Saturday, December 28, 2013

AOTY 2013: Top 20 Albums

The time has come.

Everyone talks about how great the aging year was and how many great albums were released, then presenting their personal favourites and move on. I stumbled upon all kinds of quality music this year and I will keep a number of records under daily listen if possible, for quite some time. However, I don't see why Sunbather, Colored Sands, Teethed Glory and Injury are so great that you guys couldn't grasp a breath while listening to them. I could not get very much into any of these, so don't expect them high in this list at all. 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

AOTY 2013: Top 10 failures

I don't want to widely justify why these albums were a disappointment for me, that's why there will be the list only. Of course, I included albums from bands that I had hopes of something good and received a washed out, lame record, not just any bad album I came across this year. I'm usually polite with my negative points but some albums this year hit me hard and got on my nerves, so I present the hate.


10. Ghost B.C. - Infestissumam
Loma Vista Recordings

Stop worshiping this band like they're the inventors of music because it's really nothing more than fancy dark cloaks and pseudo satanic imagery. I would stand this album if it was not so shallow and annoying. While Opus Eponymous almost had a couple of nice rhythms, this fails everywhere.

9. Nocturnal Poisoning - A Misleading Reality

I do not want Xasthur back either and that's not the reason why I put this in the list. I was actually interested to listen what would this acoustic project would be, but it shares little emotion after all. I was not touched by it at all and the repetitive mellow melodies made me sick. It's not atmospheric or melancholic as it was supposed. Keep going if you feel it guys, but I'm not going to follow.

8. Glorior Belli - Gators Rumble, Chaos Unfurls
Agonia Records

Did Glorior Belli always have so many stoner elements in their music? If these guys tried to mix black with stoner here, they totally failed, apparently they're not good at experimentation. Most of the songs are way too boring to even review this at all, spare your time with something better.

7. Alice in Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
Capitol Records

The only thing that reminds of Alice In Chains with this band of today, is Jerry. All is fragile and mediocre, apart from Jerry, who is like the Iommi of grunge. This album will break the hearts of all grungeheads out there, because the once huge AiC are now mainstream, MTV rock. Fetch me!

6. Rotting Christ - Κατά το δαίμονα εαυτού
Season of Mist

I respect this band very much, but this is one of their worst albums I have listened, if not the worst. Incomprehensible subject, too many studio effects, hardly any solid guitar work. The whole album is like an introduction to a main part that never came after all. No.

5. Burzum - Sol Austan, Mani Vestan
Byelobog Productions

Ideal for sleeping! As much as I like his past albums up until Fallen (yes, all the way until Fallen) this one is average, spiritless ambient that bores me to death. Read more here.

4. Gehenna - Unravel
Indie Recordings

This is really bad, for something to come out after eight years of waiting. I don't expect Gehenna to return to the glorious times of their first four albums, but I didn't expect a snail paced, weak and monotonous album like this either. The production is horrible (are there any drums? Or is that a pumping noise behind the harsh guitar moaning) and the tracks are juvenile. I asked myself more than once during my first listen, are these the same Gehenna I knew?

3. Sepultura - The Mediator Between the Head and Hands Should Be the Heart
Nuclear Blast

Not a single good guitar riff was produced that day. Did you laugh with the title too? Wait to hear the music. Anyhow, Sepultura are long gone, the guys should stop raping the band's corpse and leave it at peace at once.

2. Satyricon - Satyricon
Roadrunner Records

Definitely one of the hardest punches in the face I got this year, from a band I adore(d) that decided to go, who knows what. The modern Satyricon play thin rock that even the last rebel laughs at. Again, do not get fooled by various music sources that call it a masterpiece and an album that will mark the future, the band's highest peak so far and other stupid statements like these. It's by all means bad. A bad album. Check my review here.

1. Megadeth - Super Collider

I can't get into Mustaine's mind, what the heck is he thinking? Is he jealous of the wonderful carreer of Metallica and wants to be like them? Did he aim for another classy album like Risk? Did he forget how to write solid lyrics? He found God again and finally got educated about this scientific thingy called super collider that got him so impressed that he wrote an album that's close to the worst in his carreer. I don't put 0 in a rating easily, but this would get it. By far the worst album of the year and now my image of Megadeth is further damaged, for life.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

AOTY 2013: Top 15 EPs

15. Nazgûl – Witch of the Northern Frost
Hygieia Records

Sweet epic black metal by a Tolkien inspired new band. It has great synths, great melodies, nice piano and generally solid ideas.The production is clean enough and the album is mostly middle paced, mostly for fans of atmospheric black metal. The changes between acoustic and distortion parts reminded me a little of early Ulver, but the music is not really any further equivalent to them.

14. Ingested - Revered By No One, Feared By All
Siege of Amida Records

As a fan of this band, I enjoyed the new EP as much I did of their last album The Surreption. Not much have changed since then and if you like their previous stuff, you will like this as well.

13. Firtan – Wogen Der Trauer

[Black clouds devour the light]
The first time I listened to this, I was impressed! Warm sound of melodic German / Swedish riffs and raged vocals, fused with amazing synths and keyboard. The record is mostly revolving around pagan black metal and it's German spoken, while it contains half an hour of amazing, well crafted music.

12. Zozobra – Savage Masters
Brutal Panda Records

[A chorus of war]
I didn't like this band until this EP, I can't get into their first stuff at all. This, however, builds the mixture of dirty sludge, hardcore and post-metal that's immense and crushing. Not to mention the breathtaking, vintage occult front art it has, among the best covers I saw this year.

11. Odem – Valley of Cut Tongues
Daemon Worship Productions

[Cult of flesh]
With this release, Odem combine pure death metal vocals with third wave, orthodox driven guitar work and nineties extreme metal solos. It creates organized chaos and it's captivating. To me, the signs shown in this EP are way better than what they did in 2010 and they should continue like that, definitely among the seriously aggressive bands of black / death.

10. Infernal Revulsion – Infernally Revulsed
Alliance Trax

[Will is to kill]
I'm glad these guys changed from pathetic brutal death metal into a more technical, modern death, bass drop and breakdown type of thing. I don't like the way they murdered their production but it sounds improved and fresh, really enjoyable.

9. Vampire – Vampire

[On my way down to hell]
Organic old school death / thrash, very honest and organic. This EP has four tracks and they all kick some serious ass, for fans of 80s / 90s underground metal, horror, Fenriz-approves bands and generally cult patch metal. I don't know how they got into Century Media, I'm looking forward to their full length in the spring of 2014. Under the grudge...

8. Jess And The Ancient Ones - Astral Sabbat
Svart Records

Isn't this an adorable band? And trippy too... Two members of the death metal band Demilich (now named Deathchain) play here and the music itself is worderful, majestic and unique. The way I see it, if a new full length gets built at the level of these two tracks (and one cover) it will be better than their debut. Can't wait.

7. Grá – Necrology of the Witch
Unexploded Records

Even if this band is a little more silent than the rest of it's country and time, I think they are one of the best outcomes yet. The self-titled was brilliant and this is distorted, deranged and uncompromising, in the service of it's art and only. The songs are dark and alluring, with a great painting as a front art, a great Freezing Moon cover and a song title in Greek (On the Way to the Styx). Grá need more attention than what they get.

6. Gevurah - Necheshirion
Profound Lore Records

[Divine ignition]
I was unsure of what to think of the band with their first demo, which has few but good moments. With this new release, they totally got into the list of bands to look out for. The hammering sound is amazing, the musicianship is also very good, the compositions are tight and accurate, bringing up a unique and scourging style of black / death metal, full of dissonant riffing and bitter vocals. I love the particular subject as well, which puts them somehow into the orthodox scene. Anyway, fascinating release.

5. Pig Destroyer - Mass and Volume
Relapse Records

[Harder than gravity]
I was fond of this band, even though I can't stand grindcore for much time. They have some awesome records out already and their name is correctly a trademark for the genre. And what a turn is this! They decided to experiment in this new EP, creating some of the heaviest sludge I have listened, for what I know. I'm not sure what of the impression it will leave to the fans, since it's way slower and "indifferent" that what they usually do (the first track is 19 minutes, equal to their whole debut) but I love it. Lay back, be patient and it will burn you from the inside.

4. Sun Worship - Surpass Eclipse

Definitely not your average atmospheric black metal band. Two songs are contained in the EP and in the first "Castle High" lies one of the most wonderful riffs I heard this year, while "Eclipse" is also a thick, crushing and prodigious track. The record is intense and malefic, very deep and artistic. I didn't know this band and now I'm definitely a fan.

3. Ash Borer - Bloodlands
Gilead Media

You either get along with these bands or you don't. This band is honest and straightforward. They don't fuck around, they spend time for their releases and they hand them out when they are perfect. This EP hardly lacks anything and it's as good as their previous albums, in the same feeling and equally dark, devastating atmosphere.

2. Blut Aus Nord - Liber III - What Once Was...
Debemur Morti Productions

Loved the black metal, loved the ambient parts. I don't have much to say about this monster band. Third eye opener for sure.

1. War Master - Blood Dawn
Torture Garden Pictures Company

Fuck yeah death metal! If this doesn't get you moving, you should revise your standards and think things through again, because it's among the most brilliant records for this genre this year. They stepped out of the Entombed phantasm and grew into something of their own, along with their influences, and with their new Blood Dawn they shall tear everything apart. Top class, high quality, of the finest branch, only for you.


Locals to check out:

Friday, December 20, 2013

AOTY 2013: Top 10 demos

10. Devouring Star – Demo

Great new discovery! These Finnish dudes did a great job with this two song demo and their material is very promising. I'm curious to listen to more stuff by them and a full length is needed. Quite clean production for a demo and a chaotic sound similar to Deathspell Omega (but less complex, maybe) and raspy vocals on the top.

9. Phlesh – Demo / Promo
Suicidal Black Art Productions

One man project from Vancouver, Canada. Crystal clean sound, as if it's a full record and better, inducing into crushing black metal with great vocals and great strength, more close to the Swedish scene. A new album is set for early 2014 and this works as a promo for that upcoming release as well, including three compositions, of which one is an interlude.

8. Monument – Geminae
Dead Section Records

Dark and intense stuff by this obscure American act. The demo lasts almost ten minutes and it's quite noisy, but it gives a great feeling of decay when listening to it. The reason I chose it is because it has everything primitive I like in such records, both tracks are relentless and brutally wonderful! Apart from the fast, hammering parts, there are also slower, almost drone-like moments, perfect for world outsiders. Geminae has it's own deranged experimentation and that's why it's unique.

7. Hrungnir - Hymn to Bragi

Dark ambient / dungeon synth records rarely make it to a full length list, since there are so many other stuff for me to include. However, small and neat demos have their own beauty especially when it comes to medieval keyboard music, battle samples and folkoric atmosphere. Hrungnir's demo contains two tracks of exactly that and that's why I loved it. Specifically, the change of the second track “The Chants of Old Heroes” from a depressive, evil melody to a bard's flute in a castle on a sunny day, is really great.

6. Impious Blood – Temple of Flesh, Pillars of Bones
Nexro Records

Killer stuff by Impious Blood. The only flaw of the demo is that it's short, and it has unnecessary instrumentals. For more comments about it, click this.

5. Ancient Crypts – Devoured By Serpents
Iron Bonehead Productions

Old school death metal from Chile. Second demo, in the veins of foul odor bands like Asphyx and Autopsy, with powerful compositions and great arrangement. The demo is not that original, but it's not indifferent either, building it's atmosphere from the guitar sound and melodies, as well as the hellish vocals. For fans of merciless death metal, this is ideal.

4. Beastiality – Ancient Bell Chimes

A mixture of awesome Swedish death metal, occultism and early Bathory. More information here.

3. Montsegur - Under The Banner Of Witchcraft

When I saw that the band is influenced by bands like Vlad Tepes and Moonblood in their Bandcamp, I thought “not another band of nothing” but it's nothing like that. The kvlt atmosphere and awesomeness of the nineties black metal unsung heroes is all over this beautiful record. Audible sound, great musicianship and accurate song writing, along with a medieval artwork and very cool titles, make this demo one of my favorites of the year. All the fan freaks out there should get this.

2. Serpentfyre - Of Darkness & True Light
Cursed Tapes

It's possible that this might be an EP after all, but it's entitled as a demo in their bandcamp so that's how I'm going to count it for. Outstanding work by this Finnish act, puts them among their best acts for me already, even though that's their only release. Absolute darkness and excellence.

1. Skógr – Skógr

It's strange how I enjoy this a lot more than the full length these guys released this year as well. I was always a fan of well written, chilling depressive black metal. This has the production, the vocals, the riffs and the atmosphere of a DSBM act (similar to Irrwisch, early Woods of Desolation) but it's sped up, giving a hell of a result. I did not go through many demos this years, but because of personal tastes, this was the most breathtaking. Listening to it is like a journey and I recommend the fans and only, to give it a chance.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

AOTY 2013: Top 5 Splits & Compilations

What can I say, I am a maniac list maker. For this year, there will be five volumes of AOTY 2013, covering various lists of glorious and shameful moments of the year, from my personal perspective and only. It's natural that I have missed things etc etc... So hey.

Top 5 Splits

5. Andramelech & Serpent Noir - Gateway to the Nightside
Daemon Worship Productions

[Aura to aura]
Two dedicated bands of the orthodox scene decide to join forces under the blessing of the mighty Daemon Worship, wouldn't it be good? Slow, death-worshiping songs, surrounded by a bleak atmosphere and a strong feeling of emptiness, not missing ritual / dark ambient elements around the record (especially in the Serpent Noir side). Through painful thoughts and inner exploration, these two acts aim to show the path to gnosis, while the music is definitely well written and acute. Serpent Noir released their debut in 2012 and I can't wait for an Andramelech full length as well. Demos are not enough, especially if the bands have great ideas like these to present.

4. Devathorn & Blaze of Perdition - 418 - ATh IAV
Third Eye Temple

[Within a sigh of rats]
I highly appreciate Blaze of Perdition and their whole discography. Devathorn's debut Diadema was kind of unimpressive to me, but they seem to have evolved into something more serious since then and this split proves my point. Two intense tracks by them, opening with the mind blowing "The Venomous Advent", in which Acherontass serves as a guest vocalist, and then a remake of their self-titled track "Diadema" with the proper production and power. I got really excited when the Blaze of Perdition side begun, because of the Game of Thrones sample (from a spectacular Varys-Baelish conversation, I'm sure you know) talking about chaos. From there on, they unfold their own amazing pieces and assure a spot in the year's best collaborations.

3. Nightbringer & Dødsengel - Circumambulations of the Solar Inferno
Daemon Worship Productions

[The time of the great reaping]
As much as I enjoy the previous four bands, I think this couple is one step higher. Again a Daemon Worship release and yet again another split of the orthodox scene, It's just that their time caring attitude towards the music and the importance of ideology in the concept, makes everything else look juvenile. In depth investigation here.

2. Ildjarn & Hate Forest - Those Once Mighty Fallen
Osmose Productions

I had mixed feelings about this before listening to it but it turned out to be one of my favourite splits of the year. I love Hate Forest and I love / hate Ildjarn, I'm sick of unreleased tracks and "new" splits with them, even though this is a bright exception. Ildjarn's side presents the essence of pure Norwegian black metal with melancholic synth lines and raspy riffs / growls, whereas Hate Forest is the band's familiar sound, only cleaner. More info here.

1. Helrunar & Árstíðir Lífsins - Fragments - A Mythological Excavation
Lupus Lounge

I can't point out how magnificent this is. It's possible that it would have been on the top of my full lengths list if it was a full length. Every person who enjoys music should check it out. Read the analysis here.

Top 5 Compilations

5. Orchid – The Zodiac Sessions
Nuclear Blast

[Black funeral]
This is a personal choice and if I didn't enjoy Orchid a lot, I would not put it here and I would heavily criticize it. The early works of the band are included, which means the era 2009-2011, which is not that early, right? It seems like another attempt by Nuclear Blast to sell the same material again and again, it probably is that way, but still they are very enjoyable. Check my review of their latest full length album The Mouths of Madness here.

4. Sorcery - Legacy of Blood
Blood Harvest

[Left here to die]
One of the many returns of the year that made me very happy, I used to look at Bloodchilling Tales as a hidden, forgotten artifact of the Swedish scene, but now they are back, alive and kicking. This contains remastered versions of their debut along with the Rivers of the Dead EP and a new, kick ass artwork, for all of us that missed the golden years and could not purchase first presses of such records. I love the compilation and everything it contains.

3. Treblinka – Shrine of the Pentagram
Century Media Records

[Hail to cruelty]
Shit, this is over three hours of music! In a massive 5LP package that includes almost all Treblinka material (and what an idiotic name that is, by the way) for maniacs of obscure recordings. I'm all for former boy bands of huge bands and this one later involved into Tiamat, so it does have a value. Musically, it's honest and simplistic black / death, needed for a die hard collection of course. There is also one track from a rehearsal they did in 2008 and for some reason, it made me very happy. Hopefully, there is also a solid production done for the tracks as well, they were not cleaned up for no reason.

Check also: Old Funeral – Our Condolences

2. Lost Soul - Genesis-XX Years of Chaoz
Witching Hour Productions

[On the edge of oblivion]
Anniversary commemorative compilation. First of all, the layout and the artwork are amazing. Loranc is a great digital artist and this particular work he did for Lost Soul blew me away, I knew I would enjoy the album, since I found their 2009 Immerse In Infinity more than impressive. Great re-recordings, excellent production, excellent musicianship, a great Metallica cover, coming into a two CD box set lasting around two hours, where you can listen to the early Lost Soul as well as the Lost Soul of today. It's not just random tracks of the past put together, the band worked hard for this and that's why it's above almost every compilation of the year. Except the following.

1. Taake – Gravkamre, Kroner og Troner
Dark Essence Records

[Emptiness shall overcome]
One of the leading bands of the third wave of Norwegian black metal wisely make a selection of their best tracks and re-records it, bringing key figures of the scene as guest musicians. It collects exclusive new tracks as well as tracks previously only available on vinyl (like covers of the legendary Norwegian bands like Emperor and Burzum), songs from old EPs, puts it all together and creates a remarkable, worthy of the name compilation. The bell rings for no other than Taake, a band that is no stranger to the scene and has a pretty good understanding of the genre and it's identity. I think their version of Nordbundet in here, with Kvarforth and Nocturno Culto handling the vocals, should be an anthem for all black metallers, and all black metallers have to get this. Covers of Von and Destruction are also included in the second disk.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dodsferd - A Breed of Parasites (2013)

Album | A Breed of Parasites
Country | Greece
Genre | Black Metal, Dark Ambient
Label | Funeral Industries

| Tired to be alive |

A band with a history and a serious name inside and outside the national borders, Dodsferd are one of the most notorious acts from Greece, who has been spitting aggressive anger for more than ten years now. Their anti-human concept and direct music is generally appreciated by the fans and their name often comes up in conversations about suicidal / raw black metal, therefore they are a band to look out by definition for me. From what I have listened in the past, I don't think their are albums are more than average or over the top, even though I have an urge to listen from time to time.

What is more, 2013 seems like a really active year for the band, since two splits, a compilation, an EP and this full length were all released this year. I gave this a head start since it's the full record of the year and it was not the kind of black metal they used to play after all. The band has taken a turn into something more melodic and atmospheric without losing it's depressive subject, while absorbing ideas from genres like post-black or melodic black, as well as dark ambient / noise. The outcome is very solid and interesting, with a fair dose of originality.

A Breed of Parasites contains eight compositions with a total length of thirty two minutes, including a nine minute cover of the song "Eternal Bliss... Eternal Death" by Judas Iscariot. Meaning that the new music included in the album is a little less than twenty five minutes, not very long for a full length album and insufficient for many. I would not hesitate in naming this a full length and I believe it's more of an EP, even though the issue doesn't effect the quality at all. Dodsferd are coming up with a bunch of releases (including the The Parasitic Survival of the Human Race record) and there is plenty of material available. I would prefer a longer album just so I would listen to more of this.

Listening to it, one comes across a rather unusual track arrangement. There are two long tracks, lasting 8-9 minutes, along with the Judas Iscariot cover. In between, three instrumentals have been placed, each one relatively shorter and vocal-free, like the typical interlude used in the middle of various records. When other bands include one interlude in a ten track album, Dodsferd choose to include three of them in an already briefer package. The ending of the last track is also a 2-3 minute ambient piece, which makes this album almost half black metal, half dark ambient. Not only does it work, but also it is successful at preserving the listener's attention.

The instrumentals are legit and compelling, showing a talent of the band in creating a dark atmosphere with synths. The opening track "An Unbearable Pain" contains a repetitive guitar note with scattered sounds behind it, while a great couple of synth lines is played towards it's and. Track 3 "... Til the Day You Die" is more minimalistic and shadowy, close to drone / noise and track 5 "The Burden of Feeling Alive" is strongly bleak and dispiriting. It would fit for a noisy intro of an old Shining record, having a depressing melody and various noises that can play mind games with your head if heard too carefully. In other words, sheer awesomeness and success.

I'm satisfied with the black metal part of the album as well. The tracks have variety, they are well composed and in very good shape, when it comes to the sound. The album is glistening enough as much as a record of modern black metal does but it doesn't abandon it's past completely, don't expect a family friendly record. I enjoyed the solos of the tracks and the attention that has been given to them not only by the guitarists Nadir and Wrath, but by the compositions themselves, which are not chocking them out. Another aspect that brought up Shining to me, especially the solo part in "Burning the Symbols of Your God ". Even the cover is executed in a personal way, adding some ambient in the beginning and giving more emphasis to the already existing synths. Finally, I feel obliged to leave some credits for the vocalist Wrath, as his howls and screams are just glorious.

The band experimented with A Breed of Parasites, integrating heavy ambiance into their tracks and the record as a whole. The change was a certain risk to take, given that the followers of the raw black metal scene are never satisfied with anything clean or melodic, but still the band came through and put out an album worth listening to. Now, if this had a couple of full tracks more, reaching 45-50 minutes in length maybe, it would definitely be a remarkable effort by Dodsferd. At least, it's one of the releases I have enjoyed the most by them so far.

DAMAGE: 7.5/10

Friday, December 13, 2013

Path to Ixtab - Black Sky (2013)

Album | Black Sky
Country | Greece
Genre | Black / Death Metal
Label | Self-released

Path to Ixtab are a newcomer band from Greece that was formed in 2012, consisting of two members, one of them also involved in the stoner / doom act Brotherhood of Sleep. They have not built their own fanbase quite yet, even though it seems like a well organized and serious band, already in a label and with a debut full length for a taste of what they are doing here. One would quickly notice the lovely cover art done by Antreas Admc07 (reminds a bit of the new Lantern album art) and the artistic logo of the band, which makes it even more interesting when getting into the music of their record Black Sky. The album contains eight tracks and lasts thirty eight minutes.

If you expect some bestial, dirty black / death like other bands I review from time to time, you're way off on this one, since it has nothing to do with that style whatsoever. What we have here is a middle paced, calm and easy going metal album, with a little harsh vocals to remind of it's aspirations and hardly any breakthrough moments as a whole. The tempo of the album is kept at the same, average level (with very few exceptions, like the track "Axe In Hand" that actually reminds of black metal), which implies that  the band tried to create a certain atmosphere but didn't go anywhere, since the tracks are based on weak and illusive ideas. Eventually, the same tone of chafing noise grows more boring and nonchalant, leaving the listener waiting for signs of anything interesting apart from the looks.

As I said in the beginning, it looks like the band has taken this project seriously and that is obvious from the production of their album as well. It was carefully mastered, so that every instrument has it's way into the spotlight and the sound is generally friendly and listenable, but still it can't revive the corpse of the incurious music. To me, it sounds like Serafim (the guitarist and vocalist) brought his stoner touch into this new, darker project and injected them into an already fragile compositional structure, making the album sound incoherent and apathetic. It is described as black / death metal in Metal Archives and various other sources, yet I'm having trouble discovering any death metal elements at all.

In the band's line up, there is no one playing the bass, I assume they don't use it at all and I miss it. While it's often that the bass sound of the band is not directly audible, it serves it's purpose very well on creating a background layer that fills the possible holes of the guitars and drums, which are left wide open here and turn out to be very hurtful to the album. The musicianship is not anything special as well, with dull melodies and conventional, soulless drumming, followed by the average kind of shrieked vocals. Black Sky sounds forced and harmless. Like these dudes are kept back, afraid to play as hard as their genre sounds like, with nothing to offer at the end of the day.

Frankly, there are no standout tracks. I would only point out a couple of parts in "Axe In Hand" where it gets a little bit lively, but that feeling quickly vanishes when the music returns to it's original state of hibernation. In fact, there are two tracks named "Prayer 1" and "Prayer 2" that include something like a chant, and the Greek accent of the guy makes it hysterical to listen to. It is a defect of the album, since it make it even more unattractive than it previously was, it doesn't sound sophisticated or dark or anything like that. It's lame. Bashing a new band like that might not be totally correct and I don't usually do it, but I personally think it's not right to approve of any nonsense band just because they're still "young" either. I'm almost annoyed by this album and hope things will improve for the band, the two guys should sooner or later find each other in the process of the song writing, and avoid any blunder albums like that in the future.

DAMAGE: 1.5/10


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Door to Door Promotion: Mist - Demo 2013

 Dear witch hunters and fellow headbangers,

Mist is a new all-female occult doom metal band from Ljubljana (Slovenia), formed in July 2012. They build their music on the legacy of legendary bands like Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Candlemass, Coven, Saint Vitus and others. With the premiere live show at the end of September 2013 the girls without a doubt demonstrated, that such a specific genre of music is not necessarily just a men's domain. The band just released a limited edition of their demo simply entitled Demo 2013, which is already sold out.

Line Up:
Nina Spruk - vocals
Ema Babošek - rhythm guitar & backing vocals
Nina Grizonič - lead guitar
Neža Pečan - bass
Mihaela Žitko - drums


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Crypticus - The Barrens (2013)

Album | The Barrens
Country | USA
Genre | Death Metal
Label | Razorback Records

| The clocktower chimes the 13th time |

Crypticus is yet another band that leans towards horror concepts and riff based compositions, creating average but enjoyable albums recommended for any age. Even though there isn't much going on when you're listening to them, it doesn't feel like they're doing something wrong, but more like they aren't doing something special either. The Barrens is their third and latest album to date and it offers some really tasty grooves, as well as occult aspirations, and that's about it. Apart from a couple of great moments, I didn't find the album that fascinating after all.

The band consists of two guys and one of them is a Norwegian dude that has experience with bands like Megascavenger and The Grotesquery, stepping into the realm of Rogga Johansson and his countless projects. Crypticus seem to be influenced and have some characteristics of that part of Swedish death metal, mainly because of the lyrical theme, the general aesthetics and the stomping riffing attitude they have. The Barrens contains eleven tracks (and a bonus one in physical format) and lasts thirty four minutes. It sounds like these guys have laid back on the already known recipes, comfortably recreating them with a few personal additions and little spirit to present, as if they know which notes to play, but not why they should be played.

My first objection on the album is the gargling vocals. While it seems like they're decent growls, they don't sound painful or staggering at all, delivering some kind of boredom from the vocalist who was eager for this shit to get on. I can't call a growl decent, especially when it doesn't have the power and the intention to dominate as a main part of a record like that, failing to draw any attention as the listener focuses more and more on the rest of the instruments and eventually on nothing at all. If you listen to each track closely, you get the feeling that the vocals were recorded in a low volume which was courageously increased to catch up with the overly boosted guitars.

Which brings me to another weak point of the album, which is the production. I don't like the way it has been mixed, erasing any signs of bass, squashing the drums into one-dimensional, fake sounding hits, dragging the vocals on the top and the guitars right behind them. From the first songs, it's obvious how the toms have been strangely altered into click sounds while the snares and high hats are notably cleaner, a common result of sloppy production, which would not be such a deal if the album didn't have all these blast beats. They are capable of giving you a headache for that reason and The Barrens is full of them. The drummer goes for solid musicianship and does whatever possible to accompany the songs, but his partial success is clouded by the annoying sound they later arranged in the studio.

On the other hand, the guitar work is splendid. The tracks have great melodies and great changes, as well as some exciting solos. For the most part, the album is suitable for drinking and headbanging, insinuating the use of bulky riffs in it's entirety. Specifically, I enjoyed "Together Towards Terror", Being the best aspect of the whole thing, it's what makes The Barrens a little memorable and the reason it was kept alive in my head, for a little while, after it finished. The band also uses a bit of synth lines in a couple of songs and in the introduction, accurately and correctly used to add to the horror vibe in tracks like "Necronom IX" and "Misanthropy Mine", the latter being the standout track of the whole album.

I believe the album will be an attraction for a significant part of the scene and it will generally get positive comments. However, it's fragile sound and disturbing vocals overthrew it into the dumpster and I'm not coming back to it any soon. If this is what the band had to offer five years after the release of their previous full length They Called Me Mad!, I am not impressed at all. A nice cover, some solid lyrics (and parts of them taken as quote texts) and regular jamming is not enough for me, and me only. I encourage you to listen for yourself and you might find something in there, it's not completely drained.

DAMAGE: 4.5/10

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Countess - Sermons of the Infidel [EP] (2013)

Country | Netherlands
Genre | Black / Heavy Metal
Label | Self-released
Dynamic range | DR7

| Ancient fires are lit again |

Countess have a huge history and discography behind them, rooting back to the early nineties and the beginnings of the second wave. With medium ranged but steady and solid albums, it's a band that has lived in the underground for more than two decades and the mastermind behind it, Orlok, still has some ideas to put into practice. My first experience with the band was when I found their first four albums, back when I was listening to any black metal release of 1990-1995 I could get my hands on. They were a bit unstable musically, but he managed to snap out of the fatigue and release some really good albums in the mid 2000s, like Heilig Vuur and Blazing Flames of War. I still need some time to examine all his albums more closely.

Sermons of the Infidel is the latest EP by the band and it was released in the early summer of this year, as a digital release. I think it was only released digitally because of the missing budget to finance physical copies, but it doesn't matter that much to me. Despite being an EP, it's thirty five minutes length could easily fit for a full record release of a regular band, but not Countess of course. Orlok chooses to release full lengths that feature over an hour of music at least. Nonetheless, a booklet of the album is included in the digital purchase. It's also not completely an one man project anymore, since there is another member named Zagan that plays the guitars (he has helped the band with albums before).

The production here is pretty gratifying and by no means noisy. It sounds polished and warm, keeping a specific tone over the album which is not comparable to shitty recording by an obscure black metal band. The drums, the guitars, the vocals and the bass are highly audible, allocating the listener with a legit result that gives the music the space it deserves. However, one can say that it is a bit overdone with the mixing, as it's almost sterile as a whole and lacks any ounce of dirt that some fans actually crave for. A lot of work has been done in the studio and this production fits to the essence of a digital release, as it relegates to "digitalized" sound.

The tracks of the record represent very well the uncompromising playing style of Orlok, which can not be labeled in one specific genre at all. Paying respect to the old underground attitude and classic black and heavy metal bands, Sermons of the Infidel includes simple compositions of lot's of guitar riffing and synths, the two main elements of the record. One can listen to various styles and subgenres of metal in there, knitted nicely by a really talented musician who knows what he's doing by now. Listening to tracks like "Child of the Millenia" and "Son of the Dragon", you can't directly match it with another band and it just sounds like Countess, proving it's originality even after many years.

A component that does not go completely well with the shiny sound is his vocals. Coming from the extreme underground, Orlok still possesses a harsh and ominous tongue that spits his anger perfectly, but with the instrumentation not following the same menace, it sometimes fail in delivering. It also doesn't serve the more heavy metal driven moments of the albums like in the song "Chosen by the Gods", which im my opinion, would be great even if it was an instrumental track. The record is generally middle paced and the total of eight songs go from three to five minutes, focusing on building up atmosphere and melody over than brutality.

The two tracks that I think are the most memorable and stand out on top among the rest, are the first two. "Hymn to the Gods of Yore" has an awesome synth line and great lyrics, as well as very good melodies for you to enjoy by the time the album opens, since it's also the first track of the record. The second "Trumpets of Dawn" contains a couple of very cool riffs and a more nostalgic synth part in moments, as well as a melodic solo towards the end. I could not find the lyrics for this or any other track of the album except the introductory one, but still the vocals are distinguishable for the most part.

In general, Sermons of the Infidel is a nice record with the familiar Countess feel. It's easy to reach to a conclusion of disliking them because of their character, but after a couple of listens it's easy to recognize some things that worth the listen and even if it's not a full album, it does show what the band sounds like today. I myself enjoyed a couple of tracks a lot and I think this combination of black and heavy metal is meant only to serve underground quality music and nothing more. For newcomers, I suggest you get a taste of their first albums as well and then go into this, there is something for everyone in the box.

DAMAGE: 7.5/10


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Beastiality - Ancient Ball Chimes [Demo] (2013)

Country | Sweden
Genre | Death Metal
Label | Self-released
Dynamic range | DR6

| Witches' Funeral |

I almost check Swedish death metal bands blindfolded, in case we're talking about old school fanatics instead of the Gothenburg scene, which is cool but not as cool, let's be honest. Constantly searching for new bands, one is pleased when one finds a legit Entombed copycat, always having the desire for originality as a secret wish on the back of their mind. Now, you can't tell Beastiality from Stockholm completely innovative, but they do sound like themselves in their first ever demo, Ancient Ball Chimes.

The production is really dirty. The instruments sound dusty, the drums are hidden behind the buzz and the vocals are a mix of growls / screams / whispers, something from the depths of hell, worn out and rough. However, everything is pleasingly audible and the noise is deliberately channeled towards building a thick layer of a stenching rabble, totally raw and haunting in it's entirety. The demo grows in you the more you listen to it, provided that the necessary time is given to it.

The concept of the band revolves around witchcraft, Satan and morbid subjects, which gives them a more occult label compared to the classics of the scene. Ancient Ball Chimes is generally more malefic than the average death metal record, with a furious pace that doesn't really go into the doom department at all. The three songs included in here offer a total of thirteen minutes of music, containing a bunch of melodies and a few samples for you to grasp on while trying to choose your favorite track off them. For me, the standout track is the last "Funeral of A Virgin Sinner", since it has an awesome bell intro (I have a thing for church bells, I'm sorry), really interesting and dark riffs, but most of all, a peculiar clean vocal scream towards the end, that sounds a bit distorted even for  the underground heavy metal standards.

The demo is very close to black metal aesthetically as well as musically. In fact, I was thinking of early Bathory throughout the whole recording, especially in the first song "Curse of the Devil". Given that these guys come from the same country, it's more than logical for one think that they are influenced by the first Quorthon era. That's probably the reason why it's not pure death metal like other Swedish bands, drawing influences from two different genres. Generally, I would place this as a combination of early 80s black / thrash, combined with the first wave of black as well as Swedish death, with equal doses of the first two and a larger one of the third.

Ancient Ball Chimes is for the lovers of extreme metal demo recordings. The band has produced it in a way that it's personality does not drift away while it unfolds and it has a respectable degree of quality, touching various underground genres in various moments. I'm going to look out for these guys, hoping that they will record and release a full length album anytime soon. Until then, I guarantee that they deserve your attention.

DAMAGE: 8.0/10


Monday, December 02, 2013

Coffin Lust - Beyond the Dark [Demo] (2012)

Country | Australia
Genre | Death Metal
Label | Sarlacc Productions
Dynamic range | DR10

I have to admit, that I have connected Australia with the hardcore / whatevercore scene in general and not with much activity outside that whatsoever. Of course I'm wrong and there are numerous, obvious exceptions, but still there are more than enough bands like that over there. However, Coffin Lust come from Victoria with a first demo that seems to be very close to traditional, solid and appreciated death metal, simple minded and yet very beautiful in execution. The record contains four tracks of around three to five minutes in length each.

Musically, the band uses catchy riffs straight from the nineties, as well as regular drum patterns behind each track, followed by the present but a bit quiet bass work. A highlight of the demo is the vocals, which are straightforward caveman growls, similar to these of classic death metal bands we all love. The production is amazing and equal to one of a full length, offering a polished and powerful sound.

In the veins of bands like Autopsy, Bolt Thrower or Grave, these guys avoid pointless technicality and aim high with slower and more hurtful compositions, creating a both brutal and evil outcome. he band doesn't have it's own sound completely, but in a way it produces something above average, somewhere between old school death metal and doom / death, with hidden highlight moments like in the tracks "Fading Life" (which begins with a cool sample of wind and a church bell) and "Forsaken". The closing "Beyond the Dark" is as fast as they get and it's fanatical about it's roots, also a wonderful song.

As a debut demo, it's legit and very promising for what's going to follow in the future. The demo was originally released on tape but the copies were sold quick, so a second CD press was released a bit later, in a remastered version. The remastered tracks sound a bit cleaner, but only towards a better result.

DAMAGE: 7.75/10

Friday, November 29, 2013

Moonblood - Blut und Krieg (1996)

Country | Germany
Genre | Black Metal
Label | Majestic Union
Dynamic range | DR8

| Under the forests, the mountains |

Perhaps one of the most respected names in underground black metal, through hard work and many releases, with a firm stance for over a decade, they carved out their own name in the history of the scene. No other than the infamous Moonblood, the German act of Occulta Mors and Gaamalzagoth, still continues to have a strong impact even after they disbanded in 2004. Blut Und Krieg is their maiden full length album after many rehearsals and demos, originally released on cassette and later re-released by many companies in all physical forms possible that's it's now hard to recognize originals from zine / label copies. The originals, adopted by Moonblood themselves, were only cassettes and vinyls, since "CD versions were very easily accessible by everyone". This band is my own personal favorite, and the very first I heard of black metal. Maybe a little unorthodox beginning, but I am glad that I have discovered them.

True to the essence of unclean production, the band does not spend time perfecting their sound in the studio, with a purpose to create something totally primitive. Every instrument is audible and that's satisfying, but the mixing and mastering seems incomplete. Many fans have this band as a comparing standard when talking about how raw a different band sounds, but it's distinguishable and completely epic from the start to the end, don't think that it's noisy and unlistenable. The musicianship does not consist of instrument machines and there is no shredding anywhere, both members possess the vision and the talent to compose great songs of accurate lines, and not necessarily complex or difficult.

The album starts with an atmospheric introduction with interesting samples and a church bell . It takes less than a minute, but it is more than enough to create the right, dim and dull atmosphere. First track "In a Bloody Night of Full Moon" enters at medium speed , with simple riffs and drums, based on a melody of a synth and it's pretty epic. It can be compared with "Det Som En Gang Var" by Burzum, having the familiar style of Moonblood and quite good for the first track on the disc. The second track is called "Shadows" and it is relatively fast and more "uplifting", as in the introduction there is a 80s heavy metal riff with solid screaming, later including a good tremolo melody. The drums are faster and closer to the style of the genre than in the previous track. The "... And The Snow Covered The Lifeless Bodies" begins with a cold melody, which compulsively creeps up the main part of the piece, having nice guitar lines. It keeps a constant rate and no major changes during it's nine minutes of length.

The next track is called "My Evil Soul" and it's a track from a previous rehearsal they had recorded, one of the strongest tracks on the album . It's faster and more direct than the rest, the combination of orchestration and unearthly voice creates an awesome effect. The title track begins with a melody similar to "... And The Snow ..." and slows the album down again, as a nostalgic synth line shows itself. The "Kingdom of Forgotten Dreams", has interesting riffs and works as a standard Moonblood track. Then, "Under the Cold Fullmoon" is an amazing track. It combines slow-moving melodies with epic moments , all instruments perfectly coexist and the voice is incredible. The last track "I Am All" follows the footsteps of the previous one, with the same duration and intensity. The album closes with a two-minute outro, consisting of keyboards and vocals, without being anything special .

As a whole , the album is very good , and it has dedicated to one attention and time. The particular production is this that makes the assembly stand , which is quite dirty, but without burying a component of music. The vocals are a little louder than they should be throughout the disc, but not to a point that they ruin the result. Even though a full length might be irrelevant with these guys, since the production and sound of their albums is very similar to the demo recordings (anything cleaner is of no need), it's good to have some specific points of reference. Blut Und Krieg is such an album for this band so if you want to get into them but you're confused with the large number of rehearsals, demos, splits etc.. Start from here! Great band with a great admiration of their own spirit.

DAMAGE: 8.25/10

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Archgoat - Whore of Bethlehem (2006)

Country | Finland
Genre | Black / Death Metal
Label | Osmose Productions
Dynamic range | DR9

| Against all white light |

Each genre and sub genre is characterized by a couple of breakthrough bands that first started with that particular music, motivating many others with their albums. In a way, ungraceful black / death metal is not an established subcategory (as symphonic black metal for example) but there is a whole scene based around it, starting back in the early nineties. Now, it's true that most of the bands in there are nothing more than whining drunks with a very immature and easy to go touch in their stuff, which consists of a lot of swearing, genitalia and upside down crosses. Tell me when I have to get scared.

One of these milestone bands for this genre are indeed Archgoat. Despite having very few releases and only some years activity in 1989-1993, it seems to be one of the major influences around here. Coming back from the dead in 2005, Whore of Bethlehem is in fact the debut full length album by the band. I would be happy with a trve kvlt record in 1992-1994 because it would surely be worshiped later on, but hey, it's never too late. So, what do we have to expect from the first full album by Archgoat? Not much have changed and it should stay that way, with the dudes focusing on pure madness and bestiality for about thirty five minutes. If you have heard their first EP Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration) and loved it, with a silent wish of a longer record in the back of your mind, this is for you. After a nonsense MCD in 2005 which almost buried them alive, they pick things up right from where they left them in 1993 and put out a -by all means- solid record.

Of course, the genre is somehow doomed to mediocrity inside it's own borders, since bands like these never demonstrate something unique or fascinating musically. I doubt they give a damn about it either, since the sole purpose is to be ugly and attacking, so every bands that succeeds that can be considered "good" by me. I don't have a lot of complaints about Whore of Bethlehem, as it balances nicely between pure blasphemy and musical structure, without giving emphasis on one of the two alone. The same ingredients are used once more, from the filthy black / death riffs, to the monstrous vocals and the hard hitting drums, as well as a steady bass sound, is the alpha and the omega for the band. The sound of the album is low pitched and scourging, lacking variety for it's own good. The old but adored church bells and synths are included in a couple of songs, like in "Dawn of the Black Light.

It's not creative or rich, but it feels great to listen to. It's typical Archgoat but in a larger proportion, dressed in a dusty and hostile production, putting it right in every playlist, when you feel like sacrificing goats in the name of Lucifer, while cursing religion in any way possible. You are not going to fall apart from it's sheer musical genius, but surely it has the needed brutality and rawness.

DAMAGE: 7.25/10


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Archgoat - Angelslaying Black Fucking Metal [EP] (2005)

Country | Finland
Genre | Black / Death Metal
Label | Hammer of Hate Records
Dynamic range | DR7
 With a few short releases, Archgoat decided to split after the release of their debut EP Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration), only to come back to life eleven years later and start working on new material. Angelslaying Black Fucking Metal was what the band decided to offer to the hungry fans that have been anxious about it all this time, another EP one year after the regroup, pretty much in the vain of their older stuff. However, this record much weaker and more shallow, compared to previous stuff.

If one thought that Angelcunt was short, lasting only thirteen minutes, they should check this out. Three songs that barely pass five and a half minutes in total, certainly too short and to quick for one to notice in a load of music or similar. These three tracks combined could easily be used as one filler track for an actual whole album, it contains such a small amount of music. That was a cruel comeback dudes. I believe they were in a hurry to release a full length (that came out in 2006) and wanted to put out something before it, so the EP was created in something like a day or so, like the listeners would not notice.

However, I think many fans that like this band are satisfied by the EP, which doesn't lack anything for the standards of Archgoat. It's not friendly melodic, instead it still is uncompromising, raw and heavy. The compositional level is not hard to reach, but it seems like they had better things to do during the conception of this, as if it's something they hadn't completely think through. The production is more polished and doesn't have the filth of the early nineties, which was lovely. Instead, it has created a metallic sound for the guitars and left the drums a little behind, making the sound cleaner but not improved by any means. Even the vocals don't have the bits of diversity they had on Angelcunt, they are limited to monotonous growling only.

There is "Penis Perversor", aggressively opening the record with some screaming samples and the same old riffs, for about two minutes. It is a punching track but doesn't get out of the bathroom. The second "Thrice Damned Sodomizer (Stream Of Blood)" is the longest and most solid song here, it gives the impression of a full song and has a couple of nice synths here and there. The last track "Satanic Oath" lasts 43 seconds and it's relatively useless. Again, the band does not stray from the cloud of death metal that much, meaning very un-technical and watered down death metal over the actual genre. Therefore, this EP sucks in two genres.

I enjoyed the first EP very much but almost hated the second. Maybe I had negative thoughts about it before listening, but if it had anything interesting, it would change my mind. With a stomping title and some empty songs, it seems like they tried to recapture the love of the scene from nothing and if this is considered a return, it's a god damn lame one. Hopefully, their later full albums were meant to repay me and everyone else in full or even more...

DAMAGE: 1.0/10