Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Trist (Ger)

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 26, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Djevel - Norske Ritualer
Aftermath Music, 2016
Genre: Black Metal

1. Vi slakter den foerste og den andre, den tredje lar vi gaa mot nord
2. Jeg maner eder alle
3. Doedskraft og tri nagler
4. Med christi legeme og blod under hoeire fod
5. Til mitt kjaere Norge
6. Med tornespiger var han haengt
7. Maatte vetter rase som aldrig foer
8. Afgrunds Engle

After just one year Djevel return with a brand new album. Usually when the turn around for a new album is this quick I'd worry that the material might be too quickly written, but "Norske Ritualer" puts those worries to rest upon hitting play immediately. "Norske Ritualer" comes packaged as a sort of digi-sleeve package. While the packaging is nice and the layout is well designed, I hate this kind of packaging. It may be cost effective, but have the CD in a slip case instead of a tray is, frankly, annoying to deal with. So, I'm hoping the packaging will be a bit better for the next album.

In any event, the music on here is extremely good. It's an immediate attention grabber and opens with an absolutely wonderful song. While the prior Djevel's felt a lot like a celebration of the best Norwegian Black Metal ever created, "Norske Ritualer" seems to actually build on those ideas and push things a little more. This album sees Djevel sort of coming into their own and building on their influences. The opening track reminds me a bit of a continuation of "Nattens Madrigal", which made for an excellent listen! Not to be forgotten, the second track delves into more of their Folk inspired Black Metal, hearkening to a bit of old Satyricon/Storm, but with some groove thrown in similar to what Isvind has pulled off in their music. "Norske Ritualer" tends to meander around these two main focal points, but none of it feels like it's a complete re-hash of what we've all been listening to for the past few decades. I think this album leans more heavily in the Ulver direction, especially with the beautifully played acoustic interludes.

If you've been following Djevel for a while then I doubt you will ever be disappointed with how excellent this album is. If you're new to the band, you're really in for a treat. This is a real monster of an album and so wonderfully executed. Unless Djevel puts out something better, this is probably going to be my "go to" Djevel album when I want to listen to this band. Every songs is an excellent journey and feels more than just a reconstitution of the old material. Definitely an amazing job and I really look forward to wherever else this project takes their style.

Djevel - Saa Raa og Kald
Aftermath Music, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Skritt for skritt mot mareritt
2. Vaar forbannede jord
3. Hode og hals i doedsvals
4. Om prest og pest
5. Norges land og rike
6. I en iskald grav
7. De som  hadde onde oeyne
8. Salmesang og knokkelklang
9. Saa raa og kald
10. I vaar herres navn...

After improving a bit with the second effort, I'm not surprised to say things have stayed quite good with "Saa raa og kald". I don't think there has been much improvement, but rather a consistent excellence that persisted throughout the last album. This time we get a bit more of an elaborate booklet with some extra pictures that compliment the listening experience. It's really beautifully made even if it is quite simple.

At first glance this album feels a bit more raw than the prior releases, and that's more of a production observation than anything else. It sort of makes this album feel older than the prior two in that regard. This album also intro's a little strange with a meandering bass line for the first song before launching into the usual Black Metal style for the next song. It's pretty rare to find anything intro with just the bass, usually we hear that as a break in the middle of a song. Either way, the songs maintain that usual feel of Norwegian Black Metal, being sometimes folky, most of the time being standard Black Metal. I notice they try to include some clean guitar sections a lot more than compared to the prior albums. Some of the riffs are way catchier than before, such as in the song "Norges land og rike" and reminds me a bit of the old Taake days to some degree. The guitar tone has shifted a little bit, as far as I can tell. The guitar tone sounds quite a bit more like a Gorgoroth of Dødheimsgard feeling to the guitar. I think this makes the Gorgoroth influence stand out quite a bit more when it happens.

In the end Djevel continue their signature celebration of all things classic Black Metal, but this time I feel like there is a distinct infusion of the Dødheimsgard sound a little bit with a further more heavy dose of Gorgoroth. All the songs are quite enjoyable and I don't think there is a bad track on this release, so if you want to hear an updated version of the early Black Metal years with an extremely solid performance then this album will not disappoint.

Djevel - Besatt av Maane og Natt
Aftermath Music, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Besatt av maane og natt
2. Aapne graver og tomme kister
3. Marefar
4. Tornekroner og geitehorn
5. Blant fjell og falne
6. Stjernesluker
7. ...Og englene dinglet fra galgene
8. Saa tok alt slutt

After a very good debut Djevel return with their second album. There was a demo 7" released on vinyl between the two, but I'm skipping out on that since both songs on the vinyl appear on here. This comes as a digipac with a very minimalist booklet, but it really does work well for the whole layout of this release.

Already Djevel has had a slight change in the line-up and the drums are now being handled by Dirge Rep. Naturally, given his experience, the drums are done masterfully on the album and his arrangements compliment the guitars wonderfully. Djevel, pretty much, pick up where Dødssanger left us, playing really well made Norwegian styled Black Metal. I think there has been a bit of refinement in the overall writing, because the songs feel even more compelling than before. All the major influences I referenced on the first album are still present on this recording as well, but they're a little less blatant, instead the influences are combined far more cohesively in the writing. This makes Djevel sound a lot more as being on their own and the influences are a more subtle ever present feel in the music. The songs manage to have a bit more of an epic feel at times, such as "Stjernesluker" and I've noticed this element show up in a couple other areas. Not like the Ulver more sorrowful feel, but something akin to what Enslaved would pull off or Keep of Kalessin, which makes for a very excellent element to put into the mix.

Once again Djevel is like a celebration of everything I grew up with in the Norwegian Black Metal scene, but distilled into a single band and playing only the best of the genre. It's surprising that they manage to improve on this approach, but somehow they've managed to work it out. I'm looking forward to even more from this project at this point, because if they manage to keep doing this it will make for a really pleasant journey.

Djevel - Dødssanger
Aftermath Music, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Ingen vei tilbake
2. Djevelheim
3. Mørkerfødt
4. Da kvinnene brant
5. Djevelslått
6. Paakallelsen
7. Vi malte verden i sort
8. Paktens ende - i Satans eie

Even though I listen to quite a few projects from all the musicians behind Djevel, I was really late to this project for some reason. I think I wound up listening to Djevel when I was looking something up about Koldbrann, which is a band I like quite a bit as well, so I took a chance and looked them up. I was immediately taken with their material an I swiftly tracked down and purchased everything I could from the project.

Djevel waste no time with demos and immediately dive right into the full-length territory. Given the caliber of musicians behind the project it makes sense for them to take this route, because I would be shocked if they produced something uninteresting. Some may find Djevel to perform fairly standard fair Norwegian Black Metal, but there's just something special about this material for to me. There's a quality, a higher caliber of writing and musicianship carved out through the years of playing Black Metal by all those involved. The end result is an immediate and mature effort that really celebrates the years of Black Metal. This works for a solid debut album for Djevel, as if the musicians gathered together to work on music that reminded of what influenced them in the past and put it down to permanence. Perhaps Djevel will further refine their sound and influences and meander into something more unique, but for now I will merely enjoy the time spent delving into the old times of Black Metal. This is like a more well recorded version of some of my favorite albums growing up in the mid-90's era of Black Metal. Each song has remnants of Enslaved, Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, and, I'm sure, others that have been lost to obscurity over the years. Or at least buried in my demo tape collections from that bygone era! Blended in with that it has a lot of old Satyricon, even moments that remind me of Storm a little bit and probably a decent dose of early Ulver.

In the end I think Djevel created an excellent debut that really covers the gamut of an older tier of Black Metal. The major complaint, I would imagine, from people would be that it doesn't sound like anything new. But this is wishful thinking for debut albums these in the overwhelming majority of cases. Frankly, I think Djevel write very good songs and compose with a masterful atmosphere for the genre. Djevel is certainly a band worth checking out and I'm eager to hear what might be next from this project.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pestilential Shadows

Pestilential Shadows - Ephemeral
Seance Records, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Throes
2. Mill of Discord
3. Fragments
4. Sorrow of Tongues
5. Hymn of Isolation & Suicide
6. Ephemeral
7. Expire

The new Pestilential Shadows is finally upon us and what an incredible experience it is. "Ephemeral" is such an immense journey, even though it is really shorter in length than the other albums. The songwriting is so on point that it just hits all the right emotions and feels so much more immense as a result. Once again under the Seance Records banner we have some extremely well designed album art that persists through the booklet. Unlike "Depths", though, the lyrics are easily read in a fairly standard font, but again, this does not impinge on the actual design of the album art.

For the album "Ephemeral", Pestilential Shadows has really upped the Atmospheric content in their music. They are keeping that Nazxul core as the back drop of their main sound, but here they inject a solid dose of Woods of Desolation and similar bands, but I feel Woods of Desolation is the main similarity, whether it's true or not for the authors of this album. However, rather than be primarily a somber experience, Pestilential Shadows has a serious edge to their sound and this is where I hear a bit of Erebus Enthroned in their writing, which should come as no surprise with Decay being the guitarist of that project too. Pestilential Shadows, to me, weaves the sound of these three major Australian bands into one absolutely engaging experience. They even manage to throw in some catchier moments like on the song "Sorrow of Tongues". Then there's the title track, which has one of the most emotional and engaging lead guitar moments around. This album really is on another level in terms of overall composition and design. I'm certain "Ephemeral" will really stand the test of time as a great album that I'll continue to return to again and again for years to come.

In my opinion, "Ephemeral" is a must have album. If you're a fan of this project already you, absolutely, will not be disappointed, but if you're new to listening to this band, then "Ephemeral" is probably the pinnacle of their efforts. It's not that back tracking into their catalog is a bad journey, but, for me, a lot of the other efforts tend to pale in comparison.

Pestilential Shadows & Corvus - Broken Spheres
Seance Records, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

Pestilential Shadows:
1. Dynasty of the Bones
2. Crowned in Fire

Corvus: ...coming eventually...
Pestilential Shadows:

After releasing the excellent album "Depths" they wasted no time in getting a split out there with fellow Australian band Corvus. This is released on 7" vinyl and limited to 250 copies. There's no hand-numbering, but there is a lyric sheet insert with the vinyl.

I love the title of the Pestilential Shadows song on here and made me wish it was part of a bigger concept. "Dynasty of the Bones" is, basically, a continuation of "Depths", but it feels a bit more raw. There's even some riffing that is far catchier and somewhat breaks from the atmospheric approach of their overall sound. I found this a pleasant addition musically, but the moment feels all too brief and wish they had used that a bit more. I always appreciate it when a band can throw some catchier riffs into a really atmospheric piece, because that is really hard to pull off. Either way "Dynasty of Bones" is another excellent song from Pestilential Shadows and I doubt those who enjoyed "Depths" will be disappointed by this track.

Pestilential Shadows - Depths
Seance Records, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Lost Geists of the Sunlight Sphere
2. Tribulations of Man
3. Choirs Beyond the Blackened Stars
4. Architects of the Spear
5. Shrine
6. Poisoner
7. Putrid Earth
8. Depths

Just looking at this cover and layout immediately speaks of a change in the quality of product Pestilential Shadows is trying to convey. This began with "In Memorium, Ill Omen" where the musical process took on far more care and quality, seeking out more organic tones, which always sound more appealing to me. I think this approach has culminated with the release of "Depths", which is where the Pestilential Shadows discography really starts to take off for me. They really did an amazing job on this layout and really fits the overall feel of the music quite a bit. The booklet is really engaging to look through, unfortunately the font is difficult to read for the lyrics, but at the same time it really fits in terms of design. It gives this ghost like ethereal quality to the overall presentation, which works great.

Musically the best reference I can make is Nazxul's album "Iconoclast", which should come as no surprise since Balam played guitar on that and their session drummer Basilysk performed drums on that album as well, so naturally there will be some similarities. However, Pestilential Shadows isn't really a rip-off or anything that extreme, the atmosphere and feel of the music is actually quite different. At times it feels even darker and more primal to me. The project experiments with minimalism in tracks like "Choirs Beyond the Blackened Stars" which is over seven minutes of the same riff and drum beat, similar to what Horna has done at times and like Horna it manages to feel engaging the entire time. Naturally, not all songs are like this and most are far more varied in terms of Black Metal, but everything is extremely well arranged and feels like a cohesive album. They even throw in some lead guitar parts in some songs like "Poisoner" that just elevate the overall listening experience so much more.

"Depths" is an extremely well done album and it really matures the sound Pestilential Shadows has been trying to achieve since they began. I'm really glad Balam has stuck with real drums for this recording, because it really made a huge difference on the last album. It gives a much deeper experience to their music in my opinion. If you were a big fan of Nazxul's album "Iconoclast" then I would recommend this project quite a bit. "Depths" delves into darker territory at times and really builds off that core Nazxul sound while not being a complete re-listening of "Iconoclast". So, it's a highly recommended album from me and, frankly, rather unexpected given the work Pestilential Shadows has done up until now.

Pestilential Shadows - In Memorium, Ill Omen
Pulverised Records, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Weapon Against the Sun
2. Beautiful Demise
3. With Serpents I Lay
4. Of Loss and Suffering Inherit
5. For Man and Heaven's Ruin
6. Sundered
7. Ecclesia Moriendi
8. Bathed in Ashes

It's been quite a few years since we've heard from Pestilential Shadows and in looking through the booklet it's rather apparent why that probably is... there have been some major line-up changes going on here. It seems Meririm left the band shortly after "Cursed" and Balam has taken over his vocal duties as well as playing guitar. Desolate and Wraith are still involved, but the biggest addition is an actual drummer! Here we enjoy the actual drum performance from Sorrow. This is a shift in their sound that really show cases how much better it is to have a live drummer behind the drums.

One of the other instantly noticeable aspects of this is how raw and stripped down everything seems to be on this album. The foreboding ambience that we enjoyed on prior albums is all but gone and this album is far more focused on a traditional approach to their Black Metal. They present some really solid riffs and a very good Black Metal atmosphere heavily rooted in the Scandinavian sound. This time they feel more akin to the likes of Ondskapt, with the odd moments of melodic riffing thrown in for good measure, something the likes of Ondskapt never does. This creates an interesting feel to their music, because most of it is really dark and sinister, but then these melodic passages hit and it creates this really soaring aspect to their music. This is, basically, what Balam brought to Nazxul, so you'll find a lot of similarities to "Iconoclast" when you listen to this.

While I miss some of the atmosphere of the earlier works, I do really like the way this album turned out. The production, strangely, feels more raw than the others, but that's how it goes with drums being added in a lot of times. The guitar tone is a lot better this time and feels a lot more organic in the mix, which is a really nice change. Balam proves to be a very capable vocalist, and frankly, a better vocalist for this style overall anyway.

In the end I hope Pestilential Shadows continues to perform with a real drummer. I'm also extremely curious to see where they go from here. Will they stick with this style in the more traditional approach? Forsaking atmosphere for more solid riffs? Or will they bring back the atmosphere and try to blend in more ear-catching riffs? Either way, I'm curious for what will be next.

Pestilential Shadows - Cursed
GoatoWarex, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. To Ruin
2. At One with the Void
3. Impaled by the Moon
4. Cursed
5. The Black Eucharist
6. Blood for the Master
7. My Scorn
8. And May Empyrion Fall
9. The Last Herald of God
10. Life Turned to Dust

After hearing "Impaled by the Moon" I was given a little bit more hope for this project and seeing one of the songs from that tape appear on this album gave me more hope for this release. Another factor contributing to this is the fact that Pestilential Shadows move beyond the two man band dynamic and have now added two more members. A second guitarist and dedicated bassist have joined the ranks and it has really served to flesh out their sound.

"Cursed" is a far more cohesive album compared to "Embrace After Death". It feels like every aspect of this album fits together much better. The songwriting also feels meaner and darker than before, which is a very welcome shift in their sound. The first half of the album is pretty consistently intense and feels like a darker Mysticum sort of blended with Naglfar-ish riffing, with some Diabolicum thrown in for good measure. However, after after the first instrumental piece "The Black Eucharist" the album takes a much slower and brooding term. Sure, there are still faster moments, but songs like "The Last Herald of God" generate a slow and ominous atmosphere. The way the album breaks up into sort of two chapters works pretty well and feels like a far more interesting journey into the world of Pestilential Shadows than their prior efforts.

This is, certainly, not a perfect album, but it really showcases that they are finally getting into a sound that really works for them. The guitars are still extremely thinned out, but I do like that this makes pretty decent room for the bass to be heard. The programmed drums sound kind of ridiculous, sometimes taking on the feel of the early 90's programmed drums like Mysticum used. They did a way better job with the vocal production this time around. "Embrace After Death" was horrific in the vocal department, but "Cursed" sits the vocals very nicely in the mix. They feel far more ominous and dark this time around, which really fits the general atmosphere of the album so much more.

In the end I think Pestilential Shadows is starting to find a good workflow for their music. You can't expect a band to do no wrong as they try to find their niche, but it looks like things are back on track for Pestilential Shadows if they can keep building on these ideas I think they'll eventually create something really excellent. I do enjoy the far more atmospheric feel of their riffing and I hope they continue to develop along these lines in the future.

Pestilential Shadows - Impaled by the Moon
Asphyxiate Recordings, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Impaled by the Moon
2. Decay
3. Sombre Winter Death
4. Shell Rot

After their first debut on CD Pestilential Shadows promptly went back to the tape EP format. If this was my first experience with the project I would say maybe the tape EP works best for them, because as soon as we hit that first song it's a lot better than the music on the full-length. This tape has a pro-printed booklet and other sites list it is limited to 200 copies, but there is no limitation listed on the tape itself.

"Impaled by the Moon" opens with the title track and we are immediately treated to a faster more aggressive Pestilential Shadows than we've ever heard before. However, the songs do go back to that moodier and darker atmosphere that they are more known for. On this recording they managed to do a good job with the raw production value, in this case it is adding to the overall atmosphere of the recording instead of detracting from it. The recording doesn't feel overly thin, it's still thin, just not so much that it feels like nothing is there. The guitar tone is a bit more cleaned up as well, which I appreciate quite a bit. The music also feels a lot more up front in the mix this time around. They've also put enough reverb and saturation or distortion on the vocals so that the vocals sound pretty good in this mix. They really fit the feel of the music a lot more this time around.

The song writing for this EP is far more similar to "Putrify", but with an injection of faster moments to up the intensity level a little bit. Songs like "Sombre Winter Death", pretty much exemplify their title and it's more of that mid-paced style of Black Metal that has a more melancholic atmosphere. This time, even though it is over ten minutes, it manages to keep my attention. Unlike "Embrace After Death" I feel like the song writing, overall, has been markedly improved and so this EP is a far more enjoyable listen. We'll see how things go by the time the next full-length rolls around. I really hope the project sorts out some of these inconsistency issues and makes something solid.

Pestilential Shadows - Embrace After Death
Asphyxiate Recordings, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

Part I: The Fate
1. The Pestilential Shadow
2. Plague Eclipse
3. Church Incinerate MMIII
4. The Fate of All that Lives Pt. II
5. Eternal Decomposition
Part II:
6. Haunting Gallows
7. Of Earth & Eerie
8. Forever Dark
9. Sentinel of the Epidemic
10. Amongst Famine
11. Putrify
12. The Delusion Trail

After an intriguing EP with "Putrify", Pestilential Shadows wasted no time in getting to their debut full-length. This was originally released as a CDr by Dark Icon Productions in 2004, but the most readily available edition seems to be the Asphyxiate Recordings version which features "Putrify" as bonus material. So, it's really worth getting the Asphyxiate Recordings version for sure.

The album is actually subtitled "The Fate of All that Lives II", which references their first demo from 2003. They don't re-record any material from this original demo or anything, so this recording is entirely new and different. One thing that strikes you immediately is how thin and lo-fi the overall production quality is. "Putrify" wasn't all that different, but for a full-length it was somewhat surprising. For the most part they manage to make it work, but I'm sure these drums are programmed now that they're a little more balanced in the mix. Even then, it's weird all of the music feels pretty far away, which has its plus and minuses. Now the vocals sit far more in the front of the mix and we realize that the vocals are not particularly great. They seem similar to Rob Darken of Graveland, who doesn't have impressive vocals, but it works in his project... they don't work so much here.

Musically this album feels a bit over-long... frankly the experience tends to drag on and you stop paying attention to it after a while. The riffs don't really grab your attention, at least not like some of them did on "Putrify". Musically everything is just pretty good, it doesn't stand out, but it's not awful either. Sometimes the production can really get in the way, such as when the acoustic styled track "Eternal Decomposition", the guitar is heavily marred by the production. It's almost like the mastering compressor was way too loud and so you get this annoying hiss. That hiss actually persists through the entire recording and becomes obvious when things get quieter. I felt like the first two songs on "Putrify" were far darker than the songs on here and things felt deeper in the overall production, not thinner.

This is only first full-length from Pestilential Shadows so they'll eventually sort their sound out. For now this debut kind of falls flat and doesn't garner the interest I expected after hearing "Putrify". It's a real shame, because I had rather high hopes for this album, but if you're more familiar with Pestilential Shadows later discography, then you might want to stick with that unless you're a completionist like me.

Pestilential Shadows - Putrify
GoatoWarex, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Sentinel of the Epidemic
2. Amongst Famine
3. Putrify
4. The Delusion Trail

I missed out on the very first demo from Pestilential Shadows, so my collection really begins here with "Putrify". I missed out on this demo and had to track it down way after it came out, which surprises me because I was keeping up with the GoatoWarex label in the early 2000's as they always put out fairly good Black Metal. I didn't get into this project into quite a few years after it started and I think I found them when I was looking up who was currently involved in Nazxul when they put out the "Iconoclast" album. When I first heard Pestilential's third album, I was hooked and back tracked from there. So here we have "Putrify" their first EP of only four songs published on tape with a pro-printed booklet. I'm sure it's been limited in some capacity, but that's not listed anywhere.

Even if I hadn't heard this projects later material first "Putrify" would have gotten me fairly interested in what they were doing. Even going back this far you can plainly hear what Balam brought to Nazxul in terms of guitar work. "Putrify" is a very mid-paced style of Black Metal, but it generates such a soaring yet bleak atmosphere to the point where the music is actually extremely engaging. There's this underlying darkness in the writing, but then sometimes these lead sections flow in and are actually really wonderful in the mix. There are only two members listed on this tape, so they either programmed drums or had someone do session drums. The drums are pretty buried in the mix so it's tough to tell, they sound real enough I think.

In the end, I'm definitely interested in seeing where the band goes from here. The first two tracks are the best tracks, in my opinion. The title track is just a guitar instrumental and "The Delusional Trail" is a pretty epic length 10 minute plus track, but it just doesn't have the same impact as the first two songs for some reason. So, "Putrify" is a pretty good first venture into this project and I think its worth checking out.

Monday, February 5, 2018


Vermeth - Suicide or Be Killed
Drakkar Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Suicide or Be Killed
3. Ave Satanas
4. Necromancer
5. From the Depths...
6. Total Annihilation - Armageddon
7. Malediction
8. The Gates of Chaos
9. Flame of Hate (Torgeist cover)
10. Outro

It's been quite a while since we've heard from Vermeth, but when I saw a new album was out I ordered it right away. I always enjoyed Torgeist, so I was always happy to hear more Black Metal from Beleth Rim. This Vermeth album has quite a different quality to it compared to the prior album and other LLN styled material. It's interesting to note that there is a lengthy essay in the booklet calling out all the bootleggers that have copied the LLN material and capitalized on it. While I tend to agree, but in some cases its the only way some of us could have ever heard the material. For example, Black Murder was never officially released, but "Feasts" is a great album and I'm glad I was able to hear it... ah well.

"Suicide or Be Killed" is rather different from the debut album. It feels a lot more further removed from the original LLN sound and seems to be more of a Bathory/Darkthrone style of a release. Even the song "Malediction" sounds an awful lot like a Bathory song in my opinion. Sure, some of the songs have fast sections, but for the most part a lot of the guitar riffs are actually quite catchy. I, honestly, wasn't expecting that from a Vermeth release. I was expecting more of that sinister tortured riffing I've come to hear more prominently in these projects. I also wonder if this was recorded in the Black Legions studio, because its not mentioned on the CD anywhere. The production is totally different and a lot more thinned out, which gives the songs this razor sharp vicious edge. It actually reminds me of the type of production Katharsis uses.

In the end the Vermeth album works out pretty well. It's more in line with what Torgeist worked on, but with even more Bathory worship thrown in. If you're a fan of this raw and vicious sounding style of Black Metal, Vermeth is probably one of the better projects, so it's certainly worth checking out in that regard.

Vermeth - Your Ruin...
Drakkar Productions, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro (Your Ruin...)
2. The Black Legions
3. Eternal Dark Being
4. Let Blood Flow
5. Unholy Rapture
6. Black Remembrance
7. Die Bastard
8. Outro

If you followed the LLN from their early days in France then surely you'll know of the project called Torgeist. Well after the LLN disbanded Lord Beleth Rim wasn't really done performing that kind of Black Metal and instead started Vermeth. Unlike Torgeist its mostly just him doing all the music this time. Even though there is no drummer listed on here, I do wonder if there was one involved. Vermeth seems to be the only band really carrying the torch of the Black Legions though, if you look at the booklet you'll see the three inverted crosses symbol. One of the songs is called "The Black Legions" and all the wording is the same as what the LLN produced. This was even recorded at the Black Legions studio!

Vermeth sounds like what you would expect from an LLN project, maybe this is really a continuation of what Torgeist was eventually going to sound like? To me, it sounds like a blend of Vlad Tepes, Mütiilation and Belketre. It has that raw fuzzy riffing common to the other bands, but as with Torgeist the music doesn't seem as messy. In terms of performance Torgeist was always one of the better sounding projects, the other bands eventually got a little better, but Beleth Rim was always a pretty competent musician and Vermeth is no exception here. The recording quality is still extremely raw, almost to the point where it gets in the way of the recording. Even though this was recorded in 2001 it doesn't to have had that much updates with regards to the studio sound, so if you were in love with that LLN sound, it's still pretty well preserved on this recording. It's also a lot better than a lot of the other LLN material, so it's a really great compromise for hearing what kind of music the LLN was actually trying to play.

Vermeth mixes up the LLN sound a lot more than the other projects, where I remember a lot of them being more mid-paced on most recordings, Vermeth tends to speed things up a lot more. They have their mid-paced moments, but there are some far more intense moments, which wasn't that common with the other bands. Vermeth really brings back memories of the old demos and for that I think there is a special place for this project. After this there might not be much of a place for music like this, because Black Metal has changed quite a lot in the late 90's, but if Vermeth can keep at least a small portion of this style alive it will be interesting.