the underground music magazine    

issue #68 Winter, 2010

 


Untitled Document

Dear Maelstrom faithful,

Happy New Year. Maelstrom’s own new year, our ninth in existence, looms. To nearly commemorate that, we’ve put together our 68th issue, sporting 117 album reviews, five interviews, and two show reviews, including a report from the much anticipated Marduk US tour.

Not much else to report in the Maelstrom camp. We’re increasingly involved in our own music, so while we won’t stop Maelstrom or lower its quality standards, it does make it a lower priority. See you again in the Spring!

Roberto Martinelli
Maelstrom.nu
1573 Dolores St
San Francisco, CA 94110
USA

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interview by: Mladen äkot

The reason for this interview was simple: Why not? The Pyrifleyethon / Imperial Darkness split seven-inch vinyl made us happy like very few things in this issue. When we checked out Pyrifleyethonís MySpace page, it turned out that, even though they kick ass, they don't whore around by having millions of views or thousands of friends. Talking to the guitarist, Shadowreign, we found out that this one song was just the new beginning for the band. He was kind enough to send us their first demo, as well as the never-released album by his previous band, Erebus Dominion. Guess what? They kick ass as well.

While the whole world seems to be obsessed by the next AOR-flavored thing that the Norwegians will do, thus ruining everything we loved about black metal ó and the rest of the world seems to avoid any catchiness by sounding like Xasthur ó the Greek black metal scene was almost completely oblivious to all of that, all this time. And trust us, a lot of Greek black metal bands would put a smile on your face... and they are just waiting to be discovered. So, Pyrifleyethon are as good a start as any.

Maelstrom: You have recently recorded a split seven-inch vinyl with Imperial Darkness. How are you satisfied with the sales so far?

Shadowreign (below): I am satisfied. So is our bassist, Gilles De Rais. The two of us mainly made the trades. We sent our split to several labels and distros, and generally were evaluated quite good. Among them, Atolinga Records took 30 copies. Paragon Records, that's a pretty "big" name, they liked it and took a good amount of copies too, I don't remember the exact number. Generally, copies were delivered and traded quite soon. About 100 copies are now available.

Maelstrom: That's great! It seems that nowadays people hardly buy music and just want mp3...

Shadowreign: It's not so much a matter of money but respect. I would give it to someone who likes my music and can't afford it, but wouldn't give it to anyone that has the money to buy his / her make up and a sword to become more "evil" and can't afford 6 Euros. In addition, it makes no sense to give it to somebody who is just a friend of ours and has no relevance with what we musically express.

Maelstrom: This is your first recording with Pyrifleyethon, and there was nothing since the Scintilation of the Gloomy Uprising demo. How did you join the band?

Shadowreign: The two members that have been from the debut demo line up until now are Lavathorn and Gilles De Rais, also mainman of Imperial Darkness (GRE). Hadespawn played drums on Scintilation... and the vocalist was session from Embrace of Thorns. Lavathorn was a friend of mine. I was performing with Erebus Dominion when Pyrifleyethon was on hold. That was between 2005-6. When Erebus Dominion split up around 2007 I joined Pyrifleyethon and we started looking for members. Skyscyther and Pythius joined the band on drums and vocals duties and we recorded "Rot-Trembling Scaffold," the track that appears on Havoc's Split Asunder. Imperial Darkness had recorded new material and two tracks, "Nosoforos" and "Nekysia," joined our new track and the split was out.

Maelstrom: Erebus Dominion was pretty great, I was especially surprised by the lyrics...

Shadowreign: I think that there were many lyrics on each song, almost all tracks had vocals constantly and as a result, music, that I believe is quite good, often played a secondary role. I think you can tell the difference between the 2nd song that has not so many lyrics and the rest. It is an old song of mine from another band I had created, N.M.I.L., before I joined Erebus.

Maelstrom: Let's get back to Pyrifleyethon. What does the band name mean?

Shadowreign: The name is from the ancient Greek mythology. Pyrifleyethon is one of the five rivers of Hades and it was a river of lava and flames.

Maelstrom: You have a brand new member now, on drums, maybe it's too early to ask about him?

Shadowreign: Our new drummer had never played in a black metal band but he always wanted to, and has the ability to do so, in a better way than our old drummer did. He has performed in several bands before and has plenty of musical influences, and not only from metal bands. It seems to be a tight line-up.

Maelstrom: I loved the sound on Scintilation. What equipment was used for recording?

Shadowreign: We don't have any expensive equipment. The last recording was made at Mood Studio here in Athens and we record with their equipment. The result was satisfying and the sound was massive but we had very few time to make something better due to the fact that Lavathorn had to be recruited in the army. It was a release that we wanted to show that the band is active, even though it was on hold for almost five years.

On the contrary, Scintilation... was recorded and mixed at the home studio of Demon Erect from Ezgaroth (a very good old black metal band)... apart from the drums that were recorded on Cacophonix Studio in Piraeus. The sound on the first demo was very primitive and distorted and was what the band wanted to sound like then. It was very carefully built since the band had enough time to do so. I'm glad that you like such an old-school sound. In the next release, probably a full-length album, we want to achieve a more aggressive and detailed result; always in the old style, but according to what we believe the new tracks should sound like. It would be great if we can record all instruments at home (or only drums on studio). We will try to move to this direction if we are not completely satisfied from studios' sound as we search again and again for new ones.

Maelstrom: Lavathorn (below), the other guitarist, just completed his military service. How is the situation with army in Greece? Here in Croatia it's no longer mandatory, but professional.

Shadowreign: I'll have also to be recruited in 1.5 years. At least, now you have to be in the army for nine months. Before it was 16, then it became 12 and now nine months. Maybe next year it'll be reduced to six months and that would be perfect for me. It tends to be professional, but nobody knows yet. Greece didn't suffer a war recently but there were too many wars the last 200 years. There are many real or / and fake foes and that's the reason why many Greeks believe that there is a need to recruit the young obligatorily because they think this way the country exposes its power. That's not completely wrong but it does not inspire safety that they want to achieve over other countries.

Maelstrom: Pyrifleyethon is obviously an anti-religious band. We all know about Christians. What about Muslims?

Shadowreign: I prefer poisoning Christians that live among us than Muslims, but we all know that all religions are used to fanatize and control the masses, each one by its own way.

Maelstrom: Yes, but some calculate that in 20 years Europe will be 50 percent Muslim.

Shadowreign: I lived in London for two years; I went for studies. There were a lot of Asian immigrants there and respectively, there are many here in Greece. Greece is the passage to Europe. Lots of them are coming here trying to go to other countries, but they can't. I can't predict the future of Europe but I think that many people are trying to create battlefields and make others choose one side or another to conflict or fight each other. We believe that humans are bastards or not (most of them are) irrespectively of nation, religion or political opinion.

Maelstrom: Funny thing is that in Croatia fascists are Christians, and anti-fascists are irreligious or even communists. And still some people think Pagans are Nazis.

Shadowreign: In Greece, most nationalists are also fanatic Christians. On the other hand, black metal bands all over the world connect nationalism with Paganism or Satanism. If you want to express both, it's ok, but this doesn't mean that there is a relation between them. Ignorance of many people ends up to such connections.

Maelstrom: How did you start listening to black metal?

Shadowreign: I started listening to black metal when I was 15 by listening to Rotting Christ that were already very well-known. With Emperor's Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, I embraced the Scandinavian sound and then step by step I began listening to many different black metal bands.

Maelstrom: I think the Norwegians have lost it... what do you think about new Gorgoroth, Ihsahn, Enslaved, Immortal...?

Shadowreign: The last albums of Gorgoroth and Immortal have nothing new or powerful to show. I was very dissapointed. From Gorgoroth I had some better expectations since they got a good new line up. I agree with you about Ihsahn and Enslaved; nothing more to give, at least on the black metal scene.

Maelstrom: King ov Hell now has a promising band called Ov Hell...

Shadowreign: I haven't heard Ov Hell, but I'm gonna check them for sure. I found Gorgoroth's Ad Majorem Sathans Gloriam very impressive, an album composed by King, but my favourite album of them is Under the Sign of Hell and I hoped that they could return to this style but....

Maelstrom: And Darkthrone?

Shadowreign: The last Darkthrone albums sound also good to me, but the other members of Pyrifleyethon are disappointed by Darkthrone. Any great band has to criticize itself and to be aware of when they should continue or not. We don't imply anyone ó it would be good that everybody could do it for himself. This is quite difficult but also important to know the time that you may become tired and have the strength to admit it. Of course there are many different angles with which one can realise that.

Maelstrom: The Greek BM scene, on the contrary, is always doing good.

Shadowreign: The scene here is going very well. There are very good underground bands like End, Enshadowed, Angstridden, Eschaton... apart from the big names like Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Naer Mataron, Varathron, Zemial etc. Of course there are many more very good underground bands that they are worthy of attention, I just mentioned some of them.

Maelstrom: I just reviewed two Dodsferd albums, what is their status over there?

Shadowreign: I have heard two albums of Dodsferd and I liked what I heard. He signed to a bigger label, Moribund. We support the underground but we appreciate good stuff released by bigger labels. It is more honest than supporting any underground bullshit and try to make the underground scene a legend. What a band expresses is obvious by their attitude, I don't think there is a need to say if they're underground or true.

Maelstrom: I remember being totally happy when Lordi won the Eurosong contest in Athens. Now a well-known black metal, Keep of Kalessin, want to go to Eurosong following the "path" of LordiÖ

Shadowreign: I was pissed off when I read that but I don't bother anymore. Anyone can be judged by himself or by others as far as it may concern his music attitude. It is a matter of what you want to achieve. The last album of Keep of Kalessin I really liked was Reclaim, the next two full lengths were not as the old ones, in my opinion. I don't like to see a black metal band on the Eurovision contest. I wouldn't like to see any serious band (like Motorhead, Kreator....) on this contest but whatever happens does not surprise me anymore.

Maelstrom: Pyrifleyethon will always stay old school?

Shadowreign: Pyrifleyethon are old-school because it is what we like. We don't want to declare or promise anything but I don't see any point to change our style since it is what we most enjoy and we have no ambition to become well-known or earn money as an end in itself. These are secondary. We have many different ideas that are mainly played in a non-modern way. I have some ideas that don't fit to Pyrifleyethon and I would prefer to make a project (that's the "meaning" of projects I think) than "embody" them to Pyrifleyethon.

http://www.myspace.com/pyrifleyethonband

 

 

 

interview by: Chaim Drishner

The unheralded Dutch band Sammath has released its fourth studio album, Triumph in Hatred. We asked Jan Kruitwagen, Sammath's main vocalist, guitar player, lyricist and composer, to tell us more about the creative process within such a hostile genre and how this kind of music is done by true devotees who soon will be kissing their 40th birthday.

Maelstrom: Greetings, Jan, and thank you for spending some time doing this interview with Maelstrom. First, we would like you to tell us what is the origin of the band's name: Sammath, and how does it relate to you in terms of ideology, lyrical content or general agenda in music and / or in your personal life.

Jan Kruitwagen (below): The bandís name comes from Tolkien's work, Sammath Naur, which means "Mountain of Fire." I left the "Naur" out. Back in Ď93, when I had found the name, there werenít one million bands using Tolkien. It has nothing to do at all with lyrical content... well, at least not anymore. The first demo was somewhat Tolkien-influenced, but I soon found out that imagining death and darkness together with little green men with big ears never gets as aggressive as are lyrics about world wars, or the destruction of man. The vastness of mankindís hatred towards each other is much more intriguing and fitting for black metal, in my view.

Personally, Iím somewhat of an idiot; I have never been able to sit still for more than five minutes in my life or attend a concert, have like five beers, and go quietly home: Everything always seems to end up broken. I guess black metal somewhat gives me an outlet for my insane energy. I donít know how my wife puts up with it. It's black metal every day, since 1994. I can only hope that my small children will posses the same kind of passion about something later in life.

Maelstrom: Sammath is / was a relatively unknown name within the metal underground. Can you think of a reason why, after being active for such a long time, activity that has yielded four albums and several demos, you have remained relatively in the shadows?

Jan Kruitwagen: Maybe the music it too aggressive or low key in terms of marketing and imagery; or people just donít like the music enough; or we donít appeal enough to the black metal kids. I donít really care. It was also in some way on purpose: I donít like all the crap that has nothing to do with music. My ego is huge, but I donít have the urge to be on stage in order to have the rock-star image. My ego and needs go further beyond the will for Sammath to become a popular black metal band.

I hate touring and all that constant waiting before shows. I make heaps of money with my day job. I also completely do my own thing, donít only have friends in black metal and donít go to every crap concert, probably because if I as well as some Sammath members go somewhere, someone always ends up in hospital. I have been making this music for years, have a great underground label that releases my stuff and thus I am satisfied.

I get many reactions from around the world from people who like the new album. Thatís great, but itís not my reason for creating this music. And last but not least, to me black metal and money are two totally different things. I donít even want to make money off black metal as the art should be pure; whenever there is money involved, itís never pure. Just look at all the big black metal bands: laughable, theatrical fags. They spend more time at the gym and combing their hair than anything else ó no, thanks!

Maelstrom: You founded Sammath some 15 years ago. What was your main driving force then, to establish a metal band? Why metal and into it, why black metal of all sub-genres? What were you trying to achieve or convey through the music and have you succeeded in doing so? Was music the right tool for all your aspirations, hatred and frustration back then?

Jan Kruitwagen: I just like extreme metal, there is nothing more to it. When I heard the first Gehenna 7" EP, I was blown away by the darkness and power of black metal. I never had many frustrations as a teenager or even now; if I wanted something I would make sure I got it. I just started a band because it was something that I needed to do.

I started playing guitar when I was 12. My guitar teacher was a religious dick. The second lesson I had, he told me to bring a record in the style I wanted to learn, so I brought a Slayer album. He almost threw me out. So I told him to go fuck himself and learned the rest myself.

To tell you the truth, I donít really understand most black metal people. I canít stand all those "I hate society, nobody understands me" faggots who hide themselves behind extreme music. To me black metal has always been about arrogance and power; I have a lot of hate, as I think most people do. I first explored thrash and death metal, but I always seemed to miss something. I have finally succeeded to find my niche luckily; I would never have imagined back when I started, that some day I would and could record an album like Triumph in Hatred.

Maelstrom: Fifteen years later, in what way has Sammath evolved? Can you put a finger on the main parameters that bear witness to your becoming older and maybe wiser?

Jan Kruitwagen: We have evolved in many ways: Once you hear the rest of Sammath's discography, you will understand. Listening to the first album, Strijd, and then to our last album back to back, you will probably have difficulty believing itís the same band. Only the guitars and vocals one might be able to recognize. I think a lot of the theatrical aspects have been shrugged off.

I really donít like the makeup wearing pansies. I think corpse paint is brilliant, but some bands we have shared the stage with were spending more time on makeup than on the actual music. I knew then that makeup and image were not at all things I was interested in. Fuck that. Black metal is for most people also a visual journey, for me the visual part stops at the artwork. I hate band pictures. I mean, who wants to stare at four guys on one's bedroom wall, anyway? I never did; how extremely silly is that? I had posters of Samantha Fox on my room's walls while listening to metal, that and of other women with nice, big tits.

When one gets older you donít really seem to give a shit what others say. I already was like that when I was ten years old, so imagine it now. My father and grandfather are also like that: intelligent men, but stubborn... fuck other people!

In my music one can hear that I listen to many sorts of metal. On the new album I seem to be developing more and more a kind of hybrid comprised of black, death and heavy metal approach, as you also stated through our email contact. It will always be black metal first and foremost, but the older you get the more you find your own way, a way which Sammath seems to be taking.

Maelstrom: Let's talk about the theme of war; you have stated you are not interested in dealing with the infantile concept of the devil. On the other hand, you chose in dealing with more realistic grim issues such as human wars and the great ordeals they generate all around the globe, since the dawn of man himself. Now, living in the peaceful Netherlands, in what way can you really deal with this subject? On what grounds can you genuinely relate to the pain of war?

Jan Kruitwagen: I understand what you mean: Should I move to Iraq or to some other war-zone where people are killing each other, in order to really understand what war is all about? The answer would be of course: no, way! I am a Western guy who's sitting at home and creating metal. Letís be honest: black metal is not something you do while you are in the midst of war. You donít reload your weapon, while trembling with fear, thinking to yourself: that would make good lyrics; or I heard a riff in that machine gun fireÖ Neither is black metal something you do while collecting water for your family, or out in the forest getting wood for the fire.

I understand what you mean, though, with the lyrics. What you speak of as lyrical subjects is something we all go through, but thatís hardly what I want to describe; personal problems and black metal lyrics about depressions or feelings I donít like at all. Only the craziest, war-ridden and almost arrogant fast stuff is what really interests me the most in black metal. The concepts are more than just war, but itís an atmosphere Iím trying to set down: total death, but fast.

I donít want people to take the lyrics as my personal views. I will not share anything personal with anyone through music. I canít stand lyrics that describe weakness; help me Iím so scared, boohoo. I donít want to hear anything personal but rather to hear relentless hatred in a musical form: fast guitars, blasting drums, bass thatís crazy, but all well recorded, sharp and always menacing, like it's going to cave in any second, and thatís what Peter Neuber, the mastering / recording engineer, did with our music. I only try to describe what influences me the most, things I've read about battles, modern and ancient and then Iím just sitting down and writing my thoughts about that subject, hence my lyrics: stuff like ammunition and its harmful impact; strategies of generals in wars; the descriptions of witnesses to bombing campaigns; how Mustard gas works, how someone was being slain by arrows in the middle ages, et cetera. I then sum that all up in a bowl of war black metal. Just to give you a total ferocious bombing, not thinking of what the listener wants to hear but what I want to hear. So yes, fast is my taste.

I live in peaceful Germany these days, just 1 km across the border (from the Netherlands). I havenít witnessed war myself, but my family did. My grandfather and his brother both fought in the second world war. My grandfather's brother was the first to shoot at the Germans when they crossed the border to The Netherlands. He got some of them but was gunned down quickly. He didnít even slow them down for more then a second or two, completely worthlessÖ So, yeah, I describe war and everything we use in order to kill each other.

Maelstrom: Instead of subduing your anger and hatred (what are the subjects of your anger and hatred, really?) musically, you seem to become ever more extreme and violent. Can you call "Triumph in Hatred" Sammath's most aggressive work to date? What feeds this fire of violence, as you seem like a totally nice and cool family man? Hasn't teenage angst subdued with the passing years? What are you so angry about?

Jan Kruitwagen: Iím not really angry at all. Most people would say I'm pretty friendly, maybe a bit rowdy and loud. The new Sammath album has indeed become extremely violent. I think, without sounding too arrogant, that this album is just about as fast and brutal as it can get. The drummer also really outdid himself on Triumph in Hatred. We were all just looking at him and wondering when he was going to fall down and die after recording sessions. He has managed to record some of the most straightforward and equally strange and relentless pounding I have heard in ages. Why must one be angry to create black metal? Most members of Sammath are pretty normal metal heads, some are more wild and crazy, but I see it as a form of music and way of living that also includes enjoying great guitar riffs, concerts, this music, but I donít see the necessity to be angry, depressed and such; nor do I think it should be a personal outlet for emotions. Thatís a terrible thing in my opinion; you need to be unstable and probably a fucking loser or social outcast pussy to create black metal (for those wrong reasons).

I prefer to see it as a form of music which is arrogant, strange and foremost totally free but at the same time bound by many borders. Keeping it extreme and interesting is what we have done on this album. Well, thatís of course my opinion as well as its being our best album!! Buy it, or die violently!

Maelstrom: Triumph in Hatred is one of the fastest and brutal black / death metal albums we have listened to in recent time. It is infested with relentless blasting and grinding drums from beginning to end. Why this love for speed? Do you think (black) metal is more effective when played furiously fast? Some of the best black metal pieces out there are those that are played rather slowly, thus generating atmosphere and allowing the melodies to emerge. Take for instance Ancient Wisdom, Negura Bunget and even Secrets of the Moon, who have discovered the power and beauty of slow black metal. On Triumph in Hatredís title track, which in many parts forsakes the blasts and is revolving mostly around the mid-pace beat. We think it is more effective that way. What would be your thoughts on the subject?

Jan Kruitwagen: Blast beats are a matter of taste. Some say itís too boring and it doesnít give much excitement, or it takes the surprise out of music, I say: utter crap. Some people say a riff should be played only four times... who cares what they say? I like it. When bands start using blast beats, I would paste the parts together so I could get a constant barrage for three minutes. I donít have only blast beats; it's the returning factor that makes it sound fast all the time. I think brutality is not found in fast or slow black metal, but rather in good black metal. The atmosphere on slow parts I find very irritating very fast. Only bands like Skyforger and the like I find are doing that well, the rest; be it folk or atmospheric black metal, is not my sort of beer. Music played with extremely fast and hypnotic riffs ó now that's taste. I think the best black metal parts are the brutal grinding stuff with extremely fast drums, furious guitar riffing and somewhat lower vocals, that's true black metal style.

I have never had any taste for too slowed down black metal. I would rather listen to some good doom or thrash, a combination of extreme metal styles is more my taste. I listen to extreme black metal mostly, but I also enjoy thrash, death or doom metal more than listening to atmospheric black metal. I think furious and fast black metal like Sammath is something to be explored and an acquired taste, after all . This album is about as brutal as you can get without it sounding completely chaotic like grind. Too mechanical some people may say, or too repetitive maybe; well ok, who cares? Move on.

Try drumming like this with very subtle changes in cymbals and keep the pace for five minutes. It's taste, if you do it right, well it's our taste at least. What Koos (the drummer) did on this album should excite the listener, but you have to listen to the entire album to comprehend.

Maelstrom: In truth, every riff out there has already been invented and used to death. Almost anything has been tried in metal. Metal music, once a fertile ground for endless ideas, has become a barren landscape of copycats, plagiarists and general "musicians" who simply don't have a clue, and those whom the very concept of originality says absolutely nothing to them. Where do you stand in that regard? What is the most important aspect to you when approaching the writing of new music? Is it the intensity, the originality, the overall production sound? What is the creative process? How does one "compose" black metal to begin with? How would you know that the very same given riff hadn't been written and used by another band on another album, or a combination of such? That a given song is one of its kind?

Jan Kruitwagen: I donít really think about that anymore, I know most riffs have been written, but I think Sammath has a unique sound, a small niche in warlike black metal. The biggest problem is crap labels releasing crap albums. I am not Mayhem, nor Gorgoroth, nor would I want to be, but thousands of bands simply copy them never-the-less. When a band first starts being active, it's probably inevitable to sound like the bands you listen to. I write music and if I donít like the riff, or it reminds me of something familiar, I'll throw it out straight away. Most bands, at least most new bands, have the problem that no one gives them much of a chance.

If you look closely you will see that most new bands that have got some recognition over the last years are mostly very theatrical: Cutting themselves, throwing up blood-like goo on stage, whatever to make sure the kids love it. I try to keep as far away as possible from all that. Creating this type of music for personal gain, or rock star ambitions is not what I am doing at all.

Composing black metal is something that canít be explained easy; it's writing the riffs, searching for the right moods that will correspond with the lyrical concept of the tracks, thinking of drum lines that would fit in, et cetera. I usually start writing a riff and slowly combine a chorus with other ideas. A good Sammath track is never finished in less than a year. I have more than five complete demos finished before we enter the studio for an album. The first demo was total shit. Itís a fine line between knowing when a song needs more work and knowing when to stop. You canít learn this, itís probably experience. I was talking to one of the guys from The Stone (Folter Records signed band from Serbia) last week and he had the same problem. You can just hear after about 30 seconds which bands have the experience, not necessarily your kind of music, but the know-how of how to approach music of that kind. But to get back to your question, I donít think any type of music these days is fresh anymore so-to-speak, but does that matter? If it's good, it's good; if it's crap it should not be released, and that's the biggest problem.

Production is very important; I waited for six months so that Peter Neuber could do the mastering again. He has a good sense of what Sammath should sound like, a whirlwind of chaos, but well recorded and clear. To sum it all up, most shit sinks to the bottom, but these days the bottom is so full of shit that it just stays on the surface.

There is more though: downloading albums is pathetic, our new album was available for downloading via hundreds of web-pages about a week after the release. Sales are ok, but do these bloggers really think they are helping the scene? They write on those sites that if you like the album go and buy it; sure, so I can download the entire album at your gay blog, with high resolution cover art and you expect people to buy the album after that? Fucking leeches. The saddest thing is that all these people donít do it for the scene, no, they like it when many people visit their websites so they can jack off at night when they have more than 100 visitors. Itís a disgrace! They are ruining the scene. It was so much better back in Ď85 to Ď95. But what can you do? I havenít got a single downloaded album; why? because if I like something, I buy it. The whole idea of downloading an album of a band you like for free is pathetic.

Maelstrom: In Triumph in Hatred you have done something exceptional, namely the incorporation of almost classic metal passages; guitar solos ("shredding") a-la Yngwie Malmsteen and such. Who's in charge of those marvelous solos and what gave you the idea to actually take such a risk and even incorporate them into the very brutal music? Is Triumph in Hatred the first album of Sammath where this "technique" is used? How did you manage to intertwine this "classic" melodic heavy metal approach so organically into the harsh sounds of your black / death metal?

Jan Kruitwagen: It was indeed a risk, but it worked out perfectly. The biggest problem was that the solos had to be part of the tracks, not just a different atmosphere whilst ruining the feel of the tracks. Magnus, who likes to be called Andy these days, did the solos. I was looking to combine more classic metal sounding solos and riffs with the typical sound of black metal. These types of solos are not easy to perform. Most solos in black metal sound like shit.

I was lucky enough to run into this madman at the "Under the Black Sun" fest in Berlin some years ago. He was promoting Sammath at the Folter Records stand. He did not know I was the Sammath guy and he told me this would sound better with solos. Iíve heard so many people saying stuff about what I should do that at first I thought: screw this guy. But after the weekend we were luckily still alive and got together to talk this through, once we worked out how we wanted it to sound. it worked out just how I had thought it up. The solos are great, they remind me of old Obituary solos. What I always missed with those eighties death metal bands with great solos were the fast parts. I donít think there are too many black metal bands with solos as fucking good as these. Magnus A.K.A. Andy is a talented guitarist, and on the next album he will also be part of the lineup.

Maelstrom: Triumph in Hatred sounds much updated, sound-wise. It differs from your early works in that it does not bear the typical traditional low-fi, anachronistic and "spiritual" feel of usually under-produced black metal, but rather a very hi-tech-ish, polished, sharp, yet punishing production. That being said, the production lends the music this crisp and "fat" death metal etiquette. What made you take this step towards a different kind of sound for Sammath? Would we expect Sammath to introduce more death metal elements in the future? Was the recording / production process harder a task, and if so, what were the challenges Sammath faced during the production of Triumph in Hatred?

Jan Kruitwagen: What I always hated when listening to underground black metal is the fact that it never sounds very menacing; it feels menacing but if you turn it up it has no impact other than that it fucks up your hearing. The snare drum you canít hear, or only hear slightly. I think itís a combination of having no decent studio budget and just thinking it sounds true and evil, but mostly true and evil are just used as an excuse for lack of know-how. Darkthrone pulled it off once, so itís been done. I wanted a black metal album that sounded good and ó as you have stated ó "fat," because it sounds completely devastating. Death metal has always been part of Sammath in some ways. I have always listened to different styles of extreme metal. On Verwoesting (the band's sophomore full length album), this is probably most apparent.

The recording [for Triumph in Hatred] wasnít difficult at all, except the slaughtering drum sessions. But I was sitting next to the producer with coffee, watching Koos (the drummer) killing himself behind his drum kit. No triggers or effects anywhere, you can actually hear the pain. But hearing the pain certainly pays off. At some points you can hear that he is getting tired, or that it's costing him more energy; natural dynamics are great, triggers are totally fake: like a whore with big fake tits. The biggest challenge I had was keeping the black metal overall feel, not letting the heavy, death, thrash metal elements take over too much. So it was a constant watching out for this framework.

Maelstrom: Jan, we would like to know what are your thoughts about the future of metal in general and black metal in particular? Where would Sammath be, let's say, five years from now? Where would you be? What's in store for your next album? Do you think age will have a say regarding the general trend of your thinking about the world, music and the metal underground in general? Will the world even exist five years from now?

Jan Kruitwagen: The future is always good; I always make sure to arrange stuff well enough for me and my family. The black metal scene will clean itself or destroy itself, I really donít care. I will be doing my thing, fuck the rest. In five years, when Iím 41, I will still be making black metal. Throughout the years I have been buying new stuff, checking out new bands, et cetera. The next album is already taking form in my head; the drummer is already coming up with the craziest stuff I have ever heard. I just hope my shouting won't worsen; it used to be better once. Should the world still exist in five years? I donít know and thereís nothing I can do about it so I donít give a fuck. Iím an animal, an opportunist and a very egocentric bastard, like most of usÖ

Maelstrom: Maelstrom would like to deeply thank you for your time, elaborate answers and co-operation. It was a real pleasure for us.

Jan Kruitwagen: Thanks also to you, man, great questions, looks like there is hope for metal if we old, soon-to-be metal fossils donít die too soon.

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

For Estonian Pagan black metal band Bestia, what a difference a studio makes. And a session drummer. And better gear. And a session flutist, saxophone player, and violinist. And years of albums and demos trying to get it right, and...

...and the result is Ronkade Parved, one of the best sounding recordings heard in black metal in some time. Itís a solid album that is firmly heralding the arrival of a band to watch in the Baltic states. We got in contact with band leader Andres K (also the guy who runs Hexenreich records), for this chat.

Maelstrom: Itís impressive with how much improvement was made between Hallutsinatsioon and Ronkade Parved. The musicianship is better, and just as importantly, the recording is like night and day. What did you do on Ronkade Parved that you believe led to the biggest difference in sound quality?

Andres K (above): Thanks! Well, its mostly about knowledge base. Hallutsinatsioon was recorded more than five years ago. I have now better idea and more experience how to record our stuff. This time we had possibility to use much better equipment. Also, we invited very good session drummer and finally professional sound engineer mixed and mastered our songs. So this all together lead to result, what you can hear on Ronkade Parved.

Maelstrom: In terms of steps you made towards a better recording, what technical elements stand out in your mind the most?

Andres K: Well, for example, drum microphones were much better this time. I like the result very much. For guitars we borrowed killer Mesa Boogie amp and Marshall cab, that was good decision again.

Maelstrom: I hear lots of non-electric instruments, like flute, sax and violin. As a fan, I encourage you to do more of this on future albums! I missed the kind of unusual, superb implementation of these instruments on the later tracks on Ronkade Parved.

Andres K: Everything is natural. We used session players.

When I created riffs for Ronkade Parved, I had no idea that we were going to use saxophone, etc. Later, when we recorded drums for track "Tasumise pšev" (there is groovy folkish riff in the beginning), I thought that flute should fit nicely in this part. Vincent found flute player and we absolutely liked the result, it guided us to saxophone and viola as well, as after hearing of it we started to generate ideas, how to make album more interesting and unusual.

Yes, we will continue to use unorthodox instruments on next albums. Thatís for sure. But the main thing still will be extreme metal. Iím not turning it to something very progressive, or folk metal with frequent bagpipes, etc.

Maelstrom: Excellent that such musicians were available to you. How did you find working with more classically trained musicians?

Andres K: It was very interesting experience. Basically they figured out in minutes what to do and recorded their parts very skillfully, without any problems. It was interesting oppotunity for them too, as they usually donít have possibility to create music, but just play what is ordered.

Maelstrom: What's this thin piece of folded paper in the Ronkade Parved digi? It's got faded BW photos of winlderness with Estonian written on it.

Andres K: Well, I didnt get translations of lyrics in time (we had little presentation party), so I decided to make this kind of simplistic booklet. There are a few text lines from songs and photos of swamp and forest, taken by me.

Maelstrom: The hidden track on Ronkade Parved is a capella chanting / traditional sounding singing in Estonian. What song is that? 

Andres K: This is traditional song, or pseudo folk song, what every Estonian knows for sure. Itís called "Heeringalaul" (song about herring). We didnít rehearsed it too much, as we wanted to get natural atmosphere, like it is sung at someones place at Fridays night, hehe. This is just bonus song. It was only released on the first edition of album (ltd. to 99 copies).

Maelstrom: What other editions of Ronkade Parved are there? 

Andres K: Second edition is released on Evil Distribution (Latvia) on digipak CD, limited to 300 copies. Third edition comes from Thailand, Roots Active Production, released 66 copies on CD-R.

Maelstrom: Did you decide to not have a booklet, and why print the lyrics (and I think, translation) to just one song?

Andres K: I had decent translation for one song only at the time, so it was printed on digipack. And I thought itís pointless to print all Estonian lyrics, as most of discs go to international audience, anyway. Translated lyrics are now available on our website.

Maelstrom: The lyrics read well in English. Is the image of circling ravens more than Immortal worship? How about the album cover art? Looks like an English soldier in battle. But you guys are from Estonia....

Andres K: Hehe, our ravens dont have any connection with Immortal. Ronkade Parved means "raven flocks." I see us as those hungry ravens in the sky.

Well, if we take closer look at picture, there is another warrior, too, and thatís the Estonian guy. Knight symbolizes Christian invader, who came here long time ago to bring "culture" and "right religion." They were mostly Germans. The knightís shield form is not authentic actually, but artist who drew picture didnít know that. Itís not that important anyway.

Maelstrom: How much of an influence does Skyforger have on your work?

Andres K: Skyforger is very prominent and respected metal band in Baltic states. We have played few times together and it would be a lie if I say that they havenít influenced us at all.

Idea of recording that hidden traditional song is probably stolen from them, hehe. They have used such singing a lot in their songs.

Maelstrom: Who is the biggest Estonian metal band in Estonia?

Andres K: No doubt ó MetsatŲll. They play folk metal with clean vocals and a lot of "regular" people became their fans here. They had recently European tour with Ensiferum and their next album will be out on Spinefarm Rec.

People who are into extreme metal are probably heard also names like Loits, Tharaphita, Must Missa, Urt.

Maelstrom: Yes, we've heard Must Missa. We'd rather listen to Bestia.

Andres K: Allright! Turn the volume up!

www.metal.ee/bestia
hexenreich.estmetal.ee

 

 

 

interview by: %%name=Bastiaan de Vries%%

The Jungle Rot death metal tank has been rumbling away on the battlefield for over fifteen years with ruthless sonic efficiency. Their latest record, What Horrors Await, is a comfortable continuation of everything they've done in the past. The band remains dedicated to their old school brand of groovy death metal. The secret to their long-running success? "We don't judge everything we write, we just have fun." We talk to vocalist / guitarist Dave Matrise about the band's latest release, their position in the death metal scene, what makes their groove so special and if a change of battlefields is in order.

(Editorís note: laughing at the extreme illiteracy of these answers in English by a purported native speaker purely reflects on the sadism of the editor, and not the interviewer. - ed)

Maelstrom: How is the fan reaction been for What Horrors Await? Have you guys taken it on the road yet? Is the record selling? I imagine youíve got a pretty solid core of fans that are exlusively into the old school death metal sound. What about younger fans? Do you have some notion of Jungle Rot records being a big hit with them?

Dave Matrise: Hi.... The reactions have been great with this new release. I think when you pick up a new JRot release, you no what you are getting from us. We just got done touring for the new CD, we did some dates with Six Feet Under in Europe and a bunch of headlining dates on are (sic) own. Europe is a vary special place and we have a killer time every time we tour there. Shortly after returning from the Euro tour we started a U.S. tour with Deicide . That was a fun tour, we got a chance to get out in the U.S. again and tear shit up.

After all the touring, the CD was starting to take off with sales. And with all are hardcore fans showing there (sic) support bye (sic) picking up the new disc, it helped out a lot, as well. This day in age, it`s getting harder to sell CD`s. The only way to pick up sales are bye (sic) touring and we wish we could do more of it. Yes, a lot of are (sic) fans have been there from the start of JRot.

There is not to (sic) many bands left doing this type of style. Most of the bands are trying jump on whatís cool today. We have stayed true to are (sic) self's and fans for over 15 years bye (sic) playing what we feel and staying away from the trendy shit. We are always capturing new fans young and old. We need more of the younger so they can keep this style alive well after I'm done with it.

Maelstrom: How is Napalm Records treating you guys? Youíve had some trouble with that stuff in the past, I remember from reading some interviews after War Zone came out.

Dave Matrise: Napalm is a great label to be on. They do the best they can for us. We are all vary happy to be apart (sic) of the Napalm family. We did have some bad relationships with one past label but that is way over with. Itís just nice to work with a real label again.

Maelstrom: You guys seem to be pretty comfortable at making your records. Thereís no wild-eyed, faux-panic atmosphere to the music ó the music of Jungle Rot feels single-minded in itís approach to blunt brutality. How does the band keep their minds sharp, focused on every death metal mission into the jungle?

Dave Matrise: Well, I think bye (sic) not judging everything you write and just have fun with what you do. It will come vary natural. I tell all my guys in the band not to say anything till I add some vocals on it. Alot of times someone will say I don`t like it or get it. By adding the vocals it makes everything come together faster.

Maelstrom: What does a day in the life of Jungle Rot look like when you are in the studio? Does the band use any special techniques to get the music sounding the way it does (which is fat and heavy and groovy)?

Dave Matrise: Well, when we are ready to record everyone is ready for battle. Each guy knows what there (sic) job is and will do the best they can do when called. We have been recording all are (I swear Iíve never seen this kind of mistake before. Itís a new low in American illiteracy - ed.) releases with Cris Wisco. He has been there from day one and has played in the band for a short time. This helps out alot. Cris really knows the sound of the band well, and each time we Finnish (not from Finland, Dave. - ed) with a new CD they just keep getting bigger and better.

Maelstrom: Though it may not seem apparent at first listen, almost every song on the new record has a particular hook or riff to make it stand out from the rest. Each song becomes memorable on its own. And thereís a lot of songs, so itís quite a feat. Is this something the band pays close attention to, making the songs memorable (which is something a lot of bands these days seem to forget to do)?

Dave Matrise: Yes. That's what JRot is all about. When I start to wright a song I do not put in a disc of whatís hot as hell at the time and try to one up it. I just like to write songs that have all the key elements to kill someone. That is bye (haha - ed) having the old school sound with the killer death grooves. We try to make you bang your head from the start of the song to the end.  

Maelstrom: I mentioned in my review of What Horrors Await that thereís no need to change the blueprint (of the band), when itís already at maximum killing efficiency. But does the classical Vietnam / war backdrop remain intellectually viable after so many years? Are there any conceptual roads youíve been interested in taking the band on?

Dave Matrise: Thanks for the review. You said it right. We talked about a new theme. But alot of the fans love the war / gore and they just want more. Maybe something will be in stored for the next release will have to wait and see.

Maelstrom: Can you explain to me where the groove comes from on (for example) a Vietnam battlefield? I can imagine the hammering of the bass guitar, the rattling of the snare drum, all obvious sounds of war, machine-gun battles, et cetera. But what military tool or situation would you reckon personifies the groove in Jungle Rot?

Dave Matrise: Ah... Tuff. Lets see... I can see the groove part be a big fat tank. Just crushing everything in site (sic) and killing at will. When I hear the groove parts, they make me bit down on my teeth, and hang on tite for the a killer ride.

Maelstrom: Were do you see Jungle Rot in the death metal scene picture? The band has been doing music for a very long time now. How do you view the current scene? Or is it even important to think about when youíre in a band that (except for the technological updates) sounds pretty much the same as when they started out? 

Dave Matrise: I see us being a big part of this style of music when you think of bands playing death groove. Yes, we have been doing this style for over 15 years now and I have seen the scene go up and down and back up again. Today we have alot of new retro trash bands popping up and that is just making the scene bigger and better. I have always said a band like JRot should be applauded for staying so true to there sound. When you start a band you have to fined your self's and that is by your style.

Maelstrom: Whatís next for the band? Any big tours lined up for the fans to see? Also you guys have a myspace at, but what about a website? Itís maybe a bit *too* old school not having a website in this day and age.

Dave Matrise: We are writing a new CD now. We hope to get out and tour this spring and summer of 2010 . We don't have a website anymore because we are sick of paying someone to run it. And the my space is alot easy er to run by your self. We are not that old school.

Thanks,

Dave

www.myspace.com/junglerot

 

 

 

interview par: Roberto Martinelli

Le groupe Quťbecois Augury continue la dominance particuliŤre que la region a sur le technical death. Nous avons parlť au deux guitaristes du groupe, Patrick Loisel et Mathieu Marcotte, lors de leur tournťe aux EU pendant líautomne de 2009.

Maelstrom: Je trouvais interessant sur Concealed quíil y avait des chants opťratiques de femme. Continuerez-vous ŗ employer ces chants?

Patrick: Non. Peut Ítre Áa arrivera encore, mais... premiŤrement, il níy a pas beaucoup de nos compositions qui síappliquent bien au chant operatique. Et secondairement, nous sommes bien ŗ un groupe ŗ quatre.

Maelstrom: Avez-vous eu líexperience de jouer avec une chanteuse sur scene?

Patrick: Ben, oui! On a des amies qui sont de trŤs bonnes chanteuses, et Áa arrive souvent quíelles viennent jouer avec nous lors díun concert.

Maelstrom: Je remarque souvent que les albums des groupes qui passent ŗ Nuclear Blast records changent au niveau du son ó cíest plus grand, plus dťmonstratif, moins subtil... et le compte rendu de tous ces albums donne une certaine impression homogŤne. Quand vous avez enregistrť Fragmentary Evidence, Nuclear Blast a tíil exigť que vous fassiez quoi que ce soit pour conformer ŗ des standards spťcifiques?

Patrick Loisel: Líalbum a ťtť enregistrť avant quíon a eu le contrat avec Nuclear Blast.

Mathieu Marcotte: On a du retourner pour changer quelques elements au mixage et du mastering. Mais au niveau de líinstrumentation.... Les changements ťtaient des technicalites de frťquences, de mixage et de compression pour conformer ŗ leurs standards.

Maelstrom: Comme artistes, ťtiez-vous díaccord avec ces demandes?

Mathieu Marcotte: Le produit final a mieux tournť gr‚ce ŗ leurs changements.

Maelstrom: Mathieu, parle-nous un peu de ton project, Humanoid.

Mathieu Marcotte: Cíest un projet instrumental principalement acoustique, mais qui a des tons aussi du cŰtť metal. Je líai fait pour míamuser. Il y a des invitťs sur líalbum, comme Forest (bassiste díAugury), le bassiste díUnexpect.

Maelstrom: Parlez un peu du materiel que vous aimez utiliser.

Patrick Loisel: Pour les instruments, on est des adŤptes díinstruments fabriquťs au Quťbec. Par exemple, les bass de Forest sont faites par MF, Michel Fournelle. En studio, on a utilisť de líamplification Mesa Boogie, et on va passer sous peu ŗ Engl.

Mathieu Marcotte: On aime quíil y ait beaucoup de gain avec les Engls, et aussi quíil y ait des Celestions v30 dans les cabinets, qui sont faits aves du gros bois.

Maelstrom: Mais, les Celestions v30, par exemple, ne sont ils pas dans les cabinets de beaucoup de producteurs?

Patrick Loisel: Le choix de bois et sa densitť sont des facteurs importants.

Maelstrom: Quelle a ťtť la sequence díenregistrement des instruments pour Fragmentary Evidence?

Mathieu Marcotte: On a commence par le drum ó quand tu fais du metal, it faut toujours commencer par Áa. A líťpoque, cíetait toujours Etienne Gallo le batteur. Le drum a pris quatre jours pour Ítre enregistrť. Les guitares nous ont pris sept our huit jours. On a enregistrť les guitares avec un splitter, ce qui nous a permis de faire du re-amping plus tard ŗ travers un Peavey 5150.

Nous avons enregistrť les guitares avec Yannick St-Amand, qui est reputť díÍtre le meilleur au Quťbec pour faire le mur de son de guitare. Les guitares acoustiques onr ťtť enregistrťes, par contre, a Montrťal avec Hugues Deslauriers. Cíetait plus pratique pour nous car Fragmentary a ťtť fait durant une periode díun an.

Maelstrom: Combien de tracks avez vous enregistrť?

Mathieu Marcotte: Ca depend de la chanson, mais pour la rhythmique, il y toujours un track pour chaque cŰtť ó Patrick est sur un cote, et moi de líautre. On ne les a pas doublťes. Mais le panning change souvent.

Maelstrom: Que pouvez-vous dire des progrŤs que vous avez fait sur Fragmentary Evidence par rapport a Concealed?

Patrick Loisel: On síest pas donnť un agenda pour amťliorer des choses pour ťpater la gallerie. Sur Concealed, il y avait quelques choses quíon níaimait pas, comme le niveau díharmonie du tapping. Mais on fait de la musique pour nous ťpater nous-memes, comme líapplication díecho sur la guitare acoustique, qui resulte dans une melodie particuliere.

Maelstrom: Quelles sont vos influences?

Mathieu Marcotte: Emperor, Cynic, Nile, Opeth, Malmsteen, King Crimson, Genesis.

Patrick Loisel: Jíaime beacoup des trucs experimentaux de guitare classique et du flamenco, et des vieux groupes de mťtal obscurs comme Nasty Savage et Mercyful Fate ó des groupes avec des ambiances mysterieuses.

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Augury continues the particular dominance French Canada has on the technical death metal scene. We caught up with the bandís guitarists, Patrick Loisel and Mathieu Marcotte, during their Fall US tour in support of their latest album, Fragmentary Evidence.

Maelstrom: What I thought was cool on Concealed (Auguryís first album) was the female operatic singing. Will you continue to use these elements in the future?

Patrick: No. Well, maybe occasionally, but... first of all, female opera singing wouldnít fit with most of our compositions, and secondly, we feel best as a four-piece.

Maelstrom: Have you ever had a show with live female singing?

Patrick: Sure! We have friends who are excellent singers, and itís a common occurrence that they play with us during shows.

Maelstrom: I often notice how albums of bands that get signed to Nuclear Blast undergo something of a sound change ó the sound is bigger, more showy, less subtle... thereís a certain homogeneity to it all. When you recorded Fragmentary Evidence, did Nuclear Blast demand that you do any specific thing to conform to their standards?

Patrick Loisel: The album was recorded before Nuclear Blast signed us.

Mathieu Marcotte: We did have to go back and change a few things with the mix and mastering ó technical stuff dealing with frequencies and compression. But, as far as the instrumentation went...

Maelstrom: As artists, how did you feel about these demands?

Mathieu Marcotte: The end result was better because of them.

Maelstrom: Mathieu, talk to us a bit about your side project, Humaoid.

Mathieu Marcotte: Itís an instrumental project thatís principally acoustic, but that also has some tones from the metal world. I started the project to have fun. There are some guests on the album, like Auguryís bassist and the bassist from Unexpect.

Maelstrom: Tell us about the kind of gear Augury likes to use.

Patrick Loisel: Weíre all adepts of instruments made in Quebec. For example, Forest (bassist) uses basses made by Michel Fournelle. In the studio, we used Mesa Boogie amps, but soon weíre going to switch to Engl.

Mathieu Marcotte: We like the gain Engls have, and also that their cabs have Celestion v30s in them, and that theyíre made with thick wood.

Maelstrom: But arenít Celestion v30s in a whole lot of manufacturersí cabinets?

Patrick Loisel: Wood choice and its density are also very important factors.

Maelstrom: What order were the instruments recorded in on Fragmentary Evidence?

Mathieu Marcotte: We started with the drums ó when you make a metal recod, itís imperative to always start there. At the time, our old drummer, Etienne Gallo, was still the man. Drums took four days to record. The rhythm guitars took us seven or eight days. We recorded the guitars with a splitter, which allowed us to reamp the direct track through a Peavey 5150.

We recorded the electric guitars with Yannick St-Amand, whoís recognized at being the best guy in Quebec in terms of a wall of guitar sound. The acoustic guitars were recored in Montreal with Hugues Deslauriers. This made more logistical sense for us as Fragmentary was created over a yearís time.

Maelstrom: How many tracks were recorded?

Mathieu Marcotte: It depends on the song, but for the rhythms, there are always two tracks: One is Patrick on one side, and the other is me on the opposite side. None of the tracks were doubled, but the panning changes often.

Maelstrom: What can yuo say about the progress youíve made from your first to your second album?

Patrick Loisel: We didnít have an improvement agenda in order to impress anyone else. One thing, for example, that we wanted to improve on from Concealed was how the guitar tapping harmony levels are not right. Rather, we like impressing ourselves, like how we applied echo on the acoustic guitar to make unusual melodic results.

Maelstrom: What are your influences?

Mathieu Marcotte: Emperor, Cynic, Nile, Opeth, Malmsteen, King Crimson, Genesis.

Patrick Loisel: I like experimental stuff in the classical and flamenco world, and old obscure metal bands like Nasty Savage and Mercyful Fate ó groupes with mysterious ambience.

 

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

AARKTICA - In Sea - CD - Silber Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Highly recommending Aarktica to fans of Stars of the Lid would be the quickest route to success for both potential listeners and the band alike. In Sea is (primarily) a drone record whose production is as good (if not better) than its compositions, and in this style, thatís as important as anything.

In Seaís tones are rich and resound with pleasant reverberation. The frequencies make for the intended blissful drift into melancholic happiness.

Now, if weíre actually comparing Aarktica and Stars of the Lid, Aarktica is less of an enveloping drone that is a constant bittersweet flow, instead relying more remarkably on the decaying tones of reverberant notes, most notably of a piano.

Perhaps a more apt comparison is to Stars of the Lidís side project The Dead Texan, which comes to mind mostly because of the couple tracks on In Sea that are actual songs with veritable singing. Compared to The Dead Texan, however, the singing isnít something you wished would have been left off the record. With that said, it isnít the best element of In Sea; that it mixes the album up successfully or detracts from its main motif are debatable. The last track is worth mentioning here, being a cover of Danzigís "Am I Demon?" which, although weíve never heard the original, is interesting enough that weíd want to, and are sure it sounds pretty different.

Good drone records donít warrant lots of analysis, as their success lies on a relatively few elements to success. Aarktica is a highly successful drone record, being one actually played by its members, with excellent compositions, and more importantly, excellent sound. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4.9/10 Mladen
 

ABSENTIA LUNAE - Historia Nobis Assentietvr - CD - Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Yes, you can have too much of the good stuff. Absentia Lunae's second official full length (apparently, Marching Upon Forgotten Ashes was a demo) is one of those cases.

For example, scattered, nearly random screams are good (far better than the nursery rhyme screeching that so many bands resort to). But it's no longer good when you can't tell the songs apart. Blastbeats... good, really. Who doesn't love them? But it Absentia Lunae's case, they are triggered and too loud. As furious as they are, they almost completely drown the guitar work. And the guitar... a few good riffs, a few interesting chord sequences, but not much to hold on to. If there is an interesting idea, it is mostly a combination of chord sequences and a thrashing accent near the end, repeated too many times. If you manage to hear it beneath the ubiquitous drums, that is.

Basically, after some repeated listening, all you'll be able to remember about Historia Nobis Assentietvr is that it has a lot of screams, two basic tempos and a nice intro. And we mean really nice, as even with its excessive length, six minutes, it increases tension, becomes more and more hysterical, prepares you for a war... which doesn't happen.

We expected more from Historia Nobis Assentietvr because we've heard two previous Absentia Lunae releases, and liked them. And we know what Climaxia is capable of ó yes, sheís a female, and if you want to hear some really amazing guitars, check out her other band Melencolia Estatica. But it seems that she drew a line between the two projects and Absentia Lunae got everything that Melencolia Estatica didn't, and it turned out that it wasn't much. (4.9/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

ABSTRACT SPIRIT - Tragedy and Weeds - CD - Solitude Productions - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Tragedy and Weeds is a doom metal album that reminds mostly of Shape of Despair... something in the tempo, use of melodic accents, and the vocal style and how itís implemented. However, Russian Abstract Spirit is a substantially more retarded ó and also in this case, lesser ó version of the essential Finnish doom unit... but that doesnít mean you shouldnít listen to Tragedy and Weeds.

Tragedy and Weeds is a long album, with lots of material, whose intricacies will reveal themselves with repeated listens... the only issue in question is whether the album is quite good enough to warrant taking time out from listening to a lot of other music to really get into whatís going on during Tragedy and Weeds.

For example, the way the record winds down in a way that makes it sound like a stereo running out of batteries is interesting. Abstract Spirit also likes to use a lot of "horns," which can sound like the theme to a Mafia funeral procession in which everyone is drunk, makes for some amusing remarkability.

But on the flip side, thereís something about the production that, while well done and heavy, doesnít invite the listener to turn up and enjoy at louder volumes. Still, if youíre a big fan of Shape of Despair, and could stand to have more of that kind of thing, albeit a 2nd rate version of it, Tragedy and Weeds is recommended. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.9/10 Mladen
 

ADAGIO - Archangels in Black - CD - Listenable Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

While excellent at coming up with song parts and playing them in a virtuoso fashion, Adagio are somewhat incapable of properly matching them.

Modern, progressive metal it definitely is, but Archangels in Black could have been more than that. How progressive can it be when most songs follow the same structure, for example? First an intro, which can usually be traced to other bands like Kataklysm (Shadows and Dust), Pantera (Walk), some Dimmu Borgir or Slayer (if you find anything else, let us know because we're suspicious that there might be). Then, some mid- tempo whatever, which sounds great, but is completely interchangeable with the parts of other songs that can by found occupying the similar position. A catchy chorus, usually something about vampires. Some more mid-tempo meandering, solo, chorus, the end. So you get nine different songs but the most difference comes from the intro and chorus, while the other parts could belong to any other song than the one they are in.

Make no mistake, it's all properly played, with multiple vocal layers (including some screams and growls... it's progressive, after all), huge keyboards and so on, complicated and technical. But in the end, only the choruses are good (actually really, really good). We are completely certain that there will be people out there who will seriously fall in love with Archangels in Black just because of how many things went into it, how well they are played and how good they sound. But we can't find many traces of interesting songs here. (5.9/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Sanctus Ignis (issue No 5)  

 

 

 
5.9/10 Roberto
 

ALVHEIM - I Et Fjort Fortid - CD - Gardarika Musikk - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Alvheimís thin, buzzing yet clear, often intense black metal with drum machine could lump it appropriately with acts such as Forteresse, Octinomos, and Crebain.

The music is decent / good, the layering of guitar bass tracks is done well, and the approach to the tone is solid and well-advised in terms of achieving that icy hum that toes the line between bliss and blasphemy.

However, at several times on the recording, Alvheimís guitar sounds like a toy, which is especially the case on the slower sections. This, paired with the programmed drums, gives Alvheim a plastic aspect that is doubtlessly unintentional. At four songs + a Darkthrone cover, I Et Fjort Fortid can offer some enjoyable moments, but thereís too little in terms of quantity and quality to make this album more than a respectable drop in the black metal ocean. (5.9/10)

 

 

 

 
9.8/10 Ignacio
4/10 Mladen
 

AMESOEURS - Amesoeurs - CD - Profound Lore Records - 2009

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

The internet is a magical place. Eight years ago, it was Devil Doll. Thanks to the back-then-still-young P2P programs, everyone on forums and websites knew Devil Doll, everyone had strong views on them, either unconditional love or hate, and everyone had heard their albums. Right, no one had paid even a penny for their albums, but how could you when editions were limited and distribution was almost non-existent?

When people outside "real life" metal music communities started listening to some more music that wasn't the classics, it was Maudlin of the Well, Ephel Duath, and some other similar avant-garde bands.

Shortly after that, it was Pig Destroyer, Dream Theater, Impaled, and so on, and so forth. Suddenly, the internet metal hype machine stopped hyping singular bands: it started hyping genres. Soon it was sludgecore (back then no one really called it post-anything) with Neurosis and Isis, after that it was drone with Sunn O))) and Jesu.

While some select few bands were hyped sometimes, the internet was no longer the anarchist hype machine anymore, it was more of a coordinated system. Surely we can analyze all that from the bandwidth-point of view but it'd probably fit Slashdot much more than Maelstrom. Anyway, the latest hyped genre in metal is, surely you've noticed, post-metal, including bands like Alcest and, more recently, Amesoeurs. Sure, saying it's "post-metal" is probably stretching it, but surely enough Amesoeurs aren't your usual metal band.

Don't let the hype fool you, however. Amesoeurs is not black metal, and it's far enough from being metal for most "kvlt" metalheads to accept. It's a post-punk / coldwave album with subtle and not-so-subtle metal influences, mainly in the form of a few black metal tracks and distorted riffs all around. However, whoever dismisses it because it's "not metal" is missing out on a brilliant release. It's also an album sporting some spot-on noise segments and French pop bits, so of course analyzing it from a metal point of view won't make it sound good.

The Amesoeurs sound evolved a lot from their we-kind-of-want-to-be-Peste-Noire EP, mainly because Neige isn't trying to be Peste Noire with his riffs anymore. In fact, even his black metal parts aren't at all like Peste Noire. Then again, you shouldn't expect raw black metal from the guy who's Alcest's mastermind as well. Some people hated that, but there's obvious compositional development if one listens to their EP and their self titled album in sucession, as long as one somewhat enjoys Joy Division more than, say, Mutiilation.

Maybe it's hyped because Amesoeurs has one of the most distinctive atmospheres ever found in an album released by metal musicians, but it's just addictive without ever going for the "hey, I'm the Alcest dude!" kind of thing. At the same time, the trademark French pop-sounding Neige riffs are still there, reinforced by the French pop-sounding vocals and the French pop-sounding vocal lines. We'll go as far as to say that the female singer is kind of chanson-ish sometimes. That is, when she's not screaming her lungs out or singing through vocal effects. Even the drum patterns are French pop-sounding sometimes... when they are not using disco patterns or something crazy like that.

Sure, Amesoeurs is easy to listen to ó it's "entry-level," as they say, but that doesn't mean it's any less of a strong album. Perhaps the fact that every song is carefully done without abusing shortcuts for the sake of making each song longer, the fact that the "intro" track is easily the best track on the record, or the fact that its production is about as kvlt as a bucket full of kitties and it fits (sacrilege!), but for whatever reason, Amesoeurs isn't your average album.

Amesoeurs manages to be both atmosphere-heavy and catchy without losing any kind of musical quality. That's without even mentioning the fact that, holy moly, tracks go somewhere without abusing blastbeats or acoustic interludes, and that's enough to make most black metal people mad. Discarding it just because they are mad at it getting publicity is just silly, especially when the album's a groundbreaking piece of music, metal or not.

Maybe this review is pointless, as every single one of you will have heard it by the time it's posted, right? In fact, the hype will have died down, everything about it will have been reviewed, but the name "Amesoeurs" will stay for some years, hopefully when people realize just how much black metal influences can do for an album and how much song craft is a lost art in black metal these days. That, and how closeminded a so called "extreme metal" genre can get when a band is helped by the huge unpaid marketing that characterizes the internet these days. "They've sold out!" "Bring back the old Amesoeurs!" Oh, please. (9.8/10)

review by: Mladen äkot

Oh, good, Amesoeurs have already split up. No need to support them by buying this, "a kaleidoscopic soundtrack for the modern era," as Amesoeurs called it. Let's just call it "a pretentious pseudo-intellectual exercise in nothing."

Their first and only album isn't all bad ó the sound of it is really good. Markus Stock is the man. He was obviously told to make it sound as nocturnal and moody as possible, and he did an exquisite, gentle job.

But, count the sound out and you've pretty much counted everything else out. The female vocals lack vibrato and emotion, and somewhere between brushing her teeth and falling asleep, the singer actually sings a few things that can remotely be called "vocal lines."

The drummer should be shot. Very good at playing a blastbeat or two, but somehow took being "progressive" as "doing whatever" and the moment you hear him doing dance-y beats (like, the second song), not even the moody sound can make it sound believable. He's still playing dance beats, damn it, no matter how gentle they sound. Contrasts are almost always good, they are a big part in some of the best music out there, but being an idiot and pretending to be smart is hard to pull off, and, in this case, impossible.

Amesoeurs also had guitars. Unfortunately. Whoever said "black metal, post-punk, shoegaze" in one sentence probably ended up hospitalized for mental breakdown. It doesn't work. It might have worked if Neige (the man is apparently famous for playing in a lot of bands) actually bothered writing proper songs. But no, you get half-distorted guitar, bare traces of melodies, and mostly pointless clean passages and loads of down-strokes upon down-strokes of minor chords... chord sequences that can't be properly called themes, riffs or anything else. Take the "songs" separately and they aren't even proper songs, although they always hint at trying to be.

To Neige's credit, at least he knows how to play and has enough imagination to throw different shapes of nothing into his music, but in the end all you get is an hour of something trying to be innovative, taking a turn into embarrassing and ending as irritating. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Mladen
 

AMOCOMA - Go to Hell - CD - tUMULt - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Of all the grim, weird, droney, evil, necro and whatever one-man black metal we've heard... nah. You just don't do it like this.

The cover is not a proper cover, damn it! It's cheap paper with hand-scribbled lines and smudges all over it. Look at what you're selling as a CD! It has three tiny crooked lines on it, by the hole, you call that artwork? We weren't sure if this is real printed artwork or someone's kid's black metal homework. "Look mommy, I made a CD just like daddy's metal CDs" "Okay, dear, whatever you say, it sure is very pretty, now eat your lunch..."

Then the logo on the back. Seriously? Just a big "AMOCOMA" in silly letters with some hair growing on them? No, you couldn't hire Christophe Szpajdel, like everyone else? You just had to do it yourself, hmmm?

The music is also present. Can't hear the damn drums, even though they keep on doing one and the same rhythm for ages, and then again, half the time we have no idea if there is a bass drum, or if there are any cymbals. At all. The guitar might as well be a half-distorted bass, plus reverb, feedback, saturation and over-saturation, the riffs are too catchy to be "true" but repeated too many times to be "happy." The one on the last song (the last two songs are actually bonuses, as someone already self-released this abomination back in 2007) could just as well be on a bloody Maiden album, and yet we have to listen to it going on and on. And the screams... yeah, there are those too, and even those are catchy.

And yes, we HAVE to listen to Amocoma. Whoever the idiot in San Francisco that did this is (and we've heard a disturbing speculation), he doesn't know just about enough about black metal to use the lack of knowledge to re-invent it. It's poisonous and it's sweet, catchy and hypnotic, dirty and pure. Long and never boring, retarded yet sublime.

And all that you can think of, let's not get started on superlatives. Let's just say that it will make you want to do the same, much as, let's say, Transilvanian Hunger did. And it's really evil, too.

How evil, you ask? Just as this writer finished listening to Go to Hell, his mother entered his room to tell him that his grandmother just died. Can't beat that. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

ANEKDOTEN - Chapters - CD - K-Scope - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Chapters is a two-CD compilation of prog rock outfit Anekdotenís songs, with the second disk concentrating mostly on demo versions of studio album tracks.

Anekdotenís music incorporates of post rock in their style (mostly noticeable in instrumental pieces) that invokes not Opeth, but rather the prog groups that inspired Opethís incorporation of Ď70s progressive music. At some other points, Anekdoten can invoke vibes of Steely Dan.

Anekdoten is almost a great progressive rock group. They have some very fine song writing capabilities, the ability to create instant likeability with their music, fine panache in bringing tones and pitches together, and the talent to make music that sounds unique. Anekdoten is clearly prog, but itís not prog for the sake of it, in that they donít sacrifice good songs in the interest of adhering to standards of complication or convolution. Anekdotenís music is progressive, but more importantly, itís simply good.

However, itís too often the case that youíll notice the times when Anekdoten shine brightest is when there are no vocals. The singer is a good singer, and he has style, but heís not a great talent, as there are far too many moments on this would-be best-of where it occurs to you that heís flat, and thatís a bummer.

As far as a relevant release goes, Chapters is suspect, purely considering itís a best-of album, despite its attractive six-panel digipak. With each passing year into the mp3 Internet generation, best-of albums are more and more pointless, unless theyíre given away for free to potential fans to discover a band they had never heard of before. However, the inclusion of apparently unique material in the second-disk demos raises this album beyond superfluousness...

...but not by much. For any non-fan, the five demo songs included here will embody less of what is good about the compiled songs on disk one, and more of what is bad: not as fleshed-out music, less lush sound, worse singing. If youíre an existing Anekdoten fan, no doubt you will have more of a depth of appreciation of where these songs came from and what they became, but potential fans will listen to the second disk once.

The rating of Chapters reflects its necessity and interest as an album, more than it reflects the quality of Anekdotenís output. Chaptersí target audience is not defined: too much of what existing fans would already have, and too little delectable music for people looking for a new band to get into. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

ARCKANUM - Kampen (re-issue) - CD - Debemur Morti Productions - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Kampen is almost one of the best black metal albums ever. Itís got tremendous energy and conviction, track after track of catchy songs, and a unique quirkiness that makes it special.

Kampen is most easily described as a Pagan-themed black metal album. Sole member Shamaataeís muse is the god Pan, whose worship he channels into furious music that conveys as much ecstatic celebration as it does the more commonplace sinister obscurity.

Kampenís rhythmic element is a major driving force in the albumís success. Thereís nothing complicated going on here, but the steady beat and inspired playing provides a firm groove. The riffs and arrangements make for excellent songs, punctuated here and there (mostly at the end) with uncommon numbers, like a jangly guitar bit accompanied by a tambourine, or a lengthy atmospheric intro (that doesnít use synthesizers for once!) that sets the stage.

But what is perhaps Kampenís most shining element are the vocals. While the harsh vocals are superb, it is the implementation of clean vocals that takes the cake. These clean parts are very simple, and can often be made up of a single note, but they are an exquisite, indispensable part of the ecstatic celebration mentioned earlier. The clean vocals are unabashed, unaffected, and triumphant, conveying unadulterated enthusiasm in their almost nerdy delivery... and most of all, they are performed with genuine talent.

What makes Kampen fall just short of all-time greatness is the overuse of samples. Itís mostly the owl. The goddamn owl. Thereís a track about half-way through the album that features a killer recurring melodic vocal theme, arising as the music swells, all punctuated by a semi-random (but oft-used) sample of an owl doing a single "whoo." At first, the song is nothing short of delightful, but toward the end, the owl starts to feel canned and synthetic, particularly in light of how prominently it is featured; and this impression only gets worse with each successive listen of the song... like, "oh, this is the song with the fucking owl." It gets to the point that enjoying the song is difficult because youíre perpetually anticipating the next occurrence of the dreaded canned "whoo."

Making the matter much worse is the same horrid bird (weíll call him Blinky from now on) is all over Arckanumís albums, which would be fine, but only if Shamaatae didnít use the same accursed sample over and over. Grah.

Another element that the jury is out on is the remastered nature of the Debemur Morti Kampen re-issue. Re-masters are something to be wary of, particularly in metal. More often than not, itís mostly the case of original master of the album re-compressed so that it seems louder and people will think it sounds more powerful. Weíve never heard the original Kampen, and while the Andy Classen re-master is a fun a vibrant affair, we have noticed the re-issue sounds better on a lower-quality stereo, where on a system with nice speakers, the bass tends to sound too hairy and the album can have trouble getting out of its own way, leading us to wonder if the original issue has better overall sound. Weíd be keen to hear the original version for comparison. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.9/10 Roberto
 

ARCKANUM - Kostogher (re-issue) - CD - Debemur Morti Productions - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Kostogher, the album that came just before Kampen, benefits from the same strong elements that makes Kampen a torrid success. While it is better in some important regards, it falls relatively short in terms of song quality and separation, and therefore is not quite as highly recommended as Kampen is.

Like Kampen, Kostogher features a furiously driving beat. In fact, the fury might be greater here, with the tracks being more single-mindedly aggressive. The sound quality is also better than on the Kampen re-issue, allowing Kostogherís music a more uncluttered breathing space.

However, Kostogherís songs, while good, tend to run into each other in the mindís ear. Theyíre all good and well done, but the album can sound like the same song over and over again, making Kostogher one of the far more common black metal albums in which the success lies in the overall vibe and execution of the record, rather than being a collection of distinct songs. Still, there are a good amount of twists and turns, but these occur mostly in the segue elements of the album.

Kostogher also goes for quite some time, something that you can feel particularly toward the end, where the highest concentration of variety and "just one more track" lies. However, where in Kampen this lengthy foray into experimentation provides much color to a successfully varied album, on Kostogher the feeling can sometimes be one of wishing the album would be a little shorter and sweeter.

Then thereís Blinky, the woeful owl discussed in the Kampen review. Heís here again, in full force, and itís the same fucking sample. If it wasnít old on Kampen, itís really, really old here, and we would have liked to whack 1990s Shamaatae over the head with an upside down cross for thinking it was a good idea to use the same barely good sample over and over again. "Get some different samples!!!!!" is what we would yell, mid-swing.

The great clean vocals are here as well, but they arenít as well developed as they would become on Kampen. On a side note, itís a real shame that Arckanum albums since Kampen stopped using the clean vocals, and for that matter, changed the excellent harsh vocal style as well, which are two elements that make albums such as Antikosmos and PPPPPPPPPPPP less exciting.

If youíre going to get Kampen (and you should), youíll want to also get Kostogher. (7.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

ARCKANUM - Fran Marder (re-issue) - CD - Debemur Morti Productions - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Fran Marder, the chronologically first of the three Arckanum re-issues, has got the raging pummel of Kostogher, but with catchier songs.

The album is less adventurous, in the sense that there are fewer twists and turns ó a more standard keyboard-y intro, then nine pummeling, rocking tracks that stay their welcome and end at the right time. This is a good thing, as Fran Marder delivers a highly energizing ride that doesnít fart around.

Sampled owls also used in Kostogher are to be found. This as always is the biggest drag.

However, itís an insignificant price to pay compared to the torrentially inspired, simple drumming, fierce vocals, simply catchy riffs and arrangements, powerful sound, and tasty little segues and mood shifts within the songs. Fran Marder is the second best of the three re-issues, but if you like one of them, you really should get all three, as they operate like a sonic trilogy. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Mladen
 

AYAT - Six Years of Dormant Hatred - CD - Moribund Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

"All Hail Allah the Swine," says a band from Beirut, Lebanon.

Enough?

While most of you are now probably off to order the CD regardless of the actual musical content, to those who actually want to be sure their money is well spent, here are some more details: industrialized punky black metal. Think of Ministry chasing Impaled Nazarene through a pigsty with AK-47s and knives, while the bewildered swine and hysterical women run around in all directions, and that's about it.

Filthy, raw, smoking, screaming, smelling, supercharged and catchy through and through, Six Years of Dormant Hatred is as far from a romantic candlelit evening as you could imagine.

The screams could hardly be catchier, the guitars are like a bloody steamroller, and the blasphemy spat out in all directions ó not just Islam, we're pretty sure that the fairytale Jesus guy (nailed to the "plus" sign, usually, on the pictures we can recall, anyway) doesn't have breasts and the inscription above her head usually isn't "Eros." We're talking about the cover artwork here.

Whoever these people, Mullah Sadogoat and Reverend Filthy Fuck, are, we hope they'll stay alive long enough to make another Ayat (that's Hebrew for "miracle") album. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

BARBACK - A Contre Courant - CD - 666 Productions - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This issue is shaping up to have album reviews of bands with some pretty hilarious names. Would, Kauze, and now Barback.

Now, Barback. Itís not the French bandís fault that many of us in San Francisco have to, on a regular basis, drive by signs in certain parts of town, signs on gay porn stores proclaiming "100% bareback, no condoms!" on their videos, but itís still inadvertently hilarious none the less.

But maybe Barback means something really, like, "heavy" and "metal" in French. But we speak French, and unless itís some new slang we werenít aware of, it means nothing. And last we checked, there were no "ck" words in French.

But whatever. Maybe having a name thatís memorable through negative or amusing association is the way forward. Hey, weíll remember the name Barback long after weíve forgotten what A Contre Courant sounded like.

And what it sounds like is short haired metal. Turn the booklet over, and voila, the band members fit the bill: short hair, baseball caps, carefully manicured, clipped facial hair. Itís not entirely correct to say itís metalcore, but the riff style and application of largely plodding, slow/mid paced bludgeoning rhythms, with ample room for grooving breaks, make the association to metalcore inevitable. Be clear there are no stereotypical clean chorus breaks. Simply put, imagine something as metalcore as Heaven Shall Burn, and youíre about there.

A Contre Courant is correct. The production is heavy and clear (albeit lacking any thrills), and the performances are properly done. But artistically, there isnít anything remarkable or memorable. The songs repeat chords and progressions over and over, the tempo doesnít waver hardly at all past decent mid-paced groove, the musical accents stick pretty much to the same unadventurous formula throughout, and the vocals do their thing unremarkably from beginning to end. This record is never offensive, and it can be listened to all the way through, but aside from wanting to hear what a band thatís nearly bareback sounds like, you likely wonít want to ever put it on again. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

BEHEADED ZOMBIE - Schastiye dlya vseh - CD - Technical Sound Productions - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Schastiye dlya vseh might read like the cat walked across the computer keyboard, and the art is pretty suspect, but it sounds like a masterpiece.

Itís like an old school death metal record played with some new school sensibilities. Lots of edgy-sounding clean guitar punctuates the mid-paced tech death metal songs, keeps the ear off kilter and the music fresh. A smidge weird like Pan-Thy-Monium, or Hieronymous Bosch, if it had much better production, mixed with some elements of Atheist and a little big of Necrophagist. Totally annoying aspects like a clip of a phone ringing, then being answered by a busy signal can not stand in the way of this uncommonly great album. Excellent. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4.8/10 Roberto
 

BESTIA - Hallutsinatsioon - CD - Perverted Taste - 2005

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Bestiaís Ronkade Parved is a pretty fine album, but Hallutsinatsioon isnít. The initial issue is the guitar has a harsh attack that compels you to turn the album down, while mediocre keyboard tones, which rear their worst side in instances of irritating ringing, push the album down under the average mark.

Although there is some decently good music on hand, the sonic presentation on Hallutsinatsioon is awkward, so while a good deal of this effort is respectable, the feeling that Bestia was still trying to figure out what they were doing, and sounding a bit wobbly, make this one to pass on. (4.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

BESTIA - Ronkade Parved - CD - Hexenreich Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Bestiaís Ronkade Parved makes their Hallutsinatsioon album sound like crap. One of the biggest thing Ronkade Parved has going for it is its excellent, tempered recording, which allows the music to breathe its sinister vibe in a comfortable way. The low end in particular sits especially well, the mid range and high end never gets tiresome, and overall this is one of the most palatable recordings heard in black metal.

The music is good, too. Bestia hangs around mostly in mid-paced, groovy territory, and their music conveys know how and conviction. Bestiaís sound comes across as greatly balanced and grounded, not only because of the night-and-day production difference, but because of the more solid drummer they hired for this album.

There are lots and lots of memorable milestones along the albumís journey, not least by the implementation of guest musicians on uncommon instruments such as violin, flute (which solidifies comparisons to Skyforger), and the unlikely saxophone, which in particular ramps up the creepiness. Whenever these parts show up, itís always to the albumís benefit, endowing it with wonderful twists and turns that seem right at home despite coming out of left field.

Ronkade Parved would have rated higher if more of these type of elements had been present throughout. They tend to be confined to the first few songs. Not that the rest of the tracks are lame ó they maintain the fine groove, solid riff writing, and excellent multi-vocaled amalgamation (and of course, the great sound quality) ó but they are tame, kind of bare bones, in comparison.

Finally, the hidden track, which reminds of the stomping, marching intro to Skyforgerís Latvian Riflemen, finishes off the album with a fun, energetic variance on the enthusiasm with which the rest of the album was made. With Ronkade Parved, Bestia has become a quality band worth taking note of. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

BESTIA - ’iglaste Tulek - CD - Hexenreich Records - 2006

review by: Roberto Martinelli

While three-song EP Oiglaste Tulek is better than Hallutsinatsioon ó and thatís almost entirely because of the lack of the awful keyboards ó this is not the Bestia you should be listening to. Get Ronkade Parved, no question. As it turns out, it features a reworked version of "Oiglaste Tulek," and the difference in presence, stability, conviction, and performance is like comparing a Lada to a BMW. Oigaste Tulek gets a 5/10 because it does have enthusiasm and the music is coherent despite its kind of stumbling nature, and also because we like Bestia. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

BLASPHEMOUS CRUCIFIXION - Crude Burial - CD - Rusty Axe Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Weíll often complain about over-compressing in mastering. Youíll know over-compression when an album is like inescapable grate to your ears and you keep wanting to turn it down. However, the opposite can also be a bummer.

The first impression about Blasphemous Crucifixionís Crude Burial is that it needs mastering. Turning up the stereo doesnít make the music any less restrained or distant, just louder. Add in aspects of how the songs sound like half-baked, rehearsal black metal tracks that generally seem thrown together, and you get an album whose nuances from song to song are not worth the time it would take to appreciate them in the suffocated throng of black metal entries. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
3.8/10 Mladen
 

BLEEDING FIST - Bestial Kruzifix666ion - CD - Moribund Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Bleeding Fist should have named their album Bestial Kruzifix888ion instead. No, nothing to do with you-know-what or politics but everything to do with the music. It's fast, okay, and live-sounding, raw, vicious, whatever you want. It is. Black metal, obviously.

Thirty-three minutes of it, trying to attack you with blastbeats, raw bellows and twin guitar scorching. But after three songs, you'll just want something else. Something you didn't predict. But it's not there. Every part, every theme, every chorus, every whatever you put in a song, they are all based on eight beats. Eight beats of this, eight of that, eight of something else.

At times, you'll hear an interesting guitar idea, but these Slovenians never elaborate on anything too much. It's just primitive, well played but totally straightforward black metal with childish Satanic lyrics (Seriously, if you want to be blasphemous, there are more clever things than simply saying "fuck" a lot ó since I can hear things like "God fucked your mother" or "Jesus fucks you" whenever I open my window and listen to Christians working on their cars ó this approach will hardly shock anyone). We're sure Satan wouldn't approve of this. (3.8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

BLOODSTAINED DUSK - Black Faith Inquisition - CD - Moribund Records - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

We're more metal than you. Honestly. We live, breathe, type, and speak metal. Almost all the time.

But sometimes it's too much, hence the "almost" bit. Some of us need places where we can relax from being insanely famous, feared, loathed and respected writers, musicians, and part time scarecrows ó for this writer, these days it's a wrist watch forum. Now that's a nice place. The stuff is still made of metal, and there are no snobs. Whether you have a $20 or a $20,000 watch, you're welcome as long as you're able to talk watches. Any religious, social, weapons or political discussion is strictly forbidden and the moderators do an admirable job. One other thing that is forbidden is discussing replicas.

For those who are anal about this ó there are three categories. An original is an original, it has its own design and an in-house movement. And it doesn't need to be expensive, as long as you can tell it from anything else ó it's respected. Then, there are homages ó they look almost exactly like the originals, but have a different b(r)and name on them and sometimes a few design features of their own. Some of them are OK, some are not. Finally, there are replicas which have everything ó including the brand name ó identical to the originals, at least on the outside and at first sight, but the quality is non-existent.

So, if you wandered into a CD shop in a semi-drunken state and saw this album, Black Faith Inquisition, you'd think it was a Dimmu Borgir album. The cover is an absolute homage to the one of Death Cult Armageddon. It's almost as seeing a watch and not noticing that, in reality, the brand name is "Folex." The music isn't really far from the initial attempt at guessing ó the familiar Dimmu Borgir solos, chord progressions, keyboards and patterns are all there. The sound is thinner, but it can pass as a Dimmu Borgir non-mastered demo. It's all complex, even diverse, and there are a few parts that aren't inspired by Dimmu, but those are the bad parts.

So, in reality, Blood Stained Dusk is a decent homage verging on being a blatant replica. But, just as you can buy replicas with genuine Swiss movements, this one comes with an original Norwegian movement... Pest (Gorgoroth, Obtained Enslavement) on vocals.

The only problem is that you're supposed to be able to buy a replica for a fraction of the price of an original, and this one probably costs as much as any other CD. How about getting a cheaper original instead? (5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Dirge of Death's Silence (issue No 5)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Pal
 

BONE GNAWER - Feast of Flesh - CD - Pulverised Records - 2009

review by: Pal Meentzen

Among a multitude of mediocre releases we sometimes receive something that sounds familiar, but in a refreshing way. The funny thing is that this release by Bone Gnawer is related to another band called Denial Fiend. Denial Fiend was a project of two former members from Massacre and Death, namely Kam Lee and Terry Butler. While Death and Massacre are essential for death metal, Denial Fiendís project (They Rise!, from 2007) was far from it. Indeed, it was a fun album about zombies going beserk and going on a rampage, but it sounded very much like an old-school-pals-hook-up-together thing.
This new project, which has again Kam Lee on vocals, is also a zombie oriented album, with appropriate titles like "Feast of Flesh," "Defleshed and Skinned," and the most amusingly titled "The Saw is Family."

However, in contrast with Denial Fiendís album, Feast of Flesh has more brutality and less humour, which can be considered a plus (and not a pus). Kam Lee does an excellent growling and grunting job and some tracks feature guest vocalists who are equally worthy chroniclers of cruelty coming from the bands Necrophagia, Impetigo and Machetazo. But most importantly, all the musicians from Bone Gnawer are Swedes, and to know what that means is almost a no-brainer: A massive steamroller of a production that levels out any trivialities such as subtleness or room to breathe.


Guitarist and backing vocalist Ronnie Bjornstrom handled the mixing and mastering. At times itís reminiscent of early albums of Entombed, which isnít bad at all.

The artwork is fairly well done. On a more critical note, the idea of a zombie carefully slicing strips of flesh from a carcass is maybe a little too sophisticated. Itís a trait that isnít often linked with these abominations. Much more convincing was the truly sinister zombie on the cover of Swedish labelmates Facebreaker, whose Dead, Rotten and Hungry from last year was another phenomenal zombie-death metal release. Then again, Bone Gnawerís black metallish logo design is a lot gorier and is the only spot where subtleties have been allowed.

At the end of the day, it all doesnít matter. Theyíre both wonderful and there is little that should stand in the way of enjoying this disc of disgust. But beware the horrible squealing sounds right at the start. It seems to be from the painful process of a pig being transformed to bacon. Seems zombies are into bacon, too. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

BUNKUR - Nullify - CD - Displeased Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The new Bunkur goes nowhere and does nothing. But for what it is, itís one of the best, if not the best, album in its genre.

Weíre talking doooooom. Weíd add more Os, but it would screw up our neat paragraph format. Suffice to say that Nullify is the kind of record thatís like the lingering after effect of getting hit in the gut, and that lasts for more than an hour.

One track, 66 minutes. The only cuteness found is how the band put in a sample at the beginning of the record of a locomotive going choo-choo, which the vocals accompany as if it were the cry of a train from hell. Thatís the funeral doom version of adorable. The rest is uber slow, super despondent, and hangs around in permanence like the mood in a crypt at night. If there are any chord progressions, they are so spread out that it makes them null and void. It seems there are no guitars on this album, only basses, analog synths, and drums, mostly featuring a tom-tom and a kick drum, with a bit of crash and ride for variety.

If youíre a metal fan, and a doom one at that, youíve certainly encountered albums like Nullify before. But what makes this Bunkur album at the top of its class is the production. Itís heavy and sinister, but its aim is not to bludgeon you with repeated power chords played deliberately with a hard crash and kick shoved down your throat (take Esotericís Maniacal Vale as but one example), but rather to weave a misty pall that is as delicate as it is heavy and deathlike. Imagine if Bohren Und Der Club of Gore made a funeral doom album while its saxophone player was on vacation, and got a doom screamer, and youíve got Nullify.

While the specific and unusually mystifying, meditative effect of this album makes it unique in its genre, the nature of the music ironically makes Nullify simultaneously artistically fascinating, yet musically boring. Again, nothing happens. Beyond the introductory five or so minutes, culminating with the train sample, Nullify hits a "climax" that lasts about 59 minutes, and then the album is over, and damned if anyone will know how that stretch of time actually goes.

However, if looking at this album as a piece of sonic (not musical) art, it is eminently worthy ó the kind of thing to have an awesome black trance-out session to. While you listen to Nullify, you can unfold the attractive heavy matte stock booklet and try to decipher what the hell is written in there. Itíll keep you busy.

If youíre going to have just one dead boring funeral doom album in your collection, let this one be it. Nullify is as relaxing as it is crushing, as meditative as it is sinister, and yes, it goes nowhere. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Roberto
 

BURNT BY THE SUN - Heart of Darkness - CD - Relapse Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Heart of Darkness is an album that sounds killer, from its outstandingly energetic production and performances. The music is played by top-level musicians that know what theyíre doing and infuse their craft with conviction.

However, past these points, Heart of Darkness is pretty bland and average. Done professionally, sure, but the metal / hardcore crossover music is nothing special, and aside from a few tasty sections, this album is in the end a run-of-the-mill piece of art. Considering this is the dying breath album of a band whoís calling it quits, the results arenít terribly surprising. (5.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Soundtrack to the Personal Revolution (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

CASPIAN - Tertia - CD - The Mylene Sheath - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The easiest connection when describing Caspianís Tertia is to compare it to the instrumental post-rock from Japanís Mono. There are some stylistic similarities in the shoegaze guitar implementation, similar guitar tones, and the usage of epic, emotional passages, dotted by relaxed, melancholic hum rings a familiar chord.

Caspian has nowhere near the level of craft and orchestration that Mono does, but Tertia can still be a worthwhile acquisition for post-rock fans. Caspian has a more driving rock beat, and relies far less on the treacly, yet painfully melancholic vibe that Mono lapses into a bit too much, instead exploring a brighter, more relaxed tone, which is a good move for Caspianís career.

Tertiaís sound is very fine and delicate, which is counter-balanced well by the hard drive of the drums and bass, here reminding more of Russian Circles. However, both Russian Circles and Mono have stronger, more signature sound and production.

Tertia doesnít feature enough movements of the quality to make it a high recommendation, and toward the end of the album, the similarities to Mono become too blatant, but there are quite a few superb passages to be enjoyed. More personality and more poignant compositional articulation will make for even better records in the future! (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Pal
 

CELAN - Halo - CD - Exile on Mainstream Records - 2009

review by: Pal Meentzen

Ari Benjamin Meyers is an American classical composer and pianist who hooked up with Chris Spencer from hardcore heroes Unsane after meeting each other in a bar in Berlin. Meyersí fact sheet contains an admirable list of works and projects, including the Yale Bach Society Orchestra and Chorus. Like Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke, Meyers seems to be another rare example of someone who wanders between the world of classical orchestras and brick heavy metal bands. This collaboration with Chris Spencer is one such example.

Spencer does what he does best, which is screaming his guts out like an intimidating drill-sergeant instructor to a weak-in-the-knees freshman. Other members feature Phil Roeder and Franz Xaver, who happily joined after the demise of the German screamo / hardcore band flu.ID.

The music resulting from this collaboration may conjure memories of a mid-90s Entombed, around the time of their album To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth!

Thereís no denying the influence of Entombed, and it would be easy to dismiss Halo as yet another attempt from a band to sound like them and call it innovative. However, itís the influence of Meyers on piano and keyboards that makes the difference, otherwise the needle might indeed tip on the wrong side of the rating scale, for Chris Spencer does sound a lot like Entombedís L.G. Petrov. The anger, the menace, the sense of malcontent: A very familiar brew.

At slow-to-midpace tempo, the songs plod about with menacing mud-grooves ("All This and Everything"). Interesting staccatto rhythm experimentation finds a place on "Weigh Tag," beginning with an industrious loop as if paying a little tribute to the pioneers of German industrial music who once worked in the same studio, EinstŁrzende Neubauten.

The first flood of filth is rinsed away at midpoint with "Washing Machine," with a restrained but sinister soundtrack featuring (surprise surprise) a washing machine. For listeners, a welcome diversion from the ongoing screamfest. Itís only on the song "Itís Low" that the scream mode is turned to moderate, so one can also hear Spencer using a clean voice. Rest assured, not in a whiney emo sort of way. The serene piano part on the final track, "Lunchbox," also comes as a great relief to the ears.

In terms of rhythms, the album is a somewhat mixed affair. Some songs have downright boring rhythms, others show that things can be a bit more manic, like the aforementioned "Weigh Tag" or "Wait and See." But songs like "All This and Everything" and "Sinking" may pose quite a challenge to oneís attention span.

Thus, Halo is an album that goes either way. One may find that the various noisy soundcuts and film samples in and between the songs (air escaping from a party balloon, or two little girls singing some dittie before the noise kicks in) add something to the manic mood of the album, others may find them as annoying as a piece of poo in a shallow bucket and distracting from what is essential (Admittedly, this reviewer belongs to the latter camp).

It could be said that with the musiciansí backgrounds in mind, Halo offers too little variation with regard to song composition and tempo, and that it suffers from a redundant usage of inessential soundcuts. Having said that, Meyersí parts are the reason why this album doesnít quite fall into the category of "heard it all before." In addition, itís a very well produced album and in that sense an above-average debut. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

COR SCORPII - Monument - CD - Descent Records - 2008

review by: Roberto Martinelli

When Windir frontman Valfar froze to death in the Norwegian wilderness, the remaining members split into two new bands, Vreid and Cor Scorpii. For some reason, some cruel twist of fate, Vreid has gone on to far more fame, with a contract on Candlelight records, and a recent US tour, largely on the coattails of its association with Windir.

This is utterly absurd, because not only does little known Cor Scorpii better embody the legacy of what Windir was doing, but Cor Scorpiiís epic, grandiose, sweeping, melodic music is about 39 times better than Vreidís more straightforward, simple, nigh-punk music is.

Monument carries on where the superb Attergangar demo left off, but with a meaner, more polished sound. Monumentís music is more aggressive and dense, infusing Cor Scorpiiís sound with a similar appeal to Dawnís Slaughtersun, to which the classical harmonies are also reminiscent. Match those aspects with the conpositional style Windir was beginning to perfect on their final album, Likferd, and youíve got a gem.

When one talks about metal with classical music influences, itís almost always the case that guitar shredding solos and spotlights on wanky keyboard sections are in order. Cor Scorpii is different, in that their compositions invoke grandiose, Nordic themes mixed with classical progressions and harmony, but itís not presented in a way to show off musicianship, rather sounding something like what Thy Primordial did on their At the World of Untrodden Wonder, mixed with an approach thatís closer to Setherial, but with tasty, emotive compositions that can remind as much of Albinoni as it does Windir.

Monument is nearly one of the best albums ever. What falls a bit short is the absence of a singularly memorable song. While the overall consistency of Monument is perhaps better than Likferdís, Likferd had a few totally amazing, forever memorable tracks that make it a brighter star. Monumentís vocals, while almost always a good, scathing rasp, could use some more dimension, and Cor Scorpiiís strong ideas arenít implemented quite as well on the last song or two of the album. Regardless, this is an album you should definitely get.

Vreid is boring. Listen to Cor Scorpii instead. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

CULTED - Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep - CD - Relapse Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Slow, heavy, abrasive and persuasive, Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep shows that you don't have to have a bad sound to create a nauseating feeling. There's nothing hidden about Culted's debut, but there's definitely more inside than what you simply hear. Sifting through the ingredients, all are well done ó we could have sworn that there is some gunpowder in the guitar sound, the bass reverberates and shakes the space as if it were alive, and the drums are sensible and well placed. All good. And that's without hearing the singer, who is screaming his lungs out through a bloody distortion.

We've seen (and done) even weirder combinations, but it's worth noting that the abovementioned singer never met his band: While the other three members are from Winnipeg (and also play in Of Human Bondage), the vocalist lives and contributes from Sweden. And it might have worked in Culted's advantage, as rehearsing and discussing with other band members might have diluted his vocal placement. As it is, it's excellent. Sometimes almost as if he's screaming against the band (we mean it in a good way), and mostly as if he was simply going with the flow instead of looking around himself for confirmation or approval.

And, Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep is real. Complete. Even with the modern sound and approach, and a bare minimum of atmosphere-inducing elements, you can listen to it in full concentration and feel it. It's not a good feeling, and there's a perception of things getting even more dissolved and bleak towards the end, but that's simply the way it was meant to be. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
 

DARK ILLUSION - Where the Eagles Fly - CD - Battlefield Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Where Eagles Fly is a solid power metal record that reminds sometimes of Dio, and a whole lot of Dream Evil.

Dark Illusion have a strong sense on how to write a balanced song and realize it with steady tones and musicianship. Even more importantly than that, they have a high-level singer who can carry a band well.

However, despite the well-executed material, the songs generally donít rise above the level of generically good. The music has enough energy, but thereís little that Dark Illusion does to raise itself above being the poor manís Dream Evil.

Where the Eagles Fly is good enough fun for at least one listen, and major fans of power metal might return to this album to enjoy the good singing and musical craft, but Dark Illusion will have to find more of their own voice in the future if their work is to be recommended. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Mladen
5/10 Pal
 

DARK VISION - Bestial Remedy - CD - myspace.com/darkvisionofficial - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

Bestial Remedy sounds like Dark Vision would really like to play modern, melodic brutal death metal, and did their best to learn the playing style and get the proper sound, but their songwriting skills aren't much to speak of.

Apparently the Greek quartet started off in 1996 as Gothic / symphonic black metal, released five demos and one full-length, and somehow ended up sounding like this. It's not all bad, on this short EP there are a few hints suggesting that Dark Vision could do more, it's just that we wonder... when? In 2015?

Why make and release an EP of a couple of re-recorded ideas that were probably written by another line-up, and then add some new material that sounds more aggressive and at times moody, if the songs show such a drastic difference in approach? Basically, you get an intro and four songs, two of which are solid at least on the surface, and that's when not taking into account that some parts weren't really seamlessly joined together.

One throwaway track has a metalcore structure (complete with "the" break), one good track is slightly melodic / progressive, but seriously, it's hard to talk about the four tracks as if they are forming one coherent structure when even one single track can't be described as coherent. (3.5/10)

review by: Pal Meentzen

Some bands seem to struggle endlessly to maintain their position within the underground. On a troubled music market that offers less space for small labels to survive, it sometimes seems weíre back in the days that DIY releases were the best way to promote underground music. Dark Vision from Greece have a long tradition of releasing their demos, having done so since 1996.

These days, Dark Vision are oriented on blackened death metal, and with this Bestial Remedy EP they show that they are also able to deliver something more ambitious, something that doesnít condone inferior sound quality under the guise of the label "demo." Itís a rather short one at 16 minutes, made up of four songs plus an intro. It was alledgedly intended to introduce the world to their current line-up of which drummer Giannis N. (also from Mortal Torment) has been the only constant factor.

The sound is quite decent and their approach to black metal is done in a no-frills manner, even without corpse paint.

However, in a global context, the four tunes are not very outstanding in particular. The growly vocals are sort of okay, maybe a bit deep into the mix, and the riffs and drum patterns are very reminiscent of similar acts from Germany and Poland. Dark Vision plays tight and finely honed.

A song like "Signs from Fallen Stars," which is a re-recorded version of an original from five years back, suffers slightly from the notorious Darkthrone dementia. This is funny, considering that in the past the band has also been influenced by famous Greek act Rotting Christ. They recognized this and distanced themselves from that point of reference, but apparently one can have more than just one monkey on his back.

The title tune seems more original, but they knock themselves over by concluding this EP with a tired old bolero section, which any self-respecting black metal band should verily be fined for.

Dark Vision should have all respect for swimming against the stream and paying for this release from their own black-jeansed pockets, but in terms of composition they disappoint by not calling this EP a demo. Maybe it should have been called one as well. It offers a couple of ideas, but it also offers a few too many familiar patterns to say it would be a shame to miss out on this release.

Dark Vision are busy working on a second full-length at this time. One may hope that these four tracks can be regarded as mere excercises in hindsight. They arenít too bad, but they donít create an appetite for more, either. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

DARKTRANCE - Beyond the Gates of Insanity - CD - Bad Mood Man Music - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Darktrance is a one-man metal band from Ukraine that leans most heavily towards a mid-paced, black metal style. Beyond the Gates of Insanity is a respectable outing that achieves a good level of seething despondence, conveyed through a quality (but not thrilling) production, but the music doesnít quite take its time enough to reach any major recesses of the soul. And the black metal-crooning vocals thing on track three is a major bummer. Good for a listen... maybe two. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
2.5/10 Roberto
 

DEIPHAGO - Filipino Antichrist - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Filipino Antichrist overflows with "I donít give a fuck" attitude: the snare rings like crazy, the guitars are full bore into mayhemic buzz, the solos risk all life and limb, and the vocalist treats each word as if itís the possible last of his life.

The problem is, you can not give a fuck to the degree when potential listeners donít give a fuck, either. Deiphagoís album is so hellsatanwhorerape crazed that it seems the band might have overlooked to write music or perform it coherently. While albums like Antaeusí Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan doesnít always make it clear how one song differs from the next, exactly, there is still something clear that emerges. And while Impietyís career rests a good deal on their records being about a hair widthís from veering out of control, thereís still something like a cultivated style. Deiphago is like Impietyís Terrorreign, but sloppy, if one has room for that in his or her imagination.

Filipino Antichrist has all the verve, but itís lunatic, blasting slop that basically features all the same whatever riffs, beats, accents, and vocal delivery, all the time. Only if youíre stuck in reverence for the most crazed, devil-may-care South American war metal bands should you even think about getting this album. (2.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

DEMILITIA - Demilitia - CD - Steelhead Entertainment - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Hereís violence, riot, and bloodshed done the finest Brooklyn way. Demilitia's debut EP is brimming with percussive guitars slamming down from everywhere, disfigured neurotic vocals and percussion scattershots, with a surprising amount of innovative guitar licks.

Mostly in mid tempo, it still maintains the level of craziness just as much as necessary to keep the listener occupied. The sound could have been a bit punchier, but for a debut, it's perfectly fine. There are obvious nods to Slayer and Biohazard, even metalcore, but take that as a compliment as the six tracks show a highly promising band doing their own thing. A decade from now, we bet someone will be calling it "genuine Brooklyn folk metal." Or would it be "street metal?" (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

DESTRUKTOR - Nailed - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Nailed is an energetic, rough and raw black metal ride that occasionally veers into older school death metal territory. This seems consistent with the Australian tradition of war metal that bands like Bestial Warlust, Furia, or Gospel of the Horns, although in comparison to a seminal band like Bestial Warlust, Destruktor is much tighter and musical.

Although sounding rough and aggressive, Nailed has an accomplished sound. The guitars come across as dirty and powerful, the drums filthy and mean, the vocals sinister and violent. More importantly still, Nailed sounds better louder, which means itís a recording with some room to breathe, which is key. Itís a recommended addition to your war metal library. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.4/10 Roberto
 

DEVIOUS - Vision - CD - Deity Down Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Deviousís Vision is a death metal album with all the requisite technique, melodic flourishes, and production values to be a good album... except itís lacking memorable or poignant songs.

As far as sitting with the worldís upper tier, Vision can hang in terms of form. The vocals can remind of Gorefest, the melodic guitar parts that often fly in offer some nice taste, but the songs rarely if ever make a case for themselves to be played instead of some of the great death metal records you should have in your collection.

Sound-wise, itís fine and laudable, although the bass of the kick drum samples ramble on unwaveringly and boorishly, which kind of drowns out the importance of the music thatís actually not playing the same note throughout. Vision is respectable and correct, never unlistenable, sometimes interesting, but in the long run, thereís little artistically remarkable about it. (5.4/10)

 

 

 

 
2.5/10 Mladen
 

DODSFERD - Suicide and the Rest of Your Kind Will Follow - CD - Moribund Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Doesn't work. Nope. Nothing. Headphones, darkness, three in the morning, concentration... and still nothing.

We're glad that Wrath's screams sound exactly like those of Varg Vikernes, and he must be very proud of them. Also, he's probably proud of getting a real true Greek black metal guitar sound. But, 20 minutes of one riff as the first song, and 16 minutes of another riff as a second song? There are a few changes along the way, but we honestly weren't impressed, the guitarist (Wrath) should have considered making actual songs instead of going for "instant depression" (if there is a proper expression for this kind of a thing, please enlighten us). Or done shorter songs. By the way, poor drummer (again, Wrath) and that one beat he is playing.

Seriously, make some music next time. OK? Like the other album reviewed in this issue, Death Set the Beginning of My Journey. We know about some really devastating things you can do with one repeating riff, but this isn't one of them. (2.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

DODSFERD - Death Set the Beginning of my Journey - CD - Moribund Records - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

Now, this. THIS. This is the Dodsferd done the way Dodsferd should be done ó poised to excite everyone that should be excited, annihilate all that should be annihilated and probably irritate all that should be irritated.

All hail the true Greek black metal. It's damn restless, damned to hell in your face and more brutal than a pack of rabid poodles (trust us, those things are worse than Rottweilers, for their size, obviously). Yeah, Wrath's vocals might sound a bit Vargsey, but this is balls-out hysterical, furious and bloody insane. The vocals might be a bit too high in the mix, but it just means you're not listening loud enough. When you are, EVERYTHING is insane.

Now, we're not sure how many riffs there are on Death Set the Beginning of My Journey, no idea how many drum beats are either. Might be two of each, might be two hundred. Who has the time to think? Just listen to the beginning of any song, and a minute later you'll think it's been the worst minute of your life. Dodsferd hates, blasts, spits, attacks and doesn't try to make things look pretty or contemplative. It's a mess.

There are almost no slow moments whatsoever, not much to speak of concerning dynamics... all you have to know is that some parts blast, some rock, and all of them burn. You can hear the separate parts alright, but three parts later you won't remember them as something else will already have damaged your ears in another furious way. Just endure it. You know that it's not good for you and that you will pay later. But you'll do it anyway. And again. And again. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

EAGLE TWIN - The Unkindness of Crows - CD - Southern Lord - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Drone CDs either work or don't. In this case, with this particular writer, no luck. If it worked, we'd be telling you about the atmosphere, feelings, transcendence, Nature, scientific evidence, and who knows what.

But, speaking of The Unkindness of Crows, we can only tell you about what's on it. Drums, vocals, and a stringed instrument ó might be a distorted bass or a baritone guitar. The effect Eagle Twin were striving for was probably a shamanic one, but it sounds not much more than improvisation, some murmured vocals and the mandatory "hey, look at how much sustain I can get on this guitar" parts.

Occasionally, the drums and the guitar will start playing in unison, the same song, and show actual musicianship, but those parts will mostly quickly be substituted by another repetitive part, the singer singing another "mantra" attempt into his chin, something about animals... whatever it was supposed to be, it is boring and annoying.

With a band like Blood of the Black Owl, we tend to believe every word and are able to endure as much repetition as necessary, but Eagle Twin are fake. Here. Said it. Those beards don't scare us, and the band Gentry Densley played in before Eagle Twin (Iceburn) might have influenced something or not. If there are any forests and animals near Salt Lake City, this band has never seen or felt them. What matters is what we have here and now, and that would be pretentiousness. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Pal
 

EGOIST - Ultra-Selfish Revolution - CD - Selfmadegod Records - 2009

review by: Pal Meentzen

One of the first remarkable things about this release is that we are dealing with a multi-talented musician with a profound love for complexity. The second is that this individual is still only 23 years old and thus holds great promise in certain ways.

An egoist from Poland by the name of Stanislaw Wolonciej is stirring up things a bit with a bunch of weird songs that are both intense, jerky, as well as a constant battling ground between the melodic and the dissonant.

At the first listen, one might feel inclined to pigeonhole his music into the category of neuro-metal as we know from the Relapse label. However, upon closer inspection, there seems to have more in common with nearly-but-unjustly-forgotten post-hardcore bands from the Ď90s like Jawbox and Shudder to Think. This is partially thanks to the manner in which vocals and diction are combined with complex rhythms. It sounds natural and simple, while at the same time itís hermetic like a tradesman towards his secrets. A band like Jawbox was great for their mix of catchy tunes and choruses with complex rhythms and fascinating song structures.

The upside of this album: The tunes are all very original in their structure. Well thought-out with a nice balance of the noisy and the dreamy. A song like "Just Ones" is such an example. Another one is the warm and reverberant "Near Warm Fireplace."

The drawback: Sometimes Wolonciej nearly manages to bind together the catchy and the uncatchable in a bit of pop-dissonance like "Lifeless Love / Loveless Life," but the amalgamation remains inconclusive. Itís often not straightforward enough to be catchy, but itís neither a glorious celebration of coordinated chaos. Wolonciej leaves the listener at his own devices among the Erlenmeyer flasks and retorts of his musical laboratory with processes aiming to conceive a synthesis of various elements.
Those elements often end up floating in space, jazz, fusion and confusion and hence rendering some tunes unfathomable. It can indeed make for a frustrating listen if it is regarded as music that is difficult just for the sake of being difficult.

Thus: either embrace Wolonciejís Ultra-Selfish Revolution as a proposition for contemporary Polish progressive mathrock, or dismiss it as something that pisses you off because it wonít unveil its deeper intentions, remaining a lonely and slightly autistic experience of an egoist. But then again: What is the best music in the world? Itís the music people have in their own heads.

Ultra Selfish Revolution rocks hard in places, but gets lost in others.
Hence, the title is something of a contradiction, because a revolution can only be infused through the unison of strength, not by combining opposites. It is hoped that this isnít a full circle Revolution, because the struggle from the first to the last track doesnít seem to lead to a great deal of change. There is a track called "(Not) the End." That well summarizes the progressive aspect of it all. So wait and listen if youíre patient enough. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Joshua
 

EKTOMORF - What Doesnít Kill MeÖ - CD - AFM Records - 2009

review by: Joshua Gottlieb

Dear ZoltŠn,

First off, to reiterate once again, you have the most metal name in all of metaldom. Said out loud or in the privacy of oneís skull, itís inducement enough to throw the horns with reckless abandon and crush a crateload of invisible oranges to pulp. And I donít care if the trombone player from Sear Bliss was also named ZoltŠn, you will, and always will be THE ZoltŠn, The Z-Man, The Big Z, and so on, and so forth.

Now, about What Doesnít Kill MeÖ

Ooh boy, this isnít easy. Look, you had me all in, money down, in 2004 with Destroy. That albumís blend of Chaos A.D. / Roots-era Sepultura mixed with Hungarian and Gypsy folk elements struck just the right balance between steel-toed head caving and let - me - catch - a - breather - before - I - start - kicking - again.

Follow-up Instinct reined in the more evocative elements but I stood by you. Sure, I got it, didnít want the masses to think youíd gone all wussy or something; kick Ďem even harder and then, next time, get unadulterated Hungarian-Gypsy thrash on their ass. Then a couple years later you drop Outcast and, well, you diluted it even more. I rationalized, maybe coddled a bit too much: "When heís ready. Heíll make the leap when heís ready."

And now this.

Really, címon, man. Itís been obvious for years now that you and the band can pulverize concrete walls with your bare hands. And yes, you know how to lock into a groove and get things moving ó a gaggle of booty girls in the latest T-Pain video has got nothing on you in the get-the-ass-and-neck-shaking category. Opener "Rat War" does just those things, and for a little over two minutes itís a fairly bracing punch-drunk free fall to a not-so-soft canvas. Good start. But then you do it again. And again. And again. Lord below knows how thirteen tracks that all clock in at the two to three minute mark feel way, way longer but youíve pulled it off. No, thatís not a complement.

Look, Z-Meister, if Iím coming across as harsh itís because I care, dude. Consider this an intervention. Youíve still got it in you to run circles around the proverbial box. When you deign to dip a mere pinky outside of your comfort zone ó as you do all too briefly on "I Got It All" and "Scream" ó night and day; the songs actually getÖinteresting. Do me a favour, would ya? Tuck into a nice big bowl of goulash and think it through. I wonít even say I told you so when your next record destroys from more than one myopic angle.

Your friend,

Josh. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
 

EXXASENS - Beyond the Universe - CD - Consouling Sounds - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Exxasens post rock take on the cosmic theme can be a pleasant listen. Beyond the Universeís tones and musicianship are well done, but the record mainly hangs around the level of enjoyable, but not engaging.

Like the cover art, there are several times on Beyond the Universe where youíre sure youíve encountered some of this music before, and by someone else. Those moments are the most memorable ones, and although Exxasensí album doesnít have any unpleasant aspects (except the guest female vocals on the last track, which are not in harmony with the music, and leave a bad last taste in the ears at albumís end), their music is just too nice ó more edge, or emotion, or dynamics, or verve would have made for a more stirring experience. The chord progressions, although not without appeal, tend to repeat themselves, and the vocals are both too occasional, and when they do show up, too incidental.

This album is being billed as shoegaze / post metal. Shoegaze, yes, but aside from a little bit of double kick drumming (like, 15 seconds total), this is about as metal as U2. Weíve seen a few cosmic-inspired albums land on the review desk in the last couple records, and although the imagery is exciting (astronomical and historical information about various topics on the album is printed in Exxasensí booklet, which is nice), and Exxasens has got a better handle on its art, Beyond the Universe plays it too safe musically. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

FEW AGAINST MANY, THE - Sot - CD - Pulverised Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Interesting trivia: The Few Against Many is a supergroup of sorts, with well-experienced members of the Swedish metal scene who probably, when you add it all up, play or have played in around 20 various bands. None of those bands was Edge of Sanity. And none of the members is called Dan Swano.

So there you have it: Sot is something like Edge of Sanity or Dan Swano's solo albums for the modern era, and for people who don't remember the actual original. A bit more polished, yes, but the keyboards and vocals are straight there.

The riffs and songwriting are okay, really, simply okay, you wouldn't expect anything less, but you might expect more. A few times you might even hear a few seconds of a symphonic orchestra and they sound as if the budget didn't permit much more. The songs are diverse enough but sometimes lack an additional layer.

All in all, Sot is listenable if you're nostalgic but it has been done before. Considering the number of bands nowadays who do a very similar thing, but lack even this little subtlety, Sot is a success. But only because there aren't more bands trying to do exactly this particular type of Swedish death metal. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

FOR RUIN - Last Light - CD - forruin.com - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Last Light shows that it was possible, after all, for a band to make an album largely in the melodic death genre that wasnít hopelessly derivative. Irish band For Ruin donít stop there, though, as their second full-length record is a highly original work. For Ruinís approach doesnít sound like a band trying to adhere to the trappings of a style, but rather making a coherent work that fits together using the modes of a given style.

For Ruin mixes a mostly melodic black metal style with elements thatíll remind you that Damage Done is the best album Dark Tranquillity ever recorded.

For Ruin doesnít have keyboards, though, and achieves all of its sublime music and harmonies with its guitars. And the harmonies are always perfect.

Thatís the thing, though. Sometimes you wonder if Last Light is *too* perfect. Everything is exactly in place, from guitar pick to drum hit, as if it were on a grid. Same with the tonalities. Each crash hit rises and fades like it were choreographed. Each kick and snare hit has no wiggle room... and weíre pretty sure the drummer either has no toms at all, or has *one* tom fill the whole record. Compare to Dark Tranquillityís Damage Done, where it sounds more believably like a pro-level band, but one made up of breathing humans playing music.

Itís not a huge deal in the end, as the movement and soul of For Ruinís music remains poignant and well-put together, and the compositions themselves make for their own dynamics, even if it were the extreme case that the record was made entirely by a computer.

Incredibly, Last Light is self-released, and not on a label, which is surprising, because the quality of the music on this record is superior to most of the stuff we get by signed acts. That canít last long for this Irish group. Theyíll be signed soon. Even though theyíre not on a label, and their album art is respectable but unexciting, get this album, because whatís inside is pretty great. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
0.2/10 Roberto
 

FORD, LITA - Wicked Wonderland - CD - JLRG Entertainment - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Apparently, Lita Ford, the self-proclaimed "High Mistress of Heavy Metal," has been away for 14 years, and Wicked Wonderland is her big return to "metal."

Calling Lita Fordís Wicked Wonderland metal is hilarious. While the drums are made to have some bludgeon to them, the album contains none of the elements that would make it classifiable as metal, be it darkness, heaviness, edginess, aggression, or a sense of epic romance. White trash cock rock are the words that offer more apt classification. Hereís why:

- the songs are written and produced to sound like the blues hard rock equivalent of lite rock, with an "easy to swallow," slick bedroom-production sheen that seems ready for video game soundtrack menu consumption, or maybe even a porn video menu, where the 20-second clip loops over and over until you hit play.

- The riffs and beats are the epitome of cheesy blues groove, and the vocals try to be all hip and sassy and "bad," and from a technical standpoint, arenít mixed all that well, being kind of buried and sounding like they are being sung from a stale, claustrophobic room.

- The lyrical content is greatly about how hot Lita Ford is. Now, singing about how great you are in general is annoying, and how much people in general want to have sex with you is particularly irritating. But to sing about how hot you are in a purported metal context is about as false as can be imagined.

- Similarly, making a PR campaign broadcasting how much great sex one and oneís husband have (despite having kids) is not only the embodiment of falseness, but really gross TMI.

- When not focusing on how great a lay Lita Ford is, the songs on Wicked Wonderland can include topics like "Patriotic SOB," which most wincingly begins with a child reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

See, metal is about *not* being sexy. Itís about fantasy, struggle, elitism, rebellion, history, mythology, misanthropy, nihilism, violence, negativity, cultural pride, embracing of nature and ancient ways... pick any of those, and itís metal. Trying so hard to communicate oneís fuckability is not only an disgusting antithesis in this context, itís just sad. (0.2/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Pal
 

FRACTURE POINT - Inherit the Downfall - CD - Third Eye Productions - 2008

review by: Pal Meentzen

Inherit the Downfall is an excellent debut. This band from the scorching plains of Arizona wouldnít disappoint fans of Meshuggah and especially Pantera in their mix of metal, hardcore and (math) rock.

Some people may worry when reading this, especially in case they have a profound disliking for metalcore. Rest assured that no expectations of an unsavory mix of mean growls vs. slick cleans are necessary, because Fracture Point remain consistent in their use of manly vocals (unlike some of the bands they mention in their "thanks" list).

Fracture Pointís songs are not particulary groundbreaking, especially when it comes down to the very typical aspect of low-strummed guitars playing sinister grooves. But they are good enough to make one wonder why it is they havenít been signed yet.

Both the production as well as the artwork that comes with it should be enough to draw some attention (maybe itís just a concidence, but the dude with the mechanic arm on the front of the album cover has on his shoulder the band logo that has stylistic similarities with the logo from Pantera). Gory Spotts is known for his production work with Job For A Cowboy, and mixed media artist "par excellence" Seth Siro Antonare has worked with many widely known metal bands (like Caliban, Paradise Lost and Moonspell, to name a few). A shame is the choice for an awful, near-illegible 6pt.size font, making efforts to read the lyrics as appealing as trying to spot a pixieís anal ring.

The drums are fast, smart, skilfull, and are obviously confirmative of sticksman skills that have been honed within a timespan going back much further than the beginning of this band. Drummer Dan Ammon was also active in a band called Straight Jack It. Guitarist Matt Hobart has also been in a diverse range of bands. The fact that from previous experiences the members may have had their modest bit of local fame will probably escape most newbies to Fracture Point. But the experience shows, people. It does.

One of the better tracks is the song "Mindruin" because of its haunting quiet guitar intro and a mathified, waltzy base rhythm that has some of the finest drum fills heard in quite a while. "Face of Pain" is another fine example of a waltz in black.

The piano outro to the title track makes for a great, sinister atmosphere, which shows that thereís more to just creating brutal tunes for their own sake. A song like "Failure State" begins with a heavy segment that seems to reveal their Swedish Rot ĎNí Roll sympathies (think Entombed). The melodic, undistorted guitar solo that comes mid-point is another example of subtlety that will hopefully remain within their future repertoire.

Despite these positive notes, one may find that the whole concept of groove-metal seems to be getting a bit old. Like there's some who say that grunge rock died when Kurt Cobain shot himself, this genre of metal may have had its best time before the night that Panteraís "Dimebag" Darrell was shot on stage. Five years have passed since. With a new decade approaching, it remains to be seen whether further innovation is possible. It is of great importance that new elements are being embedded into the basic concept. But for now, Fracture Point seem to be having sufficient redeeming traits to attract long-standing fans of the genre. So go ahead and give Ďem a fair listen. Itís a debut with a headstart! (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

GENERAL SURGERY - Corpus in Extremis - Analyzing Necrocriticism - CD - Listenable Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

If we told you Corpus in Extremisí song titles, we'd probably spoil half the fun, but they're quite good, trust us. Apart from that, there's not much to write except that Corpus in Extremis is well done. Proper blastbeats and Autopsy grooves, but done the Swedish way, 15 tracks and 36 minutes of them. Technically flawless, sonically clear, downtuned and rough enough to keep it alive (but bleeding). No outstanding parts, no substandard parts. We've heard worse, we've heard better, but to fans of goregrind, General Surgery's second album will be as deadly welcomed as any. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Mladen
 

BADDELEY, GAVIN WITH FILTH, DANI - The Gospel of Filth - CD - FAB Press, Ltd. - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Cradle of Filth are definitely in touch with their feminine side. Which is perfectly fine, it's what everyone should consider doing from time to time... except for one thing: Cradle of Filth's feminine side is a Christian feminine side.

See, if you ask an anti-Christian male why he has problems with Christianity (or, for that matter, Islam or Judaism), you'll get plenty of answers: It causes wars, it's human-centered, it's a fable, it's against nature and science alike, it makes people shallow, submissive and easy to manipulate, it gives easy answers instead of asking important questions, and so on and on. Some Pagans will also add that it made women less equal, whereas in the past they used to be healers, wise women and prophetesses ó then monotheistic religions turned them into not-really-intelligent creatures only suitable for reproduction and being decoration. Women, in turn, accepted that role by not being much more than this, because nothing more was expected of them. And, it's obvious that people who aren't concerned with science, art, spirituality, ecology, or any form of creativity or brain work don't have much to think about. Mostly, with them, it's all about sex.

So, if you ask an anti-Christian woman why she has problems with Christianity you'll get one basic answer: sex. Christian morals, whatever they are, the Church prying into people's private business, or anything that says they shouldn't sleep around or look whatever they want to look like. However, the six-something billion population of this planet shows that people, whether Church is there or not, have sex. You either do it or not, depending on how social, good looking or wealthy you are, and very few people were ever stopped by something as irrelevant as what the priest (who probably has more sex than them, anyway) says.

Conclusion? If you're against Christianity just because of sex, you're still a Christian, just an inch deep inside. They did a fine job on you, idiot. Go and save a baby seal or a rainforest instead.

Enter The Gospel of Filth, a 500-page book about Cradle of Filth's career, partly, and about Christianity versus "evil" and sensuality, largely. If you're a grown up you probably already know that "evil" means different things to different people, and that the universally accepted, between intelligent people, definition of "evil" is simply "stupidity" ó as "evil" would sound too glorifying and it would give the idiots doing "evil" things more credit than they deserve.

For example ó serial killers. Evil? Not? Or just low-IQ people with a lack of self control? The whole chapter about them is statistically interesting, sure. So if I told you that my, probably, best friend here, where I live, actually killed seven people, in cold blood, what would you think? He actually told me some details, feelings and impressions (and also gave me some advice), and basically it's no big deal. It was allowed, it was war. It's what people do, it's in their nature. Anyone can do it if he thinks he'll get away with it and has a reason.

Both my friend and I agree that people who can't spell or who lack general culture are worthless humans. But Cradle of Filth need them to buy CDs, don't they? So it's more important to sing about one serial rapist, thus giving him / her exposure, than to protest against millions who can't properly write a text message.

You don't really need to go through all the 500 pages of this book. Here's a brief summary:

- If you don't like Cradle of Filth, you probably don't get laid.

- If you DO like Cradle of Filth, you probably don't get laid.

- Cradle of Filth are not black metal.

- Cradle of Filth are extreme gothic metal.

- Black metal is actually Gothic (according to the book), so Cradle of Filth probably want to say that they are not actually Cradle of Filth.

- Whatever it is, the British did it first. If not them, it was Walt Disney.

- Disney, videogames, drugs, fetishes, Hollywood and Marilyn Manson belong to the same world as decadent poets, aristocracy, money and TV (okay, that was obvious) but the book also mentions "black metal" so many times it actually makes you sick of the term ó and only mentions 2-3 other black metal bands from one or two obvious countries. For so much talk about Goths, where's Lacrimosa? Oh, they're not British or American and they're actually serious.

- Whatever Cradle of Filth did, even when they sucked, it was planned. It had a deep and profound background.

- If one dirty piece of paper ripped from some 'zine back in the Ď90s says that Cradle of Filth have more talent in their little finger than Emperor ever had, it must be true.

- After 9/11, black metal lost its relevance because, after 9/11, it got hard to shock people. Of course, this also means that now that everyone has seen what religious fanaticism is capable of, there is no more point in fighting religion (through black metal, or probably any other way).

- Animals, plants, forests, oceans and clean air aren't important. Humans acting silly, getting drunk, laid, drugged or killed are.

- Money is important and ultimately, it's all about entertainment, but somehow Cradle of Filth take themselves very seriously.

- Screaming "CUNT!!!" is fun (never mind that, if you want bad language, all you have to do is open your window or turn the TV on)

- Journalists are encouraged to write positively about nu metal, metalcore, garage rock, emo or whatever the current trend is, if they want to stay in the business.

- And much, much more.

Bollocks.

Well, at least some pictures are nice. But if you're a Cradle of Filth fan, better stay away from this publication ó just accept them as one of the "guilty pleasure" bands such as Nightwish, Dragonforce or Manowar. You know they defy common sense and logic, but you like listening to them, anyway. So, get Lords of Chaos, The Satanic Bible, The World's Most Notorious Men, The World's Most Notorious Women or The World's Greatest Cults instead, and you'll have way more fun and brain food. Even a Beatles biography would be better, if it has to be something British. If you need sexy pictures, just go to a fetish web site and download some. You'll have ten times more fun than with The Gospel of Filth. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Pal
 

GRAVE - Dominion VIII - CD - Regain Records - 2008

review by: Pal Meentzen

Dominion VIII is Swedish death metal like itís meant to be heard. Extremely low-strummed strings played by dark minds with coagulated blood and black filth beneath their fingernails. Through a fuzzy porridge of stink, the grated growls of a creature by the name of Ola Lindgren informs us of a world in darkness thatís stained by hate and dark signs. Woe upon thee, mortal. Pleasure upon thee, devout follower of the raw and joyless hellride of Grave in the craftful manner as purveyed since the late 1980s.

Fancy melodies? Slick twin guitar riffing? Sensitive cleans? Look elsewhere, buddy!

What do we find? A monolith of disgust packed with heavy grooves smothered in the smell of stale sweat of a headsmanís armpit.

Since Grave exhumed themselves in 1988, Ola Lindgren has always been the main man for growls, and on this eighth album, he does what everyone who knows the band knows he does best.

Dominion VIII has an unmistakable sound sometimes reminicent of Nihilist and Left Hand Path-era Entombed (just listen to a track like "Fallen (Angel Son).") In fact, the song "Annihilated God" appears to be a re-recorded song from Graveís Sick Disgust Eternal demo from 1988. Variation isnít really needed, since death metal of this calibre doesnít require a progressive approach. Well, allright, one little surprise comes with the intro of the title track, which features a sinister melody on a guitar thatís devoid of distortion and fuzz. But after 45 seconds, itís all done and over with what some may call "room to breathe" and the old violence comes crushing down on you again. For a final time, and longer and darker than anywhere else on this album.

If you have never have heard anything else of Grave, then Dominion VIII is by all means a fine place to get acquainted with these Swedish brutes. But be warned, it might feel like theyíre giving you a right slapping in the face, asking you where the fuck youíve been over the past 15 years. "Been listening to Dissection instead of us, huh? Well, suck on this!"

And by "this" one could say itís a very nostalgic approach that defies any compromises or wishes to blend other metal styles into their idiom. Itís also a slap in the face of anyone who thinks that the voice of a veteran gets less brutal with age. Ola Lindgrenís growl is like a jagged edged blade from an axe that imposes awe and composes carnage. He also masterminded this decidely murky and very dirty production with mixing assistance from Peter Othberg. This cooperation led to a sound so dense and heavy that one would nearly forget itís just three musicians playing. Itís possible to listen to Dominion 3-4 times in a row and still thoroughly enjoy the formula. Never change a winning tune, they say. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Back From The Grave (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

HALFORD - Winter Songs - CD - Metal God Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

A Christmas record by one of the most important figures in heavy metal, ever... what can you expect? Super cheesy air raid siren renditions of "Jingle Bells"? Reindeer playing double kick drums? An unparalleled dorkfest?

Youíd basically be right, and while Winter Songs wonít be a huge surprise for anyone in terms of its basic nature, it is a nice revelation that itís a finely performed and crafted album.

The instrumental performances are all top-notch, from the guitar solos to the drumming, making all band members sound like the consummate pros they are, expertly playing their parts (even if they are simple and basic) with a panache that says "world class." Halford himself still sounds like a young man, and his famous variety of voices is well-represented here.

The first couple songs are mid-paced metal numbers, the first of which is a Halford original. Then the record gets predictably more rock-oriented, and from there winds down as expected into more and more subdued territory, through an unfortunate number or two that is something like the Christmas version of The Beach Boysí "Little Deuce Coupe," finishing off with some more heavy (metal) versions of staples "Oh Holy Night" and "Come All Ye Faithful."

The quality of the performances and recording aside, Winter Songs is about as good an album as you can expect considering its nature. Although itís well-done, Winter Songsí appeal is as much in its celebrity novelty kitsch value as it is its musical value, and while youíll think, "hey, this isnít bad at all!", that itís a seasonal record, means the most youíll listen to this album is once a year... if that. And besides, isnít there something a little amiss about a metal album praising Christ? (6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Crucible (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

HARPOON - Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide - CD - Interloper Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Harpoonís psycho grind meets hardcore reminds of a much cleaner Pig Destroyer, with (relatively) tamer vocals and a drum machine. Lots of chuggy parts give way to high-speed twists and turns, replete with unpredictable arrangements and tasty guitar playing.

Youíll excuse the drum machine. Harpoon would be super hard pressed to find anyone able to play the stuff theyíve programmed to the same level of tightness. So, for Double Gnarly / Triple Suicide, the mix works well. Itís not quite the drum machine that Agoraphobic Nosebleed had on Agorapocalypse, or Necrophagist had on Onset of Putrefaction, but the programmed drums have definite personality, and complement the expertly recorded and assembled Harpoon album in question.

Technicality merges well with musicality here, and Double Gnarly / Triple Suicide is a recommended listen. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Pal
 

HORNA - Sanojesi ńšrelle - CD - Moribund Records - 2008

review by: Pal Meentzen

If you like Scandinavian black metal, itís very hard to ignore what some consider to be the AC/DC of the genre: Horna. Yes, for some reason people like to compare metal bands with those Aussie hardrock heroes, just like Six Feet Under have been referred to as the AC/DC of death metal (might have something to do with the eighteen AC/DC cover albums Six Feet Under have made ó ed.).

Some will probably say that Xasthur is the AC/DC of suicidal black metal, but well, letís skip the silly comparisons for now. After all, comparing singer Corvus to Brian Johnson is like the difference between being strangled by ones own vocal chords and sounding like a defective kitchen appliance.

Problem is that when it comes to the music of Horna, there is always an near-irrestisible temptation to seek comparisons. Not so much with other bands, but in terms of metaphors.

Although Horna released albums in 2006 (ńšniš YŲssš ó an unnescessary excercise in repetition) and a following inbetweenie called Sotahuuto (a vaguely interesting tribute to Bathory), there was nothing truly captivating ever since 2005's seminal and catchy-titled Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne... until Sanojesi ńšrelle, that is, which really seems to pick up where things left off in 2005.

Sanojesi ńšrelle (translated as "the source of my word") consists of two discs. One representing Satanic darkness and the other the Luciferian light. Disc one counts 10 songs, of which two are re-recordings of older songs. They are based on old single tracks "Risti Ja Ruoska" and "Orjaroihu" from the period 2002 - 2003. Whether they are improvements is entirely up to the listener, but it seems like another small retrospective on their 15 year-career. This warrants respect at least.

Disc one is the punchy and hook-orientated one, and for many long-time fans all that is desired from their coldblessed metalmeisters. The second disc consists of four long and drawn out pieces that are meant to be epic and trance-inducing. Fortunately, none are as mind-numbing as the title track of ńšniš YŲssš from three years back, so it seems they have retrieved a balance between creating a mood without losing themselves in the process.

This is the first proper Horna album in quite a long time that sucessfully manages to perform some true necrotic sorcery towards the temporarily disenchanted. Neophytes can also learn something from this lesson in proper grim black metal, as much as can yesteryearís "church burning heroes," who still adorn many a shirt today, but who sadly thrive on the credits gained from a very distant past.

This Finnish horde hasnít grown soft one bit! Essential cold-blessed grimness for dark days. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Roberto
 

HELLEBAARD - Fier - CD - Gardarika Musikk - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Some musicians take care to have the sounds of their instruments be as crafted as their compositions... others donít care whatever pitiful tones they use, as long as it represents the grandiose plan they have in their head.

Hellebaard is sadly the latter ó a Viking-themed band in Dutch whose Bathory-inspired metal is greatly shot in the foot by the kind of weedy keyboards that have doomed many a metal album for generations. Weíre talking about the "hey, this part needs a flute, but I donít have a flute or a flute player, so Iíll go into the MIDI flute library, and..." and the flute is like the kind of thing youíd hear on an electronic greeting card.

This sums up Hellebaardís problem. Itís too synthetic and mechanized ó the antithesis of a band in a genre about Heathen civilizations of old.

The drums are also programmed, which lends the sense that Hellebaardís musical ideas are too stunted in how deliberate they are ó the bandís musical accents are tiresome and oft repeated... some constructions make it easy for the ear to catch onto, but they err too much on the predictable.

On the good side, the guitar tone works much better, and the harsh vocals arenít bad, although, here, again, they are too prominent in the mix considering what they contribute musically, and how plain and in-your-face they are leaves nothing to the imagination.

Finally, Fier is about as tasty and fun as the album artwork. Limited, grey, and yucky. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

IF HE DIES, HE DIES - The Rise... the Fall - CD - Friction Records - 2008

review by: Roberto Martinelli

If He Dies, He Dies has an aggressive, technical, busy take on an often bluesy approach to heavy metal. The Rise... the Fall benefits from an excellent rhythm section, some exciting riffing, and a huge, satisfying bass tone. The drums are punchy and crisp, and the guitars meaty and assertive. The songs are engaging and interesting, but the vocals, which are average/mediocre gruff guy screaming, are too prominent and unmusical, and they often get in the way rather than make the songs better. If youíre more into bluesy metal, or like bands on labels like At a Loss, then give If He Dies, He Dies a listen on the Internet to see if itís worth a purchase. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

IMMOLITH - Hymns to the Countess - CD - Carrion Crawler Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Once again, it's not about the budget that was involved in making a record, but about intangible things such as inspiration, feeling, conviction and blood. Yes, we know blood is quite a tangible thing, but what if you can hear it, feel it, and see, it rather that touch it?

If we didn't know better, our guess would be that Immolith are one of those crazy old school Greek or maybe German black metal bands. However, Immolith are from New Jersey. And their version of old school is gloriously charming, low budget, a bit rough around the edges, but done right. The drums are obviously an e-kit, but Immolith aren't trying to make them sound or play like a wooden one. And, for Hymns to the Countess, they might even have been the perfect choice. If the guitars are unstoppable, cold and trebly, if the vocals are bloody, freezing rasps, and if the songs themselves are relentless and persuasive, why make the drums any less inhuman? To Immolith's credit, the volume levels of all instruments are perfect, which certainly adds to the "repeated listening" value.

Contrary to current "trends," Immolith write actual riffs, and making actual songs, and on this 4-track, self-released EP, there is hardly a wasted moment. It's not all terribly original, but sometimes all we need are direct, real songs.

The beginning is solid: the opening mid-blasting track could be a little shorter, but it sets the tone right, gets you used to the sound, and if you're playing this EP on "repeat," it's fine. Then, the next one is amazing ó it's called "Slaughter the Legions" and its marching riffs and a glorious lead around the middle would make even Immortal proud.

After that, you get the title track, which is a six-minute bloodshed of constant guitars going high and low, until you curiously notice a shattering drum pattern. This one might not have the best riffs ever, but shows that Immolith know how to handle atmosphere, changing the proceedings just as much as necessary to keep the listener hooked and thinking that much more is happening than it actually is (that's a good thing). The last one is, appropriately, a "Countess Bathory" cover, and it rocks as much as the original.

What we have here is a highly promising band ó if Immolith can continue writing as different and as convincing songs as these, we can only expect good things from them. Taking good care of every aspect of this release, Immolith didn't forget to match the bloody atmosphere with an equally macabre cover: We've seen naked women soaked in blood before, but this interpretation of countess Bathory isn't really pleasant to look at. Thus, it's probably more realistic and historically correct than the Cradle of Filth's flowery version, or whoever else used the theme before (Kamelot?). And yes, along with the pro-printed CD-R you also get a poster of the abovementioned art. The last time we checked, the price for the whole package was $4, so you're bloodily advised to pick it up. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
2.5/10 Ignacio
 

CHINGALERA - In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree - CD - Pacific Recordings - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

A good audio engineer, a good producer, maybe even a good session musician, can make wonders for your sound. You could be the worst nu-metal band ever, but with some tweaking in the form of a well-produced album or some instrumental additions, your album could be somewhat tolerable. Yet even Steve Albini can't make miracles happen (yet).

To say Chingalera is boring is an understatement. It's a whole lot of nothing, over and over again, like a good guitarist practicing a simple riff for twenty minutes. It's pointless ó just taking the bad part of drone and trying to play it a little bit faster and without anything interesting over it.

See, we often call albums "one-dimensional," yet in this case it's just a 0-dimensional album. There's nothing going on, it could pretty much be the modern rock version of John Cage's "4:33." It makes you want to talk over it, play other music over it, whatever to make it feel like there's something going on. Yet there's nothing. Brian Eno would probably be happy about that, but for some reason it doesn't seem plausible that Chingalera are trying to be the Eno of metal.

Alright, to be fair, some of the riffs found on In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree will make you headbang... the first four times they are played. Sixteen if you're especially generous. But all of them are played anywhere from 64 times to as many goddamn times as Chingalera feel like playing them, and not even Steve Albini making it sound about as awesome as he always makes everything sound will fix that. And it's not justifiable. Chingalera aren't doing it to break boundaries (like, say, Orthrelm, Ocrilim, or maybe the usual Skullflower or Earth), they aren't doing it to try out new compositional techniques, they are doing it because, uh... who knows.

Instead of introducing new riffs, they just sing over them, scream over them, add wah-wah and a phaser, feedback, more or less distortion. But it's the same riff. Over and over and over and over and over again, going nowhere, trying to convince you in 50 slightly different ways that it is, in fact, worthy of your time. But it never is.

And right when you think it's going to end, it doesn't. Oh, there it goes again, some 64 more times. And you know that after that it just won't end, and it'll probably play for some more dozen times before finally stopping. But they aren't done yet, there are four more tracks like that! Don't panic, one of those, "The Occidental Apology," is actually a decent song. Repetitive, sure, but it changes, and it seems like it goes somewhere. Kind of. Yet it can't save In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree from itself.

On the bright side, and strictly production-wise, In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree sounds awesome. Not surprisingly, the engineering is so good it hurts, the drums sound like they are being played right in your face, the guitar tone is earsplitting when it needs to be and downright heavy all the time, and the bass adds some more heaviness to the mix. The vocals obviously follow the Albini tradition of being really low in the mix. Everything seems to occupy its own space and it's pretty easy to know who does what. Albini made it tolerable, sure, but the guy can't do miracles. He's great at making anything sound good, but Chingalera's faults are way deeper than he can manage to solve just by making it heavier. (2.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Ignacio
 

BUM KON - Drunken Sex Sucks - CD - Smooch Records - 2008

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

In the booklet for Drunken Sex Sucks, Bum Kon are made out to be a brilliant band, and it's probably true that around 30 years ago, in a live setting, they were fun enough for such praise to exist. Now, mentioning them anywhere near Husker Du like the booklet does, while good marketing, is nowhere near coherent.

It is true that they are equal parts early (as in, demo-era) Husker Du and Black Flag, for better or for worse. It isn't true, however, that you can listen to Drunken Sex Sucks without feeling like there are many bands from the same decade, even from the same area, more worth your time. Or, at the very least, that have aged better than Bum Kon.

Listening to Drunken Sex Sucks is, in a way, like listening to Sex Pistols today. Sure, they were relevant, saving the distances, and, sure, you might even enjoy it if you're really into the genre, but there's something that hasn't aged well and you will notice it.

Except that in this case, there are no good songs, no interesting stories to tell, and no Sid Vicious in the band. So it's mostly for nostalgia, curiosity, or a mix of both.

Bum Kon isn't much more than your average Ď80s punk band. In fact, they are much less, and they obviously couldn't have recorded something like Husker Du's Zen Arcade, but at least their guitarist can play. Somewhat.

What they can't do, evidently, is add some variety, spice up their tracks with something that's not just turning off the distortion and playing four chords instead of three. The vocalist goes from "this sounds horrible" to "oh, holy fuck, turn that off, please," and the drumming is juvenile at best.

Songwriting? Hah. Though some rockabilly and blues moments try to save the day, they are executed just like any juvenile punk band would do. Probably because they were a juvenile punk band.

Yet it's nearly unrevieweable, because the ones who know Bum Kon from back then will love it no matter what and the ones who don't already know them won't even remember their name after trying Drunken Sex Sucks, and writing about how absurdly not worth your time this album is won't change that.

Some could say that Zen Arcade set the bar impossibly high for all those "minor" Ď80s hardcore bands, or that you just can't listen to Ď80s punk outside the Ď80s. Here, in this particular case, it's by Bum Konís own merit that they are utterly uninteresting. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Ignacio
 

DEMETRA SINE DIE - Council from Kaos - CD - My Kingdom Music - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

It's times like these when you realize just how great Anathema's Alternative 4 and Tool's Aenima are. Both are classic albums, and while they are from opposite sides of rock, it's not much of a stretch to think of combining them.

The thing is, both Alternative 4 and Aenima were albums fit for a certain time, on certain particular conditions, and done by particular musicians. Aenima (and Tool, in general) represented a point of inflection for alternative rock, from what at that point in time was essentially a more cerebral grunge into something smarter and more conceptual. And more technical, of course.

Alternative 4 was one of the first alternative rock albums to put a heavy emphasis on atmosphere, owing much to Anathemaís doom metal origins, and to bring Pink Floyd into heavier territories. Demetra Sine Die tries to mix both... with moderate success, and obviously without the historical relevance of either.

Disregarding the whole sounds-just-like-Tool thing, true as it is, Council from Kaos suffers from something that progressive rock never should: lack of direction. Most segments found on the album are amazing, from angular, almost Rock in Opposition-like rhythms, to exceedingly Tool-ish rhythms, or even Red King Crimson ones, but it all feels fragmented. The songs aren't as much songs as they are collages, and you can still see the stitches that hold them together. Yet every single one of those segments is good in itself.

See how the songs on Aenima were gradual in development and everything concluded in a logical way? Well, that's precisely what's lacking in Council from Kaos. Here, it's not that things conclude or evolve, they just suddenly change. Sure, it's mostly good parts suddenly changing into other good parts, but such psycho compositional techniques don't really work when the album itself doesn't call for it (i.e, you aren't John Zorn, Ephel Duath, or similar). It undermines the whole album. It's impossible to pay attention to an album when it's deliriously fragmented yet completely formal in execution.

Council from Kaos is professional enough; it manages to blend the atmosphere of Alternative 4 with the hard-edge experimentalism (and especially riff style) of Tool's mid-era, but it also manages to break both not long after achieveing it... every single time. It's enjoyable at the core, yet it doesn't manage to convince the listener or grab their attention at all, going from Nine Inch Nails to King Crimson and Stone Temple Pilots about 10 times a minute. It displays a lot of potential, mostly in the way of some downright incredible vocal lines and riffs, but it sabotages itself by not making it more natural, more cohesive. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
4.1/10 Ignacio
 

GENTLEMENS PISTOLS - Gentlemens Pistols - CD - Candlelight Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

We've had many, many innovations in music in these last 40 years. From electronic music (even things like IDM, breakbeat, and gabber), the rise of indie, of post-rock, of metal as a whole, shoegazer, subsequently Britpop and all sorts of guitar pop, to all kinds of avant-garde genres or noise music... and for brevity's sake, we'll stop there, but we could go on and on.

Yet, after all those advances, we're still copying Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, Hawkwind and Witchfinder General, and not precisely discreetly. If there's something mind-blowing about metal, and doom in particular, is how, in case of doubt, bands will always go for the roots. And by that, weíre talking about how bands disregard how much music as a whole has advanced these years and just copy their favorite band. Of course, there are many bands who don't, but, sadly, Gentlemens Pistols (yes, that's how they spell it) isn't one of them.

Gentlemens Pistols seems to love Witchfinder General. They seem to love Saint Vitus and, even more than that, they seem to adore Led Zeppelin. So much that they can't help but to copy all three of them to the point of absurdity. Gotta give them points, though, rarely ever do bands give me such an urge to play "Black Dog" instead.

But anyway, when people call something a "worship band," they aren't even close to the insane amounts of copying that's going on on this album. No, sir, you haven't heard retro until you've heard Gentlemens Pistols. Except that it's not "just" retro, it's just carbon-copying the classics.

But... it's not bad, actually. Technically, it works. Most of the riffs would be good fun if you didn't know Led Zeppelin. The problem is that you most probably do, and you'll probably realize, one minute in, that they are just modern versions of what Led Zeppelin did for the first four or so albums. Two if you're especially slow. Sure, they have a little bit more distortion, for added metalness, and less bombastic vocals, but their songs are just a rehash of Witchcraft's first album, with a more 00s production and far less catchy choruses. And no Jimmy Page.

The end product is fun enough for a spin or two, but it just serves to remind you of how awesome Led Zeppelin II is, even today. (4.1/10)

 

 

 

 
6.2/10 Ignacio
 

GRIEF OF WAR - A Mounting Crisis... as Their Fury Got Released - CD - Prosthetic Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

For a band supposed participating in the revival of the glorious old days of Bay Area thrash ó if one were to trust the press ó A Mounting Crisis is surprising. Not because it's particularly good, but because it's an obviously thrashcore-oriented album in the R.A.M.B.O tradition. While it doesnít go against thrash metal's rules, A Mounting Crisis is surprisingly more about songwriting and speed than it is about tightly packing as many riffs as Grief of War can come up with in every song (I'm looking at you, Dark Angel), and it really doesn't sound like the average "let's rip Testament off!" Bay Area revival band

Riffs are of the usual variety, lots of palm muting, maybe slower than usual, but no thrash fan will feel things are out of place. This is precisely where everything screams Bay Area thrash. Vocal-wise, however, it's far more hardcore oriented (think a Slayer gone "core"). The most surprising element is the addition of Poison Arts-like melodies into the mix, making for varied songs, though probably making the album more appealing to fans of early Japanese hardcore than actual thrash.

More than saying that they are a thrash band, it seems more like a hardcore band trying to play thrash, and limitedly succeeding.

There's something going on that makes it seem more modern than it really is, but A Mounting Crisis really isn't much more than a fast mix of good hardcore and good thrash. It's well-done, it packs a decent amount of punch and its devoid of amateur errors. Yet it's nothing out of this world. While it's varied enough and fun enough, there's nothing to make you remember Grief of War months after. No riff is the epitome of thrash riffs, no song is mind-blowing enough and you don't even need to hear the whole album to be able to pinpoint their sound accurately enough. It's just a successful exercise on professionalism and fun, and nothing more than that. (6.2/10)

 

 

 

 
3.2/10 Ignacio
 

IM NEBEL - Vitriol - CD - Haarbn Productions - 2008

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

If only there were some way of contacting all gothic metal bands at the same time. Not much would be gained, but at least reviewers wouldn't need to repeat so much in our reviews and we could just say "Oh, come on, we told you that sucked!"

Im Nebel, sadly, is an "all gothic metal bands" kind of gothic metal band. Maybe more Cradle of Filth-ish. Unlike CoF, however, Im Nebel can't be called symphonic by any stretch of the word. Sorry, keyboards just don't make your band symphonic, even more when you don't even bother to post-process the standard soundbank of your Casio into something more bearable. At the same time, unduly long songs and moments where you play without distortion appearing at seemingly random moments don't make your band progressive ó they make it boring.

Vitriol is a mess. Not the good, chaotic kind of mess of, say, early Ephel Duath, but an awkward, "why, oh why" kind of mess. It's all downhill from the second track onwards, and the second track isn't precisely a high point for metal, let alone music. From the absurdly simplistic arrangements of the supposedly symphonic intro, to the longer tracks with cleaner intros just to make them even longer, everything in Vitriol is either a cliche of some kind or seemingly composed with some algorithm that spews random riffs with no relation to the song at hand.

Considering the levels of cheesiness present in every single song on the album, or the fact that Vitriol sounds just like every single average gothic band that tried to play black metal, it's safe to say that Im Nebel are not precisely trying to be avant-garde. We're talking about songs that go nowhere, with absolutely uncalled-for tempo changes, blastbeats just because, and compositions so juvenile that they don't feel shame when going into My Dying Bride or Dissection territory with random blastbeats on top. And let's not even mention the awkward guitar tone.

Yeah, that's the word for this, awkward. (3.2/10)

 

 

 

 
8.7/10 Roberto
6/10 Mladen
5/10 Bastiaan
 

IMMORTAL - All Shall Fall - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli, Mladen äkot, and name=%%Bastiaan de Vries%%

RM: It seemed safe to assume that All Shall Fall would be Sons of Northern Darkness II. And that would have been fine, except it isn't. Sure, it's new Immortal, and the sound is more produced and plastic than ever, but the album rocks.

Mä: Looks like Immortal have gone safe this time. Looking at the track titles randomly - Arctic... Norden... North... Darkness... Hordes... it's easy to guess that Immortal didn't want to re-invent themselves. But, that was to be expected. If, for example, Emperor decided to record another album, there would be problems. Whatever they would do, someone would want a different Emperor era to be represented in it. With Immortal, there were no problems. There were three "new era" Immortal albums to take cues from, all three in a somewhat similar style, and Immortal did just that. Continued doing the "new" Immortal.

RM: Agreed. And, naturally, with Abbath writing all the guitar parts. And the song titles are getting less thrilling (compared to something like "Withstand the Fall of Time" or "Throned by Blackstorms"), but remember that Abbath has never written any of that stuff, it's all been Demonaz. Speaking of Demonaz, have you heard the utter tripe the man has put out in that self-titled project of his?

Mä: No, I haven't yet. But keep in mind that Demonaz wrote all the lyrics for I as well. On Between Two Worlds the titles, and the lyrics, were more inspired.

RM: Since Sons of Northern Darkness preceded it, here's the comparison to that. Much faster overall, more angry and more intense. As much as the songs on Sons of Northern Darkness were well-done, another album of the relatively relaxed vibe that album had would have been less interesting or triumphant as what you get on All Shall Fall. Rather, it's more of the thrashy vibe from the hardest songs on Damned in Black.

Mä: Yes, but, there is definitely one more album to consider, namely Between Two Worlds by Abbath's other band, I. All Shall Fall isn't as much influenced by it, as much as it seems that Immortal deliberately tried to separate Immortal from I by avoiding some of the elements of Between Two Worlds. Although itís a more straightforward, rocking album, Between Two Worlds has one hell of a lot of catchy hooks and memorable moments. All Shall Fall doesn't have them. It's almost confusing when you hear Immortal-quality hooks on Between Two Worlds, but not nearly as many on All Shall Fall. After probably 10 spins, all I can remember is the sing-along "All shaaalll faaallll..." from the opening track, and the absolutely amazing ending of the last track, "Unearthly Kingdom." Those artificial harmonics are by far the most air-guitar inducing part of the album. Although... a very similar riff was used on the last track of Between Two Worlds, so, when Immortal actually use some elements of I, it sounds more like proper Immortal. Am I making any sense?

RM: The allegations are correct. I had totally disregarded Between Two Worlds, entirely because it was such a flop with me, I couldn't bring myself even to own it. I got it again a few days ago, and once again, itís so lame I still canít even get through the entire thing. In contrast, Immortalís All Shall Fall is a thrilling triumph, and the songs are memorable.

However, what is a bit irksome about All Shall Fall is that some of the songs arrangements are a bit lacking. Some songs will rage, but then end with a feeling of prematureness... and we're not talking about the totally rad "someone pulled the plug to the stereo out of the wall" endings that were classic on Pure Holocaust and Battles in the North. Here, it's more of a feeling that the songs were slapped together without taking care to iron out the creases. But the parts are great!

Mä: The parts are definitely great. But it sounds like... well, like Iron Maiden making new albums out of recycled elements of old ones. It's still Immortal, it kicks ass, it can't be bad, but it's almost superfluous. Between Two Worlds sounded much fresher and stronger and there is inadvertently way more Immortal magic on it than there is on All Shall Fall.

RM: Slightly disagreed with the Iron Maiden comment. In principle, yes, but Iron Maiden's latest albums are nigh unlistenable ó tepid, tired ó while Immortal's rule. I couldn't get through A Matter of Life or Death or Dance of Death even ONCE, while All Shall Fall would be welcome in the stereo at least a few times a week. It not only is a triumph that Immortal are still making records, it's a triumph that they also kick ass.

If Immortal has an "old" and a "new" period, the best new Immortal is still and will always be At the Heart of Winter. It has the best compositions, the best cold atmosphere. That said, every Immortal album ever made will be a joy, and All Shall Fall is nothing short of that... and thankfully, not a total rehash of another album, which, again, considering Immortal's unmistakable strength of style, would still be welcome.

Mä: Agreed on that At The Heart of Winter is the one with best compositions and atmosphere, the cold/hot shifts, almost larger than life riffs, and it is probably the best Immortal overall, but I'm not entirely sure that All Shall Fall is all that relevant. It is a nice addition to the collection for sure, it was great hearing Abbath's voice again, the musicianship is superb, but only the last track is somewhat memorable. It looks like Immortal tried to decide between brutal and catchy while forgetting that one doesn't have to exclude the other.

RM: Within the Immortal discography, I agree with your first comments. However, this is Immortal, one of the few black metal bands with which all you need to hear is a few seconds of their music and you know immediately it's them. All Shall Fall's songs are not the best in the band's history, but they're still goddamn great, and they bristle with energy. Each one bursts to life with excitement from their beginning, while kind of ending awkwardly... sometimes.

Mä: Well I did say they still kick ass, but my point is that the ideas aren't as good as they used to be. If I was to name my favorite Immortal songs randomly, I'd go with "Mountains of Might," "Where Dark and Light Don't Differ," "Nebular Ravens Winter," "The Sun No Longer Rises," "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)," and so on and on, but none of them would be from All Shall Fall. Or, for that matter, from Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism. The same goes for the riffs. It's damn energetic all the way through, but not much to hold on to. It's all the riffs Immortal have been playing for years now, only faster and slightly different in the way they are arranged, but I can still only remember one or two. Take a look at Amon Amarth, granted, no one complains that they have been re-recording the same album for quite some years now, but in Immortal's case I definitely wanted more than one memorable part. Like, 20-30 of them? Besides, (and another Maelstrom writer will probably say "with you it's all about Bathory"), it's now just a more modern sounding Requiem by Bathory.

RM: Contrast these outlooks with some of the songs on Blizzard Beasts, for example (lots of good stuff, but some filler), or just about the entirety of Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism (mostly whatever, except for like three engaging moments). The Immortal bar has been raised as high as it is because of what great songs they write.

Mä: But I don't see a point in playing Immortal music just for the sake of playing. Were they too scared, too uninspired, too rushed, or too lazy to stop for a moment and ask themselves if this time they are bringing anything new? I don't think so, the money would come anyway.

RM: Much disagreed that I is more Immortal than All Shall Fall. I is too rock to be Immortal, whereas Immortal is metal.

Mä: Then take another look at I. At first I hated it, but then I realized that it's just mid-tempo Immortal with different drums, more simple songs and maybe three rock parts altogether. Without those rock parts it is more Immortal than Immortal now. That might be a few percent difference, but to me it still sounds like that, heavy metal with a cold atmosphere.

Or, I is more Immortal than Quorthon's solo albums are Bathory, but listening to his first solo album, I have no problem accepting it's just another face of Bathory. Bathory had more than one face, so did Immortal. And whatever both of them did, it was usually easy to describe, it was good or bad. But never just for the sake of simply having an album out like now. Maybe, just maybe, Abbath thinks his new riffs are original, but after seven years I think too much water went under the bridge, too many bands appeared, and Immortal resorted to simply sounding like themselves.

RM: Letís not forget the contributions of drummer Horgh. What makes this guy so special is his style: He doesn't play beats on the drums, he plays riffs. This really started to come about in At the Heart of Winter, and by Damned in Black, he had his whole style down pat. I'm tempted to try to again embrace Hypocrisy (through Virus, which Horgh is on), and try to connect with Grimfist just to hear more of that guy play.

Mä: Horgh is a class on his own, no mistake. Maybe they should have started with him writing the drums, and then writing and recording the rest after him? With so many fast parts and changes, but in the end unremarkable riffs, he didn't get to have as much exposure as he could have.

BdV: I'm hovering kinda in between both of your opinions. First I have to mention that my favorite Immortal record is Blizzard Beasts, and I didn't much care for Sons of Northern Darkness.

All Shall Fall is instantly recognizable as Immortal: All the signature stuff is there, even the intensity is there, but the record has no memorable songs (and only a few memorable moments). It is great to hear Horgh once again, like a machine-gun on his snare. It is great to become familiar with the new / old signature riffs of Abbath. But there is nothing to hook me in as a listener. They are going through the familiar Immortal motions, which would be fine if only they had written some interesting songs.

Mladen mentioned there were three "new era" Immortal albums to take cues from, all three in a somewhat similar style, and Immortal did just that. Continued doing the "new" Immortal. I can't help but feel they've mistakenly taken all the uninteresting parts from those albums. All Shall Fall has technically proficient songs, but they lack any real sense of awesomeness that was present in the previous records.

I've listened to the record three times now and I can't remember any memorable moments. I'd give All Shall Fall a (5/10).

Mä: Personally, I'll stick to Between Two Worlds ó the vocals are admittedly horrible, BUT, if you turn the volume way up, they lose the low component and you're left with way more Immortal than there is on All Shall Fall. So, until the next time, Between Two Worlds will remain this writer's last interesting Immortal album. (6/10)

RM: Gave All Shall Fall a final critical listen. The first two songs are quite catchy and memorable. Songs 3-6 have wonderful energy and are a pleasure to listen to, but they are not as well constructed as weíve come to expect from this band. The last song is the predicted epic track, and it holds together better, but it still falls a bit short. However, even with the least remarkable song on this record, the great energy and unique vibe of Immortal make it fun to listen to, and inspired listening to Immortal's entire discography, back to back.

All Immortal albums are in their own way essential, and All Shall Fall is no exception, but it certainly isn't their best. It's good that Immortal didn't play it as safe as possible and re-make Sons of Northern Darkness, as one record of more laid back Immortal tunes is enough. Despite it feeling thrown together in places, All Shall Fall is a fitting and welcome album in the discography of the best black metal band ever. (8.7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Sons of Northern Darkness (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
8/10 Pal
 

INQUINOK - Immortal Dawn - CD - inquinok.com - 2009

review by: Pal Meentzen

At last the follow-up to Inquinokís debut album, "Entranced by Twilightís Gaze" from 2006 is here. In a way, things have changed and in other ways, things have remained just the same for this epic melodic black metal band from Seattle.

Thereís been a thorough line-up change that has left only the guitarists, Krelian and Mordred, as original members. All the other cogs in the machinery have been replaced. On this new album, the music is fundamentally not that much different. Itís still in the vein of old Emperor, Dissection and old Satyricon. The growling vocals of Krelian, the dramatic, keyboard driven melodies with super fast blastbeats and not all too dominating, yet clearly present guitars with cold nordic undertones are all very recognizable.

This familiarity is hardly surprising, considering the fact that Immortal Dawn was recorded at the same location and handled by the same sound engineers (Jer Keller and Krelian). Fortunately, the cog change turns out to be an upgrade.

The songs on Immortal Dawn are much more aggressive and ferocious. Inquinokís compositions werenít too bad already, but when listening to this new material it seems like they are much more on top of their game.

New drummer Simon "Tormentor" proves to be quite an asset to the new Inquinok, judging from his amazingly precise footwork and lightning fast variations, aside from the usual blasty patterns. The bass drum sound in itself is more appealing this time. A track like "Triumphant" is a good example, showing a few very smart rhythmic alternations and heading towards a more progressive kind of black metal.

Previously, the guitars used to lean much more on the parts of the keyboards, but on this new one they are fortunately much less docile, making it overall a more intricate work to listen to. In fact, while still playing a great role in the music, there is much less emphasis on them this time, making all instruments much more in balance with each other.

Maybe in order to compensate for this there is a short but nice interlude on piano at midpoint. It gives a little break. Another song called "Bloodlines" begins with a base melody anchored by a harpsichord. Sometimes a harpsichord may conjure images of cheesy moments of the Addamís Family or some creepy old vampire movie, but because itís used only very briefly and subtly, it works really quite well.

Indeed, Inquinok is a band that sounds strangely European, and Immortal Dawn can easily compete with works of similar bands with a liking for H.P. Lovecraft stories.

At the time of writing it is reported that Inquinok has become a studio project of Krelian and a third album is in progress (Immortal Dawn was recorded in October 2007). Whether Krelian will succeed in surpassing the quality of this album will be one of the surprises of next year. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

IMPERIAL DARKNESS/PYRIFLEYETHON - Havoc's Split Asunder - CD - lavathorn@yahoo.gr - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Hell is here, in the shape of a vinyl record. Shortly, if you have a record player and you like hyperfast, inhuman, raw black metal, just get Havoc's Split Asunder. It is a split 7" release by two furious Greek black metal bands, and we are having a hard time deciding which one of them is crazier.

Imperial Darkness are fast. Really fast. The blastbeats will make you check the record player to see if you are actually playing it at the right speed, but 33 RPM it is. Giving Dark Funeral a run for its money, Imperial Darkness deliver a barrage of flaming, solid riffs with enough outbursts, breaks and changes to make even the most resistant of you dizzy, and just two songs and five-something minutes later, it's all over. You witnessed evil in the most direct form, no CD or mp3 can ever do this. You need to lift the stylus and repeat the procedure, a long forgotten or never experienced ritual for most of you, but it is worth it. Or you can just take the record in your hands and look at the small grooves, wondering how they can contain so much violence, and asking yourself, "Is this legal?"

On their side, Pyrifleyethon aren't that extremely fast, but they don't lag behind, either. The labyrinth of two dirty, direct guitars is properly murderous, switching into a number of changes and nuances, just to make the listener feel he has heard much more than the stated four minutes. You can hear the vocals and the drums, each instrument is audible, and each of them is full of painful aggression. Black metal in its truest form, almost spontaneous, not at all polished, and so bloody direct that it makes you wonder even more... CDs are okay, tapes are romantic and old school in their own right, but they don't make you fear you're going to break your equipment or damage your ears by playing them. Havoc's Split Asunder does. And remember, Pyrifleyethon's side is 45 RPM.

Both bands are relentless. You can't get this feeling by listening to a digital format. The world has come to an end, the bands are playing right here, on your stereo, which is about to explode, you can almost feel them reaching out for you, but you can't understand what just happened. If you're tired from the current scene, mp3, MySpace, CDs, iPods and free downloads, Havoc's Split Asunder is the kind of therapy you need. Old school they might be, but maybe they're just making a mess out of the historical timeline, right now. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
8.5/10 Roberto
 

ISOLE - Silent Ruins - CD - Napalm Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Now, the music is good. Isole know what they are doing, and when they say "epic doom metal," they mean it. Even if they don't mean it, they simply and honestly do it. It's just natural to them, the songs are long and you don't notice. The songs are slow, too ó no surprise ó and the riffs are mostly simple, but they work so good that you won't question anything about them.

They don't hide their biggest influence is Candlemass, and there's no need for that. We can add that there's also some Bathory inside, at least by proxy, as the two members also play in Ereb Altor, which is as Bathory as it can possible be. If Ereb Altor was those two guys doing Bathory, Isole are those same two people, with an additional bass player and a drummer, doing a more modern version of Candlemass. It's really, really great. It's a bit more modern but still feels old, like the best of those classic old doom albums with real ideas and real passion. And Silent Ruins (Redemption Part 1) is Isole's fourth album.

But. Yes. Redemption. We don't know how it is possible that the same people responsible for Ereb Altor's Viking metal now sing using this terminology. Redemption, soul, sins, forgiveness, some "father" that is supposed to forgive them (and we're pretty sure it's not Odin this time), whatnot. We can stand the usual doom laments, floods of tears and endless solitude, but this, done so obviously and in your face ó it depends. If you feel offended by things like these, we're afraid you would like the music but you would listen to Silent Ruins maybe twice. So, just skip it.

If you're one of those people that don't read the lyrics or pay attention to what the singer is doing, then just ignore the last paragraph and get it. (8.5/10)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Same score here as in Mladenís review, but a few amendments and critiques.

First, Silent Ruins is hardly a slow doom record. What with the mid-paced tempos and the busy, aggressive way the drummer plays on this record (heís really stepped up the intensity!), the style is something like power / doom.

Second, Silent Ruins is about 10 times better than the last record, Bliss of Solitude, which suffers from a too thin, slick production and unremarkable songs. We were afraid that Isole had peaked with the great stuff on Throne of Void, went to a bigger label and immediately commenced being boring like bands that go to bigger labels can sound boring, but theyíve made a killer record here.

Third, yes, there are lyrics about having oneís "father" forgive one. And Mladenís probably right in that itís "not Odin," but assuming itís the Christian god... whatís new about that in doom, and specifically, melodic doom? Itís an honored tradition of the style. Candlemass has had it all over their discography, same for Trouble (of course, they are a Christian band), same for St. Vitus, and not least, same for Black Sabbath. The imagery and themes of all those bands (weíll stop beleaguering the point by naming more) wasnít like Christian metal, which is about spreading the Gospel of Christ, but rather about being enamored with the mystique of the Christian cult ó the doomy inspiration of the majesty of gothic cathedrals, the grim elegance of Catholic cemeteries, the magical aura of the myth of heaven and hell, and the beauty of medieval art and the images it evokes. Anyone can appreciate those things without being devout followers of the dogma. Classic doom metal in particular, and therefore, all heavy metal, ever, would not exist if not for its relationship with Christianity. Thus, there is no apparent paradox in this reviewerís mind in Isoleís lyrics.

Fourth, Isole might have been inspired by Candlemass, but they do not sound like Candlemass, particularly the Candlemass of the last 10-15 years. They are much less cheesy, are more classical music oriented, and now, have more of a power metal energy.

Silent Ruins is a great album, with excellent songs, progressive arrangements, unique, talented vocals, and exciting musicianship. The best songs Isole has ever written remain on Throne of Void, but Silent Ruins is probably the best album theyíve recorded yet. See you on the best of 2009 list. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.2/10 Roberto
 

JEWY SABATAY - Jewy Sabatay - CD - Chabane's Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Jewy Sabatay. This issue is now officially *the* one with the most ridiculous band names in the history of Maelstrom, and Jewy Sabatay even trumps Barback, Kauze, and... Would. And thatís this issue alone.

We donít know if Jewy Sabatay means "totally awesome band" in Serbian ó it might, and this band sings at least half its debutís songs in its native language ó but to the English speaker, itís like "Jewish sabbath day," making us wonder if there will also be a disclaimer about what the band doesnít do on Saturday, such as go outside, turn on the oven, or fuckiní roll.

Jewy. Sabatay.

But amusing names aside, Jewy Sabatay is a record for the band to be proud of. The style is highly reminiscent of Nirvana-style grunge, but heavier and more aggressive, particularly toward the beginning of the album. Call it alt-rock / metal, a little like Harmful do it, but with a more eclectic song approach.

Jewy Sabatay has some damn fine sections, like a song with heavy use of violin, and the band generally maintains a very sturdy hold on its craft, making listening to their self-titled record in its entirety an effortless task.

The guitars are rich and heavy, the drumming solid, and the vocals work well ó perhaps more so in a performance sense than a talent one. Just as importantly, Jewy Sabatayís sound production is commendable, tying all the elements together in an honest and complementary way. Jewy Sabatay are good at creating grooves that the listener can get into, and their songs stay away from territory that is too stale.

However, the greatness of the impact of this record alone is not exactly huge. Itís a fine start, and itís an enoyable listen, but more trail blazing will be in order with this band to make Jewy Sabatay seem to be a milestone record. Nicer packaging and presentation would be a nice start. (6.2/10)

PS: Mandatory album name for Jewy Sabatay #2: Shomer Shabbas.

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

JUTE GYTE - Old Ways - CD - Jeshimoth - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Jute Gyteís Old Ways is in its entirety an interesting entry into the black metal canon. When we first heard it, we wanted to herald it as one of the most visceral black metal listening experiences in a long time, the kind of thing that reminded us of being scared and awed by the music when we first got into it years ago.

However, each successive listen has yielded diminishing returns. We blame the sound, which, although searing, eerie, and disturbing, sounds too reliant on digital plug-ins and in-the-box effects. The sense that Old Waysí sounds originated from people recording instruments with microphones rarely (if ever) crosses your mind. The impact of the album is done as much through caustic compression, to make the sounds seem "louder" and more "extreme" ó a cheap device used more and more by black metal bands looking to make a mark ó but here, it works, or at least well enough to make for an appropriately sickening listening experience, which is all the more strong when played at higher volumes.

Despite these shortcomings, thereís definitely uniqueness to be heard in Jute Gyteís work. Implementation of electronics, applications of dissonant feedback, and a twisted compositional flair are all done in a way that hasnít been heard exactly like this before. The songs are excruciatingly long and painful (apply those adjectives to just about every single aspect of this record, while youíre at it), with very minimal, buried drum machine percussion ó in fact, the percussion just as often seems to come from the application of distortion swells ó semi-isolated anguished / frustrated BM vocals, some use of melody, generally presented in droning fashion, and in an unusual way, with each songís notes telling the sci-fi fantasy horror tale of some grotesque creature being killed in a loosely-related concept tale. (How this coincides with a title like "Old Ways," or classic, old-timey cover art, seems scatterbrained.)

Rating Jute Gyteís Old Ways is a little misleading. Itís quite interesting, but the quality of the music itself, and indeed its lasting artistic value, is up for debate. However, that this record has the potential to make a strong impact, and that it does not rely on a tried and true, rehashed formula, is certain, and for that reason alone, we can recommend listening to it. (7/10)

PS: However, if you want to hear something like this done solidly through and through, and with much better replay value, check out Wrath of the Weak first, if you havenít already.

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

KAUZE - Epiphany - CD - Unbound Mind Productions - 2008

review by: Roberto Martinelli

A sign when people feel all good names have been taken up is when bands start naming themselves Kauze. Kauze is like cause, but with a little gauze. It's not as retarded as Would or Barback (and can't even touch Jewy Sabatay), but it's more inane, which is sort of worse.

The Epiphany EP is a respectable affair, however. It's mostly simple, thrashy music with Nu metal trappings, and the last of the five songs is a slower, more ballady number that in its right is more musically adventurous.

Epiphany is played professionally throughout, and the production is similarly high-echelon. The vocals are decently performed, but their 2nd-rate Chuck Billy meets Skinlab delivery, punctuated by some of that tough guy, faux singing youíre likely to associate (again) with Nu metal, doesnít exactly feel inspired.

More could be written about the benefits and limitations of Epiphany, but succinctly itís well-performed music whose excitement is never longer than momentary. The cover art has catchy colors. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Roberto
 

KISSER, ANDREAS - Hvbris I & II - CD - Mascot Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The red flags waved vigorously at the arrival of the solo album of Sepulturaís guitarist, Andreas Kisser. Solo albums in general more often than not suffer from a lack of dimension and poignancy, but a solo record form a musician in a band that has released dire records for years is dubious... and Hvbris I & II is a *double* album.

Disk one plays out exactly as the generic script calls for: largely half-baked songs whose best qualities are that they have good groove, but good riffs, good vocals, or a good reason for buying this album, are essentially absent. The most memorable songs on disk 1 are something like post-Max Sepulturaís slowest, grooviest, most Brazilian-flavored tunes, but even more relaxed, and often with choruses that are on the wrong side of the catchy fence.

Disk two is much better. The focus is more on classical composition and instrumental performance, and there are more than a few nice pieces to enjoy. However, the overall mood is still of a collection of compositions that donít exist together with a great deal of poignancy, and that one of the more remarkable pieces (the wind quintet on "0120") was arranged and performed by no one named Andreas Kisser.

If you still decide to get this record, you might as well throw the first disk away. The second disk has got some decently good stuff on it, but like the bulk of famous bandsí membersí solo albums, thereís not a great deal of relevance to listening to this while so much other great music is being released all the time. And if for some reason you want a great solo album made by a musician from a famous Brazilian metal band, try Kiko Loureiroís No Gravity, which, unlike what the promotion for Hvbris I & II is trying to make us swallow, actually contains a great deal of shredding. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

KORPBLOD - Uraldrig Samklang - CD - korp_blod@hotmail.com - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Powerful, monolithic, minimal, distant, mesmerizing, yet deeply romantic, Korpblod's second album is a good example of things done right. The duo of Disa (guitars, additional instruments) and Ulf (vocals, drums) are no strangers or newcomers to the Swedish black metal scene, although their other bands may not be the first name on everyone's mouths. But underexposed doesn't have to equate low quality, and if you're looking to discover a good, less-known band, this self-release is your chance.

Don't pay attention to the current trends ó listening to a random moment, Uraldrig Samklang ("Ancient Wisdom") will seemingly give you the most of the ingredients that every depressed, suicidal, Burzum-worshipping band uses, but Korpblod are neither depressed nor suicidal ó they know what they are about and they are entranced. Nature, ancient Gods, forests, vast skies and distant wolves all find their place on Uraldrig Samklang ó if not directly, then by association, evocation or simply instinct.

The guitars are massive and simple, not overly original, but in spite of that, completely engaging. For all the riff simplicity and extraordinary song lengths, Korpblod also employed a substantial amount of wizardry to always keep things changing and evolving. Ulf's screams never sound dull or predictable, and the drums range between tribal and blackened, constantly bringing the necessary changes. Combined with some pensive, minimalist clean parts, sparse but effective additional sounds and clean vocals, almost seventy minutes of Uraldrig Samklang pass, slowly, steadily, but still as if in a moment. A solemn, introspective moment, and depending on your mood, it can be either just a moment of good music or a connection to the times long gone. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

KNIGHT AREA - Realm of Shadows - CD - Laser's Edge - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Like their last album, Under a New Sign, Knight Area forges on in their sissified, expert prog rock mission with 2009's Realm of Shadows.

The new album sounds less adventurous and more close to its guns as far as the song approach goes, always going for (and succeeding in) weaving harmonically superb music. Despite its progginess, Knight Area can make records that can engage the musicianís ear in dissecting the compositional elements, as well as being a pleasant backdrop during a drive with friends.

The knack is in the sonic choices. The music and the vocals all sit audially in a place that makes them easy to swallow, giving Realm of Shadows a kind of candy-coated aspect that isnít quite plastic, but goes down as smooth as something as prog keyboard-heavy as this kind of music can be.

The vocals are better sung and produced this time around, but aside from that, the album isnít as remarkable as the last one. The songs are all well-done and pleasant to listen to, but they run together as variations on the same thing more than they pace the progression of an album. As it stands, Realm of Shadows is a modern take on a decades-old style that contains a bit of old Rush, a couple hints of proggier Dream Theater, and a bunch of Genesis, wrapped up in a sweet-tasting package that is something like the sonic equivalent of a warm breeze in a childrenís cartoon (how about "Moomin"?). Itís light, itís fluffy, itís harmless... but at the same time, itís full on prog rock, and the guys in the band know what theyíre doing. (7/10)

PS: ... know what theyíre doing except for a passage that contains a "sinister" voice talking about something along the lines of the end of the world, which then segues into more dainty, keyboard-heavy prog rock. The incongruousness is hilarious... about as much as the proposed marriage of rather morbid CD art with the actual music that this band does. It only makes things look silly.

 

 

 

 
1/10 Roberto
 

LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR - War Metal Battle Master DVD - CD - Southern Lord - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Three-piece Lair of the Minotaur went into a desert for a couple days with a couple dingy, chunky chicks, sprayed Ďem with blood, got a lot of guts from the local butcher, some buffed guys, fantasy swords and neato barbarian accouterments, and made a video. And this DVD is the testament.

Videos generally suck, and metal videos always suck. Despite the cost and time put into them, it would take about 50 times more money and knowhow to make a metal video that didnít embarrass or belittle the bandís music and vision.

As it is, the War Metal Battle Master DVD is a ridiculous, puerile waste of time. It wonít make you want to listen to Lair of the Minotaurís more, and if you like their albums, youíll like them less now.

The focus of the DVD is all around the video for a 4-minute song, and then the even more inane documentation of how they applied the fake blood and, whee, how much fun men had spraying the chicks.

Banned in 31 countries? Doubtful. "Graphic violence and nudity?" No. We shall waste no more of our time discussing the irrelevence of this video.

The DVD would have gotten a 0.2/10 if not for the 11 live songs documented here, which are buried in the DVD menu via an arrow which you have to hunt for. The live material makes the DVD only relatively better, as the footage is as good as it can get as far as someone holding a handy-cam in the audience goes, with muffled sound, audio that doesnít match up with the video, and songs that are broken up by scrolling credits that last 10 seconds each time, making viewing the pieces even more of a chore. Aborted after four songs.

Forget it. This DVD is a fiasco. The live songs at least give it some musical value, but thereís no polishing this turd. Should you listen to Lair of the Minotaur? Yes, you should. Get their records, theyíre good. Should you pay $14 for this video, or even watch it for free? Hell, no. (1/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Pal
 

LEATHERWOLF - New World Asylum - CD - N.I.L.8. Records - 2007

review by: Pal Meentzen

The roots of Leatherwolf go back as far as 1981. It is remarkable that today the band is back to a line-up that is for 3/5ths identical with the one from their eponymous EP from 1984, and they have remained true to style, similar to the likes of Queensryche, Savatage and Iron Maiden, still sounding as if it were 1989.

This is no surprise, considering that most of their releases came out in that decade. Their musical output in the Ď90s was next to nil, and after a set of demos and numerous line-up changes (especially with regard to vocalists) 2006's World Asylum was their first real full-length since Street Ready, from 1989. Whether you are going to like this New World Asylum depends entirely on what can be regarded as relatively accessible heavy metal. It borders on the edge of what is mainstream and "extream."

Michael Olivieri has managed to come very close to the sound of previous and short-time vocalist Wade Black, although being not quite as flexibile in the falsetto register. But since such differences are only noticeable at close hearing, itís not likely that anyone would lose sleep over that.

The bigger problem with the vocals is that in the course of the album, Olivieriís vocals really start to get somewhat annoying, because theyíre delivered in such a gimmicky and theatrical manner that itís very hard to take them seriously. This distracts from the music and goes at the expense of an otherwise fairly ballsy album with lots of Van Halenesque solos. But what can you say? Itís the original vocalist, so eventually it may all be just a matter of an aquired taste.

The soundsettings for the drums seem to have been modelled around those of Lars Ulrich around the time of Metallicaís "Black Album." It doesnít say heís as unimaginative as Ulrich, but he sounds like an upgraded Ulrich who would have technically developed more after Metallicaís millionseller.

Drummer and producer Dean Roberts has given this album a strong retro-feel, with the difference that the themes in the lyrics are not at all about fun and girls, but about a violent society in which itís all a matter of dog eat dog, destitute of divine intervention and being left to oneís own devices.

The problem with this is that although being an okay album within its style, the music is not as compelling as the lyrics and artwork promise. In that light, it doesnít quite deliver what itís advertising, and as a result it moves more towards a mainstream creation that tends to get a bit bland and formulaic at some point.

Should anyone feel tempted to own both World Asylum and New World Asylum? If there are any reasons, probably only the die-hard fans of Leatherwolf, or those who care to compare. Instead, one could better have a go with Meliah Rageís The Deep and Dreamless Sleep, an album that came out a few months after the original release of World Asylum and featured a vocalist ó and not a drummer ó who sounded like he was in Metallica. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Roberto
 

LUTEMKRAT - The Last Survivor - CD - Bleak Art Records - 2007

review by: Roberto Martinelli

One-man project Lutemkratís first full-length album, The Last Survivor, is a good, accomplished effort in the black metal canon. The tones have a lush brightness to them, while simultaneously carrying a welcome, moody heaviness. Even the programmed drums have a richness to them, as opposed to the stale, tinny qualities most often associated with drum machines.

Artistically, Lutemkrat puts together enjoyable songs that string together to make a palatable album. The progressions are judicious, and the overall sense of how the album holds together is well-conceived. Itís the sense, however, that the music made is a bit too much like something standard that youíve heard before many a time that prevents The Last Survivor from having a life beyond two to three enjoyable listens from start to finish. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.8/10 Mladen
 

MAGNUM CARNAGE - More Unreal Than a Box of Precious Metal and Radioactive Ore - CD - magnum.carnage@gmail.com - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Now, we've heard it all. In one CD. Whatever you got, Magnum Carnage has more. The kinds of music and playing you'd never manage to count, they're all here. Things you'd never put together in one sentence, let alone in one album ó much less every song ó they just do it.

But don't confuse More Unreal Than a Box of Precious Metal and Radioactive Ore with one of those new, spastic bands with 1000 playing styles in 15 minutes. Here, you get 68 minutes of perfectly coherent ó ummm, yes, coherent ó music. No matter if it's blastbeats, double kicks, thrash, growls, auto-tuned whiny vocals, neo-classical or blues (or rock, nu metal, death metal, black, jazz, grind, pop, more grind... we could go on, but you wouldn't get the general idea anyway), this album is fluid and coherent. Even more, it's artistic and emotional.

We're afraid to think of it, but it actually, maybe, probably, has a structure. And it constantly sounds like one and the same band. Through and through. There are 22 songs, between a minute and six minutes long, yet they are all complete, just as this album (look above for the title, damn it) is.

Also, don't start thinking that Magnum Carnage are one of the "modern" bands ó the sound is almost mono, there are no usual, modern, expendable ways of expression, and every single bit sounds time-tested and catchy. It's still music, just not the kind you're used to hearing.

There's no way in hell that More Unreal Than a Box of Precious Metal and Radioactive Ore (thank you, Microsoft, for the copy / paste option) won't cause a reaction. If one moment, the music starts sounding too experimental, or too touchy, there will always come ten more moments to beat you up, and the next time you listen to the CD, the moments will switch places.

There are no transcendental secrets here, no divine, sublime inspiration, just someone bursting at the seams, full of ideas, and trying to send them your way all in the course of listening to one single CD. It's devastating. By the time Magnum Carnage are done with you, you will feel violated, desecrated, confused and physically exhausted. And still, you'll be thinking that, considering how easy they made it sound, it really wasn't much of an effort on their side. You wouldn't believe one band is capable of doing all of this, so there's no other way than getting it and hearing for yourself. (8.8/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

MAGNUM CARNAGE - Deathscythe/I Watched Them Die - CD - magnum.carnage@gmail.com - 2000

review by: Mladen äkot

Thoroughly devastated by Magnum Carnage's latest output, More Unreal Than a Box of Precious Metal and Radioactive Ore, of course we were interested to head this one. It's a two-track cassette, though, so there's not much to talk about: well played, rocking, straightforward thrash metal.

There are almost no traces of what was to come nine years later, but admittedly you'll hear some atypical elements, such as a song ending with a combination of a piano and a guitar solo, suggesting that this Hawaiian outfit was aiming for more than just "standard."

On the other track, the keyboards are more prominent, and the vocals thinner, making I Watched Them Die something that might have been taken straight off a King Diamond album. We're not entirely sure you need this cassette, as it would really feel more complete with more than one track in a given style per side, but if you have More Unreal Than a Box of Precious Metal and Radioactive Ore and you are curious about how the whole thing started, it might be worth checking out. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Pal
 

MASTER - Collection of Souls (re-issue) - CD - Pulverised Records - 2009

review by: Pal Meentzen

"Lay down your soul to the gods rock and roll!" Thus spoke Cronos on the genre-defining Venom classic Black Metal. That was as far back as 1982. In that sense, 1993, when Masterís Collection of Souls was originally released, doesn't seem that long ago.

Collection of Souls is like a tribute to the movement of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but with a production according to punk standards. In those days, the relatively new (but in the US underground scene, already hugely popular) band called Master owed more than just a little to the often mocked and scorned men of Venom. Main man Paul Speckmann sounds an awful deal like Cronos, yet he gets away with it, because they obviously donít try to sound exactly like Venom, but merely want to invoke the energy and exitement of their music.

To todayís standards, the production is pretty horrible. On the actual album tracks, the vocals are too low in the mix, the backing guitars are buzzing carefully as if not to tread on anything, and the snare drum sounds wimpy. On the other hand, the solo guitars are very much to the front and the bass drum is very discernible.

But even a lot worse sounding are the bonus demo tracks, a downright disaster, which have drums to the front in a most exaggerated manner while the other instruments are bubbling in a big black cauldron with spluttering porridge. Whoever hears this demo will wonder what was so special about them, because apart from the obvious DIY and "fuck you!" charm they sound incredibly local on this. But itís a demo, so theyíre excused for that.

Then thereís another set of three bonus tracks from 1996 that were included on an extremely limited vinyl split with Dutch band Excision.
The guitar intro on the first of those songs "Cast the First Stone," is extremely, but not surpisingly similar to Venomís title tune from Black Metal. However, this time the vocals sound much more guttural. Again, the production sounds like a wreck, but itís strangely enough more balanced than any of the previous recordings.

From this release, it is both understandable (as it is not) how Master could become such a popular act. All of these recordings, taken from three different sessions, sound as if they could have been taken from an underground tape from the mid Ď80s, and perhaps thatís where the essence of it all is hidden: the attitude of DIY and not caring about compromises or knee-jerks towards big labels. Irony has it that until 1993, Master was signed to Nuclear Blast, which wasnít a particulary small fish in the pond either. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

MEMORY DRIVEN - Relative Obscurity - CD - I Hate Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

The music on Relative Obscurity is quite good. Even excellent at times. But there's not much of it. Or: an hour of something, but only maybe a half of it is actual music.

The good news is that Memory Driven really know how to write groovy, elaborated melodies that are somewhere between grunge, stoner and rock, but played with more energy. The vocal lines are catchy and although played through some old-radio sound effect, they sound right. The bass work is excellent as well, you can actually hear it, too, and many would be proud if they could come up with something like Memory Driven's guitar melodies.

And then they stop. Just as you start getting into a song, it gets interrupted. By what? Synthetic sounds, keyboards, warbling and plinking. Pretend sci-fi sounds, whatever they are, they are at the end of every song, instead of a proper ending. We're not talking outros, we're talking a couple of minutes of something that absolutely doesn't belong here, after each damned track. As much as we want to hear the next track, after a while, all this just gets annoying. If Memory Driven did it once or twice, maybe at the ending of the whole CD, not at the ending of each and every song, we'd be much more interested. After the 4th or 5th track, frankly, we had enough. And yes, we did hear the whole album more than a few times, but still when we really wanted to enjoy it, we couldn't.

Thirty minutes of this, and you'll stop caring about the next song and just wish Memory Driven remastered the whole thing, threw those superfluous parts back into outer space or wherever they came from, and tried again. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

METHADRONE - Better Living (Through Chemistry) - CD - Consouling Sounds - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Methadrone, Craig Pillardís rebirth, impressed us last year as a solid ambient album, and Better Living (Through Chemistry) is an even more surprising progression.

The latest album is more developed in its song writing, yet still retains its initial roots. As good as Better Living is, though, we canít help but note how much it sounds like Jesu. A lot like Jesu, in fact. Like Jesu meets Lycia, with a bit of the dark, semi-acoustic ambient sounds youíd hear on a Glass Throat Recordings release. So while the album is a very fine listen, with excellently crafted tones and performances, and the progress is noted, maybe some progress in a more original direction in the future will yield more relevance. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

MOORE, VINNIE - To the Core - CD - Mascot Records - 2009

review by: Avi Shaked

Oh, another guitar instrumental album ó aren't there enough of these? We realize guitar aficionados and technicians need them for inspiration (or imitation), but don't expect us to vouch for their necessity.

To the Core is a bit different, though. It should be reviewed as an instrumental album, and not just a guitar album. There are lots of tasty numbers here ó tracks that rely on Vinnie Moore's compositional skills as a vehicle to an all around attack by a firm, groovy band.

In fact, those who are looking for Vinnie the Shredder might be disappointed. Sure, the music has its heavy edge, due to some distortion-loaded guitar rhythms, and there are fast, captivating guitar tricks every now and then, but overall the album's spirit is melodic and lighthearted, and in a good sense. Moore doesn't impose his technical skills on the compositions, but rather tames them in order to produce music that is emotive and memorable.

The tracks offer just enough variety to hang on to. The electrifying opener "Fly" features some spacey keyboards, "Soul Caravan" benefits from uncredited sax (by Hank "Hurricane" Carter, according to our research), "Jigsaw" hints at southern rock with its slide guitar maneuvers, the theme of "Over My Head" echoes with the moving qualities of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," and "Into the Open Highway" builds on massive staccato rhythms. The album's production is masterful, enhancing the various shades of the compositions while holding them in symbiosis. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
1.5/10 Roberto
 

MUNRUTHEL - Oriana Tales (re-issue) - CD - Gardarika Musikk - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Oh, no. Despite some attractive cover art, and pages and pages of lyrics in what we believe is Ukranian, Oriana Tales is a nightmare of yawning and wincing.

Within its first eight minutes or so, Oriana Tales firmly establishes itself as one of those hilarious "dark" ambient releases in which the lone, closeted lunatic responsible tries to make the creepy-weepiest sounds possible using unpleasantly synthetic means, like twinkly canned chimes and phony lapping waves. And someone deemed the world needed this to be *re*issued.

The going gets a bit better on track three or four, where some musical composition appears, but itís only relatively better, with stale-sounding drum machine and more synthesizers. The music, from start to finish, feels programmed, which leaves the listener with the album equivalent of a toy found at a dollar store in Chinatown. If it werenít for the acceptably performed black metal vocals, there would be no element of humanity to this music.

While a lengthy keyboard passage about midway through Oriana Tales provides some better moments, itís like giving a starving man a salt cracker... itís the best damn salt cracker heís ever tasted, but itís still just a salt cracker.

Thirty-five minutes in, and thereís a piece with sounds that are like guitars, drums, musical arrangements... hey! A song! And after only a half-hour plus of wait! And itís not bad at all... compositionally. This goes for a good amount of Oriana Tales: the composition and arrangement could be made into good music, but it all sounds like junk. And now thereís a spoken word piece thatís like a fascist military coup is taking place in someoneís bedroom, while the invading toy soldiers look on, and weíve had enough.

Much of Oriana Tales could fit in decently to a video game soundtrack featuring quirky, darkly loveable characters in the mold of Tim Burtonís animations. Like that old Playstation game "Medievil." But as a seriously intended black metal release, itís a joke, especially when attempting to marry the phoney baloney sounds with a photo of a guy breathing fire onto a makeshift upside down cross, which is the most true aspect of the whole album. Grah. (1.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

MY OWN GRAVE - Necrology - CD - Pulverised Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

If there are people who worship the "if it's not broken don't fix it" old school thrash, black or heavy metals, it's reasonable to assume there will be enough of those who think that nothing important happened since the Ď90s death metal. So, My Own Grave's second album should, in those circles, be totally welcome.

Absolutely nothing new, these Swedes simply know how to do it. No two songs are equal, there are no pointless parts, and this 35-minute release sounds like it is 60 minutes long. There's just so much inside. Deadly trademark Swedish grooves like in the best of the ol' days, hyperblastbeats, amazing and perfectly balanced sound, throaty, meaty growls, intelligent anti-Christian lyrics, and riffs upon riffs, all of them good. Seriously.

Borrowing from everywhere, but never too obviously, Necrology still sounds like a coherent, self-sufficient, brutal, technical, melodic and thundering entity. Though, when saying "melodic," we simply mean "fluid" (No modern Gothenburg melodies here, My Own Grave are from Sundsvall) and if there's one complaint, it's just that some of the riffs are good while they last, but hard to remember afterwards. It's old school, remember.

But, seriously, this time "Swedes do what Swedes do" sounds as good as it ever did. We actually once listened to it straight after Slaughter of the Soul, and it more than held its own. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

NECRONOCLAST - Haven - CD - Moribund Records - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

It has been said that increased activity in the same part of the brain is responsible for both depression and creativity. So, depressive people should, if they manage to pull themselves out of the misery pit, be very creative. You know, like maybe in the form of grandiose, inspired, emotional, dark music that exactly tells you where it came from.

And then, there's this new wave of "instant depression," and Necronoclast is neither the first nor the last example. He got the tone, the sub-tones, under-tones and over-tones right. However, he didn't get any music right ó or wrong, though, and there is not much to speak of.

Haven sounds like most of the nine songs were based on two, maximum three chords, a bit more drum rhythms and around one screaming pattern. A few clean parts sometimes carry something resembling a melody, but they don't feel important. We've heard this kind of a thing done by Xasthur the right way, and after listening to any Xasthur album at least you'll be able to remember something. With Necronoclast, there's just the sound. People should stop trying to do this, for the sake of black metal. It's not "moody," "ambient," "depressive" or anything but boring. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
8.9/10 Ignacio
 

NO DOCTORS - Origin & Tectonics - CD - nodoctors.com - 2008

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

No Doctors really, really want to surprise you. Origins & Tectonics is a whole album about taking post-punk traditions and obliterating whatever normality was left in them. It's about taking the best of artists as diverse as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Hank Williams, Bauhaus and even Tom Waits, and bringing it to the 21st century, at any cost. But most of all, it's about making it intense, sometimes plain crazy, yet attractive at the same time.

The highest point of Origins & Tectonics isn't how much No Doctors destroy post-punk or their intensity... it's how their rhythms are nuts. They sometimes use brass instruments as if they were guitars or violins, guitars as if like banjos or like little noise makers, vocals as if like bass, and sometimes drums play a large part in the melodic aspect. What's superficially just a little odd album is an absolute oddball when carefully listened. It's all crazy, there are segments where they use sax and guitar in a contrapuntal way but in a more free-jazz environment, others where they sound like Joe Cocker playing no-wave, and sometimes you even get an old-school Wilco vibe for some seconds before they go the Tom Waits route.

Yet the album strangely feels like an album, a rock album at that, and the songs strangely feel like songs. While it's obviously not Hot Topic-marketable, Origin & Tectonics is palatable enough as soon as you give up your expectations of an average Americana album. The strong songwriting will force you to, probably. It's not your usual songwriting where songs being and end logically, but nothing feels forced, even the most unexpected turns flow naturally. And, incredibly, Origin & Tectonics is a maximalistic album. It might not be overlayered, but it's full to the top of interesting, quirky or odd lines, many at the same time, even in the most stripped-down songs on it.

While it is an oddball of an album, you need to hear it. Origin & Tectonics is a remarkable piece of music where compositional and technical cliches get thrown out of a window, plus it's interesting to see a band cover so much ground while not losing cohesion and still making it sound like a rock album. (8.9/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

NOCTURNAL - Violent Revenge - CD - Displeased Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

German time warp strikes again! Yes, another band sounding like they were shot straight out of the Ď80s, terribly obsolete, totally charming and absolutely ass-kicking.

Nocturnal mean business. No weak riffs, no dull moments, just plain old speed thrash with blackened vocals. Violent Revenge is just fun. The guitarist absolutely shreds, which is even more amusing considering that this "Evil Avenger" is none other but the Avenger from Varghkoghargasmal (truth be told, including a dozen other bands too) - no mistakes here, no ambiance - and no mercy either. Atomic warfare, nun desecrations and conjurations of hell's forces sound as fresh as ever thanks to Tyrannizer's growls, and although the sound you hear could be straight from an old cassette - it's done right. If you still remember old Destruction or Sodom's "Ausgebombt" days, this one is for you. The only complaint we have is that Violent Revenge didn't come with a bullet belt. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
recommended for Novermbers Doom fans/10 Roberto
 

NOVEMBERS DOOM - The Novella Vosselaar Live in Belgium - DVD - The End Records - 2008

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Novembers Doom isnít much to look at on stage, but they put on a fine performance on this live DVD. The sound is high quality, and those that enjoy their music will be satisfied with this release. What wonít be satisfactory is if the disk has trouble being read and keeps freezing, as it did on our player around song three or four. Not good. (Recommended for Novembers Doom fans/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Knowing (issue No 2)  

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

OBTEST - Gyvybes Medis - CD - Osmose Productions - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

"Authentic" is probably the best thing you can say about a folk-pagan metal band nowadays, and Obtest are right there. Authentic, so much that they make most other bands of the similar (only by categorization) sort sound alike.

There's no Moonsorrow, Finntroll or even Skyforger here, no gentle folksy interludes, either, no drinking songs, no war epics, no flutes, accordions, pipes, bagpipes, no sing-along anthems (unless you know Lithuanian, as all the lyrics are in Obtest's mother tongue), no songs about fallen brothers, magic forests and frozen wastelands, either. What else? Never mind, you name it, you expect it... Obtest don't have it. No cliches.

At first, it's totally strange ó a strange band blasting and speeding and a curious vocalist, and unless you go closer ó or, better, louder ó there's not much "folk" happening. But it's there, everywhere. In the riffs, in the melodies, solos... even the chords they use aren't your ordinary chords.

Each song has its own theme and progression and although mostly playing speed metal, the speed falls into the background when you realize what the singer is doing. It's great, and you need to get used to it. He's not doing what you're used to. Now, for all we know, the vocal lines might be well-known Lithuanian pop tunes or actual folk songs, or completely new... but it doesn't matter. You feel the energy in an almost punk way, and damn, we haven't heard choruses this catchy in a long while.

Do yourself a favor and check Gyvybes Medis ("Tree of Life") out. It's Obtest's fourth full-length and they've been around since 1992. Give it a few casual spins in the background; you need some time to get used to the "new" way of doing "ancient." And then give it one serious blast. The sound is awesome, there won't be any problems.

We promise, by the third track you'll be converted, and if the last track (an instrumental called "Ikaitai," which means "hostages") doesn't make you do the folk dance / headbanging / jumping in your room, you can ask for your money back or simply kill yourself. Before you do that, send us your copy as we have a feeling that this CD is going to melt soon. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Ignacio
 

PAGANUS - Paganus - CD - Total Rust - 2008

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

The thing about vocals that people don't seem to get is that you don't use the vocals as anything other than an instrument. It might be tempting to add vocals where they aren't required so people will call whatever you're working on a "song," but there has to be something to justify it, be it an interesting timbre, a good melodic line, or whatever fits the piece. It's not a free pass into Professional Music Land, and it's definitely not something you just improvise over the background unless you're, say, Captain Beefheart or Billie Holiday. Relevant to the topic at hand, Paganus got it all wrong.

That out of the way, Paganus is not a bad album at all. Not adventurous enough, yes, conservative to the point of complete unoriginality, sure, but on the instrumental level, it works. The problem is that the vocalist is out of place. Not just a little bit, he's completely unrelated to the band's sound. The riffs are a mix of funeral sludge and doom, yet the vocalist sometimes sounds like he's in a metalcore band and sometimes in a tough guy hardcore one. Where the sound calls for a deep guttural voice or some hellish screams, you get some of the most run of the mill vocals they could have gotten.

On the other hand, some riffs are great, the atmosphere more often than not works well, the arrangements are far better than the genre average, and it's well-produced. The songs are decent as well, disregarding the lack of originality. It's just that the vocals break the flow constantly. Constantly.

Paganus is a well-produced and enjoyable yet ultimately unoriginal album with some downright terrible vocals that manage to destroy almost every single good moment of the album. So the 5/10 is pretty much an average between the two halves of the album, instrumentation and vocals. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

PERSONA NON GRATA - Shade in the Light - CD - Sensory/Lasers Edge - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Greek prog metal band Persona Non Grataís Shade in the Light is a work that exhibits fine form, but suspect function.

In terms of performance and ability, Persona Non Grata is up to speed with the quality level of the worldís premier prog metal label... for the most part. Shade in the Light sounds like a professionally assembled album through and through, and although the singerís good, it often sounds like heís trying to push himself out of his comfortable range and is straining just so he can adhere to whatever a prog metal singer is supposed to sound like. Either that, or the vocal parts are just unmusical and bland.

Just as importantly, Persona Non Grataís approach might be too proggy for its own good. Theyíve got zig-zagging bells and whistles galore, as one would expect, but the result here is that Shade in the Light seems to spin its wheels, yet not really go anywhere. No killer riffs or musical phrases (note: Shade in the Light is not a riff-oriented metal album), no catchy melodic vocal phrases, and practically no memorable song constructions... just a band that can put together a top-notch sounding prog metal record.

Never die fans of prog metal will probably want this album regardless of its shortcomings. Persona Non Grata can remind of Circus Maximus in spots, and the singing style can sometimes recall Italian power metal group Highlord. Persona Non Grata is a relatively poor band on a great label, and the artwork and visual layout wonít help. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

PESTILENTIAL SHADOWS - In Memoriam, Ill Omen - CD - Pulverised Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

In Memoriam, Ill Omen seems at first like a quality black metal record, firmly entrenched in genreís musical form. But with each listen, the album becomes more endearing, the music and compositions more meaningful, until six listens in, when each song is a journey of monolithic beauty. And the album should only get better with even more familiarity.

Pestilential Shadowsí style hangs around in the upper-regions of mid-paced. However, the band still manages to infuse their craft with much tasty dynamics and smart compositional punctuation, like excellent use of sinister, lovely clean movements and some of the better riffs heard in a black metal album, ever. The superb way the parts communicate and flow with each other make for an album in which each song is distinct... a sad rarity in the world of metal in which the norm is more often a bunch of well-played, enjoyable tracks whose parts would sound just as good if cut up and randomly re-pasted together.

Thereís nothing flashy about their musicianship, but Pestilential Shadows play their expressive and coherent songs solidly. The sound of In Memoriam, Ill Omen has aspects of dirt and rawness, mixed in with some slicker factors, which donít clash with each other, allowing the music to come across powerfully, while achieving a fine black metal vibe, where it sounds like a capable band actually playing their music.

In Memorian, Ill Omen has only the potential to grow on the listener more with time, and it is definitely one of the best black metal albums heard this year. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.2/10 Mladen
 

PYRAMIDO - Sand - CD - Total Rust - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

So, you have an elephant and a Darkthrone / My Dying Bride style band logo with inverted crosses on the front, some fake Cyrillic letters all around, and a Swedish doom band inside. Could have been a lethal combination in a parallel universe.

In this universe, it's listenable... for a while. The riffs are all good, if not overly original, but they do their stoner thing right, and actually have a sterile / dry sound that matches the album and band names. The songs are diverse enough as well, and taking into account the band's self-proclaimed "true pure anti-speed metal" approach ó they serve their purpose, which is, well, being songs.

The drums are good, too. Pyramido has one of those drummers able to play slow songs without being boring.

But the vocalist kills it all. He's singing, scratch that, screaming, hardcore. His vocals are dry. But. Too loud. Boring. Too early. Too all the same. Too everywhere. Ruining the atmosphere. What could have been decent average stoner songs. Just shut up. Turn the volume down. Whatever. Don't scream. Wrong band. Just. Please.

In the end, Sand will just make you want to try another CD. Pass. (4.2/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

ROOT - Zjeveni (re-issue) - CD - I Hate Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

It's hard to explain the feeling, but Root's 1990 debut, Zjeveni, sounds like an album everybody already has ó not like something new copied from somewhere, but like one of those old albums everyone started with. You know, when you were a kid, there were some albums every other metalhead seemed to have, sort of "standard" albums. But, apparently, it isn't the case. Everyone does not have Zjeveni. Time to fix that!

On this re-issue you are treated with one bonus track and three live tracks. Those live tracks show that out there, somewhere, everyone has Zjeveni, as all it takes for Big Boss to get the audience going is one word. But first things first ó Zjeveni, even without the bonuses, is a serious album. For starters, it's all in Czech ó to outsiders the language sounds quite tender (as opposed to, say, German) but when you hear Big Boss singing Satanic lyrics in his own language (and trust us, he does sound like a "big," adult person with a deep and demented voice) it isn't quite the same as listening to Scandinavian teenagers screaming about infernal stuff. It's scary. The guitars have a peculiar, slightly aged but still acceptable sound by todayís standards. Very reverbed, strongly distorted, and a bit distant, especially from the rest of the band, but still here and threatening.

And, the riffs are nearly classic, most of them. If they aren't slow and heavy, they are fast and furious, not exactly the kind you'd normally associate with clean (as much as they can be called "clean," considering Big Boss' bellowing voice) vocals. Combine that with classy drums, vicious solos and a distinct atmosphere, and you get an album as good as anything King Diamond has ever done. We're just using King Diamond as a reference as there's not much else to compare Root to, but don't take it too literally. Song after song, you get your money's worth, and then some. As almost always, with Root, you get a real album. One you can talk about to other people, asking them if they know this or that part, or singing those tunes to scare your buddies.

Oh wait, you can't sing in Czech? Neither can we, but it didn't stop us from trying. (8.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Kšrgeras/ Hell Symphony (reissue) (issue No 7)  
Black Seal (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
6.6/10 Mladen
 

ROOT - Temple in the Underworld (re-issue) - CD - I Hate Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Temple in the Underworld might not be every Root fan's first choice ó while it is true that some bands reach their peak on their third album, Root's 1992 release sounds like a softer side of the 1991 album, Hell Symphony. Where Hell Symphony was all thrashing and blazing, this one is all mid-tempo, narrative, melodic and heavy.

Come to think of it, Zjeveni has a bit of everything, Hell Symphony is a rougher take on the faster bits, and Temple in the Underworld is a refined take on the slower bits of Zjeveni.

Do you need this album? The hell we know. Some say it's one of Root's finest. Some say that's where they stopped paying attention. To this writer, it sounds well done, elaborated, with a few intriguing moments, but ultimately too narrative. That doesn't mean talking, but there is a concept behind it, and the music is more a back-up. And, as good as it sounds, because the production is fantastic, itís still too much mid tempo, with not much difference between the tracks.

Big Boss does his usual thing here, can't mistake this voice for anything else, but nine songs into the album and still nothing moves or changes except a keyboard instrumental. The ninth track is an acoustic ballad called "My Name," and it's the best track on Temple in the Underworld. The twelfth track is a joke-outro called "Freebee," which finally contains some blasting.

The ending of this re-release consists of two re-recorded tracks and a live track (to a total of 15). One re-recorded track finally sounds like classic Root (and it's in fact a re-recorded 1989 demo track), and the other one is a 2001 electric version of "My Name" from this same album. This one also sounds like proper Root, and the live track, "The Old Ones," sounds more interesting than the studio version here. Maybe because of the abysmal sound.

Truth be told, each song from Temple in the Underworld is individually very good, if not classic. It's just that the sum of them isn't that awesome. (6.6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Kšrgeras/ Hell Symphony (reissue) (issue No 7)  
Black Seal (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

ROTTING CHRIST - Non Serviam a 20 Year Apocryphal Story - CD - Season of Mist - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Rotting Christís early albums, from Thy Mighty Contract up till Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, was the pinnacle of the bandís output, and Non Serviam is the brightest jewel in that crown. Some on Malestromís staff might disagree, but when Rotting Christ moved away from the simple, effective riffing style and song approach with the unfortunate A Dead Poem, things were never the same. Since, the band has tried to re-invent itself by making things more hifalutin and fancy-pants, perhaps trying to be Greeceís response to Therion, where a back-to-basics approach was really what was called for.

Non Serviam, the 1994 album, is not only the best Rotting Christ record ever, itís in the higher echelon of flavor and personality in the black metal-related world. Simple yet moving, memorable riffs, progressions, arrangements and performances, this record will only become more cult as time passes.

Non Serviam a 20 Year Apocryphal Story is not a re-issue, nor a re-recording, but a double live album that commemorates a milestone in the bandís existence. Itís a highly attractive package, as two DVDs are also included, the note-for-note visual equivalent of what occurs on the audio disks, plus some tour footage and interviews.

From a purely technical standpoint, the footage and sound of the 4-disk package is commendable. Good, clear camera work, and very acceptable sound quality. The bandís performance is technically solid, as well.

However, in terms of what counts most, the emotion and feeling of the music played, Non Serviam a 20 Year Apocryphal Story is lacking. Naturally, the most anticipated songs to enjoy are the ones from the bandís best albums, but these are all played too hurriedly, detracting from the mood and vibe that is captured so well on the studio albums. And the post-Triarchy songs? Well, theyíre just dull. We seem to remember the studio albums that those songs are on to have about 20x more bells and whistles than the simple three-piece on stage on this live release, so weíre going to guess that people that were into Theogonia or Sanctus Diavolos, for example, will wonder where all the layers went.

Regrettably, Non Serviam a 20 Year Apocryphal Story, while being a fine, polished package, is more exciting in theory than in practice. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.75/10 Pal
 

RUMPELSTILTSKIN GRINDER - Living for Death, Destroying the Rest - CD - Relapse Records - 2009

review by: Pal Meentzen

About two years ago Maelstrom discussed a release from Azure Emote, Chronicles of an Aging Mammal (7/10). It was a very experimental album with a mix of metal and industrial, and a lot of insanity on top of that.

It was only a matter of time we would receive an album from a band closely related to that band, namely the thrash metal band Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, whoís guitarist, Ryan Moll, guested on Chronicles. On Living for Death, Destroying the Rest, Azure Emote mainman Mike Hrubovcak created the artwork, and he did a terrific job. The front cover sees a giant cyclops bursting out from the asphalt, a servant for a legion of vicious hobgoblins in search of chaos and destruction.

With the energy of old school thrash metal in the style of Slayer and with a whole lotta tongue in cheek, there are 10 offerings on this album. Indeed, one of those is titled "Beware the Thrash Brigade" ("Calling you, know itís true, join the few, thrashing throughÖ living for death, destroying the rest").

Rumplestiltskin Grinder deserves praise for its relentless drive and passionate manifesto. The songs have fun lyrics about sex with skeletons, ghouls sent into a killing frenzy, and the perils of betraying the secret society of thieves. I bet there have been minds at work with a keen eye for Dungeons & Dragons based RPG games, which seems somewhat unusual in this genre.

The main focus is on a three-part tale about "Dethroning the Tyrant," which is obviously the cyclops figure from the front cover. Heroes from the surface of the earth must counterstrike against hordes of darkness and misshapen minions. The first song describes a world besieged by a darkened kingdom from below, the second describes the evil hordes more in detail, and the third song is a call to rebellion against the Tyrant.

And this is the point when the story falls flat, unfortunately. The album ends with just this, but the outcome of this diplomatic move (on what is a generally violent album) remains unclear.

There is no point when the scene on the cover takes place, and this is slightly disappointing. Why no desperate battle with great losses on both sides and some room for intrigue and betrayal?

As it is now, there is just a loose script of a looming confrontation, but the story doesnít live up to the expectations that arise from the promising artwork. From the absence of a "to be continued" one may conclude that this is what the listener will have to make do with. Very "meh."

Finally, coming back to the music once again ó itís decent thrash metal and itís been nicely produced by Dan OíHare, who may be known by some from his production work on the hilarious XXX Maniak. Thereís little to complain about, but some might have liked the level of the vocals a bit higher up in the mix. And in addition to that, the vocals of Shawn Riley would have been better were they a bit more vitriolic and snarly as they still sound somewhat restrained here.

In fact, the whole album might have benefitted from a rougher sound to the extend of blood dripping and smoke spewing out the CD player. Eventually, Living for Death, Destroying the Rest, is a nice thrash metal album with great artwork. But it would have been better were it the other way round. (6.75/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

SAEL - Ocean - CD - Pictonian - 2007

review by: Mladen äkot

If Ocean was a more recent release, we'd say it was another victim of the "end trend" going around in black metal circles. Well, 2007 wasn't such a long time ago, so it's still fair to say it. Briefly, it means: the songsí parts sound like endings to proper songs.

Imagine a perfect Emperor song, or an album, and after all the battle, blasts and torment, imagine a few relaxed chords and an underlying melody or two, to safely escort you back to real life. Sael have a lot of moments like that, but unfortunately, nothing happened before them. They just start. They go.

The drum beat beneath the parts change from blastbeats and fast two bass drums to more regular beats, but nothing is happening. Maybe all the parts are in the same key, maybe they are all based on the same chords, who knows, but Sael struggle, blast, scream and remain unheard.

A few acoustic parts actually sound oceanic, but they appear without really having been called for, and the music remains static for the whole 31 minutes of this recording. Curiously, the most memorable bit is a riff from "Phantom of the Opera," used as a break, for a few seconds, and it's the only one you'll remember afterwards.

To their credit, this French crew knows their instruments, and the sound is very well done, but all the potential they have could be realized some time later. Not right now. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

SANCTIFICATION - Black Reign - CD - Pulverised Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Sanctificationís Black Reign is a nigh unrelenting assault of fast, rumbling, blasting drums, and a constant undercurrent of humming riffs. Stylistically, it evokes a more fluid-sounding Deicide, mixed with the crushed-under-a-tank-tread brutality of Vader, mixed with the kind of steady, dense churning of Panzerchrist, and presented with the kind of single-minded assault you might find on an Octinomos album, but less melodic, and much heavier.

The playing is air-tight, the drums sound impossible, and the music feels highly processed. But it works well. Black Reign has a fun, engaging energy, with good riffs and movement, despite the singularity of the songsí approach. Yes, the album is pretty much all in one tempo, the instruments are always doing the same kind of thing, and even the token slow song at the end is only relatively slow(er).

Weíre mentioning Dark Funeral because Emperor Magus Caligula is on one of the songs, but while weíre at it, Dark Funeral is another band that does the same thing every song, but this Black Reign record is welcome five times over any of Dark Funeralís albums. Black Reign is the same all the time, but that same thing works well, so itís recommended to fans of black and death metal. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Roberto
 

SANCTUS NEX - Aurelia - CD - Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Consistent with Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundationís catalog in general, black metal band Sanctus Nexís Aurelia resounds with a great sense of artistry. The canvernous, deep sound reflects a similar depth of thought and the desire to do something different.

Sanctus Nexís music comes across as brooding, with penchants for exploding into blasting rage at key times. The sinister aura is equally elegant, drawing some comparison to a more refined version of Vrolokís last album, Void, mixed with the quality of sound production and presentation on par with some of the greater albums that a high-art metal label like Prophecy Productions is known for.

Speaking of Prophecy, you could say Sanctus Nex is doing something along the lines of Secrets of the Moonís Privilegium, but doing it well. The tracks are not structured as songs, but rather as movements that piece together to form an entire work. As such, the repetition or re-introduction of parts is not a device that Sanctus Nex employs. For the most part, this approach works well, with Aureliaís finest highlights being when Sanctus Nex toys with the depth of the stereo field, introducing a variety of poignant textures to catch the listenerís ear. And unlike Privilegium, Aurelia doesnít make the mistake of going on and on forever.

As well as it works, however, Sanctus Nex hasnít quite nailed it to the point of making Aurelia an album for the ages. As it stands, the album is a highly listenable, tasty experience that welcomes further exploration into its composition and sound, which will yield positive returns. However, after three listens, the sense creeps up that the mystique of the work as a whole is partly from misdirection and obfuscation as it is from the real, existing element of artistic genius.

Finally, Aureliaís worth is solid. The production works perfectly for Sanctus Nexís aims, with all elements resounding richly in their place, complementing and building on one another. The music always maintains a level of interest, going through a bevy of appealing dark moods that maintain energy, and although the overall sense is that the music takes its time in building, the artists know when enough is enough. If you liked other ATMF artists such as Urna, then Sanctus Nex is particularly recommended to you. (7.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Roberto
 

SEMEN DATURA - Einsamkeit - CD - Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Semen Daturaís Einsamkeit marks another interesting, unique release by the ATMF label. The album in question is a progressive black metal recording whose strengths lie in its song craft, its catchy arrangements, interesting implementation of unusual elements, and recurring themes.

When Semen Datura is at its most raging, it can sometimes invoke images of Satyriconís baby brother, and by Satyricon, weíre talking about the bandís output before it started sucking, namely the excellent Rebel Extravaganza. And yet Einsamkeit can also recall the best days of Dornenreich, during their freak-out weird, artsy-fartsy, yet emotive and visceral album Her Von Welken Nachten, not in musical sound, necessarily, but how the parts are laid out. While weíre on comparisons, we can also draw some parallel to Klabautamann, another band with wild roots placed in a variety of wacky places that come together in an interesting, exciting, and unique fashion.

A bunch of varied comparisons to bands can mean one thing only: Semen Datura is an entirely original band. Einsamkeit likes to go into territory that would be almost funky and nearly-ass shaking if it werenít so loungy, and nearly loungy if it werenít so fast. The first song is the best of the lot, with tension build up, different sections of great groove and riff, and a bittersweet catharsis that makes it complete.

The other songs on Einsamkeit are also convolutedly crafted, ranging in dynamics and intent, which is a good thing. Most all of them have a theme or section that sets it apart, and even though it might not be the actual case, thereís something about the tracksí layout that make it feel like themes recur throughout the record, which also ties it together in a palatable way.

With that said, as much work has gone into writing Einsamkeit, as interesting and original the parts are, as excellent as the sound is (full, alive, coherent, yet never sounding fake) and as ultimately great the songs are, thereís still something missing that makes the album absolutely, totally, viscerally moving. As it is, itís a strong recommendation and a band you need to hear and keep an eye on. Get it. (7.8/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

S.C.A.L.P. - Chuzhaya Voina - CD - Bad Mood Man Music - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Chuzhaya Voina brings together a mostly doom style that erupts into more aggressive moments, then then goes into some rock ballad-esque numbers. The music is never bad, but never rises above a level of generically good.

Whatís really hurting this album, though, is the vocals, and, more importantly, the role that they play. The vocals are largely in that kind of delivery common to countries formerly part of the U.S.S.R., a delivery that evokes a rabid dog barking: hoarse, mean, and not particularly musical. Here, the dog barks attempt to be semi-melodic, or try to go off and do their own solo thing while the music does what itís doing, which results in consistently achieving the opposite of musicality. Itís ludicrous, especially considering how prominent the dorky vocals are placed in the mix, telling the listener that we should believe these vocals are a seriously viable anchor to hold the songs together. They are not.

Chuzhaya Voina would have been an average album, but the implementation of the terrible vocals make it an increasing drag to listen to. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

SHADOWFROST - Essence//Mindscape - CD - Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Impressive musicianship and commendable energy are on hand on Essence // Mindscape, but instances of passages containing lopey beats and incongruous musical elements reinforces the sense that Shadowfrost made this CD as much to show off as they did to write good music... and putting aside the razzle dazzle of the performances, Essence // Mindscape is more of a show than a work of art.

Itís a good album, but is the music amazing? No. The presence of the digitally amplified drums can sometimes get in the musicís way ó another element that lends the feeling this album exists as much as an homage to the enthusiasm of extreme, technical metal as it is something that can stand alone as a piece of finely crafted music, regardless of the niche itís trying to fit into. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

SHERINIAN, DEREK - Molecular Heinosity - CD - Inside Out - 2009

review by: Avi Shaked

 

The new album by the keyboard wizard Derek Sherinian opens with "Antarctica," which starts out in fusion style with Sherinian's keyboard work sounding like typical Allan Holdsworth guitar work ó and this is meant as a compliment ó as Sherinian demonstrates not only his unique voice as a keyboardist, but also the fact that he's imaginative enough to play exciting jazz-styled maneuvers. Some staccatos (with Virgil Donati on drums) give this track its metal singularity, and this also diffuses into the last part of the concerted opening trilogy.

Sherinianís reputation as a guitarist-influenced keyboard player holds throughout the album. The compositions feature mostly guitar-like melodies, which Sherinian performs with a guitarist's style, so much that it is easy to confuse his leads with the harmonic playing of the album's guest guitarists.

Even though this release is varied and contains performances by different lineups, it feels cohesive, and the variations keep it fresh throughout. For instance, the roaring shredder "Wings of Insanity," which features the monstrous guitar of Zakk Wylde, and the neoclassical shredder "Frozen by Fire" (with Rusty Cooley playing guitar a la Yngwie Malmsteen, only with more furious tones) are balanced by the moody "The Lone Spaniard," which gives up the drums for an increased focus on the melody, with delicate cello playing (by Tina Guo) and thrilling guitar by newcomer Taka Minamono, characterized by a splendid blend of speed and vibrato.

Aside from eight instrumental tracks, this pointy, forty minute album also includes "So Far Gone" ó a song that features Zakk Wylde on both guitar and vocals. While the man's Ozzy-styled vocals of the last few years are detestable (he should have stuck with his own, highly capable, personal presentation), their utilization on this somewhat epic song (clocking at over seven minutes) actually works.

Wylde delivers numb desperation, wrapped with a magnificent arrangement ó on parts of the song, Sherinian's keyboards sound more like a piano (with an acoustic guitar vibe, remaining true to the his guitarist soul!), on other parts his keyboards serve as a fancy backdrop, and together with Tony Franklin's fretless bass, Guo's cello, Brian Tichy's rolling drums and Wylde's deadly guitars, the song receives an orchestral dimension reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," or, perhaps more accurately, sounds like a metal version of Wylde and Tichy's Ď90s band Pride and Glory. One can only hope an album full of songs like this would follow. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

SOL EVIL - Sanctus Satanas - CD - AXTR - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

Judging by the extensive liner notes in the booklet, Lord Morder is the real deal. Not only had their once-tour mates Enthroned suggested that they should tour unnamed and appear unexpected to show the people what "real evil" is, but also he and the guitarist Arminius are now incarcerated for "merely paying a tithing of bullets to a place where altar boys are coveted and church leaders systematically sate their appetites on the flesh of the young"...

Nothing like doing it the good old American way, right? We have a feeling that, if the black metal crimes happened in the States instead of Norway, they would mostly be done by drive-by-shooting (not that it was the case here, the liner notes are all we were able to find out).

The biography is certainly impressive. But, talking about Sol Evil's music... maybe for some people a 2000 recording is old enough to become interesting, just because of its age. However, in black metal terms, by that time, a lot of things were already done. What Sol Evil were doing was nothing new then, and it is certainly nothing new now.

Speaking in more black metal terms, you don't necessarily have to re-invent the wheel, all it takes is a few heartfelt, original riffs, but in Sol Evil's case there wasn't much. The drummer was excellent, Lord Morder had a nice screaming voice, and the lyrics were very and seriously Satanic. The rest... you've heard it before 2000, done by Dark Funeral (guitars) and Dimmu Borgir (keyboards) except that Sol Evil's first seven tracks sound much worse. Maybe that makes them cult?

If the sound was better, would it be considered a selling-out attempt? Or, the opposite ó if you play like commercially successful bands and have a merely adequate sound, does it give you more credibility? Whichever it was, we don't mind listening to the basic sound as much as we do mind listening to something that was obviously a low-quality mp3 before it was pressed on an actual CD.

Sanctus Satanas, being a compilation, gives you a total of 13 tracks. The rest are live recordings of quite an abysmal quality, so we can't really tell you what they are about. The songs themselves sound a bit better than the "produced" ones at the beginning of Sanctus Satanas. And finally, you get some rehearsal tracks, sung in German, and with a certain poignancy and a hint of atmosphere along with the abovementioned influences. Those could have been good, if Sol Evil continued to work on them. Since Lord Morder is now serving a 15 year prison sentence, and Arminius a 25-year one, we guess that these are as good as Sol Evil will ever be. (5/10)

note by: Roberto Martinelli

Uh, why is there some chick on the cover of an "evil" black metal album? Oh, itís the band dudeís girlfriend. Hahahahaha.

 

 

 

 
8/10 Ignacio
 

SON LUX - At War With Walls and Mazes - CD - Anticon - 2008

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Even if you don't appreciate the magic at work on At War with Walls and Mazes, there's at least something in between all those layers of sound that you'll enjoy. The whole album screams "I CAN DO EVERYTHING!" at you, and you accept it because it's obvious. Almost literally, Son Lux can. From the tasteful yet oddly structured ballad "Betray" (that's something like a modern indie Daft Punk's "Something About Us") to the Massive Attack-like "Stay," the album goes all over the place without feeling incoherent.

Mentioning names like Massive Attack or Daft Punk might be the usual for reviews on anything even remotely resembling electronica or trip-hop, but the fact is At War with Walls and Mazes isn't conventional at all. Or anything like them, really. When it's not using IDM-like rhythms, it's using classical instruments for dramatic effect, or singing like a male version of Nico, with some pretty hard-hitting melodies.

At the same time, as interesting as it is, there are some obvious misplacements here and there (including melodies that start playing seemingly just to break the flow). It might be Son Lux being adventurous, but some times some things don't really work in context. Itís surprising, considering that the whole album is really detailed and complex ó not precisely an amateur album.

With At War with Walls and Mazes, Son Lux manages to create such a particular atmosphere that it doesn't really matter that much what notes some instruments play, since it's largely an album about timbre and texture. And while it's certainly not a singalong album, there are many memorable melodies thrown in there (especially on "Betray"), surprisingly like My Bloody Valentine's mid-era's melodies.

At War with Walls and Mazes is a multi-genre album with some really professional production techniques and a songwriting that easily surpasses your average experimental electronic project's, yet it's something that you don't really get with just one play. Give it time, it's worth it. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Roberto
 

S:T ERIK - From Under the Tarn - CD - Solitude Productions - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Derivative music is tiresome in general, but perhaps at the pinnacle of pointlessness is the stoner doom genre. It even trumps the tedium of metalcoreís blind At the Gates mimickry. S:t Erikís From Under the Tarn is the latest installment of utter, mindless Black Sabbath ripoff, something thatís been ripped off so doggedly for so long that itís become a question of a third or fourth generation of rip-offs.

In From Under the Tarnís case, the goingís worse because, aside from the tedium of same, recycled riffs and motifs, the vocals are poor ó spirited, but struggling, even in the simple, basic blues doom register and delivery, making this album lame, even for its style. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

STRIBORG - Perceiving the World with Hate - CD - Displeased Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Several albums into his "digital recording" era, the Tasmanian one-man band is doing quite well. Although not one of the best Striborg albums ever, Perceiving the World With Hate is not bad, either... and when Striborg is "not bad," it means it's still several notches above the next one-man solitary project.

Old fans might complain, though: the sound is still as nasty as they go, but the analog charm is missing. So, there is no feeling, this time, that you're listening to something that was a pain to record, something struggling to get out of the darkness and bursting every now and then just to devour you and drag you a bit deeper.

The sound is actually quite presentable for Striborg standards. The weird drum displacement (snare more to the left, kicks more to the right) will be a nice reminder of the old days, the nasty, trebly guitar is almost inhuman, and Sin Nanna's vocals are definitely inhuman. Complete with almost buried clean guitars and the trademark unpleasant keyboards, the atmosphere is properly unpleasant. Maybe not unpleasant enough, but the hot Tasmanian forests are still successfully evoked, and with the "When the Moon and the Earth Collide Into the Sun" instrumental track, you actually get a taste of a cosmic disaster.

What could be better is the songwriting. Depending on your mood, the songs might seem repetitive or stellar. For Striborg, ambient drone isn't a rare thing, but on Perceiving the World with Hate, the traces of songwriting are almost absent. There are still some breaks and changes, but most of the time the patterns are repeated for too long, without release, shock, or any kind of surprises.

Of course, if you expect adrenalin rushes you're reading the wrong review anyway, but we've heard Striborg do much better. And you've experienced more hypnotic, surreal things from this same one-man band before. Speaking of "one man," there is actually a guest appearance by Malefic (Xasthur, doing second vocals and keyboards) on one track, which, in spite of that, still lacks variety. Perceiving the World with Hate is good, and if you're already a Striborg fan, you'll enjoy it from time to time. But if you're new to the Striborg world, you're better off with starting with some other, older albums. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Joshua
 

SUNN 0))) - Monoliths & Dimensions - CD - Southern Lord - 2009

review by: Joshua

Roberto: "Hey, you want to review the new Sunn O)))?"

Josh (internal monologue): "Guess so, yeah. But, Christ, do I really want another hourís worth of doomdrone taking up shelf space? For that matter, do I really need another Sunn O))) album?"

Josh: "Sure, I suppose, why not?"

Roberto: "Full package, has a vellum slipcase."

Josh: "Yeah, Iíll take it!"

Sigh. The predilections of a record nerd are so damn predictable.

All to their credit, Sunn O))) have evolved from their inception as an Earth cover band, adding considerably to their sonic palette with the White albums and Black One upping the ante farther. Of course, at its core, the Sunn O))) sound is all about the drone, a low end rumble that shakes foundations and induces tectonic plates to shift under protest.

"Agartha" starts things off just as youíd expect, the first five of its seventeen minutes expelling massive waves of roiling downtuned notes... ultradoom on cough syrup. But then Attila Csihar drops by and lends some gravelly imprecations over those snail-crawl notes; a couple minutes later piano chords are struck and, by degrees, strings, horns and sounds from things that go bump in the night are added, each one stretching to infinity, individually and in a tangled merge, sounding like five or six Phill Niblock compositions playing concurrently.

Thatís pretty much the template for the four tracks found on Monoliths & Dimensions, and it works to fairly astonishing effect. Any director with a half a brain should be beating down the doors of Messrs. Anderson and OíMalley to score their films, because this is some seriously cinematic and evocative stuff.

"Big Church" gets down to business from the onset, a female choir heralding the subterranean bass notes as Csihar provides obscure direction with tongue-twisting incantations as an army of guitars flits in and around it all, the collective sound ebbing and flowing until its abrupt conclusion.

What minimal light that managed to peek through the surface of "Big Church" is completely submerged under the tar of "Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)." This time around, as Csihar grouses and grumbles, a "man choir" chimes in at regular intervals. Coupled with colossal squalls of trombone, trumpet and synth, you can imagine sitting on the sidelines witnessing the difficult birth of a demon or watching Godzilla beat the crap out of Tokyo for the umpteenth time.

The capper is album closer "Alice," lumbering into existence as a sunburnt and languorously bleeding refugee from one of Earthís albums from the last few years, which you can either look at as ironic or wholly apropos. Either way, Monoliths and Dimension is an insidiously gorgeous piece of neo-western drift, the drones coated with a patina of prairie dust baking under a cloudless sky. Wind instruments get tangled in uneasy interplay with a string trio, each measure another unsteady step down a deserted main street, where a storm of bullets threatens to rain down from every open window and the prospect of legend or anonymity changes with every exhausted footfall. (7.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
00 Void (issue No 6)  
White 1 (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
7.6/10 Ignacio
 

MEMORIES ATTACK, THE - LP2 - CD - Noyes Records - 2008

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

LP2 is all kinds of wacky combinations, from a stoner Elliot Smith to Neutral Milk Hotel meets My Bloody Valentine's You Made Me Realize meets crystal-clear production, or even Nirvana meets We Are Scientists meets The Melvins. It'd be too simplistic, however, as LP2 is an umbrella of many, many different things that you can barely pinpoint. There are even really short noise segments scattered here and there.

The best thing about The Memories Attack is that, while they show many really obvious influences, they put them all equally in the blender until what comes out isn't really representative of any and, most importantly, everything comes out coherently. As in, songs are songs, the album's mixed but goes somewhere, and anything they do is convincing.

Probably the easiest comparison to do is Elliot Smith, since the vocalist's voice is pretty similar to the Either / Or Elliot Smith, plus some songs are fairly similar to the heavier ones on Either / Or (or even Pavement's or Pixies' more normal ones). That is, before adding polymeters to the mix, an OM-like riff and metal harmonies. Crazy stuff.

So LP2 is about taking what you're familiar with, twisting and turning it into something that's still accessible yet somehow outlandish. And it works ó beautifully so. It's not too pretentious about it, thankfully, so LP2 ends up being a really fun awesome full of quirky twists on genre cliches. (7.6/10)

 

 

 

 
Ridiculous/10 Roberto
 

SHINING - Black Jazz - CD - Indie Records - 2010

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We had written a negative review about Shiningís Black Jazz, essentially saying it was yet another example of an established black metal band getting all artsy-fartsy on our collective asses and looking like fools.

Wait for the plot twist.

We had said Shiningís Halmstad had us thinking for a second that an album by a dedicated black metal band featuring the word "jazz" in it wouldnít suck.

But suck it does. And aggressively. For all its ambition, Black Jazz doesnít bring jazz to mind, and certainly not black metal, but rather a spastic take on electronica with black metally vocals, and with a sonic aesthetic that strongly evokes dance club music.

Wait for it.

Dueling it out with the rest of the frenetic, synthetic, audial harassment is the freak out saxophone, sounding about as unmusical as just about everything else present. The saxophonist is obviously totally great (as are the other musicians on Black Jazz), but, like the rest of the hare-brained, musical epilepsy on the album, is arranged and produced so that it seems like all the parts are thrown at each other to gratuitous and obnoxious effect.

Just one more paragraph...

The best aspects of Black Jazz are when you get the impression that the album will finally be over, which unfortunately doesnít happen the first time you sense the end is near, but on the third time. Even if Black Jazz werenít released by yet another Scandinavian black metal band abandoning its style for something entirely forcibly "avant garde" or cool ó and failing miserably ó it would be insufferable... but that itís supposed to appeal to a black metal audience is pretty shameless.

And here it is...

And after all this apparent absurd effort, just to shoot oneís career in the foot, it comes to be revealed that Black Jazz was not made by Swedish black metal band Shining at all, but rather by a *Norwegian* outfit by the same name, and, in a twist of hilarious irony, believably sounding like a Scandinavian black metal band would if it had sold out. Thatís the metal joke of the year, right there.

Maybe a bigger joke is that Shining (Nor) might not only have messed up their career by not changing their name despite making a high-profile album that is meant to appeal (in some way) to a black metal audience under the same name as a highly recognized group largely in the same genre, but also managed to fuck up Shining (Swe)ís career, too. How many people will be talking about how Shining has sold out after hearing Black Jazz, and getting confused? We did.

In Shining (Nor)ís defense, they arenít a new band blatantly plagiarizing another group. Weíd like to think so, at least. Shining (Nor) has been around since 2001 (Shining (Swe)ís first full-length album was in 2000), and Black Jazz is apparently their fourth album. Not that weíve heard hide nor hair of anything theyíve done before. Maybe the foray into black metal territory is a new development?

Regardless of history, when thereís a band thatís way bigger than yours in the same genre with the same name that you have, and particularly when theyíve been doing it longer than you have, you change your name. Period.

Meanwhile, the real Shining has released an album in 2009, itís called VI: Klagopsalmer. Remember, Maelstrom readers, if thereís no Roman numeral, donít buy it. Itís a fake.

Hey, The End Records! Maybe youíd like to sign my band? We play a hybrid of black metal and be-bop. Weíre called Mayhem. Not only can you cash in by misdirecting people into buying our album, but you can make yourselves, us, and every metal buying person look like idiots. I hope you guys retain good lawyers.

Pre-heinous revelation, when we thought it was Swedish Shining committing career suicide (haha), Black Jazz received a 2/10. But the actual, laughable truth makes this an album that we wonít even give a rating to, because assigning a number to it would show some level of acceptance, no matter how slight. (Ridiculous/10)

P.S.: To further the absurdity, it turns out that both Shinings are signed to the same label in Europe.

 

Related reviews:
 
Angst III (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
8.7/10 Ignacio
 

SILJE NES - Ames Room - CD - FatCat Records - 2007

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

It would be a lie to say Silje Nesí Ames Room isn't a cute album. Yet, at the same time, "cute" is such an overused word that it doesn't say much about how good an album this actually is. Ames Room really is cute, with everything that the word should tell you, from the experimental quirky intro and the simplistic but engaging "Drown" to the decidedly more serious "No Bird Can."

Yet the album is all about balance. For every serious folk song, there's a more uplifting folktronica one present; for every whispered, semi-present vocal line there's a more courageous, Joanna Newsom-like one. Again, all about balance.

Silje Nes has taken the best of every genre, from the touching simple guitars of folk to the odd and surprising experimentation of folktronica. Ames Room does get overbearing sometimes with all those little noises you just don't know where they come from, but it's obviously the point.

In a way, Ames Room is from the Juana Molina school of folktronica; Nes just loves not to let the audience sit still while the song repeats itself ó yet it's from a definitely more twee branch of it, (think CocoRosie's earlier stuff), sometimes even delving into freak folk or orchestral pop territory.

Yes, Ames Room is one of those albums you could dissect over and over again and you'd find new things almost every time; but while it's tempting to call it complex, compositionally it is a very straightforward album. Some melodies appear, Nes repeats them, adds a gorgeous vocal line on top, adds noises, plays some interesting new lines on odd instruments over it all, and that's it. But Ames Room has an incredible sense of direction in the album and in every single song in particular.

While usually folk is pretty minimalistic, even the most instrumentally sparse songs on Ames Room show rich textural development: Nes is not precisely your typical folk singer that's armed with a guitar and nothing more than a general idea of what chord goes where. But if there's something that typifies the album, it's the subtlety with which she handles it all. Even the most outlandish noise sits tightly in the place she determined it had to be in, and it enters and goes naturally.

In a way, Ames Room is more of a sound sculpture than a songbook, and it fits her style. While it isn't an album for everyone, it's an eye-opening one, or a really good album in general for people into the less minimalistic side of folk. (8.7/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Pal
 

TREPONEM PAL - Weird Machine - CD - Listenable Records - 2008

review by: Pal Meentzen

The interesting thing about this release by Treponem Pal is the fact that it features the last ever appearance of long time Killing Joke (and Prong) bassist Paul Raven, who sadly passed away during the Weird Machine sessions in the autumn of 2007. One year later, Treponem Pal presented this album at the highly anticipated tour of Killing Joke, who re-united in their original line-up for the first time since 1982.

But, as glowing the response was to the latter, the reception for Treponem Pal was lukewarm (I saw both at the Ancienne Belgique club in Brussels). Obviously, Treponem Pal (named after Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis) may sound vaguely similar due to their sinister industrial influences, but then again, so do bands like Ministry or Nine Inch Nails.

Unfortunately, Weird Machine has turned out to be a rather bland affair with shuffling, pedestrian rhythms. With painful effort, some songs reach mid-pace. The singer tries very hard to sound uncanny and rogue-like, but instead he ends up sounding one-dimensional. A heavy French accent may amuse the listener for a while, but once growing accustomed to it, this unintended side-effect wears thin.

None of the songs, be they rock pieces or industrial ballads, stand out in particular and the intended atmosphere of impending doom seems to vanish into the coils of a heavy, worn old mattress on a pitiful attic floor in the 1990s.

"Planet Crash," for instance, is a song that could have been written by a more keyboard orientated Therapy? Other songs like "Hardcore Massive Soldier" are typical for what is called "groovy industrial metal," but the groove they lay down, as well as the chorus, is so incredibly cheap and unimaginative that even the fact that Daniel Raven, son of Paul Raven, appears on backing vocals canít save it from its utter lameness.

"Freak Machine" is even worse as it sounds like an ultra slow-paced soundtrack to the final credits of a cheap splatter horror movie. Therapy?ís Andy Cairns would agree undoubtedly.

Paul Ravenís contributions on the songs "Dirty Dance," "Human Attack," and "Revolutionist" almost go by unnoticed.

The whole fundamental problem with Weird Machine is that within its machinery very little can be found that is truly weird, alienating or fascinating. Itís repetitive and predictable like a machine, yes, but that can hardly be considered as a selling point for industrial metal.

On a more positive note comes the solid production by David Weber, who also worked for the Young Gods, which is is very good and resulting in having the best sound the album could probably have.
It saves Weird Machine from being a coaster for a mug of coffee gone cold or a glass of beer gone flat, but only just. Treponem Pal should by all means continue working with David Weber and refine their machinery towards something more intricate. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

VOIVOD - Infini - CD - Relapse Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

(A note to my band members: if anything happens to me, or you don't hear from me for more than a month, just use the guitar tracks I've sent you and make an album out of them. Even two albums, if you can. I trust you guys. All I want is to leave something behind me. But don't listen to Voivod before doing it.)

Yes, Infini is the second album Voivod made after the death of their original guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour. If you're a Voivod fan, after reading the rest of this review, please direct your complaints to the editor, not to the writer. The writer doesn't have any Voivod albums, didn't even tape or burn any of them, as they weren't interesting (same for the editor, but bring the complaints on anyway - ed.). The same goes for this, last and final one.

Good for Voivod that they managed to assemble full songs out of various guitar riffs, tracks and track parts bequeathed to them by D'Amour. But sentimentality aside, from a band thatís supposed to be a metal act, this is not metal. Not even "progressive" metal. And certainly not anything that an open-minded metal fan would still, somehow, call his own.

A few riffs per song, repetitive, monotonous, whiny, irritating vocals, grunge drums and boring bass (yes, it's still Jason Newsted) don't do anything special but irritate.

The song titles might be catchy, but all we can hear is money. Not as in "did it for the money," but as in "did it because they had money" ó in other words, this album could have just as well been done by any group of spoiled, urban kids without a care in the world and with nothing to prove or fight for. Just 'cos it sounds cool to repeat that sentence 16 times, y'know? And that riff is soooo groovy. Well, after you've heard it four times it's no longer interesting. Let alone forty times. Shortly, nothing interesting here. Get Killing Joke instead. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Pal
 

GACY, WAYNE TRIO - Rec Room Romance and Crawlspace Love Affairs - CD - JPX Records - 2009

review by: Pal Meentzen

Fans of the macabre, take heed. Fans of murder stories take heeder even. Thereís a new act playing tunes based on the life of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

This American homosexual thrill-killer was executed by the needle in 1994 after he got arrested on charges of having murdered 33 boys and men between 1972 and 1978. He was known as "Pogo the clown," because he used to dress up as a clown an offer himself for hire at childrensí parties.

Like the clichť goes, the people around him werenít aware of his evil ways, because his appearance in daily life was perfectly normal. But beneath the veil of a conforming citizen, this trauma-ridden individual had a severe multiple personality disorder with a strong violent undercurrent. This in combination with an uncontrolled taste for sexual perversion led to a crawlspace in his home getting so crammed with his strangled victims (mostly male prostitutes) that he ran out of space at some point.

The music of the Wayne Gacy Trio (consisting of five members) is by far not as extreme as the melo-DM of Clown Corpse or the manic murder metal from Macabre, who devoted nine years ago a critically acclaimed concept album to Jeffrey Dahmer, and who also had a song about Gacy years before.

Instead, imagine something like a mid-tempo rock musical with slightly punky touches and even some jazz and blues.

The theatrical vocals are mainly handled by "Jack Hanley" (which was the name of Gacyís violent alter ego). His delivery is sort of half spoken, half sung. His speaking voice is good, but his singing voice is pretty awful. Thatís okay, because if clowns can get away with murder, then probably with that as well. Fortunately, on a few other songs, he has some backing from two charming "nurses," who are more gifted.

To appreciate this album, it is essential to keep in mind the idea of a musical stage play, the narrative, and comical character, because only in their entire context do the songs get better. In fact, most of the songs are introduced by sound cuts from interviews, playgrounds and other things relating to the story. When taken on their own, however, the song compositions are fairly straightforward and uncomplicated.

Little can be found about other involvements of producer Lucky Belliagio, but the production of most of the album is good, yet somewhat uneven. Some songs have obviously been recorded at a different location. Songs like "Murder" and "Sick Fuck" stand out because of their sudden muffled sound, and the in-between punk cover of "(Iím Not Your) Stepping Stone" is downright transistor lo-fi. It may have been intentional, but the riddles donít end here.

The song lyrics mostly reflect on Gacyís sadistic deeds and methods, and this may be entertaining for some, but it also makes for one-dimensional reading, which is a shame. They donít elaborate any further on his past, his motives, or his arrest, and the last 15 years of his life until his execution. Might it be they have saved this for a possible subsequent album?

The idea behind the Wayne Gacy Trio is not a new one, but since rock clowns are not a very common sight, itís mildly amusing nevertheless.

The album is not as compelling or well-produced as it could have been, but the band is still ten times funnier than a dressed-up-as-clowns act like the Insane Clown Posse! They have sexy nurses too. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.2/10 Ignacio
 

VOLITION - Volition - CD - Total Rust - 2008

review by: Ignacio Coluccio

Funeral doom is plagued by bands who play with no direction ó but at least some are courteous enough as to not show all the tricks on their first song, on the first riff.

We get it. Your guitars are downtuned, your amps turned to 11 and you're ready to blast some MOTHERFUCKING POWERCHORDS, or something.

But there's something called "development." Take for example a Skepticism song at random. It goes somewhere. It's slow, it's heavy, it's brutal, but it goes somewhere. It probably has many technical errors here and there, but they don't matter because there's something more than just riffs. If your album's going to be just variations on one riff, one decent but otherwise unimaginative riff, probably even played perfectly, then maybe it should be just one song, right?

In case you haven't heard the demo, Volition is funeral doom, somewhat faster than the classics, with some stoner doom and sludge influences in the riffs, with lowish vocals and some higher vocals here and there. Think a sludgier Winter or a more monotonous early Skepticism.

In theory, it works. But Volition don't do any songwriting. Oh, no, that's for the sissy modern doom bands. So Volition has only one kind of riff, two closely related kinds of vocals, one style of drumming, and just one kind of song (more of a collection of similar riffs than a song, though). On the other side, they sound heavy, they sound heavy, and... they sound heavy. Like, really heavy. But that's it.

We should at least give Volition some props. Sure, they go nowhere, they are a one-trick pony (two if you count the shriekish vocals), but they've gotten much better, at least technically. They sound professional, the guitar tone (the only one they use) is actually quite fitting, and they managed not to sound too funeral doom this time around. As in, they have enough faster parts not to be called your average funeral doom band.

But even if it's not average, it's still mindnumbingly boring. It's... see, you know those guys that tell that one hilarious story all the time? It might be hilarious for the first time or two but after the 20th time it just gets stupid. Now think of an hour, no pauses, with the guy telling the same story over and over again. Might be cool if you like that story so much and you don't get bored easily.

Volitionís self-titled album is much better than their demo, but, sadly, there's no "but it's just a demo!" to excuse the album's many shortcomings. (3.2/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

WODENSTHRONE - Loss - CD - Bindrune - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

From a distance, Wodensthrone sounds magnificent. But, come closer and you'll wonder what exactly you're supposed to listen to.

The British "clan" is definitely trying to impress. The sound is grandiose, the songs are beyond epic, the screams are long and horrifying, the atmosphere is evocative, calling for their ancestors, people who ages ago walked the British grounds. As a part of the journey into the transcendental, they actually went to Romania, visited Negura Bunget and recorded a big part of their debut there. They even armed themselves with impressive names like Brunwulf, Hreowsian, Geradwine, Raedwalh and who knows what.

We don't know. All we hear is a few drum beats stretched into songs that are too long, an occasional choir, huge swathes of keyboards, occasional tribal references, and the material somehow divided into eight tracks.

This is the kind of music that should be best enjoyed through headphones, with lights off and imagination on, but it isn't. There are no riffs to speak of, not much to remember afterwards, the beats get old very soon and the vocals are just boring. Basically, what you have is one of the new "atmospheric" bands relying almost entirely on chord sequences and failing in the riff and composition departments. Except this one has much better sound than most.

So, in their attempt to become the British Negura Bunget, Wodensthrone just did the British version of Havitetty (which is the worst Moonsorrow album, the one with two good riffs on it). Any shamanic elements in Wodensthrone's music quickly go forgotten. Besides, as far as we know, all Negura Bunget fans are female and mostly love them because of the beards. A lot of their music is just boring and overrated.

Seems that, whoever it was that walked the British grounds millenniums ago, they will have to wait for a while until someone else properly shakes the ground and wakes them up. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

WOULD - Would - CD - Double Brew Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Now, Would. Would that be the most evil or impressive band name ever? We wouldnít think so. Naming oneís band Would seems like about as good a cutesy, irreverent idea as naming it The, which would get old for everyone (particularly the people in the band), but then youíd be stuck with the name The. And then next thing youíd know The would be changing their name to something like Relentless Charge of the Mammoth in antithetical frustration.

Hey, at least if Would catches on and spawns its own genre, bandwagon-jumping bands like Should and Could might spring up. But this ought not to happen.

Wouldís approaches to heavy music is well varied: Thereís heavy riffing with squealing harmonics, good slow breakdowns, sections that build tension into energetically lumbering head bangers, and the occasional good melodic solo. The song structures donít always stick to the same formula, either.

Wouldís sound is well-done. While not the best of the best, the heavy tones and solid drums come across fully and whose frequencies do not over-saturate the sonic spectrum, making this album one that can be enjoyed all the way through without taxing the ears. Would is a good recording that has been handled well through the last step.

Wouldís music wonít set the world on fire, but itís good and listenable... sometimes energizing, and always groovy and well-played.

What detracts from Would are the vocals. The albumís voice is mainly in a gruff, tough-guy style, punctuated by sections with double tracked, harmonized cleans that make for accidental / on purpose bad results... but that in their defense, work well within the context of the record.

It isnít the vocalsí actual sound thatís a drag, itís how theyíre often implemented. No fewer than five times on the record does the vocalist indulge in a substantial section of something like a vocal breakdown, where the rest of the band plays on, and the vocals go off on an arrhythmic, pseudo-spoken word tangent, which isnít musical and each time kills much of the energy the song was building.

We blame way too many lyrics. Wouldís got tons per song. Fewer lyrics and better punctuation with lyrics in songs will make for a better outing in the future. Fewer songs would also have worked in Wouldís advantage, as Would is about four songs too long... and the sung ballad, although having a few moments, should be the first to go.

If not for those elements, this would be a good album. As it is, itís not bad. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Mladen
 

ZYANIDE - The Beast is Released - CD - zyanide.com - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Although it's interesting to have a Swiss thrash CD in the collection instead of the usual suspects (and a self-released original, at that), The Beast is Released doesn't offer much more than galloping riffs. You know the kind, early Iced Earth (who, in turn, learned them by listening to Master of Puppets) riffs.

Well done, properly thrashing, and almost completely bland. All songs are written to the same formula, give or take an Iron Maiden sounding intro, all the songs sound like they have the same vocal line in the same key, and unfortunately all of them have keyboards.

The sound is just decent, slightly better than average demo recordings, but the balance is mostly lost. Sometimes itís the solos that seem too loud, sometimes itís the vocals, and, again, mostly it's the keyboards. Zyanide shouldn't have them. If you pay attention to them it seems that they're always doing one of two things: playing along with the riffs, and using a really sterile, off-the-shelf sound, or giving accents to them. Either way, they aren't necessary.

For what they are worth, the vocals could be replaced as well: Since there are no vocal melodies to write home about, how about a screamer or a growler instead? And if Zyanide are capable of writing a bit more adventurous songs, they can re-write and re-release the beast and get in touch again. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
7/10 Bastiaan
 

NILE - Those Whom the Gods Detest - CD - Nuclear Blast Records - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli and Bastiaan de Vries

RM: New Nile. Night. And. Day from the last one. Nile sounds hungry again. The guitars kick ass again. Partially thanks to these points, the drums also don't sound stale. Best of all, there are actual killer songs and riffs! So far, song two is my favorite.

BdV: Night and day, indeed.

I think there is especially a good development in the drum sound. It sounds more natural this time around. The sound is more organic, it breathes more. And Kollias is doing a lot with his playing to help grow that organic sound.

The vocals have gone downhill once again, though. There is an ugly one-dimensional quality to them, especially compared to the older albums. It does not get in the way of enjoying the album, but it's definitely a downer.

And I agree about the songs / riffs. There is finally something worth listening to again! It's still miles away from being a significant death metal record in regards to their first three albums, though. It has none of the rabid violence ó it's still too calculated. But I guess going back to a more sloppy sound would be stupid. Eh. 

RM: It's hard for a band, particularly in the "more perfect than thou" top tier of technical death metal, to go backwards in terms of production. While it might be more cult, more special, more personality-infused, to make the music less perfect, it might not fly as well.

That said, you can immediately recognize any moment on the album as being made by the band Nile.

Thank goodness the Egyptiany bits didn't get more theatrical and plastic, but rather settled down into more organic territory.

With all the athleticism and improvements, still, this Nile record does have a lot of time that, although impressive and enjoyable, is not memorable. Four listens in, there are three songs that are remembered, and two are at the beginning. The rest remains in memory as Nile doing Nile, bigger and better than ever. It's essential as far as the latest achievement in death metal, but as an album of great songs, it isn't tip top. (8/10)

An album that is Nile through and through, and definitely worthy of the name. But after repeated listens, it still doesn't hold a candle to their earlier work. Even on its own, the record is just not memorable enough to warrant a very high grade.

Nile consists of stellar musicians, and as a death metal band, they have to look up at none. While they have seemingly left behind their overtly sterile and theatrical style of the last two albums, they still haven't rediscovered that intense, thrashing spark that ignited their first three. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
In Their Darkened Shrines (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

OBTAINED ENSLAVEMENT - The Shepherd and the Hounds of Hell - CD - Napalm Records - 2000

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Shepherd and the Hounds of Hellís sound takes a little bit to get used to. Itís highly thin and plastic. Weíre mostly talking about the drums, which donít sound real in the least, despite the claims that itís an actual drummer playing them. But the production overall has little low end to speak of.

But this is part of what makes this album charming. That and the songs are awesome and, even better yet, stand out from each other.

The fake-sounding drums ironically have life, and their extreme perfection provides tasty articulation to the songsí arrangements. The music is memorable, catchy, and the songs have character.

The style is a little like black metal if it went a Rhapsody power metal route: fast, clear, a little showy, kind of anthemic, sort of heavy metal-riff oriented.

No small part of the albumís delight are Pestís vocals. Pest will always be a black metal darling from his work with Gorgoroth, and particularly Under the Sign of Hell, in which his on-fire harsh vocals are peppered with WTF falsetto cleans which would be cringeworthy if they didnít rule so much.

Here, there are fewer effects on his voice, which makes his harsh vocals more immediate and less ambient. Pestís approach to cleans is different, but the few clean sections are none the less remarkable in how gross and filthy they feel in his nasal, creepy delivery. Weíre not sure which guy in the album band photo Pest is, but it sounds like the kind of vocals a slimy, leering, shirtless guy with shiny leather pants would make. Perfect.

The Shepherd and the Hounds of Hell definitely has some element of cheesy, gross lechery, from song titles like "Ride the Whore," to the grody band photos, to the laughable, embarassing cover art. But within, the music displays strokes of genius, with unique songs, a depth of variety of song approaches, interestingly flawed sound, and exciting, uncommon, well-constructed music. This is a hidden classic.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

VREID
November 22, 2009 - DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA, USA

review by: %%name=Roberto Martinelli%%

Vreidís first US tour came in conjunction with their participating in 2009's Heathenfest.

On this night, marked by the birth day of Vreidís bassist, the would-be successors to Windirís throne exhibited music that worked live much better than what their first few albums have had to offer. Vreidís craft was groovy and energetic Norwegian-flavored mid-paced sort of black metal, showing that they are a proficient and competent band.

 

 

 

 

MARDUK / NACHTMYSTIUM / MANTIC RITUAL / BLACK ANVIL / MERRIMACK
December 6, 2009 - DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA, USA

review by: %%name=Roberto Martinelli%%

For many in San Francisco, Mardukís performance was a night to remember... or at least a night that show-goers were wanting to remember.

Mardukís last attempt at touring the United States (earlier in 2009, with Mayhem) fell through in a fiasco of unreceived visas and bad planning, culminating in a tour in which the two support acts eventually dropped off due to some other nightmarish logistical issue.

But Marduk were going to make good on missing out. And make good they did, as the Swedish black metal beasts put on one of the finest metal shows this writer has ever seen.

But there were support acts. Merrimack was first, but based on their performance and the relevance of their music, they should have been second to last, because only Marduk was better than they were.

We skipped Black Anvil because the music exhibited on their Relapse-relased CD was of little interest, and it was dinner time.

We returned to catch some of Mantic Ritual, who displayed a tight and professional level of thrash metal that otherwise had little to say for itself.

Nachmystium elicited another short exodus, as their music is nothing better than solidly average.

But Marduk. Marduk. It was if the whole world woke up to finding itself on fire when they hit the stage. The main reason of course is frontman Mortuusí presence. Heís a big, imposing, menacing figure, harnessing the kind of energy that was sorely lacking during the years Legion was fronting the band.

But Lars Brodesson, Mardukís drummer, had no small part in the ferocity, as he unleashed an inspired, furious performance whose conviction raised hairs on the back of oneís neck. Brodessonís performance channeled the pitiless violence this band has honed into a show that was as ruthless as it was professional, and it was without drum triggers.

Depending on whom you spoke to, however, it was one of Mardukís worst shows ever. And you wouldnít have to search much further than asking the bandís frontman, whose nigh constant complaining and violent gesticulation ó to the DNA clubís stage hand, to Brodesson, to the audience, and to the world in general ó about his dissatisfaction of the sound at the club (it seemed he couldnít hear the kick drums) began to go beyond the image of furious frontman, and to a bitch throwing a tantrum. This culminated in Mortuusí deliberately dropping the mic on the ground between songs, forcing the stage hand to pick it up and replace it on the stand for him, and publicly humiliating the club by saying it had the worst sound of the tour.

However, from where we were standing, on the second level, right above and to the right of Mortuusí head, the show sounded great. We were also well placed to get a great view of the eveningís greatest show of physical violence, which occured when a drunken, shirtless fan ambled onto the stage. He came up behind Mortuus and put his arm around him, attempting to bask in the glow of the evening. Mortuus paused and then flipped the fan over onto his back and threw him into the crowd. For the remaining moments the fan was still in the club, he was seen emphatically raising the horns to his newfound benefactor of brutality. Since, the proud fan has posted this link for all to see.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoJqK8h27CY&feature=related