Tuesday, March 19, 2019


 Darchon - The Stygian Black Beyond
Kunsthauch, 2015
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Apeiron
2. Outer Darkness
3. Caldwell (NGC 5128) Centaurus A
4. Selene
5. Crossing the Celestial Path to Infinities and Beyond
6. Auslander Hostility
7. Into a Cosmic Solitude
8. Unseen Kingdom

Bonus: Cosmicism:
1. Cosmicism Pt. 1
2. Cosmicism Pt. 2

It has finally arrived, the debut full-length from Darchon! This release contains over an hour of music, so make sure you set aside some time to experience this journey. I was lucky enough to get the limited edition version of this which comes with a poster and bonus CD. This edition is limited to 100 hand-numbered copies and I have #2.  The regular edition is limited to 200 copies.  As with the split, this comes with an envelop with a different cover (above) than the CD itself. The regular CD is inside the envelop and comes in a beautiful multi-panel digipak. The bonus CD is just a CDr in a small plastic envelope, probably so they could fit everything in the main envelope.

Despite the fact that his is Darchon's debut album, some of the music is actually quite old. Much of it was actually written and recorded before the EP even came out. So, in terms of writing, the EP is the
most recently written material. Some of this material dates back to 2009/2010, which is around when the Split material was recorded as well. Given the stark influence by projects like Darkspace, Darchon has a bit of a different format to their album. They arrange the material in such away that it mostly alternates between Black Metal and Ambient tracks. Darchon's Ambient prowess is a step above some the main projects that follow in this regard. The integration of synth work at this level manages to elevate the overall compositions and add a layer of complexity into the mix that can feel a bit different. Unfortunately, and probably by design, the riffing is rather overly droning. In this area Darkspace and Paysage d'Hiver cannot be beaten, they bring such solid riffing to the table that it is tough to compete. Which is why I think Darchon is really trying to do something a little bit different in the grand scheme of things. This droning approach that is more in line with Ambient really works in Darchon's favor making a release that is more mesmerizing in some regards. It's great music to just zone out, because it doesn't overly grab your attention, so it has a more meditative quality. The closing track "Unseen Kingdom" is one of the most unique tracks from this brand of Black Metal. It crosses paths with Industrial quite a bit and reminds me a lot of the Mexican project Hocico. If Hocico played Black Metal, this is, probably, what it would sound like.

The bonus EP comes with two extra tracks on of which is another Black Metal song. There isn't much info about this in any of the packaging, so I'm not sure how old the tracks are. "Cosmicism Pt 1" fits very well into the overall aesthetic of the album and really just continues the themes we've heard before. "Pt. 2" though, is a very different ambient track. This is extremely in line with the Ambient sections Darkspace uses and it just feels way more threatening. Layered into the background is a lecture about Black Holes and with the static ambience makes it a really interesting piece. I almost wish these two tracks weren't only on here and instead made their way onto an album. The Ambient piece would be a great setup for an intro or an outro of an album.

In the end Darchon created quite an awesome debut as far as I'm concerned. I can see why people might not like it as much, despite the heavy Darkspace influence, I'm not sure a lot of people are interested in listening to this much Ambient in between each Black Metal track. I think it makes for an interesting experience and presentation, but I'm rarely in the mood to listen to both, so I find myself skipping the Ambient tracks and just delving into the Black Metal sections more often. I think that's the only major thing people would really have a problem with, or thinking this is very derivative of Darkspace, but it's really not. Darchon's journey and feel, while inspired by the likes of Paysage d'Hiver and Darkspace, do have a fairly different feel overall. So, I think Darchon is some relatively brilliant stuff and I'm interested to hear new music from this project for sure. Hopefully all the material he was sitting on is out now and he can march forward with writing new material.

Darchon - From Unknown Vastlands of Isolation and Death
Self Mutilation Services, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. From Unknown Vastlands of Isolation and Death
2. The Pleiadas

After a couple years Darchon return with two more tracks, only one of which is a Black Metal song. It's impressive how slow some people can work on material, but I guess he just wanted to throw something out into the world to show the project wasn't dead. "From Unknown Vastlands of Isolation and Death" reminds me a lot of what Darkspace does, but this feels like a lesser or a lighter version of that power house of a project. Darchon is clearly influenced by this kind of material, but Darchon also touches on a lot more various Black Metal inspiration throughout a lot of his writing. The vocals are a barely existent and very buried in the overall mix of the music. Vocally it's not that spectacular, so I can see why they would bury the vocals in the overall mix. "The Pleiadas" is an Ambient, mainly piano driven track and it's actually quite enjoyable. It has some extremely spacey qualities to it and really compliments the track name. When it comes to performances of this nature I would say Darchon is actually a far more talented composer than the likes of Darkspace, but Darchon does need a bit more work in the Black Metal department if they ever hope to truly compete with stronger projects of this nature. While the material on this EP may not stand out in the grand scheme of things, it's good to know Darchon is still around and I'm still looking forward to any music released in the future.

Battle Dagorath & Darchon & Lorn - Enshroudment of Astral Destiny
Kunsthauch, 2012
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Battle Dagorath:
1. Echoes from the Ancient Skies
2. Warspirits of Annihilation
3. Nocturnal Elegy
4. Oceanus
5. Shadows from the Elder Chasm
6. Breath of Typhoeus
7. Vain Foreseen

Side Battle Dagorath: ...coming eventually...
Side Lorn: ...coming eventually...
Side Darchon:

The first stirrings of Darchon were found originally on myspace, but it doesn't seem like it was too long before they were able to produce a split with the likes of Battle Dagorath and Lorn. Darchon is a one man project from Greece and composes some extremely well made material. It seems Kunsthauch snapped him up real fast and has been producing some high quality physical releases ever since. This first release comes in an envelope with a beautifully designed digipak.

If you delve into Darchon and find yourself reminiscing about things like Darkspace you probably aren't too far off. Darchon is fairly similar in design and aesthetic to Darkspace. They even put to use some excellent synthesizer sections amidst their raging Black Metal. While Darchon's material is fairly long, it's nowhere near the level of song length that Darkspace reaches for. Despite the cosmic themes and synthesizers I think Darchon is more similar to Paysage d'Hiver in their overall sound. Like these projects Darchon sadly uses programmed drums. While they don't add much beyond a monotonous beat to the project, we're really hear for the overall atmosphere being generated. "Shadows from the Elder Chasm" actually has moments that remind me over early Emperor quite a bit, so hearing that blended in with the more modern take on Atmospheric Black Metal made for an interesting aspect that worked very well. "Breath of Typhoeus" is the shortest track and not a Black Metal song at all. Instead it's more of an Ambient type of track, but I actually which is was quite a bit longer like the actual Black Metal songs, because it really puts you in an impressive atmospheric space after listening to the other two songs.

Darchon have an impressive introduction to the world and this is absolutely a project I'll be following in the future. I really hope a full-length is forth coming, because a three way split isn't going to be enough for this project.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Temple of Baal

Temple of Baal - Mysterium
Agonia Records, 2015
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Lord of Knowledge and Death
2. Magna Gloria Tua
3. Divine Scythe
4. Hosanna
5. Dictum Ignis
6. Black Redeeming Flame
7. Holy Art Thou
8. All in Your Name

For some reason I entirely missed out on this release when it first hit. It wasn't until a couple years later that I was looking through a distro and realized I didn't have this album. So, I ordered it immediately since I've been following Temple of Baal for quite a long time now. After "Verses of Fire" I was expecting more of the same, but "Mysterium" delivers a rather different experience overall.

The major difference with this release is the fact that long time guitarist Alastor has left the band. It seems this happened while they made "Verses of Fire", because if you read the liner notes it says "Extended thanks to Alastor. Best of luck in the new life you've chosen." For "Mysterium" they've recruited Sathor from The Order of Apollyon and he also is a live guitarist for some other very notable French projects. Some of the issues I had with "Verses of Fire" where they tried to infuse aspects of their earlier sound into the material are, essentially, gone at this point. "Mysterium" is a far more focused album, but there feels like a bit of a drop in the crushing intensity and instead they build more of an atmosphere into their overall sound. Some riffing reminds me quite a bit of Hell Militia and Aosoth being blended together. They still cast these elements in a far more Death Metal light, but this is one of the more cohesive albums Temple of Baal have put out in quite a while. I would like to hear some more of that intensity put back into the mix, because I always thought that made their songs sound a lot more vicious compared to other projects. If they can blend the two together more seamlessly they would have quite an incredible album on their hands.

If you've been a long time Temple of Baal fan then "Mysterium" will not disappoint. Some people may miss the infusion of the catchier rhythms thrown in, but I like how the album feels like an entire work, rather than a collection of songs that sounded good. I'll definitely be interested in hearing what they have in store for us next.

Temple of Baal - Verses of Fire
Agonia Records, 2013
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. το αστέρι 418
2. Bloodangel
3. Arcana Silentium
4. The 10th Aethyr
5. Gates of Death
6. Gnosis of Fire
7. Golden Wings of Azazel
8. Lord of the Raging Seas
9. Serpens Luminis
10. Walls of Fire

After the material Tample of Baal brought to the split with Ritualization I was looking forward to their next full-length quite a bit. "Verses of Fire" does kind of continue in that theme, but the bring back some of their older styles into the fold. I have the digpak CD version of this and it comes with a very well done layout and full booklet. This album is also quite long with it clocking in at over an hour in length, which kind of surprised me.

Musically Temple of Baal continue to push forward with that ultra modern Black/Death style they've been developing over the past few years. I actually like the collection of songs on the prior split a little more than what's on this album. The album isn't bad, but it doesn't feel as cohesive or outright dark and threatening. There are too man moments where they hearken back to bringing in some of the Thrash riffing or a catchy phrase here and there from their earlier days. It's not that they're bad at writing these riffs, but they break up the atmosphere of the album quite a lot. I think Temple of Baal is just better at writing those dark and vicious or uncomfortable riffs and when they insert an outright Thrash riff into that type of song it really breaks the atmosphere they build. Some songs are outright similar to American Death Metal like "Golden Wings of Azazel". They do a great job of playing this style, of course, but it just makes for a strange blend into the overall mix of songs on the album. Though, they fit this song in a lot better than some of the random catchy riffs. Vocally Amduscias is adding a lot more into his range. Here you'll hear some outright yelling styled vocals that add an extra kick to some of their more atmospheric sections. It really works well within the framework they're using it and I hope he continues to add more of this variation into the music.

In the end, I do like "Verses of Fire" despite it being somewhat all over the place from time to time. They manage to keep it focused enough to make it quite enjoyable, but the razor sharp focus of the split made it apparent what kind of power Temple of Baal can wield if they stick with one framework. If you're a Black/Death Metal fan, Temple of Baal is producing some pretty intense and well written music.

Temple of Baal & Ritualization - The Vision of Fading Mankind
Agonia Records, 2011
Genre: Black/Death Metal

Temple of Baal:
1. Ordeals of the Void
2. When Mankind Falls
3. Slaves to the Beast
4. Heresy Forever Enthroned
5. Ave Dominus
6. The Second Crowning
7. Devil Speaks in Tongues (Mortem cover)

Side Ritualization: ...coming eventually...
Side Temple of Baal:

It's been a little while since we've heard from Temple of Baal, which is a good sign they're taking their time with material rather than just cranking it out. So, it's interesting to see them return with only four new songs with this split. However, when you delve into it you'll see they've picked up a new drummer. Antares was a good drummer for the project, but after hearing this I feel like Skvm is a better fit. The drums feel so much more powerful and extremely tight with the project. So, however he's approaching the kit is instantly fitting with the sound of Temple of Baal.

The opening track "Ordeals of the Void" is a massive powerhouse that feels a lot more intense than anything they've really done before. They've lost a lot of that catchier riffing you'd see show up from time to time and instead focus on a much darker and intense atmosphere. I think production wise they finally found a decent balance for how much they want their music to sit in the low frequencies. They use a lot of Black Metal riffing in the French tradition, but have it recast in this far more intense fashion which works really well on the songs. As far as the Temple of Baal side of things go, I think this material sounds spectacular and I can't wait to hear what's in store for them next. I really hope this drummer sticks around too, because he's an extremely good fit for the project.

Temple of Baal - Lightslaying Rituals
Agonia Records, 2009
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Piercing the Veils of Slumber
2. Triumph of Heretic Fire
3. Black Sun of the Damned
4. Angstgeist
5. Dead Cult
6. Hate is My Name
7. Poisoned Words
8. Vectors to the Void
9. Blessings of Blackfire

It's actually been quite a few years since we've gotten a full length from Temple of Baal. The two prior splits were probably just to show that the project wasn't entirely dead. I remember being pretty excited when I saw this album come out, part of it had to do with the eye catching cover design and really excellent album title. Strangely, I remember my first listen wasn't all that favorable.

However, now that I return to this album years later, I think this is some really solid Black/Death Metal. Temple of Baal have always sort of been on that edge where there was still too much Black Metal in their sound to call them a truly hybrid. However, with their split with Aosoth it started to become apparent that some aspects of their sound might be evolving. With "Lightslaying Rituals" they truly overhauled their sound enough to be a full on Black/Death Metal band. I know some people might see that and think "oh, Behemoth", but that is definitely not the case. Temple of Baal sounds nothing like that. "Lightslaying Rituals" sounds way grittier and dirtier, almost like if you took the old Swedish Death Metal guitar tone and recast it into a Black Metal framework. their guitar lines have also gotten more elaborate and I hear a lot more layering than in prior albums. Production wise this album feels so much thicker than the prior albums. However, the low end might be a little too low and it winds up dominating the overall feel of the album. Other than that, this is the best production value Temple of Baal have ever released. It's kind of amusing to listen to this after all the posturing of their demo days where they seemed to revel in the trashy production quality.

In the end if you were expecting another old school Black Metal effort from Temple of Baal, you might find yourself sorely disappointed. Instead we have the brutal punishing sounds of Death Metal heavily infused into their sound. They still maintain some of those catchy riffs that show up on prior albums, but even if not all the riffs have that catchy quality they are pretty well written. Some of their outright Death Metal riffs could stand some improvement, but I think they are a bit out of their element in composing this way, so I look forward to see what they bring in the future. I can't remember why I initially didn't like this release, but on re-listening to this, I think it came out pretty good. It's a lot better than a lot of the Black/Death Metal bands out there.

Temple of Baal & Aosoth Split
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

Temple of Baal:
1. Dead Cult
2. ... of Fire

Side Aosoth: ...coming eventually...
Side Temple of Baal:

Temple of Baal return with a new track and a split with a fairly unknown project called Aosoth. Aosoth is very interesting and plays a brooding style of Black Metal against Temple of Baal's hard hitting "Dead Cult". Temple of Baal pushes their sound even heavier and thicker for this song compared to the last album, I think. The writing feels a little more mature and cohesive as well. It still maintains that dark and vicious feel to their music so it really complements the Aosoth side as well. This is definitely a split worth checking out and it's beautifully pressed, as I've come to expect from Debemur-Morti products.

Ancestral Fog & Temple of Baal Split
Battlesk'rs, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

Ancestral Fog:
1. Fundaments of Life Denied
2. Von (Von cover)
Temple of Baal:
3. Living Fleshthrone
4. Satan's Legions

Side Ancestral Fog: ...coming eventually...
Side Temple of Baal:

This next split with Temple of Baal comes with a real treat in the form of Ancestral Fog. Ancestral Fog really stole the show for me on this split, but the Temple of Baal songs are pretty good too. As with all 7" releases I'm sure this is limited to some amount, but there is nothing listed on my copy.

Even though this eventually came out after "Traitors to Mankind" on the vinyl itself it has a date of 2005 and makes me think this was delayed in pressing. It would be weird for Temple of Baal to release "Living Fleshthrone" again right after their album hit, so that's why I think this wound up getting delayed horribly. "Satan's Legions" appears to be an entirely new track though. Maybe a track they didn't really feel fit on the album, but still good nonetheless. It actually reminds me of that disgusting feeling Black Metal we hear in projects like Hell Militia, only Temple of Baal is a bit heavier by comparison. Either way, regardless of the delay I'm glad this had something new to share instead of just the one track from the album.

Temple of Baal - Traitors to Mankind
Oaken Shield, 2005
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Living Fleshthrone
2. Traitors to Mankind
3. Graveyard of Disgust
4. Bleeding Thoughts
5. Under the Spell
6. Visions of Carnage
7. Crawling in Blood and Puke
8. Bitter Days
9. Death Inquisition
10. Flames of Baal

As a follow-up to their debut, this is not at all what I was expecting from this project. "Traitors to Mankind" really changes up their entire sound. Where we once had 90's Black Metal worship they've injected quite a dose of Death Metal into their overall sound. This time around a little more care was put into the booklet and design, so it's a bit more interesting to look at from a physical stand point. They also backed off from the posturing in the liner notes, which I'm thankful for.

"Traitors to Mankind" sounds and feels quite different from their earlier releases. The first two songs are solidly in the Black/Death Metal camp, but when we get to "Graveyard of Disgust" we hit more in their usual Black Metal territory. It's almost as if the band was transitioning to more Death Metal over the past couple years. One of the other reasons things sound quite different is they enlisted Glorior Belli and Black God drummer Antares to fill the drum throne left by Herr Rikk. I'll be honest, Herr Rikk did a good job on the early releases, but Antares is the better drummer. This album is also engineered in such a way that I can actually hear the kick drums, on all the prior albums they were mostly an incoherent rumble. So, it's a nice treat to be able to hear them this time around. They clearly weren't afraid to experiment more with this release, just listen to "Bleeding Thoughts". They wound up re-recording "Bitter Days" from the Sargeist split and it sounds so much darker and heavier on this recording. They've also started included guitar solos into their music. They're not over the top well done, so I don't really care about this addition to their music.

"Traitors to Mankind" maybe feel all over the place in terms of a general composition theme, but for some reason it really works to their advantage on this album. It winds up creating a really excellent blend of Black and Death Metal, with the occasional Thrash riff thrown in for good measure. It maintains that Black Metal atmosphere throughout which is really well done this time around. It feels somewhat new, but simultaneously old. All in all "Traitors to Mankind" is well done album that I still enjoy to this very day.

Temple of Baal & Sargeist Split
Grievantee Productions, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Temple of Baal:
1. Bitter Days
2. Wraith Messiah

Side Sargeist: here
Side Temple of Baal:

After a successful debut Temple of Baal return with another split. I missed out on their first one with Eternal Majesty, but maybe I'll track that down someday. This time they team up with the mighty Sargeist. I like Sargeist a great deal, so it was a real treat to see two bands I like show up on a split like this. This is pressed on 7" vinyl limited to 500 copies.

If you enjoyed "Servants of the Beast" the song "Bitter Days" really does pick up where the full-length left off. It's interesting to note how much thicker the guitar tone Temple of Baal uses compared to bands like Sargeist, who are far more thinned out. Temple of Baal feels a little heavier than others for this reason. "Bitter Days" is a pretty good song overall and captures the atmosphere Temple of Baal seems to be striving for at this point, which is much improved from their demo efforts. Definitely a split worth having in any collection.

Temple of Baal - Rituals of Black Plague
Paleur Mortelle, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Backstab
2. Tempting the Bastard
3. Deathblessed (At the Hornlike Spears)
4. Faces of the Void
5. Slaves to the Beast
6. Black War
7. Ruins
8. Woman of Dark Desires (Bathory cover)

Shortly after "Servants of the Beast" hit a live album was "recorded", which I assume took place on their tour supporting their debut full-length. This is released on cassette and limited to 300 hand-numbered copies and I own #112.

This is the Temple of Baal recording no one wanted. In fact, recordings like this are basically what no one wants around at any rate. They're just a waste of space in anyone's collection. Everything is massively blown out and has this layer of annoying distortion going on. You can hear the guitar riffs from time to time and they are the quality we expect from Temple of Baal, but everything else is such a jumbled mess that it's a real waste of time to listen to this material. The vocals are wildly blown out, but there is actually less distortion on the vocals than the on the "Black Unholy Presence" demo.

They try to cover up all this atrocious crap with having a super "true" attitude on the liner notes saying "Rituals of Black Plague has been released only for true underground maniacs. Direct raw live sounding roughly recorded." In other words, this sounds like absolute trash and if you don't like it then you're not a "true" fan. I need to stop reading the liner notes from this band... basically, unless you really must have a complete Temple of Baal discography, you can seriously skip out on this one. It's a giant waste of time and I probably will never listen to the whole thing.

Temple of Baal - Servants of the Beast
Oaken Shield, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Backstab
2. Triumphing Blasphemy
3. Towards Eternal Death
4. Years of Hatred
5. Deathblessed (At the Hornlike Spears)
6. Slaves to the Beast
7. Ruins

Temple of Baal have teamed up with Oaken Shield, a subsidiary of the legendary Adipocere Records to release their debut full-length. After two demos that were good, but weren't incredible "Servants of the Beast" really show the band has something to show us. It seems the band has dispensed with some of the overly raw recording concepts and is also writing more interesting songs overall.

On their debut we don't see any of the material from their demos given the studio treatment. While some elements of their demo's style shows through, a lot has changed rather dramatically. They still stay pretty heavily rooted in the more early 90's Black Metal style, as we'd expect, but musically it reminds me a bit of early Deathspell Omega, Merrimack and Watain. The Watain reference is no real surprise seeing as how Danielsson did the cover. There's a great deal of early Thrash styled guitar lines thrown in as well. "Triumphing Blasphemy" has some seriously catchy guitar work, giving that reminiscent old Bathory feel. However, the blend is different enough to have the band stand out enough in the sea of similarly styled projects. The vocals are completely overhauled as well and it doesn't sound like Amduscias is screaming into a distortion pedal. Instead the vocals sound natural and gives a much better authentic presence. Instead he opts to create more intense moments through layering, not distortion.

We also have a full booklet with lyrics. Lyrics are the usual Satanic variety, so nothing vastly different there. There's even a thank you section! I always find it amusing when I read liner notes and this comes up "Deathwishes to nowadays 'BM' audience: You are nothing but slaves!" Okay, calm down cool guy... you're debut album is good, but not that good. "Servants of the Beast" isn't going to go down in history as one of the finest or most revolutionary Black Metal albums out there. Spare me the "tough guy" attitude in your thank you list. Plus, I think this particular viewpoint shows up on more Black Metal albums than I care to mention. If every band hates their audience then no one is listening to any of your music. Why bother releasing and distributing anything? I've never understood this bizarre viewpoint, just make music for yourself, don't release it, don't play shows. It's simple.

Despite these goofy moments, "Servants of the Beast" is actually a really good album and I enjoyed it quite a bit when it came out. I may not pull the album out very often, but when I throw it on from time to time I do find it enjoyable. Temple of Baal did an excellent job of nailing that mid-90's atmosphere of Black Metal, right down to the recording quality. This early 2000's era was one of the last times we'd be able to hear this from bands, since a lot of studios and bands were forced to upgrade their technology in general.

Temple of Baal - Black Unholy Presence
Chanteloup Creations, 2000
Genre: Black Metal

1. Tempting the Bastard
2. Black Unholy Presence
3. Spirit of Vertova
4. Black War
5. Faces of the Void
6. Woman of Dark Desires (Bathory cover)

"Black Unholy Presence" is the second demo from Temple of Baal and it's not too different from the first one. In fact you'll notice a lot of the songs re-appear on this recording. I missed out on the original pressing of this and instead I have the Oaken Shield pressing from 2002 limited to 888 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #321. The Bathory cover was not featured on the original release and is a rehearsal recording from 2001.

Given the fact that these demos are recorded only a year apart "Black Unholy Presence" doesn't have all that much more to offer us, except for a few new  tracks. The recording quality is, honestly, a little bit better. It still retains that old, raw rehearsal feel to the music, but they clearly used a much better setup this time around. With this we can definitely enjoy the riffs a lot better, so, if you're looking into some of that nostalgic feeling Black Metal, Temple of Baal certainly brought that with this new demo. Songs like "Spirit of Vertova" have that great blend of Black Metal intensity and groove, so to a certain degree I think their songwriting has improved even from the last demo. The only aspect of the demo that isn't great are the vocals. The vocals are so blown out that the vocalist might as well just be using a distortion pedal, and, in fact, that is probably what he was doing. These vocals never sound for a whole release. They work in subtle moments, but just usually sound terrible overall. That's really the only thing I found overtly annoying.

If you are a die hard fan of old school demos and Black Metal, Temple of Baal definitely don't disappoint. This is early 90's worship through and through. I like that they manage to stay raw on the demo, but not so raw you have no idea what's going on.

Temple of Baal - Satanas Lux Solis
Self-Released, 1999
Genre: Black Metal

1. Undead Soul
2. Tempting the Bastard
3. Spirit of Vertova
4. Hunters
5. Woman of Dark Desires (Bathory cover)
6. Black War

The is the first debut from Temple of Baal out of France. Some members would go on to be involved in some other great projects outside of this one. Amduscias has already worked with the likes of Antaeus and I believe it was through that relation that I had first heard of Temple of Baal. This demo is not professionally done and instead has a xeroxed booklet and dubbed tape. These were limited to 200 copies and inside mine it says #55, but it doesn't list the limitation.

"Satanas Lux Solis" is pretty much everything you'd expect from a raw and poorly recorded demo. It even says in the liner notes "This piece of darkness was recorded live in the fucking studio", which I assume probably means practice space given the quality of recording. And from there I assume this is just whatever was captured on a mixer, because I doubt there was much mixing after the fact based on how this sounds. However, the recording quality works for this type of music really well, that raw unbridled sound fits the aesthetic Temple of Baal is really going for. You can technically hear everything well enough to figure out what's going on. The only thing I might change a little is having the guitars louder so I can hear the riffs better. In a lot of ways Temple of Baal borrows their sound from Bathory, so it's no surprise that we see a cover of "Woman of Dark Desires" show up on this demo. If you throw in some Mayhem and Darkthrone you probably have a reasonable idea of what Temple of Baal is going for musically. Songs like "Black War" have some of that old LLN feel in the way the structuring is a bit more dissonant, which is something I like quite a bit.

I don't think Temple of Baal's demo is really going to stand out in the massive sea of Black Metal demos these days, however, I think "Satanas Lux Solis" is a solid start for this new project. I could see them writing pretty solid material in the future. If you're already a Temple of Baal fan you should check out where the project started, a journey that I always find rather interesting. I'm looking forward to what comes next!

Saturday, December 8, 2018


Mascharat - Mascharat
Seance Records, 2017
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Bauta
3. Médecin de peste
4. Mora
5. Vestibolo
6. Simulacri
7. Iniziazione
8. Rito
9. Outro

Mascharat is a new and very excellent Black Metal project coming out of Milan, Italy. It's not surprising to look at their discography and see only one demo before being snatched up by Seance Records. Seance Records has become a mark of quality for me with a good amount of very strong releases and I'm always interested to see what that label releases and Mascharat's debut is absolutely no exception in the quality department.

Mascharat blends together a lot of various forms of Black Metal I like culminating in quite an impressive debut album. Mascharat have this great raw Black Metal sound, but it's mixed well enough that we can hear everything quite well while still having that raw sharpness to the overall sound. Mascharat is a bit of a melting pot of Black Metal from all over Europe, but I think the primary sounds are Italian and French. Italian is obvious, they have that sort of Tenebrae in Perpetuum raw quality with some classic Italian projects like Necromass in the mix. A lot of their riffing and chord choices remind me a lot of the French bands, such as Mütiilation. Even the guitar tone reminds me of Mütiilation at times. Vocally they remind me a lot of Dim from Tymah, which is wonderful as Dim is one of the best vocalists out there, so to even compete on her level is rather impressive. This all makes for an exquisite blend in itself, but you throw in the sections that have this medieval quality to them or renaissance feel, then you have something truly well made. Mascharat don't try to wow us with speed or take on an overly brooding nature, instead they keep a comfortable mid-pace and keep our attention with songwriting.

The booklet is quite simple but well designed. I appreciate the fact that they provided the Italian lyrics the songs are sung in as well as translations in English. The way they handled layout for this is reminiscent of a modern translation of an old book, which features both texts. The one and only complaint I can truly level at this is that when the discs were pressed a few seconds of silence was inserted between songs, but the way these songs are composed there should be no silence between the songs at all. The silence is kind of a jarring experience when it shows up between songs, so it's a shame this happened. Hopefully if they do something similar in the future they'll force a repressing of the disc.

In the end I hope more people will check out Mascharat. They sort of fall into that occult Black Metal area, but I think they manage to do it in a such a way that they don't sound too generic. This is an excellent start to a new project and I'm definitely curious where they will take us next, because they are certainly working with a very strong foundation.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Khold - Til endes
Peaceville Records, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Myr
2. Skogens øye
3. Ravnestrupe
4. Dommens armé (Sepultura cover)
5. Til endes
6. Det dunkle dyp
7. Avund
8. Bengitt

It's actually been so long since we've heard from Khold that I, honestly, thought the project was done. But then a couple years ago a new Tulus surfaced and then a couple years later a new Khold was announced. Being a fan of the project I naturally picked up my copy as soon as it was released. When I first put this on, I don't think I gave it the appreciation it really deserved. "Til endes" is very much a Khold album through and through, but their are some subtle differences that make this album really stand out for me.

"Til endes" is the album I wanted "Hundre år gammal" to be. Those freezing Black Metal riffs are back in force on this album! They certainly haven't lost their groove at all and this album is more akin to their early releases. One of the major differences between this album and the earlier is how much harder it seems to hit. The songwriting hasn't changed for the most part, so I think a lot of that hard hitting feel has more to do with the production this time around. That being said, "Til endes" is, basically, the perfect production quality for a Khold album. The drum mix alone is astonishing. Everything things is so punchy and clear that it just makes those groovier riffs hit so much harder. I feel like this studio did a much better job of dealing with the bass guitar mix, which also stands out and just hits a lot harder. They've always had some interesting bass sections show up, but the bass tone feels so much heavier and clear this time around. So, if you've been following the project for a while, you're in for a real treat this time around, because the overall listening experience is simply excellent. For the first time they've also done a cover song and if you recognized "Dommens armé" as "Troops of Doom" by Sepultura you are correct. Khold have recast the song in their style a little bit, while still staying fairly true to the original, but it is no doubt a Black Metal version of that song.

"Til endes" is by far the heaviest Khold album out there and I enjoyed every song on here. They kept an excellent balance of fast Black Metal riffs blended with groove just like the good old days. The song "Det dunkle dyp" is by far one of the stand out tracks for me. It has a catchiness that is unrivaled on the album. It's a shame I didn't give this album the time it really deserved when it came out, but a few years later I really took the time to listen to this and it really stands out in their discography as far as I'm concerned.

Khold - Hundre år gammal
Tabu Recordings, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Der kulden rår
2. Kor
3. Hundre år gammal
4. Troløs
5. Forrykt
6. Rekvim
7. Villfaren
8. Sann ditt svik
9. Mester og trell
10. Straff
11. Bønn

It's actually been quite a while since we've heard from Khold, some of that probably has to do with the fact that the members have also resurrected Tulus from the ashes and put out an album last year. However, this year we have a new Khold and after my lackluster experience with "Krek" I was hoping for something a little better.

"Hundre år gammal" is actually pretty similar in approach to "Krek", but the compositions work way more this time around. They finally figured out how to write more slow and plodding songs with groove and atmosphere. A lot of the songs on "Krek" felt disjointed or just fell flat, but "Hundre år gammal" has that atmosphere and power that I've come to expect from Khold. Personally, I prefer their faster material over this, but I can't deny the fact that they've figured out how to write material that sounds more cohesive this time around. I think they wanted to create a far heavier album and you can really create that kind of crushing feel with slower songs and the problems on "Krek" were probably related to the fact that they were an over productive band and writing material too much. With the space and a Tulus album in between I think it gave them the time to refocus Khold and put out the album they really were intending with the way "Krek" sounded.

In the end "Hundre år gammal" is a good album, but it's not a great album and is probably going to be somewhat low on the Khold rotation. I preferred more of a blend between their faster riffing and the slow grooves, but this album is heavily dominated by the slow groove and only a few moments here and there speed up. I'm just rarely in the mood for that type of music, thus I don't even listen to Doom Metal, but if what I've described sounds intriguing to you then this is an album worth checking out because it is well written and very well performed.

Khold - Krek
Tuba Records, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Innestengt i eikekiste
2. Oskorei
3. Byrde
4. Lysets Flukt
5. Grepet om kniven
6. Midvinterblot
7. Varde
8. Silur wie
9. Krek
10. Blod og blek

I remember when "Krek" originally came out and I really felt like the prior album had just come out and I had barely even begun to delve into it. This is how I usually wind up feeling when listening to highly productive bands, it's hard to keep up with them and everything else that gets released. So, that being said, I think "Krek" is the Khold album that I've barely ever listened to, so re-listening to it again is an interesting journey.

If you've been following Khold so far, then "Krek" doesn't really change things up that much. "Krek" is a little different compared to the prior albums in the sense that most of the album is much more focused on groove. The first two songs, for example, have almost none of your standard Black Metal passages, just really intense grooving riffs cast in a Black Metal atmosphere. I'm not sure how "Krek" will measure up in the grand scheme of things, while I do enjoy their groovier ideas, I do also like how they switch into blasting moments to create this really interesting listening experience. In some ways it makes sense that they would want to switch things up a little bit at this point, but they've  dropped a lot of the traditional Black Metal that made their blend a more exciting listen. Instead this feels like a far more mid-paced release and has a sort of droning groove effect. What I mean, is that they sort of set this groove and just stick with it for the majority of the album, so the groove starts to fade into the background more. They do switch things up a little bit with songs like "Lysets Flukt" which features this really awesome opening riff with blasting under it, but the rest of the riffs groove and the middle outright slows down to Doom Metal levels.

"Krek" is also probably the shortest of the Khold albums so far with it only being about a half hour in length. So, even though the album doesn't seem to command as much attention as prior albums, the riffs switch up often enough so things don't drag on for too long. I feel like they were really focused on groove and heavy riffs this time around. Some of the riffs are outright excellent in their catchiness, but sometimes I'm not sure the surrounding riffs pull the song together. Consider "Midvinterblot", which is sort of a Doomy and heavy song, but there's this killer groove section in there that I just wish was in a different song. I don't feel like their groove complements the heavy crushing riffs. However, I will say the title track and "Blod og blek" are awesome songs. They definitely stand out as being excellent songs all the way through.

In the end, even though this album is far shorter, I'm not sure this one held up to the test of time or the rest of their discography so far. I understand doing something a little different from before, but the slow heavy riffing just made the songs feel more boring to me. The attempt to switch the energy around in their writing didn't work for me and I think some of these superb riffs may have been sacrificed when they could have appeared in better songs. Maybe at this point the band had been over-writing and the solid ideas aren't hitting as hard. For a Khold album I would say this is only okay, but I'll probably be choosing other albums over this in the future.

Khold - Mørke Gravers Kammer
Candlelight Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. Åtselgraver
2. Død
3. Niflheimr
4. Hevenerske
5. Med Nebb og Klør
6. Mørke Gravers Kammer
7. Opera Seria
8. Sjeleskjender
9. Vardøger
10. Kamp

I was surprised to see that Khold was no longer working with Moonfog for their releases and is instead being picked up by Candlelight for their albums. However, it was shortly after this that Moonfog would stop putting out new releases altogether, so maybe the bands on the roster started looking a lot earlier. Well either way, when I saw new Khold released I was looking forward to another heavily groove laden Black Metal album.

If you've been following Khold so far then "Mørke Gravers Kammer" is just another step along that journey. At this point some people may find Khold's approach to repetitive, but to me these people also go listen to bands like Marduk and Dark Funeral who have been releasing the same album style over and over for quite some time. I'll be honest, Khold isn't something I have in constant rotation, but sometimes I really enjoy listening to it for what it is. It's always been a really different take on Black Metal, so even though this new album is similar to the prior albums, I still quite enjoy it. They write new enough riffs to not feel overwhelmingly the same as prior releases. They are stuck in a rut a bit when it comes to some of their open chord riffs where they then single pick the strings, similar to a "Freezing Moon" idea. However, I think all Black Metal bands are basically re-hashing that at this point, so no big deal. Khold excels at putting their listener in a very specific space with their music and it's so well done that other bands who often try to pull this often fail. Khold is one of those bands that are unlikely to ever be reproduced, so I'll revel in the continued style album after album.

In the end Khold continue to put out a high quality product with great atmosphere. The production just gets better each album, which further enhances the experience. Gard's vocals still stand as perfection within the framework of this band. If you've been a fan already, you know what to expect.

Khold - Phantom
Moonfog Productions, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

1. Dødens grøde
2. Skjebnevette
3. Hekseformular i vev
4. Phantom
5. Fra grav til mørke
6. Døde fuglers sang
7. Slaktereika
8. Ord i flammer
9. Vandring

Right on the heels of "Masterpiss of Pain" Khold return with their second album "Phantom". Sometimes when you crank albums out this fast things can begin to stagnate. Is this just a "Masterpiss of Pain" part two? Or something entirely different. Was the band just sitting on a ton of unreleased material? The latter might be the case, but I think there's an argument for that not being true. Either way time to delve into "Phantom."

With the first album Khold set a pretty impressive precedent for their sound and "Phantom" certainly continues that concept and journey. So, for the quick assessment, if you enjoyed "Masterpiss of Pain" there's no reason you wouldn't enjoy "Phantom". Now we just have more music from a great project. However, "Phantom" is a little bit of a different animal. The signature groove laden riffing is certainly the main focus of the project and that's everything in "Phantom", but the overall structure and atmosphere feels a little different. With the release of the self titled Thorns album in 2001, I think it had a lot of bands reminiscing about that project and "Phantom" really borrows a lot of influence from the way Ruch approaches guitar and bass. So, this feels like a much groovier version of Thorns, especially the opener "Dødens grøde". Not every song sounds like this, but you'll hear hints of those Thorns inspired chords or progressions throughout this album. It's interesting that amidst this mid-paced groove laden album we'll come across a song like "Fra grav til mørke", which is a much faster song complete with blasting and having a far more traditional Norwegian Black Metal approach and feel. However, it's not long before we are back to the heavy grooves of before.

It's interesting to note that even though Khold changed studios for this album, they still managed to capture that incredible organic, untouched feel to their music. Amidst all the new digital tricks coming into the norm for extreme metal, Khold manages to record some of the most organic, yet fullest and heaviest sounding material around. Their music feels like it has real weight behind it, not because they are writing crushing riffs, but because the production and the way they layer their songs just sounds huge.

"Phantom" is largely another march down the path of amazing things you can do by keeping things simple. Some people might find this as a rather derivative journey in the face of the first album, but the songs do sound quite different, even though the core sound is here. I can see why some people would say Khold sounds boring, but I find their music exciting and it just pulls me in every time I put this great band on. I'll be pretty surprised if we get another release in 2003, but taking some time to write might be a good thing for the project. Either way, even if their next album is similar to these two, I'll still be happy with them and look forward to whatever is coming next.

Khold - Masterpiss of Pain
Moonfog Productions, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. Nattpyre
2. Den store allianse
3. Norne
4. Svart helligdom
5. Rovnatt
6. Kaldbleke Hender
7. Bortvandring
8. Mesterverk av smerte
9. Jol
10. Øyne i arv

By the time 2001 rolled around I was already a pretty loyal follower of Moonfog Productions as Satyr had established himself as having quite a discerning ear for great Black Metal. So, before I even knew who was behind Khold I had run out and got my hands on a copy of this CD, I didn't really have any expectations going in and aside from the album title, "Masterpiss of Pain", being kind of stupid I was immediately taken in by this project.

Now, to really get a good idea of what Khold would sound like, you just need to look up where the members are from. Tulus. Tulus released some of the grooviest and most simplistic Black Metal around and "Pure Black Energy" will forever be a timeless recording in my eyes. However, after "Evil 1999" maybe Tulus was being put to rest and so a new project was formed featuring the Vocalist/Guitarist and Drummer from Tulus working with two other musicians. Eikind on bass, who has been in a number of projects, but guitarist Rinn hasn't been involved in much. Blodstrup, now calling himself Gard, teaming up with Rinn on guitar has created something that truly advances the Tulus sound as far as I'm concerned. It's slowed down quite a bit by comparison and they are now playing on guitars that are tuned far lower, but the focus of this project is generate an extremely catchy groove. The songwriting also stays on the very simple side, but I find that while the songs' challenge level is very low in terms of performance, they do manage to create some really excellent layering between all the instruments. The bass guitar stands out quite a bit compared to, well... just about any other Black Metal release out there and, in fact, the bass ends up being quite the driving instrument in this project. Within this extremely groovy approach they still manage to harness that more atmospheric quality of Black Metal and it's vastly different from anything else out there at the time of the albums release.  In similar Tulus fashion these songs are quite short, varying around three minutes each, so the album is actually fairly short. I don't think I need to mention this, but I love Gard's vocals. I've always loved his vocals and they are a massive asset to this project.

So, if you're looking for something that sort of carries the Tulus torch, but in a slightly different direction then I highly recommend checking out Khold. "Masterpiss of Pain" is an instant success performed by veteran musicians and they've really enhanced their songwriting to a point where this album has always stood out to me and no one has ever really been able to perform something in a similar vein as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Blood Stronghold

Blood Stronghold - Triumph of Wolfish Destiny
Witches Sabbath Records, 2017
Genre: Black Metal

1. Ancient Forest Gates (Wandering I)
2. Born of Steel Obscurity
3. Envenom the Viscera of Revenge
4. Blood Moon Empire
5. Untrodden Fullmoon Paths (Wandering II)
6. The Triumph of Wolfish Destiny
7. The Honoured Liege
8. The Rise of the Wolven Sun
9. Winter Ruins and Memory (Wandering III)

I guess Blood Stronghold isn't signing with Dark Than Black after all? Well, now they're back with Witches Sabbath and their second full-length release. This is simultaneously one of the best and most disappointing releases for me. The whole package and layout are great on this release and Blood Stronghold was certainly taken in a different and forward thinking direction musically.

"Triumph of Wolfish Destiny" has some of the more interesting music I was able to hear this year. It feels very different when compared with a lot of other material that is typically produced. The major difference here is the incredibly different lead guitar work thrown into the mix. They maintain that sort of Graveland inspired rhythm section, but Nightwolf throws in these really interesting lead guitar lines over the sections to really expand the overall impact and sound of the songs. It gives them this really amazing quality that goes beyond just the "epic" feeling qualities in prior albums. Just listen to the way the lead work plays out with "Envenom the Viscera of Revenge", which really brings the music to a whole other level, but my absolute favorite track on here is "Blood Moon Empire"

Now, usually Blood Stronghold doesn't bother with printing lyrics, but this time they decided to print lyrics for one of their songs, "The Honoured Liege". Now, given this is out in 2017, I can't help but think the political climate of the world helped motivate this and it appears they're going to double down, which I'm not surprised by. I was always somewhat suspicious of the more NS leanings of this band given the labels they work with. Witches Sabbath has pressed L.S.S.A.H. material, for example and anyone into Black Metal knows Darker Than Black. Now, I don't care if you sing about heritage or your peoples or whatever, hell bands like Rudra do that. But with lines like:

"14 stars illuminate the true heritage
Sons of Arya, we must secure our existence"

I'm sorry, the 14, I'm sure, probably alludes to the well known 14 words and please, Sons of Arya... I get it. First off, you're existence isn't threatened. I know people that believe this garbage like to carry around this narrative that our "racial" existence is in danger... it's not. I'm just going to think your ideas on this topic are stupid. The fact that this is the only song with lyrics printed makes me think they really felt the need to make this statement to show their "allegiance". A lot of bands seem to be doubling down in this regard with Famine from Peste Noire going, basically, full NS despite in the past trying to explain how he he's not a Nazi...

It's a real shame, great music, great album, terrible ideology. Grimspirit of Evilfeast returns to do their intro on this album, but since he put out tapes by Revenge, I'm not entirely surprised to see him running on this side of things. Ah well, readers can do what they want with this info.

Blood Stronghold - Vengeance in Sacrificial Blood
Darker Than Black, 2016
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2 Frozen Memory of the Dark Sky
3. In the Mists of the Immortal Past
4. Legacy (Of Wolves, War and Thunder)
5. Blood Split in the Earth's Viscera
6. Dying Flame of a Pale Sun
7. Transgressing the Forest Depths

If you've missed out on the early stages of Blood Stronghold you now have a chance to hear this material. This compilation features the demo, their first 7" EP and the recently released demo song now on CD. On top of that the material has been re-mastered, probably to create a level of cohesiveness on the tracks. However, we all benefit from that with having better quality mastering on the older material.

The major feature of this compilation is being able to get the more rare material on CD for the first time ever. While the track from the split tape sounds a little better, it still feels quite raw compared to the other material on this, but at least people that missed out on the split can finally hear it. The only major complaint I have about this compilation is that the artwork concept did not translate to the high gloss digi-pak format very well. It's extremely hard to read anything on this. It was pretty difficult before, but now it's nearly impossible.

Blood Stronghold & Duch Czerni - The Fragments of Wandering Souls
Darker Than Black, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

Blood Stronghold:
1. Transgressing the Forest Depths
Duch Czerni:
2. Opętujące szepty zagłady

Side Duch Czerni: ...probably never...not into DSBM
Side Blood Stronghold:

I was kind of surprised to see a split tape come out from this project in the same year that the EP was released, but this is more of a demo quality tape. Perhaps it's to signify the switch to working with a new label. This tape is limited to 111 copies and there doesn't appear to be any individual numbering. The cassette and booklet are pro-printed.

When I say the tape is more of a demo quality I'm referring to the production. The Blood Stronghold song feels very under-produced compared to their prior efforts. However, the song itself feels like it's pushing in a bit of a different direction from their previous material. It feels heavier and more epic to a certain degree, so I wonder if this is also signalling a new direction for Blood Stronghold. They are still trying to maintain that general atmosphere of before, but this song sort of ups the intensity levels a little bit more. I'm definitely interested in seeing where the project is going to go after this.

Blood Stronghold - The March of Apparitions
Witches Sabbath Productions, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. In the Arms of a Fullmoon Night
2. The March of Apparitions
3. Beneath Twilight Wings
4. The Abyssal Call...

For Blood Stronghold 2015 starts off with a new EP from the project. It spans four songs and only twenty-five minutes. Which is certainly almost a full-length Death Metal album... but this is Black Metal so for us it's an EP. Only two of the songs are truly lengthy and the other two are a more normal song length. The booklet for this EP actually features the lyrics for the songs on the album, so that's a bit of a change from the debut.

Musically, given how soon after it's coming after the debut, feels like a continuation of the "From Sepulchral Remains" album. The artwork and general layout are nearly exactly the same. Since this material is all self recorded the production value certainly hasn't changed much in such a short amount of time. So, if you really like that blend described in the debut then you'll certainly enjoy this EP as well. It's so similar that it makes me wonder if these were just songs that didn't make it to the debut. The title track feels even more Graveland inspired than anything else Blood Stronghold has ever done, it almost feels like a "Creed of Iron" track at some points. Meanwhile the closing track feels very similar to an Evilfeast song!

All in all, it's certainly a good EP. It's really not much different than the debut, so if you wanted more of that sound they've certainly delivered. Personally, I'm not a big fan of EP's I tend to listen to them a lot less frequently than full-lengths, so I can't say I'll pull this out more often than the debut.

Blood Stronghold - From Sepulchral Remains...
Witches Sabbath Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Eternal Wrath of Dark Gods
2. Ancient Mystery of the Moon
3. Stronghold of Forgotten Blood
4. From Sepulchral Remains...
5. Lost Upon the Nameless Wind (Sign of the Forgotten Dawn)
6. To Distant Shores Aflame
7. Fortress of Nightly Desolation
8. The Spirit, Devoured by the Cold Soil of the Earth

This is the third release from Blood Stronghold in 2014 and we finally get a glimpse into a full-length production from the project. It's shocking to see an EP hit so fast after a demo, but to have the full-length in our hands by the end of that same year is even more ridiculous. Personally, I would have waited and sat on the material instead of cranking out the releases. I remember when these all came out and it seemed like the project was hard to keep up with and I was worried we had another Hellveto on our hands. Luckily that ended up not being the case and this project was easier to keep up with release wise.

"From Sepulchral Remains" immerses us into the world of Blood Stronghold for a solid forty-five minutes. In this regard I find it to be a much better experience than the overall briefness of the prior two releases, since Blood Stronghold sit in that realm of Atmospheric Black Metal that has a more expansive and epic quality to it. With that being the case I prefer a much longer experience to enjoy the songs. The album has an ambient intro created by Grim Spirit of Evilfeast and it's got that Evilfeast feel to it to a certain degree with the way he plays around with ambiance. Another break from Black Metal on this release is with the song "To Distant Shores Aflame" and this heavily reminded me of some old Arcana material.

As the full-length unfolds I feel like Blood Stronghold is musically a blend of middle-era Graveland with Nightwolf's other project Eternum. It has that slow plodding feel albums like "Creed of Iron" have, but it's cast in a far more atmospheric light. I will say Krew is certainly a far more solid drummer than Rob. The overall production of the album feels really dense with fairly quiet mastering, so be prepared to turn that volume up! The dense production adds to the cavern like feel of the atmosphere, so it really works for the overall Blood Stronghold experience.

I really quite enjoy Atmospheric Black Metal and I really enjoyed the debut full-length from this project, but as the years have gone on I'm not sure how much it holds up in the test of time. It's a good CD, but it's not something I've been returning to over and over again because I simply must sit in this musical space one more time. As this project grows that might change, but I haven't listened to this album in quite a while since I first got it a few years ago.

Blood Stronghold - Blood Spilt in the Earth's Viscera
Witches Sabbath Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Blood Spilt in the Earth's Viscera
2. Dying Flame of a Pale Sun

A few months after their first demo tape Blood Stronghold returned with two more songs on this 7" vinyl. This EP is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies and I own #292.

Cranking out an EP this soon after your demo is kind of strange and made me wonder why they just didn't wait and include this material, but when you listen to this material you realize it wouldn't really fit. It's strange to say, but the music on here sounds thematically quite different, so I can understand why a separate release was warranted. If you enjoyed "The Immortal Past" this EP advances that style quite a bit. The first song is very beautiful and has more of a melancholic atmosphere compared to the demo. The second song is really different. "Dying Flame of a Pale Sun" starts off with what we'd expect from this project, but then they really up the tempo at some point. This is by far the fastest from this project so far. The vocals also trend more to the usual screaming kind that is normal in Black Metal and I enjoyed this shift quite a bit. The song still maintains a heavy and dense atmosphere like all the others. The only major issue is that with the production this raw with so much reverb, the fast sections feel more chaotic than anything else. There's almost too much going on too fast to really make out all the elements. However, the entire song isn't fast, so for most of the song we have that majestic atmosphere we're looking for.

In the end we have two new excellent tracks and I just hope this projects productivity doesn't run away with them. Naturally, I want more songs and I would love to see a full-length from the project at this point soon, so hopefully they can keep up the quality this high.

Blood Stronghold - The Immortal Past
Hammerbolt Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Frozen Memory of the Dark Past
2. In the Mists of the Immortal Past
3. Legacy (Of Wolves, War & Thunder)

Blood Stronghold is a bit of a super group considering it's two members have played in quite a lot of projects. The main composer behind the material is from Australia and has done great projects like Eternum and the drummer Krew, has been in so many bands I can't keep track. One of the more well known is Gontyna Kry. In any event when Blood Stronghold released a debut album later in 2014 it went around the web really fast and I wound up back tracking and getting everything else they had put out and I've been a loyal fan ever since. This release was original put out on cassette by Witches Sabbath Records a few months before the CD edition. Since I usually prefer CD's I picked up this version and it comes in a beautiful digipak. The only complaint I have about the design is the font color is so dark you can't really read any of it.

"The Immortal Past" reminds me a lot of Graveland for some reason. It has a very similar feel and pacing to the music, even the vocals are reminiscent of the Rob Darken style. I've heard some great bands inspired by Gravelend, but a lot of times they mostly clone what Rob does and they don't advance it as much. Blood Stronghold is an entirely different approach to the Graveland foundation, in my opinion. Instead of driving down the path of Paganism and keyboard driven atmosphere, Blood Stronghold just sounds so much darker. They draw more on the creations of Atmospheric Black Metal to build their particular musical space. The result is something that just feels entirely different and really advances that core foundation. Quite a few of the old Black Metal bands had this sort of core approach with their mid-paced compositions, and Blood Stronghold bring back a lot of those ideas, but they also push them forward for the modern era. Which might not be their intention... but that's ultimately what they did. One of the things you'll find most interesting is how this project handles the lead guitars, because the lead material feels really different from what we're used to with these rhythm backdrops. It creates a really dense and beautiful atmosphere. The production is extremely raw, so the production snobs of the modern era need not apply. For example, the lead guitars are blended into the rhythms so seamlessly it's hard to tell they're there, but when a rhythm sections stops you can hear it. They don't cut through, they're more subtle in the mix and creating this really interesting texture.

As far as debuts go, this is an excellent first effort, but I would expect that from such experienced musicians that have already been well established. The one and only complaint I can level at this is I'm not big on this vocal approach. The low raspy, mostly talked, Black Metal vocal is fairly uninteresting to me. Whenever someone takes this approach I always wonder what it would be like with a better vocalist. These types of vocals are good for certain parts, but a whole release of them can get boring for me vocally. Luckily the music is so strong the vocals just kind of fade to the background for me. So, if you're a fan of mid-paced atmospheric Black Metal or interested in seeing a new take on that old Polish Pagan style of Black Metal, this is a must hear.