Thursday, April 12, 2018

Panphage


Panphage & Þul - Ginnheilagr
Ætergap Production, 2015
Genre: Black Metal/Ambient

1. Þul - Canis
2. Panphage - Konungr/Lopt
3. Þul - Lynx
4. Panphage - Släkten solen ser i åkrar sjunka ned
5. Þul - Ursus
6. Panphage - Ginnheilug goð
7. Þul - Ginnheilagr









This split tape would be hard to review if you split up the releases. Basically this is a split between Black Metal and Ambient, which have always crossed paths, essentially, since both genres have existed. The way they've formatted this release the Ambient of Þul is intertwined with the Black Metal of Panphage as they alternate tracks on this release. I believe this tape was limited to 300 copies and it comes with a pro-printed booklet and stickers on the cassette itself.

The Þul material somewhat outweighs the Panphage material, but that's probably because these Ambient pieces serve as an intro and outro the album as a whole. The Ambient pieces retain that meditative quality that you expect from Ambient, but it also has a more primitive old world sort of atmosphere and edge to them. A lot of this is generated through the sheer simplicity of it and the more organic and natural feel of some of the instruments, even if they were digitally re-created. At times it reminds me a bit of the tracks created by Rajna, since they used a lot of authentic old instruments.

Now, the Panphage material is some of the finest Panphage material ever created and it's almost a real shame that we only get four songs out of this release. The first song "Konungr/Lopt" is by far my favorite Panphage song ever created. It's a track I can listen to over and over again with that overly catchy opening lick just instantly pulling us in. Sometimes when a track this good appears on a release it tends to overshadow the other songs on here. Luckily this doesn't happen to much on this release. While "Lopt" is, no doubt, the strongest track the other two Panphage tracks really hold their own quite well too. Every song has incredibly ear-catching riffing and an atmosphere that is just perfect for the project.

As with the other Panphage tapes, this release was later pressed to CD. Similar to the other releases this was pressed by Nordvis in 2017 and it features a new booklet with different artwork. It also features lyrics for two of the songs, but, sadly, it does not have my favorite one.

If you are a Panphage fan then this split is an absolutely must hear experience. If you're turned off by the ambient, at least with the CD edition you can skip all that stuff now... but it probably does take away from the overall intended experience. Either way, all three Panphage tracks are really well done.

Panphage/Jarnvidr - Gøthalandom
Ætergap Production, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

Panphage:
1. Söner av Orsämjans Länder
2. Hagalaz Automat
3. Black Dawn Guerilla
4. Tag till Vapen
5. Gøthalandom
Jarnvidr:
6. Helveteseld Faller från Himmelen
7. Hagelstorm
8. Klockringing i Dalen och Åkallan av Makterna
9. Det Svarta Vattnets Gåva

Side Jarnvidr: ...coming eventually...
Side Panphage:

Unlike the "Storm" album, the material composed on this split was actually written in 2015. So, it's nice to see Fjällbrandt returning to writing for this project again. He seems to go through massive creative bursts with this project that span years, but then it tapers off, then a few years later returns with more material. This also seems to be one of the first CD's released by Ætergap Productions, but like the tapes this is limited to 300 copies as well. It comes as a beautiful digipak with additional booklet inside. The booklet has pictures and art for both projects as well as liner notes.

Even though there is some decent time in between the recorded material of "Storm" and this, the material on this split basically picks up where "Storm" leaves off. In some respects I feel like this material is a bit more primitive in style and recording, but still maintains that solid blend of Black Metal and folk-ish style. "Black Dawn Guerrilla" is, by far, one of the catchier songs from Panphage ever written. The whole concept of this material is dedicated to the Westrogothian men from the 1400's who fought the nobility. As usual with Panphage, the songs are very well written and have that atmosphere that has been ever present on their earlier recordings.

Panphage - Storm
Ætergap Production, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Lugnet
2. Storm
3. Vid Kusten
4. Sävgetens Folk
5. Frusna Varsel
6. Hemmavid
7. Förfäder
8. Fenomen








It's been quite a while since Panphage has put out material after producing something consistently every year. However, after such a long wait they return with their debut full-length album after existing for ten years. The material was composed between 2011 and 2012, but between 2013 and 2015 it was finally cut to tape. This tape is limited to 300 copies and comes in some excellent packaging. The tape comes in a velvet bag with the tape inside and a scroll of paper. The tape is housed in a simple slipcase with the above featured cover. The scroll features a thank you and liner notes as well as a track by track explanation behind each songs motivation. Overall a very special product to commemorate these ten years of Panphage.

I was a little late to the Panphage game and I believe "Storm" was actually my first experience with the project, which prompted me to track down everything I could find.  Since this music was composed so closely to "Nordlandets Dödsande", "Storm" is certainly similar, but there's a certain level of refinement in the writing on "Storm" that I feel pushes the Panphage ideology even further. I think this is where Panphage truly solidified its sound and simply ran with it. There's nothing out there that quite sounds exactly like this, the combination of rawness, hatred, and traditional themes reminds me quite a bit of what Arckanum is famous for. However, Panphage builds on what Arckanum has done before and adds in more and more layers that make for an even more exciting listen, in my opinion. The manner in which the catchier sections are composed has a lot more force behind them than in a lot of other projects I've listened to and at the same time Panphage manages to construct this timeless atmosphere that is somewhat modern, but feels like it hearkens back to the days of old.

Now if you had the misfortune of missing out on the original tape release, "Storm" was finally re-released on CD by Nordvis Produktion in 2017. They produced a beautiful multi-panel digipak edition for us. It features new artwork and the lyrics to two of the songs on the album. I assume the two songs chosen have more meaning for Fjällbrandt, or they convey more of what he wants for the Panphage project. I doubt the material was remastered, but music, even more raw Black Metal, is recorded on computers these days, so cutting the digital extract onto CD probably maintains the full sound a lot more. So, "Storm" feels a lot more loud and full compared to the original tape as far as I can tell.

Every time I listen to a Panphage recording, I feel inspired. There's something about Panphage that feels triumphant amidst all the disdain and hatred for the modern world and modern man. I hope with the release of "Storm" we'll have a steady wave of releases of this nature. At least that's what I was hoping back when I first heard this release and I certainly got my wish... can't wait for the next installment!

Panphage - Nordlandets Dödsande
Ætergap Production, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Nordlandets dödsande
2. Kynjamein
3. Svarta vågor
4. Fredlös
5. Livlös











A mere few months since the last release and we already have a new Panphage tape ready to go! After the last release I was really excited to hear what "Nordlandets Dödsande" would bring us. As with before, it's released on cassette with a pro-printed tape and booklet. This time all the lyrics are published for us to read...and for those of us who understand Swedish, which is not me.

Now, "Nordlandets Dödsande" is a good and solid release, but it just doesn't have the same level of magic for me that "Gráðr Neðan" possessed. There's just something in the writing on that release that was immense and "Nordlandets Dödsande" feels more like a return to the earlier release style. Which is great stuff, but doesn't hit as hard. "Nordlandets Dödslande", while being in the vein of Raw Black Metal, has a decidedly more upbeat approach to all the songwriting. This is probably an attempt to incorporate the "happier" sounding folk melodies, whereas before he would usually choose more triumphant of darker styles. "Nordlandets Dödsande" still has that quality triumphant sound, it's just painted in a more positive light this time around, but it still manages to remain in the realms of raw and grim. A lot of the material is still making me think of projects like Arckanum quite a bit.

In the end, even though I didn't like this as much as the prior release, it's still very good material. The experiment he delved into felt like a faster version of Storm at times, so it had a lot more emphasis on Folk aspects. Even though he will change up the sound and approach of the project from time to time, I still look forward to what's to come, because even though there have been slight changes here and there, all the material is still quite good at the end of the day.

Panphage - Gráðr Neðan
Ætergap Production, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Dögun í undirheimum
2. þrudmoþgi iotunn
3. Under sotröda vingar
4. Sökkdalir
5. Gráðr
6. Lemlästad & i snö förborgad
7. Neðan









Another year and another Panphage tape. This one really pushes the envelope from "Ursvöl" in a truly excellent direction. As before this is released on cassette with a pro-booklet and pro-tape. The booklet is a really nice multi-panel booklet with the lyrics to a few songs written out.

Gráðr Neðan is a far more expansive journey than the previous releases, mainly due to the fact that it simply has more tracks. However, the musical composition feels a lot more mature and well thought out. This release marries the Black Metal atmosphere with some excellent Thrash and Folk moments to really hook us in like never before. Every song is wonderfully crafted. For me, "Gráðr Neðan" is where Panphage took a turn artistically into something of a higher quality project. There aren't any songs that stand in the background, and I daresay there aren't even any filler riffs. Everything feels attention grabbing, and maybe that's one of the reasons I feel like this release is much more intense than the others.

When a band finally hits this caliber of composition I want them to stop making these shorter releases and put out a full length. So, hopefully Panphage will be heading in that direction soon. However, if you're first delving into the world of Panphage, while the prior releases are pretty good, this is where the material starts to grow far beyond the original material, so starting here is a good spot.

Panphage - Ursvöl
Ætergap Production, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Skall & Skalv
2. Svartmånfödda Yngel
3. A Haugi
4. Ursvöl
5. Illa Sett (Glum cover)











Another year yields, yet another tape, from Panphage. Given the constant improvement of the project I was certainly looking forward to new material. As with the other tapes on this label the cover is pro-printed and is limited to 300 copies.

"Ursvöl" isn't as heavy in style compared to the prior release. It's probably closer to the material we heard on the "Jotunmodi" release. Rather than heaviness, this album creates a generally darker atmosphere overall. However, those catchier guitar licks and riffs that have become a staple of the Panphage sound are still ever present throughout the release. "Skall & Skalv" is clear demonstration of this. This material feels even more infused with Black Metal, and for some reason I keep coming back to Arckanum whenever I hear Panphage material like this. Although, "Ursvöl" seems like it is more influenced by the more melodic styled Black Metal bands out there. At times hear early Enslaved and early Einherjer in their sound a bit as well, but this is probably due to the dose of folk style meshed into the sound.

I quite prefer the style on "Ursvöl" a bit more than the last tape. It has more of the atmosphere I am looking for in my music. Either way this is, yet another, great Panphage release and I look forward to whatever comes next. Since, I'm sure there will be another tape for us in the following year!

Panphage - Ætt Loka
Ætergap Production, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Olios
2. Likrå
3. Ormblot
4. Thriggia Thursa Fadir
5. Urthurs Pt. II











A year after Panphage's foray into the digital world they swiftly returned to tape releases. This time on a new label for Panphage. This comes with a pro-printed cover and is limited to 300 copies. "Ætt Loka" builds on "Jotunmodi," but also experiments with different elements than before.

This release winds up being a much heavier release than "Jotunmodi". Those catchy riffs built on the back of more folk elements are still ever present in the sound, of course, but he's upped the general intensity and heaviness this time around. Here you'll find a lot more palm muting riffs than before, but Panphage manage to keep everything sounding like they're mainly in the Black Metal realm for writing this material. The songwriting is much improved as well and everything feels a lot more cohesive in the grand scheme of things. It feels more like he wrote an "album" than a collection of songs that sort of fit thematically. I also appreciated "Likrå" a lot, because it has a similar idea to the closing track of "Jotunmodi", but this time I feel like everything fit together better. Unfortunately, the main riff on "Thursamodir" fit with the female vocals even better. The other strange thing you'll here is the experimentation with some more dissonant riffing a few times in this album. Just listen to the opening of "Ormblot", I would expect that more from a Blut aus Nord release.

I think the only major complaint I can level at this is I feel like atmosphere has been sacrificed for heaviness. Which was probably the intended goal given how it is persistent throughout the whole release. However, I enjoy the stronger songwriting this time around and it maintains enough of that groove from the prior album to keep my attention and enjoyment through the release. Again, looking forward to even more of this, because it sounds like the material is getting even stronger. Maybe he'll find a good balance between heaviness, atmosphere, and catchiness on future material.

Panphage - Jotunmodi
Self-Released, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Utgårdalhovet
2. Muspel
3. Urthurs
4. Jotunmodi
5. Thursamodir

Unfortunately I have never heard the Panphage material prior to this release. After a string of demo tapes released on Satanic Propaganda Panphage turned to the digital market and self-released this material onto the internet. It doesn't have any kind of cover associated with it, which is disappointing. However, I did read that "Jotunmodi" is quite different from the earlier demos and this is where the Panphage legacy really begins in sound and motivation.

"Jotunmodi" is a really cool demo with some good ideas and experimentation of the newer Panphage sound, there's also some ideas that don't work out as well, but for the most part it works. All the songs feel heavily rooted in an Arckanum style and recording approach to the music. There's also a fair dose of a folk feel injected into the music, so it feels reminiscent of the older days of Viking Metal at times. This adds an interesting groove to the Arckanum style. I think Fjällbrandt is still sorting out the particulars of composing Panphage material. He has some chuggier guitar moments that don't fit with some of the groovier sections. Then in "Jotunmodi" there's this random shred solo that immediately kills all hope for atmosphere. "Thursamodir" is one of the best and one of the worst tracks on this. It has this immense atmospheric riff and when the female vocals kick in over it, it's absolutely spectacular. But his bridges and some of the other riffs thrown in here pull us out of that amazing atmosphere he was building. It really is too bad, because this could have been one of the best Panphage songs ever composed... I almost wish he would revisit this song and re-work it a little bit. In light of that, the first two tracks are probably the strongest on this release. "Utgårdalhovet" has some wonderful atmosphere and especially nice riffs to catch our attention.

I don't know what earlier Panphage sounded like, but "Jotunmodi" is a very strong showing for shifting styles. I think there are still some kinks to work out, but Panphage has some rock solid foundation to build on with this approach. I really look forward to hearing what's in store next.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sarrgh


Sarrgh - Black Hate and Doom
Christhunt Productions, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Last Northern Warrior
2. The Path of Despair
3. Ancient Sky
4. Black Hate and Doom
5. Cold Winds of Grimly Forest
6. Die Kalte Klinge
7. Satanischer Zorn
8. Salute to Christ








I ran across this release when I was looking at Maniac Butcher's page and found that Vlad played bass in this project. Naturally, I missed out on this release when it first came out and didn't delve into it until 2018. It truly is hard to get all the releases out there when they're first released, but I tracked this down and got the copy recently. This CD is limited to 666 copies, but I'm sure there are many still floating around since this release didn't exactly tear through the scene as a must have.

As you can imagine this is Black Metal of the raw variety, it truly has that early 90's production, but it's made well enough to hear everything. The mixing is a bit suspect and the cymbals sound weird at times. The vocals are probably the worst part of this album, they're really blown out and don't sound very good at all. Other than that, musically, this reminds me a lot of the German material that was coming out in the late 90's, but with some more Heavy Metal moments thrown in more in line with Darkthrone's combination. It's more than just sawing away at a guitar for five minutes on every song, so in that regard Sarrgh is a bit more interesting to listen to. However, as far as a debut release goes, the material isn't that bad and the songs capture that cold ancient atmosphere from the early era of Black Metal.

I would never say Sarrgh is a must have and you rush out and buy it right away, but it is a cool little release that does a good job of paying homage to bygone era. If Sarrgh had continued to release material I do wonder if this project would have improved a lot, since bands that start like this tend to improve their writing a lot more as they continue on. Unfortunately after this they only released a 7" that I have yet to track down and we haven't heard from the band since.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Funeral Winds


Funeral Winds - Sekhmet
 New Era Productions, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Seven Arrows, Knife and Flame - Sekhmet
2. Sinister Creed













After the successful release of "Nexion XUL" I had no idea Funeral Winds would essentially go on the back burner for quite a while. Just when I thought Funeral Winds was about to hit their prime the whole project just stopped. Well here are eight years later and suddenly I started seeing posts surface about new recordings. I was, naturally, very excited about this since I really enjoyed the last two Funeral Winds albums. Probably to prove the project wasn't dead they quickly released two new songs on this 7" release, which I ordered as soon as I could. This release is limited to 500 copies, but no limitation is listed on the packaging.

The two new songs from Funeral Winds are certainly promising. Sadly Balgradon is no longer drumming in the project, I imagine things got too busy with Infinity, since that is his main project. Funeral Winds is now down to just Hellchrist and a session from from Germany calling himself MZI. MZI drums for the band Kvltist. He does a great job with the Funeral Winds material, he's a bit more heavy on the blasting than Balgradon was and he, naturally, lacks the overall flair Balgradon threw into his arrangements. Unfortunately, most drummers don't do that kind of arranging. So, the new Funeral Winds falls into the brand of Black Metal that is a more punishing blast heavy style. Luckily Hellchrist's riffs match this style perfectly and we get a very evil and intense sounding composition. The second song "Sinister Creed" has some serious Gorgoroth worship going on and that was interesting to hear, because with the Gorgoroth style drums it creates this sort of grinding effect (no, not like the genre). Switching between that and the more standard arrangement for Funeral Winds created quite an excellent song, the only bad part of the song is that it is quite short at under three minutes. However, if this is is indicative of what's to come from Funeral Winds on a future full-length I am absolutely excited and eager to hear it. It may not be like the glory days, but it sounds like it will certainly be a great release nonetheless.

Funeral Winds - Nexion XUL
Sadolust Records, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Old Serpent Stirs
2. Fasten Upon Mankind the Eye of Death
3. The Blood of Chaos
4. Anzu
5. The Cursed Bloodline
6. The Luminous Dissolves
7. Den of the Malignant Ones
8. Alkatu Destroyed
9. I Call Upon the Deep






After the amazing "Koude Haat" I was really excited to hear the next album from Funeral Winds. At least we didn't have to wait as long between albums this time around, but it still took a while before this one came out. Still, I'm more a proponent of not rushing an album and I'd rather musicians work slowly and really put out the best material they can come up with rather than just put out albums for the sake of putting out albums. Now, if you were expecting "Koude Haat" part two, that's not really what we've got here.

"Nexion XUL" is a pretty good follow-up to "Koude Haat", but I'm still reeling from how excellent that album was. Personally, I don't think "Nexion XUL" is a better album, but it is a very good album nonetheless. Funeral Winds have finally put that extra something into their music that makes me coming back for more. There is a lot of similarities between the two albums, but "Nexion XUL" sounds more powerful and evil and a lot of that is coming from the production as well as the riffs. Just listen to "The Cursed Bloodline" and you'll see what I mean. It seems Hellchrist has gotten tired of dealing with other studios and merely created his own. Balgradon recorded the drums in his own studio. The end result is production that seems a bit cleaner, but also feels a bit more compressed compared to the insanity of "Koude Haat". "Nexion XUL" has much better production and everything is a lot more balanced, so the strength of the recording really shows through quite a bit more. "Koude Haat" felt a lot more untamed by comparison, but it also felt way more vicious and intense because of that fact. "Nexion XUL" feels more tame, but at the same time a lot darker and more evil, which I believe is really what Hellchrist has always wanted his music to sound like, but just wasn't achieving that feel, especially in the early days. Back then he wasn't writing riffs that sounded very threatening, but on "Nexion XUL" they're all over the place, so it makes for a much more immense listen.

While "Nexion XUL" sounds and feels different from "Koude Haat" it's still an excellent album. It's has a lot of great songs on here and a performance that certainly exceeds what we heard on "Koude Haat". It will certainly be interesting to see where Funeral Winds takes things from here now that I believe they're starting to lock into their sound.

Funeral Winds - Koude Haat
Death to Mankind Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. When the Funeral Winds Cry for Revenge
2. Soul Harvest
3. Koude Haat
4. Carnage in the Temple of Jeruzalem
5. From the Depth of the Earth
6. The Wicked are the Wise
7. Dawn of the Bestial Bloodshed
8. The Beast Within
9. Raised by the Fury of the Ancient Ones






Funeral Winds has had quite the hiatus going since the release of their debut and even longer when you consider that album was recorded back in 1995. So it's been nearly a decade since Funeral Winds has reared its hateful head. The hiatus proved to be a good thing in my mind because here we have "Koude Haat", one of the most hateful and vicious sounding Black Metal albums around.

As seems to be typical with Funeral Winds there have been more line-up changes, but here we have a new drummer that truly fits perfectly with this sound, Balgradon XUL. Balgradon is from the band Infinity and I highly encourage people to check out this project as well! "Koude Haat" wouldn't be nearly as awesome of a release if it wasn't for Balgradon's masterful drum work taking Hellchrist's riffs and making them into a punishing force. It sort of reminds me of the work Endstille is putting out at this time. This raw and cold style of Black Metal, but Funeral Winds throws a good deal more catchy riffs into the mix. The real stand out for that is the chorus to "Koude Haat", which is by far my favorite song on the album. I actually quite like the production on this album, because while it has this sort of raw lo-fi quality, you can still hear everything pretty well. It has this razor sharp thinned out guitar feel, but with the roaring bass to fill out the rest of the spectrum it works really well. The drums are really powerful, perhaps a bit too loud in the mix at times, but it works well enough.

"Koude Haat" is an extremely good album and quite a shock coming out of Funeral Winds, because their prior material wasn't exactly like this. This album has such raw cold hatred underlying every moment that it is just perfect from beginning to end. Now that Funeral Winds has hit this level of composition I'm really looking forward to anything they do next, I hope they won't be on hiatus for nearly as long and they don't have line-up changes. I, especially, hope they don't lose this drummer because he is perfect for this project.

Funeral Winds - Godslayer XUL
Daimonion, 1998
Genre: Black Metal

1. For the Glory of XUL
2. A Diabolical Meeting
3. Thy Eternal Flame
4. Visions of Afterlife
5. Resurrection of the Five Winds
6. When Twilight Shines Over the Forgotten Fields
7. Screaming for Grace
8. Night of the Utterdark
Inferi:
9. The Raven's Son (Birth of a Warlock
10. December (Cry for War)
11. Siren Voice of the Ancient
12. In the Sign of Chaos

It seems like it took quite a while for Funeral Winds to finally get a full-length out and when you read into this release there were a lot of problems. When you read the liner notes you'll find this was recorded all the way back in 1995, but it didn't see the light of day until 1998. It's strange because there were some serious line-up changes from even the split with Abigail. They have an entirely new drummer on this release. I also missed out on the original 1998 press of this release and I own the re-release from 2002 published by Death to Mankind Records. This has bonus tracks from a side project called Inferi that also features almost everyone in Funeral Winds. However, this was a side project called Inferi which were recorded in 1997, but were never released until now.

The debut album from Funeral Winds covers a lot of new territory and features re-recordings of some earlier songs. I wonder if they just wanted to hear the earlier songs with the new drummer who is clearly much better than the original drummer they had, but he was getting much better with every release, so it's strange to see them switch. Anyway this album starts off with the campiest intro song ever, "For the Glory of XUL". If it only had the "eerie" keyboards it would have been fine, but then the guttural vocals kick in saying something stupid and it just kills it. It sounds lame and campy. So, I was surprised that after such a bad start things picked up quite a bit better. I sort of new what to expect after hearing the other Funeral Winds albums, but I was impressed with how good the new drummer sounds. He's a lot more solid and clearly much faster, I think he outpaces the guitars in a couple parts so it feels off here and there. This was recorded in the same studio as all their other material, but this album sounds quite a bit better than everything else they've done so far. Even "Thy Eternal Flame" came out a lot better than the original version. For a 1995 recording this sounds pretty good, I think it was just released way too late and by 1998 this had become quite generic, so the release would fall on fairly deaf ears. I certainly don't remember anyone mentioning the band to me during this time frame and I ordered music from all over the world back then too. "Godslayer XUL", unfortunately, is merely an okay debut album, they're getting better, but they still don't capture my imagination with their writing yet.

The Inferi tracks are quite different, but they're also much newer in terms of composition. I really liked this material and I'm glad they decided to finally release it. The songs are a good deal more atmospheric and have a much more mature writing style. Hellchrist did the vocals on this and they sound a good deal better than any of the vocalists he's had in Funeral Winds. Anyway, these Inferi tracks really make this re-release worth hearing.

For a debut album, "Godslayer XUL" is certainly a lot better than the previous releases, but it still lacks that certain something that would make the album truly good. Instead it sounds like a lot of other basic Black Metal that's been released over the years. Hopefully Funeral Winds will keep writing and working on songs to try and come into their own and write something truly worthwhile. The Inferi tracks show that they are clearly capable of that.

Funeral Winds & Abigail - Screaming for Grace
Warmaster Records, 1995
Genre: Black Metal

Funeral Winds:
1. Twilight Shine Upon My Crypt
2. The Fiery Winds of Our Revenge
3. Resurrection of the Five Winds
4. Screaming for Grace
5. Liar of Golgotha
Abigail:
6. Attack with Spell
7. Dead God - King of Kemet
8. The Crown Bearer
9. We Shall Not Await the Dawn
10. Darkness Steals



Side Abigail: ...maybe not coming...
Side Funeral Winds:

Funeral Winds continues to make improvements in their overall sound and to present their new material they do it through a split with Japan's Abigail. I probably won't review the Abigail side because their discography is huge and I'm not really into their project anyway. I much prefer Funeral Winds anyway.

So, one thing people should know about this release is that even though it lists five tracks there are only three from Funeral Winds. The first three tracks on the Funeral Winds side are actually all in a single track. I don't know if that was an error or intentional, but either way that's what happened. I think Funeral Winds are starting to come into their own a little bit more with this release, at least they're starting to blend together more than just Darkthrone or early Gorgoroth worship. The riffs are written much better, the recording quality is stronger and the band is much tighter as a whole. I think Funeral Winds is finally on their way to putting out some solid material, especially since they're starting to write in a more mature fashion. It's not quite there yet, but it's almost there. The song "Screaming for Grace" is by far my favorite on this recording, it reminds me of another band I like, but I'm drawing a blank on who that band is.

In the end if you missed out on the material before this I'm not sure you've missed out on much, this is an excellent starting point for getting into Funeral Winds. The songs are far more interesting and they have a much stronger atmosphere. They're still worshiping the Norwegian style of Black Metal, but on this recording they do a much more interesting job of it.

Funeral Winds - Thy Eternal Flame
Black Arts Productions, 1994
Genre: Black Metal

1. Thy Eternal Flame
2. Steps of Ritual













This is the first 7" vinyl EP Funeral Winds put out and it came very shortly after their demo on Pagan Records. It may seem like they're repeating material here, but even though these songs showed up on the last tape they were actually live recordings. These are studio recording of these two songs.

This is just a continuation of the material and writing style we heard on "Resurrection..." However, the recording quality is a little bit better, in my opinion anyway. It seems the band has gotten better at playing as a unit this time around. The music feels like a crossover of Gorgoroth and Darkthrone, especially "Steps of Ritual". It sounds like the band is doing well enough to the point where they can start delving into full-length territory, provided they consistently write enough material. After hearing these re-recordings I'm a bit more interested in hearing what they have in store next. The opening of "Thy Eternal Flame" kind of sounds like Dani Filth with the way he basically chirps the vocal line, so that sounds a little off, but the rest is pretty good old school Black Metal... or well general Black Metal, seeing as how this was written and released so long ago.

Funeral Winds - Resurrection...
Pagan Records, 1994
Genre: Black Metal

1. Demon Overture (Intro)
2. Dawn of the Apocalypse
3. Resurrection of the Five Winds
4. Steps of Ritual
5. Thy Eternal Flame











This is actually Funeral Winds' third demo tape. The first being a rehearsal I've never seen before and the second being "La Majestie Infernable", which I have only heard a couple tracks from. I the early 2000's a bunch of bootlegs showed up around the world and that was one of them. Even though it bears the name of the second demo, it only has two songs from that tape and features most of the songs on this tape and then their split with Abigail. So, I've only heard two songs from that demo and they were noisy, harsh, and generally not that great. That brings us to "Resurrection..." and this is a pro-printed cassette on Pagan Records. It's pro booklet with stickers on a dubbed tape and while I'm sure there's a limitation, none is listed on the tape itself.

"Resurrection..." certainly sounds a lot better than the material I heard from "La Majestie Infernable." The music isn't as noisy and even though it still has that raw do-it-yourself approach, it's mixed in a much better fashion. The band is also tighter and feels more together than the prior demo.  "Resurrection...", while not a bad demo, still feels more like a major Darkthrone clone than anything else. The songs are spectacularly stand-out, but I don't remember much from when Funeral Winds first came out and listening to it in 2018 in retrospect is kind of hard to put into perspective. There's just been so much tried and true Darkthrone worship demos in my life.

If you're a fan of the band and really interested in the roots of the project then this is certainly worth checking out. Only Hellchrist Xul is still involved in the project, since it's his project, so it was interesting to delve back into the past and hear the first members of the band. Either way it's fun to listen to how bands start out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Trist (Ger)


Trist - Willenskraft
Cold Dimension, 2009
Genre: Dark Ambient/Black Metal

1. Bewusstsein
2. Wagemut
3. Zweifel
4. Herzenswunsch
5. Verhinderer
6. Wandlung









Here it is, the final installment of Trist before putting the project to rest. This time returning to Cold Dimension for the release and put out in the usual digipak format to match up with the others. There's no booklet and no limitation listed, but this is certainly limited in some capacity.

This seems to follow an alternating format of Ambient track then Black Metal track. This album is a little disappointing in this regard, because it seems like it would be a favorite of mine, but it's really not. The Ambient parts of this album are even more lackluster than "Initiation". That strong dark and horror vibe from "Fort" is not developed here, in fact it's not even present. I feel like Tristan was trying to make something more majestic than horrifying. The Ambient tracks all sound the same and they're basically a sample of ocean waves crashing on the shore. Again, this would make for great intro/outro filler between Black Metal tracks, but they're full on songs, so its a solid eight minutes of this. The first song with Black Metal in it, "Wagemut" sounds like a one riff Lunar Aurora song. There might be vocals, its hard to tell if they are samples or screaming by Tristan because its so far in the background. This time around though the balance between the guitars and drums is much more balanced. By the time the second Black Metal song shows up, "Herzenswunsch", I'm convinced that these are just riffs from Lunar Aurora's "Andacht". In fact, a lot of the metal parts feel like they are off that specific album. Tristan started composing this album shortly after "Andacht" was released, so maybe he got really obsessed with that format. "Andacht" also features a lot of crashing waves and while this worked wonderfully for Lunar Aurora it really doesn't work on Trist.

Unfortunatley, it seems "Willenskraft" doesn't end on much of a high note, because I'll just be listening to Lunar Aurora's "Andacht" instead as it is a far better album for my tastes. Sadly it stands that Trist's best release was "Hin-Fort" and it seems to be a one time thing. Perhaps the similarities in "Andacht" brought this project to a close as there was way too much overlap of the projects, but who knows, perhaps Tristan just lost the inspiration to try and compose this kind of material. It takes a great amount of patience to listen to this material and I can only imagine it demanded even more to compose.

Trist - Initiation
Kunsthall Produktionen, 2008
Genre: Dark Ambient

1. In die schwarze nacht
2. Toter raum
3. Kalt
4. Nirgendwo
5. Schatten
6. Darunter
7. Traurige geister
8. Hindurch
9. Fragmente





After the success of "Hin-Fort" it seems there was some demand for the earliest Trist experimentations. Here we have "Initiation" which is Ambient recordings made between 2000 and 2003 before the first album was released. You could consider this the Ambient demo that had yet to be officially released. Trist returns to Kunsthall for this release and like the debut it is limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #302.

While I wasn't a major fan of the debut, you can imagine that "Initiation" has sort of the same response from me. If you're really into drone ambient then you may find this release extremely appealing. For me, this was before his Dark Ambient really improved on releases like "Hin-Fort". I can see why he wouldn't want to release this material as the first thing to put out there. It's not outright terrible or anything, but it just lacks some of the substance I usually prefer in Ambient releases. The atmospheres aren't as rich as some of the more stand out artists of the genre. I mainly feel like this material would serve as a great backdrop for black metal, such as the "Hin" section of the previous release, but as a stand alone release the material isn't that compelling.

If you are curious about the project and want to see the first experiments in Ambient for Tristan then this will be a novel journey to take. It's not as reach or dark as his later work, but you can see how he developed the project over the years.

Trist - Hin-Fort
Cold Dimensions, 2006
Genre: Ambient Black Metal

Disc 1: Hin:
1. Hin

Disc 2: Fort:
1. (Keine) Angst
2. Unterdenwolken
3. Hilfe
4. Schlaflos
5. Lichtausi
6. Nachtflug
7. Fort



It's been a while since we heard from Trist and they return with quite the release in this double CD format. I think Trist's original concept was to be an Ambient side project, as is usual for a lot of metal musicians, but based on this release I guess Tristan just couldn't keep away from the Black Metal. This album comes as a 2CD digipak with a fairly limited layout, but that's probably because they had to press two CD's. It's minimalistic art wise and fits the whole Trist atmosphere pretty well as usual.

The first disc is a single song lasting exactly one hour, which is fairly impressive in its own right. "Hin" is straight up Atmospheric Black Metal similar to Paysage d'Hiver, only they take us to task with the droning guitar work. The material has less variation than a Paysage d'Hiver song, but Trist is going more for a droning Ambient motif, so in this regard the track succeeds. It's extremely hypnotic and flowing, you can barely make out the riff changes as all the guitar parts are very similar. But, again, this works out brilliantly as casting Ambient music in terms of Black Metal. There's also a long monologue from someone talking about really weird space stuff and how they are space, it really works in the track, but it was still really strange. For me "Hin" worked out pretty well, however, it doesn't have the same kind of replay value as a Paysage d'Hiver song, it's probably too droning and meditative to really warrant repeat listens. It doesn't capture you the same way a Paysage d'Hiver riff does. The other slight problem with the track was how far away the drums were in the mix, but I'm pretty used to that with this type of music, Paysage d'Hiver has similar issues on their recordings. The guitars create this huge wall of sound that just dominates the audio spectrum, but that's also kind of the point.

"Fort" on the other hand is straight up Dark Ambient. I think Tristan's original concept behind the project caught up with him and he wanted to do another type of Ambient release. As with "Tiefenrausch" it bears resemblance to Atrium Carceri a lot and this Ambient goes more for a Horror type of droning feel. Coupled with the samples from all the horror movies throughout the disc you can see where this idea is coming from. I did find it amusing to hear a sample from the movie Boogeyman in "Nachtflug". I've seen some of the movies sampled, but not all of them, since I'm not a big horror movie buff. I just thought it was funny to hear Boogeyman show up, because it seemed like such a stupid movie, but the samples Tristan took actually work pretty expertly in the moments of this Ambient. I will say the Ambient journey of "Fort" is definitely a step up compared to "Tiefenrausch".

In the end if you're obsessed with the droning sounds of terror this is a must listen. You'll enjoy both sides of this release for sure. It maybe not have a huge amount of replay value, but it is exceptional at creating that mood and atmosphere it is designed for. There are very few releases out there like this as far as I can tell, at least in terms of the breadth and scope of the droning atmospheres, which is why "Hin-Fort" is probably a very highly sought after release. Very few releases do as good a job at generating this type of atmosphere as well.

Trist - Tiefenrausch (Ein Abstieg in 5 Stufen)
Kunsthall Produktionen, 2003
Genre: Dark Ambient

1. Wintermondlicht
2. Geräum
3. Kraftfeld
4. Novembernebel
5. Tiefenrausch










One of the things that attracted me to this project, aside from the fact that it is entirely done by a member of Lunar Aurora, is the fact that Kunsthall Produktionen put this out. If it's good enough for Wintherr, then it's probably more than good enough for me. As usual with Kunsthall the packaging is beautifully done with a very nicely made digipak that has art that really exemplifies the atmosphere of this project. The release is also limited to 500 hand-numbered copies and I own #210... I think... it might be #216 it's hard to tell.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this release at first. I had a vague idea, because I had seen comparisons to Paysage d'Hiver and Darkspace... although Darkspace put out their demo not too long before this was released, so Paysage d'Hiver is probably a far more apt reference. I guess I was expecting there to be Black Metal, but there is none. It's just Dark Ambient with most of the songs clocking in at over sixteen minutes. Now it's good ambient, don't get me wrong. It's very dark and very ominous. It also has this quality to it that makes it feel rather spacey. You can hear some clear Atrium Carceri influence in a lot of the recordings. However, I feel the Atrium Carceri is a far more exciting Ambient project compared to Trist. Trist seems to focus primarily on drones and creating a sort of hypnotic state. This isn't all that different compared to the type of ambient Paysage d'Hiver attempts to put out, except that I feel Trist has a darker sort of cosmic feel to it. Perhaps similar to the more droning Darkspace aspects, but Darkspace is really just using it as a backdrop for their music, whereas in Trist's case it is the music. The only major variations that show up is during the spoken word sections, which appear in every song. But it's rather sporadic, so it doesn't interrupt that meditative or droning flow of the music that much.

The fact that I saw this being advertised amidst Metal projects is a bit confusing, since this appears to be an Ambient side project of a Lunar Aurora member. This is a very common thing in Black Metal since Fenriz had Neptune Towers, Satyr had Wongraven, Ihsahn turned Thou Shalt Suffer into one and there are many more. Aran's Ambient side project is no different really, so it really depends on what you expect going into this project. If you were expecting Black Metal on par with Paysage d'Hiver you will be sorely disappointed. I confess, I was a little disappointed, I would have preferred to know this album was entirely Ambient up front, because then I just spend all my time waiting for the moment when the Metal kicks in and it never arrives... so, if you're not a fan of droning Dark Ambient that doesn't really go anywhere and instead puts you in a meditative state, then you should steer clear of this release. However, if you're an Ambient fan like many of the Black Metal listeners out there, then this might be something worth checking out. Personally, I think I have far better Ambient from the straight up Ambient artists. I will say Trist is quite a bit better than the Ambient tracks found on Paysage d'Hiver, but, to me, Ambient is not Paysage d'Hiver's strong suit, so at least Trist is more successful in that regard for me.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Infinity


Infinity - Hybris
New Era Productions, 2017
Genre: Black Metal

1. Arousing the Sleeping Serpent (Intro)
2. Destroy the Human Within
3. Wrath of the Djinn
4. The Fall (Prelude)
5. Hybris
6. At the Crossroads
7. Oracle of the Dead
8. The Mountain of Oath
9. The Prometheus Unbound
10. LCF





It is with great pleasure that I present you with one of the best albums released in 2017. Given how often I listen to this thing since it was released, I'll probably have to name it as my top album. Apparently working on albums for a great length of time is working to Infinity's favor, so I won't expect them to release something again for a while, but in a few years I now expect one hell of a release! I didn't think they were going to be able to do much beyond "Non de Hac Terra"... but I, very much, stand corrected.

"Hybris" is an incredible and wonderfully intense album. It seems they went through some line-up changes again and Andras has left the band leaving it down to Draconis and Balgradon and what a team they appear to make! As with the last album the Dissection influence is clear, but I was surprised to hear quite a bit of influence from "Reinkaos", given how that wound up being a far more popular sounding album and quite a few of the die-hards out there weren't a fan. However, just listening to the opening of "Wrath of the Djinn" and you'll see where I'm coming from. Now, "Hybris" doesn't just re-work that type of album, no, "Hybris" brings us back into the fold of Black Metal and gives us an album that I would expect as the follow-up to "Storm of the Lights Bane". "Hybris" is the album that I think everyone wanted to hear from Dissection, but we just never really god. Now we have Infinity filling that gap for us and this is a style they do extremely well, only with a bit more of a focus on the Black Metal edge. In the prior albums they've been experimenting with catchier riffs and Draconis has found some seriously excellent moments, in fact, he's probably the best guitarist that has worked with the band. The music is so much more well thought out than ever before and the writing is top notch. Not only are there catchy riffs spread throughout the entire album, they've even injected a bit of groove into sections of some songs, making for an extremely varied experience. You can even hear some really Thrash inspired riffs, especially in songs like "At the Crossroads". I also assume "LCF" is influenced, in some part, by the movie "The Ninth Gate", because the book that inspired the movie had little to do with that. It's quite the album closer as well.

As with the prior albums they've gone all out with their layout and booklet. This one is even better than the last and I feel the lyrics are even better this time around. It's tough to top a song like "The Opponent", but they manage to pull it off on this album. It's absolutely worth having a physical copy to look through as far as I'm concerned. This is also the first album not recorded by Balgradon and instead the band has turned to the might Necromorbus studios and it naturally sounds incredible. Few studios out there today really achieve the immense and powerful nature of Black Metal, while still having the music feel very organic, while still being quite polished.

In the end I'm rather shocked this isn't blowing up in the metal scene more. Sure a lot of people have heard and enjoyed the album, but I would have thought this would be Infinity's breakthrough album to major popularity just given the nature of an album like this. Either way, this album is an immense journey. A journey that I highly recommend taking.

Infinity - Non de Hac Terra
New Era Productions, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Non de Hac Terra
2. The Opponent
3. Reginam Aeternum Noctis
4. Beyond the Stars...
5. The Grey Stone Monument
6. Onwards the Funeral Pyre
7. Unholy Sacrament
8. The Inevitable Darkness








I thought Infinity had fired back with a monumental album for them with "The Wisdom of Arcane Shadows" and I'm happy to be very corrected with the release of "Non de Hac Terra"... this thing is a monster of an album. If you haven't been paying attention to Infinity, because there were always other bands of similar ilk doing similar things, well now it is time to stand up and pay attention. "Non de Hac Terra" launches a whole new level of Infinity's musical career and they absolutely have my attention now, more so than ever before.

With the re-recordings of the last release we saw the addition of Draconis on guitars and this is the first album he truly appears on. He and Andras have hit upon a winning formula in my opinion. Infinity are still playing their signature Swedish style of Melodic Black Metal, but with Draconis it feels like the Dissection influence has been increased quite a bit. However, it doesn't sound like a rip-off by any stretch of the imagination, because along with this more complex song writing composition we have some excellent stand-out riffs! There's at least one per song and they're so good that they just elevate the entire experience. They also manage to give their music a soaring epic quality, which is something a lot of the Melodic Black Metal acts didn't have as much. Sacramentum hit upon it from time to time, but it wasn't really a mainstay of their sound. I think Infinity take the Swedish Black Metal formula and merely enhance it and build upon those ideas, so this album sounds quite fresh in the grand scheme of things. Coupled with the fact that Balgradon is not a boring drummer and we really have a winning album on our hands here.

As with "The Arcane Wisdom of Shadows" they went all out with the booklet design and really makes owning a physical copy worth it. Really beautiful layout and design once again! I like how they take the time to come up with a design that really complements the music and fits with the lyrics quite a bit.

In the end this is an amazing album. Infinity certainly deserve a lot more recognition than they've been given over the years. It's almost like Sacramentum all over again, I remember when they were putting out albums people didn't seem that interested in them. Fast forward ten years later and people absolutely love that band... well I loved them when they were active! Same goes for Infinity, just show anyone the song "The Opponent" and I guarantee they'll be hooked. I'll be suitably shocked if Infinity manage to top this album, because this is one of the finest in their discography for sure.

Infinity - Back to the Source
New Era Productions, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Back to the Source (Summon the Black Flame)
2. Autumn Storm
3. The Birth of Death
4. Frozen Cries
5. The Ancient Shadow
6. Earth's Last Picture (Darkthrone cover)
7. Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss (Immortal cover)
8. Sacrifice (Bathory cover)




It's been quite a while since we've heard from Infinity once again and it's interesting to see them fire back with this. "Back to the Source" is not an album of new material from this project instead it features some re-recorded material and old covers they recorded a while ago. It comes in a bit of a digipak style packaging. The release is limited to 250 hand-numbered copies and I own #229.

The re-recorded songs are a blend of a few songs from "The Birth of Death" and "Nostalgia for the Dark Age". It seems they've been sitting on this re-recordings for a while, because they were made back in 2009. This also features a new guitarist named Draconis. He actually played guitar on the Dissection cover from the previous album. Perhaps Draconis is going to be filling a bigger role alongside Andras and they decided to re-record some older material. It certainly sounds a lot better than the original material, a testament to how far Balgradon has come as a sound engineer. The cover songs are a little different since they were recorded back in 2004, so they don't sound as good as the recordings from 2009. This isn't to say they are bad or anything, they're just a bit more harsh production value wise compared to the rest of the album. Naturally Infinity does a great job on the covers and really captures of the atmosphere of the original.

I think this is really a release only for major collectors, hence the low limitation. I really enjoy Infinity and the works they put out so I'm happy to have this in my collection even though it's not something I would ever really pull out all that often. It's enjoyable for what it is, but unless you're really fond of Infinity this probably really isn't worth tracking down in the grand scheme of things.

Infinity - The Arcane Wisdom of Shadows
Bloodred Horizon Records, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Precatio Luciferius
2. From the Eternal Sea He Rises
3. Our Merciless Rage
4. The Rise of Azazel
5. The Legacy of the Ancient Ones
6. Within the Timeless Winds of the Beyond
7. Stare into the Void
8. The Mysteries of the Depths
9. Choronzon
10. The Legend of the Sunken Monastery
11. Night's Blood (Dissection cover)





Infinity have stopped their album per year trek and it's actually been a little while since we heard from the project. Since they changed labels, I actually missed out on this release for a while, because it really never made it into the U.S. I'm glad I back tracked and picked this up though because this is an excellent album. Infinity have steadily been progressing to writing better and better music and this album is no exception. I was surprised to see the band went through some line-up changes in the years between the last album and Quasar has left the project and now it is just down to Balgradon and Andras.

The first thing I notice on here is the quality album layout and design. It's a really excellent digi-pak setup with a full booklet inside. It's really beautiful designed and great to look through as your listening to the music and reading the lyrics. After the ambient and chanting intro the first thing you'll notice is how ear catching the first song is. That's right, they finally injected a layer of catchiness into their guitar work and it has worked out splendidly. A lot of the prior albums have had riffing that was a bit overly droning at times and not enough of the riffs really stood out, but with "The Arcane Wisdom of Shadows" that changes and here we have a solid blend of the two riffing. They flat out even have driving rhythmic moments like in "The Legacy of the Ancient Ones". Either way, I think there's about one or two stand out riffs per song and they tend to sing over the more droning riffs, which really makes for an excellent listen. They've also got a serious dose of melody injected into the guitar lines making this album feel like a blend between Dissection and Emperor, minus the keyboards. They don't use acoustic guitars as much as they used to, but there is at least one or two songs where they show up again. Towards the end of the album we take a bit of a strange ambient break with the song "Choronzon" and with only two songs left on the album it's kind of a strange thing to do, especially when one of those songs is a cover song. Granted the final song "The Legend of the Sunken Monastery" clocks in at eight minutes and is a killer song as well.

This is probably the best Infinity album in their discography so far. The guitar work is immensely enjoyable compared to prior releases and Balgradon's drum work is spectacular as usual. One of the things that really stands out about him is that he creates fairly interesting drum arrangements and isn't solely relying on blasting his way through an album. So, I really appreciate the effort he puts into working out arrangements that really complement and album! I really hope this is a whole new direction for Infinity and I really look forward to the next release from this project.

Infinity - Enter Thy Labyrinth of Hell
Total Holocaust Records, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Enter Thy Labyrinth of Hell
2. Under Crimson Wings of Hate
3. Through the Mirror of Dreams
4. Whispers from the Swamps of Despair
5. The Necromantic Kiss
6. In the Spell of the Dreaming Dead
7. Funeral of the Soul
8. The March of the Luciferian Empire







Infinity has been on track to release a new album every year and 2005 is no exception to that. Like their prior albums "Enter Thy Labyrinth of Hell" is a steady improvement over the prior releases as well. This album comes with a really nicely multi-page booklet and looks really well designed overall. The only major complaint I have is that the font choice is a little difficult to read, but that's really about the only complaint I have. The font choice does look very good in this context and fits the overall atmosphere, it's just hard to read.

Musically this album basically continues where "The Birth of Death" left off, but this time around it just sounds better. I think the writing has gotten a lot stronger and the whole atmosphere feels much more intense than before. It also seems like the band increased their overall speed and can play far more intense songs than before. Now, it's nothing like Setherial's "Hell Eternal",which is mostly all blasting, but "Enter Thy Labyrinth of Hell" is certainly far more varied. I prefer my Black Metal to be more like this where it switches up arrangements a lot more and Balgradon does an excellent job of doing that on the drums. The guitar lines may not be the most interesting in the world, but his drum arrangements help them stand out a lot more and really make the difference between this being bland versus interesting. They've gotten a bit stronger in the riff writing department as well, songs like "The Necromantic Kiss" do catch my attention with the riffs alone, whereas before they didn't do that as much before.

For Infinity this is quite a stand out album so far and I think they're finally hitting on a formula that works really well for them. While I certainly enjoy Infinity whenever I listen to them, I don't think they're putting out music in such a way that it's better than other bands I've already got in my collection... so it's tough to say this is must hear music. However, if you're on the search for solidly performed Black Metal that is also fairly well recorded then Infinity is certainly a project that is worth checking out. I would absolutely recommend this album, because it's got some killer material on it and the overall album is very well done.

Infinity - The Birth of Death
Total Holocaust Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. Our Cruel Vengeance
2. Flames in Hunger
3. Back to the Source
4. Heart of Stone
5. Corvus Corax
6. Frozen Cries
7. The Birth of Death
8. The Sun No Longer Rises (Immortal Cover)







The second album from Infinity, even though it was released very quickly after the first feels like an even better and far more cohesive album. On this album Balgradon recruited another guitarist named Andras to join Quasar. On this album Balgradon only played acoustic guitars, but the rest was up to the other two guitarists. I'm sure Balgradon still writes a lot of this music, one of the tracks, "Corvus Corax" comes from their first demo.

"The Birth of Death" sounds a lot better compared to the prior album and it's clear Balgradon's engineering skills are getting a lot stronger! He's managed to capture that perfect balance between sounding raw and having the instruments sit in the mix well enough to hear everything. I actually really like the way the album sounds in that regard. Musically I still think things feel pretty closely related to Funeral Winds, and Hellchrist even offers up some guest vocals on one of the songs. I hear a lot of the Swedish style of Black Metal in this album for some reason, some Dark Funeral here and there, but then there are riffs in songs like "Heart of Stone" that aren't exactly like other areas. The use of the acoustic guitars in some sections reminds me a bit of what Christ Agony will do quite often, however, Infinity play a much faster version of Black Metal. All of this combines into a very good second effort. While Infinity certainly aren't doing anything original, they are still quite good at what they do and they've put together a pretty good album. The only thing some people may complain about is that a lot of the riffs aren't that memorable, nor do they hook you. A couple riffs here and there stand out, but not through every song. Even though this is the case, Infinity have still crafted an album with some great atmosphere in the raw Black Metal spectrum, which is more what I would look for anyway.

If you're a fan of raw Black Metal Infinity is probably a band worth checking out. They do a good job at what they do and I really enjoy listening to them when I have them on. The one problem is that I don't really gravitate towards it, having that burning need to hear it again and again. But in the end, they still generate that excellent hateful atmosphere that I look for in this style. I'm definitely going to stick with the project, because they've improved massively compared to the first album. "The Birth of Death" is much more elaborate and carefully composed that I think Infinity will improve upon their sound even more in the future.

Infinity - Nostalgia for the Dark Age
Spectral Arts Productions, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Cold Dungeons of Solitude
2. The Conquering of Humanity
3. The Ancient Shadow
4. The Astral Gate to Infinity
5. Nostalgia for the Dark Age
6. Autumn Storm
7. Endless Sight
8. The Center of Chaos (Domain of the Ravens)








I missed out on the original Infinity demos, so my collection begins with "Nostalgia for the Dark Age", which also includes the material from their second demo, so I figure this is a good place to start. I've yet to ever hear the first demo though. The main reason I wound up finding Infinity is because I'm a fan of Funeral Winds. At the time Balgradon was still drumming in Funeral Winds and I've always enjoyed his drum work quite a bit. Who knew he played guitar and did vocals as well?

This album is split into two different sections. The first is the latest recorded material, which are all new songs except for one, which is a re-recording of a song from the demo version of this album. The second half is just the original demo under the same name. It looks like Infinity originally started as a solo project of Balgradon, but later another guitarist appears named Quasar, which probably helped to flesh out their sound a bit more. It's certainly a much better section than the original demo. Also, they've gotten a lot better at engineering their own material, so the overall mix and production quality is much better. I still hear quite a bit of the Funeral Winds style in the Infinity, sound, but I guess that should come as no surprise. The songs that were done just by Balgradon are okay, but the're a little boring at times. However, when you add Quasar into the mix, things are a little better. The songs feel more full, Balgradon probably just got better at writing by that time frame at least, but there is more of an atmosphere and essence to the music that the original demo doesn't seem to share. The older material sounds a lot more like your fairly standard mid-90's Black Metal, which is good, but nothing that really grabs your attention this time around.

So, Infinity is clearly off to a strong beginning. Even the differences between the two recording sessions is fairly major and I'd love to hear what kinds of improvements the project builds upon in the future. Nothing really stands out on the release, but nothing is outright bad either. Solid mid-range Black Metal, as far as I can tell, so it's a good starting position, now we wait and see where the project goes from here.