Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ulver


Ulver - Trolsk Sortmetall (1993 - 1997)
Century Media, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

Disc 1: Vargnatt:
1. Her Begynner Mine Arr
2. Tragediens Trone
3. Trollskogen
4. Ulverytternes Kamp
5. Nattens Madrigal
6. Vargnatt

Disc 2: Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler:
1. I Troldskog faren vild
2. Soelen gaaer ba Aase need
3. Graablick blev hun vaer
4. Een Stemme locker
5. Bergtatt - ind i Fjeldkamrene

Disc 3: Kveldssanger:
1. Østenfor Sol Og Vestenfor Maane
2. Ord
3. Høyfjeldsbilde
4. Nattleite
5. Kveldssang
6. Naturmystikk
7. A Cappella (Sielens Sang)
8. Hiertets Vee
9. Kledt I Nattens Farger
10. Halling
11. Utreise
12. Søfn-ør Paa Alfers Lund
13. Ulvsblakk
14. Synen

Disc 4: Nattens Madrigal - Natte Hymne til Ulven i Wanden
1. I
2. II
3. III
4. IV
5. V
6. VI
7. VII
8. VIII

Disc 5: Nattens Madrigal - 4 track rehearsal, summer 1995
1. I
2. III
3. V
4. VI

This box set is really what prompted me to revisit Ulver's original recordings before even delving into this release. I had fond memories of a lot of Ulver's material and it really must have been nearly ten years or more since I had listened to "Bergtatt". Being prompted to revisit these old classics was quite enjoyable for me, which is probably one of the major points behind this box set.

Now, I could never get into Ulver's career after "Nattens Madrigal". I'm not a huge aficionado of electronic music, but I don't think it is poor music overall. I just listen to very little of it and what I look for isn't what Ulver plays. So, for me, this box set is  the definitive Ulver discography. Here Ulver's entire Black Metal career is compiled onto five discs. It's not enough to just re-release the material, it has also been entirely remastered and there are a few extras.

You'll notice that "Kveldssanger" features an extra track, "Synen", compared to the original pressing. This was originally released for the "Souvenirs from Hell" compilation and I had never heard this track before. It's a very wonderful track and fits on this release perfectly. Everything on the original "Kveldssanger" was so cleanly recorded, naturally, that the remastering doesn't really add a whole other layer to it, but adding the bonus track certainly makes it worthwhile. The second extra we get is disc five. This is a rehearsal of some "Nattens Madrigal" material. It's all instrumental, so it looks like this was just to get down song ideas. You find out why this was never immediately recorded, because one of the members was leaving for military duty, so the band had to hold off recording the album for a full year. The 4-track recordings are actually pretty well done and they're not nearly as ear-piercing as the original recording and I think they should have just recorded it this way!

Now, if other peoples experiences with "Vargnatt" were like that horribly noisy bootleg I referenced in my review, then this is a massive improvement. First off, we have all the tracks from "Vargnatt" here and the quality is very clear. So, while "Vargnatt" wasn't my favorite from Ulver, I really did appreciate have a decent quality version of their demo finally. The remastered version of "Bergtatt" is simply stunning. I felt like this was a wonderful new way to experience the depths of "Bergtatt" and if you enjoyed that release as much as I did, then I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with how well this turned out. One of the major things I was interested in hearing was a revisiting of the "Nattens Madrigal" recording. I feel like they managed to fix a major problem I had with the album, it doesn't feel as ear shattering as the original. The recording feels a lot more in balance and, thus, a far more enjoyable experience on my end. It really makes the beautiful aspects of "Nattens Madrigal" all that much more appealing. All of this just made experiencing their trilogy all that more satisfying. I still think the album is a bit overrated by the major fanatics out there, but I think I managed to find a bit more merit in it with this version.

If that wasn't enough, this came in a beautiful box set with a 104 page booklet! This is beautifully done, complete with lyrics and rare pictures of the band from that era. On thing that I found interesting is that rather than just give a band history, they have two, basically, essays from Jon "Metalion" Kristiansen and Mark Pilkington. Mark Pilkington's essay reads more as an historical overview, but Jon Kristiansen's was far more personal. Kristiansen was the creator of Head Not Found, which was the first label to release Ulver material, and a lot of other good material over the years as well. So, his writing is very interesting and for more a retrospect of what he remembers from those early days. Both essays point out how Ulver was never really involved with the major Norwegian Black Metal scene. They were never really involved with the inner circle activities, so the band always felt as if they were outsiders. Indeed some of their approaches, musically, were a bit different, thus their influential status over the years, so I can see where some of those feelings came from. Strangely, by '97 the band felt that the scene was offering nothing new and thus they seem to have left the Metal world altogether. I assume to forge out new territory... but I just find it's awfully strange to say this about the Metal scene and then delve into the electronic scene. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but some of their criticisms of Black Metal seem painfully silly given the fact they transitioned to electronic music. Granted you probably have more unlimited creative possibilities, given you can make just about any sound and thus less boundaries... but still, I hear a lot of the same sounding material get released out of that genre too. Hence, I think this is a common trappings of genres and people just need to get over that...

In the end, this is a wonderful Ulver collection. I think this is, absolutely, worth having if you enjoyed the early years of Ulver. A lot of care went into the creation of this set, which I fully appreciate. This is more than just a collection of their early material, which is why I found a lot more enjoyment out of it than I normally would have.

Ulver - Nattens Madrigal
Century Media Records, 1997
Genre: Black Metal

1. I
2. II
3. III
4. IV
5. V
6. VI
7. VII
8. VIII








Sometimes I look back on "Nattens Madrigal" and find it to be a bit overrated. Oh, it is certainly a fine album, but I'm not sure it really beats out listening to "Bergtatt" for me. I feel like part of my problem is how overboard a lot of people can get when they talk about this album. People herald this as an iconic album of the genre, but it came out in 1997 and I feel much of the genre was very well established by this point in time. Ulver's general musical approach hasn't deviated that much since "Bergtatt", the only major change is in the quality of production, which is far more primitive than their debut. The other changes a general lack of acoustic passages and clean haunting vocals, which sort of makes sense considering this follows an entire album of that style.

In many ways, I understand why this is done this way. However, we've seen a lot of these bands shift into Black Metal being more of a global phenomenon with labels growing in size. Here we see Ulver enter into working with Century Media as Century Media seeks to grow its metal label and joining in on the Black Metal phenomenon. Indeed, many albums were licensed to the U.S. via Century Black, which is how I got a lot of Black Metal in the late 90's and even saw a lot of releases appear in many music store chains. Part of me feels like "Nattens Madrigal" is sort of a mockery to this commercialization and given Ulver's massive shift away from all things Metal after this release, I feel like that's more and more true. The Black Metal on here is quite good and very old sounding, and the album claims writing an arrangement occurred in 1995, where recording happened in 1996. The mockery part of the scene, I think, comes in with the production values. It's noisy and at times nearly ear piercing with the guitar tone. It's messy sounding and not very refined. The opening song starts with what sounds like an error in the second guitar, before it comes in with the blazing lead line (I think the blazing guitar solos on here sound terrible, by the way). As more and more bands shift their sound into crisper and more clear production, Ulver throw all that aside and seem to re-create a demo-tape quality release for the masses. A giant middle finger to the changing scene perhaps? While many bands seek to balance well produced music with a raw and harsh sound, Ulver just seek out as raw as possible and run with it. It could be all in the name of the art, for their concept is a primal one and thus engaging the listener to something that is difficult to hear.

While "Nattens Madrigal" is very good Black Metal, with guitar work that is, at times, quite wonderful, some of it is lost in the mix. The guitars are often not well balanced and the recording feels more like a rehearsal of the band performing each track once. Around the time of release, there were all kinds of rumors about how they recorded the album out in the woods or something like that... kind of more of the reason I feel like they started disengaging with the scene as time went on. This "rehearsal" feel to the recording quality has its own charms, but it is hardly an icon of the scene or the genre, which is why I feel like this is a bit overrated. "Bergtatt" felt more groundbreaking, but "Nattens Madrigal" offers a solid album, but it hardly molded the future of the genre. A large amount of bands had already done this before Ulver. Another thing that grates is the drum line. There's only one drum beat and I can't remember ever hearing a tom fill happen. It just grates on you after a while and really does a disservice to some of the guitar lines. "VII" just drags on forever and never really goes anywhere... it just seems I can say this is objectively a bad song.

While "Nattens Madrigal" may not be as iconic, to me, as many would like me to think it is, I believe it is iconic for a decent amount of US musicians out there. If you weren't involved in the early realms of the scene, then hearing something this primal and vicious might have taken you aback, especially if you hadn't quite gotten to the demo history yet. I once encountered an Ulver fan who's engagement with Black Metal seemed to be based on whether he thought a band was better than "Nattens Madrigal" and he would often ignore the rest of their discography for this one album. This is what I mean when I say the album is over hyped by some fans out there. I think the album gets better as it progresses, and I will not deny that it is certainly worth hearing, especially if you love the older sounding Black Metal. This is where Ulver's discography really ends for me. I really don't care what they put out after this. It all sounds entirely boring and disinterests me.


Ulver - Kveldssanger
Head Not Found, 1996
Genre: Folk

1. Østenfor Sol Og Vestenfor Maane
2. Ord
3. Høyfjeldsbilde
4. Nattleite
5. Kveldssang
6. Naturmystikk
7. A Cappella (Sielens Sang)
8. Hiertets Vee
9. Kledt I Nattens Farger
10. Halling
11. Utreise
12. Søfn-ør Paa Alfers Lund
13. Ulvsblakk


I'm not sure the world was really expecting this as the follow-up to "Bergatt". After such an iconic Black Metal release, Ulver have turned to an acoustic driven Folk sort-of album. I'm not sure how much real "folk" is behind this, as the guitar work feels very modern in composition and I feel like people default to labeling something as "folk" as soon as acoustic guitars show up.

"Kveldssanger", which means "Evening Songs" is quite a beautiful release. While, I was semi-disappointed there was no Black Metal on here, I've embraced what "Kveldssanger" is and that is a dark, yet very relaxing journey. It is rather clear that you can capture the idea of a woodland evening in the rural lands of Norway from this release. The appearance of cello and flute only stand to enhance this imagery as we wander through this album. This album shows off some of Garm's clean ranges with elaborate vocal layering and at times have a rather Gregorian Chant feel to sections of the album. It's an impressive piece of vocal work, but I think Garm was still young with some of this and I feel his later vocal performances were even stronger. Regardless, his work on this certainly fits the feel and expression of the album and at the time it was quite a different idea for the scene to engage. It's a beautiful journey and had these guitar lines been translated to distortion this would have certainly been a wonderful Black Metal experience, and this really is what a lot of well written Black Metal would often sound like in an acoustic setting.

This is probably the Ulver album I listen to the least over the years, mainly because it's pretty rare for me to listen to instrumental or acoustic material in general when not blended with Black Metal. This is still a beautiful piece and has certainly influenced many acoustic only songs by bands over the years, along with the acoustic work of early Satyricon and Old Man's Child, it would become a rather major part of the genre showing up for years and years to come. I think most bands have the good sense that not everyone can sing like Garm, so most bands don't even try to emulate this, not that many ever could for that matter...


Ulver - Bergtatt
Head Not Found, 1995
Genre: Black Metal

1. I Troldskog faren vild
2. Soelen gaaer ba Aase need
3. Graablick blev hun vaer
4. Een Stemme locker
5. Bergtatt - ind i Fjeldkamrene











I've been trying to go back and review some of the classic and influential bands to the Black Metal scene and since my earliest engagement was mainly through the Norwegian scene I've been trying to prioritize various bands from time to time that are considered absolute must hear classics by most fans of the genre. When people reference Ulver, for me, I think of "Bergtatt" and I was surprised going back to "Vargnatt" that I did not like the demo that much. It's rather surprising how much of a difference "Bergtatt" is compared to "Vargnatt". Just the sheer amount of musical growth between the two releases is extremely impressive. I think I picked this album up around 1996 or 1997 or so and this was one of my earliest experiences with Ulver, which is really what captured my interest in the band.

"Bergtatt" boasts some major line-up changes in the world of Ulver. Only Garm and Haavard have continued on with the project, so the beautiful acoustic pieces on "Vargnatt" are still quite present here. However, the massive line-up shift and style growth means nothing from "Vargnatt" would be re-recorded. I'm almost thankful for this, because nothing on "Vargnatt" would fit with the majestic and wondrous "Bergtatt" release. "Bergtatt" is a truly wonderful album and I feel like Ulver draw a lot of influence from the world of Enslaved. However, Ulver's style feels a lot more beautiful and wondrous, whereas Enslaved come off as far more aggressive. Garm's clean vocals have an ethereal sheen to them that make the album a very interesting experience. He's certainly a stronger clean vocalist than Grutle, but I think I like Grutle's harsh vocals even more than Garm's at this stage. Garm would go on to be an extremely versatile vocalist performing some of the most iconic vocal performances in Black Metal with the likes of Arcturus and Borknagar. Now "Bergtatt" certainly has its aggressive moments and I think back in the early 90's like this they were still just piecing those styles together. So the shift between ethereal beauty can shift harshly into vicious and intense Black Metal. I think the modern scene that is built off of these origins is trying to be more conscious on blending the elements more seamlessly, but its something I've noticed quite a bit when revisiting these old releases.

To this day, "Bergtatt" is really my "go to" album when I listen to Ulver, which has tapered off over the years. One of the reasons I'm trying to revisit the classics. It's probably been ten years since I last heard "Bergtatt", so its really a wonderful thing to be able to revisit the album today and still find enjoyment in it. It really says something about how "Bergtatt" has stood the test of time with it's writing and style. Naturally, it would influence a host of future Black Metal bands and Ulver's blend was a bit of a shift from what was being performed in the early scene. I always felt bands like Einherjer, Enslaved, and Helheim were performing a similar style, but Ulver's style, at the time, was always a little different in feel in some respects, but not in a way you could outright call them Viking Metal.

"Bergtatt" is such a refined album compared to the demo and I think that shift in quality was wholly unexpected. Truly a classic to be remembered.


Ulver - Vargnatt
Self-Released, 1993
Genre: Black Metal

1. Her Begynner Mine Arr
2. Tragediens Trone
3. Trollskogen
4. Ulverytternes Kamp
5. Nattens Madrigal
6. Vargnatt










Ulver has certainly grown to legendary status over the years, albeit their career in Black Metal has been extremely brief. Prior to"Vargnatt" there was also a rehearsal released the same year, which I've never heard and am not that interested in tracking down at the moment. The only version of "Vargnatt" I had been able to acquire is the one pictured below and it's a very poorly made bootleg.
The transfers are extremely noisy and loud and I would think the recording is actually a rehearsal rather than the actual demo. It seemed like a decent idea at the time because it also featured Immortal's demo material. So, I've found a better version elsewhere and am listening to that in order to capture the actual music performed on "Vargnatt". The bootleg doesn't even have the full track listing, so it is quite the rip off in the grand scheme of things.

The way this band starts is quite strange in the grand scheme of things. Ulver's career has boasted some of the major players in Black Metal, but during the "Vargnatt" days only Garm and Carl-Michael would go on to be involved in the genre more, until Garm changed genres and seems to have backed off from Black Metal for the later part of his music career. Carl-Michael (drums on "Vargnatt") is still heavily involved with Metal performing in bands like Aura Noir still. Jørgensen would go on to play guitar in Ulver, but after that he seems to go onto other things after Ulver, but he only performed acoustic guitars on "Vargnatt".

So, it's kind of clear that Ulver's "Vargnatt" would have a bit of a different feel compared to their later works. There are a lot of elements on here that feel outright awkward and some of the guitar work feels similar to what Ved Buens Ende would later produce. Garm's vocal work on here is simply strange, at best. He has some standard rasps, but at other times he has this sort of whiny clean voice similar to what Misanthrope's vocalist is fairly known for. He also invokes some weird falsetto parts, which sound terrible, but they are very few on this release, thankfully. The guitar works ranges from mid-paced Black Metal, but with a lot of acoustic material blended in. At this point it doesn't sound so much like a Folk/Black Metal band at all really... it just sounds like a Black Metal band with acoustic guitars. The title track, however, is actually very good and they close the demo on a very strong note. There are a lot of good sections here and I can see why the band was picked up to release a full-length next.

In the end, there wasn't a lot I found appealing with "Vargnatt". I think people laud over this more as a novelty item than anything else these days. In the modern era, I feel like it's really in vogue to be an Ulver maniac, and while I like Ulver's material, I have to say I did not like "Vargnatt" very much. The only aspect of "Vargnatt" that I found remotely enjoyable was the acoustic guitar work and some of the Black Metal riffs here and there. But when Garm comes in with that falsetto he just drowns out all the guitars... it's just no good when that happens. Certainly, a novelty in Ulver's career and certainly different than the rest of Black Metal being produced in the same years, but not nearly as strong as what Ulver would eventually become on later releases.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pest


Pest - Nekrolog
Fallen-Angels Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

Part 1: The Triumph of Death
1. The Spirit of Dark Water
2. Nebel
3. Onward to Destroy
4. Pest
5. Vado Mori
6. Weltgericht
7. Call from the Other Side
8. Ära
9. Tears of Hate
10. Yersinia
11. Trance
12. Kingdom of Madness
13. Es lebe der Tod
14. Entering Forest

Part 2: Memento Mori
1. Nachtgesang
2. Bis in alle Ewigkeit?
3. Eternal Darkness
4. Schnee und Eis
5. Inferno (Unreleased Demo)
6. Bonded (Unreleased Demo)
7. Infinity Awaits
8. Im Angesicht der Schwarzen Sonne
9. Der Kerker
10. Ewiges Grab (Unreleased Demo)
11. Failure of Creation (Unreleased Demo)
12. The Glimmer
13. Wasteland
14. Am Ende des Weges
15. Burial (Unreleased Pre-Mix)
16. R.I.P. (Unreleased)

Here we truly see Pest's career end. "Nekrolog" serves as a "best of" of sorts to commemorate all that Pest has given us. They really put together a great compilation with both discs spanning over an hour in length. Which is unsurprising since the vast majority of Pest's catalog is exceptional quality. However, they went above and beyond and gave us some unreleased versions of material on the second disc.

This set really does an excellent job cataloging Pest's career. The unreleased material is good, but it's mostly just demo material of things we've heard before. The major difference is the shift in production values compared to the other songs surrounding them. So, there isn't that much new material in the grand scheme of things, but having a celebration of Pest's career is certainly worth having for the die hard Pest fans out there. It's quite sad to have the collection close with the song "Burial" followed up by a new song called "R.I.P.", which adds a certain level of finality to the Pest project. I thought "R.I.P." being the one, wholly, new track on this release would be one of their well formed acoustic pieces, but it actually is all distorted guitars, with a sort of similar feeling to an acoustic piece. However, with the distortion it has a rather harsher edge to it, as if laying to rest the band in the same way it was forced to end against their will.

I truly hope Pest's legacy will never be forgotten. I'll certainly always be listening to their material for years and years to come and recommending them to everyone I know who is a fan of Black Metal. I really wish we had been able to see the studio version of "Burial" the band would have ultimately made, as I'm sure everyone else wishes. I truly hope Mrok's tragedy doesn't stop Atax and Scum from making music together. Given the passion this band possessed, I would think Mrok would want them to continue their musical careers, as it is probably something he would have continued with had he not passed in 2011. Certainly there is no replacing Mrok and ending Pest is a good idea to keep his creation in all our memories, but I would like to see where the music goes in the future from those remaining. They are top tier musicians and it would be sad to have this tragedy leave everyone without such music, especially with the way "Burial" was trending. We were in store for some of the finest Black Metal being performed... Black Metal has lost one of it's finest, hopefully, we can continue on in a way that would make Mrok proud.


Pest - Triumph des Todes
Kunsthauch, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Es Lebe der Tod
3. Am Ende des Weges
4. Pest
5. Inferno
6. Decay
7. Triumph des Todes
8. Caveland
9. Wasteland (Acoustic Guitar Mix)
10. Schnee und Eis Part 2 (Acoustic Guitar Mix)
11. Riding the Storms (Distortion Mix)
12. Im Angesicht der Schwarzen Sonne
13. Armageddon
14. Gedankenschwelgend
15. Master's Return
16. To Rise from the Dead
17. Outro

It seems the last breath of Pest is coming out all at once this year. This is the first of two compilation albums for the band. This a real special one though, here we have quite a catalog and specialties, many on CD for the first time. It's a truly beautiful packaging as well. It comes in a wonderful silver envelop pictured above and sealed with wax. Inside you'll find a poster and a digi-pak CD (pictured
right). This release is limited to 200 hand-numbered copies and I own #34.

The first part of this recording is the self-titled Pest release from 2007. This was only available on vinyl or cassette until now. Here we have all the tracks on CD and re-mixed in 2013. They sound really great and I'm very glad to have versions on CD. The title track "Triumph des Todes" seems to have been released on a various artist compilation back in 2002. Of course we also saw that song released on the "Ad se Ipsum" album in the same year. After this tracks 8 to 100 were recorded during the "Tenebris Obortis" recording session, but never used by the band. Here they finally see the light of day on this release. I can see why these were never really used. The original songs are acoustic recordings and when looking at the track layout these may not have fit so well. We also get some acoustic versions of songs that were released on the album. I wonder if they were originally going to release them this way and decided to add distortion into the mix, or did they take the distortion out for these versions after the fact? The acoustic version of "Wasteland" is actually very good and in some ways it would have added a very different feel and presence to the "Tenebris Obortis" album. Finally the last part of the album is the demo from 1998 "Schwarze Visionen" on CD at last! If it wasn't for this release, there is probably no other way I'd be hearing this material now. I'm always interested to hear the roots of a project if the band is exceptional, and Pest definitely falls into that category! So, if, like me, you missed out on their beginnings you can finally get to hear it. It looks like the recordings have been salvaged in pretty good quality and they're, honestly, not too far off in quality from what first heard on "Ära".

As with "Buried" this is dedicated to Mrok and Pest. If you're a Pest fan, I would consider this a must have compilation. Having some of these recordings for the first time makes this worth getting alone, never mind all the bonus material that was never released before. A wonderful tribute to a band that ended far too soon.


Pest - Buried
Ketzer Records, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Burial
3. Kingdom of Madness
4. Vicious Wrath
5. The Hunt
6. Warriors of Darkness 2011
7. Ära 2011
8. Call from the Other Side
9. Awakening
10. Descending into Darkness
11. Totentanz
12. Bygone




With the release of "Buried" sad news reaches my eyes. Founding member on drums, Mrok, has passed away in a car accident. This happened back in 2011, but this is the first I heard about it and sadly this is where I first discovered Pest. A friend showed me some of the material on "Buried" and I was so impressed I immediately ordered this album for my collection. Only to read the back liner notes explaining how it is an In Memoriam album for Mrok. With his death, the band was also put to rest, considering Mrok was such an instrumental part of the band and writing process.

"Buried", unfortunately, is not a full studio release. What it really is a collection of some of the songs being worked on for an upcoming album. Tracks 2, 3, 4, 8, 9,10, and 11 fall into this category of varying recording quality. The rest are older recordings or re-recordings of older material. Scum's liner notes state "The recordings are not perfect and not all songs had been completely worked out, but we decided to release them, for they are the last recordings with Mrok." They may not be perfect, according to the band, but the new material being composed is probably some of their strongest material yet. They've really started blending the material from "Tenebris Obortis" and "Vado Mori" together to make an aggressive yet more atmospheric release. Just listen to how "Burial" sounds and it's simply incredible. Don't let the fact that these are rehearsal recordings steer you away, the first seven songs have recording quality that is actually quite good and no more raw than the second Pest album. Actually, this is higher quality than that, so its hardly a thing to be shamed of. I can't even imagine what these songs would sound like in a "finished" form according to the bands standards. This would have been quite the monster of a Black Metal release any way we looked at it. After this the recording quality begins to vary a little bit, but they did a great job salvaging this material. It seems that prior to even these rehearsals Mr. Blasphemy had already left the band, so I assume Scum is doing all the vocal performances on here. The vocals here are very well done, as Scum has always done backing vocals, but for the last recording it would have been nice to see the full band involved. If it was impossible, that is just too bad, but either way Pest put out a wonderful final effort and I'm glad they decided to ultimately release the material. This is truly some of their most wonderfully composed material to date!

I only hope that my Pest page stands as a testament to the legacy Pest leaves behind. I wish they had left a more indelible mark on the Black Metal scene and I'm sure they have in their own country, but Pest seriously deserve far more worldwide acclaim for their work. I hear very few mention their name in my country and it was someone outside of this country that brought them to my attention! I will do my best to spread the word as best I can. The blight might be over, but Pest's mark will live on forever, just like the original plague!


Pest - Tenebris Obortis
Ketzer Records, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Tenebris Obortis
2. Trance
3. Ewiges Grav
4. Weltgericht
5. Wasteland
6. Decontamination
7. Schnee und Eis
8. Bonded
9. Riding the Storms
10. Entering Forest






It's been a while since we've heard a full-length from the mighty Pest and after "Vado Mori" I was certainly looking forward to more. In the interim they released a mini-LP, so they sort of stuck with their release schedule of putting out material every couple of years. If you were impressed with "Vado Mori" you'll be doubly so with "Tenebris Obortis", because Pest return with yet another immense release. It's a shame that this band isn't nearly as well known as they should be, because they compose some of more fine Black Metal out there.

"Tenebris Obortis" sort of picks up where "Vado Mori" leaves off, but I feel like this is a far more mature effort in many ways. The arrangements and writing feel far more contemplative than ever before. Songs like "Wasteland" border into a more atmospheric presence, which is a little different for Pest. "Tenebris Obortis" keeps a wonderful balance between aggression and slower darker pieces, I think. Where "Vado Mori" was more of a no holds barred experience, "Tenebris Obortis", brings us a far more complete Pest experience. Pest really does manage to keep getting stronger and stronger with every release they bring us. It's an impressive feat to not get locked into a particular sound that works. The booklet interior for pictures seems like a blend of war and wonderful pictures of nature that you would find on album covers for the latest Atmospheric Black Metal bands. Pest definitely build a lot more cold and icy riffing into "Tenbris Obortis", which creates more of a drone feel at times. "Vado Mori" relied a lot more on hard hitting and catchier rhythms, but "Tenebris Obortis" works on blending a slight edge into a darker atmosphere. To make this even more worthwhile the album closes with the epic "Entering Forest", which is simply incredible!

If you're already a Pest fan you certainly won't be disappointed with this release, bit if you haven't checked out Pest by now, it's high time that happened. "Tenebris Obortis" is a great album and just as good as "Vado Mori", but for very different reasons. Pest's ability to bring us different albums that blend different levels of magnificence is one of the reasons I'll keep coming back for more from them.


Pest - Pest
Bird of Ill Omen Recordings, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Es lebe der Tod
2. Am Ende des Weges
3. Pest
4. Inferno
5. Decay











Despite being recorded back in 2005, this material finally sees the light of day on 12" vinyl! It's a beautiful piece and even though you can't see it in the above photo, the Pest logo is embossed over the cover. It's very subtle, but it was a very cool thing to notice when I took the vinyl out of the mail. It comes with a poster inside which has the lyrics published on the back... so it's not something I'll be hanging up in the end. I'm sure this EP is limited to some amount, but there is no mention of limitation on the release.

This features new songs and a re-recording of "Am Ende des Weges" from the "Ära" days. That was one of my favorite songs at that album, so I'm not going to complain about it being featured here with an upgrade to the sound. This is actually a pretty hard hitting EP for Pest. Most of the songs are really fast and brutal sounding Black Metal. They seem to draw a lot more out of Thrash structured style to create that intensity and the majestic patterns we find in a lot of their albums are not as present on this collection of songs. "Inferno" is where we hear some of that intensity take a step back in favor of a more atmospheric feeling. It's the only track on here like that, so in some ways it felt out of place when it came on, but then with the outro "Decay" it sort of transitioned a lot better than if they had just kept the brutality going the whole time. The song "Pest" has moments that sit in between the majestic styling and the intense songs, so it's a good transition piece in that regard. "Decay" is a bit of a different song, it's nearly five minutes in length, but feels more like an outro piece with distorted guitar and piano. It actually sounds pretty good and I'm surprised they didn't make more material like this in retrospect.

I'll never complain about getting new Pest material, but I can see why many of these songs wouldn't have really fit on any of the full-lengths they usually compose. I think an EP was a good move with this collection, so if you want to hear a more intense side of Pest this is definitely worth checking out.


Pest - Vado Mori
Ketzer Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. Prelude to the End
2. The Failure of Creation
3. Eternal Darkness
4. Infinity Awaits
5. Vado Mori
6. Before the Storm
7. The Glimmer
8. Yersinia
9. Der Ewige
10. Into Madness
11. Es Lebe der Tod





This is the first with Pest recording outside their rehearsal room and this is easily my favorite Pest album so far. It really builds on the prior releases, but this gives a far more intense edge to their music than ever before. The harshness is still ever present in their sound, despite going into a studio and I would say the production values are on par with the likes of Horna. This also comes with a wonderfully done booklet, but this is not so surprising with the band releasing material on Ketzer Records.

Even though this is probably the most aggressive Pest release to date, we still get some balance with acoustic and chilling passages of riffing in general. Just look how the title track "Vado Mori" builds into the actual song. It has a vast intro that lulls the listener towards the medieval styled aggression we're about to experience. It's easily one of my favorite tracks on this release. "Vado Mori" is sort of in vein of a more hard hitting Moonblood, in my opinion anyway. If Moonblood sounded meaner and more intense, it would probably sound something like this. Just listen to how awesome the song "The Glimmer" sounds. That main riff is intoxicating! Blend in some of that Horna Finnish style of Black Metal and we have one incredible blend to behold. While many may not consider "Vado Mori" as inventive or varied, I guess I'm a sucker for the more aggressive blends of Black Metal. I will say that it was nice to hear an album this aggressive with bass guitar that actually does stick out to some degree. Another aspect that I think wins me over more is that this album is mostly full songs, meaning the instrumental interludes of prior releases actually move into songs rather than sitting in their own space all the time, which is a change I really appreciate on many levels.

"Vado Mori" is quite the success in my opinion. I really love this album. Pest has always had very strong material and with "Vado Mori" they've refined it into one impressive piece of music that I would highly recommend to Black Metal fans all over. The riffing and overall arrangement is really top notch on this release.


Pest - Ad se Ipsum
Fog of the Apocalypse, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

1. Yearning
2. Bis in alle Ewigkeit?
3. Pest
4. Tears of Hate
5. Onward to Destroy
6. Gleitflug ins Nichts
7. Armageddon
8. Triumph des Todes
9. Rattenmarsch
10. Der Kerker
11. Die Sinnlosigkeit des Daseins





After "Ära" I was pretty eager to hear what "Ad se Ipsum" had in store for me. As a follow-up I think it is actually a bit more varied in the veins of Black Metal, where the first sticks to a single main theme. I was lucky enough to actually track down a copy of this release and it seems to be quite long gone now. Apparently it was originally limited to 500 copies and given the fact that people seem to be interested in the band now, this is probably going to be hard to track down for collectors.

If you were enthralled with "Ära" then "Ad se Ipsum" certainly keeps up the good work we heard on the debut. They keep up their usual blend of instrumental pieces with raging and fierce Black Metal. I noticed that a couple of the songs actually had far catchier guitar lines than the more droning and atmospheric material on the debut and demo. Songs like "Pest" have this sort of catchy and Thrash styled edge to it. Reminds me of the moments where Gorgoroth included that type of material into their mix of Black Metal. In some ways I enjoyed "Ära" a little more and I think it grabbed my attention a bit more. "Ad se Ipsum" feels a lot more varied in its performance and maybe that's why I'm not getting into it on the same level. There are certainly excellent songs on here and I would still rate this album rather highly in the grand scheme of things against other albums I've heard over the years. However, I think Pest can organize their compositions better to make a far more cohesive experience for listeners. Really, this is a very minor quibble for an otherwise very good album.

Consider yourself lucky if you were able to get a copy of this release. Perhaps it is not a release I will spin over others in the Pest discography, but this has some wonderful material on it. So, if you've already been won over to the way Pest performs their Black Metal, you won't be disappointed in this release either.


Pest - Ära
Self-Released, 2000
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Spirit of Dark Water
2. Nebel
3. Warriors of Darkness
4. Der Baum
5. Im Angesicht der Schwarzen Sonne
6. Am Ende des Weges
7. Nachtgesang
8. Breeding
9. Lost in Eternity
10. Ära
11. Solitude
Bonus Tracks:
12. Warriors of Darkness (Special Recording)
13. Am Ende des Weges (Special Recording)
14. At Dawn

As you can see by the cover picture I do not have the original version of this release. The original version was self-released and is likely impossible to find at this time. Instead, I have a copy of the version released by Full Moon Productions in 2003 with three bonus tracks. I honestly missed out on getting Pest's material until this year. I don't know why I never picked this up from Full Moon when they were still in operation, but by that time I had sort of stopped following Full Moon into the new millennium. It's a real shame because Pest as a rather stellar Black Metal band and I wish I had bothered to check them out when I ran my original webzine back in the early 2000's. Ah well, I feel obligated to make up for lost time and I have since acquired every release from this magnificent band except the original demo tape. Alas, that seems rather impossible to find and was released in 1998. The demo tape is actually very good, I did manage to hear it on a compilation released later, and I'm surprised there were no record labels to pick up the band and release this originally.

I once saw this band being compared with Moonblood and it had a lot more to do with the fact that they're both coming from Germany. Pest definitely falls into that raw edge of the Black Metal spectrum, but like Moonblood, this really enhances their sound and presentation. They even bear some of the epic quality and nature that can be found in the realms of Moonblood. Naturally, Pest draw influence from the standard Scandinavian scene. At times building an effect as Satyricon can do with releases like "Dark Medieval Times", especially in songs like "Am Ende des Weges". The obligatory Burzum reference should probably be included somehwere. Sometimes Pest have a rather unorthodox approach with the guitar work and felt a little sloppy on the demo tape, but it feels a lot cleaner on here. Even with that, it still had a touch of the LLN style of guitar playing to me. They don't really sound like the LLN projects, but the way in which the guitar is handled at times reminds me of such performances. The bass guitar also sticks out at times to really enhance some of the atmosphere of what's going on, which is very great to hear on a Black Metal album, since it's doing more than just following the guitar. There are also a few Ambient styled tracks which wend their way between the dungeon synth style of Mortiis or some of the synth we'd hear from early Satyricon material or even Wongraven.

The three additional recordings are some different versions of already released songs, but "At Dawn" is a new instrumental recording. It's quite wonderful for what it is, but I think I would have preferred an unreleased Black Metal song. What I would have really preferred is a song that has this acoustic piece building into a Black Metal song, which would have been magnificent given how excellent the guitar work is on this.

If you like a lot of the references I'm bringing up so far, then there's no reason that "Ära" shouldn't hit your "must hear" playlist. They truly captured and performed some top notch older feeling Black Metal. Again, I'm surprised a record label didn't pick this up immediately, but I'm glad that Full Moon eventually put out a more available version for everyone to get access to this wonderful debut album.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Earth and Pillars


Earth and Pillars - Earth I
Avantgarde Music, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Earth
2. Rivers
3. Lakes
4. Tides












I feel like every year I spend scouring the Black Metal record labels for that one gem that will, hopefully, define the year for me. Last year Csejthe was that band, in fact the majority of the Québécois scene simply entranced me, but this year has left me with a rather lackluster search. I've purchased only a small amount of material from 2014, nothing really grasping my imagination in the same way. There have been some very good releases and I have thankfully found new projects like Infamous that really struck a chord with me, but this... this Earth and Pillars, this is something different. This is special.

Just opening this package up provides arresting beauty for the listener. The packaging is simply stunning and I'm glad to see Avantgarde is dedicated to continue this art form. Music is more than just a recording, it's the whole package and Earth and Pillars clearly understands this. This album, "Earth I", which leads to the hope that there will be future installments, creates a wonderfully bleak, yet majestic vision of our planet. Looking through the artwork and lyrics really nails that sense to the listener making this listen even more imperative with a physical copy in my hands. The album opens with five minutes of an Ambient styled track. While this would be a full song for most bands, Earth and Pillars follows in the footsteps of Paysage d'Hiver and Darkspace with extremely long songs following this. "Earth" gives the sense of travelling a fog laden forest, where a copse of trees opens into a bending river. From here the album follows a theme of water, which makes me wonder if the band intends to follow a concept series amidst the elements found on the planet. I would think it would perhaps follow a theme of the old Greek Atomic Theory of the four elements, but with "Earth" being the first track, perhaps that will not be the case. We wend our way through the beauty of the Earth's surface, which is mostly covered in water and the album keeps a sort of "flow" feel to every song. At times we are calmed by the gentle rocking of the rhythms, but tempestuous waves can grow and become quite a concern for travelers where fear begins to develop in the likes of "Tides". The Paysage d'Hiver influence grows bigger in this song with the droning Ambience in the middle, but I think Earth and Pillars is a bit more sensible with its inclusion of Ambience. There isn't a point where it just becomes overwhelming and droning on for nigh ten minutes in length, here it is kept as a sensible portion of the song.

Earth and Pillars has brought me on, probably, the greatest journey I'll hear all year. As someone who purchases nearly a hundred albums a year, this one is standing tall above the rest so far. Shockingly, I may even fall to this more often than the latest from the might Darkspace. Perhaps it is simply because it is new, but the atmosphere being created here is exactly what I wanted to hear this year. "Earth I" paints a beautiful picture of our planet, but there is an underlying taint, a dark bleakness to it. I feel like this has a slightly different bend on the environmentally themed work. It doesn't feel as much a worship of nature, as there is an underlying failing in the world around us. The Earth, itself, isn't dying, the environment is changing so that it will no longer sustain life in this form. So, while we can marvel at the glory of nature, we must remind ourselves that in the near future the Earth may not sustain life in the way we recognize it, namely our own. Do we mourn a world whose environment is changing in a way that will ultimately kill off humanity, or is this to be celebrated? I feel like these bleak indecision is where the Earth and Pillars album takes me.

In the end, if you are a fan of Atmospheric Black Metal, I absolutely consider this a must buy. It will likely hit my top five releases for this year very easily, if not number one. Very well done.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tardigrada


Tardigrada - Widrstand
Fallen Empire Records, 2012
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Ufakt
2. Hoffnungslos
3. Widrstand
4. Einsamkeit












I picked this up purely because of this projects name. The fact that they are from Switzerland falling under the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal amidst many other great bands from that region, helped as well. The name is from a taxonomic class of animals and means "slow-stepper", which is kind of cool as a Black Metal name, even though there are certainly blast beats on this recording and fast guitar playing. The really interesting thing about Tardigrades is they can survive the vacuum of space! I also think the band would appreciate the fact that I am writing this review while sitting in the back rooms of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I'm sure there are some interesting holotypes in collection somewhere.

I missed out on all the original versions of this recording and I own the 2014 repress. Tardigrada's style of Black Metal seems to fall into a sort of blending of Paysage d'Hiver style with some LLN style. Some of the chord structuring reminds me of that dissonant and tortured French style from those ancient days. They even have a lot of clean guitar sections with, what sort of sounds like footsteps in the background, reminiscent of... I think, Aäkon Këëtrëh. Unlike that project, we do have Black Metal being performed. The approach reminds me of Paysage d'Hiver, but it's exactly in the same way, so it's certainly not a clone. For the most part it creates a decent and cold atmosphere, but there are some riffs, or pieces of riffs, I should say, that sort of sound strange in the mix. There's at least one part of "Widrstand" that pulls me out of the atmosphere due to the way the guitar work is used. Then again, the appearance of Cello on "Hoffnungslos" is simply stunning! For the most part they keep me in a real solid space and they do this to overwhelming effect with the song "Einsamkeit" clocking in at fourteen minutes. It makes me wish the whole recording was of this caliber, because that song is above and beyond the other two, so the demo closes on quite a high note.

While Tardigrada may not be offering much in the way of new material to the genre, I don't feel it adds to the over-saturation and I do want to hear what this band could produce in the future. I would, especially, love to hear what they can do further in the guise of "Einsamkeit", which really overshadowed the rest of the demo for me. Definitely, a great start to this project and I hope there is more to come in the future.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cabaret for Bereaved


Cabaret for Bereaved - Demo 95
Self-Released, 1995
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro (Immortal Loyalness)
2. On Cold Wings
3. Ice Floe is Sinking
4. Seeds for Nothing
5. Candle Burns in Storm
6. Pahuuden Kuolema
7. King has Won
8. The Calling
9. Freezing Day
10. The Undead






I picked this up solely based on the fact that Gaamalzagoth performed vocals on this. I really didn't know what to expect from this, but I can't say this is really my style of Black Metal. Cabaret for Bereaved bring us ten songs heavily laden with synth, making this more of an Ambient Black Metal type of release. I wonder if there was any influence from the early Blut aus Nord realm, because some of these keyboard approaches seem similar.

The demo is definitely in the lo-fi spectrum of the genre, but the music isn't fast. In fact, the music is quite slow to mid-paced for the most part. It's actually quite poorly performed as well. There are missed hits and off-time parts with the drums. The guitar work sort of fumbles around and feels off at times. Sometimes the keyboards work and at other times they don't. There's a time in "Ice Floe is Sinking" where it's just keyboard and drums, which sounds very bad. I think the intent was a dark and brooding atmosphere, which is only high-lighted by the Doom styled pacing. But the poor instrumentation makes this nearly unlistenable. The attempt at a solo in "Pahuuden Kuolema", is just off-putting. "The Calling" is atrocious. It's an all Ambient styled track with mostly feedback and samples being played over and over again. It doesn't even make sense in the context of the rest of the music. Even Gaamalzagoth's vocal performance is a bit different. Granted, it does happen to fit the music. He sticks to a rather low-key performance with a more talking/rasp approach to the vocals. This is quite different from his intense wails during the Moonblood recordings.

I don't think I can recommend this demo to anyone. Unless you're extremely into that lo-fi Black Metal style and find sloppy instrumentation endearing? There are times when the style works, but it's not enough to really draw me in. Makes sense that this is a long forgotten demo from the early days. The main musician p. Mölsä doesn't seem to have gone on to do anything else after this, so that's another reason for this being lost to history.