Monday, December 19, 2022

Albums of the Year 2022

"Aye", the eldest of the owls answers softly. "They are still glittering in the night of those who tread the path of solar solitude. To the rest - to the flock - they are already dead and all but forgotten."
- Lines from The Long Defeat.

Monday, December 05, 2022

A realm at the edge of sanity - Interview with Elminster / Ithildin Tape Production

I was already a few years in the blog cosmos when the first posts of Andrew Werdna surfaced on his now historic website, describing a certain style of dark / fantasy ambient with forlorn medieval aesthetics and initially coining the term "dungeon synth". The genre, initially loosely consisting of side projects of musicians of the second wave of black metal, has undergone a time period of rebirth and reform the last 10 years, with more and more projects and dedicated labels coming up and honouring the forgotten art of the cassette tape. And if you've followed this micro scene even a little bit lately, the name Elminster will surely ring a bell. Restless and with seemingly unceasing inspiration, an abundance of projects are maintained almost solely by one musician, Maeglin Aumar, all at the same time, releasing material quite often and a lot throughout the year, while maintaining his own tape label Ithildin Tape Production too. Under different monikers, he experiments with a wide array of musical templates, spanning from dark ambient, to dusty hip hop, to dungeon synth, to raw black metal, and all over again. Elminster agreed to a discussion that includes an extensive description of his artistic presence, his motives, insight on past releases and a glimpse into the future.


Thursday, December 01, 2022

Autophagy - Bacteriophage Review

Experienced members in the modern sludge / doom / death metal scene comprise Portland's Autophagy, who caught the attention back in 2018 with an initial, quite solid first demo release. In the form of Bacteriophage, the band presents a concise debut full length album with a simplistic but effective formula: Swedish death'n'roll and old school death metal, with some doom metal touches, all drenched in down-tuned, grisly sound directly from the swamps only meant to disgust you. The magnificent cover art was catered by Brazilian designer Marcio Blasphemator, it immediately catches the eye and thankfully the material inside doesn't disappoint. Again, Bacteriophage doesn't overstep its own boundaries, so after a couple of tracks, you know what you're in for. Wonderful hidden guitar solos arise here and there (for example in "Beneath the Moss, Between the Roots") but for the most part, the whole record is one giant groove with a handful of faster and even less slower parts, but at least executed quite adequately. Doom / death metal glory resides in the self-titled track and the latter part of "Sacrificial Spawn, which also includes speedier tempos as in "Eviscerated Remains", "Abhorrent Abomination" and "Dawn of the Endless Plague". Tunes like "Return to the Charnal Hall" sit comfortably sit in what basically is pure death'n'roll, and "Becoming" has a little bit of everything, which actually is the case for all the tracks in Bacteriophage, and points out their tolerance in combining these few elements that make up the record. I was never overwhelmed by massive musical insight when listening to this, but all the tracks maintain a certain level of ugliness that is always admirable in death metal and its own kind of beauty, which I think shines with Autophagy and their neat debut. Hats off to the deep growls of the singer as well, who never dared to exit the cave when recording these vocals, and why would he. [3.5/5 - Great] 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Pit Lord - Gallery of Skewered Swine Review

Man, this blows hard. The colossal amount of sub-par extreme metal bands coming and going the last two decades is difficult to avoid, yet most of the times it is wiser to ignore than to indulge. For once, and with such a grand cover art, I slightly had some hope for the second Pit Lord album, a parody death metal band focusing on the subject of grilling meat and barbeques, and as much as I appreciate this craft, the band is ridiculous at best. While not being a person pre-determined against groups with humorous lyrics (even if there is good ground to be), I always take the musical content into account above all, and Gallery of Skewered Swine is one of the most poorly made, generic and weakest death metal albums I have heard this year. Its production is a complete failure, as the guitars completely lack any kind of impact in their sound, something that could have saved them from the fact that they haven't written not even one riff worth listening to in the whole album. The vocals feel forced and frail too, and the drum machine sounds as good as the sound of typing on a keyboard. Pit Lord go for slam / brutal death metal grooves really often but the structure of the tracks is so flat and so predictable, in a completely unoriginal and deficient record that has only two nice points: the cover and some funny samples about grilling. An attempt of the classic word altering joke title of "Sons of a Northern Breakfast" just makes the whole situation more embarrassing, because at least when e.g. Cannabis Corpse do it, they are also capable of writing some actual music to support it. There's nothing worth it in this album and most of death metal you will hear is better than it, so don't even consider investing the time. This genre has much better artists with substantial vision and considerable musicianship for you to enjoy, instead of toying with material way below mediocrity. [1/5 - Really poor]

Friday, November 25, 2022

Spiral Staircase - Visions Shifting Form Review

At last, after a series of mini releases and demos, Spiral Staircase channel their focus into creating a full length album. This debut sums up the band’s path until now quite well and with slightly clearer sound, but don’t be scared that it goes too far. Visions Shifting Form has an abundance of great riffs, slight punk-ish elements, a distant epicness with frequent ominous passages and plenty of melody for a raw black metal album. It flows nicely, and while listening, it is easy to notice that it’s a hardly repetitive record, as numerous different parts of changing tempos co-exist in the same tracks, yet the feeling of the whole outcome is kept the same. The band released the excellent EP Cellar Dream last year, and continues with an even more convincing statement in Visions Shifting Form, but I couldn’t help but notice the relatively short duration of most of the project’s material. Excluding the eight minute cover of cult band Asakku “Endless Woods”, the album would clock at 22 minutes but in all honesty, you’d rather have short but competent material than never ending mediocrity. Visions Shifting Form has a lot of great moments and really enjoyable tracks, and Spiral Staircase strike well this time with a release that deserves all the attention of folks wandering in the dungeons of underground black metal. Classic second wave guitar lines in “Returning”, “Empyrean Wolven Gate” and the self-titled track, the opening “Infinite Shadow” is clearly energized through some d-beat punk aggression, “The Hallucination” has even more atmospheric riffs that a different band would stretch to 10 minutes, and there’s an one minute shot “In the Scrying House” with just a couple of sections. The cover on Asakku is wonderful, it brings back the ghosts of the mid and late 90’s and makes it easy for you to label Spiral Staircase, not only musically but also chronologically. If you’re gonna look backwards, at least do it with decency. [3.5/5 - Great]

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Gaerea - Mirage Review

This name will appear in many outlets and probably many lists this year. Gaerea have all it needs to be a part of the widely discussed leading names of the modern black metal scene, right along the biggest names of the scene. They have been on an upward spiral since their debut, they are as photogenic as needed and now come around with an extremely attractive record to prove themselves. But do they? Mirage is by all means grandiose, really expressive and acutely crafted. The sound is powerful and the tracks compelling, cracking the formula of how to make properly heavy material with loads of melodies, borrowing some elements from post-black metal, evocative clean guitar passages and an intense live presence to go along with it. You can feel the vocalist’s agony through these painful screams, and the album explosively starts with highlights “Memoir” and “Salve”.  “Deluge” is also entertaining, “Arson” somehow manages (even though I hear some melodies that are the same as in Mgła), and that reveals a negative aspect of Mirage, its slightly underwhelming evolution until the end. There’s serious blasting in the beginning but it feels to me as ideas become more and more sparse as it progresses. “Ebb” has pretty standard, one-dimensional riffing, the filler clean guitar part of the self-titled track removes a lot of the album’s potential up to that point, and both “Mantle” and the closing “Laude” contain nothing more than average atmospheric / post-black metal lines. Thankfully, the delivery on the vocals often saves the day in the record, which is as a whole a quite satisfactory listening experience, despite the compositional weaknesses in some points. Despite that, this point will not alienate the fans who will worship this, or it will go unnoticed as Mirage is a generally powerful release. Therefore, the enormous praising that Gaerea receive, is not completely unjustified, yet I wouldn’t completely agree on how groundbreaking or genre pushing this work actually is. [3.25/5 - Good]

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Decapitated - Cancer Culture Review

It’s now been 20 years since Nihility, Decapitated’s second and highly influential album in the modern / technical death metal scene. They have gone a long way since then and even after all this time, I can not account the band for any serious misstep in their discography, as they have more or less maintained their posture these two decades. Latest offering Cancer Culture is an alteration of the common term “cancel culture” that has been in the spotlight the last few years, and Decapitated take a stand regarding it with an opinion that is easy to guess from the album’s title already. Compositional prowess has always been there, the band is more than capable in creating continuous streams of intense and heavy guitar riffing, yet Cancer Culture has, in my opinion, the most dreadful and lousiest lyrics they have ever written. Since such a hot topic was picked, it would have been more convincing if it was articulated more consistently and not as if Decapitated are teenagers themselves (just five years ago in Anticult, the band nailed it on the lyrical content). Some tracks are  great musically, like the self-titled, “Locked” (a highlight!) or “Suicide Space Program” and “Last Supper”. And then, on the two tracks where guest musicians are featured, there isn’t a riff that was written that was not generic, especially in “Iconoclast” (with Robb Flynn of Machine Head). “Hello Death”, with Jinjer’s Tatiana, is by far the weakest piece in Cancer Culture for the same reasons, as it barely even has an actual riff. Decapitated is a band I have been following for years now, and for the first time I’d rather not understand what they’re singing about, because while the concept itself could prove interesting, the delivery here is embarrassing. At the same time, it’s not short of musical excellence in some parts of the record, and almost toothless at others (further example, “Hours as Battlegrounds” shouldn’t even be there). Cancer Culture has a great cover, but I wish a lot of its insides would be different. [2.5/5 - Average]

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Spider God - Fly in the Trap Review

My first interaction with Spider God was a split with Μνήμα from 2021, where both bands expressed similar kind of filth in a few tracks and had me excited about another uprising quality raw black metal band. You can imagine my reaction coming across Black Renditions a year later, however I quickly moved on with a big question mark on how it was the same band that produced the two. Spider God proved hard working and release their actual debut full length album Fly in the Trap, which still remains unconventional if not polarizing for a black metal record. With a strangely eerie artwork, the record deals with the famous story of the death of Elisa Lam and includes quite interesting, ghost musicians like Rope Sect, Revenant Marquis and A Forest of Stars. Employing heavy doses of melody, most of the tracks abuse tremolo picking in a meaningful way and often manage guitar lines under a lot of brightness, contradicting the usually soul crushing atmospheres found in black metal. On the contrary, Fly in the Trap is borderline uplifting to listen to (check out the chorus of "Labyrinth of Hallways" for example) and doesn't really have the nuances of the genre Spider God are actually playing, yet the musicianship is skilled enough to construct wonderful compositions with nice riff transitions all throughout the album. I found the vocals a little bit repetitive at times, a few titles questionable (e.g. "Hiroshima Mon Amour" or "A Thousand Lonely Spiders") but tracks like the opening "The Fifty Second Murderer" or "Flies in the Trap" have their moments. The unclear direction of "The Hermit" places is clearly as the album's weakest point, and the closing track "Invisible Light" features an introduction straight out of a Running Wild record, and that's how much far away from black metal Fly in the Trap really is. Spider God have the potential to provoke and impress, yet this doesn't translate to the work's essence actually being groundbreaking. By no means a dull listen though. [3/5 - Good]

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Behemoth - Opvs Contra Natvram Review

Since I Loved You At Your Darkest in 2018, an overall skippable record that amounts essentially to nothing, and considering their rapid ascent into shameless mainstream territory, I had almost fully excluded Behemoth from serious discussions on extreme metal. The band is dressed in gold by now, and it feels like it has the budget of the whole rest of the scene on its feet, with extravagant live shows, visuals and effects. Nergal, the face of rockstar satanists, smirks while sitting on the throne of all anti-religious themed bands of the world, and conveniently puts out another record of the same hate and malice against everyone. On a positive note, things have not gone off the rails as much as their last album, but on the contrary, there’s a handful of bangers in Opvs Contra Natvram. Specifically, tracks like “Malaria Vulgate”, “Disinheritance” and “Thy Becoming Eternal” contain the most brutality Behemoth can offer and reminds of the overwhelming assault the listener would get by listening to the band in the 00’s. “The Deathless Sun” has fairly attractive chorus and melodies and would do great in a live show, and the middle paced tempos in “Off to War!” make it an easy listening track, hinting that they should never play slower than that. At the same time, the fragility of the record’s more adventurous pieces like the mellow “Ov My Herculean Exile”, the ineffective introduction or the worst piece “Upon A Pale Horse” (whatever they tried to do here, it failed), present all the musical weaknesses of the band, clear as day. Lyrics are as frivolous as they’ve always been (special e.g. “Versvs Christvs”) with Behemoth, but at least all the art on Opvs Contra Natvram is wonderfully artistic, and just beautiful. This work, while not that bad, confirms for one more time how ridiculously overrated this band is, but it’s a step ahead from where they were four years ago, and there are a couple of great tracks. [2.75/5 - Average]

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Till - Monument to Man's Frailty Review

This band has been quite active since last year, with two albums then and several split releases in between them and their most recent, third full length, Monument to Man's Frailty. Apart from the neat title, it also features great artwork (John Constable's Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1823) and the same headstrong attitude as the last time you heard them. The production is dirty but not battered and the foundations of the record are clear, sticking to defending old school black metal by all means and above all, material of considerable capacity. When Monument to Man's Frailty initially kicks off, one might think that they're up for yet another raw-ish black metal band that relies on unsound and saturated black and white imaging for getting by. As the album unravels though, hints of compositional proficiency begin to arise, especially on how different parts of the tracks are melded together. Acoustic guitar passages are not just fillers, epic melodies come and go and the employment of background synths is excellent (just listen to the last track "Adrift to Winter's Embrace"). Till's skill was apparent with their earlier material as well and this one is no exception, yet not perfect either. I would have liked a bit more variety in the vocals, which come across as the typical second wave German / Finnish black metal norm of characteristic shrieking, and also some guitar riffs could sometimes lack identity, yet the overall work is concrete and palatable. I don't know what they ought to do differently in these two sections, after all it's that kind of black metal, and some moments are really compelling here, for example the striking "By Bayonet and Saber" or the beautiful folk-ish direction at the end of "Man's Greatest Tomb", and how it gives way to the more intense "Will to Decay". I will be digging the record more and more by time just because of how natural the flow feels, and it is surprising that Till have so much space for inspiration, especially considering how often they put out new material. [3.75/5 - Great]

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Morbific - Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm Review

This Finnish act has been ascending in the ranks of the new wave of old school death metal and by no accident, as they have a really good grasp on the visuals and the music, proving it with their debut Ominous Seep of Putridity last year. Their split with Anatomia was also decent, so there were no signs of immediate malfunctions for Morbific, who build up on their first work with a very similar minded record, Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm. Everything seems to be in its proper place once again, and the band does perform to its expected standards, providing material that is full of crawling, heavy grooves, painful growls, violent lyrical themes and a healthy dose of brutality one would hope to receive from such albums. Morbific are not master composers and not the filthiest of death metal practicians that you could find, yet they at least stand well on their feet when it comes to the compositional part of Squirm Beyond... The biggest issue of the record though, one that ruins the listen for me, is this obnoxious production. There is a constant amount of noise that, even if it comes or doesn't come from an instrument, actively damages the outcome. The drums are completely buried and every instrument sounds cut off from the rest of the instrumentation. The vocals are sometimes too silent and generally, the record's audio is simply smashed. Most of the actual material is enjoyable even if sometimes, middle paced guitar lines are repeated too much and make the tracks a bit frail (the longer ones especially have that problem). It sounds like when you watch Morbific perform these tracks live, they will definitely sound different, so the studio editing unfortunately had a negative impact on the outcome of this record. Still, this cover is really great, and there are a handful of nice moments here which death metal fans will dig, if they don't mind its production. [2.5/5 - Average]

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Funeral Harvest - Redemptio Review

Funeral Harvest remain on the same path they started on with 2020's self-titled EP, which showcases a disciplined band with traditional inclinations and adequate music. Debut full length Redemptio is merely half an hour long but makes its case, and it is as elegant as the band itself, with a wonderful cover and catered production, a healthy use of Latin text and naturally a vibrant Satanic element. While certainly not aiming to sound strictly old school, the toolset in practice is stripped down to the basics and constitutes to what is imperative for memorability. The band's origins are also apparent, as Funeral Harvest reproduce the work as it would be described in a textbook and fit well to their time period, they are not ones for looking back but not that much forward either. The album is short and with barely enough variation and two distinct, dark ambient texture pieces as an intro / outro and interlude (in "Soli Ego Gloria"), yet it makes it case with rather solid material. While listening to Redemptio however, sometimes it feels that urges are repressed to an extent, or that the record's sound doesn't allow it to hit as hard as it could. Several tracks faintly give this feeling, even when the band phenomenally ostensibly plays heavier, like for example in the first piece "Fire Sermon" or "Womb of Snakes". On the other hand, "Principum Et Finis" (with a high pitched short scream in the beginning that could hint Mercyful Fate) is a banger, and there is generally no part in Redemptio that is shaky. With more potent expression, Funeral Harvest have the skills and the potential for greatness, and their elegant debut should be an instantaneous listen for people into the current wave of Norwegian black metal and not only. In an already good spot, I think this band should beef up and not hold back on the aggressiveness in future material, so that what is achievable can be achieved. [3.5/5 - Great]

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Darkthrone - Astral Fortress Review

A fairly quick continuation to last year's Eternal Hails..., Darkthrone's new record Astral Fortress is a piece of the same bread. Loaded with an organic sound, traditional heavy / doom metal is wholly embraced once again through the characteristic lens of the band, which is their own but still stubbornly bowing to the ways of the primordial metal. There is no colourful, plagiarised artwork this time, yet it is now something much closer to the real life of the band members and reminiscent of the choice made in Arctic Thunder when it comes to a cover piece. While often advertising a return to black metal practices for several of their recent albums, I fail to hear it and the records don't exert such a vibe at all anymore, but it did put a smirk in my face listening to the middle paced, cold riffs of the closing track "Eon", which give a hint in that direction a bit. Other than that, "Kolbotn, West of the Vast Forests" stands as an unusual interlude for some of its non-symmetric melodies and further from these points, the rest of Astral Fortress is business as usual for Darkthrone. They can still produce a lot of flavourful, old school heavy riffing sequences, the acoustic guitar / synth usage is slight but detectable and the album comes forth as what it is, a nice snapshot of the current state of the band. The structure of the tracks is wonderful, moving from fast to slow and to really slow melodic parts, Nocturno Culto's raspy vocals fit like cherries on cake and the overall production feels natural, as is the band itself. It's great to see that the two share basically all positions in creating the album, from songwriting to execution, and for someone with such longevity, Darkthrone still have some inspiration left. The material is not ground breaking, but the fans will love it, and there might be something for everyone. At the core though, are the 80's. I found the album more consistent than Eternal Hails... to some extent, but these two are siblings. [3/5 - Good]

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Mortician - Chainsaw Dismemberment Review

This must be one of the most straightforward bands ever, and can serve as a great introduction to the general approach that is followed in the genre of goregrind. I wouldn't claim Mortician is a brutal death metal band, and definitely not grindcore, as the way their albums are constructed is simply based on the most down-tuned, often ultra slow, guitar riffs, dressed in thick distortion, growls as cavernous as possible and a flood of movie samples, in this case horror movies. Most of the tracks are quite short in duration (28 pieces, 49 minutes total length) and sometimes the samples are longer than the music itself, which hardly changes at any moment. A noisy broken-computer-cable sound you'll listen here is actually the bass, and the grooves in the record don't even try to be attractive, yet Mortician try to be as disgusting as possible but with a subtle sense of artistry and not as explicit or gory as other goregrind bands have dared to appear at times. Chainsaw Dismemberment doesn't aim for much, it skips most aspects of music but puts all its boost on one: the brutality. It's not necessarily the heaviest record you will listen and definitely not a technical one, yet the constant pummelling of noisy instruments and snoring bear vocals, along with classic horror movie passages, a flawless drum machine because who has time for drums, an amazing cover art, somehow makes listening to Mortician low-key addictive. In a world of extraordinary, flashy metal artists, this band doesn't even pretend to change and possibly is one of the perpetrators of a style that proves to be stubborn and pushing the extreme, yet let me say this: putting together as much explicit material as possible for the sake of it, doesn't make you good. Mortician don't do that, and instead pick a loving topic as they're surely cinema geeks, they pack up the dirtiest, most monotonous wall of noise and throw it all at your face, but it still doesn't feel too much to handle. [3/5 - Good]

Movie samples used in the record: When A Stranger Calls, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Silent Night, Bloody Night, I Drink Your Blood, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Zombi 2, Bloodeaters, The Crazies, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Wolfen, Friday the 13th Parth 2, Slaughterhouse, Rats: Night of Terror, Inferno, Phantasm II

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Panopticon - Kentucky Review

Kentucky, Panopticon's fifth full length album, is nothing short of magnificent. Throughout this project's evolution, main-man Austin Lunn has shown many hints of unique greatness, but all his strongpoints wonderfully align in this record, the perfect combination between atmospheric black metal and blue grass. A rather personal record, discussing the musician's home state and touching upon real struggles of land and people, it is a treat starting from the lyrics, which should be no means be skipped this time. Kentucky breathes through heavy emotions and expresses its worldview, while being capable of taking the listener by hand and along all the different scenes of the tracks, which are also musically perfect. Lunn is an extremely creative and efficient composer, and this is obvious with both the folk and the metal parts of this album. His guitar style endorses melody through riff and solo, on top of fast-paced atmospheric black metal foundations with added flutes for the more epic feels, yet his non-metal tracks are separate entities of well-delivered blue grass. At the same time, all content is connected and one, for conveying the message, which is a loud one. The vocals in Kentucky are also wonderful, when singing with a clean voice or the raspy, worn out screams of the black metal parts of the album. There's several interesting samples to be heard during the listen as well, just making the story even richer. In terms of black metal, Panopticon diverge significantly not only lyrically but also in terms of music, yet works like Kentucky stand as absolute sincere works of the artist that will put a lot of self-proclaimed devil worshippers out there to the test. I fully appreciate this album's lyrical content, its topics, the top-notch quality of the music and the truthful vision of the creator, who hit a smashed the mark with this work. Don't skip any track, enjoy all the nuances and absorb what it has to say. Releases like these are quite rare in extreme metal. [4.5/5 - Brilliant]

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Goatwhore - Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven Review

Throughout their 25 years of existence, Goatwhore have been rather consistent with their full length albums, with this five year difference between this new record and their previous (Vengeful Ascension, 2017) being the longest break between releases they have ever had. The band adopted a modern black / death metal sound quite quickly and do not aim for indiscernible heaviness in their music, instead their works are clear as day, blasphemous and often borrowing elements from neighbouring genres like thrash or even heavy metal. Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven is no different, and it features once again the same white / black / red design approach as they have had for the last one and a half decades. One strongpoint of Goatwhore has always been the visuals as well as the lyrical content, which shines through in this record when reading the texts behind it, yet the vocals are often clear enough. A lot of aggressive moments co-exist with frequent soloing and tempo changes, the production is transparent as an ice crystal and the vocals range from growling to shrieking, but all within reasonable boundaries. There's specific tracks in Angels Hung... that stand out, for example "Born of Satan's Flesh", "The Bestowal of Abomination" or "The Devil's Warlords", which showcase the band's typical sound but at its peak. At the same time, as many Goatwhore records, multiple tracks and a long enough record do not succeed to avoid filler moments, and it's evident in the less entertaining pieces like in the middle of the record, specifically tracks five through eight. I always have such issues with this group, which otherwise always brings forth decent offerings with some above average moments. Angels Hung... closes with the decent and epic "And I Was Delivered from the Wound of Perdition", which has you thinking that it would have been more productive to stick to this song writing than the more generic guitar melodies of "Death from Above" or "Voracious Blood Fixation", which sometimes feel like distorted versions of a strange creature born from Aura Noir and late Death Angel. However, Goatwhore manage to avoid complete ruination with Angels Hung... and it's surely aesthetically pleasing. [3/5 - Good]

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Mournful Moon - Rose Velvet Dynasty Review

Mournful Moon is a project by the mastermind behind Greek established dungeon synth name Arthuros, with which a first album was released in 2020, named ...As Shadows Fall Within Zenitheaen and had as positive feedback as Arthuros itself gets, yet less recognition. That record also treads on the same dreamy soundscapes, yet a turn towards more black metal groundwork has been performed this year with the project's second release, Rose Velvet Dynasty. While not losing its identity, and with a fair amount of keys and ambient parts, the album now shows clear inclination towards the same kind of dreamy black metal, with loads of middle-paced melodic structures that fit well to the second wave of Greek black metal sound, yet they're not identical. What elevates this record slightly higher than the average bar is the synth work itself, where it's clear that Constantine is most competent, and the combination between piano and guitar lines is in terms of compositional quality, fairly accomplished. Rose Velvet Dynasty is not violent at almost any point (except maybe at "The Sigil of Elites"), and demonstrates how dungeon synth and black metal can be combined for a non-trivial or predictable outcome. The tracks are engaging and well worked, with a handful of rather compelling moments that stem from some really good synth & guitar combinations, and you will get a proper fix of Arthuros / Mournful Moon's own dungeon synth palette, in various parts scattered all across. When coming across works like these, I understand the artist's honest intentions and substantial inspiration for creating new art, instead of simply a collection of tracks honorary to a certain sound, by a die hard fan. The aesthetics were already bordering with black metal from before, and now Mournful Moon dare to cross the line and put a piece together, that is worth a little more discussion among the circles of Greek black metal. [3.5/5 - Great]

Origin: Greece
Label: Self-released
Release date: 15.09.2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Autopsy - Morbidity Triumphant Review

Macabre Eternal was a fabulous comeback. As a living legend of death metal, a band that has not been completely immune to miss-steps in the past, Autopsy really taught us how such a huge band properly returns into activity and released a series of pretty damn awesome records in the early 10's. It's now been seven years since their last full length album Skull Grinder, and while this could also count as a mini comeback, it seems to me that we have a band that is unaffected by time. Morbidity Triumphant is Autopsy's latest offering and if by any chance you were listening to their back catalog yesterday, here is another brick that will seamlessly fit on the same wall. This approach works wonderfully, they have a claim by themselves completely, and unlike other returning bands from the past, it feels natural for them to keep producing such amazing material. You'll get all your money's worth and exactly what you asked for, a set of death metal pieces with a lot of doomy passages, slight nuances of stoner, murky grooves and tight production, with all the different elements nicely bound together. When present, the tracks are also dressed with great guitar solos and of course, the gratifying vocals of Chris Reifert, are as characteristic as Autopsy's music. Morbidity Triumphant is not the most stomping death metal album you will ever hear, especially to extents some newer bands take their sound and their atmosphere, making it impossible to discern a thing. Instead, all points made in this record are clear, it has a coherent flow, full of seemingly simple but totally enjoyable moments and the most traditional death metal lyrical subjects you can find. After all, this is one of the founding bands of this style and it's a pleasure to see they have not been broken by the weight of the decades on their backs or their fame. Some of the record's highlights include the ominous, slow-paced moments of "Your Eyes Will Turn to Dust", the faster "Stab the Brain" and "Knife Slice, Axe Chop", the fairly catchy riffs of "The Voracious One", and the Autopsy 101 pieces like "Skin by Skin" or Flesh Strewn Temple". [4/5 - Excellent]

Origin: United States
Label: Peaceville Records
Release date: 30.09.2022
Listen: Spotify

Saturday, October 01, 2022

Dimmu Borgir - Death Cult Armageddon Review

The turn of the millenium saw Dimmu Borgir going with orchestral elements, clean production and pumped epicness, full bore. What was originally some murky symphonic black metal elements in the early 90's had now turned into ambitious, grandiose compositions of the most polished sound possible, polarising the fans of the genre and standing even today as one of the most loved / hated bands throughout the years. The first thing to notice about Death Cult Armageddon is how much effort was not put in the cover art (even though the previous album's Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia choice, was decent...), which looks like something something one could make with the most generic editing software, using the most generic fonts possible. Apart from that, Dimmu Borgir kept on from where they had left two years earlier when it comes to music and lyrical content. For the latter, most of the texts in Death Cult Armageddon are quite decent, and all lyricists involved (mainly Silenoz & less, Shagrath) write well. As it was proven later when the band collaborated with the Norwegian National Orchestra, some tracks here and especially "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" are characteristics of their modern era and are generally solid tracks, appropriate of their own worth. As the track is in the first half of the record, it is part of the better material in Death Cult Armageddon, as later on tracks get really bland and boring, really fast (from "Blood Hunger Doctrine" and on). However, when a riff gets in the spotlight, it does sound great and the combination of symphonic instruments and guitars is great, all the instruments are audible and the combination of vocalists has always been, in my opinion, a positive element of Dimmu Borgir. Death Cult Armageddon has clear weaker points and a couple of filler tracks, yet also a few moments of quality from the band and despite their musical directions, they are all solid musicians. [2.5/5 - Average]

Origin: Norway
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: 08.09.2003
Listen: Spotify

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Aura Mortis - Aion Teleos Review

It's been almost a decade that Aura Mortis have been active and it's just now that we get our hands on the band's debut full length album Aion Teleos, two years after they released Tractates of Initiation, a compilation of all their early material from the 10's. Their first complete statement features seven songs and 38 minutes of music, it's pretty clearly well made and with a composed direction. I hear several influences from orthodox black metal, fast paced Scandinavian structures, occult lyrical themes and plenty of fire in the songs of Aion Teleos, which initiates and moves on at this certain territory. The vocals are also wonderful and the tracks have nice changes, nice guitar work and several fairly memorable moments: "A Dove In Shackles" is an overall great piece, "Towards True Providence" is quite powerful and wonderful melodies unravel in "Mirroring the Maladies", which had me thinking that this band is also quite well expressed in terms of lyrical content. There are some moments of minimal dark ambient / noise passages, like the introduction "The All-Shrine" and the middle part of the longest track "In Being Engraved", which add a bit to the flow and don't disturb the otherwise straightforward black metal palette of the band. The presented approach has all the needed elements at a decent level, and Aura Mortis finally put a whole album together, that hopefully will generate some more friction. There is not much to complain about in Aion Teleos, which is quite solid release and representative of the current state of black metal in its traditional form, and if it doesn't totally win you over, it will definitely at least make its case for the time it lasts. It has a fine production, great tracks and of course, a wonderful cover art! [3.5/5 - Great]

Origin: Serbia
Label: Schattenkult Produktionen
Release date: 04.09.2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Bones - Sombre Opulence Review

After a series of really well-marked mini albums and after a decade of activity, the debut full length album of Belgian band Bones is finally here and it weighs well. Deeply rooted old school death metal, Sombre Opulence channels forces a la early Morbid Angel, with a continuous streak of scourging riffs, explosive solos and heavy growls through its organic production. The record is technical enough but doesn't overdo it, its thick sound and interesting twists and turns of the compositions make it rather interesting to listen to and totally enjoyable for what it is, as if you still know what you're going to listen to but keep getting surprised by how well and by the quality of the ideas. Most of the tracks run up to three or four minutes, and they are pumped with energy and anger as Bones and this genre is characterised by. Still, there are two pieces that run quite longer and they are both brilliant: "Deserts of Eternity" and "Great Altars of Ascension", where Bones exert pressure through sometimes slower or middle paced lines and by putting even more emphasis to soloing and a bit of groove, before jumping into high speed madness again. The only more quiet but still ominous moment in Sombre Opulence is its two minute interlude "Withering", which could have also worked as a nice introduction for the album and leaving the rest of the material compact, but there's full mode chaos before and after that. Tracks like "Execration Rites", "Primordial Idolatry" or "Composite Deities" are just a treat to listen to, while the closing track "Formulas of Condemnation" leaves the place in pieces. Sombre Opulence is a fine crafted old school death metal record, excessively offering great ideas and what the fans would love the most: unadulterated brutality. Bones showed positive hints up to this point and they not simply continue on the right track, but they have put together one of the best death metal releases of the year. [4/5 - Excellent]

Origin: Belgium
Label: Invictus Records
Release date: 09.09.2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Vermin Womb - Retaliation Review

It's been six years since Vermin Womb's relatively decent but undeniably heavy debut Decline, and the band has returned with a vengeance in 2022 with an equally smashing work. Retaliation clocks at just 18 minutes (shorter than before), and takes no breaks, as all weapons in their arsenal are thrown at once from the first second. I am not sure if such approach has been more and more common among new bands that attempt extremity in their sound the last few years, or that I have been oblivious before, yet there's nothing less than non-stop hammering of violent riffs, ugly growls and background noise throughout the whole of Retaliation, which feels like the tree trunk feels when going through the wood chipper. Once you dig behind the aural malevolence, the guitar work is not groundbreaking, consisting of simplistic black / death / war metal lines, sometimes in irregular timestamps, the vocals - while brutal enough - barely change and the drums sometimes miss out, which clears out a tactic followed in Retaliation, the use of the production. The aim of this work is to create a thick layer of fast, uncomfortable and stressing music, making it more of a texture rather than a set of compositional undulations, and that's why the record can often sound a bit flat or indifferent if you look at it closely. I understand Vermin Womb have clear goals in their mind and negativity blisters everywhere in the essence of their work, which should go hand in hand with the material itself, yet I would have seriously prefered more insight in terms of musicianship. That being said, Retaliation has everything to be praised by fans of this extreme style, but do a test for yourself: play the tracks in shuffle and then see if you can tell one from the other. Nevertheless, the band's latest work keeps it up and is a solid effort that is worth listening, but if you enjoy it, then maybe you missed the point. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: United States
Label: Closed Casket Activities
Release date: 02.09.2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Necrohell - Ravishing Funerals Review

For some bands, time is frozen at a specific moment in the past. While Ungod is a pretty active individual in the Greek underground scene, with projects and an independent label, he is always punctual with a new Necrohell record every four to five years, maintaining an audience through a network with a chosen direction, instead of complete promotion everywhere with a hope of as much listens as possible. That's why I almost tend to miss their new albums, yet it's always one that I will go through when I get the chance. With Ravishing Funerals, you should immediately know what you're getting with half a glance, but there are a number of points that I enjoyed more this time than the average Necrohell albums. Yes, it's pure second wave black metal with strong Norwegian influences and early Darkthrone written all over it, both in the aesthetics, in the titles and the compositions. The production is a major plus this time, as it provides great sound for all instruments and especially the bass, the tracks levitate between melodic and more melancholic parts, with a lot of tremolo picking and of course, as characteristic vocals as you can imagine (including a handful of moments with cleans). There's nothing new introduced in Ravishing Funerals, as it serves its only purpose decently: being a solid black metal record made more from fans of the genre than musical visionaries. All the tunes are enjoyable (with some nice highlights in the flow of "A Grave in the Vast Forest") and it is clearly aimed for people who enjoy black metal rather than experimentation or new twists in the existing, well-known formulas. There is overall better material in Ravishing Funerals than older Necrohell albums, some of which were more prone to dullness, yet this time Ungod hit a good one. Again, you are not going to be surprised and you shouldn't be. The album doesn't fall flat despite its predictability, while still being extremely defined within certain borders. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: Greece
Label: Christhunt Productions
Release date: February 27th, 2022
Listen: Youtube

Friday, August 26, 2022

Lustre - A Thirst for Summer Rain Review

I have left Lustre at Wonder, which is a point in the project's discography that is almost a decade ago so there is some catching up to do. Nevertheless, it is one of the cases where the produced material has a pretty well defined structure and one can be positive of no gross diversions at any point or album, so essentially, it's like I haven't missed a day. A Thirst for Summer Rain, apart from a slightly more optimistic title and color palette, doesn't surprise in terms of music either, as it features characteristic Lustre material standing on dreamy, slow compositions, pale keyboard melodies and distant whispering / screaming vocals that generally wouldn't even come close to anything extreme related. The tracks have an almost nostalgic / romantic atmosphere that hints the album's concept, and they all keep the same tempo and the same attitude at all times, sometimes too much. The introduction of the first track "Quiescence" is basically the reversed melody of the introduction of the third track "Thirst", which for a moment, along the rest of the compositions which feel strikingly similar, had me wondering if Lustre actually has any inspiration left. Yet, A Thirst for Summer Rain is too innocent to be mad at, and an overall pleasing background album to go through, and I'm sure the fans won't ask for anything else than exactly this. The last piece "Alleviation" hardly has any distortion even, which makes this record very light to listen to, and almost completely departing from the realm of metal. Even like that, Lustre maintain and still present their own sound. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: Sweden
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Release date: August 26th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Wormrot - Hiss Review

Throughout all these years of obsessively listening to countless albums after albums, the times when I was blown away to this extent by something have been as rare as crossing paths with a unicorn. It is the case of a band with a really clear upwards trajectory, steadily for over a decade, offering the musically richest and most intriguing material of the genre they are devoted to. And finally, all planets align, all of their little flaws are not just erased but boosted with the opposite sign, to create Hiss, Wormrot's best record to date and one of the best pieces of grindcore ever made. I believe this is how a genre defining work should be, glorifying the highest qualities of that music style, while shedding light on why it is not mere noise or aggressiveness. It exemplifies grindcore's best self, a rapidly paced bludgeoning of endless ideas molded into short durations, with multiple unexpected turns, excellent musicianship, overwhelming compositional inspiration and my goodness, how great are these aesthetics, the concept and the lyrics. All the tracks are perfect, the record flows like a pristine river despite all of its acute content and changes in sense, there are scarce clean vocals, brilliant violin use, slight black metal hints (as they have had in the past) and generally, there is no better musicianship in grindcore right now. Wormrot surpassed themselves, and this organic production fully helps with the outcome this time, while a sector that was not ideal so far is maybe another of the highlights of Hiss: the demonic drum playing. It is impossible to not recognize the sheer magnificence of this band's effort at the moment, whether you are a fan of the genre or not, and I don't think Hiss will be ever overlooked in the future when discussions arise about this kind of extreme metal. I hope the record proves to become a modern classic and Wormrot placed among the best bands of the trade. Just congratulations. [5/5 - Masterpiece]

Origin: Singapore
Label: Earache Records
Release date: July 8th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Exaltation - Under Blind Reasoning Review

I am trying to make up my mind about this album and it constantly proves to be not so straightforward. It's fairly clear that this band has its heart at the right place when it comes to playing death metal, with its thick, stomping production, the cavernous growls (plus some sparse moments of painful screaming), and slithering guitar lines that bypass all temptations of modernity but instead root themselves in the old school, violent form of the genre, somewhere between Sadistic Intent and Incantation. Under Blind Reasoning has some bangers too, like "Fate Revolt" and "Impious Massacre", which are tracks short in duration and quite entertaining to listen to, mainly where most of Exaltation's potency lies. At the same time, the band's serious weak point is often its slower moments, as it takes more than just playing notes slowly to be efficient when one goes to such territories, and unfortunately many parts of the compositions feel like there was uncertainty on how to continue, so a filler slow part was added. "Ascension" is a dreadful example of this, where all riffs are really mediocre, and for this reason the album as a whole starts with a rather anti climactic way ("Iron Rebellion" and "Impending Decease" are both on the weaker side of the scale). Across the board, I didn't receive the expected heaviness or intensity from the band, neither from the musicianship nor from the sound, as one that dominates let's say, in a Dead Congregation album. Since Exaltation are molded from this kind of clay, and their work is not overly sub par, after a few listens there's several points in terms of song writing as well as structure that they could improve, in order to actually create a competent album. Under Blind Reasoning is the kind of release I always hope that I will like before listening to it, as it lies close to my taste radars, yet Exaltation didn't knock my socks off at the end of the day. A couple of good tunes and a generally acceptable presence save the record from a complete slump. [2.5/5 - Average]

Origin: New Zealand
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Release date: July 29th, 2022
Listen: Spotify

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Grimdor - The Land of Shadow Review

I think I had been reading information about an actual Grimdor full length album as far back as two years ago, yet it seemed like something quite distant since the project is ridiculously active with releases, not only under this moniker but through many. This year alone, they already have four more EPs with Grimdor and I am sure there's more to come, while they constantly make short tape runs of their long back catalog. Nevertheless, the band's debut release is finally reality and there's a few points to note compared to their usual activities: there is by now colorized, proper digitally designed artwork (made by Silvana Massa), all the tracks are longer than usual and they have aimed for a generally cleaner sound in both parts of the record. The Land of Shadow, as always, heavily referencing Tolkien's universe, is made of two distinct sections: the first four tracks of monotonous raw black metal and the last three, of the distinctive dungeon synth style of Grimdor. Elements of one side do not interfere with the other, and could have been separate releases in another world, yet as a whole this falls 100% inside the ballpark of what a Grimdor fan would expect. Now, their black metal tunes are basically Burzum of the self-titled album era. The structure and the feeling, the riffs, even the style of playing is almost identical sometimes, with an only difference that Varg's vocals at the time were vastly better than the vocals here, yet the outcome is not completely lousy. It manages enough to just recognize a fine job of a worship act. On the dungeon synth side, as Grimdor are used to 1-2 minute pieces, there is a lot of repetition of a few melodies in each track to reach a needed duration length. I don't mind that at all, in fact I strongly prefer simplistic ambient to this seemingly grandiose dungeon synth artists that are out there, yet now that the production has been cleared, the verdict is also easier too see: an average record that gets 0.5 extra because I like Lord of the Rings. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: United States / Germany
Label: Self-released
Release date: August 9th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Guyođ & Lehm - Alluvial Soil Review

There is a certain quite interesting nature in both newborn bands featured in Alluvial Soil, a split release directly from the Austrian underground, between obscure death metallers Guyođ and sludge / post-metal project Lehm. And while the latter has already released a full length three years ago, Guyođ's side stands as the very first material of the act and Alluvial Soil, practically being their debut release, stands as a bold and daring statement that reeks of potential. Each band contributes two tracks, and the duration and the split opens with Guyođ's murky, thick guitar sound, drawing inspiration from aquatic concepts with several references to the ocean and the depths, their music is mostly built on slow / middle paced patterns with some far-flung Ulcerate hints, an ounce of doom metal and wonderful and varied vocals. It is an extremely well articulated band in terms of lyrics as well, and both their tracks, clocking above seven minutes each, present enough compositional proficiency that makes the listener take notes to not forget this strangely named band and be alerted for when they put out a full length album. Lehm don't dare to play any faster, yet they move in more distinct sludgy / post-metal melodies and a fuzzy, painful guitar sound with subtle echo that makes you feel like you're listening to them live in a basement somewhere. Nice guitar work, with really solid riffing / soloing especially in "Weeping Willow", they deliver their part of the split constitute to a mini-album that has bands of different genres, but with very well clicking music that provides a seamless experience. I mostly went into Alluvial Soil by quite quickly being hooked to Guyođ's work, yet there is essence and quality scattered all over this little gem of a split. I bet these guys will make a louder impact when full releases are put out to the world, judging from this first, short taste. [3.5/5 - Great]

Origin: Austria / Austria
Label: Self-released
Release date: January 23rd, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Altars - Ascetic Reflection Review

This is not good. Nine years is a long time, and that's how long it took Altars to put a second album together, after the fairly successful and competent Paramnesia in 2013. The band's body of work is based on stomping death metal, with a lot of angular song writing that brings Portal to mind, with passages that also remind of something between Gorguts and distant Ulcerate, but the base constantly being Morbid Angel. If you liked Paramnesia, I bet you will like Ascetic Reflection too, yet for me both records feel the same: they tackle themselves right at the point when it is about to get enjoyable. First things first, don't get fooled by this unconventional songwriting, there is really nothing intrinsically special or unique in the music of Altars, and it doesn't even come close to the actual genius behind a band like Portal for example, with which I have seen several comparisons being drawn around. Altars hold back too much, the compositions often stall too long and parts of the record can become basically empty and uninspiring, and at these times it's when a listener who is not so familiar with death metal music, or tries to critique it, will think this band is amazing. But it's not. In tracks like "Luminous Jar", the self-titled piece, or "Perverse Entity", actually solid material is being presented. The sense of coherence is still not there between different ideas, and to just abruptly stop playing a part to move to the next doesn't make you a good composer, yet there is still an amount of good moments. On the other hand, "Inauspicious Prayer" or "Black Light Upon Us" contain musical notions that amount to naught, and in between all tracks, Ascetic Reflection really aches in terms of flow. I don't like to think that this band is compared to behemoths of this style, like the aforementioned bands of this text. You can find better music than this and don't be fooled by it. [2/5 - Below Average]

Origin: Australia
Label: Everlasting Spew Records
Release date: July 8th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Fleshrot - Unburied Corpse Review

Fleshrot don't try to impress anyone, and in fact follow a rather standard death metal recipe without slightly diverging from it at any point. Unburied Corpse is their debut full length and it's all you would expect from a Texan band of the kind, slow to middle paced chugging riffs with a hefty amount of groove and echoing deep growls, going a bit faster at times but never really technical, while at the same time pretty enjoyable to listen to. The record is fine not because it is extraordinary, but just because it shows what it is really clearly and Fleshrot have enough variety in the song parts to avoid boredom, most of their scattered solos are really nice and it's not a release that is too long in duration. I picked the cover I liked the most from the two alternate ones that exist for the release, as it is the more old school one and fits the material of the band, which show that Fleshrot have their heart in the 90's and not in this day and and age. One could say that death metal like this is all rooted to somewhere between Autopsy and Bolt Thrower (for the mid tempo guitar lines and sometimes hyper slow moments), yet I wouldn't say this band produced something really remarkable here, yet it doesn't lack the elements to make it an enjoyable album for enjoying your breakfast on a nice Sunday. If they push their compositional arsenal a bit more outside their comfort zone, it could potentially result in a really good death metal album, but in the meantime with Unburied Corpse things seem to have gone smoothly for Fleshrot and they are worth your time. "Intricate Dissection", "Draining the Liquified Remains" and "Haunted of Sick Depravities" were the highlights for me, as I found the most interesting ideas of the band these tracks, yet the record (apart from a couple of moments) is at about the same frequency. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: United States
Label: Me Saco un Ojo Records
Release date: August 1st, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Lamashtu - Plaque des Enfers Review

Not a lot of information is known about this project, yet their debut album Plaque des Enfers already seems to have been noticed and getting a fair amount of exposure, self-released but soon in physical format too. There is a strong sense of genre traditionalism in this record, yet Lamashtu often pushes the music into even more frenetic ends than usual, without abusing high speeds and being constantly barbaric. With just three tracks and 28 minutes, one would say that it is a rather short full length but it's still worth its time and contains only passable material, while being a record that is not monotonous at all. The vocals in Plaque des Enfers are harsh, often in shrieks but also grunting somewhere between the styles of Attila and Dagon, while the production is semi-dusty but clear enough for the ongoing chaos. Using a deep echo in the drums, the atmosphere becomes more dominant especially in building up moments or part introductions, like in the opening track "Amuleth I". It starts fast and heavy, then through a middle paced riffing bridge and a ritualistic dark ambient short part, it arrives to a very intense ending right when you would think that's all with this piece. Similar roller coaster moments unravel in the record's two other tracks, which are 10 minutes each. Lamashtu combines scourging guitar lines with occult ambiance and a personal touch to their music, and they don't stretch different ideas that come and go in the songs. "Amuleth III" has a clean introduction that would also remind of some neofolk / pagan ambient band, but when the record goes into black metal, it does so full boar. Plaque des Enfers is indeed not that long, but a solid first introduction to Lamasthu, and it makes me eager for the future. [3.5/5 - Great]

Origin: Poland
Label: Self-released
Release date: July 27th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Panzerfaust - The Suns of Perdition - Chapter III: The Astral Drain Review

The third instalment in Panzerfaust's The Suns of Perdition series is (I think) the last part of what seems to be a conceptual trilogy that marks the return of the band and a much more serious and dominating musical presence in the underground. Chapter III: The Astrail Drain is the continuation of Render Unto Eden from 2020, a record that I found fascinating. Two years later, it seems like nothing has changed content except some compositional decisions the band has taken regarding the structure of their tracks. While listening to The Astral Drain, I am really missing the more intense moments that existed in the previous records and were even more violent in the first album of the trilogy. Most of the material in this new record is almost constantly middle paced, constantly waiting, with a few more distinct riffs appearing here and there, but never really taking off to levels of heaviness that it could reach. The opening track "Death Drive Projections" is basically an ultra long introduction to something, while the third track "B22: The Hive and the Hole" seems to just be afraid to open its wings, sounds too similar to parts of Render Unto Eden and makes such wholesome, fantastic vocals go to waste, because it would be an earthquake if they actually played heavy. There are a couple of short drone-ish / noise interludes that amount to nothing in the album's flow and the only time things get real in "The Far Bank at the River Styx", the main riff sounds too much like Mgła's "With Hearts Toward None VII". The last two tracks in The Astral Drain are almost skippable, making this album a serious miss for me. On the positive side, Panzerfaust somehow maintain a certain atmosphere and the drumming is decent. [2.5/5 - Average]

Origin: Canada
Label: Eisenwald
Release date: July 22nd, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Astrofaes - Heritage Review

Most people should know Drudkh by now but there's several notable side projects their members have been involved in, one of them being the now defunct Astrofaes, who put together several full length albums and a few mini releases throughout a decade and a bit more before disbanding. And while Drudkh were formed in 2002, Thurios was pretty active releasing albums in Ukrainian and English version with Astrofaes and still an abundance of musical ideas he had not yet put on records that would come along later on in the 00's. Many of these Astrofaes releases have similar characteristics, all driven by his fairly characteristic guitar playing, which is bursting with one amazing riff after the other in literally every track on Heritage, yet there are no distinct growls in the vocals as in Drudkh, so one would say that this is even closer to the black metal formula of the times. The album exerts an atmosphere of nostalgic epicness, with mostly fast paced repetitive patterns that let the guitar melodies emerge and practically act as they want, beautiful lyrics of nature / folklore and a semi-dirty production that doesn't bother a bit, in fact it constitutes to this well-thought black metal work. "Awakening" and "Through Time of Memory" walk on more middle paced rhythms and is the one strongly reminding of the direction followed later with Drudkh, and the rest of Heritage just has steady, fairly potent tracks with great guitar work by Thurios, one of the composers that seem to have endless inspiration and integrity all these years. Highlights include "Forgotten Name" and "Ancestors' Shadows". [3.5/5 - Great] 

Origin: Ukraine
Label: Nykta Records
Release date: November 28th, 2002
Listen: Youtube