Monday, February 27, 2023

Total Hate - Marching Towards Humanicide Review

It's been 15 years since the debut full length album of German hatemongers Total Hate and the animosity still boils within the veins of this band, as it is obvious from all textual stimuli of their material and the latest record Marching Towards Humanicide. All things considered, they continue serving traditional, polished black metal with their latest release, one that does not diverge from previously tested formulas but is still exciting to experience when executed correctly. 

The album has eight tracks and is 37 minutes long, mostly consisting of sharpened, furious guitar riffs where tremolo picking is king and drums blast fast but clearly. Its energy is radiated through the epic guitar lines and it's by no means a down-tuned, draining record that will snatch you of your stamina while listening to it. All tracks move at similar, fast paced tempos, are quite consistent with each other and the band manages to keep the interesting going even while presenting something standard. 

Marching Towards Humanicide makes a really clean cut of black metal and you will hear a lot of patterns you yearn for if you are a fan of the genre, while it is equally anti-religious, hateful and misanthropic in its lyrical theme, as expected. While Total Hate decided to add some color to their artwork this time (front cover done by Misanthropic-Art), their mindset hasn't brightened at all and the depiction of Marching Towards Humanicide perfectly fits its concept and title, making this aesthetical choice quite fitting for me in this case. 

There's not a specific highlight but not a filler track either, and if there was a drawback to be mentioned, it would be the slightly monotonous vocals, which hardly vary from their typical high pitched screaming. It feels that they are also a bit distorted in post-processing with an effect that gives them a more sonic and less natural sound, yet the result doesn't ruin the overall result except if you are a really picky eater. Total Hate fire another well rounded shot with Marching Towards Humanicide, a record that keeps their quality to the same level and is meant for the followers only.

DAMAGE: 3.5/5 [Great]

Release date: 24 Feb 2023
Release label: Eisenwald
Listen: Bandcamp

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Deviser - Evil Summons Evil Review

Deviser have returned. And I don’t mean they have returned since 2011, when their last full length Seasons of Darkness was released, but they have returned from the quality state they were 20 years ago. With a new album that looks forward as much as it looks backwards, Evil Summons Evil gives equal chills of awe and wide-eyed natural response as to how the very first Yoth Iria EP felt a couple of years ago. 

From a band as old as its genre, and more than a decade after its last material, a wholesome and astonishing record such as this puts a smile to the face of the more demanding fan of the Greek black metal scene. Such a scene, with an undoubtedly impactful presence in the early 90’s, formed a defined sound that multiple bands have reproduced later. Evil Summons Evil takes this sound and presents a version of it magnified a thousand fold, playing basically what I imagine when I think of actually good Greek black metal, and this mark is not met by most of the newer or even older bands I come across from the country today. 

Deviser teach us how to employ symphonic elements and perfectly align them with purposeful, melodic guitar lines, epic passages and variety that overshoots the average black metal album by far. Evil Summons Evil is all the more thrilling the more you listen to it, with amazing features (listen to the operatic vocals of Androniki Skull in “Of Magick”, or the guest appearances of Heljarmadr / Dark Funeral & Efthimis Karadimas / Nightfall in tracks 7 & 10 respectively) and exceptional inspiration across the whole of the record. 

All tracks are easily listenable and naturally evocative, and the record stands as the evolution of this geographical subgenre, neither grossly experimental nor a slave to its own nature. Deviser simply present how things should be done in this territory, in which they are already renowned. If you think Greek black metal is all the same, you are kind of right. If you would like to listen to how it sounds at its best, here is a fitting candidate for you. Should I mention that the cover art was done by the absolute legend Kris Verwimp?

DAMAGE: 4/5 [Brilliant]

Release date: 10 Feb 2023
Release label: Hammerheart Records
Listen: Bandcamp

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Tulus - Fandens kall Review

Despite being a quite long lasting band and with quite a steady trajectory right from the heart of the  Norwegian second wave of black metal, I always feel that Tulus is not talked enough. Despite of that, fans who are aware of them usually have a positive affliction towards the project, especially their classic debut Pure Black Energy from 1996. Since 2007, they have been fairly active and Fandens kall is now full length no. seven, with a classic cover art of realistic nature and an equally traditional and simple title (=hell's call). 

Fandens kall begins and feels extremely familiar right away. Tulus practices a foundational compositional approach, somewhere between recent Darkthrone / Sarke and Khold, basically throughout the whole record, which also doesn’t really diverge from their previous records of the last few years. The production is thankfully clean and healthy, its raspy vocals are understandable enough if you know Norwegian and the general pace of the album overall takes it easy and contains no surprises. While the tracks are nicely written, I would guess this kind of material is extremely well inside the comfort zone of the band and doesn’t take any risks. 

Even if this is not a negative by default, I found some of the pieces of Fandens kall slightly indifferent if not dull, especially at “Lek” or “Samuelsbrenna”. The opener self-titled track is fine, as are “Allstøtt”, the nice ending of “Bloddråpesvermer” and the almost adventurous guitar lines of “Isråk”, however it’s hard to maintain attention to for a chunky part of the record. As a whole, the band and this work knows very well what it is and its target group, which could definitely be satisfied by it. 

Tulus can definitely do better as a band with Fandens kall I am missing the sense of effort for creating this release exactly because the target group is so clearly defined, and usually constantly supportive. If you mix these tracks with the previous album Old Old Death, you won’t be able to pick them apart, and there’s always something missing for an actually efficient result.

DAMAGE: 2.75/5 [Average]

Release date: 17 Feb 23
Release label: Soulseller Records
Listen: Bandcamp

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Tithe - Inverse Rapture Review

With the amount of new releases flooding our media services daily, one has to figure out what tactics to resort to in order to listen to a new album, and one way to go is by first glance of its artwork. While not judging a book by its cover is ever relevant in underground metal, it is rather impossible not to be tempted to check out Tithe’s second full length album Inverse Rapture, just because of this amazing design (done by Chimère Noire). 

While unaware of the project, it can be said that they’re making a good case on why Inverse Rapture should stay on your playlist, as the record has been carefully catered in its short duration of almost 30 minutes. You get an idea of Tithe from the first moments of “Anthropogenic Annihilation”, which demonstrates, through thick production, the menacing doom / death metal style of the band, not short of elements of dissonance, grindcore and a bit of black metal. 

With both slow and faster moments, the tracks in Inverse Rapture are ugly, fierce and with a good dosage of menacing riffs, yet there lies a hidden small disadvantage of the record in my opinion: the quality of the guitar lines at times makes waves and at other times, becomes more pale with repetitive, simplistic melodies. 

Moreover, slightly more variety in the sound of the vocals would benefit the work of the band, even if the painful high pitched singing sits well but also becomes monotonous. These two points made Inverse Rapture a bit tiring to listen to whole at once, even if it’s not so lengthy, yet in a general manner Tithe have numerous fairly great elements in their music that make the record worth listening to. 

Longer tracks “Inverse Rapture” and “Killing Tree” contain not just highlights, but basically the whole arsenal of the band, with shorter snippets found in the smaller pieces “Demon” or the closing “Pseudologia Fantastic”, and thankfully there are no unnecessary instrumentals or interludes anywhere. Inverse Rapture is overall enjoyable, with just a few points to be looked over and then Tithe can be discussed as a band of top calibre in the future. [3.25/5 - Good]

Release date: 17 Feb 2023 (Profound Lore Records)
Listen: Bandcamp

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Drakon - П​р​о​б​у​ж​д​е​н​и​е Review

Hailing from Russia, Drakon released their debut full length album П​р​о​б​у​ж​д​е​н​и​е (= awakening) last year after a five year gap between their first two EPs in 2017 and as a first complete introduction to the sound of the band. The record contains seven tracks and is delivered completely in Russian, with a total of 35 minutes of new music that didn't get the traction it should have since its release.

Drakon are well rooted in black metal, with traditional influences but fairly more modern approach in terms of art and sound. The production of П​р​о​б​у​ж​д​е​н​и​е is clean and feels full, giving wide space to the guitar lines to form the identity of the band. It's also frequently paced in middle speed tempos and only sometimes a bit faster, with numerous epic riffs constructing the main body of the record in a characteristic way: classic BM riffs from the 90's, coated with a more recent playstyle and undulating between grim intensity and drawn atmospherics of melodic black metal. 

Lyrically, П​р​о​б​у​ж​д​е​н​и​е discusses the elements, darkness and the divine, with a handful of moments where the tracks become quite thrilling, for example in the middle sections of "Во Мраке Ночи" or the more aggressive closing piece "В Объятьях Смерти". Really pale, current state Rotting Christ riff structures can be discerned sparsely here and there, and a potential a essence in some moments like during the lines of "Ода Северу". You will pick up several parts that feel familiar while listening to П​р​о​б​у​ж​д​е​н​и​е, but Drakon manages to present their own cocktail in the end.

With this promising start, the band offers a record that proves quite appropriate for re-listening and without significant weaknesses. Influences on their sleeves, interesting tracks and nice lyrics (if you are a native Russian speaker, probably even nicer) makes the record worth it, especially under this wonderful cover art. Looking forward to the follow-up steps of this group.



Release date: 28 Oct 22 (Independent)

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Daemonian - The Frost Specter's Wrath Review

Hailing from Japan, Daemonian follow a similar tactic like modern Japanese breweries do with their local beer: borrowing a recipe from the US or Europe, and following it to the last milligram. This overly analytical analogy, when thought of in a musical framework, can reveal how the project is strongly reminiscent to melodic black metal from Scandinavia, and specifically Sweden. Some melo-death elements also exist, but you already get the gist. 

For this endeavour, a designer has been hired to also create artwork similar to that scene of the 90’s like the legendary works of Necrolord, and what solely stands as a unique addition is the sketch of this specific logo. Going into The Frost Specter’s Wrath, one will realise quickly that Daemonian are fans of the Swedish sound and the frosty song titles / lyrics of Immortal, as this record is constructed basically on these two elements and what you have already heard, but in a quite decent fashion. 

I kept thinking of bands like Setherial, The Legion and especially Naglfar throughout the whole of this release, as melodic riffs came swinging constantly with non-stop fast paced melodies, screams and beautiful solos that you might also hear in heavy / power metal. The aftertaste of The Frost Specter’s Wrath is also the same, making you wonder if you actually listened to a hidden Naglfar record all this time. I particularly liked the frenzy fast and short track “Blizzard Blast” that would make all the aforementioned bands proud and the closing, self-titled piece. 

As a whole, the album is executed perfectly and that’s what slightly saves its case. All of it is really enjoyable and the tracks pass by easily, I would still hope that Daemonian sort of discover their own sound, but as a shameless tribute to the Scandinavian melodic black / death metal scene, the fans will love it and the rest won’t be surprised. It only has a slightly less aggressive sound than its geographically distant relatives, and maybe a sense of viking metal in “King of the Daemons”. Apart from that, you simply know what you get.



Release date: 31 Jan 2023 (Zero Dimensional Records)

Monday, February 06, 2023

Arvalastra - Meditation on the Lunar Steppes Review

A fairly unique underground entity from Bilbao, Spain, the project of Arvalastra has been active for the last six years with numerous releases and now counting five full length albums. Its meditative, occult presence is accompanied by a particular but not completely novel (Necromantia, Barathrum) compositional approach: no guitars, only bass. Such is the groundwork for Meditation on the Lunar Steppes, which has been developed only through electric and acoustic bass, drums and vocals, a rather simplistic but in this case, quite efficient setup. 

Arvalastra manages not only to construct the monotonous, think drone / doom metal atmosphere it goes for, but it also serves its purpose conceptually, as Meditation on the Lunar Steppes has fully compatible music for the journey it wants the listener to take. The tracks are slow, introspective and drained out of unnecessary energy, boasting quite a full sound even without the use of guitars, often reminiscent of depressive black metal templates, but one should not get the wrong impression when reading this. A couple of interludes (“Celestial Orbs” and “Crepuscular Dusk”) are short, minimal and haunting, fixing the different pieces of the album together nicely. 

Convoluted existential topics of deep philosophical concern are discussed in the album, which ultimately makes itself not a walk in the park to go through in case one decides to dig a bit deeper. Meditation on the Lunar Steppes lasts 50 minutes, and 21 of those are occupied by the massive closing piece “Towards Aurora”, which contains the more black metal side of the record, followed by a quiet instrumental and funeral doom ending. 

“Saturn’s Scythe” and “Æthēr Primigenium” are fitting gloomy doom metal pieces and only “Salarmoniack” is a more middle-paced track in its entirety, compared to the overall slowness of this meditation. As a whole, Arvalastra have not changed much since their last or any release, and this new record has exactly what it goes for, not less or more. Not for the average doom metal or black metal fan, it will be appreciated by people that prefer more “lethargic” material, be it DSBM, funeral doom or dark ambient. And it definitely comes with topics to think about.

DAMAGE: 3.75/5


Release date: 03 Feb 2023 (His Wounds) 

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Calderum - Lord Cramridor Review

As medieval as the cover art of the new Calderum record looks, just about that much it actually feels like listening to it. The one-man project from Catalonia had set this as a clear goal since its first days and Lord Cramridor honours the pact, as an admirable traditional, lo-fi black metal release with its own hints of dungeon synth. 

In this record, everything feels aged, and its leanings are of a different time. Nostalgics of the 90’s second wave will be fairly pleased with it, as it’s mostly structured in the foundational patterns of the genre alongside pale synths behind the middle / fast paced tremolo picks. It doesn’t stretch their use too much to fully enter symphonic black metal territory, but they are mostly employed in a similar fashion like the bands from the Greek scene (most notably in “Chaos in the Dark Realm”). For its better part, Lord Cramridor features tracks of fine quality and with enough variety to not stumble upon itself. 

“Regions of the Dying Souls” has the most memorable lines in the album, while the self-titled track and the opener “Gates of Darkness” have multiple solid riff passages to enjoy. High pitched screams hardly diverge from the norm as it was fully expected, while the most distinct difference from the rest of the work is held by the outro “Enlightenment of the Forgotten Souls”, an instrumental that feels more like a recording of a ritual in the rain. Lord Cramridor is a well-written piece of black metal that doesn’t want to surprise, but it pays homage to old school heritage and fantastically praises medieval witchcraft. 

Calderum pile on with this third full length, which is also the one I found the most solid in their discography especially because of the multitude of neat guitar lines and smart synth ideas to accompany them. Not to mention that it follows a rather unspoken cover art trend of real castle photography behind a red logo (Wallachia, Evilfeast, Godkiller and probably more, have done this in the past…). Anyway, for this year, Calderum delivered.

DAMAGE: 3.5/5


Release date: 03 Feb 2023 (Death Prayer Records)

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Sightless Pit - Lockstep Bloodwar Review

The crossover of Dylan Walker (Full of Hell) and Lee Buford (The Body) sounds like it was always meant to happen, as both musicians are extremely diverse with multiple collaborations and like-minded experimentation in extreme sound. As Sightless Pit, the project released a debut album Grave of a Dog in 2020, which to me wasn't really a work that stood so steadily on its feet. While the follow-up Lockstep Bloodwar is not really a piece of the same cake, the same uncertainty echoes in its material.

Completely void of guitars, the record contains elements from multiple different musical islands. One can come across trap rap beats, slight trip hop atmospheres, ambient and drone, the element of noise is quite prominent at times and the vocals are mostly comprised of whispers / screams, in middle or slow paced tempos in a rather down tuned and fatigued album. Lockstep Bloodwar also has multiple features almost in every track, musicians lending especially their vocals for the pieces that go more towards its trap rap lines.

While the endeavor is surely ambitious, problems lie in the overall coherence of the release. It feels like Sightless Pit are constantly trying a series of unconventional elements without a clear objective, the tunes wander around the different genres without achieving to evoke any particular feeling, for example it is not as unsettling as a noise album, it's not as soothing as a trip hop release, it's not really post industrial, it's not as tongue in cheek as trap and so on. Lockstep Bloodwar is an attempt to open a way to a new soundscape, but each of its components is actually timid and in the end, suboptimal. 

I only enjoyed the album opener, which gives some nice 90's Portishead vibes, and the noise track "Morning of a Thousand Lights" as both musicians are very capable of such compositions. Particularly dreary were "Flower to Tomb" which had me thinking that one needs to listen to some Imperial Triumphant to understand how to record distressing vocals, the self-titled track (what is this?) and the lethargic "False Epiphany". Brittle shrieks and feeble vocals all over, as is the record itself.