Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nattfog


Nattfog - Mustan Auringon Riitti
Hammer of Hate, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Blinding Fog
2. Path of the White Wolves
3. Reaching to the Stars
4. Mieleni Mustissa Merissä
5. Kosmisen Usvan Ympäröimänä
6. Mustan Auringon Riitti
7. Kaksitoista Askelta Luvattuun Valtakuntaan







Finally, we have reached Nattfog's debut full-length. I'm rather surprised this is on the heals of their split with Nekrokrist SS, but it seems the band may have been more productive in writing new material since 2008 than I previously thought, given the fact all of this was recorded in 2010.

The music on "Mustan Auringon Riitti" is a bit slower and more contemplative than the prior Nattfog material. The earlier material feels harsher and more hateful. Even though the production quality on these tracks is a bit better and more clear, Nattfog still maintains that gritty harsh feel to their overall sound. Sure, some of the earlier style shines through every now and again, but their slower, more melancholic approach really dominates the entirety of this release. I really enjoyed both sides of the project for different reasons. I sort of hope that they play around with blending the styles for future efforts, because that would sound rather interesting in its own regard. As it is, I imagine fans of their previous work will continue to enjoy this approach to their sound.

This is a very strong debut and brings us something a little different from previous efforts. I wouldn't say they're re-inventing anything, but Nattfog does an excellent job crafting this style of music, so I can't imagine fans will find it particularly disappointing.


Nattfog & Nekrokrist SS Split
Primitive Reaction, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

Nattfog:
1. Yöni Usvassa
2. Ancestral Echoes
3. Under the Cross of Woden
Nekrokrist SS:
4. Path of Depression
5. Gas Chambers, Crematory and Hell
6. Talviyössä








Nekrokrist SS: ...coming eventually...
Nattfog:

It's been a few years since we've heard from the realms of Nattfog and I'm kind of surprised to see them resurface with only three songs on a split. Over that time frame, I figured more music would come, but that's fine, because we get a split with Nekrorkist SS, which is another excellent band out of Finland. This split is limited to 500 copies and pressed on 12" vinyl. It comes with a lyric sheet insert as well.

If you found yourself enamored with the demo material, then you'll be pleased to hear that little has changed in the way Nattfog approach their music. This is easily a continuation of the style we were first exposed to. The opening song is a mid-paced catchy and melodic piece, which is exactly what I wanted to hear out of Nattfog. The second track, "Ancestral Echoes" speeds things up a bit and we are driven by the standard Black Metal blast beat, but not at a blisteringly fast pace. This song, over it's eight minutes, manages to form into a piece with some extremely passionate and wonderful closing rhythms. We finally close with the slow, yet hateful, "Under the Cross of Woden", which serves as a wonderful closer. These three tracks make it even worse that this isn't a full-length. Nattfog is definitely ready for it with their sound and writing style. Hopefully, that's coming in the near future.


Nattfog - Nattfog
Wolfsvuur Records, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Diabolical Winds
2. At the Shadows of the Fallen Walls
3. Everlasting Fields













The first rumblings of Nattfog were ushered in in 2008. The original format was in a CD-R form coming from the band, but the music was so strong that a few months later it was pressed officially on tape. There have been two pressings of this tape with pro-printed cover so far, both pressings limited to 150 hand-numbered copies. I own a 2nd press and have #106. This just goes to show the strength of Nattfog's first work upon entering the Black Metal scene.

If you've been enamored with the Finnish Black Metal sound along the lines of Horna and other harsher compatriots then Nattfog is exactly something you will enjoy. The Nattfog demo is harsh, catchy and has some really wonderful melodies strewn throughout. Nattfog is like a more well tempered Horna, meaning they don't assault us with blasting fierceness, instead Nattfog has a bit more of a melancholic bent a la the Horna's slower renditions. A band performing an entire demo of this style is actually really awesome.

If the above description is, at all, appealing then you know Nattfog is off to a rather strong start. I can't wait to see how this project evolves in the future. Definitely a project to be watching...


Monday, May 4, 2015

Monarque


Légendes:
Sepulchral Productions, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Forteresse:
1. Wendigo
Chasse-Galerie:
2. Le Bois des Belles
Monarque:
3. La Griffe du Diable
Csejthe:
4. Murmures Nocturnes








Side Forteresse: here
Side Chasse-Galerie: ...coming eventually...
Side Csejthe: here
Side Monarque:

Finally making my way through this entire split. As I've said in my other reviews for the projects, this is one of the best splits around. Limited to 500 copies on two 7" vinyl and I own #69. Every band involved has submitted absolutely stellar tracks and Monarque is no exception.

As with "Lys Noir", this isn't really a new Monarque song. It first shows up in their live set "Under the Black Sun" from 2011, but has never received studio treatment. While this song is very good and beautiful, in its usual Monarque style, it does have some far more vicious and intense moments. This is probably why it never wound up in the "Lys Noir" recordings, it doesn't really match that aesthetic. "La Griffe du Diable" while having atmospheric moments, has a much more fiery and intense atmosphere. There's a level of viciousness to the song that doesn't fit with the melancholic beauty of "Lys Noir", but it certainly fits on this split! Here we have an excellent celebration of the Québec scene and Monarque is certainly a major representative of that sound for me.


Monarque - Lys Noir
Sepulchral Productions, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. L'appel de la Nuit
2. Vigor Mortis
3. La Quintessence du Mal
4. Solitdue
5. Mes Condoléances
6. Au Seuil des Ténèbres (Frozen Shadows Cover)
7. Comme les Vers; sous la Bannière du Lys Noir







Finally we have a new full-length from the world of Monarque. However, if you've been following their musical career and releases none of this is new material. The only new thing we have is the Frozen Shadows cover song. What "Lys Noir" really gives us is stellar production quality of these songs that were demoed before. Given the fact this easily hit my top 10 this year, the songs clearly needed studio renditions.

"Lys Noir" builds mostly off the "La Mort" demo, which is by far the best material I've heard from Monarque, so it should come as no surprise that when their best material gets full studio treatment everyone is entranced. Even though the recording quality is vastly upgraded from their previous studio efforts, they've still managed to maintain that organic feel to their music. Nothing is overly digitized, as we hear with a lot of modern recordings. No, Monarque, like many of the Black Metal bands all over stick to a far better recording concept and it really makes the feeling so much more tangible. While "La Mort" is raw and harsh by comparison, the studio versions have a far more pristine edge to them, but the harshness of the guitar tone is still maintained quite well. What we really get is a much better mixing job, letting all the elements really shine through in a far more balanced fashion. The demo is good enough, but it's not even close to on par with the quality we get here. Still, there are some that prefer the raw unbridled nature of Black Metal and "La Mort" really serves that purpose perfectly and I'm really glad I have both recordings, to be honest. "Lys Noir" comes as far more accessible and it is no wonder the scene was all a buzz when this was released. I, honestly, enjoy both versions, but this one will always stand out quite a bit more. I think a lot of tracks have been embellished a little more, because I feel they are a lot more elaborate and involved than just what we heard on the demo.

"Lys Noir" is definitely one of the must hear albums out there. I highly recommend picking this up if you enjoy the likes of atmospheric Black Metal. This is, essentially, the progression I wanted their sound to take as they developed over the years. It's really wonderful to see that realized and I'm excited to see where Monarque will go from here.


Monarque - Vigor Mortis
Profane Wax, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Vigor Mortis
2. Deathcrush (Mayhem Cover)














So, this is one of the cooler, yet sadder aspects of my Monarque collection. The packaging for this is so neat. The cover pic above is a rather large, almost poster like size. Inside is housed a Monarque patch and clear vinyl record. The record is an 8" vinyl and it's actually a square. I've never seen anything like this, so it's very unique in my collection. With that uniqueness comes limitation and here the vinyl is limited to 50 hand-numbered copies and I own #46.

Now, the sad part about this is that this vinyl will not play. I don't know if I have a defective copy or what, but it won't play through the full songs on either side. The only way I've been able to hear anything off this vinyl is due to a youtube upload, which only plays half of "Vigor Mortis" and a little of the "Deathcrush" cover. This is not ideal, but I wish I could hear both songs in full. We first heard "Vigor Mortis" on the "La Mort" demo and hear we are treated to a better quality version. The "Deathcrush" cover actually reminds me a lot of Ophthalamia's version, which appeared years ago on the "Nordic Metal" compilation. Both are definitely outstanding version!


Sorcier des Glaces & Monarque Split
Obscure Abhorrence Productions, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

Sorcier des Glaces:
1. Macabre Sunset Over the Northland
2. A Blaze in the Northern Sky (Darkthrone Cover)
3. Unholy Path to Immortality
4. The (Night) Throne
Monarque:
5. Le Feu et le Sang
6. Éloge De La Malveillance
7. Sacrifice (Bathory Cover)





Side Sorcier des Glaces: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

Adding to Monarque's growing list of splits has brought them to working with Sorcier des Glaces, another one of my favorites from Québec. Luckily this is pressed on CD and seems readily available for the public to consume.

Monarque opens their side with "Le Feu et le Sang", which we first heard on the live tape "Under the Black Sun" and the studio version of this song is everything I ever hoped it would be! I can see why they opened the festival with such a good song. The second track is something that showed up on the "Diatribe" EP in 2010. Given the limitation of that EP, I can see why a re-recording of the song made sense here. I wish they would put out the other song, so we could at least hear it somewhere. However, perhaps it didn't make sense atmospherically with the other two tracks on here. Monarque closes their set with a Bathory classic. Monarque's version came out quite good, preserving that harsher quality, but still an upgrade from the original 80's recording. I think the way Monarque records strikes a good balance between the raw/audible, so this worked really well for an old Bathory song.


Monarque & Crépuscule - Déestance
Sepulchral Productions, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

Monarque:
1. Le Rite du Misanthrope
Crépuscule:
2. À Marée Basse, dans les Abysses











Side Créspuscule: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

Monarque heralds in the new year with a great split with Créspucule. Pressed on 7" vinyl and limited to 500 copies. Two versions were made, the first 100 are on translucent green vinyl and the other 400 are standard Black vinyl. I have the standard version. It also has an insert with lyrics from both bands.

Monarque offer up an interesting and mid-paced song for the most part. I feel like the song has more of a droning Ambient feel compared to a lot of their other material. They do a pretty good job with this, since their style has been trending in much more of an atmospheric vein and this is just more of an extension of that. It would be interesting to see them sift some of these styled songs into their recordings instead of just doing straight ambiance sometimes. The track has a far more ethereal quality than some of their prior material.


Monarque - Under the Black Sun
Les Productions Hérétique, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Le Feu et le Sang
2. Fier Hérétique
3. L'Abysse aux Charognes
3. La Griffe du Diable
4. Ces Immondices
5. Vermines
6. Le Grand Devil
7. Vent du Nord
8. Aux Confins des ses Abîmes







Here we have another live recording of Monarque and this is quiet a long set, which is quite cool in its own right. This is a sound board recording from Under the Black Sun Festival which is in Germany. As usual with these cassette releases I'm sure these are limited, however, no limitation is actually stated on the tape. It's probably limited to 100 copies in the usual LPH fashion.

The recording quality from this show is actually pretty good! For a soundboard recording everything came out quite well and I was very impressed. I feel like a lot of these recordings are often a craps shoot, because who knows if the band sounded great that night etc. Monarque actually open their set with an entirely new song and it sounds spectacular. This needs a studio version as soon as possible! I don't know why, but it feels like this live set really hit harder than some of the Monarque songs on their album. Take "Fier Hérétique", for example, it's a fine song on album, but I feel like it really hit hard in this live setting. Probably goes to show the strength of the crowd reaction to Monarque's music. The set list consists of a lot of great Monarque songs, sadly "La Mort" was probably still in the writing process and Monarque hadn't been able to work this into their live set in time. It would have been great seeing how people reacted to the tracks of "La Mort", but I guess that's for a future live release! They close off their set with one of my favorites "Aux Confins des ses Abîmes", which is an excellent closer.

If you're a fan of live recordings, this is actually an extremely good one. This is probably the best live recording of Monarque so far, so if you can track down a copy you'll be rather pleased.


Evil Wrath & Monarque Split
Darker than Black, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

Evil Wrath:
1. Légion Anti-Humaine
Monarque:
2. Vermines












Side Evil Wrath: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque

After an incredible demo Monarque returns to split territory. This time we have a new split 7", and with all the releases in between I feel like it's been a long time since they've done a 7"... but it's only been about a year. I'm sure this release is limited, but no limitation is listed on the release. However, some places claim it is limited to 300 copies.

Now this isn't a new track from Monarque, some of you may remember the bonus track found on "Messe Noire", which was the only studio related track. Here we have a much more expanded version of the song. It opens with nearly a minute of samples to create an atmosphere. My only real complaint would be that it feels like those samples create a more sinister atmosphere, before launching into some very good Black Metal. Monarque's music, to me, doesn't really fall under the truly sinister spectrum. It's almost too melancholic to be thought of that way. While I'm sure "Vermines" is no less hateful, it's just not nearly as vicious and violent like some Black Metal bands can achieve. I'm not saying Monarque should go for this sound, that would change everything I love about Monarque and the Black Metal developed on "Vermines" is in line with their sound and it is certainly excellent. The expanded song is quite well done and I'm glad they decided to give it further treatment.


Monarque - La Mort
Les Productions Hérétique, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. L'Appel de la Nuit
2. Vigor Mortis
3. Solitude...
4. Mes Condoléances
5. Comme les Vers
6. Ruines...










Finally, I think we are running into an era where Monarque is running out of old material to re-release, so here we have a new demo. It's entirely new material! There have been two pressings of this on cassette, both are limited to 100 copies. The first pressing is hand-numbered, but the 2nd is not. I own the 2nd pressing, because I was a little late finding Monarque.

Listening to this... I am definitely excited for the next Monarque release. This demo is excellent. Monarque have definitely been trending their music in the direction I felt really made their core writing perfect. The atmospheres and layering here feel so much more elaborate and deep compared with their earliest material. Listen to how incredible the atmosphere in "Mes Condoléances" sounds. This is a far cry from the early days of Monarque and I think that track really shows their newer songwriting prowess. The overall production quality is actually pretty good, the only time this decreases is with "Comme les Vers", which sounds a bit more raw than the other tracks.

An excellent demo in the end, I really look forward to hearing what's in store for us next from Monarque. It seems like they have quite a bit of new material to work with right now... and we're all still waiting on that next full-length.


Monarque & Neige et Noirceur - Cantvs Maleficvs
Obscure Abhorrence, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

Monarque:
1. La Quintessence du Mal
2. Le Grand Devil
3. Cancer Maldroit
4. Aux Confins de ses Abîmes
5. Oubliettes
Neige et Noirceur:
6. Hymne III
7. Hymne VI






Side Neige et Noirceur: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

Finally, we have a release with some new material from Monarque! After all the re-releases and live material it was certainly about time we heard something new. Unfortunately, this isn't a straight full-length, instead Monarque splits with another great band Neige et Noirceur. This isn't all new material, indeed, "Aux Confins de ses Abîmes" is from the 2008 split with Mortualia. I'll hardly find reason to complain about this, since I did say earlier I wanted to have this track on a CD somewhere and now I have it.

On this release, we really get two new Black Metal songs. The two opening tracks are the fully new material and it is extremely impressive work. They've really figured out away to manage the way their style wants to handle atmosphere. It really is a solid progression that, I think, started to show up more with "Aux Confins de ses Abîmes", which is why this track really fits well on this release. "La Quintessence du Mal" is a great track, but at only four minutes, it feels a little on the shorter side. So, things feel like they end before getting extremely immersed. Strangely "Le Grand Devil" is quite a long song, but with very few sections with vocal accompaniment. It really does build a rather deep atmosphere. These two songs really do a good job showing the growth of Monarque's compositional prowess and all I can say at this point is that I really hope a new full length is coming soon. The other two tracks "Cancer Maladroit" and "Oubliettes" are both instrumental more ambient styled tracks. I do wish there was a bit more new Black Metal songs, but I can understand the limitation with this being a split and all. Anyway, this is absolutely worth getting considering the quality of the material.

Monarque - Messe Noire
Sepulchral Productions, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. L'abysse aux Charognes
2. Vent du Nord
3. Mes Blessures
4. Le Revenant (Mortifera Cover)
5. Vermines











See, if you missed out on the earlier live material from Monarque, more was sure to show up! Here we have a concert recorded in Québec in 2010. As usual with most Monarque releases, it seems, this is limited to 1,000 hand-numbered copies and I own #668.

This live show has a rather big change for Monarque, and I can see why the recording and release was a worthwhile endeavor. On here they bring a second guitar on stage, which really rounds out their sound very well. This is far stronger than the other live recordings we've ever heard before. The recording quality is very good throughout, so this really does an excellent job of capturing a Monarque live show. The set list is pretty good, I'm not a big fan of "Labysse aux Charognes", but the rest of the songs came off quite well. They close their set with "Le Revenant" by Mortifera and they do a great job with this. The closing track "Vermines" is a totally new song, but it sounds rather like a demo version of the material. It's quite a good song, building the atmosphere we've come to expect with the newer Monarque material. It seems Monarque have a lot of new material kicking around, but their releases are mainly only covering older material lately or live stuff. I really hope some new recordings are waiting for us in the very near future at this point.

One of the added features of this Ep is that you can put it in your CD drive and actually watch the live performance! They did a pretty decent job with the recording. It has a very "do it yourself" feel, but it's more than one camera from the back of the venue at least! So, in that regard the show recording actually came out pretty well.


Monarque - Blasphèmes et Cultes Morbides
Ewiges Eis Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Fier Hérétique
2. Vent du Nord
3. Un Passage dans las Vallée
4. Extinction
5. Marche Funèbres/Aliénation
6. Lycanthrope
7. Cortège Macabre
8. La Vallée des Larmes (Black Book Rehearsal)
9. Je ne suis Pas (Demo)
10. Marche Funèbre (Demo)
11. Funérailles dans la Vallée...





If you missed out on the original pressing of "Fier Hérétique" now is your chance to get your hands on it. Like the original pressing though this is limited as well. However, this time around it's limited to 666 hand-numbered copies and I own #62. For the collectors of the band, they've added on some bonus tracks, so that you wouldn't just be mad it was a re-release.

The first five tracks are found on "Fier Hérétique" and the first new track we run into is "Lycanthrope", which is mostly an instrumental track that begins with an ambient nature that eventually turns into acoustic guitars. Some of you may recognize "Cortège Macabre" from their first 7" split with Blackwinds. I still think the guitars are overly fuzzy and I wish they had put "Aux Confins des ses Abîmes" on here, because I would have loved to have that on CD. Next we have some demo and rehearsal tracks to finish off the album. The rehearsal tracks are actually quite good. The demo version of "Je ne suis Pas" is great and was awesome to hear and I liked this version a bit more than what showed up on the re-recording. It's probably the same version featured on the "Désécration" compilation from 2008. The final new track, "Funérailles dans la Vallée..." is another ambient styled piece, which is actually very well done and I quite liked it as the outro.

In the end if you missed out on "Fier Hérétique" and consider that a must have, you won't go wrong with this. The additional tracks are actually very good additions, in my opinion. They really sit in the original feel of the debut.

Monarque - Traditions, Blasphèmes et Sacrifices... Live!
Les Productions Hérétiques, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

Côté Traditions:
1. Intro 2008 / Ces Immondices
2. Aux Confins des ses Abîmes
3. Le Vent du Nord
4. La Vallée des Larmes
Côté Sacrifices:
5. Intro 2009 / Mes Blessures
6. Je Ne Suis Pas
7. An Eternal Kingdom of Fire (Judas Iscariot Cover)






As you can see by my cover I missed out on the original edition of this in 2009, instead I own the 2011 repress. As with all LPH releases, I'm sure this is limited to some number, but it was never disclosed how limited it was. It has an entirely different cover than the original press. Both covers are pretty nice though.

This material is a raw audio rip from various camera footages. The recording quality actually isn't that bad and you can hear the band quite well. Since only a single guitar is used live, there are aspects that don't hit quite as majestically, but they actually do quite a good job live with only one guitar. The recording quality on the 2008 material is probably the best, the 2009 material is a bit messy. The worst quality rip is the Judas Iscariot cover. It sounds like the the performance went very well, except the quality of the recording is quite a bit worse.

This tape is, likely, only for the die-hard fans of Monarque. Honestly, if you missed out on this release, I wouldn't be that disappointed. This is the second live release in the course of a year, so I imagine there will be more to come!


Monarque - Ad Nauseam
Sepulchral Productions, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Ouverture
2. Ces immondices...
3. Mes bleassures
4. Un essaim de corbeaux
5. Je ne suis pas
6. L'abysse aux charognes
7. Non-rédemption
8. La vallée des larmes
9. Noirceur







When a new Monarque full-length was imminent, I wasn't really expecting this. This is mostly a re-recording of Monarque's demo. The production is in line with the last split though, so I imagine it's quite an improvement. I have never heard the original demo material, so I can't really compare.

As this is a re-recording of their demo, the guitar work is far less elaborate than their newer material was trending over the past year. It's a lot more in line with "Fier Hérétique", but I feel that "Ad Nauseam" has a level of majesty and intrigue that "Fier Hérétique" lacked. I can see why some people who heard the demo were a little disappointed in the debut full-length. "Fier Hérétique" had its moments, but not nearly as many as "Ad Nauseam" clearly had. Even though the guitar work is far more simplistic and there is almost no layering, the core riffs are extremely well done.

It wasn't enough just to re-record the demo songs, they've actually added quite a few new songs. The first to show up "Je ne suis pas" isn't that new of a song as it appeared on the "Désécration" tape in 2008. Naturally this song is quite in line with the style of "Ad Nauseam". After this "Labysse aux charognes" kicks in and this is night and day difference, starting with a Thrashier riff before breaking into a blasting section with a rather droning riff and going into some serious Darkthrone worship eventually. The real sad part about this track is that it truly has some beautiful moments, but these Thrash sections with the catchier Darkthrone style, really pull me out of any atmospheric space "Ad Nauseam" was building. I really wish they would revisit this song and focus more on the atmospheric sections, since that takes up the majority of the time anyway... I would really love to see this track salvaged and rebuilt somewhere else.The other new song "Non-rédemption" sounds like it could have easily appeared on the earlier material, and this brings back to some state of normalcy for the Monarque style.

They keep "La vallée des larmes", which is a smart move given the nature of this song. It's a far slower pace and very atmospheric, so it really shines as a closer to an album. While this re-recording had some up and down moments, I can really see why people raved so much about the demo. I can also see why that would demand a re-release of the material at some point, so I am really glad they did this.


Monarque & Mortualia - Hymnes Funeraires des Rois
Obscure Abhorrence Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

Monarque:
1. Aux Confins de ses Abîmes
Mortualia:
2. Death Serenity










Side Mortualia: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

After hearing the last split, I was looking forward to whatever Monarque had in store for us next. Another split is what we hear first, with another very good song. This is also pressed on 7" vinyl and limited to 500 copies. There is no hand-numbering on this. The packaging is very basic and there is nothing inside the sleeve.

For this split Monarque submit another far more atmospheric and melancholic track. They're definitely incorporating lead guitars sections far more than ever before, which is really giving their music that extra element to make it special. This is the piece I felt was missing on "Fier Hérétique", and this is how I wanted them to build on that foundation. "Aux confins de ses abîmes" is a fairly mid-paced track, but it is one of the most beautiful. When the acoustic guitar breaks in, it really creates a wonderful musical space for the following harsh Black Metal to break into. The guitar tone is quite a bit cleaner this time around, which serves to make the atmosphere far more immersive this time around. I really hope this is the direction of Monarque's next full-length and I want a whole album of this type of material!


Blackwind & Monarque Split
Zyklon-B Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

Blackwind:
1. The Strayings of Inexistence
Monarque:
2. Cortège Macabre












Side Blackwind: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

Unfortunately, I'm missing the tape that comes between the debut and this split, so my collection picks up here. This is Monarque's first split on vinyl. The packaging opens up to feature the lyrics on the inside. This release is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies and I own #112.

Monarque's contribution to the split is very good. I actually feel like its quite a difference compared to what was first displayed on "Fier Hérétique". "Cortège Macabre" feels a lot more well thought out, it has moments of pure melancholy and beauty. It's not a blast beat driven song, instead it falls more into the realms of a Forteresse blend of atmosphere. A blasting section doesn't even show up until about five minutes in, but the riff it develops doesn't take away from the majesty of what came before at all. The one, and only, complaint I could furnish to this is that the guitar distortion is far too fuzzy. Some fuzz in the distortion is okay, but for things this majestic having a slightly cleaner distortion feels a little better. In the end though, this is, ultimately, quite an impressive track and I really hope this is a deeper composition direction for the future of Monarque.


Monarque - Fier Hérétique
Mankind's Demise Records, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro: Ces charognes éparses
2. Fier hérétique
3. Le vent du nord
4. Passage dans la vallée
5. Extinction
6. Marches funèbres
7. Outro: Isolation









Since the only version I have of Monarque's demo is the re-recording, I'm going to start with their debut release. Two years after their demo Monarque brings us "Fier Hérétique" with all new tracks. Nothing from the demo has been re-recorded here. This album is actually rather difficult to track down today and I admit I did not get this when it first came out, but was lucky enough to find someone selling their copy. One of the reasons this is challenging to find is because it is limited to 500 copies.

"Fier Hérétique" sits somewhere in the realm of melodic Black Metal and atmospheric... it is tough to say which, exactly. However, these elements are generated by fairly conventional means and, in that regard, this is really nothing I haven't heard before by other bands in the 90's. However, Monarque have a great deal of promise, for their writing is pretty good at this stage. There's a clear, underlying, beauty in the passages that Monarque creates and at times lead sections kick in to give a riff a far more soaring nature. Even amidst all of this, this album still doesn't really grasp me like others have in the past. There is nothing off-putting, but their isn't enough truly stand out moments to keep me really fiending for more in the same way other compositions have.

In the end, this is still quite a good debut. The stand-out moments, really do stand out quite a bit and hopefully Monarque can harness that even more in their future releases. However, with the lulls between excellence, the album doesn't really reach that soaring beauty that I would really want to hear. Definitely a project to be watching for future releases. A solid foundation has been laid, let's see what they do with it from here.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Caverne


Caverne - Chants des Héros Oubliés
Résilience, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Clarté Lunaire
2. Terre Souillée
3. Ma Race
4. Ni le Lieu, ni l'HeureD












After  promising first demo, I was eager to delve into the follow-up released a mere year later. This cassette is printed in a similar fashion with a nice hard stock booklet. Again, no limitation on the tape is listed anywhere. Caverne has undergone some line-up changes and is now down to a one person project. Brume has left the drum duties, but they pick up again with Nécropole.

With "Des Tréfonds du Haut Bois" having a solid foundation, I was curious to see where this could develop. The demo starts with a fairly standard old styled keyboard intro before delving into the opening song "Terre Souillée", which starts with some very surprising riffing for Black Metal. It actually reminds me a little of what you would have heard from the early 90's Grunge scene, but it is not long before we delve into some soaring melodic Black Metal. This aspect makes the song quite beautiful and I'm still a little iffy if the other riffing really works with that soaring style of riffing. The rest of this demo really builds more on the melodic and soaring style of riffing, which made the rest of this tape really stand out. It's interesting, I usually find the high pitched screeching vocals quite a turn off, but I seem to find Amertume's approach quite tolerable. Probably because it's not all high pitched wails all the time.

I think this is a pretty good improvement on the debut demo. I rarely ever found myself getting tired of any of the songs. Things are arranged in a far better form this time around. The riffs and atmosphere feel a lot stronger as well, making this a vastly more enjoyable effort. I really look forward to see where Caverne goes next.


Caverne - Des Tréfonds du Haut Bois
Résilience, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Sermeot ar Huelgoat
2. Des Tréfonds du Haut Bois
3. Caverne
4. Songe d'une Lune Morbide
5. Nuit et Brouillard











Caverne is a band I found in relation to Nécropole and since I found the projects were very related, I tracked down both Caverne demos. This is Caverne's debut demo and it comes on a tape with a booklet printed on hard stock paper. It's actually a really nice booklet in that regard. No limitation is listed on the release.

Caverne seems to divide its time between a fairly epic and fast quality of Black Metal and slow and plodding atmospheres. I feel like the former are a bit stronger in terms of their composition abilities. Take the song "Caverne" for instance, it has a rather wonderful and droning, yet epic atmosphere, but it plods the same riff for a bit too long. Eventually this starts to erode the atmospheric space a little, but they do have the good sense to eventually switch up the slow plodding and advance the song into some quite stellar material. Caverne seems to be on a promising move, if they could harness their atmosphere and meld it with the faster sections it would really sound spectacular. Quite a bit of the material reminds me of the mid-90's era and even the production really has that feel as well. This is a good reference point, but I would like to see if they could push the envelope in this space a little more, because I feel like there on the cusp of creating some really stellar compositions.

Caverne, to me, is definitely something to watch in the future. The first demo has some strong parts, albeit some sections seem to drag on and feel quite samey. However, if you're a fiend for that early styled atmosphere and production, then you may find this a highly commendable demo.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nécropole


Nécropole - Ostara
Résilience, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Immanence
2. Trahison Fratricide
3. Nécropole













After "Atavisme" I was quite eager to hear "Ostara". Now, the samples of Nécropole I first heard from this release, but they were so excellent, that I had to track down the first demo as well. "Ostara", essentially, continues down the "Atavisme" journey with their particular blend of the French and Finnish sound. "Ostara" feels a little more thunderous and intense than "Atavisme" at times, so it has a more vicious feel rather than what heard on "Atavisme".

"Ostara", certainly, maintains that melodic Sargeist/Horna induced riffing style, but things feel faster and more intense this time around. There are times when I feel like influence from the Québécois shows up and this is a pleasant inclusion into the Nécropole sound. On this release, I realized that vocally they remind me a lot of the vocal style from Malleus Maleficarum, which is another excellent band from France if you haven't heard them before. I usually don't go for the higher pitch vocal performances, but like Malleus Maleficarum, it really works and it's pulled off quite well. It has enough mid-range in the overall tone to not screech through the tape. The drums feel far more varied this time around as well, I felt like on "Atavisme" they mostly just blasted their way through every section, but here we get a bit more of a diverse performance and it really helps the music feel more dynamic. Even though this material is rife with blast beats galore, it adds in that slight variation to make it special amidst all the blasting. Don't get me wrong, blasting is essential in this style and I wouldn't have it any other way, I just appreciate the variation with fills and patterns.

Even though "Ostara" has a bit of a different feel to it than "Atavisme", it's still an excellent follow-up. I can only hope that a full-length is imminent at this point since three songs just isn't enough to slake my interest in the project. So, if you're looking for some very well performed Black Metal, I highly recommend looking into this project sooner than later.


Nécropole - Atavisme...
Résilience, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Le ver Immonde
2. Perdition de l'Atavisme Cristallin
3. Souveraineté du Maudit













I feel like I haven't been watching the French scene nearly as much as I used to and I'm always surprised to get recommended some of these wonderful little gems turning up in that scene from time to time. Heritage aside, I have always considered France to have one of the strongest collection of bands and musician, but lately I've been more entranced with Poland, Germany, and Québec as of late... then Nécropole showed up and I find myself looking into the French scene and missing the days when I paid rapt attention waiting for the next amazing band. Nécropole sets up a strong group with members of Caverne and Angmar. I haven't gotten my Caverne tapes yet, but if Nécropole is any indication of the writing, I'm looking forward to them quite a bit.

Reading reviews for Nécropole leads a lot of references to Finland and early Deathspell Omega. These aren't too far off base to me, but I think Nécropole's riffing style is more in line with Annthennath than early Deathspell Omega. Nécropole has this glorious underlying epic quality to their riffing, which makes the experience a bit more expansive than the raw hate that early Deathspell Omega material evokes. They definitely draw from the realms of the Finnish greats like Sargeist and so forth, with the way their riffs wend their way through raw melodies. There are times when the usual French ugliness shows through, which is one of the draws for the French style. There's this interest in dissonance and tense or ugly riffs that show through. In Nécropole this is rather minimal, but it does show up from time to time and it stands in rather stark contrast to the exceptionally melodic Finnish style. Even though the songs rand in the near nine minute mark on average, they stand as being good lengths and I never really got tired of the song or felt that it really dragged on, instead I was rather sad that it had to end. That being said, with the closing track clocking in at over ten minutes, it is the perfect closer. It's varied and haunting, and just all around an immense listen.

"Atavisme" serves as an incredible debut foray for this project. The songwriting is already top notch, as far as I'm concerned and if you like harsh and well written Black Metal, Nécropole may be a new project to pay attention to. They certainly bear a lot of qualities similar to the early days, but they really do it justice, in my opinion. I really look forward to hearing more from this project and after hearing this, I hope a full-length would be on the horizon for us.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Zwartplaag


Faagrim & Zwartplaag - United Wolfish Hordes
Thor's Hammer Productions, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

Faagrim:
1. Intro
2. Die Zeit der Wintersonnenwende
3. Mein Pakt mit dem Wolf
4. Flamme empoer (Sieg oder Walhall)
5. Pagan Brotherhood
Zwartplaag:
6. Intro/Renewed Vision of War
7. Black Visions of Hate
8. Wolventyrant




Side Faagrim: ...coming eventually...
Side Zwartplaag:

After hearing the new songs on "Haatstorm" I was looking forward to hearing the all new material for this split. Sadly this is the last recording Zwartplaag would ever produce before breaking up. It truly is a sad thing, since the material they were making was only getting stronger as time went on.

The material here certainly continues what was started with "Haatstorm", but it feels a lot more refined and the riffs are much stronger this time around. The drum production and overall mixing is a lot more balanced as well. It truly is a shame the project was put to end after this, because they were, surely, onto something much bigger had they continued. There are very few bands that play a simpler form of the late 90's style that interest me these days, but Zwartplaag has managed to make the music interesting and thus has a certain level of maturity to their writing. I think this is what really separates them from the other bands that immediately give off the feel of "I've heard this a million times already", even though some that can be attributed to their sound, I think they pull it off with a far stronger appeal and this sets them above the rest in many ways.


Zwartplaag - Haatstorm
Heidens Hart, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Forgotten Tower of the Moon
3. Countess of Blood
4. Nachtkwaad
5. Last Stronghold of Eternal Hate
6. Imperial Death March
7. Winds of Desecration and Lust
8. Den Plaag Geleden
9. Haatstorm
10. Outro






This is one of the times where I must stand corrected in my original assessment of the demo. Apparently Heidens Hart heard something in this band that I didn't. When I saw a lot of the songs from "Nachtwaad" appear on their full-length, I was a bit skeptical, but, wow, they translated quite well to a studio performance. Naturally, I found the newer songs stronger and I wish they had made more of those rather than focus on re-recording the demo below.

To be honest, this was the first material I heard from Zwartplaag and I did quite enjoy it immediately. Even though "Haatstorm" would be considered far more simplistic, but the riffing style struck something with me. It reminded me a lot of the later 90's style Black Metal that was out. I hear a lot of material like Isegrim or a lot of other material put out by Last Episode. I know there is a decent amount of Black Metal fans out there that did not enjoy that label, and to some degree I can understand why, a lot of the bands they produced were overly simplistic and the music had this rather "samey" feel as we listened to it. There are large tracks that feel rather dry, but for some reason "Haatestorm" feels a lot stronger than that. Opening the booklet and seeing one of the members wearing a Funeral Winds shirt comes as no surprise and perhaps that influence makes this a bit stronger. Even though there is a focus on just one guitar rhythm and no interplay of layering, Zwartplaag's debut still manages to pull off a solid sound. The only major complaint I could have is the drum production. It's almost "too triggered" and the drums sound like an e-kit, which they may have used. That's really the one thing that mars their rather raw feel. The vocals are heavily reverbed, which comes as no surprise and a minor complaint is that they are a bit loud in the mix, but not so loud that they totally take over the music.

This isn't the best thing I've ever heard, by no stretch of the imagination, but I really enjoyed this for what it is. It's a primitive old school style of Black Metal, and while others may find it a bit contrived, I think a large portion of the riffing is strong enough to stand up to this kind of criticism. If you enjoyed some of the bands I referenced above, then you may want to check out Zwartplaag.


Zwartplaag - Nachtkwaad
Heidens Hart, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Forgotten Tower of the Moon
3. The Last Stronghold of Eternal Hate
4. Interlude
5. Nachtkwaad
6. Outro










This is Zwartplaag's third demo and I highly doubt I'll be able to track down any earlier releases. Indeed, I believe I am lucky enough to have tracked this down rather recently. "Nachtkwaad" was released on cassette to an unknown limitation of hand-numbered copies and I have #206. Some copies come with a read cover, while others are the cover above in black and white.

Zwartplaag's demo is merely okay to me. It opens with keyboards that are very reminiscent of the old Dungeon Synth style performed by Mortiis, and I actually really liked this throwback feel. It's fairly generic Black Metal, but this is extremely common with a lot of newly formed bands. I think I was hoping the music would be a little more interesting by the time the third demo rolled around, but some bands take a while to brew a more interesting take on what has already been done. "Nachtkwaad" is not a bad demo, but it's certainly nothing new. The guitar riffs are heavily rooted in tradition, there is no fresh take on a differing blend. The drums sound programmed, but nothing is stated about this on the release... this would sort of make sense though since it lists Onmensch as doing everything except vocals. Perhaps this standard fair approach to Black Metal is why I never originally found this demo, because the project never really tore through the scene back then. It was only on the later material that we see some really nice stuff shine through.

I would class "Nachtkwaad" as not really a necessary listen, there are many bands who play this style and many who have done it a little better. "Nachtkwaad" shows that Zwartplaag can certainly meet the standard of what has come before... but the real question is will they be able to build something more into their sound to make it truly their own or play an atmosphere that feels extremely well done.