Sunday, December 23, 2012

Stíny Plamenů

Stíny Plamenů - Dive into the Wastewater...
Barbarian Wrath, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Blackmetalové peklo ve špíne kanalizacní vody (1999):
1. Visutá stoka smrti
2. Kanalizacní peklo ve víru cerné vody
3. Cerná stoka je hrobem všech svatých
4. Klenba prokleté kanalizacní stoky
5. Já pro stoky chci žít
6. Významné kanalizacní osobnosti a príšery
7. Rozhovor I
8. Rozhovor II - Satanovy kalové hody
9. Déšt kanalizacních poklopu
Pokles Do Temnot Kanalizacních Hlubin (2000):
10. Pokles Do Temnot Kanalizacních Hlubin
11. Vodárenská mafie
12. Príjezd Vévody z Libkanu
13. Zurivý Monolog Syna Poklopu (Znicení Vodárny)
14. Procitnutí Pána z Cistírny (zabití vodárenské paní)
15. Šedá Pohrební Zvradla
16. Cosi podivného se stalo ve stoce
17. Valba Poklopu Stokou

This is not a new Stíny Plamenů release, instead is a compilation comprising of their two demos, which certainly got them signed to Barbarian Wrath. This really is a great compilation for Stíny Plamenů fans, because we get to hear how the band started out. It's pretty much always been a solo project of Lord Morbivod's, but I imagine this holds a special place because this is his first project. As usual with Barbarian Wrath releases this is limited to 666 hand-numbered copies of which I own #342.

The compilation starts with the first demo, so as we listen things progressively get better. The booklet actual records some thoughts about this first demo: "This demo was done in the spirit of primitive and raw music. Depending on a current song, author's inexperience is more or less clear. The on-going stories of the sewer world start here, sever characters are introduced and their qualities described to the listener. Their many dialogs mark beginnings of long stories, developed on further albums." All the Stíny Plamenů albums are one long continuous story about this sewer world that Lord Morbivod created. Say what you want about it being silly, but for some reason he really makes this kind of thing work. I really don't think anyone else out there could bring up this kinds of ideas and just run with it musically (and that basically goes for all of his projects.)

One of the other interesting parts of the booklet is that it shows the two covers of the demos. It reminds me that his corpse paint choice for this time frame was really different. By the time Lord Morbivod published his first full length he had opted for a more traditional form of corpse paint. The early ideas paint is certainly strange, but it really works for the concept at least.

The only disappointing thing about this is that the second demo doesn't have all the tracks from the original version. In fact it's cut three tracks short and I'm not really sure why... other than I'm sure length was an issue. But we do get one new Stíny Plamenů track out of the deal, so I suppose that's worth it. The new song actually fits in with the second demo's style quite well. I feel like "Rány Černým Kovem" had a much more furious sound, so "Valba Poklopu Stokou" sounds like a throwback to this earlier material. Though it does have moments of that more intense approach found in later Stíny Plamenů.

Stíny Plamenů - Rány Černým Kovem
Barbarian Wrath, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

1. Předzvěst Války Za Čistírnu
2. První Zvradelní Bitva
3. Druhý Příjezd Vévodův
4. Poslání Ing. Möbia
5. Voda, Zvradla A Bouře
6. Rány Cerným Kovem
7. Zvradlonoš
8. Tisíce Zvradelních Bestií
9. Poslední Zvradelní Bitva
10. Open the Gates (Dark Funeral Cover)

I really don't believe there is a musician today producing nearly as much material as Lord Morbivod. Between Stíny Plamenů, Umbrtka, Trollech, and War for War he must release nearly five or six albums a year. You would think some of this material would be very poor after a while... not so, I think just about everything he has produced is really great material. Stíny Plamenů return again on Barbarian Wrath limited to 666 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #422.

I really did enjoy the debut full length "Ve Špíně Je Pravda," but in terms of my discovery I heard "Rány Černým Kovem" first and I already knew I loved it. I think I had heard some samples somewhere and that's what prompted me to start following the project. I think the first song "Předzvěst Války Za Čistírnu" is one of my favorite Stíny Plamenů songs ever created. It immediately hits the listeners hard and hooks them in with some extremely well written riffs. Given the sheer volume of music Lord Morbivod can create while maintaining a decent level of quality shows what a master musician he is. He definitely has this burning need to create art and I can't imagine he has much time for anything else.

"Rány Černým Kovem" is recorded in the same fashion as "Ve Špíně Je Pravda". It was recorded in Lord Morbivod's home studio and uses programmed drums. Surprisingly the programmed drums came out quite well and you can tell the sampling ability has gotten a lot better over the years. I remember in the 90's when bands would use drum machines and it would sound comical... unless it just worked well, like with Mysticum and Limbonic Art for some reason. Anyway, the music has that Stíny Plamenů signature sound, which is heavily rooted in the Czech area. Sections of songs are very melodic and have a somewhat upbeat quality at times, all the while playing intensely raging Black Metal. "Druhý Příjezd Vévodův" is a prime example of this kind of style.

In the end this was probably one of my favorite albums released this year. Even after all these years, I think this is still the album I listen to the most from Stíny Plamenů. In some respects I don't know what it is that really draws me into this album, but I just love everything about it. Closing off with a Dark Funeral cover just seals the album perfectly. I think I need to go with my favorite and opening track of the album...

Stíny Plamenů - Ve Špíně Je Pravda
Barbarian Wrath, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. Válka Na Zvradlech
2. Výprava Za Pravdou Spíny
3. Návrat Mistra
4. Rozhovor O Důkazech
5. Obsah Stoky Se Rítí Městem
6. Zaplavili Jsme Boží Sídlo Odpadní Vodou
7. Morbivodní Potrubí
8. Místo Pohřbu Zbytků Všech Svatých
9. Nightwing (Marduk Cover)

When I first learned of this bands concept, I could not resist purchasing an album by them.  “Ve Špíně Je Pravda" was actually the last album I got in their discography because it was the hardest for me to track down at the time. This is a one man project and the concept deals with stories about the Sewers.  No, this is not a Ninja Turtles conceptual piece, rather Lord Morbivod makes up his own tales of terror in the sewers.  There is apparently a whole dark society living in the sewers in his world.  I’m going out on a limb and assuming he lives near an abandoned sewage facility for the album cover brandishes a picture of him standing imposingly in the sewers.  He has dubbed his music its own variation of Black Metal as “Wastewater Black Metal.”  Personally I think he should have used Raw (Sewage) Black Metal.  The music is raw enough to work with that description also, but ah well, Wastewater Black Metal it is! Now we shall delve into why “The Truth is in the Dirt” (English translation of the album title).

The lyrics themselves are entirely in Czech so the only way I know what the concept is, is thanks to their official website.  For “Ve Špíně Je Pravda” the website states: “The war against the Waterworks continues even after death of the Lady, because the old buildings are still home and working place to many traitors.  Written documents are found that prove the assassination of the Cesspool Master.  A new weapon and (at same time) a means of transport is introduced - the great ferro-concrete wagon-headed Zvradlomachine.  The Cesspool Masters gains life again while a lot of Christ-glorifiers and cripplesaints lose theirs.”

That’s the only English related material I can find on the lyrics, Lord Morbivod does not translate them for us on his website, which is unfortunate.  Say what you want about the lyrical concept, but you cannot deny in any way that it is a very original idea.  All his albums are concepts based around these stories he makes up.  This is the third in the story that exists right now and it’s a strange way to write-up a story since it’s based to glorify the lords underneath the world and they are at war with the Christians on the outside of their realm.  I don’t know if he designed it like this on purpose as a joke initially to show how it’s all such a joke and that Christians go to such ludicrous lengths to try and promote their religion and so forth.  I’m merely speculating, but as for an original concept, I can’t sit here and say it’s unoriginal at all!  In fact coupled with music this good it actually makes the concept rather exciting and makes me want to know what happened in this story line he has created with all the varying characters involved.  In fact, the different vocal tones and inflections Lord Morbivod uses all represent an individual character.  Maybe not on every song on this album, but I know he does take that in consideration when he’s arranging his material and it’s a very excellent move in my opinion.

Now, I’m sure at this point my readers are assuming the music is ridiculously silly because of the concept, but I assure you it definitely is not.  In fact this is some of the better Black Metal I’ve heard performed.  The opening guitar sequence somewhat throws you off track because you do initially think it might be quite silly, but then the real Black Metal actually kicks in and you know the musical approach is no joke at all.  In fact it’s actually really well done and great to listen to. Lord Morbivod is clearly a master musician at his craft and despite the use of programmed drums they don’t bother me in the least.  Perhaps a live drummer would be a better choice, but with guitar riffs this good I can’t honestly complain in the overall.  This is the first official full length by Stíny Plamenů so naturally, it is somewhat on the primitive edge, I read that it was initially just another demo until Barbarian Wrath picked it up and decided to release it.  Honestly, I wish they would re-release the previous two demos separately as well.

This is quite an improvement over the prior release "Pokles Do Temnot Kanalizačních Hlubin." The production alone is a major stand out factor because it’s a bit more fierce and heavier. "Pokles Do Temnot Kanalizačních Hlubin" was far thinner than even this recording. Albeit "Ve Špíně Je Pravda" was quite thin against other releases I’ve heard, but it appears to be a growing improvement.  Not to mention the overall songwriting is much more well thought out, though he didn’t use any clean guitar sequences on "Ve Špíně Je Pravda" like he did on "Pokles Do Temnot Kanalizačních Hlubin" which was a bit unfortunate in my opinion, not that they were used very often in the first place anyway.  Though there isn’t a stand out really catchy track like "Zuřivý Monolog Syna Poklopů (Zničení Vodárny)" on "Ve Špíně Je Pravda," which, again, is somewhat unfortunate because that track was by far a great standout track on the prior album and really hooks the listener in.  "Ve Špíně Je Pravda" does hook you on its own though, but I think Lord Morbivod is still working things out and trying new things from time to time.

Aside from being shocked that the music was this incredible, the other part that really shocked me was the vocal performance.  What a fierce and well thought out performance!  This might be due to the fact that I initially bought this for a laugh, but I was amazed to hear something this well done.  He has a rather simple range on this album, being that he has the usual high range Black Metal vocals, some lower range sequences that lend credence to Death Metal and then the occasional clean vocal performance.  In the grand scheme of this album Lord Morbivod isn’t doing anything entirely original, but he is in some way?  It’s got this interesting indescribable factor to his music that is just fresh and new to me.  He uses all the general elements of Black Metal, but he has a clearly defined distinct essence from other bands and creates a wholly different atmosphere.  Maybe it’s the types of guitar riffs he writes, which are different from standard Black Metal at times bearing more of a melodic twist and sometimes having a slightly upbeat sequence for a moment in the midst of a song.  I don’t think his desire was to create something truly terrifying or evil like Ondskapt or Funeral Mist would attempt to do, but Stíny Plamenů stand on a plane of existence all their own.  I can’t liken them to any other band to be honest.  They are just Stíny Plamenů and I haven’t really heard anything like them despite the fact they don’t have anything overly new being used in their songwriting elements.  It’s really very difficult to put your hands on and I highly recommend you buy this album to just subject yourself to this very interesting work.

A very interesting fact is that this album closes with “Nightwing,” which was original written by Marduk.  That was also another major motivation I had in really tracking this down after I had heard other Stiny Plamenu material.  I didn’t know how well he could pull off a Marduk song because guitar tone wise alone Stíny Plamenů is quite different.  He did quite well in the performance, I must say.  The Marduk version is immensely heavier and fierce though, to be honest. Stíny Plamenů doesn’t exactly use seven string tuning and uses a much thinner guitar tone altogether, so the Stíny Plamenů version was a little thinned out.  Lord Morbivod’s guitar performance was flawless though, except that it lacked some of the serious punch you expect to get from a Marduk song.  Also Morbivod isn’t exactly Legion, he does a good job with it, I’ll admit, but Legion has this certain quality to his voice that not many vocalists can touch.  Especially during the “Nightwing” recording era when Legion’s voice was in his absolute prime.  So basically it’s not nearly as good as the Marduk song, but I don’t think Lord Morbivod was entirely trying to do that in the first place, merely pay homage to a band he enjoys quite a bit.

Overall, this is a strangely fresh approach to Black Metal.  If you think the concept is silly and can’t handle it, then ignore it altogether and just listen to the music.  I can’t imagine too many Black Metal fans out there not enjoying this performance, maybe unless you’re one of those people that only want to hear the five thousand Darkthrone clones that exist today.  Either way, it seems Stíny Plamenů draw from numerous influences and combine a lot of them into something fairly new and fresh for listeners.  It’s a very nice change of pace from the constant rip offs that exist today.  Regardless,I feel this is a very worthy purchase and a very well performed album.

Stíny Plamenů - Pokles Do Temnot Kanalizacních Hlubin
Self-Released, 2000
Genre: Black Metal

1. Pokles Do Temnot Kanalizacních Hlubin
2. Vodárenská mafie
3. Príjezd Vévody z Libkanu
4. Zurivý Monolog Syna Poklopu (Znicení Vodárny)
5. Procitnutí Pána z Cistírny (zabití vodárenské paní)
6. Šedá Pohrební Zvradla
7. Cosi podivného se stalo ve stoce
8. Jen pro stoky chci žít
9. Throne of Satan
10. Ústrední hrbitov

Now this is the original demo I really wanted to hear.  Not all of these tracks made it onto the "Dive Into the Wastewater" re-release.  So, needless to say I'll be posting one of those unreleased tracks at the bottom of the review.

After hearing the first demo, I definitely wanted to hear more from this musician.  He has definitely matured a lot in terms of composing and I am not surprised that it was after this he got picked up to release his music on a label.  "Pokles Do Temnot Kanalizacních Hlubin" is basically a continuation of the prior release.  I usually wouldn't describe Black Metal as "fun" to listen to, but it certainly is in the case of Stíny Plamenů.  I think it is that strange upbeat quality blended with the harsh Black Metal that makes this work.  This would typically be something I would never imagine would work, but Lord Morbivod manages to pull it off and sound quite good at the same time. On this album he played with a lot more clean guitar arrangements and at times blended them into the Black Metal performance.  This certainly makes things feel a lot more dynamic compared to the first album, which didn't have very much of it.

I'm not sure why the last three tracks are omitted from the re-release.  They are fairly similar to the rest of the tracks.  It also boasts a Stíny Plamenů song mostly in English!  "Throne of Satan" lyrically, is not different from something Dark Funeral would have written in their early days.  In fact the guitar work isn't too different from that of Dark Funeral and Marduk blended together.  The other two tracks are patently Stíny Plamenů originals though.  Maybe these are extremely early songs because "Ústrední hrbitov" sounds really primitive.  Even the recording quality sounds a little harsher.  Maybe since these were listed as "bonus" tracks, Lord Morbivod didn't really consider them as part of the full demo.

The vocal arrangements are much more varied on this release.  He's definitely exploring his vocal range a lot more.  I understand that each different vocal tone is supposed to be the voice of a new character in the Sewer mythology he's creating.  On this release we see him delve into some very high pitched screams in tracks like "Šedá Pohrební Zvradla."  I have no idea how the story is going because I do not speak Czech and I'm not sure an online translator will do any of it justice.

In the end, I don't think you can really go wrong with Stíny Plamenů.  If you enjoyed the first demo, I can't fathom why you wouldn't enjoy this one!  Now to decide which song to post... I think I will opt for the English one, since it is unusual at this time.

Stíny Plamenů - Blackmetalové peklo ve špíne kanalizacní vody
Self-Released, 1999
Genre: Black Metal

1. Visutá stoka smrti
2. Kanalizacní peklo ve víru cerné vody
3. Cerná stoka je hrobem všech svatých
4. Klenba prokleté kanalizacní stoky
5. Já pro stoky chci žít
6. Významné kanalizacní osobnosti a príšery
7. Rozhovor I
8. Rozhovor II - Satanovy kalové hody
9. Déšt kanalizacních poklopu

Here begins a major career for Lord Morbivod!  I believe Stíny Plamenů is his first conceived project, but if you look at the dates of his other projects he swiftly put together all kinds of different music.  I'm actually not sure if this is his first project or if this was the first one he finished recording!  This is another mp3 review.  I don't have a booklet or anything too look through, which is very disappointing.  But I'm happy to get the mp3's at least, since these early works have been hard to find for me.

Lord Morbivod has dubbed Stíny Plamenů to be termed "Wastewater Black Metal".  Nor normally I hate these embellished terms, but for Lord Morbivod I will allow it.  This is really just Black Metal, the reason for the "Wastewater" identifier is because this is all about the Sewers.  Apparently in the Czech Republic they have some historic sewer system and as you can see on the cover, Lord Morbivod is no stranger to this place.  The lyrical content is really what gives you the extra genre term.  Here he has crafted all manner of stories about the Sewer people and their fight against Christianity.  Sure, this is comical, and less than serious Black Metal, but for some reason I don't mind this at all.  It's sort of like Cranium, but with more serious sounding music and just ridiculous lyrics to go with the music.

Despite the fact that this really just has all the elements of typical Black Metal, I can't help but think this has a slightly different feel.  The music is dark and vicious at times, but at others it has this really strange fairly upbeat feel to it.  It's a very strange quality and I think it shows up in a fair amount of Czech Black Metal, which gives the region it's own atmosphere.  One aspect that might do this in for people is the fact the drums are programmed.  I've sort of gotten over my "the drums need to be real" phase and realize that it's not always feasible for people to acquire a drummer good enough to play these kinds of drum lines. Unfortunately in 1999 the available drum programs didn't sound very good.  So this basically sounds like the drums you hear on early Limbonic Art material.  They're clearly fake, but at least they are well arranged and don't distract from listening to the music too much.  I quite enjoy Lord Morbivod's guitar work, even though it is fairly basic on this first demo.  You can tell he's still feeling things out with his musical ideas... and then for some reason a creative explosion happens and before we know it he has four bands going!  Oh well, our gain I suppose.

The vocals are fairly standard Black Metal.  His vocal tone actually sounds extremely good with his music.  I don't know how he would fair with other bands and other guitar tones, but it really works with his compositions here.  He does try to vary things up a little bit and we hear some clean vocals enter during "Rozhovor I", but it is not enough to make us annoyed by them amidst furious Black Metal.

In the end, this is a fairly decent start for the Stíny Plamenů project.  This entire demo was later re-released on "Dive into the Wastewater", so if you missed out on the first pressing of this, you at least got a second chance to hear it.  It won't be long before Stíny Plamenů really start to make some great material though!

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