Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Azermedoth Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal
2. Deadly Riders
6. The True Signs
7. Dead Gods
8. Plague and Pest
9. Kult ov Funestum Spiritus
10. Call of the Imperial Throne
Side Mystes: ...coming eventually...
Side Khaos Abyssi: ...coming eventually...
Side Calvarium Funestus: ...coming eventually...
Side Nekrokrist SS:
Participating in Finnish Black Metal just wouldn't be complete unless you get involved in a long string of split releases. This begins Nekrokrist SS' foray into the deluge of split releases that surround the Black Metal scene. I actually enjoy splits from time to time, but I'm not that fond of four way splits. I, personally, prefer two bands on a split, but here we have four. The only other band I've heard of on this split is Mystes and I quite enjoyed the material I heard from them.
Nekrokrist only offers up a couple songs for this, but things are a little different this time around. First off, the band has a full line-up now, so that is an interesting change. I wonder if the project will be more consistent in recording and releasing music. Another major change is that they tried to clean up the harsh production quite a bit. I think they've managed to strike a good balance between being absurdly harsh and just harsh enough to give your songs some nice chainsaw edge to them. Here we get one new song called "Scars" and it is quite an excellent song, picking up pretty closely to where the self-titled EP left off with the first three songs. The other track is a re-recording of "Nekrokrist," which first appeared on the demo from 2003. Cleaned up, this track actually sounds considerably better than the original tape.
Satan's Millennium Productions, 2009
Genre: Black Metal
2. Divine Light
3. There's No Place for You
5. Cold and Black Grave
After waiting a couple years we have the pleasure of hearing a new Ep from Nekrokrist SS. I was hoping "Suicide" wasn't just a fluke in their discography and instead would indicate the new direction for the project. It really has! This self-titled release is spectacular. The first three songs are newer, written and recorded in 2007, while the last two date all the way back to 2003.
The first three songs have a more sorrowful feel to the riffing style. In many ways it's a bit more reminiscent of something Sargeist would do, or the way they tend to structure their riffs. Nekrokrist SS manages to have their own sound, relatively speaking, throughout this release. As you might expect things take a very drastic shift on the last two songs. The production is far worse then the opening three. The rawness actually works against the songs in this case, even though the riffs are still pretty good. I'd love to hear these songs re-recorded, everything just sounds so wish-washy as it pushes through this song with a weird wave-like feel to the overall sound and production. I'm kind of surprised they didn't bother to re-record the material so that it fit better with the first three songs, because now this isn't going to end on a very high note... but it's not like they could just put them at the beginning, because in most cases people wouldn't wait to discover the rest of the release, which is very good.
Ah well, it might not be the greatest thing, but I really did enjoy the opening three songs. If you're a fan of that Finnish style of raw Black Metal, then those are definitely worth hearing, the last two are only good if you really like extremely raw and poorly produced music, to the point where it's hard to hear what's going on.
Primitive Reaction, 2007
Genre: Black Metal
1. Suicide is Only Way
3. My Blood on Altar
4. The End is Disgusting Life
5. Let Churches Burn
6. Stench of the Burning Corpses
7. Waiting the Mass Destruction
8. Shoot Yourself
"Suicide" is the debut release from Nekrokrist SS and it does not come on the heels of their demo. The demo was originally released back in 2003. So, it's been quite a wait to get an album out of this project. Topically I feel like this project has changed quite a bit. Despite the "SS" in the name, this really isn't an NSBM project and the band has even said as much. So, don't get confused with the demo tape, I think they were going more for the standard fair celebration of mass death plus being offensive all in one go. At least, that's the aesthetic I was getting from the demo.
Now, onto the music. Compared to the demo this is a huge step up in quality. "Suicide" presents us with some very fine Finnish Black Metal, hitting all the right chords that make me love the music from this particular region of the world. The demo tape felt like it had more of a punkier edge to the songwriting, but "Suicide" has more of a Horna type of edge to the music. I much prefer the Horna way of things, so I feel like this project is certainly trending in the right direction if they keep this up! They have one moment that has that Punk feel in "Waiting the Mass Destruction" but the style is more subdued this time around.
All in all this is a surprising change from the demo, but it's a pleasant surprise on my end. They also managed to keep the ultra raw style of recording for this release and it worked with the style very well. Don't expect anything except raw hatred from this project. "Suicide" has great riffs and great harsh atmosphere, so I'm definitely interested in following this project to see where it takes them next.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Purity Through Fire, 2017
Genre: Black Metal
2. The Lurking Giant
3. The Gathering of Blackest Shadows
4. Summoners of the Serpents Wrath
5. Ascending from the Deep
6. He, Who Liveth and Reigneth Forevermore
7. The Sea pt. 2 (My Cold Grave)
8. Black Devouring Flames
9. Rituals of Flames and Skulls
Sarkrista have locked themselves away for the past year be fairly silent when it comes to releasing music. Naturally this is because a full-length was looming and it is finally here. Staying away from releasing music as fast as they have has done the project some good and here we finally see the band start to step out of their tried and true composition ideas. Don't worry, that core Sargeist sound is still inherent in the underpinnings of the project, and I doubt that will ever be leaving anytime soon. But I feel that "Summoners of the Serpent's Wrath" delves into a bit more variation before and some outright experimentation with what that core sound can give us.
I think they have taken some serious time to create riffs that are of a higher quality than the previous releases. Either that or they've just gotten better at writing and maybe we'll see Sarkrista crank out material of this quality very fast in the future. Personally, as a songwriter, I prefer it when bands take time to curate their riffs and try to produce something of very high quality rather than just release material for the sake of releasing it. "Summoners of the Serpent's Wrath" feels like a well curated album and only chooses some of the highest quality music within the Sarkrista riff closet. In order to complement this, everything else had to step up as well. Here the drums are a bit more elaborate in arrangement than I remember in prior albums. There's a bit more flare to the arrangements making the drums stand out a little more than before. I'm really glad they balanced Revenant's vocals in the mix very well, because it really helps compliment the entire album perfectly. This is, especially, the case when it comes to songs like "The Sea pt. 2" which is probably one of the more experimental tracks on the album (for them). It features a slow plodding pace and even has some piano sections complimenting various parts of the song. Overall it creates for a very incredible listening experience and they did a wonderful job putting it together. However, my favorite song on the album has to be "He, Who Liveth and Reigneth Forever" which has some of the most intoxicating riffing around.
In the end this is an excellent album and this is probably going to be my go to Sarkrista album when I want to listen to this band. The stark improvements they've made all around has really put them on a whole new level. I only hope they can continue to maintain this quality form here and even build on it if that's even possible at this point. Definitely a must hear album for this year.
Metal Throne Productions, 2015
Genre: Black Metal
1. Ascending from the Urns
2. Behold Perdition!
3. Their Drowned Sanctuary
4. Still Death
5. Festing Over Your Dead Corpse
6. Through Times Immemorial
Side Sad: ...coming eventually...
I don't know what happened, but on this split I feel like Sarkrista have really stepped things up quite a bit. Every track, without exception, is really really well done. On the prior material, it was very much the same, but for whatever reason these three songs really feel like they hit way harder. The rhythms are more intoxicating than even before and they really did a spectacular job all around. The vocals are mixed into the music in a far more balanced fashion, so nothing ever overwhelms the mix and we simply sit in pure enjoyment of what Sarkrista has composed this time around. If this is any indicator of where Sarkrista's future music is going to be trending, I'll be pretty excited to hear what they have coming next.
Purity Through Fire, 2015
Genre: Black Metal
2. Hollow of the Writhing Serpent
3. The Evil Incarnate
4. The Fury of Revenants
5. Blaze of Arrival
Sarkrista kick off 2015 with a new Ep pressed onto wax. They're also working with a new record label and this is on 12" vinyl limited to 300 copies. I was lucky enough to get a copy of this. The artwork for this release is something that really stood out to me. It's truly stunning material to look at and really fits the aesthetic of Sarkrista's sound.
You can expect more of the same, as much hasn't changed in the Sarkrista style since their foundation. I think they are experimenting more with production value than song arrangements. They almost have it perfect on this release, things aren't too harsh, but they're just harsh enough to give that raw Black Metal feeling, while still having production good enough that you can hear everything in a very balanced fashion.
At this point in time though, I wasn't as into the latest Sargeist album for some reason. It just didn't hold up against "Let the Devil In" for me, but now I'll be turning to bands like Sarkrista to get that new Sargeist fix when I want to hear a newer album in their style.
Immortal Frost Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal
1. Evoking the Terminal Curses
2. The Sea pt.1 (Rise of Leviathan)
3. Black Fog Shadows
4. Nocturnal Prayer
Side Unhuman Disease: ...coming eventually...
Sarkrista bring us, yet another split as they close out 2014. They bring out two more tracks from their style, and weirdly the production sits a little better in quality than the previous split. This still feel harsh and quite raw, but not as much as before. There isn't much to say beyond the two tracks here, but I do really like the song "The Sea" on here. This really stood out as a very solid Sarkrista track with great riffs all around. As usual if you like what you've heard from Sarkrista before, it will surely be just as enjoyable.
Misanthropic Art Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal
1. My Eyes Turn Pure White
2. Diabolic Gathering
3. Ashen Woodland
5. Hulluuden Porteilla
6. Murheen Laakso
Side Sielunvihollinen: ...coming eventually...
With a quality release like "The Acheronian Worship" it didn't take Sarkrista long to fall into the split track, a time honored tradition in Black Metal. Their first foray into this format begins with teaming up with a great Finnish band Sielunvihollinen.
The first thing you'll hear on this release is the stark difference in production, or maybe just mastering. Everything sounds so much more harsh when compared with "The Acheronian Worship", you can hear things feel a bit more distorted in the mix, adding a sharper and far more piercing edge to the overall feel of the split. Perhaps this was done to meld with the Sielunvihollinen side a bit more seamlessly. Either way it took a couple second to shift gears with this release, but once settled in it sits comfortably as a harsher version of what we got on "The Acheronian Worship". Sarkrista certainly aren't breaking new ground, so if you enjoyed the debut, you'll enjoy three more tracks of their style. The harsher production value works well with their style and I didn't mind that extra degree of sharpness in their music.
Misanthropic Art Productions, 2013
Genre: Black Metal
2. Grim Satanic Vengeance
3. Funerals and Flaring Torches
4. Ruchless Winter
5. Messenger of Harm
6. Realm of Eternal Coldness
7. Wrath Incarnation
8. Black Clouds of Revelation
Sarkrista hit the ground running with their debut album "The Acheronian Worship". This fairly experienced band hits hard with their debut full-length, but as with most bands today they haven't really formed into their own unique sound. You can tell that Sarkrista is close to achieving this, but for now a portion of Black Metal fans may find the album too similar to other bands in the genre.
Despite the fact that Sarkrista originate in Germany, may will find their sound steeped in the Finnish style of Black Metal. For me, Sarkrista do blend the two regional sounds together, but they are certainly heavier on the Finnish style. For I hear influences such as Sargeist (the most prominent), Horna, and Satanic Warmaster in their sound the most. Whereas I don't really find a particularly distinct band to reference for Germany, other than the fact that some songs have that German feel to them like you hear in bands like Shores of Ladon or Schrat. If you like the bands I've referenced so far, then there stands a very good chance you will enjoy what "The Acheronian Worship" is giving to us, because they really take a page out of these bands' book and mix it all together on a single release.
The performance and production quality are all very well done. The production is, frankly, perfect for Black Metal. You can hear everything that is going on, and yet there is still a degree of rawness to the whole style giving it that really sharp edge that I love to hear in Black Metal. At times the vocals may overtake the mix, but Sarkrista do a much better job mixing their vocals than many other projects. I've kind of gotten used to the fact that in the majority of Black Metal projects the vocals will seemingly take over the mix, even though they really should sit balanced with the other instruments in my opinion. It also helps that Revenant is a solid vocalist, so even though moments overtake the mix, it's not overly annoying, but I am still sad to hear the guitars fall into the background sometimes.
So, there are some listeners that may walk away with a rather narrow view of the project, because there are people out there endlessly looking for pure originality, when that doesn't really exist, ah well. For me, I'm going to enjoy the release for what it is, well composed Black Metal. Because no matter how you look at it, these songs are well written and arranged. There's at least one extremely solid riff per song that really stands above the rest, so the album never gets boring in that regard. There's always something very good going on and I look forward to seeing where Sarkrista eventually take this style.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Ossuaire Records, 2016
Genre: Black Metal
1. Noirceur Ultime
2. Les Flamboyants
3. Le ver idolâtre
4. La Source
6. Reidi Ulv
7. Norske Herra
We are very lucky indeed! I was ready to wait for quite a long time for the follow-up to "Le Tombeau de Brume" and already a year later we have a new album in our hands! A new album turn around this fast would usually lead me to believe that this will just be more of the same, but I'm not sure that's the case.
Certainly "Norske Herra" builds on "Le Tombeau de Brume", but everything feels improved. This also feels like a far more fiercer album. It still has some of the majestic mainstays of the prior release, but a lot of that is pushed aside for a more furious style. At times the album seems to remind me more of that majestic ferocity that bands like Forteresse manage to put into their music. The overall arrangements feel stronger as well. There were times during "Le Tombeau de Brume" where pieces felt a bit choppy or transitions felt too abrupt, but "Norske Herra" corrects a lot of these imperfections and really gives us a stellar listen from beginning to end! The title track actually goes full Bathory on us and sits as an interesting closing to the album. I typically don't like the later Bathory efforts and my enjoyment stops at "Blood Fire Death" really. Fog even performs some clean vocal arrangements, but are used sparingly, which is good. I don't like a lot of cleans in my Black Metal, so having this switch over to pure "Blood Fire Death" worship was awesome. Some parts with the chanting cleans remind me of early Hades as well, which was a wonderful memory to bring up as well amidst the old Bathory!
Somehow the recording and production quality are also quite a bit better this time around. I don't know if Fog upgraded his studio during this time frame at all, but everything sounds a lot more full. Even the layout and design of the booklet is much better as well.
This is, absolutely, the best Norman Shores to date. There's a solid chance this will hit my top 10 this year, because it is so well composed. Highly recommended on my end and definitely a must buy.
Ossuaire Records, 2015
Genre: Black Metal
1. Intro - La complainte des Trépassés
3. Arefast à l'oeil mauvais
4. Le gardien des âmes
5. Interlude - Le lac au milles voix
6. Éternelle allégeance
7. Le berger des ombres
8. Messe des Morts
9. Final - Le tombeau de brume
I remember being surprised a new Norman Shores finally arrived on the US coast, because I had thought the project was on hold or defunct because it had been so many years since the debut album. However, with no warning a new album from Norman Shores finally showed up on these shores and I purchased a copy immediately. I was very impressed with the debut album and I was reasonably sure the new album would certainly be on par with the original.
"Le Tombeau de Brume" really sets a new standard for Fog's work, as far as I'm concerned. This really builds upon and then improves upon what we first heard in the first release. The overall complexity behind the compositions is what we first notice as a massive improvement. This mainly serves to produce an even more epic style and is sometimes reminiscent of what Emperor has done in the past with the approach. One of the major things I notice about Norman Shores is it's blend of the Scandinavian style with the epic and melodic French style of Black Metal. The album waxes and wanes through an experience of majestic and somber beauty, while still maintaining the fire and fury of Black Metal.
Aside from the overall composition, the vocal performance stands out from time to time as well. Fog primarily uses a traditional Black Metal voice, but has incorporated some chanting styles at times. The areas where they are placed reminds me, at times, of early Borknagar work. Other times he can strike an Atilla style vocal tone, but this is rarely used on the album. To me, this is a good thing, I much prefer the traditional feel of the vocals. When used sparingly the Atilla style works quite well, but again, it has to be in the right moments, not the whole album.
Overall another fine and enjoyable experience from one of France's finest musicians. This really embodies the old style with everything being "do it yourself". Everything was done by Fog, the layout, the recording, performance, everything, even released on his own record label. I would love to see this project get more recognition out in the scene, because it is very well done.
Antiq Records, 2012
Genre: Black Metal
1. Lost as a Ghost
2. Throne of Nemesis
3. La fin d'un Règne
4. The Grim Idol
5. Return to the Norman Shores
6. Ode to Honor the Brave
I remember going through the list of new arrivals at Paragon Records and I came upon this band. When I looked them up I was surprised to see they were from France, but also elated, because French Black Metal is probably my favorite. Also, my family history goes all the way back to this region, so I decided to give this project a shot immediately. I was surprised to see that the man behind the project is Fog, a musician I'd been following since early 2000 or so when he was involved with the French Angmar and Quintessence at this time, but that's about it. I wasn't aware he played any other instrument until I found Norman Shores. However, this is one of his many projects and the first solo project I encountered by him.
"Return to Norman Shores" heralds in a blend of the more melodic French style of Black Metal blended with solid Scandinavian Viking Metal. The songs are extremely well done and really remind me of the Viking Metal scene in the early days of Norway. Think along the lines of early Enslaved, but a bit faster in its performance. Even though this album is dedicated to the memory of Quorthon, I felt the main aspects drew from the Norwegian aspect of Viking Metal. Except for "Ode to Honor the Brave", which is total Bathory worship. This is directly influenced by "Blood Fire Death" down to the horse samples in the beginning! This song is an excellent homage to that era of Bathory.
I love the production quality on this release as well. It's got a very organic feel to it, which is a breath of fresh air to me, given that around 2012 a lot of Black Metal was feeling a lot more 'digital' in its production values. At least that's how I'd been feeling back in 2012. Either way Fog has managed to engineer an album fairly closely to what I would expect from a mid-90's release. I felt this really complimented the overall compositions wonderfully.
Even though this started as a fairly random buy on my end, I was really happy with it. So, if you like any of the elements I'm referencing above, this would be a great release to check out. It has definitely stood the test of time for me and I still enjoy the album to this day.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Official Blog: here
Genre: Black Metal
1. Ein Funke im Nichts
2. A Wolf in Chains
3. Frosty Stillhet
4. Hasses tiefe Trauer
5. Wächter des Bösen
6. Lucifer's Hymn
7. Im Schatten meines Eigenwahns - Part 2
Now this is the Skratte sound that immediately drew me into this band. Like "Kapitel 1" this is self-released, but as you can see from the track listing this is more a full-length than a demo. With the bonus 8th track you get nearly an hour of music with this one. "Kapitel 2", like the first, is limited to 100 hand-numbered copies and I own #22. Only the first 33 have the first the bonus 8th track, so I consider myself very lucky to have managed to get a copy early enough to hear all the music Hevnbrann made for this release.
To sum up "Kapitel 2" it's awesome! What a jump in quality in such a short amount of time. Everything has been improved. The guitars aren't nearly as fuzzy as the first recording and the mix is overall far more balanced between all the instruments. However, the most important quality jump is in the writing. From the very beginning we get some wonderful riffs all around on par with even the later Panphage releases in some parts. I might like some of what Panphage does just a little more, but wow is Skratte off to a majorly good start. If you want high quality raw Black Metal, then you are missing out if you skip out on checking this release. I first heard Skratte when a friend of mine shared teh track "Hasses tiefe Trauer" and I immediately needed to hunt this release down and get a copy for myself. The vocal performance is, all around, far better. There's a little less experimentation with high screams, but this is to my benefit really. I didn't like those much anyway. However, the overall vocal performance feels much colder and chilling this time around, which really compliments the music in a wonderful way.
"Kapitel 2" manages to conjure up a quality cold atmosphere throughout the experience and I really hope Hevnbrann can manage to keep up this level of quality. At this stage any improvements would be minor and I hope he can continue to curate his music even better to have only strongest riffs appear on future releases. I really can't wait to see what comes next!
Genre: Black Metal
2. Doch knisternd erlischt das Feuer
3. Misanthropic Hate
5. Im Schatten meines Eigenwahns - Part 1
I've only just discovered Skratte in 2016, but I was lucky enough to get a copy of the two releases currently available. I will be honest, I first heard material from "Kapitel 2" first, so going back to the first demo from 2013, I wasn't sure what to expect. It's usually rare for me to hear demo material in Black Metal today that really motivates me to get material right away. Usually, after a few releases I tend to find new bands, but not so with Skratte. This debut demo is limited to 100 hand-numbered copies of which I own #12. The first 33 copies are smeared with blood and as you can see from my scanned image, that is exactly what is all over my copy.
Skratte is a one man project out of Germany, despite having a Swedish band name. I feel like the quality of one man projects has been on the rise lately and Skratte is no real exception to that. "Kapitel 1" is also no exception to the rule when it comes to new projects and a musician trying to find their sound. Prior to this Hevnbrann did drums for another band Rabenholz and I must say the drum production on Skratte is far better. It feels a lot more organic and just sounds better overall.
"Kapitel 1" like a lot of first releases consists of quite a varied Black Metal experience. As usual Skratte is trying to fool around with all the influences that exist in today's Black Metal scene, so each track is fairly different with it's own realm of Black Metal. It is certainly well performed, but this material is nothing I haven't heard before. The demo opens with a very nice piano intro before launching into, probably, my favorite song on the demo "Doch knisternd erlischt das Feuer." Even though this song has some problems, it still manages to have some very strong riffs in it. My main issue had to do with the fact that some of the riffing didn't mesh well and the choked sections didn't bridge different passages together as well as they should have. "Misanthropic Hate" was a bit more cohesive in it's arrangement though, but it didn't have some of the really stellar riffs that stood out to me in the first track. The only major thing I didn't like in "Leblos" were the high-pitched screams. Sometimes these sound good for an extra texture, but too often gets in the way for me. It's similar in concept to the one Niege Éternelle song where they do something similar. The final track tries to fade the album out on a mostly clean guitar styled song. It was definitely an interesting choice against the rest of the album and it does seem to work pretty well. Usually these types of songs come off either very good or terrible, but Skratte managed to pull off a pretty good arrangement with this one.
Well, that's "Kapitel 1", and so far Skratte is off to a fairly good start. I'm, honestly, glad I heard the second release first, because if this was all I heard, I may not have been as interested in following the project. This is why I usually find a good release and then try to back track a discography.
Genre: Death Metal
1. Suffocate the Masses
2. Left on the Stake
3. Enslaved in Rot
Before Black Metal really took off in Norway, most of the bands were performing some form of Death Metal. Darkthrone's earliest material was Death Metal, pre-Emperor Thou Shalt Suffer also did some Death Metal, and Immortal was no exception to this. Now I don't have the original demo or anything, instead quite a few years ago I picked up this bootleg 7". I didn't see any other way for me to hear the Immortal demo, so I immediately picked it up, because this was before the mp3 craze had really taken off.
Unlike Sweden, the Death Metal Norway was producing never really took off. After hearing some of these old demos you can kind of understand why. Darkthrone was the only one really doing anything decent in that regard, but in retrospect of Black Metal you do kind of get the impression these bands aren't playing the right genre for them. It's more like people interested in heavier music trying to find their niche. Most of the Death Metal is poorly produced, but that aside, the riffing is typically very mid-paced with some very bizarre solo ideas from time to time.
It's tough to say if I had heard this back in '91 if I would have found merit in it. But in 2016 delving that far back, the early Death Metal being produced by Norway is more of a historical curiosity for me. Norway would go on to create some pretty good Death Metal bands, but the early inception of the style was never something that interested me as far as I can remember. Thankfully, Black Metal production would ramp up and as soon as these bands found Black Metal, they immediately switched to the genre and the rest is the history of a music genre I've enjoyed almost my entire life at this point.