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]