Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gorgoroth - Incipit Satan (2000)

Album | Incipit Satan
Country | Norway
Genre | Black Metal
Label | Nuclear Blast

Incipit Satan is one of the most popular Gorgoroth albums and has helped a lot to their worldwide and permanent exposure all these years, as a follow-up of a great legacy and a couple of wrong turns, to be fair. This fifth full length by the band was released at the dawn of the new millenia and it's the first to feature almighty Gaahl as a ful ltime vocalist, as well as the insertion of King ov Hell, or simply King, to the bass. The album is dedicated to Grim, or Erik Brødreskift, (their drummer in Under the Sign of Hell and The Tormentor EP) who had died a year before from drug overdose.

Gorgoroth had shown signs of attraction to the industrial sample noise a bit in their bland album Destroyer, which was released in 1998. One could guess that a logical continuation of the band would be to attach these sounds fully to their music and while they didn't exactly do it, Incipit Satan has the industrial element a little more strongly. The opening, self-titled track has such a part, as well as the second "A World to Win", even though their main body is basically quite grinding. "Will To Power" is fully instrumental and very close to what one would call dark ambient / noise / industrial, having a minimal and sweet feel.

The record features clean vocals by both Infernus and Gaahl. The fifth track "An Excerpt of X" was completely composed by Infernus and he does a certain type of a narrating voice, in a composition where his sorrowful middle-paced style, is naturally dominating. There are well known lines in that track, used as a bridge between the attacking "Unchain my Heart" and the primitive "Ein Eim Av Blod Og Helvetesild". Gaahl sings in clean voice on "Litani til Satan" which and "When Love Rages Wild in My Heart", both of them being very easy listening and almost rock sounded in some moments.

With their second effort in the roster of Nuclear Blast, the band has managed to clean their production into a sterile and acceptable sound, making them even more harmless. Slowly and fully stepping into the mainstream, with Incipit Satan they became the band everyone can deal with, losing their once personal spirit and distinction from the rest of the scene. Even the track titles "Unchain My Heart" and "When Love Rages Wild In My Heart" suggest a soft and naive emotional approach and had me laughing the first time I read them. Still, I believe the crazy piano intro in "Unchain My Heart" and the whole song in general, is a standout for the album.

Musically, it seems like Infernus still has the upper hand in the compositional process over King / Gaahl. I prefer it a lot over Under the Sign of Hell and Destroyer, especially in tracks like "Incipit Satan", which is more than solid. The new characteristics that were introduced by the band did not fully fall to place, even though the outcome generally works fine, maintaining a very basic point of stability. Incipit Satan doesn't deliver the same amount of rawness and hate as the name of Gorgoroth carries, it contains a couple of nice moments but nothing more than that, really. The momentum built by it's intense tracks is counterbalanced and destroyed by it's smoother side.

While I don't consider this record bad, I strongly believe that it is an average offering by the band. Nonetheless, the track "Incipit Satan" has grown to be one of Gorgoroth's trademarks and it depicts the band's style when into the spotlight, including new ideas in such a way that the fans won't possible hate them. I would prefer more ferocity and less romantic poetry from them and I can only stick to two or three tracks off the whole album, the ones I fould cool and memorable. It is by now sure that the brilliance of their first record will never be surpassed.

DAMAGE: 6/10

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Morbus Chron - Sweven (2014)

Album | Sweven
Country | Sweden
Genre | Death Metal
Label | Century Media Records

| Aurora In the offing |

Up and rising from Sweden, Morbus Chron come with their second full length Sweven, this time under the banner of Century Media, two years after their previous EP release in 2012. For the people that are not familiar with the band, confusion and curiosity should be common feelings, as these guys don't follow any rules at all with what they do, in a way that even the label "death metal" is somehow misleading. The first positive shock came with the colorful Sleepers in the Rift in 2011 and now it's time again to praise them for another glorious release. If you think you have listened it all when it comes to death metal from Sweden, Morbus Chron are always ready for a punch to the standards.

One can smell the peculiarity of the record from it's very album cover. Where are the skeletons, the graves and the well placed gore drawings? There aren't any because the band isn't of that kind, at least musically, which makes them even more interesting at first listen. The enigmatic painting of the growing face figure and the haze of blue / purple / white / black colors have an obvious artistic touch that only modern metal nerds would enjoy, it could fit to various non-metal albums and that's why die hard fans might already build hating momentum. Since I enjoy both sides of the river, I entered Sweven (which means something like a dream, adding to the album's looks) with a good mood.

The album is quite longer than their previous full length, climbing up to fifty two minutes in length (when Sleepers in the Rift was around thirty five) which makes it quite a tome of music. It's not easy to break it into parts either as the tracks are connected, a characteristic that helps a lot the flow of the album, if one wants to listen to it all together and not track by track. While Sleepers in the Rift had it's calm parts, they appear more than often here and the heavy moments have gone to a more melodic and technical path, saying that in the most positive way as possible, even getting a bit psychedelic from time to time. The compositions are both droning and dissonant, pretty innovative and well written as a whole, throwing in surprises whenever possible.

I don't know there is a thing such as "post-death metal" (the ending of the album in "Terminus" sounds like the outro of any minimalistic post-rock band) but it is the closest I can think of about Morbus Chron and Sweven. They maintain a pretty dark atmosphere from the first minutes with introduction "Berceuse", also presenting their unusual playing style which evolves into magnificent tracks such as "Ripening Life", "Chains" and "The Perennial Link". The acoustic parts are haunting and burdensome and have a significant part to the album's outcome. When it get's more intense, it's equally mesmerizing. The production of the album is excellent, the instruments sound amazing as if you can actually hear them breathing, keeping the dynamic range as high as DR9, which is acceptable by all means.

Sweven goes through visionary melodies and sounds, it's entertaining and unique. The band members did a hell of a job with creating the layers of the album, while the vocalist Edvin Aftonfalk has a quite personal voice, somewhere between the shouting of Obliteration and some more shrieked screaming. There was not any traditional growling, the way the rest of the Swedish bands do, ensuring how Morbus Chron wishes to differ from that scene. In overall, this record has lot's of good moments to give to the listener. It's appropriate for brave supporters of weirder and "avant-garde" sounds, as I'm not sure if the old school maniacs will approve. It still kicks ass though.

DAMAGE: 8.75/10


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Aborted Fetus - Private Judgement Day (2014)

Album | Private Judgement Day
Country | Russia
Genre | Brutal Death Metal
Label | Comatose Music

I found out about Aborted Fetus from an old forum I once frequently visited in a random conversation about metal genres, back then I was into such bands mainly because of the titles and the artwork, more than the music itself. It is true that I prefer other Russian bands when it comes to brutal death metal, like Abominable Putridity and Katalepsy, but these guys also come to mind now and then. Therefore, I was looking forward to listening to this album, even though one knows what to expect from it, especially when one has heard a band's previous material.

As most of the bands alike, Aborted Fetus are all but slams, groovy riffs, blast beats and guttural vocals. Coming with a delicious and artistic cover, which represents the usual chaotic gore apocalypse we know, it's title and song titles are not extremely disgusting this time, compared to some of their past namings (if you can't stand these ones, don't go anywhere deeper into brutal death, really). Of course, there are "Fuck in the Pesthole" and "Malignant Pregnancy" which suggest of something, but the average title choices are ok. In fact, Private Judgement Day could be any band's album title. Even though most bands go as gross as possible, Aborted Fetus keep it close and stick to their brutal music.

Fans of the band and the genre are probably going to dig this hard, because of the same reasons they enjoy that style. Aborted Fetus know how to hammer tasty grooves in your face and it's heavy as it needs to be, at it's comfortable and cozy DR4 production, the most common outcome of the whole genre. For that, the production is pretty jammed but nobody would even care to notice. Private Judgement Day has a relatively riotous sound, without being the unbearable kind of noise necessarily, similar to their previous full length Goresoaked Clinical Accidents, and slightly worse than Fatal Dogmatic Damage.

Musically, the band is just pure brutal death metal. There are a couple of screaming / horror samples in various songs, as in the very beginning of the record with "Savage Dominance", and also in "Private Judgement Day", "Brown Totem" and "Morning Inferno". Such samples have always appealed to me a lot, sometimes more than the rest of the songs, and I expect to hear one or two in every record like that I get. The drums go quite fast and repetitively throw several combined hits, while the guitar work uses the absolute basic characteristics of the genre to build compositions. The vocal range includes guttural, growls and often pig squeels. Don't expect to understand the lyrics, if there are any.

Private Judgement Day contains twenty five minutes of what Aborted Fetus do best and it's not expanding anywhere further that, to be sincere. It would be an enjoyable listen and a really good album for die hard fans, or people who can keep up with just brutality in their music. I like my brutal death from time to time but I consider it somewhat inferior to actual straightforward death metal, so an average or even a considered good band won't move the earth at all over here. Still, it's a legit album as a whole, quite attractive to a certain kind of fans.

DAMAGE: 6.5/10


Monday, February 17, 2014

Sun Worship - Elder Giants (2014)

Album | Elder Giants
Country | Germany
Genre | Atmospheric Black Metal
Label | View from the Coffin

This band's EP Surpass Eclipse hit a good ranking in my top 15 EPs for 2013, since it felt like a new and amazing discovery of mine into the atmospheric black metal scene. Naturally, I missed any warnings about the full record that was being prepared since then, which is also the debut of the band, and I must admit I listened to it with more excitement than normal. Getting into a band as they evolve is a great feeling and with Elder Giants, I think Sun Worship prove they have all that's needed to climb to the top.

It is a record that fits perfectly to the modern atmospheric black metal scene, because of it's abysmal song writing and discordant vocals. The songs last from six to thirteen minutes and they are not keen in compositional variety, as Sun Worship  play a thick and immense riff, enhancing it with the whole instrumentation for a couple of minutes, before getting into a different or vocal section. The few changes are perfect and the album's atmosphere is presented from the first minutes, thought provoking and effective as it is.

The tempo of the record is mostly kept at high rates, as the band expresses intense moments of black metal as a main characteristic of their music. If you take the fast paced and chaotic parts of Ash Borer, you can have a fairly good image of the first two songs on Elder Giants, which are "We Sleep" and "The Absolute Is Becoming". There are breathtaking and addictive guitar melodies in there, likeable in the same manner that I liked Surpass Eclipse, with the end of the latter slowing down a bit into a middle paced part, clearing the way for the self-titled masterpiece...

... Which is the third track of the album and it's by far the best here. It's the second longest and musically the fullest in Elder Giants, embodying wonderful riffs (like the one during the beginning of the fifth minute, which is simply grandiose), as well as a combination of middle paced and fast paced moments and an overall crushing epicness. A standout track for sure and one of the highlights of the year so far to me, having a strong impact in the first place. Towards the end, it closes with an electronic buzz that concludes to the last track "Transneptunian (Infinite Gaze)".

At first, I did not think positively of this ending track. It's mainly electronic and steps into noise / dark ambient, which got me thinking that I would prefer another straightforward track like the other three at first. Yet, after a couple of listens it turned out that it is in fact brilliantly placed, brings the listener back from their celestial journey and includes some minimalistic and nice tones, close to Burzum's Tomhet. It's not just another boring outro that everyone skips when listening to albums like this.

These and the notable artwork by View From The Coffin make up an legit album worth listening to. Even though it's close to the so called hipster black metal scene, it lacks any useless post-rock elements and calm moments, it has more character and definitely more guts. I wouldn't expect anything less from a German band, as the country has a good history on black metal, therefore you have nothing to be afraid of before listening to this.

DAMAGE: 9.25/10


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Töxik Death - Speed Metal Hell (2014)

Album | Speed Metal Hell
Country | Norway
Genre | Black / Thrash Metal
Label | Demonhood Productions

| Sergeant of the wasteland |

As much as I like present-day thrash metal, a dose of the relentless, old school touch is always fine to listen to, especially from new and crazy bands that are formed solely for that reason. From the land of Deathhammer, comes this band named Töxik Death, which lets the album's title and art to speak for itself: Speed Metal Hell  is an anti-poser black / thrash statement that will keep the die hard fans busy for some time, in case they discover it.

The band has released a split with three other bands (Deathhammer, Nekromantheon and Carniwhöre) named Nekrothrash and that's exactly what these guys play. The fast-paced tempo of Motorhead, fused with the aggressiveness of Venom and an addition of the fruits of black / thrash all these years, the mix of Töxik Death is familiar and never getting old, especially when it's done by enthusiasts like them.

All the tracks are catchy riff after catchy riff, torn vocals and fast drums, a couple of solos an underground extreme metal atmosphere. Yet another album for freaks with Speed Metal emblem tattoos and patches, it will not disappoint and it has plenty of enjoyable music during it's half hour of length and total of nine tracks. Of course, the roots of the genre are what dominates the album, all punk / rock n roll / thrash / black are partying alike.

Speed Metal Hell does not introduce the listener to anything new and that's the point of the record in the first place, worshipping it's style to the last bit. From what you might have understood, fans of Witchburner, Aura Noir and the above bands will also love this one. Made by fanatics, for the fanatics.

DAMAGE: 8/10


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Woods of Desolation - As the Stars (2014)

Album | As the Stars
Country | Australia
Genre | Atmospheric / Post-Black Metal
Label | Northern Silence Productions

| Anamnesis of fallen stars |

I always thought of Woods of Desolation as a top depressive black metal act, ever since I found them with their obscure split with Drohtnung in 2008. They have been playind DSBM in the debut full length Toward the Depths and in the Sorh EP, which might not have been the best the genre has seen, but still it was pretty decent to my eyes.

They changed into something more atmospheric and released the phenomenal Torn Beyond Reason, which had an incredible impact on me. Now, the band makes progresses a little bit more and releases the legit As The Stars, in the vein of the modern atmospheric / post-black metal scene.

While the main member of the act is D., there have been guest musicians helping with the writing and recording sessions. So it was done here and there is Old of Drohtnung contributing with his vocals, Vlad from Drudkh in the drum post and the bass player Luke Mills, who also plays in Nazxul and Pestilential Shadows. Unlike other bands, this record was written by all the guys together and it was not strict compositions given out by D. only to be reproduced by the rest of the musicians. Every man has offered his part in it's completion.

Woods of Desolation had never tried recording lot's of average length songs before, as there are seven four to six minute tracks here and that's somehow unusual, especially compared to the long hymns of Torn Beyond Reason. They have become more accessible that way, as each track is reduced to a simplistic verse of parts and a couple of changes, if there are any. As The Stars lasts thirty four minutes.

Musically, it resides in post-rock melodies, dreamy riffs and mellow atmospheric black metal. As they are located far away from the Cascades, they are not completely following the lines but it's basically what one would expect from such bands after discovering Alcest. In fact, you can hear that band in the introduction of "Unfold" or "And If All The Stars Faded Away", As The Stars feels like a b side of a post-black era Alcest record.

Old sings with passion and despair at the same time, with his voice reaching it's highest peak in tracks like "This Autumn Light" and "Withering Field". His vocals are distant and eerie, wonderfully melding with the rest of the instruments. The drumming is rather simplistic and not given more attention than needed at any moment, so I guess it would go unnoticed in the album, apart from sparse moments.

As The Stars often changes mood during it's set. While the album opens with a fast (and the most intense it would ever go) riff followed by the harsh vocals in "Like Falling Leaves", it ends with a rather happy post-rock track like "Ad Infinitum". Even though I could not find any memorable moments, it's really enjoyable listening to as a whole. After this, I still think Torn Beyond Reason is the best they've ever made, while enjoying the new one enough for now.

DAMAGE: 7.5/10


Monday, February 10, 2014

Voidhanger - Working Class Misanthropy (2013)

 Album | Working Class Misanthropy
Country | Poland
Genre | Black / Punk / Thrash Metal
Label | Pagan Records

Voidhanger hail from Poland and they count three releases and two full length albums already, which is a fair amount for a band that has formed in 2010. The band seems well tight already and they have been tickling the attention of the scene since their first Wrathprayers, which was a notable debut by all means. With a post modern title like Working Class Misanthropy, the new record has come to stay and it marks an imposing message for all the fans of black / death / thrash metal. It contains eight songs and thirty three minutes of music in total.

The band dodges the typical concepts of extreme metal in their new record, which isn't totally anti-religious lyrically. Instead, they display their own shaped form of urban hatred, which is a nice break from all the same, all the time. The blend of musical elements they play is also quite personal, as you can hear all kinds of groovy, edgy and heavy melodies throughout the album. I don't know if there is a reference to Darkthrone's "I Am the Working Class" at all, but listening to this reminded me a bit of them, especially in the second and self-titled track. "A Song for Lennon" is also an unusual title for a black / death metal band, even though the actual music isn't as soft as it sounds.

The musicianship is fairly solid and there is an obvious variety of sounds in the album. I really liked the shouting vocals of Warcrimer, which are raw and hurtful, while the rest of the instruments are also great. Priest controls the drums quite good and throws a couple of tricks in there (there is a ride in a couple of lines), as well as the standard playing at various black / thrash / punk moments like "Uniesienie". The guitar work is attractive and it derives from various metal subcategories combined, both old school and state of the art (like the two phrase samples in the first and last song).

In general, Working Class Misantropy is a fast paced record, containing all kinds of headbanging moments. Voidhanger continue their steady and solid way with this energetic and quite interesting offering, which should help in building a fanbase. They have already opened for acts like Inquisition and Nunslaughter, it's a band to look out for in the future.

DAMAGE: 8/10


Saturday, February 08, 2014

Gorgoroth - Destroyer, Or How to Philosophize with the Hammer (1998)

Album | Destroyer, Or How to Philosophize with the Hammer
Country | Norway
Genre | Black Metal
Label | Nuclear Blast Records

I'm not always against bands going very popular and I don't bash them for that single reason, still I have come to mind that Destroyer, Or How to Philosophize with the Hammer is one of the weakest moments in Gorgoroth's carreer, shattering it's potential and the possible status it should have achieved. Signing to Nuclear Blast was a first questionable deed, since they are suspected for eating artirts from the inside, even though the name of Gorgoroth had already been promoted a lot by various popular sources. After several listens, I don't know if it's as bad as Under the Sign of Hell but it undulates around that rank, without reaching very high in my interest meter, so I consider it a letdown.

A major drawback of the album is it's poor production, which characterizes it's weakness to deliver, even when the music goes through some notable moments. It creates a sterile and puzzling sound that doesn't have a healthy balance between the vocals and the instrumentation, as well as the extra keys that have been added in various tracks, which are completely buried or just glitches in seconds. Sometimes, the random growls and fast cymbal hits don't make the guitar lines recognizable at all, resulting in a black metal / noise, dreary travesty, ruining completely the outcome. This can be mistaken as a choice, something done on purpose, a message from the band of it's obscure attitude and unearthly sound, but not all noises are melodies.

Examples of the previous statement exist everywhere in the album. From the very beginning, "Destroyer" starts with a massive instrument hammering intro and the signs of a musical structure begin to show thirty seconds later, where a riff emerges from the overall randomness. It's the only track Gaahl sings to in the album and his vocals are pretty decent, especially during it's second half, even though the song itself is tiring. More random samples come along in the third track "The Devil, The Sinner And His Journey". Here, we are introduced to Frost and his great drumming style, which is also the only above average track in terms of the drums, as all the other are the typical necessity. Yet, it ends abruptly and has various key lines (played by Daimonion of Enslaved, probably) that seem like an experimentation, without fitting at all to the music.

Furthermore, the sixth track "Blodoffer" is just horrible. It's as simplistic as it can be, it has some awful sound effects behind it and disgusting retching vocals that conclude to one of the worst songs in the album. I almost thought it was a joke when I first listened to it. It's an ongoing, monotonous piece of trash. Sadly, the Darkthrone cover they did of the song "Slottet i det fjerne" should also be considered as an attempted rape, it's really bad. If I wasn't aware of the actual, I would not have cought a single riff in there, it is shadowed by the same problems of production and sound, as the rest of the album. "The Virginborn" is a slower and longer track (lasting eight minutes) which isn't much of an activity, but it's generally listenable.

On the other hand, the few legit moments of Destroyer are basically the tracks "Om Kristen Og Jødisk Tru" and "Open The Gates", which have an old-school black metal feeling, lacking the various annoying elements and keeping a good riff or two as a core. I didn't expect to like the epic clean vocals in "På Slagmark Langt Mot Nord" because I hated them in Under the Sign of Hell, but they seem to work out well here. All in all, the music in Destroyer is not at all good and it often shows or unstable songwriting. Could it be that so many people were involved in the album? The main part was written by Infernus and Tormentor, but different musicians are playing different roles in different tracks and that formula rarely works to me.

The origin of the album's title is not hard to guess, as the book Twilight of the Idols, or How One Philosophizes with a Hammer by Nietzche has the same title. It is the same fucking title. If these people were so influenced by it, at least think of your own sentence, it's not that difficult. Everyone knows how staggering huge album titles are, and they leave very few to the imagination. Gorgoroth later took the first half of the book "Twilight of the Idols" to use it in a later album in 2003, thinking that by adding another phrase it would get more original. I don't like it when bands do that and it's not a healthy influence process. Of course it has nothing to do with the music, but it does to the overall worth of the album.

In overall, I think this album does more harm than good to the image of the band, as for the artwork, the music, the line up and the subject itself. They tried new things with new people and that by definition demands more time to work compositions, so a year after the previous full length was rather a hasty and sloppy decision, to release a sloppy album. I would say Destroyer is boring and sometimes bothering to the ear.

DAMAGE: 2.25/10

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Gorgoroth - Under the Sign of Hell (1997 / 2011)

Album | Under The Sign of Hell
Country | Norway
Genre | Black Metal
Label | Malicious Records / Regain Records

| Destruction and doom |

Revisiting an old album is not an easy task for black metal bands, as the fanbase is always waiting around the next corner with a mask and a pocket knife to put the artists down, for their awful betrayal. I'm certain Gorgoroth have been in the center of attention these years and many people probably hate them by now, especially regarding the poor choice they did to re-record their third full length album completely. They are the greedy rockstars who need more money, so they strive to collect any last bits of the seeds they once planted, re-releasing their records so that we, the ignorant fans, go and buy them. I'm sure it was that they were thinking, as every other mainstream band does nowadays, oh these traitors! Of course, I don't follow that logic and I'm not afraid of the boogeyman.

From what I have seen and heard, the band remade this album, mainly because nothing worked out in the original version. For sure, the randomness and the sloppiness they released in 1997 might have had more personality and that's why kvltists hold it so dearly close to their hearts, but that record had production issues that needed to be fixed. The first time I heard the album, I wasn't even sure if these were the actual recordings they did and how they let it happen, as it just sounds disgusting. It's not the dirty sound that bothers me in general, it's this particular arrangement. These drums sound like metallic kitchen pots being smashed together, while they are too high in volume, while there is a general catuous and dazzling vibe in the album that makes it annoying. Listening to the very first track "Revelation of Doom" describes perfectly the situation, that's what Infernus listened a decade later accidentally, and realized how much it sucked.

So, I believe the main reason this is out again is to fix the problems of the sound, it's not a financial plot against the followers. I understand why some people might have been stuck with the record all these years, being true and faithful to it and getting the same feedback from it, since Gorgoroth were once such a band indeed. It's natural that a new, mechanized version of their favorite album will hurt their feelings, they will loathe it with their heart and blame the band for selling out. The truth is, I really couldn't care less about their pet peeves as they would not care about mine either and since I have not grown up with Under the Sign of Hell, i think the new version is improved. It's not necessarily better, but it's cleaner, and the stupid mixing that was done is no more, now it sounds like the average polished black metal album. A little spiritless, but not garbage worthy.

I'm not reffering to a musical improvement, since Gorgoroth didn't change anything compared to the first album. They didn't add new elements or change the tracks a little, this is the same, note to note and line to line album with just different sound (apart from the missing interlude). They even hired Pest back (who was the original vocalist when they first made it) to deal with the vocals and Tomas Asklund (has played in Dark Funeral and Dissection before) carried the burden of the drums for the occassion. Infernus remains the main guy behind the whole idea, as it is his music and mostly his editing in the new and the old version. Any person who listens to both versions has to admit that the new one is easier to go through as it has that basic balance. I'm feeling this album is being cursed because it was remade by guys who have apparently moved in the overground, as there weren't as many complaints when Svartsyn remade The True Legend, a better album, before and after.

Moreover, it was Mayhem who released Life Eternal EP in 2009, who had some rough mix recordings of their all time classic De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, slightly different from the originals, a completely avoidable release if you ask me. Re-recordings are met with skepticism and distrust most of the times and it's correct, but a couple of times they work, like this one for example. The original album was harsh and bland, almost inconceivable because of it's sound, while the new one is somehow tasteless and sterile. The weak points of the actual music are more apparent in 2011, as this is not fully destructive as Gorgoroth's previous material, only in a couple of moments does one feel the energy. It's like being afraid of something before knowing it better, when you realize it might not be that dangerous after all. For many reasons, I enjoy the newer version more, for I had the chance to listen to the music without needing pain killers after it.

The intense moments of Under the Sign of Hell lie in tracks like "Blood Stains the Circle", "The Rite of Infernal Invocation", "Krig" and "Ødeleggelse og undergang". They are fast and intense, with the familiar cutting riffing of Infernus, which is again dominant. These four tracks have all you need to check from this album, exactly the half in number, because the rest are pretty much boring and distasteful. "Revelation of Doom", "Funeral Procession" and "The Devil Is Calling" are boring and incoherent tracks, but the biggest failure to me is "Profetens åpenbaring". The viking-ish / epic vocals he tried to make in a couple of parts there sound ridiculous, as the ridiculous riffs that follow behind them. So, the album is not keeping a certain quality through it's length, as there notable moments are mixed with ghastly noises. Inconsistency.

To me, it's not the decision of the band to re-record it that sucks here, it's not even the cleaning of the sound that made it harmless. In fact, I enjoyed it a lot more than the first copy. In overall, I think Under the Sign of Hell is just an average album, with some ounces of entertainment that remind of the band's glory, but nothing more. It's not a masterpiece and it's definitely not flawless, I'm glad they chose this one over the first three, as Pentagram and Antichrist both have great sound. If Under the Sign of Hell 2011 doesn't fit for a soundtrack to your Friday cave descends, stick to the original one and it's not the end of the world.

Original damage: 3/10
Re-recording damage: 5.75/10

Monday, February 03, 2014

Gorgoroth - Pentagram (1994)

Album | Pentagram
Country | Norway
Genre | Black Metal
Label | Embassy Productions

| Dreams about death |

The first, stenching step of this gargantuan band grew it's roots during the early nineties and it perfectly symbolizes that period, which saw the birth of many crushing, life changing albums. Apart from Pentagram, not far away from Gorgoroth's headquarters, other albums like Dark Medieval Times, In the Nightside Eclipse and Transylvanian Hunger were released the same year, marking the genre's peak with fire, so that it lasts forever. To this day, I strongly believe that the menacing debut of Gorgoroth is their most unique album, as they are one of the bands that fell victim of the media and the shape it gave them the later years, so that they would become an accepted extreme metal act. This record shows the band's primitive aesthetic, building chaos and extracting the members' hating hunger, as it existed back then.

Even though the band is mostly connected to Gaahl, who is their breakthrough frontman and one of the most popular figures in black metal, he was not part of the group on the Pentagram sessions (as he joined them in 1998) and he didn't participate in this album. Instead, Hat handled the vocal post, who was a founding member. A dude with the simple pseudo Goat played drums, who had also taken part in the early demos, while the infamous Samoth of Emperor handled the bass. Of course, the mastermind behind the music on the album was Infernus, who was the guitarist and the main composer, the one who is to be blaimed for this extraordinary record, a proud jewel of Norwegian black metal.  Gorgoroth had their time with various band members in their early days (Satyricon's Frost played the drums in their second album Antichrist) but it wasn't until King and Gaahl joined, that the band wrote success.

Pentagram is brief and precise. It consists of eight three to six minute tracks, keeping the variety of the instrumentation elementary and as raw as possible. It's compelling sound caresses the ears with it's thorny and devastating essence, diving under the flesh of the listener and subjecting them into it's horrible and gruesome beauty. Rather short, almost reaching half an hour in length, it's over before you know it and seems like an obscure dream or a blurred journey through time when it finishes, as you have just tasted a nominal piece of art. There is an excellent flow between the songs, which are well written, quite aggressive and far from repetitive, giving glorious space to the personal style of Gorgoroth in this album. When it comes to the second wave in Norway, it is to me the time up until the middle nineties, before getting huge attention and countless bands and the first two Gorgoroth albums are a part of it.

The production of the album is sincere, lively and dynamic. It's healthy and possibly very close to what the band played back then, which means that the studio didn't ruin all that is good for a cleaner sound. In fact, all the instruments are nicely audible, always giving a heads start to the stomping guitar sound and the vocals. The drums sound very energetic as well, keeping the pace and the rhythm going in every track. Pentagram is dressed in simple black, with only a logo on the cover, following the "fuck the trendy well drawn cover artwork" attitude and that only adds to it's glory, being among favorite unholy gems. Not a lot of albums nowadays have that kind of originality and vibe as this album, as it grows on you the more you listen. The Gorgoroth of 1994 were boiling fury and disgust, they had time, appetite and the vision to create music.

Not enough credit can be given to the contribution of Infernus to this record. His ideas on the guitar are breathtaking, as it's a bombardment of excellent riffs during every track and hardly any filler or boring moments. Seriously, these riffs right here have life of their own and they are blood thirsty, defining the whole album's outcome. If I should describe them in a few words, I'd say uncomplicated brilliance. They are not difficult to digest at all, yet they are masterfully played and well structured, so that monotony is completely out of the table. It sure is one of the best times he had with the handling of the compositions, as there are very few riffs as compelling as in "Crushing the Scepter", the following and painfully slower "Ritual", "(Under) The Pagan Megalith" or the magnificent "Mooneskyggens Slave" (=Moon Shadow Slave..?). As I said, apart from a couple of church bells, there are no effects or samples, introductions, that's why the main part of the synthesis is so powerful.

Listening to Pentagram, one won't leave the suffering vocals of Hat unnoticed. Another trademark of the album are these suffering and agonizing vocal lines, having Hat literally screaming his throat out with the supreme performance. Somewhere between regular shrieked vocals and distorted high pitch yelling, Pentagram's voice is equally malevolent and relentless. The words are not distinguishable at all and it seems like they are nowhere available, maybe because of that matter or just because the band never wanted to release them, since it's hard and not needed to sing along or guess the lyrical concept. The band kept a satanic character from it's beginning, despite the fact that it went a bit off track later on, so it's not hard to guess the lyrics here revolving around anti-religion, nature and Satan. Such vocals might drive away people who have not listened to the genre or not know a lot about it, which by the thought and only, brings an ounce of euphoria.

It's a pity of the path this band decided to follow after a couple of albums, which is shadowed by idiotic right fights, too much media exposure, bold and daring statements, and of course, some pretty shitty albums. Even though I enjoy Gorgoroth as a whole, I find some aspects of them hysterical (and by no means I refer to Gaahl's homosexuality). Nonetheless, they are among the biggest bands of the genre and their first album is the definition of true black metal, a term that has been raped so violently over the years, that it's a joke today. Pentagram was a promising start, it's full of awesome tracks and it stands for what is beloved and missed in the scene.

DAMAGE: 9.5/10

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Glorior Belli & Creeping - Rites of Spiritual Death (2011) [Split]

Album | Rites of Spiritual Death
Country |
France / New Zealand
Genre |
Black / Doom Metal
Label |
Necroterror Records

The collaboration between these two bands is they only time they have released a split record and the main reasons people would decide to check it out are the cover artwork and the name Glorior Belli, which is significantly more popular than the dudes from New Zealand named Creeping. I also got inside it for the same reason, for archival purposes, I didn't expect much and I didn't get much, despite the fact that it wasn't exactly what I thought. There are two tracks of a total twenty minutes in length in the split, quite longer than what the bands' common track lengths, but hey, the more the better right?

Opening with Glorior Belli's "Fierce Rays of Wrathful Light", a long track that comes as a surprise compared to their previous albums, as up until then they didn't really slow things down for no reason. At least when they did, they would make it more interesting, or add some kick ass blasting parts later to rebuild our trust. It turned out they like to experiment a lot and this very moment might be the starting point of their demise, but still this middle paced, doomy song has sparse moments worth listening to, even the faster parts are boring. If you are about to learn about this band, a track like this is at the level of a filler compared to their first two full length albums, so start from there.

The second track "Shrine of the Fallen Sun" is a sincere effort by Creeping to gather the broken pieces and make something nice, not really succeeding in the end. They deliver a sweet blend of doom / sludge with abysmal growing, simplistic in it's structure and very unoriginal, even though it isn't the worst track I have ever heard around that genre. I somehow enjoyed it more than the first side of the record because it's cooler and more easygoing, having a certain amount of filthiness as usual. It is also quite long and nine minutes are ideal for a down-tuned, dirty track like this. It was a motivation to listen to other material by them to have a more complete point of view.

I like the fact that the production of the record is this dirty, since it has been under little editing and stays more close to the real sound of the bands. It's fairly catuous on it's own, as in many splits like this, but still the instruments provoke an atmosphere, which is always good. However, I felt misguided listening to these two tracks, which are weak and sloppy musically. I sensed the bands didn't give their best self for this release and I know for a fact that Glorior Belli didn't, judging from some notable stuff they had written before, yet trying to find out about Creeping. Rites of Spiritual Death is a mediocre release that doesn't give the listener much to enjoy, therefore I would suggest you avoid this.

DAMAGE: 2.5/10