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