Thursday, February 28, 2019

Seven harmonies of unknown truths

Artist: Ildjarn
Genre: Black Metal
Origin: Norway
Year: 1992 (2003)
Label: Independent (Eisenwald)


This was another piece I got from the visit to Helsinki recently, among a couple of other things that I might write about later on. 

I own very few records by Ildjarn, since I don't have a large collection anyway due to lack of determinism. The other album being a split with Hate Forest from 2013, I figured out later on that it's Nidhogg tracks not even recorded by him, so this is what I have from actually Ildjarn

Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths has the second best release title after the monumental Strength and Anger, and it's one of the very first demos by the artist. Of course, I have the reissue by Eisenwald, which was officially licenced by Ildjarn so it's not a bootleg or something. 

The liner notes inform the listener that this was "originally released as a demo tape in 1992 by Ildjarn and sold exclusively at Helvete record store". Metal Archives says there were only 25 tapes too.

The CD's package is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever bought, it has amazing designs by Tern, a great poster drawing by Marthe, it's minimalistic and pitch black as it should. There are extra vocals by Samoth, let's see if you can pick them up.

This version of the demo has the structure of eight tracks and not seven as in the original demo, because the first has been split into two parts. There are also names other than "-" for them, basically being the version that can be found here.
I don't want to talk about its music so much because it is very meaningful, to do a whole article around all of his music, with a playlist of the best and worst tracks. Ildjarn had moments of greatness and mediocrity, but I consider this project a genius like no other in the Norwegian scene. If someone is the embodiment of what the genre is all about, it's him. His attitude towards the music and life is the actual real meaning of a word that is ridiculed by fans and not fans alike today, "true".

The back cover here has a whole text split in seven parts, probably referring to each track, and a story is told all together. I don't want to write passages from this to urge you to find this release and buy it, but there is a bone-chilling message that gives life to cliche words like misanthropy and hate for mankind. 

There has been many different facets of music in his discography, I believe his first steps do not depict the glory of later material. Most of Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths is middle-paced and based on repetitive riffs, and that's enough.

Remember that very few artists have managed to create such a powerful atmosphere with a handful of notes only. I'm thanking this German label for putting this together and I hope more black metal was like this. Away from the spotlight for real, not sharing, isolated, cold, noisy, mesmerizing. 

A bigger series of posts might come for Ildjarn. I have parts of his music that I consider unreal, and others that don't deliver. A small part of the black metal community considers this the best black metal artist ever, and while I don't completely agree, I love it how he isn't mentioned in any major listings, articles etc...

Track listing:
1. Harmony I
2. Harmony II
3. Harmony III
4. Harmony IV
5. Harmony V
6. Harmony VI
7. Harmony VII
8. Death Dynamics
9. Harmony I (Remix)
10. Harmony II (Remix)
11. Harmony III (Remix)
12. Harmony IV (Remix)
13. Harmony V (Remix)
14. Harmony VI (Remix)
15. Harmony VII (Remix)
16. Death Dynamics (Remix)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Promulgation of the fall

Artist: Dead Congregation
Genre: Death Metal
Origin: Greece
Year: 2014
Label: Martyrdoom Productions


I still remember reading a Dead Congregation interview in a Metal Hammer issue, back when their debut was released in 2008. That was also the period I started getting into the harder subgenres of metal.

At some point, there was a reply that went like: death metal is not for everyone, and that's the way it should be.

This statement kind of stayed with me and made its impact to my younger self and how I decided to step forward with the band, as well as the broader style, for the years to come. 

That year was also the year when the best death metal album of the 00's was released, which is Dead Congregation's debut Graves of the Archangels. I remember how it felt like the first time I listened to it, and after a decade now, it's still one of the most sincere and focused records you can get your hands on.

Six year later, "Only Ashes Remain" opens their second album and describes exactly what was left after Graves of the Archangels, for this whole time. The most crushing, menacing and familiar sound is back, with bestial (and magnificent) lyrics, ready to cause sheer terror.

I had bought this in CD when it was released. Recently, after visiting Helsinki for a day, I found it in LP format as well and decided to honor it a second time, as looking at this killer artwork in a larger scale piece is the definition of beauty.

The record was released by the band's label Martyrdoom Productions, but this specific LP is distributed by another excellent label, Norma Evangelium Diaboli.

All the track titles on the sleeve, as well as the album title, have been hand written by Kostas Protopapas, and there are lyrics by Timo Ketola (in "Schisma") and Tim Grieco from Antediluvian (in "Quintessence Maligned"). 

I believe this scene was first forged by Incantation in the nineties and has now been on the rise the recent years. Dead Congregation are one of the best, if not its best contributors.

If you like this, it's safe to say you like death metal, as it is in its core. Along with Cruciamentum, they are my top suggestions in this field.

Promulgation of the Fall has highlight tracks through and through, but my favorites are: "Only Ashes Remain", "Nigredo" (also spawned the brother band with the same name), "Immaculate Poison" and "Serpentskin".

Track listing:
1. Only Ashes Remain
2. Promulgation of the Fall
3. Serpentskin
4. Quintessence Maligned
5. Immaculate Poison
6. Nigredo
7. Schisma
8. From a Wretched Womb


Listen on Bandcamp

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Grammy Awards 2019 - Best Metal Performance

A few days ago, the glamorous and glorious event of the Grammy Awards took place where an expertise group of people decides, as always, the best moments of music of the previous year. As much as it doesn't mean shit to actual music listeners, I realized it's just a lot of fun to follow it. 

The metal section this year had the following entries:

Between the Buried and Me - Condemned to the Gallows
High on Fire - Electric Messiah
Deafheaven - Honeycomb
Trivium - Betrayer
Underoath - On My Teeth

And for the first time in history, I was surprised and pleased by the result: High on Fire actually won this, which means: High on Fire now have a Grammy Award on their belts. It is like fake news, but it's real. I'm so glad the overrated as fuck Deafheaven lost. Take that, non-musical bands like Trivium and Underoath, yes, yeees! I would have never guessed this would be the outcome. Between the Buried and Me's track is rather fine, and I'm not a big fan of the winners either, but it is just wonderful that it happened.

No picks here are a surprise, and by no means "Electric Messiah" is the best metal performance of the year. However, compared to the rest of the bands, which are all in the bad part of the mainstream, came second to a stoner / heavy rock song. Times are wild.

If I were to put them in the right order: BTBAM, High on Fire, Underoath, Deafheaven, Trivium

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Aristocracy of twilight

Artist: Blood Tyrant
Genre: Raw Black Metal
Origin: Netherlands
Year: 2016
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions


There has been an uprising of raw black metal the last decade, and while the genre has some of its body parts into the mainstream, there are still dark corners where small closed groups maintain a cathartic approach to their music, constituting to what actually is the underground. 

This branch usually has a very simplistic, second wave black metal variety, often fusing punk elements and a rather dirty production that can easily go too far. The bands that don't play raw black / punk, often have dark ambient or dungeon synth elements, and lately I've come across zero fame demos from newcomer unknown bands that tread into noise as well.

There are a bunch of such artists from the United States, but some activity can be found in Denmark / Holland too. From the Netherlands come Blood Tyrant, a wonderful example an anti-popular and kick ass band that focuses around a concept and a mystery.

Aristocracy of Twilight is the only full length of this duet, but they have a few more releases that are all notable. This album is truly beautiful, and the way they present their thematics of blood and vampires, worships in an almost romantic way, the stripped down and as honest as can be side of black metal.

If you get your fix of black metal from well known labels, then it's possible an album like that will sound bad, but the ideas in it are amazing and its atmosphere dreamy. The instrumental parts, interludes and intro / outro, are exactly the kind of minimal dungeon synth / dark ambient that would fit is such a pure album.

It was a thrill to listen to excellent black metal tracks like "Engulfed by Purifying Flames" or "Barbaric Wampyrism".

Recently, I received a package I ordered which had the debut demo of the band from 2016, Night of Blood Moon. Aesthetically speaking, it is 100% what I ask for in a black metal album that doesn't aim to impress the whole of the musical world (there is nothing wrong with that anyway).

It is hand numbered, based on black and red and the best thing is how the CD is made to look like a vinyl record, with the characteristic circle lines on it, SIDE A and SIDE B notes, and of course, a lot of old English.

Other than that, their most recent release is a split with Departure Chandelier, another band of the same material by members of Akitsa & Ash Pool. Their debut coming out this month has kept me waiting eagerly.

You should check out Blood Tyrant, especially their first demo and full length. It proves the big gap that exists between the two borders of black metal, emphasizing how wide the style is after all.


Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Abandon all life

Artist: Nails
Genre: Grindcore / Powerviolence / Hardcore
Origin: USA
Year: 2013
Label: Southern Lord Recordings


The second album of a band that is loved by the media, is undeniably heavy, but also draws a lot of hate from fanatics in the true underground. 

Abandon All Life was the follow-up to Unsilent Death, which was praised like a god by fans of hardcore and not only. The album has a lovely total of 17 minutes, which is the starting point to get pumped about a record that you want to be hard-hitting. How hard does it hit, you ask?

Well, Nails is a kind of a band that seems like a constant, really angry thug. Merciless music, unforgiving lyrics, intense shows and playing, it doesn't give you a break and if you think it is easy to go through these seventeen minutes, you will stand corrected.

If I had listened to them in time, this would have been really high in my lists for 2013, as You Will Never Be One of Us was in 2016 (even though, this cheesy title is annoying). 

I think Nails have an awesome grindcore / powerviolence palette. They have nose-bleeding hardcore breakdowns and supreme vocals. The lyrics are sincere and agressive. Their metallic sound gives a hint of a slight, really slight though, look towards extreme metal. But their core is not in that genre.

This production, which is quite heavy on its own, makes them a bit more accessible compared to frantic, insane grindcore acts who play anti-music and talk about raping worms.

What I mean is, it is universally true that The Inalienable Dreamless is the best grindcore album ever. Nails have more popularity than usual, because their kind of extremity is actually media-friendly. They are guys to be featured on the fronts of zines.

That is not to undermine their music, as I enjoy all their stuff and I have listened to the b-sides too. Abandon All Life was an instant fall for me. It has a great title, improved artwork, improved sound (in my opinion), and much better vocals (my opinion, but also adjectivally true) than Unsilent Death.

Listening to Nails is a physical boost of testosterone and it's impossible not to get your blood going. The process of their songs is actually well thought. The death metal elements are wonderful. The band's solos are basically worshiping of early Slayer. What can go wrong? Only the fans can really go wrong.

I am very happy they are not a professional band but do this on the side, as they have their own families and lives. It's less compromising. 

I come back to Nails from time to time and share it with non-metal friends to scare them off, because to an outsider, all of us are an impassable grey, freaky cloud. Abandon All Life is one of the albums I listen to the most from this decade, when I don't feel like listening to my regular black metal playlists.

2019 might be the year they release a new album, if they keep being punctual with their releases (2010, 2013 and 2016). We'll see later this year.

Track listing:
1. In Exodus
2. Tyrant
3. Absolute Control
4. God's Cold Hands
5. Wide Open Wound
6. Abandon All Life
7. No Surrender
8. Pariah
9. Cry Wolf
10. Suum Cuique


Listen on Bandcamp