Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Funeral Harvest - Funeral Harvest (EP)

When looking at a line-up consisting of members from Italy and Norway, especially in the territory of religious themed black metal, it's difficult not to immediately think of Darvaza. Funeral Harvest is the first EP of a band that has been active only since 2016 and has just a demo and a single released before this mini-album, which makes it their biggest work for now and also the first main stop point in the hopefully, more to come.

Thematics close to the aforementioned band are being stressed here as well, as it seems Funeral Harvest aim for the same aesthetics with a hefty inclination towards the use of Latin, I can only imagine that they would perfectly fit in black metal festivals along bands with a ceremonial stage presence. The EP contains four tracks at a duration of almost twenty minutes, common compositions to the band's first demo Bunker Ritual Rehearsal, reworked for this release. Naturally, this translates to a slightly cleared up production, making Funeral Harvest easy to approach and follow.

Comparing with the demo recordings, I get the feeling that part of the intensity has been lost along the way, as the sound the band had in 2017, with the same tracks, did come out as more intimidating than the mixing of the latest EP. It would be a lost case to claim that Funeral Harvest have not been meticulous with their effort now, yet it's a release that wouldn't be a big musical challenge for someone who follows this kind of black metal. Apparently, Signal Rex will host the band's debut full length too, and I am hoping the band pushes forth a bit towards taking more risks in order to stand out.

Looking into the tracks specifically, the different parts of "O.S.N.D.S.P.T." make it an entertaining track, the opening "Nihil Sub Sole Novum" displays great technique on changing between slow and fast paced moments, while "Omega" on the other hand has guitar lines that are a bit more indifferent. "Sacred Dagger" is another solid track, and the raspy, scourging vocals are saving plus for the whole release. I would enjoy Funeral Harvest to use the proficiency they have in adapting a style, and be in overall, more intense. It's definitely a band that can do it. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Empyrean Grace - Bestowment of the Seraphic Key

Among the many different, mainstream and not, releases that were scheduled for today, I was also waiting for Iskandr's new EP Gelderse poort, the next recording step of that project after the marvelous Euprosopon from 2018. However, by listening to that and then going into the label housing the Dutch underground group named Haeresis Noviomagi, I stumbled upon this demo by one of their new bands, Empyrean Grace. Needless to say, all the bands related to this label are nothing short of fascinating, yet this project still caught me off guard as it doesn't fully comply with the musical methods of its compatriot acts.

Bestowment of the Seraphic Key consists of one twenty-eight minute track. In case you are familiar with this family of artists and by chance had Imperial Cult's Spasm of Light come to mind, don't expect similar material here. Empyrean Grace's approach emphasizes on layers of opaque soundscapes, it's more soothing and mesmerizing, puts everything around the listener to a halt and it forces you to just lean back. They are not afraid to employ monotony and it's used to their advantage, creating a deep, lethargic atmosphere, coherent enough and with wonderful variations in parts, to make it a magnificent piece for its duration.

Once the sense of engagement has set in, the elements unlock. The track's contemplative nature thwarts movement but isn't demanding or draining, instead it stays in between and makes up for a truly rewarding listening experience. I don't easily stay tuned with endless tracks of almost ambient black metal, however I played this a second time back to back. I don't know any information about Empyrean Grace at the moment, but it just proves again that the turbulence coming from this side of the Netherlands, is not an accident.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Five albums released on October 16th

A blog was born in mid October, 2012, but this is not that kind of anniversary I'm referring to right now. On the otherwise quite unimportant date of October 16 happened a far less glamorous event, and that was of course, that it was the day when I was born. I don't know if you have ever wondering what was going on in the music world during the time that you arrived in this life, or important related events on that date etc.., and maybe this might be too much of an overkill even for listening nerds to keep track of. And while the world was jamming off "I'll Make Love to You" by Boys II Men during October of 1994, the album that gave me happiness from that month is that Impaled Nazarene's Suomi Finland Perkele was actually released on the 16th. And by the time I was two days old, and also mature enough for it, Stoner Witch by the Melvins came out. What a week!

While there are several general history websites that report events on a certain date, and also some regarding music only, it's not as clear to find such insight for underground scenes like extreme metal. I scanned through (with the help of one and only archival website for the music we love) four decades, from 1980 until today and gathered the most notable full lengths albums for myself, covering material from late Thin Lizzy albums to Throane's latest EP Une Balle Dans Le Pied, which was released this morning. Just the process of going through all these records gives a good grip on something that is important only to you personally, so I hope this post works not so much to spread music knowledge but as an idea to other list obsessed fans of music, or movies, or whatever you're into.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Interview with Reign of Erebus

A new record by Reign of Erebus, a band coming from deep into the underground black metal scene in the UK, feels like the awakening of a forgotten demon from the past. With their first steps back in the late nineties, there was a decade long hiatus starting from 2005, it seems the group got back together in 2015 and quietly worked its way to their third full length album De Morte Aeterna, a follow-up to Inversion Principle which was released in 2004. Reign of Erebus have years of experience and they have not attracted huge attention so far, maybe 2020 and the overall sharpening of their sound, might mark a new era for the band. Chthonian, the vocalist and also the longest running member of the -by now- trio, shared some insight on the state of Reign of Erebus today.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Sepulchre by the Sea - Conqueror Worm

After a single track demo in late 2019, this one-man project from the UK comes out with the debut full length Conqueror Worm, to be released in November of this year. Openly influenced by themes of Edgar Allan Poe, the band's name could be a reference to one of the poet's last works "Annabel Lee", describing the perseverance of the protagonist's love towards his then deceased woman. As mournful as that piece is, Sepulchre by the Sea aims to convey the same atmosphere through a mixture of traditional black metal and elements of melodic / post-black in Conqueror Worm, which last almost an hour and features six tracks in total. 

Among them, the track from the demo has been re-recorded for the album, and the wider use of different instruments broadens and shows more clearly the musical palette of the project, which combines a variety of characteristics around the basic black metal pattern. Sepulchre by the Sea also employs solid clean vocals at times, most notably in a the wonderful "Slices of Death", while the most intense moments line in the great guitar lines of the self-titled track, "And So It Crumbles" and the middle part of "Behind the Walls". The last of these three takes a calmer turn towards the end to give way to the final track of Conqueror Worm, "Plutonian Shores", a lengthy composition that touches seventeen minutes duration and goes through all the phases of the band's sound, from clean to heavy parts and in between. 

There are a lot of interesting ideas in Conqueror Worm, which wouldn't make it just typical post-black metal, still I think there is space for improvement in terms of cover artwork and production, with the latter having the potential, in my opinion, to give a completely new dynamic edge to the project if handled properly to give space to the compositions to really show their worth. Sepulchre by the Sea's first effort is a fine offering of black metal that isn't direct and raw, for fans of atmospheric / post-black metal artists and of course, for lovers of Edgar Allan Poe.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Anaal Nathrakh - Endarkenment

By now, and by the frequency Anaal Nathrakh come out with a new album, it feels like it's effortless from their side to make new music. And since they have such a good grip on their own fairly distinct and personal sound, they have become a band with an almost secured fanbase, with the odds of this changing to be very low, as they would need to seriously mess an album up to alienate people who dig their material. What I pinpointed in Endarkenment was that a lot of unusual -and to some, possibly including me, unnecessary- electronic elements that had been circulating in the last few albums are now gone and we are back to a more straightforward, Anaal Nathrakh-ish brutality. The album throws dirt on many global subjects of today, having the band heavily criticizing social / political issues while painting a rather dismal picture of the current status of the planet, without missing the vulgar lyrical touch that makes them appalling but at the same time, effective. Yes, this time you can tell parts from the lyrics from Dave Hunt's vocals, which the textual parts more understandable, but part of me always longs for the catastrophic vocals of once-upon-a-time Anaal Nathrakh. As I couldn't get into their last couple of records too much, I reckon some of the most characteristic, potent and dynamic guitar lines they have composed lately can be found in Endarkenment, even though you can't say that they haven't relying a bit on muscle memory. It's been eleven albums so they deserve a break, what I can say with certainty is that Endarkenment grows on you the more you listen to it, and you will listen to exactly what you expect: an undulating combination of scourging guitars - apocalyptic vocals, epic melodies with clean vocals, including high falsettos to remind us once again that Anaal Nathrakh are big fans of King Diamond. An issue I have had with many of their albums is the plastic drum sound, however with Endarkenment they are brutally convincing, and to me achieved some even heavier levels than Desideratum, The Whole of the Law and A New Kind of Horror. All in all, a very intense and vile album from a band whose heart is in the right place.