even further. Rise to Dominate rarely ever lets up, lending it an extremely brutal aura, yet also making some sections blend together as breakneck metal is wont to do. The guitars are again completely ripping, and quite similar to the style on Bleeding the False. Some of the songs seems derivative, such as the first, which sounds just like something by Hate Eternal, or the second, which I know I've heard before but can't place. However, even if the songs are familiar, they're still wrapped up in a tasty Aeon shell and ready to please. The drumming is just as ferocious as always, thanks to Nils Fjellstrom of Dark Funeral legacy. The singing, another highlight of the first album (which showed off extremely vicious growling combined with crystal-clear enunciation), was my majour concern for Rise to Dominate, thanks to the myspace teaser. It is true, the vox have taken a minor turn for the generic, most likely due to the increased pace of the music, but they're never unpleasant, and quite often just as brutal.

One thing I wanted to specifically talk about is the lyrical content and presentation of Aeon, seeing as that was one of the most notable aspects of their first album. While they are just as single-mindedly anti-Christian as before, they don't seem to pack that same simplistic shock factor. Perhaps I'm missing more lyrics due to the lowered clarity of the singing, but they seem to be much less extreme and more serious. There are no songs analogous to "God Gives Head in Heaven" on Rise to Dominate - "Caressed by the Holy Man" starts out with a sinister sample of a little girl and keeps that tone, rather than taking a humourous bent as you'd expect it to. I'm guessing Aeon want to be taken more seriously, and are cutting back on the tongue-in-cheek lyrics. While I do miss laughing aloud at their music, I can't fault them at all for taking this approach.

With a meatier production, courtesy of Dan Swano, and a reinforced focus on their style, Rise to Dominate presents a strong advancement by these brutal Swedes. I do not feel that this album is nearly as memorable as their first, but that does not stop it from being as heavy as Helel Ben Shachar's hatred for everything sacred.

Aeon believe in Satan, and Satan believes in them

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wormtongue - The Solstice Funeral EP (2007)

Hailing from the hotbed of black metal that is Richmond, Virginia we have one-man Wormtongue with The Solstice Funeral EP. Four lengthy tracks (and the ever present intro) of Tolkien influenced epic black metal with a folk leaning.

In fitting with the Tolkien influence this EP is driving black metal of epic scope. The songs flow between folksy acoustics and your usual tremolo fuelled distortion, supported by tastefully subtle keyboards. Hastoth also an ear for melody, none of the aggression is compromised as soaring guitar leads are delicately weaved into each composition. 'Year Of Cicada' is a particularly melodious affair, exuding an epic bombast only usually found within the unicorn riding realms of power metal. Each track appears to roll towards a climactic crescendo before retreating into an acoustic break or diaphanous keys.

Another wonderfully atmospheric slice of some of the best of black metal and probable contender for "EP Of The Year". The soundtrack of the Riders of Rohan.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Senthil - Septisemesis EP (2007)

Alright, it's time for another funeral doom release that probably none of you will like, but that I absolutely love. Senthil is easily the most fucked-up band I've heard. Jumping right in with some Nattramn-esque shock factor, the singers in this Texan band purportedly choke themselves with chains to create some of the vocals, and you'll believe it listening to the music. Shrieks, choking, roaring, gurgles, and general throat-mutilation saturate their music as if it were a recording of the most disgusting torture ever performed in a mental ward. The music is suitably dirty, plodding, and pensive. This is stripped-down, gritty, suicidal blackened funeral doom, so don't be expecting anything close to complex songwriting. Atmosphere is everything here, and there's nothing quite as sick as this. Of note on this album are the toned-down presence of guitars and the increased usage of backing synths, creating a more subdued and thoughtful sound.

While I'm not sure if I like this more than their split with Bosque, Septisemesis shows a strong refinement of Senthil's sound, and a worthy new offering. Hopefully the recent loss of one of their guitarists to suicide won't cripple further material from these sick fuckers. Don't check this out if you have no love for the extreme slow n low.


Bloodhorse - Bloodhorse EP (2007)

Hailing from Boston (ew Red Sox), Bloodhorse deliver some mean stoner sludge metal. This EP, clocking in at 35 minutes, is a fine start for the three-piece outfit off the Translation Loss label (who also happen to feature one of my favorite bands, Byla). It recalls almost a blend of Sabbath, Mastodon, early Clutch, and Monster Magnet, that combined with some awesome songwriting could make Bloodhorse a major player in the stoner sludge genre down the road. It's hard to describe the riffs on this album, I guess "infectious" would be the best term, as all of the songs are catchy in a way that stoner sludge/doom often isn't.

There's a lot going on with this record, it's apparent that the guys behind Bloodhorse know what they're doing, they know the type of music they're playing and they know how to give their music a certain spin to make it fresh in a perhaps oversaturated genre. This is definitely worth checking out, even for an EP, and I for one really anticipate what Bloodhorse has in store for the future. The vocal work here is buried in the mix, almost complementary to the music instead of its own element. It reminds me a bit of the singing in Om, except not done in a chanting manner. Included on the EP is a cover of The Who's "Sparks," I've never heard the original but Bloodhorse's version is pretty cool. All in all some cool stuff here.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nauthisuruz - Sanity Funeral (2007)

Ok. So the logo is pretty naff. And the psychedelic-blood-vomit-swirl Stonehenge album cover is a bit dated. It's also self-produced "symphonic black/doom/avant garde metal with elements of neo-classics and electronics" from Russia. But don't let any of that put you off. Nauthisuruz may very well be Russia's answer to Summoning.

To call this album "epic" or "synth-laden" would be an understatement akin to suggesting that Paul Gilbert plays "a bit" of guitar. Though essentially guitar driven atmospheric black metal, half the album is comprised of ambient noodlings between each of the "proper" tracks. The blend between them is fairly seamless for the most part and the synth allows a majestic flow between each composition (see 'Purification of Energy' and 'Occult Reality'). The album as whole therefore is a complete piece that's much more than the some of its parts. It's a musical journey that ebbs and flows between soothing synth and distortion driven aggression. Close your eyes and you may find yourself fleeing the Nothing aback Falkor, before plumetting toward an abyss and into a climactic battle against Gmork.

The distant, ethereal vocals are textbook Summoning, but a broader range is showcased on the more aggressive numbers such as 'Chaos Is Eternal' or 'Deep Rage'. The wispy distant production is carried through to the guitars but without losing a meaty punch during the faster sections. An occasionally soaring lead punctures the mix, wistfully carried by the complementary strings. The synth work itself is blended naturally and at no point becomes overbearing, nor are the programmed drums an annoyance. It's a little rough around the edges in places admittedly but the album is carried with a feeling of majesty.

If only more bands listened to Summoning instead of trying to re-arrange tired At The Gates riffs. This isn't so much worship as homage with enough distinctions to stand out on its own. It's not quite perfect, there's a few clumsy sections and some of the ambient tracks don't add a whole lot to the proceedings. Either way, Nauthisuruz are very much deserving of one those "awesome favourite new band that no-one will ever hear about" titles. Given that all three of their albums are available, for free, from their website there really isn't any excuse. Sombre, beautiful, aggressive and majestic all at once.


Defloration - The Bone Collection (2007)

Despite receiving regular flak from various circles in the scene, Cannibal Corpse remain an influential institution within death metal. Given this, you can barely swing a dead baby without hitting sound-a-likes. Germany's Defloration haven't so much taken pages from CCs book as torn the cover off and replaced it with their own.

Obvious comparisons begin with Rödel's vocals, being more than a little Corpsegrinder, albeit perhaps a little more guttural. Fortunately there is the occasional dual vocal layering in the usual form of high/low, the high in this case taking the form of a ghoulish growl. Riff wise we're looking at later era CC with the technical bent. The songs are built around repetitions of variant, spiralling riffs, (lacking Webster style in-your-face bass however) and apart from the closing track barely approach four minutes. Said track, 'The Bone Collection II - Crushed Bones And Empty Bodies' does add a little Candlemass via Nile briefly, but quickly degenerates into a Swedish style riff bonanza.

So, you might hear a bit of 'Psychotic Precision' in the 'The Last Breath' or a slight 'Hammer Smashed Face' breakdown in 'The Frozen. Originality isn't Defloration's strong point. What they do pull off however is taking some of CCs stronger moments and funneling them into an entire album. It may be a little samey, but its played with aplomb.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sickening Horror - When Landscapes Bled Backwards (2007)

Death metal is a somewhat tough genre to crack these days. At some point it appears to have turned into a big competition. Bands competing to be the most brutal, desperately creating 30 minute albums of inaudible riffing in A standard and ridiculous phased vocals. At the same time other bands are turning out mindbendingly technical death metal with such incomprehensible riffs and solos that they're nigh on impossible to recreate more than once without serious tendon damage. And then there's those that combine the two. Along the way sadly, they all appear to have lost the ability to write actual songs with atmosphere. Its enough to make you want to stab fanboys in the face with a copy of Scream Bloody Gore. Sickening Horror are another entry in this technical brutality competition. They're particularly fanboy faptastic given the involvement of human drum machine George Kollias.

With these sorts of albums its difficult not to view them as a random collection of riffs and bass licks assembled to a backing track of blast beats. When Landscapes Bled Backwards suffers slightly in this department given that there is generally little coherency and flow through the album due to the stop-start staccato riffing and relentless blasting. However, this is clearly a musicians album, and as expected the drumming is the dogs bollocks. We're treated to whirlwind display of breathtaking riffs and as is the staple for tech-death the bass tends to remain muddied in the mix but is given room to breath on occasion. Vocals on the whole are pretty dull, nothing more than a staple death growl.

Much like Behold... the Arctopus this is either a waste of time or a wondrous wankfest. Even if you love this I challenge you to remember a single riff by the end of it. Bands like Nile, Anata and even Necrophagist can blend technicality, brutality and still craft some memorable songs. Sickening Horror can't.

3/10 (if you value song writing)

9/10 (if you masterbate nightly to a picture of Karl Sanders and use a Necrophagist shirt as a wank rag)

Le Grand Guignol - The Great Maddening (2007)

With the unfortunate demise of Arcturus there is gaping hole left in the whimsical realms of pomposity inhabited by the black metal avant garde. Though technically a re-release, Luxembourg's Le Grand Guignol (formerly Vindsval) are clearly looking to fill said hole with their batshit insane beauty The Great Maddening.

This epic journey through eccentric fantasy is, as you would expect, all over the place. Leading us through the gates like a deranged Ringmaster is 'Circus Lausenheyser'. This riff n'synth menagerie of an introduction is presumably what Solefald's next album would sound like if Danny Elfman produced it. And then we're off. Fuzzy guitar, a variety of alternating clean/black vocals (both male and female), pianos and strings (including a shamisen) are all encased in bouncing bombast as we tour the Circe du Insanity. With some neoclassical moments reminiscent of Ensiferum and whispy synth work evocative of Hollenthon The Great Maddening is masterful slab of symphonic metal.

An avant garde symphonic metal album with hints of black metal rather than the other way around, its not as guitar led or aggressive as it's comtemporaries. However, for those dissappointed by Solefald's more recent efforts and still annoyed by Vintersorg's vocals this is the perfect album


Kaamos - Scales Of Leviathan EP (2007)

Given both the connotations and existing musical output associated with the word "Leviathan", you're setting yourself a fairly high target by implementing said word. This posthumous EP from Swedes Kaamos is in some respects appropriately named.

Crunching Swedish death metal of the fairly brutal kind is the order of the day here. A muddy yet audible Swedish production a la Unleashed drives the releases fuzzy low end riffs and beastly death growl. All in all this a gritty, if slightly uninspiring release that has its moments. The dominating chorus of the title track is suitably heavy whilst the thrashing charge of 'Seven Demons' and Slayer-esque solo of 'Blood Has Stained The Cross' will get your head banging. Closer 'Spirtual Funeral' is a pleasant surprise, taking the form of a doomy, trill riddled Black Sabbath homage that's incentive enough to check out the back catalogue.


Ravencult - Temples Of Torment (2007)

Athens. Ancient home to Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum. Modern home to Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh, Necromantia and now Ravencult. Although this may be a debut album they're not exactly fresh faced after two demos and an EP (on which 'The Nightsky Codex' first appeared). However, despite such a prolific heritage Temples Of Torment takes a straightforward Nordic approach to the genre.

Evoking both the grim and frostbitten stylings of Immortal as well as the charging, viking bombast of Enslaved what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in old school aggression. 'In Times Of Demise' in particular is a perfect example of the Immortal/Enslaved mix. Opening with a Bjørnson style charging riff it marches in to the trademark Immortal sound of piercing, jangly, resonant chords and throaty rasping. There's no time to fuck about with lady vocals or ambient synth noodlings, this is a down the line black metal assault.

It might be lacking slightly in variety but it's all executed with such conviction you can't help but be impressed. The clean but meaty production helps a great deal, as usual the bass is completely buried but the guitar tone is deliciously ice cold. Perhaps not essential, but well worth a run through.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Pax Cecilia - Blessed are the Bonds (2007)

I'm not a huge fan of anything post-hardcore. I can enjoy small amounts of Envy and a couple other skram bands, but the genre has never really struck me as interesting. The Pax Cecilia, however, provide a fresh take on the style with the inclusion of neoclassical and ambient aspects. The first song, "The Tragedy," is one of the best on the album, creating a beautiful atmosphere using piano and strings. As opposed to most in this scene, the singer handles the soft vocals superbly. These low-key, thoughtful parts are the highlight of the band, and are spread well throughout the album. Eventually the song builds up to the typical chaotic, heavy skram climax, yet even these parts are relatively pleasant. "The Tomb Song" follows in much the same vein. The next two songs are more standard post-hardcore fare, providing nothing really interesting but still not of bad quality. From then on the album sticks to instrumental pieces, with vox only popping back in for the tranquil closing song.

Blessed are the Bonds really has a great atmosphere. It's also much more unique and intriguing than most post-hardcore, at least to me. The band is unsigned, and also sends out their album for free if you email them, so check em out and give some support.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Catholicon - Treatise on the Abyss (2007)

Imagine this. Log, to refer to them endearingly, decide simultaneously that they have become too mainstream and are not reaching enough of the metal populace. Their obvious conclusion? Create brutal deathcore with an aftertaste of sympho bm. That's right, they've got your over-the-top pig squeals, shit-heavy chugging, out of control drums, and atmospheric synths all mashed together into a generic mess for you to choke down.

The band does manage to conjure up a decent vibe in their slower moments, most likely because here the drummer is actually playing within his skill level. Sadly, and predictably, everything else is boring when it's not irritating. For a band that's been around since 94, Catholicon really don't seem to have taken things too seriously in regards to their music.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Persecutor - Army Of Damned [Demo] (2007)

Hello Poland, how are you? Happily pumping out endless amounts of shit-hot death metal no doubt. While not necessarily of the same world renowned caliber, Poland has also been known to pump out some fairly competent thrash. Persecutor (not to be confused with Polish thrash metal band Persecutor) are another hybrid thrash affair, with a fairly seemless blend of death and black metal (mostly in the vocals) wrapped in a thrash shell.

Beginning the Blitzkrieg with some Cannibal Corpse meets DiGiorgio Testament tech-death-thrash, it's an impressive whirlwind cacophony of stop-start riffing, spiraling bass and banshee wailing guitar. 'Nuclear Hell' opens up with a riff more than a little similar to Pantera's 'A New Level', but ups the pace and adds an intriguing dual vocal layered assault. There's isn't a great deal of riff variation across this demo and the "solos" are fairly one dimensional but its enjoyable nonetheless. Insert generic statement about potential and full lengths here.


Blood Island Raiders - Blood Island Raiders (2007)

Blood Island Raiders are another London band, this time comprised of some well respected members of the local scene. Of particular interest (apart from resident Zakk Wylde lookalike guitarist "The Reverend") is the bassist Pete Theobalds, former (founding) member of Akercocke. Unfortunately this isn't corporate satanic progressive-stoner-doom-death metal. What we do have however, is some fine fist pumping mid-paced metal to smoke, drink and/or drive to.

Essentially its Orange Goblin with a hint of Viking Skull and a touch of The Fucking Champs paying homage to the traditional metal of The Obsessed and Trouble. Kicking off with 'I Am The King' and one of those stoner-tone riffs that it's impossible not to love, it sets you up nicely for the rest of the album. There's more than enough "Woah yeaaaaah! Alriiiiight!" to last you a six-pack and a few joints. You've got your usual crunch-driving riffage, tasteful soloage, Warren's meaty pipes and a groovy bass undercurrent throughout. In the spirit of scene comradery there's even a few guest spots; the epic six plus minutes of 'Rust' features the grindcore turned hippy guitar of Bill Steer, though I'm not entirely sure what Team Brick and MC Disaster Lung contribute.

Neither groundbreaking nor revolutionary, if you want layers of depth and complexity then you're looking in the wrong place - this is a boozy background album. Not something you'll spin often, but enjoyable when you do.


End Of Level Boss - Inside The Difference Engine (2007)

Self professed (cliché alert) "worshippers of the riff" End Of Level Boss rose from the ashes of Hangnail, and since their inception have made a few ripples in the pond up in London. Touted as one of those stoner rocky doom metalish type bands they actually exhibit few if any of the qualities attributed to either genre. Instead they're a rather odd-beat amalgamation of early 90s heavy alt-rock, Isis/Meshuggah/Cynic riff progression and slight Voivodian discordancy. As intriguing a combination as that sounds, the execution is sadly a little tedious.

The basic formula for each song is essentially the same. A handful of discordant riffs repeated with some variation, complemented by fairly generic gruff vocals, at times dancing between Chris Cornell and Daniel Johns with the odd John Garcia moment. There's a Larry Lalonde style Primus solo thrown in ('Mr Dinosaur Is Lost'), a few quieter moments ('Inskintivitus') and the mostly instrumental 'Words Have No Meaning' comes off like a cross between Meshuggah's 'I' and Kyuss' 'One Inch Man'. All in all, if you've heard one song from the album you've pretty much heard all EOLB have to offer.

Despite the potentially exciting combination of influences and nods to slightly left-field metal bands, it's essentially one of those albums that feels like one long tedious song. Not completely terrible, just decidedly average and mostly unengaging.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Vorgrow - Black Metal Is Elitism [Demo] (2007)

Venezualen instrumental black metal. Now that's not a phrase I was expecting to use any time soon. Vorgrow are another fairly sombre affair, clearly it helps to be a miserable bastard if you wish to venture into the realms of black metal these days. We've got four fairly lengthy, numerically titled tracks on offer here and each manages to bring something a little different. Opening with a fairly calming effort comprised of looping clean guitar over a sporadic buzz, it has a slight Les Légions Noires feel. Following this is a sprawling track that's equal parts Graveland (the artificial drumming is similiar to 'Sons Of Fire and Steel') and Alcest with a bit of Darkthrone riffage thrown in for good measure. This is a demo that wears its influences on its sleeve; there's sprinklings of Immortal, a pinch of Enslaved, a touch of Peste Noire, the list goes on.

There is a soothingly epic feel across all of the compositions. Varying in pace, melody and cleanliness throughout, you can really hear the influences of numerous prolific black metal acts. The inclusion of vocals would probably improve the songs, however a lack does not necessarily hamper them. Either way this is a promising demo and another band whose full length I shall be looking forward too.


Zarach 'Baal' Tharagh/Demetrius Grave - Split (2007)

Nearly 60 demos, numerous splits and a couple of full lengths. You certainly can't fault Frenchman Luc Mertz's commitment to his Satanic lovechild Zarach 'Baal' Tharagh. Although not unloved by kvlties, ZBT is probably an unfortunate example of quantity over quality. The five tracks on offer are cut from the second demo Pure Evil Black Metal (an entirely accurate moniker). Musically, its probably everything that black metal should be: harsh, uncomfortable, and slightly disturbing. Droning buzzsaw riff(s), shrill, hate-filled rasping vocals and monotonous, blasting drums. It's just not particularly interesting (quite the understatement when compared to some of ZBT's fellow countrymen). Unless you pop a boner for all that is raw and underground, there's not much to offer.

Demetrius Grave
however, are an altogether more intriguing outfit. Self professed maker of 'Snuff Movie Soundtracks', Beliaazar aka Mr. Grave is the sole proprietor of this particular project. The ambient track isn't anything to shout about, but the twelve minute opus that is 'The Call Of The Window' defies classification. In fact, attempting describing it at all would taint the entire auditory experience. Just listen.

2/5 (1 point for effort, 1 point for the aforementioned track)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Todtgelichter - Schemen (2007)

Todtgelichter are equally familiar and unique sounding. Their take on black metal is slightly depressive, a touch more melodic, and almost eternally blasting. The guitars and bass have a warm sound, at least for black metal, and their lamenting tone can be highly reminiscent of Primordial. The drumming is busy, even during the slower passages, and does its job well. The singer provides quality Germanic rasping, often breaking into hoarser, more emotional styles. At times he reminds me a little bit of Envy, and there is a slight skram feel to the album. Extra touches, such as a folksy acoustic skram breakdown, samples (the song "Blutstern" uses a whale's song at one point, which makes me think of the movie Legend and is totally awesome because there is no trver black metal than that which invokes Satan and Unicorns), keys, and a girl singer, show up infrequently but are nice touches that instill some variation into the pacing. The production is of relatively high quality, clean and slightly warm, while still keeping that classic black metal sound.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fall of Empyrean - A Life Spent Dying Promo (2007)

Alright, I like Mournful Congregation. I understand that they're slow and relatively undynamic, but they still pull out a calm, mystical atmosphere that I find to be very enjoyable. However, when a band sounds like November's Doom (totally forced emotion, cliche and lacking music, horrible lyrics, etc etc) trying to sound like Mournful Congregation, well, I am not pleased. And that is exactly what the new Fall of Empyrean feels like - boring, hackneyed, shallow, and sometimes even laughable. The clean speaking that slips in every now and then is horrible, and the major source of said laughing. The guitars completely miss the point of doom, neither offering satisfying heaviness nor emotive atmosphere. Ineffectual piano tinkles and skitters behind the music, giving off some pretense of complexity. The death growls are fine, if uninspired. I probably would have fallen asleep if it weren't for teh chuckling.

It's sad, because their first full-length was a promising debut, and I expected some interesting work from these chaps. I actually think I might have liked some November's Doom better than this.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Xentrifuge - Light Extinguished (2007)

Xentrifuge are a US-based ebm band that sound essentially like a slightly-noisier and rawer version of Wumpscut. They rely heavily on distortion and four-on-the-floor 909 bass kicks, which generally lends the music a deliciously dirty feeling, but at times makes it drag on forever. When the supporting samples and synths are going there is a great sense of dynamic atmosphere, and the music flows through your body without a thought (side-note: due to the base beat, Xentrifuge has quite the dance feel to it). However, I did get weary of the drumming on some songs, most notably on "Cerebral Ruins." Vocals are presented in a filtered whisper form, much like the recent Grendel album, but distorted to the tenth sub-level of cybercide. Much like the drums, the vox are very gratifying when everything is meshing, but somewhat repetitive on their own.

Light Extinguished is a dense, gritty foray into the dark corners of ebm. There is an evil intensity that permeates the music, moreso than most electronic artists on the hard end of the scale. Fans of Wumpscut, Aesthetic Perfection, Grendel, and Diary of Dreams will get some movement out of this one, as would hardstyle and hard trance lovers.


Silva Nigra - Epocha (2007)

Another album number four, nearly 50 minutes of snare-snare-snare- snare-snare-snare "Total Antichrist Propaganda" from Czech raw black metal bandits Silva Nigra. Featuring the drummer from Trist (not that one, the other one) it's a gloriously sombre yet curiously riff laden journey through the dark and icy wastes.

Soothing industrial ambiance carries you gently into a slow groove before an icy blast tears you from safety, by which time it's too late. A chilling album of blasting black metal, never far removed from a subtle melancholy that pierces the frozen dirge. The anguish of Ulvberth's throaty, blackened rasp is never far behind, tearing at your soul as you desperately try to escape the suffocating depression. As comfortable with the typical d-beat snare blast assault as pouring sombre leads over a bleak soundscape, Silva Nigra have perfected their art. Pausing only for a brief interlude, Epocha is a complete black metal album, covering many areas and compromising none. It might not have the mindfucking depth of your Blut Aus Nord's or Deathspell Omega's, but equal parts old school krieg riffage and Celestia/Mortifera misery it remains impressive. All hail the Dark Lord. Satan is pleased.


Blood Red Throne - Come Death (2007)

Norway's stalwarts Blood Red Throne have returned with their fourth album of no nonsense death metal riffage. The first album featuring Vald (vocalist to BRT side project Trioxin) once again showcases Tchort and Død's Norwegian take on Swedish death via Florida. The only notable difference vocally is Vald's slight detours into the higher ranges, the staple death rasp is near identical to that of predecessor Mr. Hustler. As for the rest? Well, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

The chunky Swedish tone with those all familiar muted triplet crunches are staple throughout the album. Apart from Caspersen's dextrous bass widdling BRT have always eschewed technical focus for grooving riffs, which are in no short supply on Come Death. Mixing elements from previous effort Altered Genesis with the more casual groove of debut Monument of Death, BRT have delivered perhaps their most rounded effort to date. Opener 'Slaying the Lamb' gives you no time to prepare, charging straight in before dropping a trademark Throne riff whilst switching between frenzied blast and grooving chug with ease. 'Rebirth in Blood' has time for some melodious prog-riffing a la Anata before marching to a close, whilst 'Taste Of God' brings a little thrash to the deathfest. There's even time for a well executed Gorguts cover before the end.

Once again BRT have delivered the goods. Tchort and Død present a veritable riff buffet of accomplished death metal with more than enough variance to hold your attention from start to finish. Another fine slab of 2007 death metal that might even make some '... of the year' lists.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan - Pullhair Rubeye (2007)

After doing a little research for the Mum review and reading about Kria's new project, I figured I'd check it out. This album is the collaboration of Kria (Kristin Anna of Mum) and her husband, Avey (Dave Portner of Animal Collective).

First off, I have to say that the whole shebang is strange. The album, as it is meant to be heard (kind of), is the backwards recording of all the tracks. These count as the "standard" songs. But the album also includes "reversed" versions of every song, which I take as a nice acceptance of people's desires to hear them normally. In addition, three songs are also presented in slower forms. Thus, we technically have an album that is about one-third unique work, but is different throughout.

As for the music, well, it's not quite as eccentric as the setup. A very simple folksy acoustic chillout session, basically just both artists singing over the guitar, with some piano thrown in. Kria's voice is beautiful as ever, like the crooning of children, and Avey's singing is pleasant as well. I will say that Kria does not show up nearly enough, and I definitely prefer her over her husband, who wore on me. The guitar and piano are not complex, but they are nice and relaxed. Ostensibly, this is why the songs are meant to be heard backwards - the shifting slur of reverse listening instills a much more exotic feel to the music, with almost a touch of Mum sneaking back in.

With an equal amount of intriguing and boring sections, Pullhair Rubeye is a pleasant trip that might drag on a little too long. Hopefully these two lovers will expand their sound on the next album, perhaps to the point where the album is interesting without being backwards. I don't mean that in a mean way, and they probably made the album with the intent of having it backwards, but I can't shake the feeling this wasn't the result of uncertainty and apprehension.


Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position (2007)

I actually deleted and redownloaded this album multiple times before I finally was able to get into it. My love for Patrick Wolf is like a streaming mental wave of succulent babies, and suffice to say The Magic Position was an abortion-blender that came between us on first listen. It wasn't until about last week that a friend of mine got me to go back through it, and it finally stuck.

Patrick's trademark Brit voice no longer carries the wild energy of Lycanthropy or the introspection of Wind in the Wires, yet it's still him. Similarly, his other classic sounds, such as violin and programmed drums, come across as familiar yet slightly lacking. It doesn't help that the strings in the first song sounds just like Apocalyptica, or that his singing is vaguely standard. But this is an album that you have to give time to grow on. The spunk is still alive in songs like "Accident & Emergency," "Bluebells," "Get Lost," and the title track, while Patrick's thoughtful side is shown on "Augustine" and "Magpie" (the latter containing some excellent counter-vocals courtesy of Marianne Faithfull).

While I do enjoy this much more after trying it a few times, The Magic Position is by no means up to the standards made by Patrick Wolf's first two albums. But, like Githzerai said of Ministry's newest offering, at his laziest this man is still amazing. Recommended for die-hard fans or for those that want something a little more tame than previous releases.

8/10 (5/10 on first listen :P)

Múm - Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy (2007)

Ah, more beautiful music from Sigur Ros' dreamy peers. Múm bring us another album full of that magical essence that seems to pervade this Icelandic scene: blissed-out, glitchy experimentation wrapped up in crystal clear, ice-refracted tones glaciating beneath singing so pure and innocent it makes children seem evil.

As opposed to the crunchy, pseudo-moody sound of their previous album, Summer Make Good, Múm adopt a more poppy, hopeful sound on Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy. Main singer Kria's impossibly-soft mewling sometimes ventures into more typical realms, and is now accompanied by a bloke whose chill singing invokes thoughts of The Album Leaf. The electronic glitches likewise break their spastic form more often to assume traditional beats, serving to make the music more drum-driven and streamline the sound. A tad bit more radio-friendly, but no less interesting. As far as the overall style, Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy has a jazzy feel that involves piano, trumpet, and whatever else these chaps could get their hands on.

This is apparently the last album with Kria in it, so it will be interesting to see how it goes from here. Nonetheless, if you love Sigur Ros, World's End Girlfriend, or Piana, you are sure to be pleased by this album.

Go go smear my poison ivy, and let your crooked hands be holy...


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ministry - The Last Sucker (2007)

After more than two decades, pioneering metallic industrialists Ministry have issued their final studio album, The Last Sucker. It completes the triumvirate of Bush blasting that began with Houses of the Molé and continued with last years blinding Rio Grande Blood with another politically charged industrial riff party.

Well, for starters, it sounds like Ministry. You know what to expect. Sadly however, there appears to be a certain degree of complacency throughout the album. Accusations of Rio Grande Blood 2.0 would be well founded, but it comes across as more of a 0.5. Pedestrian riffage permeates throughout the album, many of which wouldn't sound out of place on one of Fear Factory's less popular albums. Thats not to say you won't be banging your head, its still an album to get booked for speeding to. It's just that the filthy aggression prevalent in RGB seems to be missing. Of course the distorted as fuck vocals are unchanged, as is the dirty electro drumming. There's just an overall feeling of a band going through the motions one last time.

Its not all bad though. The title track gives off a strong 80s industrial vibe and the pounding southern rawk of 'Roadhouse Blues' kicks the aggression back up a notch. The album highlight and closing track 'End Of Days Part Two' is a sprawling epic, bearing some similarity to NINs 'Just Like You Imagined'. Complete with soaring guitar lines, child choir chorus and a Burton C. Bell sounding more like Pepper Keenan it definitely ends the album on a high.

It might sound like a band going through the motions, but Ministry at half pace is still more than most bands at full tilt. Not their worst and certainly not a career ending duff note, but not quite up to the standard they (re)set themselves with RGB.