Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Death Fortress

Death Fortress - Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable
Fallen Empire Records, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. King's Blood
2. Arrogant Force
3. Fifth Season
4. Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable
5. Pride of the Enslaver
6. Ancestor's Call

Huge changes have taken place in the ranks of Death Fortress and now they boast a full line-up. Rather than this being a mere solo project, a new bassist and drummer join the ranks and it really does fill out the sound a bit more. At the end of "Mirror Into Eternity" I wanted to see the band push the Hate Forest sound a bit further and I think they've managed to, essentially, do this on "Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable." This release comes as a beautiful 12" LP and contains a lyrical insert. The cover is absolutely stunning and is very reminiscent of an Aliens sort of art theme. Not precisely an H.R. Giger clone, because the film really extended the image of the Aliens, but the Death Fortress looks more like the Alien hive concept which we saw in the films. Strangely this music isn't very Alien themed.

Don't worry, the Hate Forest core sound is definitely still alive and well in Death Fortress, they've just built upon that core and extended the range of that general concept. They've added some layers of complexity, as we can hear in the title track. I think working with a full band affords them the ability to experiment with this a little more. I really do love hearing live drums behind the material, it's something that I think would have rounded out the Hate Forest sound so well, and also why I really love that split with Ildjarn. They really do an excellent balance between that harsh and hateful sound Hate Forest produces and some of the more melodic atmospheres in Black Metal. The great part about the atmospheric edges is that they didn't just blend in some Drudkh material, they blended other types of elements in. So, the Hate Forest still retain that hateful majesty in their overall presentation, but then the band builds in their own sort of atmospheric blend from other areas of the genre giving the music sort of its own feel. With the new bassist also handling some of the vocal parts we get a much more dynamic vocal performance as well. With J's incomprehensible lows mimicking the Hate Forest style and T having a more mid-range quality behind his voice. It really breaks up the monotonous vocal performance of the prior albums, but was also a staple of the Hate Forest sound. I really do like having this kind of variation and, as I said before, really helps round out the sound making the experience a lot more full.

This is basically what I was hoping the band would do at this point. Keeping a core atmosphere, while rounding it out and exploring more fringe elements to blend into the style. I think Death Fortress are really starting to come into their own with this release. They're offering a lot more than just a Hate Forest clone experience with the debut full-length. I think a lot of people out there will find this to be a very compelling release. So, if you're curious what other direction the Hate Forest sound could have gone in, rather than the Blood of Kingu route, check out Death Fortress, you will not be disappointed.

Death Fortress - Mirror Into Eternity
Fallen Empire Records, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Asceticism Anorexia
2. Within the Fortress
3. Master-Deceiver
4. Desolate Earth Temple
5. Death Continuum
6. Mirror Into Eternity

Shortly after the split with Axis of Light, Death Fortress return with this cassette EP. Even though this is classed as an EP, don't be fooled, there is over thirty minutes of music to enjoy. This is about as long as Hate Forest full-length and with this we are really able to immerse ourselves in Death Fortress' sound. This is the experience I have been missing whenever I just get teased by the single or two track release from bands like this "Mirror Into Eternity" seeks to slake our thirst for a deeper and more encompassing experience.

If you love the Hate Forest albums "Sorrow" and "Purity", this is the kind of follow-up you've been waiting years for. It's extremely well done in that style and I certainly enjoy it for what it is. There aren't enough bands out there performing like this, in my opinion. The only thing with Death Fortress is that it's such a precise version, that I'm hoping this project will actually advance the Hate Forest style. Now that they've truly mastered it and shown they can compose on a level as high as "Sorrow" and "Purity" consistently, I want to see them push boundaries in this style rather than just releasing another "Sorrow" album.

Now that I feel my thirst has been slaked for some Ukrainian Black Metal worship, I want to see what Death Fortress can do next. This is an excellent EP, but it doesn't deviate from the Hate Forest formula very much, which is the only complaint I can see being raised towards this. Sometimes I don't mind worship bands if its in a particular style that I enjoy and isn't overdone, so that's probably why I've been enjoying the Death Fortress material, whereas I can't bother with Emperor clones very much, because that is copied way too often. Either way, if you miss the good old days when Hate Forest was an active project this EP is probably something that will entertain you to some degree.

Axis of Light & Death Fortress
Mordgrimm, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

Axis of Light:
1. Illuminating the Temple / Secrets of the Tomb
Death Fortress:
2. From the Immortal Thrones

Axis of Light: ...coming eventually...
Death Fortress:

I didn't get "Pulling Ancient Stone" too far after it's release, but I turn around for a few minutes and suddenly I'm missing out on three releases from Death Fortress. The solo project focusing on Hate Forest worship continues on with one more track for this split released on cassette once again. It's kind of incredibly how perfectly this band has harnessed the Hate Forest sound. The guitar tone is ultra-thick and heavy sounding, but it also has this sort of soaring majestic quality. The only major difference is I feel like elements of the Drudkh's future style was present in the Hate Forest feel, but with Death Fortress, at least this song, it has more of a dissonant feel to it blended in as well. The soaring majesty shows up from time to time, which is wonderful, but I Death Fortress is building even further on the Hate Forest sound as well. Like "Pulling Ancient Stone" it's just not enough music. I feel like the Hate Forest style has a rather expansive quality where you really need a full-length to be drawn into what the musician is truly after. So, after a single track, I'm just left wanting more. I'm sure that day will come, after all, Death Fortress really is just starting out. However, what this project is pulling off is actually quite wonderful!

Death Fortress - Pulling Ancient Stone
Fallen Empire Records, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Eternal Enemies
2. Pulling Ancient Stone

After the mighty Ukrainian project Hate Forest was put to rest, they packed their bags and moved to New Jersy in the U.S.  Now under the new moniker Death Fortress they have returned with this two song demo.  Well not really, everyone knows Drudkh is going strong for the Ukrainians, but Death Fortress really is the continuation of where Hate Forest left off.  You certainly won't hear me complaining about this, I truly miss Hate Forest's signature sound and this one man project has really managed to capture it nearly perfectly.  I've tried listening to some of J's other projects, but they really didn't interest me much, so I'm hoping he'll continue to work on this one more.

Death Fortress somehow managed to capture that beautiful blend of intensity and majesty that Hate Forest was so good at crafting.  Under normal conditions I think I would be less impressed with a band mimicking another this closely, but let's be honest.  Hate Forest is one of my favorite bands and I haven't heard an original release like it since 2005, so I'm pretty pleased someone has decided to continue the Hate Forest legacy in some fashion.  J's writing is up there with "Sorrow", but I think the production is similar to the early days like "Scythia".  It certainly makes for a bit of an interesting blend, but it works out fine.  I don't think J's vocal performance is as clean sounding as Hate Forest, this is unfortunate because during "Eternal Enemies" there is a part where just the guitar is playing in the right channel and the vocals kick in for the center and it just doesn't sound that great.  When the full production kicks in any of the poor sounding tonal qualities is overtaken.

This comes on a dubbed tape with stickers on either side and has a pro-printed booklet.  The booklet only has art on one side, which is sad.  My friend and I have both purchased copies of this tape and I think there were some serious copying issues with it.  Luckily side A and B are exactly the same.  Anyway, both of our copies have a messed up portion of the tape so one song is unlistenable.  Between the two sides we at least have the full demo.  So if you happen to pick up a copy of this tape and it has issues, don't be alarmed... I'm pretty sure something went wrong.  My friend and I purchased the tape from totally different locations, so that's why I'm thinking it might be the tape itself.

So, if you're a die hard Hate Forest fan, I can't recommend Death Fortress enough.  I truly hope this project will go beyond only two songs and a full length will at some point surface.

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