Sunday, May 30, 2021

Dödsrit - Mortal Coil

Forlorn but marching forward

It is not very often that you see crust bands have overly long compositions. On the contrary, hardcore crust albums often have a purposefully noisy sound and many, short and hard hitting tracks. Of course, it’s not always the case, especially when it comes to Dödsrit, an already established band who made its name through their valiant ideological stances and high level musicianship. With their first two records in 2017 and 2018, they put forth a menacing blend of crust and black metal, which is combination  often exercised by underground acts but rarely with such efficiency. After a break of three years, the world is introduced Dödsrit’s next tour de force, Mortal Coil, a worthy successor of their previous work Spirit Crusher.

This band’s releases have common traits in terms of structure, and this new record goes along the same pattern not only in the number of tracks but also in the length as it was done in the previous one. Four pieces full of vibrant, melodic black metal, something that is now more defined with a personal touch as a driving factor. The crust elements are always present, with parts of classic d-beat and punkish guitar lines coming and going, yet Dödsrit now devote significant chunks of their compositions to employing melodic sequences that could be found in melodic or even atmospheric / post-black metal. The production in Mortal Coil is knowingly clear, and what stands out in the music is the abundance of wonderful ideas and how they are puzzled together into coherent tunes. The vocals vary from high pitched screaming to shouting and the overall atmosphere of the album is emotionally burdened and ecstatic, it would not be labeled as dark but instead, lively, angry and straightforward. Once again, I was amazed by the beautiful written lyrics in Mortal Coil, which -as the title would suggest- describe a nature of gloom and frailty in human life from a personal perspective.

Different aspects of the album work very well together and create a result that was for me, more memorable than the band’s previous works. There’s several moments that Dödsrit truly hit gold, be it the frivolous solos at various parts (for example in the self-titled track, which also has a pretty powerful opening), the aching vocals or the build-up sessions. Each song is musically rich and a complete journey on its own, full of epicness and intensity. Starting from “The Third Door”, a wicked eleven minute piece that contains fast paced lines, a lot of melody, distinct crust passages, the listener is filled with satisfaction and enjoyment after it’s concluded, and that’s only the beginning. Dödsrit are great at building climactic moments in their material and Mortal Coil is a fine example of that as well, where the content is balanced and well written through and through. And while it isn’t constantly crust, it’s not that close to the traditional way of black metal, which puts the band in its own spot within this large Venn diagram, by having having an overall character that doesn’t totally reminisce bands of the same genre even. Take a track like “Shallow Graves”, which makes it hard to miss just how marvelous all the guitar lines are, a truly shining melodic black / crust course.

Previous records were enjoyable for me but I never stuck around too long with Dödsrit. I found myself digging Mortal Coil a lot more than I expected, as it is unmistakable how well it provokes and delivers the atmosphere and the feelings, from the sincere musicians to the listener / receiver. It is a great record  which could appeal to more ears out there than just the extreme metal scene, and it comes from a band that has its head straight not only musically but also outside that. In case they were working on this for the last three years, the efforts were totally fruitful and they have been elevated to my eyes through this notable work of art.

Damage: 4/5 [Excellent]


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Ungfell - Es grauet

They are their own masters

For me, Ungfell's first album Tôtbringære struck out of the blue and as rapidly as thunder in 2017, a record that should be included in the top debuts of that year and brought a lot of attention to the project. Having just a couple of demos prior to that, they presented a semi-folk / semi-medieval style of fast paced black metal with dynamic, enterprising riffs and wonderful acoustic passages. The only aspect that could have been handled better in Tôtbringære was the harsh production, which was completely turned around with the clear production of their second work Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz, a year later.

What characterizes both these records is how energetic and memorable the guitar parts are. Ungfell construct tracks with unique excess, they have a recognizable sound and while often being hard hitting, they also give comedic hints in their music that makes the result an even more challenging and epic black metal framework. It's now been three years since Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz and the band returns with an effort that not only goes hand in hand with their previous full length, but also clears out the signs of growth in the compositions as well as overall musicianship. Es grauet can be considered the most accessible of their material, because of its even clearer and fuller production, and even at the cover art one can see the evolution from a medieval sketch in 2017 to today's complex, colorful scenes. Ungfell don't spare the listener of any of their frequent tricks in this album either, and again for me the most lethal weapon in their arsenal is the use of the guitars, distorted and not only. Even after a couple of listens you are hooked to these riffs, and the tracks can be easily recognized from one another, while the band has added several different elements adequately to not spoil the repetition.

Once listening to Es grauet, make sure to pay attention to all the different components of the tracks and focus on the melodies, as the band doesn't feel like repeating too much even their most potent moments. It is a treat to fit a lot of top-notch ideas in each track, and Ungfell take it a step further by avoiding even the slightest monotony. Of course, the record maintains its standard character, which is enriched by great samples (for example the sound of sheep bells, rain, other farm animals or church bells, used in some tracks) and finally some well recorded clean vocals. This is more prominent in the two last tracks (a vocal outro and the remarkable penultimate piece "D Unheilspfaffä vom Heinzäbärg"), but also in "Mord im Tobel". The hidden Easter egg of a short sample sound of a "frog honk" (I will name it like this), as it has been placed in parts of the previous records, is also present here as an extra inside joke from the band to the audience, to not only take this music more seriously than they should, but also life in general. Of course, I'm not going to give out which track has it. A couple of interludes with acoustic guitars scattered in the album, are the only songs with short duration, but I didn't find a particularly dull moment in its entirety. There is a lot of interesting content from start to finish in Es grauet, and if Ungfell had been perfecting this for the last three years, they totally succeeded.

I'm still completely in the dark regarding the lyrics or track titles of this band. This won't stop you from appreciating a band that now, with their third release, dares to step into more spotlight not by watering down its material, but by getting stronger and stronger. As -for me- the head of the Helvetic Underground Committee, Ungfell deserve all they talk they get as a rising band from our time period to be remembered in the future. Es grauet narrates another awesome tale, and it doesn't get rusty at all no matter how much you have it consecutively on repeat. After three highly emphatic albums, you can now be sure that this is not an one-night success band. 

Damage: 4/5 [Excellent]

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Grave Miasma - Abyss of Wrathful Deities

Not as good as it should have been

A long time ago, back in 2013, right before Grave Miasma’s debut Odori Sepulcrorum was about to be released, I was spending a lot of time with the early Cruciamentum material, their demos and especially 2011’s EP Engulfed in Desolation. Of course, it was already a few years after Dead Congregation’s massive Graves of the Archangels (a death metal classic from one of the best bands the genre has ever seen), yet a new band of the same elements was about to come out with their own first work. And at the time, that band was the talk of the town, highly anticipated and hugely praised by the scene as the spiritual successors (along the other two bands) of the Incantation school of thought.

Odori Sepulcrorum had the expected impact. I don’t know if the term “cavernous” was used for modern bands up to that point, but it was surely established these years and expanded further later on, in what seems now like an old school “revival” with a lot of new names. Ever since, there wasn’t any significant activity from Grave Miasma except an EP in 2016, which would just raise the stakes of any follow-up work higher and higher, until we arrive to 2021, and why Abyss of Wrathful Deities, their second album after Odori Sepulcrorum, eight years later, might be the most anticipated death metal record of the year so far. Being a driving factor in this particular sub-style of the genre, I wanted Grave Miasma to live up to their name and deliver a ground shaking work, but in reality it doesn’t reach the starry heights it aims for. We’re talking about an album faithfully following the formula, offering an abundance of brutality with hammering drums and guitars, painful growls and conceptual twists towards Middle Eastern meditation thematics that also influence the music itself. At the same time, Abyss of Wrathful Deities, while seemingly explosive at the first listen, loses a bit of its shine after it’s repeated a lot. And such an effect have albums that are a little bit more one-dimensional than what they seem.

Already from the art itself, the record by no means has a cover reminiscent of the visual mastery other death metal albums of that kind have. To me, the title also feels equally puerile, questioning the choices of the band when it comes to the album’s textual part and aesthetics. Frankly, it baffles me to think that such a cover art / album title would be conceived and accepted among the members of Grave Miasma, given that the tracks themselves are full of well-written lyrics. As a band that thrives on its crippling atmosphere, the fog has cleared out a lot in Abyss of Wrathful Deities and its clear production brings to the surface parts that are musically fragile, for example, the transitions between “Erudite Decomposition” and “Under the Megalith” are fine pointers of these filler moments, where the record doesn’t even fill that heavy anymore. The predictability is also quite high after just a couple of tracks, where the listener has already listened to how fast Grave Miasma will play, as well as their Slayer-ish frantic solo additions here and there. The intensity is even more watered down in following songs like “Demons of the Sand” and an unnecessary interlude, pointing out that Abyss of Wrathful Deities has, as a whole, mediocre content. “Rogyapa” can be considered a highlight (strongly reminding of their brother band Cruciamentum here) as well as the last track of the record “Kingdoms Beyond Kallash”, which also is slightly more interesting to listen to.

I can imagine how Abyss of Wrathful Deities might be enjoyed all around by death metal listeners, however in my point of view, it doesn’t compare in terms of quality, neither to their previous material neither to the other-like minded artists. The world needs more of Charnel Passages, and less of this. Maybe listen to some Obliteration even, and you will get a better slap in the face than this. This album is a bit of a let down and a victim of its own ambition, Grave Miasma could have done miracles within the genre but didn’t keep up with some consistency. While it isn’t a totally poorly made effort, and it will probably get the same blind praise as they have previously had, yet once you scratch the surface slightly more violently, you will also see the inner cracks.

Damage: 2.5/5 [Average]