Saturday, December 18, 2021

Albums of the Year 2021

Delighted to point out that, we have now graciously realized Arson Cafe’s 500th post. Some have been lost along the way, yet it was planned and delivered to match this milestone with the most important entry of 2021.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Top 10 EPs of 2021

"An extended play record, usually referred to as an EP, is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single but fewer than an album or LP record. Contemporary EPs generally contain four or five tracks, and are considered "less expensive and time-consuming" for an artist to produce than an album. An EP originally referred to specific types of records other than 78 rpm standard play (SP) and LP, but it is now applied to mid-length CDs and downloads as well." (Source: Wikipedia)

10. Obscure Skuadron - Mysterious Existence

An EP as obscure as its name, these guys have an awesome thick wall of noise and a nerdy obsession with aliens, as one can tell from the titles of the tracks. Short and sweet, Mysterious Existence makes me wonder if it's an one time event, because I would enjoy a full release like that quite a lot. Screw variety.

9. Grinning Death's Head - Cataclysm

Blood War was a masterpiece, that I found too late. The first new move after four years, Grinning Death's Head new two tracks are equally menacing, and with delightful barbarity. This project doesn't need much to impress, and it's unquestionably energetic and in your face. Gotta love the extra, slight background synths too. It's a must to check out.

8. Spiral Staircase – Cellar Dream

You would say Cellar Dream is the first extended release of Spiral Staircase, not for its length but because it is the first EP after demos and splits, and with two years of space between their previous work. Apart from the fact that I'm fully into this name, logo and cover color, the bleached out fuzziness of this EP for some reason, totally calmed down my soul.

7. Serpent Column - Katartisis

This should need no introduction, especially after a series or really successful releases by this project. By now, you might already expecting what to listen to from Serpent Column, but once again it's equally strong, and reeks of talent and great musicianship. A lot of notable, tickling melodies and dried out riffs here. Pretty technical as always.

6. Somme - Prussian Blood

In case you were thinking that we have too many posterized, pixelized black and white lo-fi black metal projects in the last few years, you were right. In case you were thinking they all hide behind the fuzzy production without really having a solid musical idea, you were right. In case you were thinking they are all the same, they are. Somme from Finland come to teach us the actual meaning of playing "raw black metal", with a proper lo-fi attitude, out of truthful intention and not smugness. Impressive work, I loved every last slice of it.

5. Nocturnal Effigy - The Night's Sorrow

At this state, releases like these get sold out at the blink of the eye. The manpower behind this project is also responsible for some of the most treasured acts in the dungeon synth / raw black metal scene, therefore it's almost guaranteed it will be another treat for the ears: harsh, ominous guitar riffs and an even harsher sound, excellent instrumental pieces and more slower / melodic tracks make up for a wonderful release that forever belongs in the underground.

4. Ûkcheânsâlâwit - Alaskan Escape

Listening to Alaskan Escape, the name of Ildjarn is obviously the elephant in the room. Completely stripped down, repetitive, hypnotic black metal with raspy vocals and a middle finger to all that is nicely produced and friendly. The lyrics are as glacial-cold as you think, there's hardly any turns, but in the end it's so good. I could listen to this pummeling beating for hours, especially riffs like in "uanatshu". It doesn't have to be more complicated than this really.

3. Forsmán - Dönsum Í Logans Ljóma

If you're into Icelandic black metal, then you must already know this new band. If not, then you must listen to them and their debut EP, right away. Professionally made, Forsmán know the groundworks of their country's scene very well and present another piece of huge compositions, massive riffs, powerful vocals and guitar lines and excellent sense of composition. The best Icelandic release this year, with Mannveira closely behind.

2. Kvadrat – Ψυχική Αποσύνθεση

This mini-release alone saved the year for me when it comes to new extreme metal from Greece. Enjoyable and complex, with several exciting turns and unusual melodic structures, excellent aesthetics (and a unique logo!), Kvadrat picks up the label of "dissonant" and ultimately doesn't exhaust the listener with it. Ψυχική Αποσύνθεση (Greek for mental decomposition) is a great first sign from this band, which moved on by being part of a neat split with Moeror and Human Serpent later in the year. I can't wait to see a full length release from them now.

1. Lorna Shore - And I Return to Nothingness...

I never expected that my interest in deathcore would ever be considerably revived, but this EP made too much of an impact to ignore. While being aware of the previous Lorna Shore material, the change to a new singer has brought new light to the band, which could quite frankly reinvent the way the genre is played, especially in the breakdown sections. Epic symphonic parts go along proper doses of heaviness, and the fact that listening to "To the Hellfire" has such a reaction trend, means the band broke through. For better or for worse, this was by far the EP I enjoyed the most this year.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Top 10 Greek metal albums of 2021

Usually, there are a handful of releases from Greek bands that I fully endorse every year, however for 2021 I didn't find such an equivalent. In fact, I was not fully into some albums I expected to be, and newer stuff was not revolutionary. I'm still missing listening the new Diablery and Agnes Vein records because they come out next week, but it's anyway a legit wrap-up of the year from my side. Having decided to put all these lists a bit earlier than usual this year, it is what I get.

Arson Cafe's
top 10 Greek metal albums of 2021

10. Human Serpent - Heirlooms Eternal
9. Shattered Hope - Vespers
8. Eldingar - Maenads
7. Rapture - Malevolent Demise Incarnation
6. Spectral Lore - Ετερόφωτος
5. Caedes Cruenta - Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults
4. Mystras - Empires Vanquished and Dismantled
3. Drakon Ho Megas - Drakon Ho Megas
2. Nihilism - Cataclysme vers l'ascendance
1. Yoth Iria - As the Flame Withers

Friday, December 10, 2021

Top 20 dungeon synth albums of 2021

Discreetly, I have been following the modern, digitalized dungeon synth scene since the early 10's with Lord Lovidicus and early Erang. Elffor releases fell on my lap almost as early as black metal, and I have enjoyed a lot of the known Wongraven, Burzum and Summoning material. The most distinct was Depressive Silence, but now there is almost a saturation of popping projects, yet I think the DIY community and the authenticity of the artists, is for the underground, unmatched at the moment. I listened to more dungeon synth (forest synth, winter synth etc... all included) than usual this year, so here's 20 cookies.

Arson Cafe's 
top 20 dungeon synth albums

 20. Ghunjul – Freezing Breath
19. Forest Temple - Spectral Threads of a Cosmic Dream
18. Kyvon – Frozen Grimoire
17. Fridfull - Fridfull
16. Adrasteia & Celestial Sword – Split
15. Gelure – The Candlelight Tomes
14. Abholos – Where Cold Shadows Dream
13. Necrocachot - Forest Of Bones
12. Coniferous Myst & Erythrite Throne - Northern Stories of Frost
11. Knights of the Stygian Order – Strength and Valor
10. Oublieth - À l'Ombre du Royaume en Cendres
9. Mörka Skogens Vindar - Trollens Återkomst
8. Druadan Forest & Old Sorcery - Split
7. Trädvarelse - Cave
6. Redhorn Gate – Sires of Old
5. Varvitos – Forbidden Lost Lore
4. Snowspire – As if Wandering in a Dream...
3. Forlorn Kingdom - Alpine Black Magick
2. Ulk – Shellbound
1. Wallachian Cobwebs – Night Sobbed a Potion Diseased

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Top 10 non-metal albums of 2021

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

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

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

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Top 10 demos of 2021

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

Arson Cafe's
top 10 demos of 2021

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

Saturday, November 27, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damage: 4/5 [Excellent]

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Grimdor - The Shadow of the Past (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damage: 3.5/5 [Great]

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Whoredom Rife - Winds of Wrath (2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damage: 3.5/5 [Great]

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Warloghe - Three Angled Void (2021)

Genre: Black Metal
Location: Säynätsalo, Finland
Release date: 2021
Label: Northern Heritage Records
Website: Facebook

After the EP Warloghe released in 2017, Lucifer Ascends, I wondered for a bit if they would have a follow-up to 2003's Womb of Pestilence. It turns out we get Three Angled Void, 18 years later, released relatively quietly through the common suspects of Northern Heritage in Finland. The band has achieved its own cult status due to its first two albums, and even almost two decades later, nothing has changed with Warloghe

This includes all the points that I enjoy about them, as well as the ones I don't. It seems to me the project has an above average perception when it comes to its aesthetics and textual content (cover art, titles, concepts etc...). They don't fall into the blasphemous, straightforward words of other Finnish bands. They don't overload their covers with Old English fonts and logos, instead they are all the time, plain and enigmatic. I equally like the newest art of Three Angled Void, as simplistic as it seems. It is worth it to own an LP of The First Possession or Womb of Pestilence, just because of the awesome artwork, and the same applies for this.

Nevertheless, the actual music of Warloghe is regrettably moderate at most times, with only a handful of more blistering moments. It it was the case in the past, it's also with Three Angled Void that I struggle to maintain focus when listening, while enjoying a track part here and there but that's about it. The production is very close to Warloghe's older material, fairly chalky but not always to a good extent, basically providing a far-flung instrumentation sound that's almost detached from the shrieked vocals on top. The middle / slow paced pieces in Three Angled Void are sluggish and too familiar, making "The Everburning", or "Inhuman Error" difficult to remember. 

On the other hand, more exciting activity appears in the more aggressive lines of "Invultuations From the Black Earth", and "Lucifer Ascends" (not a new track but a part of the aforementioned EP). "Starlit Portals Amidst Mass Graves" also offers a few fine, traditional black metal melodies, but the constant one dimensional vocals of the record doesn't seem to catch up with the ferocity of these pieces. I liked how minimally the album ends with "Singularities Descend", and especially its final two minutes. 

Even after all this time, Warloghe's work remains completely unchanged, to standard black metal with a few extra elements that the fans might enjoy, and Three Angled Void fits perfectly to their back catalog. It could have been released one day after Womb of Pestilence. While I support the band for its overall stance, and they have not received unreasonable exposure all these years, their music often doesn't pass the average bar for me, but it's always a nice feeling to see projects like this active and sticking to what they want to do.

1. The Everburning
2. Lucifer Ascends
3. Inhuman Mirror
4. Invultuations from the Black Earth
5. Starlit Portals Amidst Mass Graves
6. Singularities Descend

Damage: 3/5 [Good]

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Gaahls Wyrd - The Humming Mountain EP (2021)

Genre: Black Metal
Location: Bergen, Norway
Release date: 05.11.2021
Label: Season of Mist
Listen: Bandcamp
Website: Instagram

I have always found interest in following Gaahl's activities in the scene and outside of it, as one of the most iconic figures of this music. While not all his endeavors are my cup of tea, I certainly have favorites and enjoyed this project's debut GastiR - Ghosts Invited, quite a lot two years ago. I made sure not to listen to any promotional track before going into their new EP, The Humming Mountain, either. While at first thinking that it was in fact a second full length album, in turn this mini-release left me with mixed feelings and unsure whether I personally dig the effort, even if it's aesthetically and musically well within acceptable levels. 

Clean vocals are chosen almost completely this time, for the whole release. Gaahl's voice is one of the most prominent in black metal and the outcome doesn't lose in emotion or quality, yet I can't deny that I would have loved a harsher voice, especially in the faster parts of the album. With that in mind, The Humming Mountain contains a few chunks of interesting content, but it's also stalling a considerable much as well. Some compositions are holding back and at the same time, over dragged in duration, keeping mellow melodies but ultimately no serious impact. This is the case for both the nine-minute opener "The Seed" and the self-titled track.

Then, "The Dwell" and "Awakening Remains - Before Leaving" represent the other part of the coin for The Humming Mountain. Significantly speedier tempos, cutting black metal riffs with a nice atmosphere, but still no shrieked vocals, very much in the spirit of Gaahls Wyrd and what they have been doing the last few years. These two songs, while not incredibly extravagant, might have the listener nodding for a bit and could be appreciated for more variety as well as more potent melodies. Unfortunately, closing "The Sleep" is even emptier than how The Humming Mountain starts, and it had me wondering why it's there and who couldn't think of abstract clean guitar echoing tricks like that.

While the EP has clear highlights, it also has some fairly clear weak points. The more passionate fans of Gaahls Wyrd will still appreciate The Humming Mountain, but it's quite clearly an understatement compared to the wonderful debut of the band. I believe more focus will be put in a second album if it ever comes. I kind of see this as what Windswept represents in the Drudkh universe, even if it's a wild analogy. Despite the bitter tongue of this text, Gaahls Wyrd is exactly how Gaahl's art should be manifested, in my opinion.

1. The Seed
2. The Humming Mountain
3. The Dwell
4. Awakening Remains - Before Leaving
5. The Sleep

Damage: 2.5/5 [Average]

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Necromantia - To the Depths We Descend... (2021)

Genre: Black Metal
Location: Greece
Label: The Circle Music
Listen: Bandcamp
Website: Instagram

I am not old enough to have lived the second wave of black metal as it happened. I didn't even get into the genre through a ladder of traditional bands during my first interactions with it, and at first I can say I really didn't get it. I listened to a lot of classic albums way too late and for a long time, interest was limited to frostbitten, maniac caterwauling from the North. It is one of the reasons I have never had a huge attachment with Greece's scene, apart from its importance of course.

What did happen at a quite sensitive age back then though was my encounter of Necromantia's Ancient Pride EP (one of their most popular releases), through a physical magazine that distributed it, and it was a kickstart not only to check the band but to look around what was happening in my neighborhood too. Ancient Pride is still one of my favorites exactly because of this reason, yet I don't stand a chance in a discussion with fans that have been following the project from the beginning and have researched into their material. Necromantia righteously claim rights for one of the most unique groups in black metal as a whole, they have the respect of the underground and more mainstream alike, and they have been highly influential for the scene, worldwide. 

After Baron Blood's passing, news started brewing about a farewell EP and the closure of Necromantia. A while later, the EP became a full album, and it took a while longer to release. As it has been stated by Magus himself, but is fairly obvious from the title and lyrics, To the Depths We Descend... is a record strongly personal to the band and serves plainly as a swan song, rather than a new release. Featuring new material, and re-recordings of old classic songs, a farewell to Baron Blood and the final chapter of one of the most important extreme metal bands of the country, is here. All this is understandable, but what I would have never expected is a significant change in the instrument arrangement, one that gave them their most characteristic quality: there is no more 8 string bass. And on top of that, you get to hear guitars. Balance has been disturbed so much, that the next step might be a Barathrum folk metal album.

Furthermore, what is this artwork? It didn't hit me well, especially coming from a cult band like that, to have such a digitally bright, video game artwork. In Game of Thrones terms, this artwork is the equivalent of the CGI-flooded Mountain - Hound fight in the last episode, while their earlier material go closer to the realistic, sincerely brutal and uncomfortable Brienne - Hound fight from the fourth season. I'm deliberately making a millennial analogy to this issue to establish my background, and while it's not an ugly artwork per se, it's not engaging at all to the album's concept despite the clarity of its depiction. Things like these make not buy a record, because it is too far from the aesthetics I am looking for in this music. 

The line up for To the Depths We Descend... features, apart from Magus of course, drum war machine Maelstrom, who is probably playing on every Greek black metal band right now, and George Emmanouel on the guitars (oh, the guitars...). Influence by the two must have been huge in the musical outcome, and they are both quite efficient. Most of the guitar lines in the album are quite potent, the drumming is on point as always, and the synths / electronics add a lot of epicness in the compositions. There's plenty of melodic riffing, a few harsher moments, and the listener will have the chance to enjoy ancient tracks like "The Warlock" and "Lord of the Abyss", re-played under this new light that found Necromantia in 2021. 

While the whole record is a tribute to Baron Blood, one of the more emotional moments appears towards the end of "And the Shadows Wept" where a narration directly to him is spoken. Album opener "Daemonocentric" is a banger, there is a beloved spookiness in the keys and melodies of "Inferno" and "Eldritch" and bass is given some justice with its own piece "Give the Devil his Due". A warm instrumental with more experimental nuances, "To the Depths We Descend" hits before the old tracks kick in. To the Depths We Descend... is a seemingly rewarding record, which makes it an odd case to formulate an opinion on.

While the Greek black metal sphere worships the album like there's no tomorrow, I sincerely hope in a parallel universe, the final Necromantia record would have been something different. A rawer, complex record that glorifies their uniqueness and originality. One album that pays homage to their past not simply by re-recording old tracks with the cleanest production possible. One that doesn't diverge from its past so much that it smashes one of the vital instruments for its sound, the bass, completely out of existence. And instead, throws in two and a half minutes of a bass interlude to trick the audience and relieve its conscience. I can guarantee you will like this album when you listen to it, but for me it's lacking, yet in really discrete ways. 

Rest in chaos, mighty Necromantia!

1. Daemonocentric
2. And the Shadows Wept...
3. Give the Devil His Due
4. Inferno
5. Eldritch
6. To the Depths We Descend...
7. Lord of the Abyss MMXXI
8. The Warlock MMXXI

Damage: 2.5/5 [Average]

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Labor Intvs - Sunken Crucible (2021)

Genre: Black / Doom Metal
Location: Finland
Label: Self-released
Listen: Bandcamp
Website: Instagram

This is an eminently unusual release. Not a lot of information about the project have seen the light of day either, as there is no input who the members are, or their past experience. Finnish project Labor Intvs release their debut full length Sunken Crucible quietly in terms of promotion, but fairly vehemently in terms of musical payload. Self-labeled as introspective blackened death / doom metal, it is an accurate enough description even if this record can still catch you off guard quite easily, as it’s overpacked with ideas and often in ways you might have not heard before.

While that’s a big statement in the day and age when everything has been played in the past, and at the same time Labor Intvs don’t introduce new basic elements, Sunken Crucible showcases a rather remarkable combination of different sub styles of black metal, with a few ounces of doom, slight drone, and a fair chunk of forward thinking composition structure. It isn’t perfect by any means, but its fair amount of brilliant moments. It’s not a short record either, with its 51 minutes of duration seeming to be a knife that cuts from both sides, yet Labor Intvs – while at times skating on thin ice – manage to maintain interest throughout the whole listening experience. For a debut album, the production is remarkably balanced, which suggests a professionally made album. On the other hand, the few tapes that are released are DIY created, and they are not of high quality or “may contain glitches here and there”. In my book, that’s a win on both fronts, but it might not add up.

If you’re looking for some dissonant black metal, you will find some immensely forceful parts of that in Sunken Crucible. Sections in “Vitriol”, “In Dread Tartarus”, or “Divine Silence”, feature top-notch, attacking orthodox black metal of the best kind. At the same time, these tracks as well as others, include segments that are highly experimental, creating a distorted atmosphere, such that’s not really common to come across. The potency of the melodies in the record is huge, with absolutely thrilling moments in the slow-paced riffing of “Tantalust” or the haunting samples in the introduction of the longest track “Labvrinth”. This track also hosts heavy experimentation, especially towards the end, similar to the eerie aesthetics that are exerted from the last moments of the record in “Divine Silence”. It might be too long for some, as is the almost one-dimensional, drone-ish introduction track “Abject Spirit”. While I love the recording of it’s first seconds, its layer of thick noise following would have been a skippable track in a different release. Here, I’m sitting waiting, what’s coming next? Captivating.

I would say Sunken Crucible has much more black than doom metal, but not in the traditional way of any of the two. What happens frequently with records that aim to be more avant-garde, or full force dissonant, is that the technicality and compositional absurdity overrides their repeatability, and they are completely off more casual listening. The argument is always that these records are that complex by nature, but now appears a release, equally intriguing, equally complex, that’s also addictive enough for repetitive listens for a longer period of time. I would say Labor Intvs is something like the bastard spawn of The Ruins of Beverast and Deathspell Omega, with some extra instrumental piecework of unknown origins, but yes, it’s also definitely introspective. 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, maybe the best artwork I’ve seen this year.

1. Abject Spirit
2. Vitriol
3. Tantalust
4. In Dread Tartarus
5. Labvrinth
6. The Final Threshold
7. Divine Silence

Damage: 4.5/5 [Brilliant]

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Cenotaph - Precognition to Eradicate (2021)

Genre: Brutal Death Metal
Location: Turkey
Label: Coyote Records / New Standard Elite / Tentacles Industries
Listen: Bandcamp
Website: Facebook

As one of the oldest and steadiest bands in the brutal death metal scene, Turkey’s Cenotaph have a long back-catalog of several classic releases, some more graphic than others. Despite the line-up turmoil that the group has undergone, it has been the case that there is a new release every 3 – 4 years, except the 7 year gap between 2010’s Putrescent Infectious Rabidity and 2017’s Perverse Dehumanized Dysfunctions.

Now, Precognition to Eradicate is mercilessly violent. Its production wouldn’t be characterized as totally polished, compared to other like-minded, modern bands, yet the record’s bulldozing sound exerts absolute domination. Living up to the band’s history, remarkable levels of brutality are achieved, while maintaining distinct technicality and deep, below-the-earth, growling throughout the whole album. Tempos constantly change, the maniacal guitar shredding focuses on the wall of heaviness instead of displaying prowess, there are moments of some more clear bass tapping while the drumming execution is plain savagery. The outcome of Precognition to Eradicate is fully served by its semi-dusty production, and Cenotaph show what it means to be a truly heavy band with top-notch musicianship.  

Listening to tracks like “Isolation Turned Into Cannibalism”, the self-titled track or “Anomalous Necrotic Breed”, the masterful combination of hard-hitting fast parts and short-termed, not overused grooves, as well as excellent usage of all the instruments involves, establishes how focused Cenotaph are with this release. A slower, almost doomy section comes towards the ending of the fifth track, “Recombinant Extraterrestrial New Form”, which is also met in the record’s final track “Into the Septic Molecular New Form”, two moments when Cenotaph dare to step into more abstract territories, compared to their known pummeling brutal death metal core.

With its delicate artwork (done by Delik Saike), Precognition to Eradicate proved to be more convincing than the last two efforts of the band and is a highlight for this year’s death metal release wagon.

1. Anti-Pathogenic Morbid Incubation  
2. Progeny of Embryonic Congenital Malformations
3. Anomalous Necrotic Breed
4. Virus Induced Dehumanization 
5. Recombinant Extraterrestrial New Form 
6. Isolation Turned into Cannibalism 
7. Precognition to Eradicate
8. Pandemic Bacterial Reverse Mutation 
9. Into the Septic Molecular New Form
Damage: 3.5/5 [Excellent]

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Bullet Ratings - October 21 [II]

Apparition (US) - Feel (Profound Lore Records):
The band's first EP was a 12 minute delight, and their debut full length is just an extended version of the same joy. Well produced, hefty doom / death metal with great riffs in all the right places, this album deserves to circulate among fans of the genre. [3.5/5]

Cradle of Filth (UK) - Existence is Futile (Nuclear Blast):
I would prefer not to. [2/5]

Dark Fog Eruption (Japan) — 忘却と絢爛の幻想 (Self-released):
Completely unaware of this project, their second release since 2019's debut is a wholly enjoyable piece of work. Dark Fog Eruption mostly rely on patterns of the traditional black metal framework, often reminded me of the melodic techniques of German / Finnish bands, with a more unique semi-growling voice instead of shrieking. Listen to this if you like Sargeist! [3/5]

Feral Season (US) - Rotting Body in the Range of Light (Profound Lore Records):
Took a serious note on this band. A highly immersive release with intriguing content, the sound is amazing and so are all the different ideas that come and go in it. [4/5]

In Crucem Agere (Austria) - Calling the Void (Aural Music):
There's too much information scattered all over the place in this release. While the band's intentions are fine, I couldn't really get through the album's different directions. While it is experimental, it is also avant-garde in a somehow predictable way. [2.5/5]

Massacre (US) - Resurgence (Nuclear Blast):
As they note in the last song of the album, the return of the corpse grinder. I can't say that I didn't enjoy Resurgence, from its art to its music, as I understand the time it's released and from who. That's what they would do anyway, and why not? [3/5]

Organic (Italy) - Where Graves Abound (Testimony Records):
I was not impressed by Organic's first released Carved In Flesh, it was too standard Swedish old school death metal. They have not changed their path with Where Graves Abound, but at least this time all the tunes are as heavy as needed, fast and not more lengthy than needed. The characteristic chainsaw sound still prevails. [3/5]

The Wolf Garden (UK) - Woven of Serpent's Spines (Naturmacht Productions):
A bit indifferent atmospheric black metal for me, it has its moments but can't make it to my favorite artists list from the genre. [2/5]

Vomit Spell (Germany) - Vomit Spell (F.D.A. Records):
From what I initially saw, I expected (and really hoped) that this record would be much heavier than what it was eventually. Maybe Vomit Spell go into middle-paced tempos more than needed, maybe not all their riffs are as strong, but it's still not skippable. [3/5]

Waking the Cadaver (US) - Authority Through Intimidation (Unique Leader Records):
Back in my deathcore discovery years in 2010-2011, there was big talk and quite an amount of distrust against this band. Never expected them to return but Authority Through Intimidation is a pretty solid record. It also feels like that's all I want from Waking the Cadaver, exactly that sound. Not a fan of their previous discography, but Authority Through Intimidation clicked. [3.5/5]

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Cult of Eibon - Black Flame Dominion

Release date: 29.10.2021
Genre: Black Metal
Location: Greece
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Listen: Youtube
Website: Facebook

While having started about six years ago, Cult of Eibon's line up consists of seasoned members who have had experience for a long time and with numerous projects in the Greek black metal scene. The band left a good mark with a couple of EPs back in 2016 and 2017, and the split release with Caedes Cruenta (who are closely related) in 2018 was also short but enjoyable, yet we were missing a more complete work until now. Black Flame Dominion features sharply colored artwork (as they did in their previous two releases) and eight tracks of clear textbook examples of this country's genre style.

As an album, and as many times as this has been said, Black Flame Dominion musically loiters in the 90's second wave as it was being realized in Greece, so much that apart from a relatively cleaner production, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see it materialize back then. The roots of earlier underground heavy metal are its basic characteristic, there's no frenetic blast beating, the compositions are more distinct and warmer than purely aggressive black metal, but it has its more furious moments nonetheless. Cult of Eibon's how to checklist has all the ticks filled, on how the guitars and drums are played, on the slight use of eerie keyboards here and there, on its introduction, the Lovecraftian references and the shrieked vocals, you know it if you have been following Greece's classic releases from three decades ago.

The record, in its forty minutes of length, does not get dull or more difficult to listen to at any moment. While Cult of Eibon don't throw any crazy tricks in, in fact they don't diverge from the common recipe at all, Black Flame Dominion is still quite enjoyable and with nice little transitions between its different parts. Guest musicians from the scene also take part in the album, especially in the more notable track "Phaesphoros", while I especially liked the synths in "Crossing the Stargate of Xitalu" and the fast-paced, self-titled song. For the fans of Greek black metal, Cult of Eibon is already a band within the radar and now their full length offer will seriously circulate around its target, it's a decent release with specific focus and no cockiness. 

1. The Fiery Pillars of Ninazu 
2. Into the Realm of Na-Girt-A-Lu
3. The Dreamer and the Morning Star 
4. Phaesphoros
5. Black Flame Dominion
6. Recollections from the Chthonian Empire
7. Crossing the Stargate of Xitalu
8. The Mournful Chime of Charon's Bell

Damage: 3/5 [Good]

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Bullet Ratings - October 21 [I]

Arcanist (US) - Caustic Apparitions:
Quite filthy raw black metal with some punk touches. The tracks are not the hardest or most compelling ever, but it is a pleasing listen. [3/5]

Azazel (Fin) - Aegrum Satanas Tecum:
I've heard every riff in this album before. You've also heard every riff in this album before. Painfully typical black metal, but hey, Chris Moyen art is always nice to look at. [2/5]

Caveman Cult (US) - Blood and Extinction:
Savage War is Destiny was gruesomely elegant and dazzling. Caveman Cult keep it up with an accurate creation of war metal that properly comes at you as a knuckle duster in the face. [3.5/5]

Full of Hell (US) - Garden of Burning Apparitions:
A swift carnage of grindcore, noise and clean production. Against religious ideals, Full of Hell own their alley and comfortably dwell in it, yet I would have liked the record to sound more wholly violent. For me, the last two previous albums were much heavier. [3/5]

Gloosh (Rus) - Sylvan Coven:
I'm so glad this guy proved me right. Since last year, I've been murmuring about this quiet force and the couple of fine EPs it had put out, now everything resonates to an impressive, captivating debut full length album. It totally dominates the atmospheric black metal territory, while not even being constrained there. Sylvan Coven is indeed a wonderful work of art. [4/5]

Revel in Flesh (US) - The Work:
It's disheartening to see the metal scene fall for this. It's a pile of pretentious experimental audacity, and the technicality won't save you if your ideas are for the trash bin. And sadly, a handful of neat saxophone parts didn't save it this time. [1/5]

Revenant Marquis (UK) - Below the Landsker Line:
Tasty riffs bounce off distorted production with a horrible echo effect. One might as well chop their songs into pieces the next time, but still this album's beauty can be recognized, like a beautiful human behind broken glass. One of the leading albums Revenant Marquis has put through. [3.5/5]

Wraith (US) - Undo the Chains:
Didn't know this band, but Undo the Chains proved to be rather entertaining. Nice black / thrash with no overstatements. [3/5]

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Tomb Mold - Primordial Malignity

Release date: February 2017
Genre: Death Metal
Origin: Canada
Label: Blood Harvest
Listen: Bandcamp

As a first taste of Tomb Mold's capabilities, the debut Primordial Malignity set the stage well for the band even though I wouldn't have foreseen the evolution that followed with their two later releases. There's a lot of potential in this first offering, as well as a rawness characterizing their first steps, in a sense that it makes it quite more specific in its goals and just plain enjoyable. As a, by now popular act of the modernized, with cleaner aesthetics but studio-ensured heaviness, likeable brand of old school death metal, Tomb Mold are in the eye of the cyclone and not by chance.

Primordial Malignity is half an hour long. It has direct, fury-fueled, futuristic lyrics and songs that span from 3 to 4 minutes, if you exclude the outro from the last piece. Its down-tuned, thick production grants a pleasing amount of heaviness, and the growling is on point. It's not a chatty album, as Tomb Mold just go for direct clobbering instead of more complex death metal pathways. There's nuance of sludgy passages, yet the grooves are dominant throughout the record, along with faster, more technical playing that has been thriving in the genre for 30 years now. The tempo changes are frequent, as Primordial Malignity freely offers plenty of headbanging moments in its solid tracks. Apart from the few ticks that you can check out of your how-to-death-metal list when listening to a new artist, Tomb Mold don't throw in anything new but already aim well with the material of this album, to be considered worthy of your time.

A few of the faster, more maniacal playing in some tracks of Primordial Malignity stand out for me, as the main plus here is the ample, brutal riffs. As the record goes on, it proves to be a bit flat and difficult to distinguish one track from another, as Tomb Mold stay too focused on one line of playing, yet by picking out specific tracks and listening to them alone, the listening becomes easier. Despite being in Blood Harvest, the band is well-rooted in the modern US scene rather than going even close to the Swedish chainsaw sound, yet hints of attempting to put together their own sound are already evident. Primordial Malignity does not have anything groundbreaking to show to the listener, however it's undeniably heavy in its approach without overstating things. While they definitely had all that was needed at the time, the material wasn't yet perfected to higher efficiency.

Correctly, we're dealing with some capable death metal. Not always fast, a bit more groovy, with nice guitar lines and solos, deep growls (that could really go places with a bit more variety), nice texts, but yet not the explicit motives of the band, as it is not sure what direction they're going to take, or if they plan to at all. Later on, significantly more interesting content would be unleashed from Tomb Mold, just a year later.

1. Intro - They Grow Inside
2. Coincidence of Opposites
3. Bereavement of Flesh
4. Primordial Malignity
5. Merciless Watcher
6. Clockwise Metamorphosis
7. Twisted Trail
8. Vernal Grace - Outro

Damage: 3/5 [Good]

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Skepticism - Companion

Release date: September 24th, 2021
Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
Origin: Finland
Label: Svart Records
Listen: Bandcamp

We got a tiny bit of Eero Pöyry action earlier this year with his keyboard contribution to the introduction and outro of Mork's latest album Katedralen, a great work of modern Norwegian black metal that features some of the band's most well-written material to date. As for me, I enjoyed Katedralen but was more anxiously waiting for the next Skepticism full length, especially after the slight letdown of 2015's Ordeal, where the band didn't manage to keep my attention almost at all. Prior to that, they have massive albums on their backs, each one a big chapter in their story dating back to the early days of establishing this subgenre.

If you want some quick insight to stop reading this text faster, you should already know then that Companion is startling. Its massive atmosphere, through multilayered synths and the beloved church organs, the snail-paced guitar lines -even though, this time Skepticism dare to play a bit faster too- all live up to their names. With instances that reminded me a bit of the Farmakon era, it's packed with epic moments and almost no dull moment, it naturally flows and you won't even know when the 48 minutes of duration have passed when listening to this magical journey. Companion changes mood from time to time, based always on interesting ideas and fine musicianship, so don't expect pointless, endless songs that attempt to mimic funeral doom metal. I really liked some of the directions this record took, and it's after all, made by veterans.

The album openers "Calla" and "The Interwined" are wonderful examples of Skepticism class, and they stand on the slightly more uplifting side of the album. The band picks up some speed here and might catch some listeners off guard (just compare this to the standard speeds of e.g., Alloy), offering an abundance of beautiful melodies and some especially nice piano + drums part in "The Interwined". Slower, church organ driven lines follow in "The March of the Four", where one can find some of the more typical funeral doom elements being clearer. However, Companion takes a wondrous turn from then on, as it shows its angry face with "Passage". Apart from the intimidating introduction, which feels like a more furious, fast paced black metal track might kick in, its used of background synths, along the mellower, more common Skepticism style, provides a heavier, more punishing result that made it possibly my favorite track in the record.

It's pointless to mention how good the keyboards and the church organ is every time it deserves a mention in Companion, but for the people who are familiar with Skepticism, the quality of Eero Pöyry's execution is well known. That's what I enjoyed the most in the dolent "The Inevitable", and the rest of the instrumentation in the ominous introduction of the final track "The Swan and the Raven", as well as how it built up and closed the album in the same manner. Yet, not to totally praise this release, what I did not completely enjoy at several times was the growling of the vocals, as to me it didn't sound as hefty, as deep or as strong as it could have been, which had me thinking that if Companion featured a more monstrous lower vocal work, it would have been among my top funeral doom metal albums. Still, I doubt this will alienate the fans out there, as Skepticism have made another really solid effort.

Ok, this was really nice, now back to Stormcrowfleet again.

1. Calla
2. The Intertwined
3. The March of the Four
4. Passage 
5. The Inevitable 
6. The Swan and the Raven

Damage: 3.5/5 [Great]

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Agoraphobic Nosebleed & Converge - The Poacher Diaries (Split)

Release date: November 1st, 1999
Genre: Grindcore / Hardcore Punk
Origin: Massachusetts, USA
Label: Relapse Records
Listen: Bandcamp

This is the only split album I have heard from Converge, being alone their hometown gang Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and next in line is “Deeper the Wound”, released in 2001 in collaboration with Japanese hardcore / death metal band Hellchild. Considering the stunningly massive impact Jane Doe has had to extreme sound, it almost naturally comes as a notion to split their history to before and after this release, and this release here stands right before the earthquake but gives away Converge’s talent quite openly. At the same time, I met Agoraphobic Nosebleed with 2009’s Agorapocalypse, as one of the first experiences I had with grindcore, without necessarily being a fan of their earlier, endless song number clocking at 16 minutes, type of albums. 

For the time this was released, it hits bull eye on what you would expect to listen. Agoraphobic Nosebleed kick in with a dirty, battered production, speedy tracks of constant unusual tempos, strange short sound effects here and there, they play as heavily as they can and hammer down a semi-distinct, semi-typical grindcore hurricane, with socially aware lyrics and nice samples. Some songs seem to have a bit different guitar sound than others, but in general what you have a frantic and uncomfortable set of cacophonies that makes up a fairly enjoyable listen. I can say I prefer this to the full lengths they were releasing at the time even though I’ve not been through everything, what Agoraphobic Nosebleed manage is to fire up some entertaining grindcore, with a slight personal touch and the sound to come with it. 

What is highly more interesting is the Converge side, where the band is jumping off the roof with six amazing tracks that round up almost all the ideas in their arsenal back then. Musicianship shines through the harsh sound, and brings up a lot of powerful melodies you didn’t even know existed, more often than not Converge have me thinking “how did he even think of this riff?”… While not their biggest fan, in The Poacher Diaries the band manages to display its highly skilled technical play, with middle paced emotional tracks, as well as scourging vocals, both clean and growling, in a rather addictive pack of attacking tracks. Again, beautiful samples used in various moments, but this time they are not what makes the tracks special. 

It starts of with two bulldozer heavy, fast tracks, “Locust Reign” and “This is Mine”. They feature the most intense side of Converge, at its fastest with intense riffing and unbelievably effective breakdowns, a long time before the technique would be adopted by deathcore butter bands and used as basis in their songs. These two tunes introduce an assault that will have you off your chair, and then the band moves on to even more daring directions. As the compositions get longer, there is more space for their one-of-a-kind writing style, as the psychedelic, clean guitar part of “They Stretch for Miles” starts, with clean vocals that vaguely remind of distorted alternative rock / shoegazing, but much heavier, indicating the first hints of the grooves the band would play later on and become worldwide famous.

Converge mix their faster playing with even slower parts, and it worked naturally. Points need to be given on how good the vocals sound in this release, but the praise in that section is unnecessary, yet the magnificence of the doom / sludgy introduction of “My Great Devastator” is the stamp of proof that Jacob Bannon is a beast. All the different sections of this track are top-notch, as is “The Human Shield”, with Converge clearly flirting with mathcore and unusual musical ideas in their tracks. Filthy, tasty riffs await to be found in the album’s outro “Minnesota” as well and as a whole, The Poacher Diaries has all you need to love this band. 

I spoke much more for one of the two sides in this split album, which shows which band I liked the most but the difference is really that big. Converge saves this otherwise simply nice work that would be listened once and lost forever, but in order not to disregard Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s side, get your hands on this if you like grindcore because it is worth it. It’s always nice to discover such gems in band’s side releases, when most of the attention falls on the artists’ full lengths.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed:
1. Mantis
2. Center of the Hive
3. Glass Tornado
4. Landfills of Extinct Possibility
5. Pentagram Constellation
6. Bed of Flies
7. Destroyed
8. Gringo 
9. Infected Womb

10. Locust Reign
11. This Is Mine
12. They Stretch for Miles
13. My Great Devastator
14. The Human Shield
15. Minnesota

Damage: 3.5/5 [Great]

Monday, September 20, 2021

Spectral Lore - Sentinel

Release date: 2012
Genre: Ambient Black Metal
Origin: Greece
Label: Stellar Auditorium Productions
Listen: Bandcamp

And here is where Spectral Lore followed through. As if Ayloss was fully aware of the weaknesses of his previous works, a five year window is taken to fully fix and re-engineer the band’s sound into a new form that exposed the music for what it can truly be: perplexing, potent black metal with interesting lyrics and more distinct, spacey ambient oriented synths. One can tell how much inspiration must have been employed for Sentinel, which at the time was completely discernible from Spectral Lore’s previous albums, yet more of what we know them to be about today. Similarities to Mare Cognitum start to arise at this time as well, let alone the collaborations that followed, in the music as well as the stellar cover art.

The first two songs are everything you need. Well, and the last one. As some have described it as the milder side of the album, “Atlus (A World Within a World” in its thirty minutes of length, has impressively deep layered synths, a truly monster space ambient track that defined the project at the time and still is well ingrained in its name. While the staggering riffs in “All Devouring Earth”, and especially “The Dejection of Arjuna”, are always at the spotlight of Sentinel, it’s not just that which has been perfected in the album. The touching compositions bloom as the well-thought and structured guitar lines unravel, demonstrating how unique Spectral Lore is. One can find hints of French black metal, US atmospheric black metal, even – and very very slightly – traditional greek melodies, beautiful soloing, fine keyboard work and the production that a record as Sentinel would deserve.

In its own world, the conceptual follower would only come nine years later with Ετερόφωτος, as Sentinel has a very interesting story to tell with its lyrics. Comfortably between intensity and ambiance, it has a lot of characteristic and memorable sequences where Spectral Lore properly channel inspiration into the creative process. It’s almost impossible not to be amazed with the blistering tempos and riffs of “The Coming of Age”, or the melodies of “My Ascension into the Celestial Spheres” and how it gives way to the great outro. Most of Spectral Lore’s audience was obtained through this release, and how the band would soon get into the collective of atmospheric, space-related black metal bands with a clean, melodic sound (Mare Cognitum, Midnight Odyssey etc…). 

“Quest for the Supramental” is the only track I can’t seem to enjoy that much from Sentinel. While it has a few interesting guitar lines, it feels like its pending for too long and never arrives to a conclusion, at least not in the bombastic manner that it happens in other tracks. I would really appreciate the guitar work here in a different kind of release but just for me, this song doesn’t click that much with the flow of the rest of the album. A small price to pay for so many other great moments, Spectral Lore’s discography from then on reached the ears of the mainstream metal scene, and well deserved.

I wrote a little piece for the band's next album, and their most popular, III, back when it was released. This leaves us a with a few split releases, some singles and of course the latest full length, to have an overview of Spectral Lore. When the time comes.

1. All Devouring Earth
2. The Dejection of Arjuna
3. The Coming of Age
4. Quest for the Supramental
5. My Ascension into the Celestial Spheres
6. Atlus (A World Within a World)

Damage: 3.5/5 [Great]