Saturday, November 23, 2013


Monstraat - Monstraat
Fallen Temple, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Come Fire, Come Flame
2. War without End
3. Bone-Bleaching Sun
4. The First Seed
5. Killer Within
6. Through Raging Spheres
7. I Am
8. Black Star
9. A Poison Divine
10. Cleansing

After hearing the last demo Monstraat they were definitely on my radar and when I saw this new album coming in 2013 I purchased it as soon as it was released.  It's limited to 666 copies, of which I own 134, so if you're interested in getting one I recommend getting them sooner than later.

Based on the last demo I was expecting some pretty dark and vicious Black Metal, but I got something a little different.  Now to be fair, I think Monstraat is still developing their sound a little bit.  The first thing to hit the listener is "Come Fire, Come Flame," which is actually an extremely Thrashy song and launching the band onto more of a Black/Thrash format.  "War without End" continues this old school Thrash feel, which you would hear infused with bands worshipping Hellhammer and such.  Actually, I think Monstraat develop a bit more of a Punk feel to some of the songs, which is only enhanced by the very short song length.

Now, when we get to "Bone-Bleaching Sun" things take a drastic change and we got some highly refined and well written Black Metal.  The songs from the previous demo are re-recorded here and I'm quite thankful for that since they sound great in the studio setting!  The newly written Black Metal songs clearly fall inline with a serious Horna worship style and I get a distinct Finnish vibe from the atmosphere even though Monstraat are from Sweden.  I truly loved this aspect of Monstraat's writing, because I feel like many bands try to emulate Horna, but they just can't lock down a similar atmosphere.  Luckily Monstraat do a great job with this and I loved all the tracks written in this vein.

As you may be able to guess, I think Monstraat have some problems with their organization.  Part of the thing that makes their full on Black Metal songs special is the heavy amount of atmosphere the band is able to evoke, but when they put the shorter songs in there it truly kills any immersive experience I could ever hope to have.  I greatly prefer the Black Metal tracks, but the Black/Thrash stuff isn't bad, I just think they're better at writing Black Metal songs.  Just listen to those riffs in "A Poison Divine", just absolutely perfect!

Maybe the band will disagree, but I think they have a tough decision to make.  I think it's one they should really consider too, because I think they could have written a monstrous Black Metal album, but instead we get something that is essentially half & half.  I think they have two distinct projects running at once and they should either split them apart or fuse them better.  I'm a little hesitant on fusing things together, because the Punk/Thrash elements could kill the Black Metal atmosphere and feel forced in the composition.  This is how I hear newer Taake albums, some amalgamation of Black Metal, with Rock riffs thrown in for crowd pleasing.  This is a route I wouldn't like to Monstraat take and they have the potential to be far better songwriters.

So, despite some issues, I will say I truly loved the Black Metal songs on this album and I highly recommend people check them out.  If you're a fan of the older Thrash/Black fusion, then you should definitely check out those songs as well, they do a good job with them.  It just disrupts the flow of this album and you can't really "get into" the atmosphere evoked by either approach to the genre.

Monstraat - Come Fire
Self-Released, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Prayer I
2. Prayer II
3. Prayer III

Wow!  Just wow!  What an immense improvement in this project from the first demo.  Everything I discussed problems with has been completely fixed.  This is a demo signifying the huge changes the band has undergone.  It is no longer a solo project and now has two other members.  Johnny seems to have given up all pretense of playing instruments and is now focusing completely on his vocal performance.  This comes as a xeroxed booklet (single sided paper) on a dubbed cassette and limited to 50 hand-numbered copies.  I happen to have copy #21.

This is exactly the type of Black Metal I want to hear being produced by new bands and this really puts Monstraat on my radar as an up and coming project to watch!  Johnny has certainly found some prolific musicians to work with.  On guitar we have someone who has played with the likes of IXXI and Lifelover, so I am not surprised at all in the giant jump in writing quality.  I would now rank Monstraat as a 'must hear' project, as far as I'm concerned.  The writing is cold and vicious coupled with a great vocal performance.  The last demo was really holding Johnny back and I love hearing him in this new light where we can hear all that organic grit and torture you get with well recorded Black Metal vocals.  "Prayer II" probably brings in one of the stronger riffs on the album, since it is so heavy and vicious sounding, and my only complaint is the song only cocks in at a minute and thirty seconds.  I would really love to hear this song get fleshed out more and maybe in future recordings that will happen.

As far as demo material goes, this is pretty decently recorded.  The guitars are clearly recorded with an amplifier and they are not fuzzy at all.  Something I would expect from a professional guitarist.  The drums are far more interesting this time around, since I feel J.M. is a higher class musician overall.  No offense to Johnny intended, but his vocal abilities are clearly where his skillset is best used.  I just love seeing a band form where every member can put their best work into the effort and I feel like that has really paid off with Monstraat.

I really look forward to where Monstraat is going in the future.  A new full length is imminent as I write this and it will be arriving to me in the near future.  I will try to make sure I review it as soon as it comes in!  I am really excited to hear what this band can do in the studio after hearing such a huge improvement in their concept and sound.  Definitely pick this demo up if you can get your hands on it!

Monstraat - Beyond Angel Eyes
Blutvergiessen Produktionen, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Life Curse
2. One with Them
3. Lamb Denied
4. Beyond Angel Eyes
5. Döden
6. ...of Black
7. Cold Wings Wrap My Soul
8. The Forgotten

Monstraat might be an up and coming Black Metal band, but back in 2009 it was just a one man project.  This is their first demo published on cassette, which I'm sure was limited in some capacity, but it doesn't say anywhere.  The booklet is pro-printed on glossy paper with a dubbed cassette and it comes with a sticker. It's quite beautifully done.

Monstraat is populated solely by Johnny Lindh at this point and the music is extremely primitive.  It sounds like this was actually recorded on a four track, which is surprisingly for a demo released in 2009.  It suffers from a lot of the problems amateur musicians encounter when recording their first demo.  The guitars are extremely fuzzy, which is something I noticed happens when you directly plug a guitar in, instead of mic-ing it up to an amplifier.  Sure, you might get an easier way to record, but a distortion pedal is no substitute for the full volume feel an amplifier will give you unless you have very sophisticated software that will mimic this.  I do not get the impression Johnny is using any software, but instead plugging his guitar into a distortion pedal, then directly into the recorder, which generates extremely fuzzy guitar.  I'm fairly certain he's using a real drum set and those sound relatively fine for a demo recording.  They're far away in the mix as usual with these kinds of recordings.  The vocals are extremely over powering and come off as overly distorted in a very bad way.  Similar to what Blodulv sounds like and one of the reasons I did not like that project much.  Recording the vocals this way makes it difficult to tell if Johnny is a talented vocalist or not.  He very well could be a spectacular vocalist, but with this kind of a mix/recording it's tough to say.

So, needless to say the way the demo is recorded really worked against it.  I try to get beyond production flaws as much as I can, but on this demo they stood out far too much.  Looking at just the composition, it seems Monstraat try to herald back to the old early 90's days of Black Metal.  I'm not sure they really succeeded in this.  Some riffs have that passionate feel behind them, but others come across as an attempt to re-hash a bygone age that is just too hard to emulate this far removed from those early days.

In the end I think this demo really fails to capture my interest.  We'll see where things go in the future, but if they just stay in the realms of what Blodulv is performing, I might be able to be interested unless the writing improves dramatically as well.  That's what came to mind as I was listening through this... for what it's worth.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Hergorn & Hellveto Split
Nimthoron Promotion, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

Hergorn - Under the Sign of Ancient Gods:
1. Modlitwa Do...
2. Mistyczny Czas Umierania Dusz
3. Krzyk Rozpaczy
4. Taniec Kruka
5. Outro
Hellveto - Burning Kingdoms:
6. Intro
7. Screams of Victory
8. Potęga...
9. Windwinter
10. Czas Płonących Pochodni
11. Outro
12. Stony Pride

Side Hellveto: here
Side Hergorn:

Here is the release that lead to my discovery of Hergorn.  I was already a fan of Hellveto when I bought this demo tape and since I love looking into a bands origins, I naturally bought this tape as soon as I saw it in the early 2000's.  I had never heard of Hergorn before this, but after hearing this material I knew this was a project I wanted to hear more from.  Unfortunately they had already split up by the time I heard this and this would be the last material they would ever release.  Luckily they leave us with some very strong material to finish off their career.  I just wish we could have had one more full length form this project, since I feel their material was always improving.

There are some pretty interesting changes taking place on this release and the first is that all of the lyrics are in Polish this time around.  This is wonderful, in my opinion, since I love hearing the Polish language being performed in Black Metal.  It feels very fitting and I prefer it over broken English, which some bands decide to use rather than their native tongue.  The first thing in the recording we hear that's different is how prominent a role the keyboards are playing now.  The entire intro actually sounds pretty influenced by Hellveto, which I felt was fairly interesting.  The actual Black Metal tracks are definitely have that signature Hergorn feel, but the production is so different that it can sound unlike any other release from this project.  They've really tried to improve the production values and the drums are more thunderous than ever.  They also seem to try and balance the performance between the keyboards and the guitar a lot more, whereas in prior releases I felt the music was entirely guitar driven.  You can't hear the bass as well anymore like in the prior release though, so that's sort of a disappointment.  The increase in keyboards gives their material a far more atmospheric feel than ever before, but it's not enough to turn them into an outright Symphonic project thankfully.  I really prefer heavily guitar driven projects personally.

Despite all these changes the quality in the writing hasn't changed in the least.  Like in the prior split, they've really deepened the level of atmosphere in their compositions, I was just sad to see this happen at the loss of the bass' prominence in their compositions.  Once again I highly recommend giving a listen to Hergorn and in this case we have a split with two extremely good bands that are up and coming in the scene.  Alas, only one of them would last into the future with many releases.  I truly wish both bands had been able to have long running careers with a great amount of full lengths released.  I guess having one great project is better than none in the end... and I honestly wouldn't be able to choose which is a better project.

Hergorn & Alone In Mourning Split
Seven Gates of Hell, 1998
Genre: Black Metal

Hergorn: ...Of My Mystical Torches:
1. The Beginning
2. Torch of Pain... Desireborn
3. Torch of Hate... Bloodstream
4. Torch of Victory... Battlefield
Alone In Mourning: Crystalomancy:
5. The Depth
6. You, That in Crystals Dwell
7. Time of Unlight

Side: Alone in Mourning... coming eventually...
Side Hergorn

Keeping up with the Black Metal trend of doing a lot of splits Hergorn follow-up their debut full length with a split with Alone In Mourning.  This is an awfully strange choice since Hergorn play fairly intense Black Metal and Alone In Mourning play some strange offshoot of the Ambient genre, so the two sides of this tape are pretty different.  Like the debut this is released through the Polish label Seven Gates of Hell, which has a number of really spectacular releases.

Hergorn returns with some extremely strong material.  I quite enjoyed "Tales About People Slaved by the Cross", but their writing has even improved more beyond that release.  I think they've actually upped the ante in sounding more vicious than in the prior releases.  Their side starts off with a nice clean guitar intro that made me think this would be a more majestic output, but instead this is far heavier.  "Tales About People..." had some calm and beautiful interludes, but those seem to be absent on here.  Instead things are a bit more straight forward, and any time the songs take a slower turn they have a much darker representation than before.  I feel like this evokes a much more powerful release for Hergorn in general.  The closing track alone really exemplifies this point!

I highly recommend checking out the Hergorn side of this split, it's some of their strongest material to date.  They've even done better with the recording quality and everything is balanced a lot better than on prior releases.  They even managed to get the Bass guitar to stand out in an extremely strong fashion making their work sound quite incredible.  At this point, if I didn't know the bands history, I would be looking forward to the bands next full length and I would expect great things from them in that regard.

Hergorn - Tales About People Slaved by the Cross
Seven Gates of Hell, 1998
Genre: Black Metal

1. Song About the People Slaved by the Cross
2. Wolve's Son
3. Hergorn
4. Kehini
5. The Pagan Time
6. For Glory of the Fathers
7. Gród Swarożyca
8. Dab

Here we finally have Hergorn's first full length release.  This is also released on cassette by Seven Gates of Hell, which I'm sure is limited to some number, but is unstated in the booklet.  The booklet appears to have been printed on just a color printer, but it is double sided, where one is a color printed side and on the other the lyrics are featured.  This is pretty interesting, since in the prior demo the lyrics weren't printed at all.

Like "...for Glory of Our Ancestors" this album continues in a further progression of the Hergorn sound.  I think the aspect of "Tales About People Slaved by the Cross" that stands out first is how fast and aggressive the songs are.  I really think Hergorn have taken their hatred to a whole new level of viciousness.  I'm not sure if they've dropped all pretense of being a Pagan Folk Metal band and embraced being a full on Black Metal band, because that's certainly what it feels like.  I think the songwriting is much stronger this time around and it really has some stand out guitar riffs.  At times I am even reminded of Limbonic Art, which certainly isn't a bad thing.  Some sections come off with a similar haunting atmosphere, which is something I certainly didn't expect to hear from Hergorn.  That being said, I did notice that the keyboards seemed to be used a lot less compared to "...for Gloy of Our Ancestors".  Rather than use them through the bulk of a song, they are being used to effectively accent particular points, and I feel this actually works a lot more effectively in Hergorn's sound.

The production quality isn't too bad.  There are some serious problems with it, but there are some parts that are far better than the demo.  The first improvement I noticed was with regards to the vocals.  The vocal tone alone is much stronger, but they are also adding in an effective dose of reverb to add that excellent layer presented in most Black Metal out there.  The big problem with Hergorn is the production with the drums.  The guitar in the mix greatly overpowers all the other instruments, except vocals.  The drums are very far in the background and prove to be hard to hear.  I can certainly get the impression that the drummer is blasting away at the kit and once in a while I'll hear the crash of a China cymbal.  That's really the only aspect of the album that didn't come across very well.

In the end Hergorn have produced a very solid full length.  If I didn't know the bands history, I would say I truly look forward to the next full length they produce and I hope it gets wider distribution and pressed on a CD.  Alas, Hergorn have broken up long ago and all we are left with is an obscure legacy.  Part of me thinks this full length got buried in the explosion of Black Metal during the late 90's and given the huge amount of mediocrity being produced, people just didn't bother delving into this release.  Hergorn managed to write some extremely solid material for this full length and I hope presenting it on here gets their history a little bit of recognition.

Hergorn - ...for Glory of Our Ancestors
Seven Gates of Hell, 1997
Genre: Black Metal

1. Remains of the Ancient Times
2. The Godless of Eternal Slovonic Souls
3. ...for Glory
4. Dark Ancestor's Land
5. With Pride We'll Die
6. the Bravery

I first came across Hergorn when they did a split with Hellveto later in their discography.  From that point on I kept careful watch for the appearance of any of their other material that I could purchase.  After many years of waiting someone finally sold off most of the demos and the only one I couldn't locate is the first demo.  I can't even find ripped mp3's on the internet anywhere, so I'm giving up and just starting a review for the second demo.

I imagine this demo is limited to some amount, but I can't find very much information on these cassettes.  Despite having this released on the Seven Gates of Hell label the booklet appears to be a copied cover, which isn't too surprising for early labels/bands like this.  I think even some early Witching Hour tape releases don't have pro-printed covers.  Anyway, the booklet is mostly one sided, because on the side without any images it just has the following printed: "...every song is something like a hymn for the glory of those days and people who had a pleasure to live and die during this great periode. ... in our hearts ... forever."  So from there Hergorn are classing themselves as Pagan Folk Metal.  Which, perhaps, isn't very far off, but it really is just Black Metal with a fair Symphonic leaning behind it.

Hergorn remind me quite a bit of what early Nokturnal Mortum were doing at the beginnings of their career.  I think during this time bands were still exploring what it really meant to be classed as a "Folk Metal" band.  Viking Metal was certainly a known genre at the time, but the degree to which the "Folk" elements were being included was still relatively minimal, compared to how the genre would grow in the future.  So it's no surprise that Hergorn would fall under that category of Folk Metal, even though the elements are far more akin to Symphonic Black Metal and only rarely does a real Folky passage show up in the music.  This is almost exactly how Nokturnal Mortum progressed into their future, where today they use a lot of instruments from their early ancestors. Not only do Hergorn have elements akin to some of the other great bands in this genre, but I also get hints of some Czech styled guitar work.  The vocals, for some reason, really remind me of Maniac Butcher, so I feel certain that these are some influences playing into Hergorn's sound.

I think it's a shame that Hergorn's material is so incredibly difficult to find today.  Their second demo is some great and solid Black Metal.  I'm really looking forward to what they managed to produce in their future releases.  Even though none of their material was ever pressed on CD or widely distributed, I think they left behind a real solid discography.