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]