Dec 7, 2021

Top 10 non-metal albums of 2021

I always like to fool myself that I'm diverse but I'm not. I tried to make a mixed list with all my music listens back in 2015, and only one non-metal album made it to the top 20, namely mouse on the keys' The Flowers of Romance, which I still listen to today, so it was well placed. After that, it was a Merzbow album at #47, so yes it wouldn't make sense for me. I listen to such albums at different times, but the real problem lies in that I can't properly compare all releases together, under the same perspective. Anyway!

Arson Cafe's
top 10 non-metal albums of 2021

10. Jess and the Ancient Ones - Vertigo
9. MONO – Pilgrimage of the Soul
8. Fire! - Defeat
7. Maybeshewill - No Feeling Is Final
6. Foudre! - Future Sabbath
5. Filmmaker – Vlad Tapes
4. Iceage – Seek Shelter
3. CHVRCHES – Screen Violence
2. cursetheknife – Thank You For Being Here
1. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Carnage

Dec 2, 2021

Top 10 demos of 2021

There is a certain fixation to the demo format, and as I have tried to follow the mindset of full albums only, a lot of releases of truly great music are completely missed like that, especially in the underground. However, I have to admit I still don't spend as much time as in releases of longer duration every year, yet there's always some space for a newcomer's unfiltered and more spontaneous work. 

Arson Cafe's
top 10 demos of 2021

10. Μνήμα – Flesh Prison
9. Vel’HAR – Letania
8. Moortrieder – When Death Appeared
7. Blood Sorcery – Chapel of Blood Part I
6. Skeleton – Ordainment of Divinity
5. Gråinheim – Hexndeifl
4. Eternal Sword - The Cursed Land
3. The Suns Journey Through The Night – Demo  II
2. Necromantical Invocation – Dogme Et Rituel De La Haute Magie
1. Moon – On the Other Side of Daylight

Nov 27, 2021

Ifernach - The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard (2020)

Genre: Black Metal
Location: Quebec, Canada
Release date: 20.06.2020
Label: Tour de Garde
Listen: Bandcamp

I started listening to this project's works in the reverse order, as The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard was the first release I got my hands on, and there have been several interesting mini-releases as well as three full length albums before since, since their inception in 2015. Ifernach belongs to the cast of black metal artists exploring native American folklore but not just out of interest, as they are usually closely related on the topic even outside the borders of music.

The first thing to quickly notice in the record is the impressive riff work. When it goes deep into melodic / harsher guitar parts, I would say that all the riffs are just wonderful, and all of them memorable. The Green Enchanted Forest... opens with an introduction that honestly reminds too much of Burzum's "Dunkelheit" days, but it's more of a homage than a rip-off, much like Watain's touch on Mayhem on the opening "Devil's Blood" of Casus Luciferi in 2003. Nevertheless, following with "The Passage of Dithreabhach", the most bombastic track of the record and in my opinion, its highlight, shows clearly Ifernach's skill to compose great black metal, combined with an interesting clean guitar part towards the end.

More ominous playing is found in "In the Hollow of the Togharmach " and "Teimn Laid II", making me think that Ifernach must be really into Norwegian black metal and more specifically, the aforementioned legends. There's traces of punk in these tracks too, and above all I really enjoyed the thick and dusty production the record has. With an album cover painted by Megan Walsh, the record conceptually clicks with all its different aspects apart from the music itself and definitely offers a journey worth taking.

On the other hand, I found the interludes of The Green Enchanted Forest... just too long. While still above average, "A Cursed Spear" feels unnecessarily long, and I had the same impression of "Teimn Laid I". Building on that, "Hidden Palaces Under the Green Hills" is a nice ritual / dark ambient track, and all of these grant the record with another, more meditative side, which helps with its originality and the story that is told here, but just didn't keep me personally attached in the end. However, as a whole, The Green Enchanted Forest... has some seriously powerful black metal in it, and that's not only what you will find here.

As a whole, Ifernach have achieved something special. The album is really interesting once it sets in, and you could find yourself returning to it more than you expect, with awesome guitar lines and a great and unique atmosphere. I enjoyed most of it, and I have been listening a lot on repeat since the time I found it (which was even later than when it was released), but its beauty was revealed to me after a few listens and not right away. It is also a project that deserves listening time for their EPs, demos, and especially split albums, but still i consider  The Green Enchanted Forest... as a fairly high point at their discography.

1. The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard
2. The Passage of Dithreabhach
3. A Cursed Spear
4. In the Hollow of the Togharmach
5. Teinm Laida I
6. Teinm Laida II
7. A Winter Tree Clad in Black Frost
8. Hidden Palaces Under the Green Hills

Damage: 4/5 [Excellent]

Nov 21, 2021

Grimdor - The Shadow of the Past (2020)

Genre: Dungeon Synth / Black Metal
Location: Germany / USA
Release date: 01.11.2020
Label: Out of Season
Listen: Youtube
Website: Instagram

There have been numerous small releases in Grimdor's short lifetime so far, and it seems that there's always more material coming from them, either under the Grimdor moniker or through their side projects. The band has a fairly respected and well-known mark in the dungeon synth scene, as their physical copies get sold out faster than the speed of sound wherever they appear, and their keen interest in the Tolkien universe shines through every aspect of their music. Without a full length release yet (something we really really need), they have achieved this status by frequently releasing demos or EPs, often quite short in duration.

The Shadow of the Past, apart from the legendary piece in The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, marks the boundary between the black metal and dungeon synth inclined parts of Grimdor's discography. It rounds up their first three EPs (The Lonely Mountain, Stone of the Hapless and The Chamber of Mazarbul) and a couple of other tracks, mostly comprised of lo-fi raw black metal with a dusty sound, while after this collection, they have been exercising more stripped down dungeon synth in 2021, with a lot of wonderful mini-albums. 

Big variations undergo this compilation, featuring Grimdor's strongpoints as well as more average fillers. For example, "Death of Glaurung", "Morgul Blades" and "The Chamber of Mazarbul" are really fine quality of ferocious raw black metal. The band experiments with a short doom / depressive black metal piece in "Deer's Leap", and you can swear you must have heard "Scimitar" or "Battle at Cirith Ungol" somewhere in the past, lost in a Norwegian basement during never released Gorgoroth rehearsals. On the other hand, "The Lonely Mountain" has some dubious clean vocals, slightly referring to epic heavy / doom metal singing but not with a huge success, and the longer drone-ish "Battle at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm", while a fan favourite, didn't manage to persuade me.

When Grimdor goes into dungeon synth, they shine. "Mount Gundabad" is wondrous, the eerie essence of "Ringwrath" conveys in just a minute and the introduction or "Black Storm", are beautiful songs for background roleplaying games all over. A track like "The Black Thorn of Brethil!" could be skipped, while "Stone of the Hapless" is great, and right after that, "The Red Eye of Sauron", also released as a single, is one of the best if not the best pieces in this compilation. The Shadow of the Past collects all of their work until then so that you don't have to go into each one by one, but it doesn't leave out some of the band's weaker moments.

And that doesn't change anyone's mind. Me included, as the rest of the people who follow them, purely for the great aesthetics and honest underground spirit, would support and buy anything Grimdor puts out. I'm always glad to see new tracks from them and 2021 has been especially good for that. The Shadow of the Past is a must for dungeon synth lovers, fantasy enthusiasts and lo-fi fanatics alike, yet you should also definitely check out what they have been doing after that. Since the band decided to put their discography on a ridiculous discount a short while back, I decided to grab it all and have a few dedicated listening sessions, and The Shadow of the Past concludes only the first part. Off to listen to "Mirkwood Forest" and "Bombadil" again.

1. Untitled (single)
2. Bombadil (single)
3. Black Storm
4. Repulse the Orcs
5. Death of Glaurung
6. The Black Thorn of Brethil!
7. Deer's Leap
8. Stone of the Hapless
9. The Red Eye of Sauron
10. Mirkwood Forest (Intro)
11. Morgul Blades
12. The Lonely Mountain
13. Ringwrath (single)
14. The Chamber of Mazarbul
15. Battle at Cirith Ungol
16. Scimitar
17. Mount Gundabad
18. Battle at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm (single)
19. The Lonely Mountain (alternate version)

Damage: 3.5/5 [Great]

Nov 16, 2021

Whoredom Rife - Winds of Wrath (2021)

Genre: Black Metal
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Release date: 15.11.2021
Label: Terratur Possessions
Listen: Bandcamp
Website: Instagram

The first two Whoredom Rife albums were released with only short in-between period in 2017 and 2018, but the band has been busy with a few smaller scale releases since then before putting their third full length together. Apart from the split with Taake, two EPs that include, among a lot of acoustics, a Manes cover, show how much ingrained the band is to its scene and especially its origin. I can't say I didn't enjoy their first steps, as both Dommedagskvad and Nid - Hymner av hat have a load of great moments in them, but I wasn't bought by the rest of their material, so I had to be in the waiting for the next record.

And as far as it seems, once again they come along extremely photogenic. These covers are just a pleasure to watch, there's no grimness but only apocalyptic beauty in the designs, which goes along with the crystal clear sound Whoredom Rife maintains from the beginning. Winds of Wrath is also the first title, apart from the self-titled first EP in 2016, that has an English title, even though the band usually chooses Norwegian & English for the songs themselves, a tradition that is kept with this release as well. If I haven't given enough key words already, Winds of Wrath is all you imagine it to be and quite efficient as well. Whoredom Rife are good with heaviness, fast-paced ferocity with solid injections of melodies and a few background synths for the atmosphere.

Nothing less that a fine example of modern Norwegian black metal, this record almost feels too professional. Everything works properly and it's been designed to quench your thirst for this music. If we somehow agree that this accessibility has turned this genre to a walk in the park compared to a narrow path between a cliff and a mountain that it once was, Winds of Wrath is well-made but not so dangerous art, at least to the ears of the seasoned black metaller. Maybe I have this wrong impression of this kind of Scandinavian black metal now, yet I have always enjoyed an album that doesn't ruin it, and Winds of Wrath certainly doesn't.

Therefore, Whoredom Rife's strongpoint, as it has always been, is the melodic variety in their albums. The epic element is always present, and they frequently speed up to more intense parts, all of them nicely flowing into each other. I can't get into these vocals, to me they sound too distorted or with too much studio effect, yet the main body of work is on point. I'm afraid Winds of Wrath's case will be the same as the previous two albums, a great listen but never gets memorable. Yet for today, it's a solid record.

1. Curse of the Moon
2. A Thousand Graves Endured
3. Gospel of Hate
4. Hav av Sykdoms Blod
5. Winds of Wrath
6. Einride

Damage: 3.5/5 [Great]

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