the underground music magazine    

issue #73 Summer, 2012

 


Dear Maelstrom readers,

Dear Maelstrom readers,

 

Maelstrom has been rolling along at the pace itís been rolling at for what may be years now. Weíre not sure. Time seems to stand still and fly by at the same time. During this time, its content has largely been made up of my work and of Mladen äkotís, who writes like half the total reviews himself at this point. At this point in our journalistic/blogging careers, nigh on 13 years on, itís beginning to feel like weíve sort of become the Nocturno Culto and Fenriz of online metal zines. You can figure out whoís who. But Iím a drummer and Mladenís a guitarist, so that may help. Weíre older, crustier, and more opinionated than ever. And weíve also heard tens of thousands of albums, and metal albums in particular, over the past 30 or so years, so it takes a little more to get us excited. Iím starting to lose where Iím going with this (you know, being a fuck-it-all oldster), but I think the point is that Maelstrom has always been me and a beloved staff, but itís increasingly become me and Mladen, and if one of us wants to stop, it would be like Darkthrone continuing without Gylve or Ted. It wouldnít.

 

Itís Mladen and me and whatís left of a beloved staff, which makes the remainers even more beloved. Avi Shaked, whoís been on board incredibly since issue #8, back in April of 2002, and Chaim Drishner, whoís always been the crustiest, grumpiest bastard since day one, and perhaps our role-model when it comes to such things.

 

Weíre going to see if getting new writers is like getting an old dog to pep up by bringing home a puppy, although the guy we just brought on board, our friend Monte Cimino, has been geeking out over music at least as long as we have. Maybe he can turn into our Zephyrous. Sort of.

 

Hereís issue #73. One hundred and twenty-one reviews and two interviews, with post-black metal one-man band weirdo Book of Sand and dark folk leaders Tenhi.

 

Damn, it looks like itís going to be one issue of Maelstrom this year. It might be that way forever, or until it reaches zero issues a year. Hallelujah.

 

Roberto Martinelli

 

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Tenhi's career of soothing yet brooding, contemplative folk music has run parallel to the metal scene since their debut release in 1998. Their latest album, 2011's Saivo, saw them continue to progress their craft while retaining their signature sounds. We asked founding member Ilmari Issakainen some questions about his band and the impact it's had. 

The Russian band Kauan from the perspective of a Tenhi band member... awesome or irritating?

Ilmari Issakainen: I guess the bandís title should be taken as a compliment. If I remember correctly the guy behind the band contacted us years ago and wanted to do some sort of collaboration with us, but we were too busy. Havenít heard any songs from them.

Tenhi has crafted a sound that is distant, yet feels warm and inviting. From a technical standpoint, how do you achieve this? Do you have favorite microphones? Miking techniques? What are your EQs and compressors of choice?

Ilmari Issakainen: First I want to thank you for noticing our hard effort to create our distinct sound.

During the years we have developed our own style of doing music. By this I mean that the technical aspect is always close for there is only me and Tyko composing and doing 95% of the recordings so we rely heavily on our gear to support us. Sometimes the song is constructed around a sound or a feel that is captured thru exploring a great deal, for example, with miking or printing stems to c-casette players and bringing them back to computer or such. So exploring and creating sounds, spaces and moods with different techniques is an integral component of our music. To pinpoint exact gears and software would be a topic for a whole interview itself, but to sum it up briefly and banally, we use from analog to digital and low-fi to hi-fi equipment to achieve our sound. What differs us from others more than gear is our mixing philosophy which seems to be quite the opposite to modern trends.

Saivoís cover art depicts a wooden vessel. The spears that the people in the vessel are holding make one think of a Viking boat, but its construction is different than the images of drakkars we are used to seeing. Is this the Finnish equivalent?

Ilmari Issakainen: Actually they are not spears - they are meant to be oars! The picture hardly holds water as the boat is not depicting any distinct boat historically or technically...

How much do you think itís true how it is said that Finnish culture has an infatuation with suicide?

Ilmari Issakainen: Some species of animal have this final mode of selfregulation or regulation of population. I think that we Finns are a special race that has this mechanism built in us. But would I call it an infatuation? Definitely not.

Are you ok with Tenhi essentially being associated with the metal scene?

Ilmari Issakainen: Yes, sure. We do not limit ourselves to genres but I guess that our music has a similar weight to it that metal has.

What does Tenhi mean?

Ilmari Issakainen: The word itself has lost its meaning and use in our language. The word Tenhi stands for a seer.

Is there one song that Tenhi identifies as its anthem?

Ilmari Issakainen: No.

Reading up on the translations you give for your songs and lyrics, there are many instances when one word in Finnish equals more than one in English, like "hallavedet = the glacial waters," "tutreilla = above the fields," or "vilja = colorless songbirds." Is this the case like how it is said that Eskimos have 27 words for snow? Or is Finnish like German in that one can combine words into a bigger word, or are these words made up by Tenhi, or are you getting more poetic with your English titles than you are with the Finnish ones?

Ilmari Issakainen: Finnish is very different language than English. In Finnish, one usually says more with less words. For example, small talk does not exist here and in fact is often considered intrusive. English language, is on the other hand, the polar opposite of this. We tend to play with both languages in a way that they compliment each other. So in a way the translations are more like translations of the mood rather than direct language swaps.

How worldwide do Tenhiís tours get? Would that include the United States?

Ilmari Issakainen: We really rarely do any live shows. I guess that it has been quite many years since we have played live...

In the past we have done only two tours and they have been in central Europe, but for sure it would be nice to play shows in the United States.

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Book of Sandís sound is so odd, so experimental, it leaves the notion of "post" behind. Seasick cello melodies, screeches from a broken megaphone, and drums made from hitting all things very un-drum like, buried far, far beneath. Itís like if you took the band Pyramids, but gave it a much more present element of intense ugliness, driven by distorted acoustic instruments, and an obsession with nature and being underwater. But best let Book of Sand main man dcrf do the talking...

Maelstrom: I'm listening again to Destruction, Not Reformation. Digging the way you layer your instruments, and the arty, gauzy, off-balance and mysterious vibe it brings. The drums are so buried it sounds like you need one of those metal detectors you see weirdos holding on the beach, looking for quarters, but tuned to "drum kit" to find them. The drums are so buried they give the album a glitch feel to it. The music has a lovely, seasick, slightly lurching melodic quality, kind of like being so ill on one of those archetypal traditional Chinese harbor boats in Shanghai that one is turning green. And there's some dude screeching away on a distorted megaphone to get the fuck off his boat before you hurl. When you put this all together, what were you thinking?

dcrf: Nothing so poetic, unfortunately! When I was recording that album, I couldn't find anyone who wanted to play drums. So I did the percussion myself on junk & trash, bits of plastic and so on. In black metal, the drums have such a specific role that it's easy to replace them with other sounds. As long as the function is the same, it seems to work well enough.

Maelstrom: Agreed there. Book of Sand has a variety of drum sounds and sources, it seems. Other recordings seem to have an acoustic kit. Perhaps one has a drum machine? Since the sound in general is so damaged, it can be hard to tell.

dcrf: No drum machines or samplers.There's no problem with electronic instruments that aren't pretending to be something else, but I'm opposed to using electronic instruments to fill in for acoustic ones.If I want drums or strings or horns or whatever, I'll either play them myself or find someone who can.The quality of the sound and the feeling behind it aren't the same when it comes from a sample.

Maelstrom: 2012's Mourning Star has tracks that differ from what is more commonplace in Book of Sand in rhythm, which goes well in that the drum sound has the most space to breathe from any recording of yours I've heard. 

dcrf: Mourning Star brought in more of the doom side of things.There will be more of that in the future, I expect.

Much of my music experiments with colliding pleasant and unpleasant elements.To me, that combination is the most powerful and evocative.My first album, How Beautiful to Walk Free, was much further to the ugly side, and Destruction not Reformation was much more on the pretty side.But, I try to keep both feelings at all times.

Maelstrom: How do you go about creating an anti-melody? Do you write a melody and then pick the least commonly suitable notes to damage it? Is it an approach that comes from theory, or more of a "whatever sounds the best (ugliest)"?

dcrf: I think awareness of context is the most important thing.There's nothing innately unpleasant about atonality or dissonance Ė a melody might be friendly in one place and shocking in another, depending on what surrounds it.

There are some specific techniques.I've used 12 (and 24) tone rows sometimes, and also random numbers and tonal counterpoint. Mourning Star has extensive quotations from various places. But, most of what I write is just whatever sounds good to me.

Four of the tracks on Destruction, not Reformation have a specific, unusual approach to melody. That will become more clear in the near future.

Maelstrom: Cryptic! The obnoxious question: what do you mean?

dcrf: The middle of the last track of Mourning Star is a place to start!

Maelstrom: You got a 0% on a review for Destruction, Not Reformation on Metal Archives. Some kind of congratulations are in order. Is that kind of response a bummer or a triumph?

dcrf: I was quite pleased to see that. The first of many, let's hope.

Maelstrom: Other congratulations go to being on Paradigms. That label always shows that a little goes a long way in packaging. Is that the kind of law laid down, where you have to use the standard CD inner sleeve, and you can't have a booklet? Do you think that in fact makes for more focused album layout ideas?

dcrf: That was Duncan's idea for the packaging, and it was fine by me. I'm not knowledgeable about graphic design, but a minimal layout seemed better Ė I had no interest in printing lyrics, and I had nothing else to go in a booklet.

Maelstrom: Right. Your lyrics aren't in the usual places: booklets, Bandcamp... but Metal Archives lists Book of Sand's lyrical content to be "anarchy, feminism, veganism, anti-racism." Would you care to support or refute those tags with some examples? Does the music and your approach to its construction correlate with the lyrical content? Where can we see these lyrics for ourselves?

dcrf: Lately, some of my lyrics have been more abstract, but the politics are Ė and will remain Ė the central theme. That list on metal archives is more or less correct.

All art has a propagandistic element, and I've tried (not sure I've succeeded) to make the structure of the music itself match my politics. I try to open up cracks in my black metal, so elements from outside of it can work their way in, and I try to make my music amorphous and difficult to interpret; I'm not interested in shoving something clear and unambiguous at my listeners, and I would like for people to have to invest some time to understand what's going on.

The lyrics aren't published anywhere, but it should be possible to make them out from the recordings with a bit of effort.

Maelstrom: Where did the name Book of Sand come from?

dcrf: The story by Jorge Luis Borges. I thought it had nice associations.

Maelstrom: Please talk about the usage of non-standard black metal instrumentation. The violin seems to be a mainstay. That must be you playing it. Would you consider that your main instrument? I think I also hear a dulcimer on the beginning of How Beautiful to Walk Free.

dcrf: I use cello quite a lot in my music, and in some ways it's my main instrument. Certainly, it's the one I've studied the longest. I'm not a classical player at this point, although I studied for many years. I have an idiosyncratic style now.

I've also used melodica, saxophone, toy piano, kazoo, bike wheel, and many of the Javanese gamelan instruments. If I remember correctly, How Beautiful to Walk Free was all guitars.  But, I have a little bit of dulcimer on some upcoming things.

It's wonderful that bands have started using all sorts of instruments to make their black metal. Botanist, Wrnlrd, Vhernen, Dead Raven Choir and Lugubrum are some of my favorites at this game.

Maelstrom: You sent me a CDR in a hand-written cardboard digi entitled The Face of the Deep, which is not listed in your official discography. Is this an album to come or a lost one? 

dcrf: This one will be released in a little while, maybe this summer. It's fairly different from my previous albums. That one tries something new.

Maelstrom: One song from How Beautiful to Walk Free is entitled "Hidegen Fķjnak a Szelek." What language is that and what does it mean? What does it mean to you?

dcrf: I heard that song on a recording by the Hungarian group MuzsikŠs and thought it was amazing. It's a prisoner's song.

Maelstrom: Thank you for the interview and best of luck to your pursuits.

Www.bookofsand.bandcamp.com

www.facebook.com/book.of.sand

 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

AARKTICA - In Sea Re-mixes - CD - Silber Records - 2010

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Iím still getting my head around what a "re-mix" album means. That is, versus the selling point of so-and-soís famous album being re-released as "re-mixed," which is a different thing. For sure, "re-mixed" means the original raw recorded tracks were re-compressed, re-EQed, and re-processed, and then their relative loudnesses were set.

A "re-mix" can seem to involve a great deal of new insertion of material (often in the form of dance beats, it would appear), and by people who had nothing to do with the original recording, and who at no point were even in the band. Itís kind of like a tribute song, or a cover song but requiring less work as you donít have to start from scratch.

Whatever a "re-mix" album is, thereís one of Aarkticaís In Sea. We remember the original album as being largely in the melodic glacial drone genre, with a couple songs featuring singing. In Sea Remixes has a great deal of that re-interpreted, but there are also other styles present, most notably some things trip-hoppy. Which we are wont to skip over.

What we are referring to as the "trip-hop" tracks (because we make no claim as to actually being able to identify trip-hop over whatever else it may be) are actually well done for what they are, but in the case of what weíd want from Aarktica, which is the bulk of the rest of the album, which is melodic drone, those tracks end up being an experience that breaks up the trance.

On the other hand, a variety of styles does help to pace the album in oneís memory; it gives it more flavor variety. And this is a "re-mix" album, right? So thatís the point, yeah?

Maybe the problem with re-mix albums is that they canít practically be compared on the same level as the albums they are re-mixing, but rather as a kind of curiosity add-on to something that you liked in the first place -- like an alternate-reality version of something that was already established in your consciousness. Or maybe I just donít get electronica music. In Sea Remixes is good, itís interesting for what it is, it sounds different than the album itís tributing, as it offers unique shades to that albumís sound, but is it more than a neat side note to an original piece of work? If only the foresight could have been present to include the re-mix album along with the original... (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

AETHERIUS OBSCURITAS - Fekete Orvossag - CD - Paragon Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Fekete Orvossag ("Black Medicine") is the kind of black metal that is usually completely made at rehearsals as not many parts of it sound like someone brought them from a tortured, isolated place (read: home).

As well as the previous album, this one still sounds happy. Not as in "power metal" happy, but as in "black metal people having more fun than they should" happy. Once you notice the feeling, it's hard to shake it off. And, for all we know, it might be deliberate. It's not like there are no black metal bands having fun around. However, it would have been more fun if you had something catchy to whistle along to, but in Aetherius Obscuritas' case you simply have chords, breaks and tempos. Some of them are cool, while they last, but even their version of Marduk's "The Black Tormentor of Satan" is just a thing you listen to once to see how they pulled it off... and they did, as if they did it for fun, not to last, and that's not the way we remember the original. In essence, not bad, but not necessary either, just like the rest of Fekete Orvossag. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

AMORAL - Beneath - CD - The End Records - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Beneath is like metalcoreís answer to power metal. The rhythms, riffs, guitar crunch, Swedish-scene musical influence, penchant for breakdown-y sections... except here the vocals have got that distinct style that says power metal. Anything can be good, can be done well, but sadly, on Beneath, itís more like the cliched aspects of those styles put together rather than something fresh and exciting. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Mladen
 

ANIMUS DIVINE - Sorrow - CD - Pitball Records - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Ummm... "Who shot ya nigga call the docta' Animus Divine breakin you off poppa' the show stoppa's the ho stompers..." WHAT? If you really want to know, not much more than 'core breaks, mid-tempo chugging, a few guitar scales and electronic bleeps, occasional double kick drums and a whole lot of screaming, shouting and growling whatever the hell the first sentence was about. Just don't accidentally buy this because of some sort of a skull on the cover, you probably won't make it past the first two tracks -- and there are eleven of them. Compared to Animus Divine, Biohazard and Dog Eat Dog are a transcendental experience. Sheesh, people will really release anything these days. (1/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Roberto
8/10 Monte
 

APPERCEPTION - Apperception - CD - apperceptionmusic.com - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This self-released CDR album by one-man band Apperception sounds like a bunch of proggy instrumental jams with psych influences. The tones (throughout the first four tracks, at least, after which point I had decided I had had enough) are clean, pristine, and crystalline. By clean, we mean squeaky clean, and by squeaky clean, we mean the recordings desperately need something to dirty them up, be it distortion, richness, a sense of the organic... something to indicate signs of sentient life. Sadly, Apperception is as of now a project that is trying to tap into the psych / prog genre, a genre that relies heavily on organic, analog recordings, by heavily digital means... down to a drum machine. These factors, along with staid compositions, result in a recording that isnít ready to be broadcast too far out of the bedroom. (3/10)

review by: Monte Cimino

Apperceptionís self-titled cd-r is a meticulously organized and performed minimal post-rock debut dominated by multi-layered guitar pieces by one man band Joseph Hoyda. These layers of clean electric guitars ebb, flow, dance, and swell around each other (occasionally accompanied by minimal drums and / or bass guitar). After repeated listening, one can clearly hear the influence in  these eight compositions  of  minimalist masters Terry Riley and Steve Reich, and guitar greats Robert Fripp and Fred Frith. Sonically, the pieces stay in pretty narrow parameters, giving the album an almost ambient quality, which makes for perfect weekend morning or solitary late night listening experiences. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
0.5/10 Roberto
 

ARIERTUM - Mythos of the Blood - CD - War Doctrine - 2010

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Mythos of the Blood is track after track of tinny, distorted guitar that sounds like it came from a tone simulator program, weedy fuzz keyboards, and a plodding, double-kicking drum machine that plays the exact same beats every time, and in the same tempo. Every time.

What this boils down to is the kind of recording that one band member might make in his bedroom so other band members could get an idea of first band memberís music ideas -- and hereís the crucial point -- to be recorded later in a way that people not in the band would actually want to listen to. For enjoyment.

Mythos of the Blood sounds so half-baked that it makes other half-baked albums seem ready. The end-all to this sense is how the 8-page booklet is packed with NS spewings about the myth of the blood, in fantasy propaganda style, made up of paragraphs like "To fight for the cause of the Blood / To kill for the cause of the Blood / To die for the cause of the Blood / That is your duty," repeated in print like eight times, every paragraph, every song, over and over... but there are no vocals whatsoever on the album.

Enjoying NS music when one does not necessarily subscribe to its worldview can present a dilemma. However, itís nice that the dilemma continues to be solved by the artists themselves with the caliber of music that they create. (0.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

ASSAULT - The Exceptions of the Rebellions - CD - myspace.com/assault - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

A metal band from Singapore shouldn't come as a surprise these days, but still it's nice to see one. Although mid-tempo melodic death metal is not exactly the kind of music no one is doing, Assault do it pretty well, if not exactly groundbreakingly -- at least it is seamless and done with no unpleasant surprises. As long as you don't ask why anyone would scream about ending humanity through terror while thanking God in the liner notes... oh, well.

Anyway, Assault show promise and imagination up to a point where their technical abilities stop allowing them to go further, and the four tracks on this EP will come and go without leaving too many traces, but at least you won't be annoyed. Simply standard, sometimes rocking, sometimes doing a nice break followed by a solo, strictly orthodox and inoffensive, with plenty of room for development - which sounds very possible as Assault do show promise - so if you like this sort of thing you won't want to throw the CD away, but won't listen to it often either. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.6/10 Roberto
 

AUTUMN FOR CRIPPLED CHILDREN, AN - Lost - CD - Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation - 2010

review by: Roberto Martinelli

A dutch friend of mine and I had a debate as to what was a stupider name, "An Autumn for Crippled Children" or "A Sad Sadness Song." He was for the former, I, the latter. From what I gathered from his reasoning, "An Autumn for Crippled Children" about reached the limits of hackneyed sappiness that the imagination could come up with. And allegedly the name was taken from the French band Ebonylake (who?). To me, you canít get any more amusingly, lamely uncreative than the redundant triteness of "A Sad Sadness Song." I say, why stop there? Renaming it "A Sad Sadness Song of Sadness" would really drive the point home.

The debate could rage on forever, but if one thing is lucky, or at least fitting, is that both those names come together in one release, as the name of the band is An Autumn for Crippled Children, released by the label A Sad Sadness Song, one of the sub-divisions of Italian black metal purveyor ATMF. These two elements deserve each other. Wouldnít you agree?

My Dutch friend is not terribly excited that not only is An Autumn for Crippled Children from The Netherlands, but they are from Friesland, the home region of his proud father.

The good news for black metal consumers is the music on Lost is much better than the bandís name. The style is on the more extreme, aggressive side of the post-black metal spectrum, with washed-out distorted, shoegazy guitars providing walls of fuzzy melody, with the screamed-to-the-max vocals and busily hectic drums working hard to keep the frenzy at a maximum.

In sound, Lost sounds good. The tone of the various fuzzy instruments is convincing and satisfying. Itís not as lush as the kind of sound top post-black metal bands on Prophecy Productions might have, feeling slightly less organic, with less of a sense of the instruments breathing, but itís close, and itís good.

Less good is how Lost doesnít let up. An Autumn for Crippled Children seem intent on setting the intensity bar high and pretty much keeping it there for the albumís duration. Sure, thereís a spot with clean singing, and technically there are sections that are more laid-back than others, but the vibe of the album comes across with intentions of full-blast wall-of shoegaze aggressiveness. How this detracts from the musical enjoyment is that after a while, the listener becomes disconnected with the bandís actual compositions; the constantly screamed lyrics become unnoticeable; and Lostís scale tips more toward an album of good sonic tonality than a palpably composed musical work. To sum up: Weíve heard Lost a few times. We still canít remember any of the music on it.

Lost is not a bad choice if you love the post-black sound, which we do. If you like this genre, you wouldnít do too badly to check the album out, at least on Youtube. However, while it has some good things to offer as a whole, it is far from essential. (6.6/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

BAND OF ORCS, A - Warchiefs of the Apocalypse - CD - Grimpire Entertainment - 2007

review by: Mladen äkot

We're not exactly certain that a band of orcs would sound like something between Slayer and Cannibal Corpse, but Warchiefs of the Apocalypse is a solid exercise in annihilation. Hitting your ears and mind from this side or the other, it ploughs through mid-tempo thrashing and more-tempo blastbeats with enough variation to keep you occupied for all the thirty-something minutes of it, and doesn't exclude an occasional incursion into another dimension either. A Band of Orcs are competent, playful and mindless enough to pull it all off even though the sound could have been a bit... let's say "smellier" -- but with so much complexity and healthy doses of numbing grind on display, it doesn't matter all that much. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

BATHTUB SHITTER - Dance Hall Grind (re-issue) - CD - Rip Roaring Shit Storm Records - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We originally got a promo CD for this album from when it was initially released. Back in 2005. We never wrote about it. Shame on us.

To make things right, weíre running a review of the 2011 re-issue of this album, which also happens to be remastered. As far as weíre concerned, the timingís perfect.

If youíre a fan of Japanese non-commercial bands in general, and Japanese metal bands in particular, youíll know that thereís something looney, wonky, and I-donít-give-a-fuck done in a way thatís uniquely Japanese. Bathtub Shitter embodies that as much as any other band from that country. Maybe itís a combination of backlash to repression of people as individuals, Engrish, sexual repression, still largely having the mentality of an isolated island nation, Engrish again, or the ability to take just about anything anyone else has already invented and then improve it, but elements like the band name, songs with titles like "Everybody Has the Wet," and an obsession with excrement and how groovy it can be in an extreme and often bludgeoning musical context make this band pretty essential.

Oh, and the vocals. That really tops it all off. Going from utterly carefree goofball frenzied screams to other manners of extremities, the vocals are, in true Japanese fashion, all done by one guy who you know could turn out the same phrasings, going from one voice to the other, live, just like on the record.

Youíll know if youíve ever seen a Japanese grind band live. I have. A band I was in toured with Gesewa, who shares a good deal of the qualities and appeal Bathtub Shitter has... and Gesewa is probably even wackier. Gesewaís recordings are hilarious cut after hilarious cut of inspired, intense grinding crustiness, each memorable and unique and catchy, and featuring a breathless procession of vocals in a barrage of styles, all of which the band would reproduce live to 100% faithfulness.

Bathtub Shitter is like that, too. Their songs are more structured and longer format, and more metal sounding within the grind spectrum, but the essence of Bathtub Shitter makes me nostalgic for Gesewa, and vice versa. The moral of the story is to check out both bands.

Dance Hall Grind first proper song is "Skate of Bulgaria," one of the catchiest, most fun songs you could ever ask for on a grind album. The vocal precisely-timed outbursts, phrasings, and transitions bring together this band at its best, with alternating groovy riffing and beats with pockets of unleashed grind fury to up the energy in a different way. The only thing that you wish would be if Bathtub Shitter played the whole arrangement again in the same song, just so that experience could last longer.

Of course the album is no one-hit wonder, as the songs that follow "Skate of Bulgaria" each have a special something that, and take note death and grind bands at large, actually make each cut stand out.

The only thing resembling a bummer on this remaster is how the awesome, 8-bit video game nostalgia-inducing intro not only does not transition right into "Skate of Bulgaria," but is in fact a second or so farther removed from the song than it is on Dance Hall Grindís original release. It leaves you totally hanging and with the flow broken in such a bad way that you might want to do a little "re-mastering" yourself in Audacity.

Last bit, since this is a remaster, and almost no one out there ever comments about remasters... the sound is bigger and fuller. Sure, itís more loudness that helps contribute to that, but it doesnít feel like itís just turned up. It actually feels meatier and more satisfying, and nothing sounds more grating because of the added compression. If you like Japanese grind at all, this one is a LOCK. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

BEHERIT - At the Devil's Studio 1990 - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

This re-release of sorts features Beherit's first "studio" album and two previously unreleased tracks clocking in at just a little over 26 minutes. If you're a fan of things that were obscure back in the Nineties you might find some pleasure in this deafening, lo-fi recording, together with the tape hiss. As for the music itself, it's fairly straightforward blackened speed-thrash in the style of early Bathory with death metal growls and an occasional, and too loud (but who cares, right?) solo. All fine and well, except that there is a feeling of listening to something that wasn't too magical or inspired -- solid music by a good band, and that's about it. For some people, probably enough. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

BLOOD OF THE BLACK OWL - A Banishing Ritual - CD - Bindrune - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Slow, persuasive and monolithic, Blood of the Black Owl's third offering will easily transcend you into a time and place many have forgotten, as well as a place that many don't realize exists, as they simply do not notice it. Divided into four "movements," it is indeed an aural ritual, doing its spell through a wall of sound slowly engulfing you, nailing your attention, telling you something you had to know, making sure you do not forget it by proving it to be real through some magic, and uneasily releasing you.

While sticking to the trademark baritone guitar, native, handmade and, simply, weird instruments, this time the music is more about the atmosphere just being there, than, as on the previous albums, invoking it though demanding ritualistic playing. So, in more ways more straightforward, and easier to listen to, Blood of the Black Owl is still an almost outdoor experience where you can literally imagine the skies, the ways, the spirits and the mountains. And we are glad that there is someone out there still doing things "for real." (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

CALES - KRF - CD - Metal Breath Production - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

It looks like Bathory and Graveland, it sounds like Bathory and Graveland, and in reality the sole Cales member, Blackie, used to be a member of Root for quite a few years. So far, so good. And when you hear the guitars, impressive. Powerful, playful, technical, epic, heroic, whatever you want except one tiny thing called "emotional."

For who knows what reason, it is hard to connect to KRF on an emotional level, where music like this should strike hardest. It won't make you want to polish your Mjollnir, walk in woods or sail to distant shores and burn a few villages. Maybe it's the "too technical" bit, maybe the vocals that aren't good or bad, instead being simply executed, ending up seeming soulless.

Something is not right, and although Blackie is not a bad vocalist, his voice isn't as commanding as it should be. Where you'd wish for a hearty, heroic melody, sung well, sung badly, sung in a personal way, anything, you get raspy singing more fitting in a drinking song. The drums are programmed, although expertly, so they aren't much of a problem. The guitars... maybe that is it? We've seen them, and the disc comes with plenty of bonus material, images, lyrics, bio, interviews, a video of a guitar recording scene, all the way to the list of equipment used in the studio.

As powerful as the guitar sound is, it is sterile, compressed, annoying, making the only non-sterile thing on KRF... the vocals. Which we have mentioned before. Coming to think of it, the most engaging part on KRF are probably the drums, and as we said before they are the only thing not played by a human. And being Pagan is all about being and sounding natural. You can still be technical, compressed, programmed, but when you no longer sound natural you've lost it. Too bad, as the compositions themselves aren't half bad, and a couple of songs on KRF could have been awesome, in some other reality. Or maybe they are, but only if you don't listen too closely. For best results, buy KRF, record it to a tape, and play it on the oldest stereo you can find. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

CELESTIIAL - Where Life Springs Eternal - CD - Bindrune - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

On a positive side, Where Life Springs Eternal feels like what it should, an anthem to Nature, an impression caught, elaborated, interpreted through sound. For most of the duration of Celestiial's second album you can also hear it -- the theme being water, the sounds being rain, water drops, birds by the brook, wind, whatever it is you feel on your face when you are near a waterfall on a Spring or Autumn day, and Celestiial pay their respect by not overpowering those sounds with their music. The sounds of the individual instruments are spot on, as if reflecting an echo from wherever in Minnesota these people dwell. You can hear it, they were there before, you are there now...

On the other side, Celestiial really take their time. Vaguely describable as funeral doom, it's too slow for even that, and the parts and riffs might be a stream of consciousness, but what an overly stretched stream it is. It's easy to get drawn into the atmosphere, feel the gleaming rays of the sun peeking through the murky clouds, but in all the description of the scenery it sounds like Celestiial enjoy spending too much time in the same direction. Briefly, Where Life Springs Eternal is good, but even for a small niche that Celestiial carved for themselves, it's far from everyday -- or even everyweek -- listening. Still, in a strange way, if you actually do get Where Life Springs Eternal, you will be glad you have it. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.2/10 Roberto
 

CHORD - Flora - CD - Neurot Recordings - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

At first you might think that Chord picked its moniker because its album is one of those ambient works that sound like a single chord being held out forever. Thankfully, though, Flora does offer more in the way of articulation than constant wall-of-sound "bwaaaaaaaaa" for half an hour. There are some more delicate compositions that actually move from one chord to another here, and not always taking the blasting distorted fuzz route... and thatís a good thing.

However, even when Flora is at its most stagnant (the first track stands out most in memory), it does sound good. And itís sounding good and having a reasonably engaging sense of composition that makes giving Flora a solid chance past the initial impression worthwhile. We listened to the whole CD, and although its droning ways werenít melodic enough to warrant raves, we did enjoy it while it lasted, which was just long enough. Not so sure weíll put it on again, though. (6.2/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

CIANIDE - Gods of Death - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

After two decades of playing death metal, it is reasonable to expect a band to deliver quality stuff, and Cianide don't have any problems with that. More meat, less potatoes, crunchy, heavy and groovy, Gods of Death goes through all the standard death metal motions ranging between slow, deliberate melodies and up-tempo double bass drum parts. As heavy as possible, as varied as you could expect from veterans refusing to be monotonous, and, to a death metal fan, listenable through and through. However, if you are expecting anything new or really memorable, maybe it would be better to put Gods of Death aside for days when you have something to do along with listening to music. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

CRIMSON DARKNESS - The Devourer of All - CD - crimsondarkness.org - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

"Devouring all" sounds like hard work, and this CD mostly sounds the part. Luckily, it was hard work for the band, not for the listener. Although The Devourer of All is only their second full-length, this UK crew has been around since 1996, and it shows. Some of it in the amount of nice ideas, some of it in their approach to music making. Equal parts thrashing and doing your standard black metal, The Devourer of All doesn't have many blank spaces.

Even if you might not like what Crimson Darkness are doing in one moment or the other, and a few parts could have been a bit more polished, the sense of purpose is there, and the feeling is one of listening to an undiscovered 1996 black metal CD (and Maelstrom knows that 1996 was an awesome year for music), which was a time when bands were slowly losing their standard black metal styles and started peeking around in other directions, while still staying firmly within black metal. And still writing real riffs, supporting real ideas and making real music. So, Crimson Darkness could have been one of those very bands, were The Devourer of All released back then. It would stand proud among albums by Old Man's Child, Sacramentum or Rotting Christ, being in some ways better, in some not so much, but coherent and determined all the way.

Sometimes straightforward, at other times complex, and at surprising times bloody-minded and mesmerizing, Crimson Darkness aren't here to pose and talk some kind of an empty talk. Since it's 2012 at the time of writing this review, maybe the question would be how does The Devourer of All do in this day and age... but then, weren't the good old times better anyway? It does perfectly fine. Not that you'll really remember to ask. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

DARKESTRAH - The Great Silk Road - CD - Osmose Productions - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

Compared to the standards Darkestrah have set for themselves on their previous albums, The Great Silk Road sounds like the band took the easy way (pun somewhat intended) out. In one way, it is predictable: a slow part, a lot of screamed text with a little emotion, a fast part, more screams, an occasional acoustic interlude... and that's it. In another way, it is not so predictable: A few guitar riffs are quite poignant, but with the other parts apparently coming and going with not much connection between them, when you hear the poignant, memorable bit again, it surprises you. Like, "What, we're still in the same song?" - which can't be that good for an album.

A few oriental sounding melodies are cool, the pagan feeling is there alright, the songs are epic, and The Great Silk Road isn't bad, for casual listening, but for Darkestrah "not bad" can't be "good enough." (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

EA - Ea - CD - Solitude Productions - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

On Eaís latest, self-titled album, the Russian doom bandís sound and appeal from albums like Au Ellai and Ea II (wait, Ea is released two years after Ea II?) is solidly in place: cinematic, dramatic washes of mournful keyboards with human chant-like tonalities, standard-for-the-style churning doom growls that sit in well with the music, providing a good human voice background, and guitars and bass that are heavy but controlled, hitting deliberate notes that rise and sustain until the next note in the despondently melodic punch to the dying personís gut, and staccato drums that largely follow that single-minded plod note-for-note.

Ok, so we get that Ea is a funeral doom band, but would it kill them to vary the tempo, note rates, and presentation of their melodies? Because itís killing me. With tedium. Where doom falls into its own trap is when artists make doom and think that what will correlate into the most funeral-esque experience is to bury you with slowed-to-a-crawl four-on-the-floor beats, with melodic lines that follow note-for-note, when in reality it just stagnates. It can still be mournful and sad and crushingly hopeless with a little musical spice. Try a different approach to the kit, to the phrasings, to the application of the instruments... it might actually make the parts that are the no-brainer, standard funeral doom parts even more funeral doom.

Maybe itís that Ea is more of the same as Au Ellai, but not as good, but really, itís that much more of a bummer when a band has its own sound going on, and largely squanders it on unimaginative compositions. Itís not enough to be on autopilot, you still have to create. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

EUMERIA - Rebel Mind - CD - eumeria.com - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

If you're a fan of progressive metal with added thrashy crunch, Eumeria just might be a band for you. They seem to have an endless supply of things to say, ways of twisting them and making them seem more complicated than they are. Scratch that, they are actually complicated.

There's no doubt bands like these have their audience, be it fans of Evergrey or, ummm, that other band... well, since this writer obviously isn't, there's another side of the coin - and from another perspective, Rebel Mind is a lot of the same. Mid-tempo chugging, plenty of rhythm changes out of which we remembered exactly none, excellent musicianship with not much emotion, a vocalist with a great range singing indiscernible vocal lines, and then more mid tempo. While one person might have the patience to bother and unravel whatever it is Eumeria is hiding, another person will not see the reason as these will hardly be real, coherent songs, with no surprises, no dynamics and no feeling. In other words, if you're not the romantic type and you think that "technical" equals "good" and "complicated" equals "progressive," go ahead, try Eumeria. Over here, the CD was on "repeat" and we didn't notice we had been listening to the second song again. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Roberto
 

DIABOLICAL - Ars Vitae - CD - Abyss Records - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Just about any band is someone-out-thereís favorite band, but for the bulk of the metal-liking public, Diabolical is an also-ran in the Swedish melodic death metal scene. Like, The Crown and Naglfar, a couple 2nd-tier groups, are giants in comparison. Sure, Diabolical is Swedish, which means they can play their instruments to the higher degree found in metal, but it also means that the music wonít be the most original you can find.

Also rans... you donít need to look much further than Ars Vitaeís cover art, which had already been used in a metal context a few years before by Orcustus.

Musically, these points are hammered home on this (largely) live album, which showcases a Swedish melo / thrash band potentially at its live best. The live cuts utterly destroy the first four, new studio recording tracks on the album in terms of energy, feeling, and a sense of life. The studio tracks are stale, over-produced, and machine-like in comparison, having that nowadays all-too-common full, heavy, perfect, yet plastic and sterile sound that robs bandsí of the true oomph that, in this case, even a live recording can display. Luckily, the live tracks on Ars Vitae make up more than half the albumís total songs.

The last four songs are remastered versions of one of the bandís old Eps, Deserts of Desolation. Again, good enough, we guess, but we imagine listening to the material for the first time in 2012 is kind of like having heard a good deal about that band Dark Tranquillity, years and years removed from the bandís "back in the day" days, and listening to Skydancer for the first time, now. For the time, it might have been pretty remarkable, but if youíre new to it, youíll probably think, at best, that you can tell where everything that came after got some of its influence, but itís pretty clunky in comparison. Of course, if you were there for Diabolicalís "back in the day," you might have a different opinion, just as you would really flip if you were that someone whose favorite band ever was Diabolical. (5.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
A Thousand Deaths (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

F÷RGJORD - Sielunvihollinen - CD - Hammer of Hate - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Itís too bad people who run labels all over the world donít have an Amoeba Records where they live. Moribund re-releases the Mortualia record, which has been struggling for love, even at a couple bucks, at the famous store for years. At the Amoeba in San Francisco, thereís at least one copy of Forgjordís Sielunvihollinen kicking around in the metal bargain bin. Even though Metal Archives lists this album as having been released in 2012, I swear that Amoeba bargain copy has been lurking in that bin for years now. And lurking. And lurking. Even after the store changed the location of the bargain bin a few times in order to shake things up.

Finnish black metal dudes generally hate melody. Even when they use it, itís like itís a punishment to melody for something that melody did to them in their past. If you like Horna, youíll generally know what to expect on Sielunvihollinen. Itís basically that thing in the Finnish BM mold: super dirty, aggressive, ugly, and pissed. The drums are lo-fi but audible, the bass scrapes along as a fine companion to the scathing guitars, and the vocals add the definitive caustic layer of piercing guttural screams on top.

So Forgjord is good on paper, and gets passing marks for execution. But really, Forgjord is a "me too" band. While Sielunvihollinen is good, itís good at best. The songs are aggro, intense, sometimes rockiní, but never something remarkable that stands out... but add a point is you really dig the sound of the main school of Finnish black metal. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

FUNERAL - To Mourn Is a Virtue - CD - Solitude Productions - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

To Mourn Is a Virtue begins quite promisingly: A rich sonic tapestry of heaviness, with distorted guitars, bass, and keyboards gelling harmonically with clean vocals that themselves have some harmonized effect to them. The style is on the lighter side of funeral doom, probably in part because of the Gothic nuances in the music and vocals. It turns out these recordings are from a session in 1996 (the instruments), with the vocals being recorded by three different people in the years that followed.

The first song or so foreshadows a solid gem of a doom album to come, but within a few songsí passing, To Mourn Is a Virtue gets stuck playing the same type of song over and over, without palatable changes in mood, tempo, composition, or approach. The vocalsí timbre, although being performed by different people, retains a similar mood and delivery, which gets samey and not a little gimmicky. By halfway through the album, To Mourn Is a Virtue becomes a formula. Its rich 90s throwback sound can offer some good nostalgia for fans of same-period My Dying Bride, for example, but youíll get more entertainment value out of three songs than nine. (6/10)

 

 

 

 

GODLESS RISING - Trumpet of Triumph - CD - Moribund Records - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

The way Maelstrom things are going, it's no wonder that this album got reviewed after the band themselves had already split up. Luckily, in the case of Godless Rising, you've not missed much. They were good at making a nursery rhyme out of a bunch of screams and riffs, mostly in the medium tempo, more often than not not really original, and in spite of quite a large number of them Godless Rising didn't quite make their tracks memorable. The usual childish profanities towards Christianity aren't anything special either (A hint: Christians are stupid. Stupid people swear. Why go down to their level? They'll beat you with experience.) and, frankly, even though Godless Rising were almost able to play like Cannibal Corpse, they probably won't get re-played in your stereo too often. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

GRAVDAL - Torturmantra - CD - Unexploded Records - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

What's this? "Let's see how many people will buy an album just because it's Norwegian black metal?" Judging by, already, 1770 fans on Facebook, quite enough people think the tag is still worth something. What they will get is sterile sound, annoying downstrokes, more annoying screams, not much to talk about in terms of composition, progression or atmosphere, and, wow, song titles in Norwegian. Oh, and did we mention downstrokes?

Even the metalcore breaks and dance drum beats will probably be interpreted as "true" and after 47 minutes they will remember even less than there was on the last Gorgoroth (which is an embarrassment, but still a spaceship compared to this)... but to each their own. It's their money. We got the CD for free, listened to it before looking at it properly, and we still don't like it. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

HAIKU FUNERAL - If God Is a Drug - CD - Hikikomori Records - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

More of a background experience than a direct one, If God Is a Drug works only from a distance. For the most part it consists of electronic noises, slow beats and narration in clean and distorted form, and the combination is nothing out of the ordinary... it simply comes and goes. What actually is out of the ordinary are the bass lines, always finding their way between the industrial sounds and occasionally straying into a seemingly stream-of-consciousness moment. Those are quite good, actually. Pointless, but with a purpose, here but elsewhere, and that is something that can actually be talked about. Now, if Haiku Funeral decided to make more of those and less of the predictable, they would also find a way to make the whole thing work, numbing the listener and giving him something to lose himself in. As it is, there is a feeling of having to endure the "real" tracks only to be able to enjoy the interludes. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Mladen
 

HELFAHRT - Drifa - CD - Trollzorn - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Simple, clean sounding, rocking black metal, done by using a few standard rhythms and shifts between mid-tempo thrash and up-tempo with occasional blastbeats, Helfarht might be a somewhat interesting live band. But, as something that is on a CD and is supposed to be listened to at home, Drifa doesn't offer much. Emotions, atmosphere, attitude, whatever it takes to make a band or a CD stay in your memory, things like that are largely absent. Even with numerous tempo changes there's still a feeling of listening to one and the same thing, song, vocal, scream, guitar note, bass note, over and over. Occasional clean interludes don't help much. And if Drifa is supposed to have something pagan in it, we're not exactly sure what it is and where we are supposed to look for it. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.8/10 Roberto
 

HELL LIGHT - Funeral Doom (re-issue) - CD - Solitude Productions - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We know doom metal is sort of meant to be boring. You know, being super slow, and all. Itís doom. Itís inevitable. So it can take its time.

Hell Lightís Funeral Doom is indeed slow. Itís also heavy. But really, everyone, the albumís owes a good amount of its heaviness to its slowness. See, music in general will feel heavier when itís slowed down, and itís no big surprise that the bands most consider to be the heaviest ever donít play fast.

The critique of the source of Hell Lightís heaviness is that the music, aside from the on-paper doom metal aspects of distorted guitars, growly vocals, heavy drumming, and washes of keyboard and backing vocal ambience, actually doesnít feel heavy. And by heavy, we mean emotionally heavy.

This is kind of ironic considering the statement Hell Light is trying to make by naming their album Funeral Doom. Unless the Brazilian band just stumbled into that one unwittingly, thereís no mistake about what youíre supposed to expect.

For the genre of funeral doom, Funeral Doom is not going to wrench too many hearts with its emotional weight, crushing heaviness, and nigh-excruciating inexorable plod to nothingness. Itís not going to do that because thereís not much of any of those things on hand. Rather, the songs fairly contentedly go about their doom metal business, not standing out much at all from one another, often enough reminding of the doomier aspects of In the Woodsí classic Omnio, in sufficient doses that one begins to feel that Funeral Doom is something like a portion of Omnio, but done about half as well.

Itís not that Funeral Doom is bad. Ok, thereís a bit where the singer goes for some intended big epic soul crush by repeating "eternity" over and over, and the result feels quite forced and silly. Itís that itís dull. Itís repetitive, samey, has little to express, and what truly little there is is made all the more interminable with a 120-minute run time. Like with the "eternity" backfire, it feels like Hell Light really tried to hit one way out of the park with this record, telegraphing its moves from the get-go, forcing its sense of anguish, despair, sadness, and demise, but ended up making the same record most every other decent but unremarkable doom band of this kind makes. (4.8/10)

PS: In case you wanted to further stretch your 120-minute experience out, the Solitude Productions re-issue of this album comes with a 7-track bonus disk, of which six songs are covers. We felt that two hours of unmemorable doom genericness was enough for us, so you might have to dig up the covers of such unusual bands for metallers to cover as Neil Young, Queen, and Danzig for yourselves on YouTube.

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

HUMAN SCULPTURE - Our World/Torn Down - CD - humansculptureband@gmail.com - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

We wish there was more to say than "modern metal" for this three-track CD, but that's about it. Well produced, balanced mix of Swedish-styled melodies, blastbeats and staccato riffs, quite complex songs, well-executed screams and a few adrenalin-rush points. Slightly more memorable than the rest, but if you're not too modern yourself, it will all sound like more of the same. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

KRAMPUS - Shadow of our Time - CD - myspace.com/krampusfolk - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

"Fear the Krampus?" We don't think so. See, any kid from my country (Croatia), or the neighboring ones, knows that Krampus is the arch enemy of none other than Santa Claus (and a few initiated have also seen him fighting Rob Darken, but that's another story). If you're a good kid Santa will bring you presents. If not, Krampus will give you, basically, a stick.

This Italian war-painted crew wouldn't know a good composition if you beat them with a thick stick over and over. We're not entirely sure if we've been listening to seven tracks or just one long one divided into seven parts. To make things worse, it's all in the same mid-tempo, with too much vocals, too much bombastic, fiddly violins and keys, and maybe even a bit too much drums, and none of which are particularly memorable. Krampus came, Krampus went, Krampus talked a lot and Krampus, on this EP, said pretty much nothing. Just parts crammed one after another in no particular fashion, and damned if we can tell where the songs begin, develop or end. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

KHAHSM - Portals of Inferno - CD - More Hate Productions - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Portals of Inferno is a heavy, intense, aggressive black metal record that knows when to throw in some respite to the violence via ambient passages... that, even when tranquil, still maintain the eerie mood. Though what Khahsm brings on this record feels solid and trve, it is however also tried and true -- youíve heard this done a bunch before. But Khahsm does it well, and although their own personality when they are in full black metal mode isnít particularly of note, itís the breaks from that that oddly enough make this album stand out as a whole. Not particularly memorable, but enjoyable each time. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

MR. DEATH - Death Suits You - CD - Agonia Records - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Weren't the Nineties full of Swedish bands like this one? Okay, they didn't exactly have short hair and wear suits, but you can't hear that on the CD. What you do hear is the sound from the days when everyone seemed to be enthusiastic about this new death metal thing, and if you were Swedish, had the sound and reasonable songs, you'd get somewhat famous as people back then weren't tired enough of all that to become critical. But nowadays you do expect more than what you get on Death Suits You. Not just something that would have, maybe, become "somewhat famous" almost twenty years ago. At least something you could connect to, the way Dismember, for example, used to do. But Mr Death seem to be satisfied with a distinctive image and non-distinctive music. Too late. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.666/10 Roberto
 

NATTFOG - Mustan Auringon Riitti - CD - Hammer of Hate - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Mustan Auringon Riitti is a grower. It seemed generic and unremarkably muddy at first, but by listen #3 the albumís general MO of relaxed tempo black metal with a tinge of Pagan pride has become engaging. The semi-melodic music weaves a fine spell as its musical story becomes clear with some familiarity and volume, and the enveloping low-fi buzzing of the guitars achieves a pleasant state of black metal bliss. The last track of Pagan synth horns evokes the black metal Viking tradition, with some sonic reminiscence to the final track on Darkthroneís Panzerfaust. However, as nice as a listen to Nattfog can be, it is doubtful that Mustan Auringon Riitti will ever mark much in oneís lasting memory beyond being a solid, true-to-form black metal record. (6.666/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Mladen
 

NECHOCHWEN - Azimuths to the Otherworld - CD - Bindrune - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Well, if you asked us to recommend something inspired by Native Americans -- and the world surely needs some of that -- our first thought would be Nechochwen's labelmate Blood of the Black Owl. Our second thought would be, hmmm, Manowar? They had the "Spirit horse of the Cherokee" song, right? Even Nightwish had one such song, "Creek Mary's Blood." and how spiritual are they? But this one, Nechochwen, wouldn't really come into equation even though we can barely pronounce the few Indian song titles. Mostly made of endless and aimless classical guitar pieces, sometimes backed by something you might expect in a politically correct Hollywood movie, Azimuths to the Otherworld is a nice exercise in guitar playing technique, with little emotion. Then there are the metal parts, which are somewhere straightforward black and thrash. There is a certain style present here, and the sound is perfect, but for substance maybe you are better off checking out Agalloch, it's mostly the same thing but done right. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

NEPHELIUM - Coils of Entropy - CD - myspace.com/nephelium - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Nepheliumís big push into the metal public eye is that they are the first metal band of note from Dubai. However, their geographic roots arenít something that can actually be heard on the CD. They could be from anywhere, a point that is strengthened by how the band is now located in Canada... and how the album Coils of Entropy was likely recorded there as well.

Besides, shouldnít a bandís merit be about the quality of their work and not the novelty of their origins?

Regardless of where they are from, Nepheliumís debut full-length is on par with what modern death metal has to offer, for better and for worse. The albumís sound is raging and frenetic. Perhaps a little too cold and clinical, but it aptly displays the skills that the band wishes to show off. Thatís quite the route for a death metal band to take: In a genre where music seems to be looked at more like sports than art, itís all about the upholding of technical ability.

For sure, the technical ability heard here is beyond reproach, as is the adherence to the modern death metal stylistic mores... and as are the all-too-common trappings of the genre. For all the density and brutality and rhythm changes, the songs are indistinguishable from one another, being lengthy physical workouts put to music of part after part. The songs seem as if they could start from any point and seem to end arbitrarily. This results in a listening experience that has little taste, and what palpable flavor there is gets numbed out by the preference of musical acrobatics over style.

We listened to the album twice, and what stood out as tasty was one solo and a mid-tempo segue. This is when this genre fails: Technicality and execution are important, but without composition or coherence they mean little. There are seemingly a dime-a-dozen tech death bands that can impress you with their technical ability (which is easier now than ever with studio shortcuts like time correction), but rarer is it to find a band that writes memorable, engaging songs. Tech death nerds will dig; for the rest, this album is a chore. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

NIHILISTIKRYPT - Psykhosis - CD - Nailboard Records - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Psykhosisís high points are a lively drum sound and speedy but groovy sections interspersed amongst the death metal blasting. The low point is that Nihilistikrypt suffers from that most pervasive of death metal band ills: they canít write songs. They might not even be trying to. As a result, all the tracks on this album sound the same, and although they do what theyíre doing well, it sounds more like distorted metal guitar / drum rhythm exercises with vocals on top than musically engaging, expressive compositions. Correct but as unmemorable as they come. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

NORTHERN VALENTINE - Fin de siŤcle - CD - Silber Records - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Fin de siecle has bits of pleasant drift and melodic drone bliss, but itís the coldly dissonant and jaggedly austere bits that drag it down into unpleasant territories. And really, even at its mellifluous best, Northern Valentineís latest is middle-of-the-road in sound and composition. Though the album is being pitched to you if you like Sigur Růs, Windy and Carl, or Godspeed You Black Emperor!, in reality that seems more like grasping at straws as, barring the exceptional release that stands out as the black sheep amongst what is the accepted sonic representation of that artistís main body of work (like Sigur Růsí dark ambient-leaning Von) what youíd think people would like about any of those three more noted bands would not be represented here. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

OBSCURITY - Tenkterra - CD - Trollzorn - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Since Obscurity's approach is so similar to Helfahrt's (reviewed in this same issue, released by the same label) we're spending more time trying to remember who the hell the band was that started all this than enjoying the music. Anyway, to Obscurity's credit, their riffs are classier, their sound is firmer, and the screams, if not exactly awesome, at least sound less like nursery rhymes and are placed quite a bit better. You can also notice a few nice melodies and licks here and there. Still, Tenkterra is your standard straightforward rocking, clean sounding (changed the order between the words so that it doesn't look like I'm copy-pasting the other review), sometimes thrashing, sometimes blasting, allegedly pagan... argh, they just went into a clean interlude, just like Helfahrt. Where were we? Look, you can still do uplifting, good sounding, energetic music that still sounds equally great live and at home. But then it would be power metal or something, not this. Tenkterra is merely interesting on a CD, but it does not really work. How about recording albums like this live, or at least in a rehearsal space, and avoiding studios at all cost? (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

ORWELL - Endeavors - CD - Zero Budget Records - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

A machine-gun intro, a Swedish-sounding riff and instant screaming vocals... You've heard it before, right? Luckily, it's not all bad. There are no metalcore breaks (well, at least not until the 7th track), some riffs are quite catchy if not actually memorable, and the barrage of licks and melodies is quite impressive, while it lasts.

When Endeavors stops playing, though, most of what you will remember will be the vocals: too much, way too much, and way too one-dimensional. As for the rest, think of it like this: How many times did you watch a technically amazing band live, admired their stage presence (well, as long as they don't actually wear those flip flops on stage), headbanged and enjoyed only to realize that you don't remember a single riff once you're back home? Orwell is one of those bands. An extremely good one, instrumentally, but still one of those. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

REMEMBRANCE - Fall, Obsidian Night - CD - Firedoom Records - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Maybe Remembrance got lucky as this writer's room temperature got pretty low these days, but Fall, Obsidian Night might just as well be a damn good album on its own merit. Whichever way it is, if the night is right, this CD will be right as well. Slow and minimal, but expressive and emotional, it doesn't go out of its way trying to impress you. It keeps things bare, deliberate, sparse, but it is the kind of powerful minimalism that fully occupies the listener. Sure, you've heard powerful, doomy guitars before, but no matter how slow, they will surprise you with a surge of energy just when you thought things were about to become really hopeless.

The drums are a story in themselves too, not of the "slow but refusing to be bored" kind but of the actually slow, controlled type, and still... they refuse to bore you. They are done just right. As if by magic, Remembrance tastefully flow from one part to another, exchanging between deep growls and fragile female vocal melodies, most of the time adding a thin but clear layer of piano sounds and keeping the precious atmosphere on a high level at all times.

On paper, nothing original, nothing you haven't already heard before. On CD, a quiet, solemn night, memories, ghosts, shivers, sorrow and traces of relief. Fall, Obsidian Night manages to make sense when not much else does. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

SACRILEGIOUS IMPALEMENT - II: Exalted Spectres - CD - Hammer of Hate - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Like them or not, you can generally say Finnish black metal bandsí music is dirty, ugly, and angsty. Not so with Sacilegious Impalement, particularly on the II: Exalted Spectres album. The entire record from start to finish feels like a band following instructions on how to make a black metal record, but not having a heart to put into it. Be it "raging" parts, "creepy" parts, "mysterious" parts, or "atmospheric" parts, it sounds hackneyed and banal. Sometimes Sacrilegious Impalement give off a Polish vibe, a couple times a vibe from Eastern Europe farther south, but even then itís as if someoneís doing it by numbers. Itís not terrible (we could not be tempted to give it more than the two listens we gave it, though), just very, very bland, and definitely not at all the kind of occult aggro filthfest that Finnish black metal has made for itself. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

HAMMERLORD - Wolves at War's End - CD - Init Records - 2010

review by: Roberto Martinelli

From the logo and cover art, Wolves at Warís End heavily signals retro, classic-style heavy metal. However, the music is in more of an aggro thrash vein, done with old school panache and intensity, but with a few modern sonic aspects (mostly, the drum sounds).

Hammerlord plays its songs with vigor. From the spirited, screamy thrash vocals, to the apt rhythm guitar attacks, energetic solos, and blazing drumming, Wolves at Warís End can be a pretty good time. However, all the songs are cut from the same cloth, do the same things in the same sequence, with the same level of intensity, and ultimately donít stand out from one another. Even though the album is not particularly long at 40 minutes, an even shorter and sweeter, 30-minute-or-less version of this material might have served the band better, because about five songs in, we felt we had had our fill. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

EXILED FROM LIGHT - There Is No Beauty Left Here... - CD - Hypnotic Dirge Records - 2010

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The double CD album There Is No Beauty Left Here... showcases aptly done DSBM. The mood is lulling in its despondence, propelled along with the customary fuzzy, static guitars, washes of keyboard ambience, sustained, wind-tunnel black metal screams, and plodding drum machine. The music is done appropriately for the genre, conveying the expected mournful melancholy via expected compositions.

The album is good, but there's an element that's just too "bedroom"  with all the digital, synthetic trappings that go along with it -- which hold it down: the guitar tone, though fine, sounds a little too much like it was produced in a box, the keyboards, although not objectionable, provide merely an adequate level of the ambience required of them, the vocals, while right for the intended genre, are interchangeable throughout the songs, and the drum machine, while sounding quite good for a machine, has its deficiencies of robotic perfection all the more accented by the other elements' aspects of being good, but just "meh" good.

It's fair, then, that the sound of the album mirrors Exiled From Light's compositions and approach, which complement each other in terms of being merely correct for the genre -- not standing out from its peers in terms of talent or lack thereof... it's just a very good reproduction, like someone properly followed the instructions on how to make such an album. That I'm giving the album a 6/10 reflects my current preference for melodic, melancholic music. I got through it fine, and enjoyed it nominally while working on the current issue of Maelstrom.

The last three tracks on disk 2 are from the New Zealand band Funereal, according to Metal Archives. However, no listing for such a band from NZ exists. The tracks are, as expected, largely similar to Exiled From Light's, but with a fatter sound, most notably in the guitars, and vocals that are more guttural... but the basic MO is the same. There's a lot of DSBM out there, and although you could do far worse, you could also do much better than Exiled From Light. For this kind of thing, we highly recommend Midnight Odyssey, whose bedroom BM compositional quality, sound, and range of emotions yield a far more enriching experience. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Roberto
 

ALNAMROOD - Atbaía Al-Namrood - CD - Shaytan Productions - 2008

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Alnamroodís "oriental black metal" is in fact Middle-Eastern flavored compositions played on guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards (where most of the "oriental" sounds are found). The music is topped by blown-out harsh metal screams that saturate the sonic landscape with their grating, wind-tunnel quality. Any sense of traditional musical richness is merely nominal from the nature of the compositions, as the quality of the sounds are so synthesized and digitized and generally fake-sounding that it reduces the effort to the level of bad cell phone ringtones concocted at home. From the weedy falseness of the music, to the invasive, tasteless vocals, to the cheap, digital, lo-fi quality of sound, this recording is a train wreck. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

SCIMITAR - Black Waters - CD - scimitar.ca - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Happy, playful, aggressive folk melodies with no folk instruments whatsoever, virtuoso dual guitar leads, screams about brave warriors sailing, pillaging and slaying Christians... what more do you need? Well, maybe a little more originality and a few more memorable parts, but since these Canadians sound like they are having fun anyway, why hold anything against them? There's nothing terribly wrong or right about Black Waters, and as long as it lasts it holds one's attention. Maybe not as much as a sight of Viking ships incoming, but at least as much as a drunken sight of those same warriors sitting by the campfire and telling stories of their deeds. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

SECRETPATH - The Choice - CD - secretpath.it - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Not much to report. An attempt at melodic death metal with growls, screams and clean vocals all in one, and the same could be said about the music. These Italians don't display much sense in composition, song development or emotion, but play their instruments adequately, for what it is worth. In essence, you will hear playing, and singing, and a few interesting riffs, but not actual music. To make things more tasteless, the guitar sound is so hollow it's hard to believe the guy's amplifier didn't have some other setting. While the drummer is trying hard to prove he can play, he isn't doing much to help the songs gain any exciting structure. So, why not save us all the trouble and finish this review right here? (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY - Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion - CD - myspace.com/shroudofdespondency - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

If the title of this CD alone makes you think "pretentious," you should probably stay away from it. It's not that the music is overly pretentious, or bad, it's just that it's not very elegant. There is a feeling of listening to skilled musicians (and this US band is anything but new) who haven't exactly pinpointed a strong sense of emotion, direction or inspiration, and try to make up for it by screaming harder, using non-standard chords more often, or simply playing the song parts longer than necessary. A blend between clean, Finnish-sounding folk interludes, and Primordial-sounding metal parts works well up to a point, and the point will come sooner or later depending on the listener's concentration. As many as there are moments where Shroud of Despondency could win the listener over, there are even more slippery ones where they might lose him. (5.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
For Eternity Brings No Hope (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

STILLIFE - Requiem - CD - stillife.us - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Look, there's absolutely nothing wrong with "no software was used in the recording of this album," but, for the sake of anything that is dear to you, please, turn the vocals down. Whatever you used, there ought be a volume knob on it. Two stereos and a set of headphones and damned if I can concentrate on anything but the vocals. Sure, they are good, the vocal lines are charming in a retro way, the instruments are done with taste and without too much exaggeration, and Requiem is a nice piece of retro-progressive metal.

Yes, we just said "retro-progressive" as there are not many adequate expressions for something that is basically heavy metal, like, something from the Eighties, but isn't afraid of doing long songs with interesting, driving instrumental interludes. For quite a few times Stillife will surprise you with an unexpected riff or melody, a charming entrance of the double kick drums, and a totally cheesy, but, well, proper, sing-along melody. If only those same melodies were a bit quieter Requiem would come and go without really shaking your world but nonetheless keeping you entertained. As it is, you'll have to struggle to notice the rest of the band whenever you hear the singer. Thinking of it, there's something wrong with the snare and the cymbals' volume levels as well. Maybe there's a way to fix them without the damned software? (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

STARCHITECT - No - CD - Slow Burn Records - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

With some Jesu influence, some elements of the groovier side of alternative rock, a lot of heavy, fuzzy guitar, and screamo vocals, No is an amalgamation of the shoegazy meeting the hardcore. Unfortunately, Starchitect relies too heavily on its formula (big guitar riffs. Add some dissonant parts. Queue angsty screaming. Repeat) to the detriment of writing tracks that stand out from one another. After about four of them, you will have figured No out and will have said no to continuing your journey together. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
 

SULLEN ROUTE, THE - Apocalyclinic - CD - Bad Mood Man Music - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Apocalyclinic seems good but average at first, but itís got a respectable ability to lure you in to a comfortable, pleasant, enjoyable place before you know it. These instances are most strong during the songs that combine distorted and clean guitars, which are at their best on the second song, "Selfish I." Other parts of the album are relatively more death metal in their distortion, but overall The Sullen Routeís style is one of pleasant groove via riffing that, although perhaps generic, does weave a satisfying enough spell. The vocals have a fairly wide range to them, some being not really good, and others drifting back into the overall sonic canvas along with the music as a whole. Good for a listen or two. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Roberto
 

SYMBIOSIS / WINTERBLOOD - Contemplando la Rotazione Degli Astri Attorno ad un Punto Immobile - CD - Black Death Records - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Saying that the material displayed on this split release was "some guy holding down a keyboard key" would not be strictly accurate... but it would go the furthest in effectively explaining what the listener would be in store for.

Yes, there are melodic progressions found on this 6-track effort, but as far as the overall listening experience goes, thatís splitting hairs. Winterbloodís side is less minimal in the sense that its melodic motifs are more remarkable, emotional, and effective in their effort to portray a fantasy winter landscape, but really, there are already like 800 Vinterrikket albums... why make the 801st?

Somehow the black metal genre allowed super minimal bedroom keyboard ambient into its world. "Somehow"... itís surely because of Burzum. Itís ironic as the label that released this split is "Black Death Production," which is kind of dumbfounding as thereís nothing remotely "black" or "death" about this release. Rather, it reminds us of our younger days when we were exploring ambient music and decided to get albums by Endura found in the dollar bins (which really, actually define the image of that guy holding down a keyboard key for 10 minutes) and which returned to the dollar bins soon thereafter.

If you have any Vinterrikets, get those out instead, or even better... much, much better, just play Burzum Filosofem on endless repeat. If instead you would like melancholic, beautiful ambient music you might not have heard to evoke a rich emotional response, check out any of the ambient drone stuff on Kranky made by Stars of the Lid or those associated with the project (The Dead Texan, Adam Wiltzie, Brian McBride, Christina Vantzou), as those projects incorporate drones from acoustic stringed instruments, guitars, as well as keyboards, but process them all in an organic way to evoke a lush, breathing experience much like hearing classical music, but droned out. Or, if you want something very newly released, check out Ernst Reijsegerís soundtrack to the Werner Herzog film Cave of Dreams, which is made up mostly of cello, piano, organ and choirs. Itís nuanced, beautiful, evocative, and ambient in its own way. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

TRINACRIA - Travel Now Journey Infinitely - CD - Season of Mist - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

Trinacria do the tension-release thing very well. As a bonus, out of the two there's more "tension" as the post-something industrialized numbing bashing often stays for more than should be comfortable -- of course the word "should" would imply some rules, and expectations, but Trinacria are skilled enough in the mind game that is their music to, mostly, not let too much get too obvious.

Sometimes they fail, though, as a barrage of thrashing broken by a few electronic bleeps, repeatedly can hardly called "innovative" or even "smart" considering how many times it happens in one of the tracks. However, most of the times Trinacria do not rely on assuming that the listener will be intoxicated and actually display some power. In essence, you will hear some nice, hypnotic parts, some repetitive parts with no real purpose, some devastating, nearly epic parts and, sadly, too many electronic sounds that do not exactly add to anything. If behind those sounds were someone like Aluk Todolo, and were Trinacria able to discern between necessary and superfluous, what an album Travel Now Journey Infinitely could have been. As it is, it mostly works, but at times you can't escape the feeling that something that should be "clicking" could have been done better. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

TRIORE - Three Hours - CD - Cold Meat Industry - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Being in essence a collection of poetry spoken and softly, calmly, ritualistically sung against a background of acoustic guitar, stringed and classical instruments and distant, martial percussion, Three Hours sounds way more powerful than the description might suggest. This German-Swedish duo (you might know the members from Triarii and Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio) makes quite a statement. Another time, another place, but when you hear it you will know what they mean. Apparently evoking the atmosphere of melancholy placed somewhere in Europe around the Forties and mixed with somewhat standard Gothic themes, Triore manage to make the listener listen, think and regret things that were planted in his mind by scenes and images he probably saw ages ago and dismissed too easily surrounded by the glitter of the modern world. Triore describe it as "industrial, military pop" and for all we know there might be a whole genre of this. But since we only have Three Hours to talk about, we can confirm that it works, and that the poetry will touch you in spite of an occasional bad accent. As long as it lasts, it is hypnotic, sad, cold and distant, and it doesn't brighten up your day.

So, if you need to hear someone who might know something you don't, it is the right choice. On the other side, the "pop" part of the description is also true, as Three Hours is not something you might want to listen to more than a couple of times before you have had enough of it and started looking for something else, more or different. But you will definitely remember you have listened to it. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

WOLD - Stratification - CD - Profound Lore Records - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

Nearly fifty minutes of noise... and we mean noise. We have heard noise before, but over here we're not even sure what instruments we are listening to. There is definitely a distorted instrument, and that would be the drums. The stringed instrument, or instruments, are overdriven into oblivion and turned into a miasma of repetitive, pulsating, mono, black metal sludge. But okay, we are metal, Wold is metal, and there is no question about Wold's intent. Damn the conventions, they are doing it, as if they were born in it, a storm of filthy nauseating ritualistic pounding where you don't know, of care, about song parts, riffs or breaks. Wold are caught in it, roll along with it and try to stay alive until the end.

On one side, Stratification is interesting, there is a lot to find in it. On the other, even this beyond-extreme avalanche of torture could benefit from some, let's say, dignity. Even in dirt one can find purity, but Wold didn't exactly bother. So, the feeling you get when you are listening to other painful-sounding bands is not exactly here on Stratification. While the song titles deal with winter, creeks and crystals, the music itself feels more like a wet basement. And when things don't fit in a certain way, which might have to do with differences between an urban and an outdoor outlook, what you get is a gap between the intent and the execution. Hard to explain, even harder to listen to, but still this Canadian duo is not entirely without charm. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Mladen
 

WOLVES OF AVALON, THE - Carrion Crows Over Camlan - CD - Godreah - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

It looks like Bathory and Graveland... let's stop here. It does indeed have a member of Graveland inside (you can try and guess which one), as well as members of The Meads of Asphodel (with two of their members being the main driving force behind The Wolves of Avalon), Gunslinger, Krigavar, Aurora-Project, Mael-Mordha, Yggdrasil, Cruadalach, Instinct and a few others. And guess what? All these names, and still it's better than anything that you've heard from Folkearth.

Carrion Crows Over Camlan is a no-nonsense concept album about British Arthurian times around 500 AD, played by no-nonsense musicians with their hearts and souls in it. At times rough around the edges and repetitive, Carrion Crows over Camlan nonetheless has what matters, taste, spirit and feeling, as well as emotions of pride, memories and evocations of ancient times. Ranging between epic anthems with full-on folk ornamentation -- which is still never too much -- and poignant ballads such as "The Last Druid," The Wolves of Avalon simply do it and manage to stay coherent.

It might sound rough around the edges, but in a Pagan world, that's a good thing as you are simply doing the best with what you have and hiding nothing. Mostly in mid-tempo, sometimes raising it, sometimes toning it down, Carrion Crows Over Camlan stays interesting, strong and powerful as long as it lasts. And, unlike so many albums these days, makes you want to come back to it. No matter if a few tracks have similar structures, they still work. And the riffs, admittedly not of the Bathory quality, still possess their own integrity and they are the kind that you, if you are a guitarist, might want to go and try to play yourself. Actually, the same applies to all the other instruments as well as the vocals by whoever is doing them on a given track. So, even though the world is terribly oversaturated with folk metal bands, and going through them can be a real pain, all it takes is one like The Wolves of Avalon to assure you that it's sometimes worth it. (7.8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

SPECTRAL LORE/LOCUST LEAVES - split - CD - Order of Theta - 2012

review by: Mladen äkot

Music with remarkable riffs and meaningful melodies is a rare thing these days, right? So, what do you say when you get something with at least two or three of those going on simultaneously at almost any given moment? Probably nothing as you're too busy listening? That is what Spectral Lore will make you do. At first, standard (meaning high quality) triumphant, blazing black metal of the Greek origin (especially recommendable if you think Scandinavia is overrated), "Duty" somehow draws you in and keeps you thinking you've discovered quite a good band.

However, when it starts developing and turning, becoming more and more intense and culminating in something you probably haven't heard from any other band, things go to hell... ten hells actually, damn it. And as if this display of starfire power wasn't enough, there's the best melody of the year to elegantly and poignantly end it.

For those already familiar with Spectral Lore, this split will be a must-have purchase straight after Sentinel, just because it's not the same: Where Sentinel goes above and beyond, this split nicely gives you what you might have expected, more of the "older" Spectral Lore thing. Which is still less "old" than most other bands, however...

Yeah, there's one more track here as well, and surprisingly it's holding its own without much effort. Apparently the first release by the Greek band Locust Leaves, the eleven-minute and three-part "Promise" is a journey through various styles of metal, and all the stops on it are, well, remarkable and memorable. As the beginning of this review said. They can blast, they can use technique, they know where to stop and take a breath and finally, Locust Leaves know how to make art and display emotions.

You know, with so much nonsense, superficiality and copycattery happening in metal, we wonder if there still are people around able to appreciate real, no-nonsense music. Not something where you just look at the band photo and check out if the song titles are dealing with goats, then see if they are from the right country, listen to a few seconds to check out if they sound like any of your favorite overhyped bands, click "like" on Facebook and go elsewhere. If you're not one of those, this one is for you. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

VOLTURYON - Coordinated Mutilation - CD - United Guttural Records - 2011

review by: Roberto Martinelli

"Modern death metal" should be the only three words you need to know if this album is for you.

For those who it isnít for: when the pervasive "perfection" of everything, from flawless, plastic-sounding performances, digitally augmented instrument tones, with every element louder and clearer than everything else; with songs made of riffs that seem interchangeable from part to part and from song to song, making each track a seemingly random collection of parts that sounds the same as all the other random collection of parts on this and every other album like it result in listening doldrums.

Sure, itís perfect, and brutal, and tech, but so is every other such band with a good degree of musicianship and the right engineer. That doesnít matter anymore. It still comes down to writing music, and bands like Volturyon arenít. On the level of specific athletic application of music, itís pretty impressive, we guess, but in 5-10 years, when the form-over-function tech death metal style has progressed to even further robotic levels, albums like these will be moot.

For those who it is for: everyone who is impressed by the same things that donít impress us. Meanwhile, weíll still be recommending death metal albums like old Entombed, Death, old Bolt Thrower, old Vader, old Morbid AngelÖ back when great death metal bands wrote songs that were songs. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Avi
 

AGREN, MORGAN, HENRY KAISER, TREY GUNN - Invisible Rays - CD - 7d Media - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

This trio of Trey Gunn (on touch guitar and bass), Henry Kaiser (guitar) and Morgan Agren(drums and zither) has compounded one intense jam of instrumental rock.

Fans of the harsher, recent works of King Crimson (of which Gunn was a member) will feel at home here, with all the wriggling guitar lines and tricky rhythmic patterns offered by these three masters. The music constantly drills in your brain in an improvisation that never stops. The beautiful thing about this, however, is the contrast between the uncompromising sonic assaults that keep you alert, and the nuances and intricacies introduced and intertwined within these assaults. Such examples are the marvelous touch guitar at the end of "The Magic Ring of Invisibility," which sounds somewhat like a piano on speed; the part bluesy, part avant-garde guitar maneuvers on which "The Secret Handshake With Danger" builds on, or the flashing digital colors enhancing the already imaginative "The Last Guru."

This recording, clocking in at over 70 minutes, is a difficult listen, and its gushing heavy machinery connotations might even be a bit of a burden; but at the same time, it is highly rewarding, as it offers abundant creativity.(8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Avi
 

BEDLAM - In Command 1973 (re-issue) - CD - Angel Air Records - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Bedlam was a British hard rock group, fronted by Frank Aiello (of Truth) and featuring guitarist Dave Ball (who left Procol Harum to join this group) and drummer Cozy Powell (just a bit prior to the creative peak of his career as a member of Rainbow). Bedlam yielded a single album at the time (produced by Mountain's Felix Pappalardi), and this release, which comprises a 1973 live recording set in London, is definitely a worthy addition to the collections of fans of the band and classic, hard rock aficionados.

Now, Bedlam is not an extraordinary band, but its raw power is often attractive and intoxicating. Aiello can sing with passion, as "I Believe in You" demonstrates, and his vocals occasionally reminds us of Maggie Bell's (whose works were also released under the Angel Air wing, and we're not saying that to suggest Aeillo is emasculated, but rather to portray his persuasive and dedicated performance), the rhythm section is strong and pumping (check out "Hot Lips"), and the guitar playing offers tasty licks inspired by the ease of the blues while rumbling and tending towards being shocking (in a good sense, that is; and we're curious to know if Dave Ball is still in form on his new, 2012 solo debut, Don't Forget Your Alligator, also available from Angel Air).

A bonus track in the form of Bedlam playing Cozy Powell's hit single "Dance With the Devil" live (with mediocre sound) rounds things up. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Avi
 

CALOMITO - Cane Di Schiena - CD - Altrock - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

One cannot stay indifferent to the opening of Calomito's Cane di Schiena. The multi-instrument front is of one piece, promoting a remarkably produced assault, and sounding as if the world is about to collapse. The echoes of this main theme stick through the rest of the track, as the music ebbs and flows from intimate, sizzling occurrences back to the cathartic movement. At this point we were hoping that the Italian ensemble would recreate this level of excitement and fascination on the following tracks.

Alas, not all of this instrumental, avant-rock release is as punctuate as the first track. While the following "Parliamone" - which contrasts with mellower tones and introduces some effective, electronic manipulations to support them - is still impressive in terms of composition and execution, the third track, "Infraditi," sacrifices the composition for an increasing tendency towards gypsy jazz (which will eventually become way too obvious and annoyingly excessive on "Pappa Irreale"). The theme incorporates Balkan influences with a dominant violin line and features guitar playing that ranges from free form to jazz. While the chamber temper is still preserved, things get a bit sparse once the solos take the central stage, and detract from the collective, compositional sense (and unfortunately, this is also the case on some of the other tracks).

"Fungo" does manage to rise up to the opening track, with playfulness that doesn't detract from the seriousness of the music. The violin and trombone correspond well with the mischievous theme, the guitar tends to roam freely while maintaining a rock setting, and there's a brilliant feel of alien talk going on.

Calomito continuously expand the musical palette, accomplishing a blend of jazz rock and world music notions in "Antenna," as well as introducing surf music a la Secret Chiefs 3 in "Klez"; and while the ensemble has yet to find the golden bridge between the musical territories it explores, its explorations keep it going, and should keep you going as long as you keep an open mind. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Avi
 

CRAVEN, BEN - Great & Terrible Potions - CD - Desert Comb Music - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

No, this is not a Yes album, even though the artwork is a genuine Roger Dean and highly resembles the covers he had designed for the classic progressive rock act. Ben Craven is the artist in question, and on this Ė his second full length release Ė he performs everything by himself, managing to sound like an organic band, and we're not giving him any discounts!

Craven's solo achievement is no mean feat. While there's hardly any ingenuity here, Craven delivers songs in the classic, progressive rock vein Ė songs that are accessible as well as somewhat symphonic and epic. There's no pomposity to be found, and though complexity is generally avoided, the arrangements are rich with keyboards, guitars and rhythms. The sonic textures are often reminiscent of Yes, and while they are usually less dynamic compared to great works of Yes in the Ď70s, we doubt Yes would have succeeded better in recreating its sound if it attempted such a thing these days. The limited range of the vocal performance is possibly the most significant factor detracting from the overall positive impression.

The songs are rather distinguishable: "Ready to Lose" is a memorable, classic rock song with solid groove and melody; "No Specific Harm" builds on a biblical reference with impressive instrumental sections alluding a challenge for battle, with inspirations of Levant (it's a shame the vocals during the verses fail to echo the threat reflected in the lyrics); "Solace" is a beautiful, moving passage that interlaces slide guitars with acoustic ones, while "The Conjurer" has some more Pink Floyd-styled space rock suiting its dedication to Richard Wright. Still, the songs stand together to make for cohesive listening. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Avi
 

DRAKAR - Let Draka / The Flight of the Dragon (re-issue) - CD - I Hate Records - 2010

review by: Avi Shaked

This re-issue packs the Czech version and the English version of a 1990 album by Czech part power, part thrash metal band Drakar on two separate CDs. We only got the Czech part, so that's what we'll relate to.

The most prominent feature of this release is the underground production (which is our elegant way to say it is a poor one). The vocals are a narration rather than being sung, and are placed on top of the music as opposed to being an integral part of it. This narration is quite (unintentionally) hilarious due to its pseudo grave, malevolent tones (we suspect the Czech version is preferable in this aspect, as it probably best not to know what's being said). While the rhythm section is straightforward, the dual guitar lineup does boost some interesting and motivating musical leads and role playing. The technical level of the performance, however, is substandard, and as previously hinted, lacks a production to cover up for its faults. If unpolished, exotic metal is what you're looking for Ė grab it! Otherwise, avoid! (4/10)

 

 

 

 
2.5/10 Avi
 

FISHER, MATTHEW - A Salty Dog Returns (re-issue) - CD - Angel Air Records - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Matthew Fisher is a highly esteemed musician, known for his contributions to the Procol Harum repertoire, as well as a record producer (amongst his production credits is the monumental 1974 Bridge of Sighs by Robin Trower). Unfortunately, and especially in the light of Fisher's other achievements, this mixed bag of release is a disappointment.

Featuring instrumental tracks played entirely by Fisher, this 1994 recording sounds like MIDI music at times. For those of you who don't know (or remember), back in the late °•80s / early °•90s, when the computer was still a very limited instrument, there was a trend of making purely digital, superficial tracks that sounded like one-dimensional processing of real songs °V and some of the music here, though more fancy and layered, is similar in its basic notion. The title track demonstrates this, as its musical vibe is so artificially digital that it covers the composition's reflectiveness.

"Nut Rocker," which showcases the rockier side of this release, also sounds quite terrible as far as the drums and keyboards are concerned, and only the brief organ solo sounds decent, recalling Fisher's days of old; and the short excerpt from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" sounds pompous rather than demonstrating Fisher's actual capabilities as a sensitive musician.

The eclecticism of this collection (as well as quotes of Fisher and the casual photos found in the accompanying booklet) leads us to believe these recordings were meant to be demos and sketches rather than a final product. "G-String" and "Linda's Theme" certainly support this, and "The Strange Conversation Continues" °V which sounds like a poor attempt at making electronic music °V concludes.

Still, there are more authentic moments here, mostly those on which Fisher graces us with some guitar playing that sounds a bit naÉ∆ve in a fashion similar to The Shadows (in fact, one of these tracks is titled "A Tribute to Hank").

This reissue features three bonus tracks similar to the rest in their breezy, computerized vibe. (2.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

MUSICA FICTA - A Child & a Well - CD - Altrock - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

This seven year-old recording by a the now defunct Israeli progressive rock band finally sees the light of day, and shows a mature artistic vision ó one which is more adventurous than fellow Israeli proggers and label mates Sanhedrin demonstrated in the release we reviewed in our previous issue.

The well arranged, symphonic music confronts pastoral sceneries with bursts of edgy, at times even metal-inspired, playing. "Man & Angel" demonstrates this, sounding like a marriage between Genesis and Queen: the first is echoed through the song's fantastic theme and the guitar work, while the latter is evoked at the track's midway by some heavier tones and a Brian May-styled guitar solo; and so does "Run Free You Idiot," which features wild flute playing to galloping (even shredding!) guitar rhythms.

The dynamics are impressive (which is a key factor in making a good, neo-progressive rock album), and yet they do not overwhelm the poetic beauty and the sense of drama. The tension between the clean, fragile voice of Julia Feldman, and the throbbing riffs and rhythms places this album a cut above many contemporaries practicing progressive rock (of the old-fashioned type). We'd even like to argue that if Genesis were formed in the current century, it would probably sound like Musica Ficta, and that should give you a notion of how accomplished the music offered on this debut is.

We actually did find ourselves wondering how important it is to understand the Hebrew lyrics, and concluded that even non-Hebrew speakers shall be able to enjoy the songs just as much. Even though the lyrics are occasionally a bit witty ("The Postman") they can also be banal ("Empty Promises"), and in the latter case the musical delivery and Feldman's sensitive vocal performance are a far more important factor.

Anyway, one of the album's best tracks is the purely instrumental "A Fantasy": clocking at over eight and a half minutes long, this mostly acoustic number unfolds creative, medieval inspired variations on the title track's theme.

A Child and a Well is one of the best progressive rock releases to emerge out of Israel, and one that certainly demands worldwide attention. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
8.7/10 Avi
 

SOLSTICE COIL - Natural Causes - CD - Melodic Revolution Records - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

Every once in a while comes an album that restores our faith in guitar rock. Natural Causes, the second full length release by the Israel based band Solstice Coil (whose 2005 debut we reviewed in issue #40) is one of these albums.

Quite simply, Natural Causes is an alternative rock album that sounds a bit like Radiohead in its prime (The Bends, that is), only fiercer and rockier. The songwriting is dramatic yet not exaggerated, and the vocals portray the lyrics well, marking an improvement from the first album by sounding more direct and less artificial as the falsetto of the first album is cut down to a minimum.

The progressive rock influences appear mostly in the arrangements and the masterful keyboard playing, which elaborate the settings and makes the songs all the more vivid, while the rhythms are nailing yet dynamic (Yatziv Caspi, who has played with Orphaned Land live for a few years, is the one rumbling behind the drum kit here). But above all these it is the upfront, mind-blowing guitar delivery by Opher Vishnia and Shir Deutch Ė a stormy, all around performance that offers memorable riffs, rhythmic moves, impressive solos and walls of sound throughout the album.

Solstice Coil exhibits a rare attention to detail, as nearly every passing second introduces a new effect, a fresh, decorative element or an interesting twist. The outcome is a full bodied selection of songs - songs that are less epic than those found in the debut album, but are all the more engaging and are short of any pomposity. Only slightly lacking editing stands between "Natural Causes" and a top score. (8.7/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE - Kind of Red - CD - Marvel of Beauty Records - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Kind of Red is surprisingly quite different from the previous Taylor release we reviewed (see issue #72), proving just how diverse Robin Taylor's musical universe is.

The title hints at the content. A reference to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue suggests of the jazzy playing, and while "red" might evoke King Crimson's phenomenal release, it stands all the more prominently for the sense of danger (as the opening saxophone line depicts). In fact, most of the compositions here allude to the approaching catastrophe rather than demonstrating it or offering relief, and they often end abruptly, fittingly suggesting an open ending.

Taylor takes the cathartic compositional style of progressive / avant rock and handles it with a focused and accessible ease. Imagine the playful yet somewhat chaotic spirit of progressive rock (the vintage Ď70s keyboard instruments used here certainly help in making the comparison all the more vivid, often sounding like a restrained version of Van Der Graaf Generator) softened to serve as a rhythmic vehicle to warm, and clever jazz solos that range from melodic to furious; or perhaps better yet, think of a blend between Univers Zero, Soft Machine, ECM music and even a bit of Ď80s TV show themes.

"Crackpot Men," for example, features an out-for-war rhythm and ominous keyboard lines coupled with beautifully nerve-racking saxophone playing (by the talented Jakob Mygind, who delivers passionately throughout the album). "Sunday Image," on the other hand, is reminiscent of David Sylvian's work, and benefits from an ambient backdrop and vital and lyrical flugelhorn playing by Hugo Steinmetz (standing in for Kenny Wheeler in the aforementioned comparison). As for that ingredient mentioned last (TV show theme style, that is), the comparatively optimistic "Salon Bleu" illustrates how it vouches for the music's immediacy rather than diminishing its effect.

Full of engaging, instrumental journeys, Kind of Red is the most expressive new instrumental release we've heard in quite some time. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

VAJRA - Pleroma - CD - thevajratemple.com - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Vajra, led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Annamaria Pinna, offers dark, heavy rock infused with a mild dose of eastern music influence (mostly in the percussion department) that separates it from the rest of the pack.

Whereas the comparable The Tea Party sweeps you off your feet with its sense of melody and dynamics incorporated within the songs, Vajra's immediate, infectious songs are steadier, offering something sedating in their constant beat, and hinting at the repetitiveness ascribed to Indian music, which Pinna might have absorbed during her stay in India.

Vajra's songs benefit from smoky yet robust timbres, and the band's level of sophistication should not be ignored. The lush textures, which include awesome, melodic bass work (by Will Dahl) and delicate shades of keyboards, as well as an undercurrent of experimentalism, add up to the pensive atmosphere (check out the two instrumental interludes; the decision to include these alone says a lot about Vajra's maturity, as they are crucial in refreshing the listening experience!), intoxicating rhythms and the warm, trustful and seductive voice (coproduced by Sylvia Massy, who worked with the likes of Tool and System of a Down), often resembling a latter day Rush. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Avi
 

WILLEY, DAVE & FRIENDS - Immeasurable Currents - CD - Altrock - 2011

review by: Avi Shaked

Dave Willey recruited his Thinking Plague / Hamster Theatre buddies and some other avant- rock musicians (such as the late Hugh Hopper) not only to perform the music, but also to contribute their compositions to his father's poems. Surprisingly, despite its many contributors, the album is unified by a clear artistic direction and sounds and feels cohesive.

Deborah Perry sings rather flat but not without grace, while Willey often uses an accordion to deliver a coherent and decorative, tonal background.

Alas, there's not enough dynamics or color to trap the listener into the words. The reserved, low key experience occasionally gets a bit monotonic, as can be heard on the tranquil "What a Night" and Elaine di Falco's adaptation of "Winter." Even on gutsier takes the rumbling is softened by the overall restrained production (as is the case on "I Could Eat You Up"), or it is simply too brief ("If Two See a Unicorn," with its Greek-styled guitar), eventually failing to fully realize the people / nature sceneries portrayed by Dale Willey's poems. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

3 MICE - Send Me a Postcard - CD - Les Disques Rayes - 2012

review by: Avi Shaked

Send Me a Postcard is a collaborative effort by three musicians who enjoy an avant garde reputation: Dave Willey (of avant prog bands Hamster Theatre and Thinking Plague), Elain di Falco (of Cavemen Shoestore and Combat Astronomy) and Cedric Vuille. Together, they hold an impressive palette of sounds Ė drums, guitar, accordion, clarinet, vocals, vibraphone, piano as well as other eclectic instruments; this palette, however, is harnessed and reduced to an essence here, sounding minimal and bright. With strokes so masterful, the trio pours life into the well-intended limitedness.

This recording has little to do with rock (though "Experiment" gets quite messy, and a few robust lines do pop up here and there, such as on the only track to feature verbal vocals Ė "Mr. Hamster's Dilemma"), and in fact sounds more like new European folk, often embracing the charm of a Parisian chanson (this might have something to do with the prominent accordion playing) with bits of influences from around the world creeping in ("Celleste," for example, has a ska vibe aroused by a featured theremin). Certain parts reminded us of Anouar Brahem's ECM music, albeit less jazzy and more song-like structured (check out "Hot Rod Waltz" or "Forro Fuega" Ė the latter opens with a cool, African-styled percussive segment).

The humble and restrained music has an organic feel and offers primordial joy (sample "Orkneys" with its Irish-styled jolliness), making this album vital (and definitely more compelling than Willey's other recent release, Immeasurable Currents, also reviewed in this issue), and while it is lighthearted, it is also introspective and full of woven intricacies. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.4/10 Mladen
 

ABYSMAL DARKENING - No Light Behind... - CD - Total Rust - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

If simply "playing slow" is your idea of doom metal, maybe Abysmal Darkening won't annoy you too much. For the rest of us, we simply can't tell what this Dutch band was aiming at.

For a while they will play slowly, crushing downstrokes with endless sustain and mega powerful sound, then they will speed up as if wanting to be innovative, then back to similar sounding downstroke constructions, and so on and on. And in the end the point of all this will still be unknown.

Not much atmosphere or emotion, too much similarity, a hyperactive drummer and a vocalist sounding like Attila Csihar on a bad day is all we can remember. In essence, No Light Behind... sounds like a hobby band by people who really like things doomy and slow but aren't sure where to take it from there. (3.4/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

ABYSSAL CREATURES - Social Awkwardness - CD - abyssalcreatures.net - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Don't be scared, this one is not a delirium of overdriven acoustic guitar (yes, you've read that right) but a more laid-back pop album. Well, pop in its own way, since the one guy behind Abyssal Creatures doesn't care about the rules of drum programming and being socially correct. Now, this writer doesn't know anything about high schools over there in the US, and most lyrics deal with that, so, no comments here except that they probably suck more than Croatian ones.

As for the music, Social Awkwardness is a collection of, ahem, whiny vocals, driving guitar leads, continuous bass and awkwardly programmed, but nonetheless efficient, percussion. The mood resembles something that might have been new wave or alternative pop somewhere in the Ď80s, and it goes on and on. Even though the tracks themselves could have been more tell-able apart, each has its own peculiar ingredients to partially make up for the same-y vocal lines. If you're in the right mood, Abyssal Creatures can be a companion to a lonesome city night, helping you recollect old half-forgotten teen memories and making you feel somewhat nostalgic. Or maybe angry because you didn't want to be reminded?

Well, this writer is listening to Social Awkwardness somewhere around the time of his 20th highschool reunion that he's glad he didn't bother to go to. This CD confirmed the decision, although he doesn't "get" it. So, one way or another, if you're not from the States, you probably shouldn't pay attention to most of the lyrics but, the music will be alright. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

AETERNA - New Dawn - CD - Cold Meat Industry - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

Aiming at the "neo" combined with folk, ritual, industrial and ambient, New Dawn is only somewhat successful. The atmosphere is right there, in Europe, any time between what was and what Aeterna feels there should be, but compared to the other offerings in this genre, it is simply average. We've heard worse from this same label in this same issue, and we've heard better, and since then discovered Death in June. Anyway, grand atmosphere, uneasy sounds, female narration, male narration, occasional interesting arrangement, but all in all, Aeterna's CD is something a fan of the genre will probably listen to once or twice as it neither evokes too many emotions through the sounds nor through the lyrics. But it is listenable. Does the "neofolk" movement already have its "true German" crew? (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

AFTER OBLIVION - Vultures - CD - afteroblivion.com - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

You probably wouldn't expect a Death metal band from Bosnia and Herzegovina, would you? And what if we told you that it's more Death metal than anyone who tried before? We're deliberately spelling "Death" with a capital D, as listening to this promo it's obvious from the first second that After Oblivion are trying to continue Chuck Schuldiner's legacy Ė and "too close for comfort" would be an understatement.

But they are doing a bloody good job of it. The riffs, the vocals, the songwriting, all of it could have just as well been taken from any of the later-day Death albums, plus some fresh, ferocious energy, minus the nasty jazzy parts. In that respect, After Oblivion might even be more listenable than the original as the three tracks on this demo will leave you exhausted, satisfied and wanting for more, with no extra baggage in the shape of things you only listen to once and wish they weren't there when you played the songs again. So, if you still miss Chuck Schuldiner (I donít, but I'm sure some of you do) and want to hear something similar, played so damn good that you won't care that it's a copy, check After Oblivion out. The spirit is the same. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Mladen
 

BEYOND HELVETE - Self Therapy - CD - Dusktone - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

The problem with more recent Stephen King books is that you can't really identify with them. Like, you start reading, and by the time you've reached the tenth page, you realize that you don't like the main character. You don't care where he lives, what happens to him, who he is with, where he is going, or what the hell is happening in his subhuman mind. And the whole book is actually happening inside his damned mind.

Self Therapy is a sonic equivalent to this: Once you hear the drunken, drugged, foul-mouthed, irritating shouts and narrations, you stop caring about the half-thrash rock, half-black metal music and wish you were listening to someone else doing something else. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Mladen
 

BLACK OATH - The Third Aeon - CD - I Hate Records - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Finally a doom band that sounds like they know something we don't. This Italian trio might as well be from any other country, but even weirder is that we can't exactly place the time either. 14th century? 15th? See, the atmosphere is totally old, cold, re-told... Let's stop here. By "re-told," we're sort of trying to explain that The Third Aeon sounds like someone telling you a story of, hmmm, a wizard, who did who-knows-what somewhere in the dark ages, and we're listening to it somewhere in rural, decayed, nightly and windy surroundings. And the teller, he is telling it as if he's been there and he is making us uneasy. And the nonchalant smile on his face between the scary bits makes it look like he knows too well what happened and we are wondering why it is so. And then, there is a feeling that we're still not hearing the real, full story. Well, maybe you would have better luck, if you live to re-tell it yourself.

A good thing about writing reviews is that sometimes you get CDs that you can actually write about instead of simply pointing out the general technical details and trying to determine what it is that band "x" has that 250 "y" bands of the similar genre don't. Music is supposed to be art, expressing emotions, stories, attitudes, making you feel like you are somewhere else, and so on, through a medium, in this case, sound. What the hell, Black Oath sound good too. The guitar sounds crunchy, spacious and real, the bass is just lovely, the drums alive and kicking, no matter how slow they get at times, and the vocals somewhat standard (we're not saying Candlemass, but the feeling is similar) but totally fitting. To cut to the point, everything else is there, Black Oath are a totally classy band, and although a few parts might not be perfect, once the story starts you'll damn well be listening. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Mladen
 

COLD BODY RADIATION - The Great White Emptiness - CD - Dusktone - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Actually, we've known about this one before the promo reached us. If something is this good, even cave dwellers like us can't miss it. The one in question is a Dutch black metal piece of art called The Great White Emptiness. And, even though there is "post" somewhere in the genre description, and to this writer "post" still has something to do with letters, we've been listening to it. A lot. Because there is music in it, nuances, details, tones, subtones, overtones, and above all, feelings. Not the kind of feelings you'd really want to have, but Cold Body Radiation knows how to make you willfully endure them.

You really need to hear the subtle but always eloquent bass, the clean parts composed of cascades of guitars, the sweeping black metal parts, the wailing keyboards doing something you almost don't notice, but you definitely feel. It feels like a meltdown, a moment of purity stretched into the infinite. All hope is being swept away, the nothingness is singing to you and there is painful detail in raw purity. You hear clearly, you see clearly, and it's all so simple in its thorough complexity. You hear it, you know it, you don't feel pleasant, but you keep listening.

Before we start sounding like we absolutely don't know what we are talking about, keep in mind that we could talk about The Great White Emptiness a lot. You can get lost in it, in bits and pieces of Cold Body Radiation's music, and in bits and pieces of your sanity. And no matter how much you tried to describe it by using words, the reader would be none the wiser. Try it yourself. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Mladen
 

COMATOSE VIGIL - Fuimus, Non Sumus... - CD - Solitude Productions - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Damn, did someone take a funeral doom album and slow it down? This Russian trio doesn't know when too slow is too slow for its own good. Okay, it might be interesting as a novelty for the first, say, ten minutes, but there are three tracks and they are 28, 23 and 24 minutes long.

Great sound, sure, and eeeennndleeessss sustain, nice keys, and well, the chords are enough apart from each other that we can distinguish when a new one had been played, but what is the point? Showing that you are able to do it? Fine. Good for you. Making sort of an ambient album, except it's a loud one? Fine with that too. But if music is supposed to be art, expressing some kind of emotion through a medium, we don't get that from Comatose Vigil. More like someone trying to be cool. This writer actually had a death in the family the other day, and Fuimus, Non Sumus... did not suit the occasion. It was just boring. If it was at least a third faster maybe we would find something interesting in it, but as it is it's more of a background noise. Extremity for the sake of being extreme. (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

CULTES DES GHOULES - Hšxan - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

Definitely not for people who learned about black metal from YouTube, Lords of Chaos, that downloaded movie about drugged urban Norwegians, or probably anything that's not Maelstrom, Hšxan will bring back warm and somewhat uneasy memories from the Ď90s, times when black metal was something you had pleasure in discovering, and when bands were doing things the way they did because they didn't know they were supposed to follow some formula.

That's not to say that this Polish band's album is something new and undiscovered, nonetheless it is something we haven't heard anyone doing since the abovementioned Ď90s. Partly ominously thrashing, partly blasting and partly basically being a more extreme version of heavy metal, Hšxan simply does its own bloody possessed thing in its own space and time. We don't know whether the stringed, distorted instrument is guitar or bass, whether Cultes Des Ghoules consist of two or five members, and especially how the hell they got hold of a recording of your mother having nightmares, but we don't care.

Suffice to say that once, by mistake, we played Hšxan instead of what we intended to, which was one of our favorite bands, and just kept listening. The sound quality is something you'd expect from a tape, not from something recorded a few years ago, but damned if we didn't think it was at least fifteen years older. If this re-release isn't "instant cult," we don't know what is. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

CURIMUS - Values - CD - curimus.net - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

One part hammer-ons and pull-offs, one part staccato riffing, all parts modern metal slash core vocals, there is not much to hold on to on this ten-minute EP except musicianship itself. And the musicianship is not bad, and sounds properly good, but you've heard it before and you won't remember much after. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

DEADMAN - Spirito Di Pietra - CD - Dusktone - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

"Standard" could mean a lot of things in a lot of genres. For example, if it's standard depressive suicidal black metal, you probably expect Xasthur-style strumming and the standard rhythm patterns. If it's standard symphonic black metal, it's probably a lot like Dimmu Borgir. Most of it equals boredom. However, if it's standard, traditional black metal, it's usually good Ė people who do it don't really try to sound like one band or another, they simply write riffs and make music and people call it "standard" because of the lo-fi sound. In truth, most of these bands are more original than they get credit for, and certainly, in their own way, more progressive than the actual "progressive" bands. Some do it better, some do it worse, Deadman does it quite well. Nothing terribly original, but you get the blasting, the riffs, the murky, somewhat distant vocals, an occasional crazy weirdo black metal idea and the time-tested standard sound. The stand-apart thing in Deadman's case is the tasty and quite audible bass guitar work. You probably have a lot of similar CDs in your collection, and Spirito Di Pietra will not be one you will really remember having, but when you do remember it, the experience will be a positive one. It won't annoy you, it won't be really apocalyptic, but still you can relax and simply listen to it. (6/10)

 

 

 

 

DISGOD - Sanguine Scales - CD - Possession Productions - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

Never too late for some kick-ass old-school death / thrash, right? This Belarus trio bows to no one and does what they do in a relentless, furious and yet cold, technical and calculated way, making you feel like you're being hit by metal missiles from all sides.

Nothing is hidden by fancy production here, it's clean, raw and direct, and you can hear the amazing guitar work perfectly Ė damn it, you won't believe that there's just one guitar doing all this massacre stuff. And, apparently, when they are playing live the guy is singing too? Ouch. The drums are there as well, so, then, this would be what blastbeats really sound like, and damn it, they sound good. The third guy would be the bass player, and he's alright for what we can hear. "Not getting lost" in all this shrapnel fest would be enough for him, but he's actually doing things, too. But you won't be doing much else while listening to Sanguine Scales except maybe trying to keep your mouth from opening.

This is the kind of music that some of you were buying on vinyl back in the old days and couldn't believe that your poor gramophone was able to do this. Excellent! (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.666/10 Mladen
 

EMBALMED - Exalt the Imperial Beast - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Damned if we can hear anything except deafening blastbeats, swirling, continuous guitars and random screams. No, literally. Embalmed are furious the way furious should be. If they actually know what part of what song they are in, more power to them, as we surely don't. But that's the way we like it. Even more puzzling is the fact that they've been doing this satanic mess of a black / death metal noise for seventeen years (well, mostly demos, truth be told) and survived. Here's to seventeen more. (7.666/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Mladen
 

GOLGATHA - The Waste Land - CD - Cold Meat Industry - 2009

review by: Mladen äkot

The Waste Land is aiming to be a soundtrack without the movie. However, most soundtracks are made of, you know, tracks. In Golgatha's case, you get the sounds... parts of the movie where there is no music. So, there are those sounds then, apocalyptic ones, scary ones, depressive ones, and most of them aren't your usual Hollywood stuff.

For what they are, they are good. But, emotionally, the picture is not quite there. Of course, it all depends on your imagination, but still, to this writer, The Waste Land feels like being in a room and doing something else while someone is watching a film about...

In this case, we have to rely on song titles. Kali Yuga, Echoes From the Past, elegies, shadow lands, prayers and agonies, transmutations and purifications. If you feel like contemplating these things and need a soundtrack, Golgatha have a thing for you right here. But most of you would wish there was also some video to go with it. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

GRIS¬TRE - L'idťe De Dieu - CD - Dusktone - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

More like "L'idee De Xasthur" if you ask us, but it's not bad. It's just that there's not much to speak of in terms of personality, magic or simply plain being memorable, as the best parts of this album are short instrumental interludes.

And then there are the real songs, extremely long, with layers of guitars and keys, ferocious screams, strong drums... and all that. You know. You've heard it. And, probably, the only reason you could enjoy L'Idee De Dieu would be the fact that you are, if you are, hard wired to love anything depressive-suicidal and don't expect much more than the nuances in the sound and enough rhythm and chord changes to keep things going. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Mladen
 

HIGHGATE - Black Frost Fallout - CD - Total Rust - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Slow doomy sludge couldn't be much more obvious than this. A few outstanding ideas are few and far between, the rest is made of riffs that are basically no riffs, beats that are basically no beats, and distorted shouts. Oh, and a few live tracks sounding like, hmmm, live versions of the abovementioned stuff. Also, there's an occasional spoken clip talking about marijuana, but those are just boring. Still, Highgate at least turn all of this into proper songs and the sound is better than you'd expect. So, this compilation is basically music without music, and we can't exactly imagine what frame of mind you would need to enjoy it, but it's listenable enough. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

HIGHGATE - Shrines to the Warhead - CD - Total Rust - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

It looks as if it doesn't matter which Highgate release we review first in this issue, as the differences are mainly in the sound. On this one it's a bit more lo-fi, with more discernible screams, but the rest is still in place. So, there are the same bland riffs that are basically sustain competitions, though admittedly a bit more playful. The drums follow as they should, as they did, as they probably always will; the songs are actual songs even without much actual songwriting, and if you're really, seriously a fan of doom, sludge and drugs you might endure the whole 42 minutes of Shrines to the Warhead. We did, once. Just to make sure we missed nothing spectacular. And we actually found one nice riff, luckily we somehow managed to notice it after some ten minutes of listening to it. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

INFESTUS - Ex|Ist - CD - Debemur Morti Productions - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

Not as mind-bending as it is trying to be, Ex|Ist is still a powerful sounding exercise in raging, depressive (yes, you've read this right) black metal. Well above average, featuring clean passages, occasional blastbeats, hyperspeed bass drums, actual compositions and sometimes reasonably memorable melodies, it will not change your life, make you actually depressed, nor you will remember much afterwards. But it will be a nice addition to the collection, especially if the "all songs sound like song endings" approach is your thing... And honestly, we've seen people praise, and commit suicides to, far worse than this. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Mladen
 

KRUMKACH - Black Visions of Hatred - CD - Nomos Dei - 2008

review by: Mladen äkot

This is what happens when someone's idea of "true black metal" is "Transilvanian Hunger." Basically, one beat (you know which one) with an occasional stray into a slow or a double bass drum part, simplistic riffs, your usual harsh vocals and a lot of unoriginality. Shall we make an essay and spend an evening saying that Norway wasn't the first or the last? And that even there, "true" meant "doing your own thing?" And that it happened, and still happens, in other countries too?

If you hate everything and everyone, there's a better way to express it than trying hard not to offend anyone. We could name around 20 Greek bands right now doing the same "true" thing with a world of difference. There's nothing wrong with that one drum beat if you use it the right way, but it's not a good match to boring riffs, not repeated enough to become hypnotic, or in fact repeated too much to be interesting. They are not all bad, a few are quite, ahem, innovative, but then the rest of the song will follow with similar chords going up and down the fretboard.

Basically, you will remember way more riffs from Transilvanian Hunger than from this one. And it will not have as many empty parts as Black Visions of Hatred even though on paper they might be the same thing. Take our word on this: Black metal can still bring you pleasant surprises while staying "true," or whatever you call it, lo-fi, primitive, raw, doesn't matter. If it has the right spirit it will shine. You will know when you hear it. But listening to Krumkach, you aren't going to feel much. Basically, the best reason to get this demo re-release would be to make it an example. Like, when someone starts complaining about how nothing ever changes in black metal, play him this one first, and then a similar band you really like. If they don't hear the difference, shoot them. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

LORDS OF BUKKAKE - Desorden y Rencor - CD - Total Rust - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

To save you the trouble, Bukkake is "a sexual practice originating in Japan where numerous man ejaculate upon a woman's face simultaneously." So, now that you know this Spanish band's priorities, on to the music.

Sludge to the bone, droney, doomy downtuned riffs, desperate, slit-throat screams that couldn't possibly be called "nice," "well done" or even "musical" in any sense of the word (but at least the guy doesn't die), a playful drummer, songs longer than "long" really is, and, not a really pleasant atmosphere at all. To add to it, Lords of Bukkake often stray away into a wailing, stoned ambient space where you might feel a little more comfortable, but not much. And to finish it, in spite of all this, Desorden y Rencor is quite listenable. Lords of Bukkake know how to make the seemingly banal seamlessly fluid, and wrap it up into a complete, smelly package. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

LOUDBLAST - Frozen Moments Between Life and Death - CD - XIII Bis Records - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Loudblast are hardly a new band and it shows, thankfully in a positive way. Don't expect innovation, but a good sense of balance and experience in making a decent composition, together with a feeling that a band are still enjoying themselves, make Frozen Moments Between Life and Death certainly worth noticing. Perfect sound, stubborn, slamming riffs and well-understandable vocals (not only for a death metal band) as well as a variety of tempo changes and tasty solos are done the way they should be. Some of it in medium tempo, some will surprise you with a sudden blast, and all of them will be real songs. And you don't hear that kind of stuff too often these days. If you liked death metal in those days when bands started slowing down and introducing melodies, while still keeping it brutal (and not Swedish, or maybe too groovy for its own good), this one will feel better than most of them. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

MCGALLIGOG - Powered by Death - CD - mcgalligog.com - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

After Delusions of Madness, we sort of expected good things from this Irish crew. There was space for improvement, but there were also things that could have gone wrong. However, McGalligog bloody well did it, and we never expected them to do it this well. Although still a little rough around the edges, Powered by Death will hardly have you noticing the few misfortunate moments (one of them being the intro track with lame clean vocals), as everything else is a blast.

Ferocious screams, playful guitars, full-blooded energy and the sound as sharp as a rusty surgical knife, McGalligog have what it takes. You've heard some of this before from some other melodic death bands, but McGalligog never overdo the melodies (ie they don't end up sounding like Swedes... or the Irish, for that matter), the folk parts (ie they don't end up sounding like Ensiferum - that's a good thing, by the way), the fast, the slow or the vocals.

Basically, McGalligog do whatever the hell they want, influence here, influence there, none of them staying too long, and always with a good measure. If you hear one thing and start thinking you pigeonholed this band, McGalligog are already somewhere else. So, metal it is and metal it will be, relax and enjoy. The rest are nuances, and they are there, if you care to notice. It's hard to complain about a band that obviously has more heart and makes more brutal, staccato, screaming, singing-along, soloing, fist punching metal fun than most of 'em. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5.8/10 Mladen
 

MEMORY DRIVEN - Animus - CD - I Hate Records - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Animus is laid back, doomy rock that you probably won't get emotionally connected to. The drums are overdoing it by inventing things where they weren't called for and the vocals are underdoing it by being simply there. But there is class in Memory Driven nonetheless as Animus will keep you reasonably interested throughout its length. There are enough melodies and smooth, tame passages exchanging places with heavy doom to keep things going, and if not exactly memorable, Animus is at least delivering in the atmosphere department. (5.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

MIDNIGHT - Satanic Royalty - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Just a week before writing this review, there was some sort of a festival in the park some 100 meters from this writer's window, right across a small hill. You got your usual local cover bands, an old geezers' AC/DC tribute band, a band that couldn't even play properly, and probably more this writer missed as he went out with his dog, partially to spare his ears (and the dogís). But the conclusion was evident: Rock and roll sucks, always did, always will. It's like one and the same beat, one and the same bass melody and one and the same song about sex / love / whatever...

Or does it really?

In Midnight's case, nope. How come these Cleveland guys know so many rhythms while they are still playing rock and doing nothing new? And where's the broken hearts and legendary lovers stuff? Thank ungodliness, Midnight's "Venom plays Motorhead" approach knows not such things. Pure, dirty fun, infernal pleasures and whole a lotta rocking. Nothing new, never boring, loud, filthy and without apologies, Satanic Royalty is something that should be played as an example to anyone who thinks he's a rocker and only knows bands from the radio. Like, this is what rock people with balls do. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

MITHRAS - Time Never Lasts - CD - mithras.org.uk/ - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

The two new tracks on this Mithras EP aren't a space-bending mindwarp surprise that Worlds Beyond the Veil was, but at least they are better than the follow-up album and the blatant Morbid Angel cloning. It's the rock-hard sound of an experienced death metal band, not too fresh any more, but efficient enough in its own way.

The space stuff is still here, but with just two tracks and somewhat more straightforward structures, it's more an addition than a real surprise. If you're in the mood for it, it will blow something or the other thing away, though. The hyperspeed is here, the sound is raw enough to be tasty, and it's definitely easy to get lost inside a few precious parts, which is the way we like Mithras.

If this is a teaser for the next album, hell, put more of this on a CD and we're looking forward to it.

Then, you have the live tracks - three of them, showing the band in perfect shape and revealing that the old tracks aren't too bad in a live environment. Just the opposite. Once more, not the mindwarp that you might expect, but a surprise, definitely, as death metal bands seldom sound this damned good. It's bloody fast, technical, accurate, varied, brutal and never boring, being an almost total opposite to listening to almost any other death metal band live. Minute after minute, you'll be having an impression of listening to something classic, something that bands should be doing, but very few actually do, and something you are privileged to listen to. So, if the new studio tracks don't exactly convert you, they will still be alright, but the live ones will be a revelation and the reason to listen to Time Never Lasts way more times than you thought you would. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Mladen
 

RAVENTALE - Bringer of Heartsore - CD - Bad Mood Man Music - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Not much music here, but a whole lot of sound. Trying to be epic, moody, evocative and melancholic is all well, but damn it, slow chord sequences with simple keyboards over them and a few standard rhythms are just that, no matter how well they sound, how classy the package is, or how smart the band (in this case, one person from Ukraine) thinks they are.

Most of the time you will be waiting for the chord to change to another, then there will be another song with chords slightly shuffled, and on and on it will go for 40 minutes. A few proggy guitar solos are alright, clean parts are short and nice too, but the main music content will leave you yawning and waiting for something real. Even the blastbeats will be boring, once you finally reach them, as it will sound like they.were played to the same riffless background as almost everything else. To Raventale's credit, a few songs have actual riffs, but just for the beginnings. Then they forget them. This might be the Ukrainian equivalent of Moonsorrow's Havitetty, but at least we remember two good riffs from that one. (3.5/10)

(Edís note: How did Mladen not comment on the album title "Bringer of Heartsore"? Thatís only slightly less dumb than "Bringer of Heartburn," but probably more awkward and contrived sounding.)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

SAEEDI, SALIM GHAZI - Iconophobic - CD - salimworld.com - 2010

review by: Mladen äkot

After a few notes of Iconophobic, this writer assumed that our editor-slash-drummer really hates Salim Ghazi Saeediís music for some reason, but after a few tracks realized that this CD, which somehow made its way to here all the way from Iran, is not as jazz as it seems. And that's a good thing.

Stream of consciousness as much as possible, there's still more to it than the "oh, someone just recorded a bunch of random notes and sounds." There is composition, you just have to look for it. And, although the song titles hint at dealing with songbirds, heartaches, rainbows and breast milk, there's something clearly ominous about them.

Maybe it was the composer's intention, maybe it's the listener's imagination, but whichever way it is, this mess of slow bass, drums, trumpets, keys, programmed whatnots... - and a guitar - is not nearly as tedious as it could have been. There is atmosphere, there is playfulness and experimentation, but there's not much happiness. At least we think so. Oh, no vocals either. That's a good thing too. An urban soundscape trying to find points in pointlessness, Iconophobic might catch you off guard on a bad day. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Mladen
 

SANGUIS IMPEREM - In Glory We March Towards Our Death - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

In Glory... sounds like a death metal album done by people who never, ever listen to other death metal bands. If they were the first and had no chance to hear others, fair enough, but Sanguis Imperem are quite a new band. Therefore, we don't see an excuse for "writing" so many utterly generic riffs and asking people to listen to them. Seriously, they have them, but damned if you can find one memorable song part, one riff that wasn't made to the same "note up, note down, strum very fast" formula on this album. All the rest is fine Ė sound, playing, speed, vocals, lyrics Ė but without properly inspired music (apart from the acoustic intro which is quite great, to be fair), it's all in vain. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Mladen
 

SPEEDWOLF - Ride With Death - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Wow. With classic riff after classic riff, Speedwolf are blazing like Motorhead on speed, with more bass drums than Slayer ever had, more Lemmy than Lemmy, more dirt, balls, energy, gasoline, catchiness, insanity, Satan and all the usual "born to lose, ride to live" biker stuff pushed to the maximum than... whatever you got, actually. We're too busy listening to one adrenalin rush after another to play with words.

If Speedwolf don't actually have World War 2 themes and bombers on stage, they make up for it by having a wizard on guitar, a better arsenal of firepower than a horde of Hell's Angels and more experience than you'd expect from someone with ten albums... and Ride With Death is only Speedwolf's first album.

If this doesn't make you headbang, play air guitar or actually pick up a guitar and play along, nothing will. Truth be told, you'll only be able to follow if you're a bass player, and a fast one at that. Sweet hell, Ride With Death is all the things you thought you'll never hear from a band of this sort again. If the things sometimes sound a bit same-y, who cares, because there's still more class on Ride With Death than on most albums we refer to as "classic." If you're not clinically dead, there's no way in hell you're not going to like this. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

MORNINGSIDE, THE - TreeLogia - CD - Bad Mood Man Music - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Fairly well done, this three track "the album as it is not" will not bring too many surprises, always flowing in the same, slow tempo, shifting between well-trodden paths to atmospheric doom metal.

There are acoustic overtones, sparse screams and way more slow guitar melodies than you can imagine. However, they are mostly based on the same principle, notes of arpeggios or notes in similar intervals, and not many of them are terribly innovative. This isn't to say that they need to be, and a 47-minute trilogy is supposed to have a connecting guideline anyway, it's just that the guideline was already drawn by someone else too many times.

However, since the parts are seamlessly blended in, the drums as well as the keyboards tastefully done, and the long periods between vocal appearances almost unnoticeable, at least The Morningside are putting their hearts, brains and skills into it, and that's still something that you don't hear too often these days. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8.2/10 Mladen
 

WOUNDED KINGS, THE - In the Chapel of the Black Hand - CD - I Hate Records - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

And here we are, trying to sound enthusiastic about something that is supposed to bring you down, and is doing its job very well. The Wounded Kings' third offering is doom and gloom at its finest, with your usual mighty crushing riffs, occasional warbling keys, expert drums and some kind of a witch behind the microphone. Seriously, we haven't heard vocals this ugly (in a positive way), convincing, strangely seductive and just plain haunting ever since we first heard Madder Mortem. Even if it wasn't for the music, which is all it needs to be, the new The Wounded Kings singer is a small sensation.

Okay, there's the music too, four tracks in forty-something minutes, catchy enough to keep you occupied, vague enough to keep you coming back, and as coherent as a gust of fog descending on you and making you lose track of time and space. Basically, a little part of space and time will be taken hostage by The Wounded Kings whenever you press "play" and remain in their possession until the moment you remember to stop the disc. If you're not too strong on a given day, you probably won't remember to stop it until it played in its entirety a couple of times. (8.2/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

TRAKOOMA - Demented Brutality - CD - myspace.com/trakooma - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Although deep growls aren't exactly a perfect match for playful melodic death metal with more than occasional blasting parts, Trakooma still make Demented Brutality an interesting affair. There are enough hooks, adrenalin parts and technical diversity to keep you listening, the sound kicks ass, and although they might not be writing as many memorable parts as the classics of the genre, they are well above the average of what you are used to. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.9/10 Mladen
 

VLADIMIRS - The Late Hours - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

And of course, the last CD I review will be the best one. Who the hell called this band Vladimirs, anyway? Oh, well. Now that it's in the player, it's already getting its second play, and if the night lasts long enough, there might be one more. It's apparently an old band but to this writer it's new. They are compared to bands like The Misfits, Samhain, TSOL, Devil's Whorehouse (coming to think of it, Vladimirs is not such a bad band name now). We can also compare them to The Dwarves and Wat Tyler, and the main thing they have in common is energy.

There's nothing on The Late Hours that isn't catchy, crazy, contagious, flying and exploding all over the place, and making a lasting impact. Punk energy driven by an insane drummer, straightforward riffs killing a thousand copycat bands without even trying, excellent vocals with, even if it's just horror lyrics, real emotion and personality (okay, a bit of a Danzig personality, but who cares) and more good tunes, solos, breaks and singalongs than you'd know what to do with.

We wish there was a metal band making music of this quality, but damned if we care about the labels. So, just get The Late Hours and take our word for it, we have to stop writing because we have a deadline to meet. And if you meet the Vladimirs, you're going to have a deadly good time. (8.9/10)

 

 

 

 
2.7/10 Roberto
 

MOLOCH/YUDLUGAR - Dissonanz - CD - Legs Akimbo Records - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Dissonance does not have to equal suckitude. This concept is largely foreign to Yudlugar, whose two tracks on side 2 of this 7" are abhorrent experiments in gratuitous digital harsh noise. The first track is a "remix" of a Moloch song, all cut together awkwardly, with aggressive, crap-sounding drum machine/noise bursts, with fucked-over vocals, and swells of digitalized fuzzery to further degrade the already buzzing black metal guitar from the original version. But the song seems downright musical in comparison to the all-out noise-squall attack of Yudlugarís second and thankfully final song of the side.

Side 1 is much better, at least if you are interested in black metal played by a person on actual musical instruments. The vibe and tone of the guitars is fuzzy, necro, and old-school. The vocals come together with the music to make that familiar "disembodied spectre direct from a crypt" feel that black metal people love so much. The playing, even with the simple material, can be a little janky, but that doesnít detract from the result. What isnít totally awesome is that although the tone is in place well, the single song on Side 1 feels like a constant intro Ė you keep waiting for it to "get going," so to speak, but it builds, kind of hits something of a beginning of a groove, then builds again, finds that sort of groove again, then stops. But it never really went anywhere.

While Side 1 is decent material (at best), Side 2 really kills any shot at overall positive feelings on this release. (2.7/10)

 

 

 

 
8.8/10 Chaim
 

GOSTA BERLINGS SAGA - Glue Works - CD - Cuneiform Records - 2011

review by: Chaim Drishner

Now here's some fresh fruit for us, rotten vegetable that we are, if you don't mind the Dead Kennedys paraphrasing. Swedish progressive post-rock instrumentalist quartet Gosta Berlings Saga (aided by numerous other session musicians) has unleashed its third, refreshing, unpredictable and ultra original, darkly-tinged musical masterpiece. Here, the anachronistic and the futuristic collide, blending and spiraling harmoniously, producing in the process a wonderful array of space-like soundscapes.

The quartet sounds heavily influenced by the likes of Univers Zero, Zeuhl artists Shub Niggurath and other oddities, sharing their sound, vision, approach to melodrama, to mystery, to theatricality. As such, they have written one of the most intriguing musical pieces of recent times.

Glue Works can serve as a cinematic soundtrack for an absurd, surreal film, or better yet, as music for an avant-garde play. This cabaret of dark essence and colorful outbursts of bright hues uses retro sounds and post-modern rhythms and song structures; a Ď70s Moog Taurus, some free jazz arrangements, wonderful, ever-elusive percussion and an overall distinctive sound that is almost impossible to imitate.

This album is an instrumental wonder, that will surely appeal to most Univers Zero, Shub Niggurath, Magma and Rush fans out there. Highly Recommended. (8.8/10)

P.S. As it is the case with many a great album, the music of Glue Works sinks in slowly, hence multiple listening sessions are required. Not being particularly experimental, out-there or abstract, and having none of that nonsensical filler sonic debris, however, due to the mere alien nature of the music itself, the average listener could find the recording challenging, maybe even hard to swallow initially; a budding feeling of estrangement or alienation might surface that would soon enough dissipate, the more one delves deeper and explores further this wonderful oddity. This is exactly what happened to this writer.

 

 

 

 
0/10 Chaim
 

HACRIDE - Lazarus - CD - Listenable Records - 2009

review by: Chaim Drishner

Listenable Records must have been seriously delusional when writing the three whole descriptive paragraphs in the press release about this album. Take everything you hear about this album with not one, not two, but three pinches of salt if you are into artistic integrity, for Lazarus is everything Listenable Records claims it is not, namely generic, unoriginal, tiresome, lacking in genuine power and dynamics and poor in songwriting abilities; for the album sounds weary, dispassionate and obsolete.

Hacride play a watered-down style of post-metal meets post-hardcore, coupled with the utmost try-hard brand of hardcore vocals imaginable that make this album sound ever the more miserable.

The keyboards give the album an almost MTV-level of mellowness. Lazarus is lacking in identity, being generic to the bone, copycatting other second-tier bands but poorly lagging even behind those mediocre musical entities.

If you like bands such as Gojira, and seriously consider listening to a pale Gojira clone, than you probably deserve this outrageously pathetic recording. (0/10)

(Edís note: Chaim is the harshest, crustiest old bastard amongst a bunch of the same such bastards here at Maelstrom, and even though zero is a touch harsher than Iíd have given this album, I canít disagree that it sucks big time, that the label promotion of the album is nothing short of comedy as compared to the music Ė ironically, the same press releases were rehashed and used with at least two other bandsí albums that were released by Listenable along with Hacrideís, making a press release touting a "unique," "not generic" recording a recycled statement Ė and that itís a mindfuck that a band that released such energetic albums as Deviant Current Signal could later put out such mush.)

 

 

 

 
0/10 Chaim
 

MADE IN VAIN - Lies in Ruin - CD - Ground Sloth Media - 2010

review by: Chaim Drishner

Made in Vain's Lies in Ruin is a strong entry as one of modern metal's prominent contenders for being the poster child for all that is generic. Oh, my god! One might have thought a lesson or two have been learned by today's bands. Lies in Ruin proves nothing has been learned, nothing internalized: not in the songwriting department, not in the general delivery, the structuring or the exposition of songs. This is metal-by-numbers if there ever was, from beginning to end, where every minute aspect of this miserable album echoes familiarity and banality.

Made in Vain deliver an uninspired, trendy, uninteresting, shallow and one-dimensional brand of thrash / death metal, of sorts. It's neither post-modern nor retro in any aspect; no primitivism nor sophistication were exploited here that might have rendered the album unique or might have made it sound distinctively singular in any way.

None of heavy metal's engaging riffs, interesting hooks or catchy melodies are to be heard in Lies in Ruin. All one can hear is one lazy bunch of musicians treading the same paths, wearily, dispassionately, walking the easy way, refraining from researching what makes a good metal album work; avoiding experimentation or freshly interpreting old ideas.

Made in Vain, therefore, deliver the most simplistic thrash / death metal around; the most mundane, by-the-book boredom fest you are all too familiar with. No one in their right mind would have any real reason to listen to this waste of an album, unless a total waste of time is your favourite fetish. (0/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Chaim
 

PLUTONIUM - Devilmentertainment Non-Stop - CD - myspace.com/thetrueplutonium - 2011

review by: Chaim Drishner

For the record, Diabolicum, Mysticum and even Aborym have all done this brand of industrialized, cold, nuclear-war-themed black metal a lot better than what's being presented to us here with Plutonium's Devilmentertainment Non-Stop. Plutonium are a one-man project coming from Finland, delivering a drum machine-driven, cold and lifeless form of black metal dubbed as industrial black metal due to its bleak and fierce atmosphere, insanely fast pace and the heavy usage of electronica: samples, spoken processed vocals, sparse keyboards and mechanized aesthetics.

However, Plutonium bring nothing new to the table, but whatever they do, they do it relatively well. Relentless, over the top and violent, the bleakness of the recording, its simple and direct drive towards harming the physical, the carnal, its sheer sonic grave bodily harm - are all there in heaps of decaying and vitriolic frequencies.

Coupling punk-oriented primitivism with a high-tech-ish agenda results in a recording that is definitely not the worst of its kind. If you are familiar with the sound embedded by Impaled Nazarene's Latex Cult album, or with any of the aforementioned bands and dig their uncompromisingly tight musical material - then good chances you are going to find Plutonium's Devilmentertainment Non-Stop an entertaining recording. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.9/10 Chaim
 

ECHOES OF YUL/GUANTANAMO PARTY PROGRAM/SUN FOR... - split - CD - We Are All Pacinos Records - 2010

review by: Chaim Drishner

This three-way split album presents three Polish bands which are, for the most part, relatively unknown to the public. Echoes of Yul are an interesting and mostly instrumental band, offering a fresh approach to heavy music by drenching their heavy distorted guitars with distant spoken samples, mechanical rhythms and atmosphere-inducing ambient sound clips. The band manage to generate unique and powerful industrial soundscapes like a more melodic Godflesh of sorts, even though some of the ambient passages sound like filler and give the listener a sense of redundancy, either because of their length or due to the fact they emerge all too often within each track to the extent of almost replacing the backbone of the heavy music with droning, empty essence.

Guantanamo Party Program, with its couple of songs, plays sludgy atmospheric hardcore of sorts, with an unusually profound sound and an interesting choice of rhythms and maneuvers. Long atmospheric instrumental moments build up, climaxing with the full blown hardcore-ish flair at the summit of each track, where extreme vocals, thick layers of distorted and half-clean guitars, and a myriad of interesting, non-linear drum lines converge, celebrating a unique and powerful sound. Mixing laid-back passages and angry, vitriolic moments, the music composed by Guantanamo Party Program is thoughtful, engaging, well written and well performed.

Sun for Miles contribute the last three tracks to this split. The duo offer profound and layered soundscapes that is one part dreamy and one part dreary, mixing the warm and the cold to yield a result that is not lukewarm by any means, but rather melodically dark and beautiful. Sun For Miles give a new interpretation to familiar styles, mixing them too well to be ignored; Ď80s post-punk and post-rock, atmospheric hardcore and a hint of sun-baked shoegaze galore akin to The Angelic Process, the music here easily holds upon its back the burden of each style and even combined, the outcome is seamless and beautiful.

All in all, this split is an intriguing recording portraying three of Poland's finest in everything atmospheric, sludgy, hardcore-ish and intelligent. The long tracks, the virtual lack of vocals, the incorporation of electronica to some degree in the right manner throughout the recording, its hypnotic and contemplation-inducing character, and its hour and five minutes worth of excellent post-modern music are enough for anyone to pick this gem up, check it out and revel in its beauty. If you like mostly instrumental music, this could be the ultimate album for you! (7.9/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Chaim
 

ANOTHER FAILURE - Another Failure in the Making - CD - reverbnation.com/anotherfailure - 2011

review by: Chaim Drishner


Both the band's name and its album title are spot on the most accurate titles: another failure indeed. Behind the nice artwork depicting babies; dead babies, live babies, branded babies, aborted babies (?), and the band's social consciousness, which this reviewer digs, lies quite a pale musical offering.

Another Failure play sort of hardcore punk with some mild thrash metal influences and a streak of industrial metal. However, the band's songwriting is extremely poor and their execution is in turn even poorer. Fronted by a try-hard vocalist who sounds constantly constipated, the music is very simplistic and hollow. Unlike full-bodied hardcore, adrenaline-charged and hateful to the bone, Another Failure offer their laid-back interpretation for hardcore punk. Now, hardcore punk is anything but laid-back or easy going Ė it is uncompromisingly angry, dark and vital; it is relentless and dynamic. So this kind of mellow hardcore with so many breaks and rhythm changes, one bad vocalist and poor songs overall sounds goofy and misplaced among its peers. Maelstrom wishes the band success with their next effort and hopes it won't become ANOTHER FAILURE. (2 for the artwork and layout/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Chaim
 

ADAI - Felo De Se - CD - Cavity Records - 2010

review by: Chaim Drishner

A short, 19-minute EP showcases this relatively anonymous American band playing what is dubbed as "atmospheric sludge metal." The minimal use of vocals does make room for the instruments to be heard, but as they do, they are inconspicuous and not very spectacular. Adai infuse their music with a healthy dose of stoner at the expense of their sludge factor Ė the recording sounds too clean, cheerful and tidy to be regarded as genuine sludge.

The atmosphere-inducing elements are not too clear and the music itself really reminds more than anything of instrumental post-rock heavily influenced by the metal aesthetics than anything else. Not saying that is a bad idea, but choosing a virtually instrumental approach, where the songwriting skills are everything, is a dire decision. The music portrayed on Felo De Se is simply not competent enough, nor is it original or singular in any sense Ė that it would have justified a stand-alone instrumental show to be playing solo on stage.

But that's better when compared to the parts where the vocalist (seldom) appears; his vocals make the recording even worse, with their one dimensional, tiresome metal-core screams. That having been said, the music is not half bad, it is just too plain and too removed from being spectacular or stand out in the midst of a sea of so many bands playing the very same material. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Chaim
 

GROWN BELOW - The Long Now - CD - Slow Burn Records - 2011

review by: Chaim Drishner

Belgian Grown Below presents a fairly decent debut album of sludgy-yet-melodic (an oxymoron?) compositions, where long, clear-sung, emotionally-charged passages are interlaced with vitriolic, distortion-drenched attacks of heaviness and low-toned growls... you know the drill.

Naturally, this method of musical operation is one of the most obvious hallmarks attributed to the Russian label Solitude Productions and its satellite labels Bad Mood Man and Slow Burn Records, and their plethora of bands performing more or less the the exact same routine. The tight delivery of the songs can not overshadow the debatable quality or originality of the overall music. The professional execution of the songs, the atmosphere the music generates during its softer parts, the balance between the post rock and the post metal elements being displayed in a rather convincing manner, fail, most of the time, to hold at bay the abominable over-familiar winds blowing in the face of the listener, which eventually leads to a certain degree of desensitization. Oh, and the metalcore / deathcore innuendos do not help, either. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
0/10 Chaim
 

STEBMO - Stebmo - CD - Invada - 2008

review by: Chaim Drishner

This long overdue review should do some justice with this terrible album, an album that surely and wrongly has gotten some positive marks, if not totally raving reviews, if only for the "legacy" of the people in the making of Stebmo's self-titled.

Apparently, Steve Moore, AKA "Stebmo," the mastermind behind this project, had played in some high caliber bands such as Sunn, Earth, Boris, being the multi-instrumentalist that he is; Stebmo's debut solo, self-titled album is a recording where Moore settles only for a piano and a trombone, in addition to composing all the tunes. The rest of the instruments are played by highly acclaimed musicians, whose scope of work is a list longer than what we'd like to provide with you at this late hour of the night, via this little and hopefully short review. None of these musicians, by the way, manages to salvage this album.

Now, we couldn't care less about Mr. Moore's past or present activities, and how famous the bands heís participated in are. Let the truth be known: Stebmo is a bad album on all and every account: If you like jazz, it will bore you to death; if you like experimental or bold ideas, you will find none; if you like virtuosity, engaging melodies or songs bearing any added values whatsoever, you will find none of those here. This album is as close as one could get to sophisticated, sort of elite elevator music, using ten (!) really, really talented, experienced musicians, playing some mellow, goofy, jazz-y flower music of the lowest kind, best suitable for the aforementioned elevator short rides while ascending or descending, and for shopping malls as background music played on the PA system, exclusively.

Avoid! (0/10)

 

 

 

 
1.6/10 Chaim
 

PSI CORPS - Tekeli-Li (The Adventures of A.G. Pym) - CD - R.A.I.G. - 2009

review by: Chaim Drishner

Psi Corps is a Russian / American joint venture composed of Alisa Coral, who is in charge of everything on this recording, and one Michael Blackman, who does all the guitars. The album serves as a homage to one of Edgar Allan Poe's tales and is dedicated to the memory of this master of mystery... despite how one won't find an ounce of mystery or darkness manifested via the sounds and compositions of Psi Corps.

In essence, the music is purely instrumental: It strives to be experimental without really becoming that, and most of the time it seems the composers of this music have no direction or purpose. The material is raw and unripe, the tunes are excessively uninteresting and tedious, and the Pink Floyd-ish maneuvers are pretentious and echo stark familiarity. These guys are really out of their element trying to sound like Pink Floyd at the band's most psychedelic, hazy, experimental and magical.

Tekeli-li goes nowhere, no matter how much one tries to like it; from random guitar wankery and annoying cacophony in the guise of experimentation, to endless, boring solos; the duo tries to cram so many musical approaches into one little album they make your head spin while the styles change so rapidly, from jazz to noise, to progressive rock, to blues to pure electronica a la Tangerine Dream, to whatever.

Overall, this album suffers from a major identity crisis and in a dire need of someone with good songwriting skills. Avoid this recording, if you ask us. The artwork is nice, though. (1.6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

WIZARD'S BEARD - Four Tired Undertakers - CD - Altsphere Production - 2012

review by: Mladen äkot

Wizard's Beard manage to keep the music going for as long as it lasts. In more detail, Four Tired Undertakers is a solid piece of slow, heavy sludge, with a nice, rough, downtuned, analog sound, a worse screamer than the next sludge band (which is a good thing), and better riffs than the band before them. None of them will exactly stick in your head for days to come, but they won't offend you, either. All in all, average material, but the tangible power in the execution makes Wizard's Beard's debut quite listenable. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

ZWEIZZ & JOEY HOPKINS - Zweizz & Joey Hopkins - CD - Jester - 2011

review by: Mladen äkot

Somewhere between a sonic journey, a collection of ideas and an experiment in creativity, Zweizz (aka the guy from Fleurety and Dodheimsgard) and Hopkins (a guy already dead) show (showed?) a lot of talent and professionalism, but not much coherence. Their one and only album gives us a bunch of random parts composed of well elaborated electronic noise, more electronic bleeps and occasional vocals by a troop of who's whos of Norwegian metal, sometimes backed by blasting bass drum, sometimes by a nice melody, and it's not bad. In spite of the noise, it feels relaxed. And you will probably be able to sit through it at least once.

But, since there is apparently no direction or progression, the second listen might be questionable as, well, there's not much to connect to. We get the urban, experimental, modern, post-modern and whatnot, but we don't get dignity, real emotion or real atmosphere. Basically, to most of you Zweizz & Joey Hopkins will be "someone else's music," but we guess there are people around looking for this type of thing. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Mladen
 

SPECTRAL LORE - Sentinel - CD - Stellar Auditorium - 2012

review by: Mladen äkot

Epic morphing into mesmerizing, complex blasting into transcendental, impenetrable becoming a monument right before your eyes, obscurity evoking triumph... Sentinel is all that. And more. As if its predecessor, II, wasn't monstrous enough, Sentinel takes Spectral Lore's style to a new level where there are even fewer rules, even more twists and turns, and the levels of savagery occasionally go beyond belief and human imagination (imagine The Ruins of Beverast and Haeresiarchs of Dis having a fight while Emperor and Deathspell Omega are too afraid to go near).

Even though at times the slow, lightless ambient bits can get too long (we're talking "seconds too long," here) they absolutely serve the purpose of making the listener expect and try to predict what the hell Spectral Lore will do next, and unless you listen to Sentinel quite a few times, you won't be able to guess. If you do remember one bit, you probably failed to notice a small, victorius ornament on the other side of the sound spectrum.

The labyrinth of instruments leaves no blank spaces, no really relaxing moments where you can, if you listen harder, find another nuance. Act as if there is no point in trying to decipher the compositions, and they might be revealed to you.

And that's without taking the lyrics into account - partly inspired by passages from Bhagavad Gita, partly by Plato, the rest being a solid philosophy of what most of humanity is yet to realize, they deserve a special mention. By following them - or at least by trying to - along with the music things might become somewhat clearer, but until the time for that comes the only clear part will be the final, lengthy ambient aftermath.

Sentinel is one of the very few black metal albums of this kind, where artistic vision, inspiration and technical mastery don't want to know about limits. It's hard to imagine someone doing more than what this one person did... Until, maybe, the next Spectral Lore album? We're afraid to ask. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

W.A.I.L. - Wisdom Through Agony Into Illumination and Lunacy - CD - Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions - 2009

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Where the result from the overwhelming bulk of metal bands that use blues scales is one of tired rehash, W.A.I.L. shows that you can indeed take blues scales and make something interesting out of them yet. The bluesy elements are peppered throughout the bands eponymous (the long album title is what the band name acronym stands for) album, which is largely a dirty, aggressive, sludgey, honest black metal album with a few important passages of heavy doom.

W.A.I.L.ís strongest assets are that its work and style sound mean and memorable. However, that memorability is more in the sense of remembering the albumís individuality over any particular song Ė after five listens, we remembered some passages, but itís more rumbling, churning, growling black metal filth than standout section.

But thatís cool. As the majority of bands in black metal seem to be making the wrong (or at least, boringly safe) choices, itís cool to have a band come along with some veritable panache to their work. Check it out, and check out what else the largely interesting Ahdistuksen Aihio label has to offer, particularly Jumalhamara. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

GRAVEFLOWER - Returning to the Primary Source - CD - Solitude Productions - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

In this issue of Maelstrom, we pick on death metal Volturyon for basically being yet another perfectly, robotically boring entry in the tech death metal world. For bands like that, itís as if they downloaded the pdf checklist for tech death bands, and made sure no box was left unmarked when they made their album, but forgot to write any good music in the process.

Graveflowerís Returning to the Primary Source is like Volturyonís album, not in sound and style (Graveflower is a doom band), but that itís another album in its respective genre that does nothing but go through the motions. Distorted yet neat guitars? Check. Some keyboard backing for atmosphere? Check. Heavy, but again tidy drums? Check. A growler that sounds like heís trying to go about his craft with an entire sandwich in his mouth? Check. Vocals that are mixed as if they were on a pop record? Check. Sound production that maximizes the organized, tidy approach to a wrote, sterile norm? Check. Wrap it up in proven visual packaging with sickly / romantic flowery images, and song titles with sure-fire doom-worthy catchwords like "rain" (two of them), "falling leaves" and "Autumn"? Check.

The checklist pdf must not have a "write original, meaningful music" box, though, because from the get-go, the album is as generic as they come; so derivative that itís to the point where you donít name bands that itís derived from, as those bandsí sounds have been recycled over generations of successive groups to increasingly bland results, but rather just stamp "doom metal" on it and package it up for people who purport to like "doom metal."

We like doom metal. We also like it when it doesnít suck. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Monte
 

ACID SHARK - Bombs Away - CD - acidshark.co.uk - 2012

review by: Monte Cimino

Acid Shark spits out three emotionally-charged hardcore / metal-tinged tunes in under seven minutes that leaves the listener wanting more. The guitar tones are reminiscent of Earache-era Entombed, while the song writing seems to be rooted in mid-Ď90s hardcore with blast beat passages. What sets Acid Shark apart from other similar bands is that their songs have hooks; both melodically and rhythmically. Arrangement-wise, the songs are constantly developing and changing, so there is always something new to pull out of them with each listen. Now, if they could only work on better cover artÖ (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Monte
 

DRUG HONKEY - Ghosts in the Fire - CD - Diabolical Conquest - 2012

review by: Monte Cimino

First things firstÖ Drug Honkey, what a great name for a band! Then add a black silhouetted tree with fuzzy black apparitions all in front of a glowing red background and you have the mood for this CD. Their sound references early Godflesh, only with heavier, churning, distorted bass and an element of dark ethereal mystery that seems to be growing in popularity with many bands these days.

These sludgy beasts all stay under the six-minute mark with a compositional focus that most doom, psych, and sludge bands could take a few cues from. Growling and moaning, delay-tinged vocals along with subtle synths add a top layer of psychedelic darkness and texture that ebb and flow around the churning bass, guitar, and drums.

The CD includes a Scorn cover, "Twitcher," and guest guitarist Blake "Azentrius" Judd of Nachtmystium! Very good stuff. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

ALCEST - Les voyages de l'‚me - CD - Prophecy Productions - 2012

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Alcest holds onto its front-running, genre defining dominance in the post-black metal world, although the latest album, Les voyages de líme, may not be as strong a follow-up to the essential cailles de lune as the band or its fans had hoped.

Clearly, Les voyages de líme is a step down, although it has plenty of beautiful, ethereal and captivating moments, and the album as a whole is a pleasure to listen to, even on repeat. The main issue is approached when noticing that as uniquely mellifluous as those moments continue to be, they disappear from memory after the album is over. Simply, taking an active role in listening to Les voyages... will not yield the enjoyment cailles, Le secret, or even Souvenirs díun autre monde do. So while this latest album is great, itís the kind of great that can be expected from a superb band doing its thing seemingly on autopilot.

The accusation of autopilot comes up in less involved songwriting and arrangements, where composition seems to have taken a farther-back seat to style and atmosphere. While Alcest has the latter in droves, and songs like "Beings of Light" offer a sweeping, emotional catharsis that transitions nicely to "Faiseurs de mondes," upon closer inspection, "Beings of Light" is an almost half-baked song by Alcest standards, or maybe even a relatively highly developed segue.

But "Beings of Light" is the point on the album where this writer, even after 5+ listens to the record, begins to make mental geographic note. Up to that point, yes, itís lovely and wonderful, with notable highlights (the emotive resolution on the title track stand out) but itís largely... non-descript.

The album closes well with "Summerís Glory" (again, I canít remember how it goes unless itís actually playing), but leaves with a "thatís it?" feeling, like there was a lot of room left between the pinnacle that this band can reach and where it actually gets to.

If further confirmation was needed, the Voyages songs that Alcest played during their live show in San Francisco around February of 2012 were good but were more providers of spacers between the much better material from the other records. As a side-bar, that show, aside from the watering down of the better, pre-Voyages material, had none of the major issues that we complained about in our live review of Alcest from the year before, namely that a large amount of the melodic vocals were botched by a back-up, touring musician, where they should have been sung by frontman Neige in the first place. This time, still, a surprising amount of the melodic vocals were handled by the touring, second guitarist, but they werenít flubbed, and thatís a major point when it comes to this bandís music.

Alcestís music, their themes, and the visual art that go along with them are uniquely beautiful and worthwhile, and while Les voyages... is a perfectly good album, it is not the place to start with this group. If you love Alcest, you should still have this album, but the best way to approach it is to play it, not pay too close attention or ask too many questions. It does what youíd expect Alcest to do, and although artists' output can't be equal to everything else they've done, letís hope the watering down in Alcest's case does not continue in this vein. Still, considering Alcestís stuff was utterly essential, a clear step down from that is pretty damn good. (8/10)