Monday, January 13, 2014

Top 10 of 2013


First off, what an astounding year. Was it better than 2012? When I compared my two files between the years, I would say 2012 had more material that was better overall. 2013 still provided quite a challenge for the top tier releases, in my opinion.

That being said I really did struggle with what came out and organizing it in any fashion that made sense. If you, at all, agree with my tastes then this list will probably rank fairly highly on must have releases. I was originally going to split the lists between Black Metal and Death Metal, however, when I looked at the numbers I couldn't do that. This year I purchased around 150 Black Metal albums... I only bought eight Death Metal releases. So I can't even make a Death Metal top ten. Then I looked at how many Atmospheric Black Metal albums I bought and thought about splitting it along those lines. In the end I've decided not to do any of that. I made a top 10 list in December and waited for the new Arkona to solidify my decisions. In the end, I decided not to change very much. I adjusted some ordering, but I just stuck with my top original top 10. Obviously it is not possible for me to hear all Black Metal released in a single year, so this is my opinion based on the releases and material I happened to be exposed to.

I follow very strict rules for choosing my top ten and this is why you may not see some releases below.

Rules: No splits allowed. The album must be full-length, so no EP's and no demos. It must be an official release.

10. Monarque - Lys Noir (Sepulchral Productions)


Review: here

Sepulchral Productions as a label clearly won my heart this year. In prior years they have definitely released pretty good material, but nothing to the degree of material that came out this year. I feel like Quebec was the real king of Black Metal all around. Monarque has vastly improved their style, in my opinion, and released a truly stunning album with "Lys Noir".

9. Neige Éternelle - Neige Éternelle (Sepulchral Productions)


Review: here

Neige Éternelle gave us an album that was an exercise in the old form of Black Metal, but it is so well done that I can't help but give it some level of respect. Perhaps I am being biased since their live performance was quite spectacular, but I still feel this self titled can stand on its own merits. Another spectacular band out of Quebec.

8. Manii - Kollaps (Avantgarde)


Review: here

 It's no secret that I have greatly disliked what Manes has transformed their sound into. So, I was very skeptical when Manii released this album. Some hope was given that it was back to a two man project featuring Manes original vocalist. I was not disappointed. "Kollaps" is an album generating a superb amount of wonderful atmosphere. I was actually hopeful that this would be the new focus due to Manes calling it quits, but then Manes started up again. I do hope that Manii will be a new Black Metal outfit for the two musicians to work together. Their Black Metal, to me, is far superior to their strange experimental rock.

7. Gris - À L'Âme Enflammée, L'Äme Constellée... (Sepulchral Productions)


Review: here

This is probably the most controversial position I have on this list. I fought with myself long and hard about this. Gris initially appeared on my #3 position, but as the year went on I really tried to take stock of what I was choosing to listen to more frequently. Perhaps it's the time commitment for really absorbing this album. It spans two discs and is an incredible opus no matter how you look at it, but I think I keep passing it up because sometimes I just don't have the time to listen to the whole thing in a sitting. This is an album to be experienced, not something to be listened to in passing and perhaps I find the scope almost too grand. Whatever it is, I just know I'm not choosing it often enough to justify the #3 slot. I knew with my first listen that it would be in my top 10 at the end of the year though.

6. Seth - The Howling Spirit (Season of Mist)


Now this is something I was not expecting this year. I saw Seth perform at Messe des Morts in 2012 and I was pleased to see their return to the music scene after a long hiatus after "Era-Decay". "Era-Decay" hit my top releases for the year it came out when I used to run Hyperblast. I guess it comes as no surprise to me that Seth would hit my top 10 again. They are truly stunning musicians and I consider this one of their best releases and I actually think they managed to top "Era-Decay".

5. Paysage d'Hiver - Das Tor (Kunsthall Produktionen)


Review: here

Sometimes I worry this is a fairly biased placement for Paysage d'Hiver. It is certainly no secret that I truly love this project. This also isn't a major innovation for the band, but this is probably one of their best albums, so I feel it really does deserve some serious recognition in my eyes. Unless they change something drastic, a Paysage d'Hiver release is always likely to hit my top 10. I just can't get enough of this project and I apologize if my bias is setting them in a position others may consider a bit too generous. Again, I'm trying to judge my list based on frequency of how I often I listen rather than on sheer innovation only.

4. Inferno - Omniabscence Filled by His Greatness (Agonia Records)


Review: here

I have been a fan of this project for many years and when I heard a new release was imminent I was truly excited! However, I did not expect them to release something this stunning. Prior to this, I'm not sure Inferno would have consistently hit my top 10 of the year. Despite enjoying this project for many years, they were never doing something that topped other projects. For them to hit back and land in the #4 position is actually quite a shock to me. I thought I had a clear list forming until Inferno put this out and I had to revise my list pretty drastically upon listening to this. They have really outdone themselves this year and I highly recommend getting this.

3. Plaga - Magia Gwiezdnej Entropii (Societas Oculorum Arcanorum Records)


Review: here

This was a really unexpected release as well. I had never heard of Plaga before now, but this year I caught wind of this new band releasing amazing material out of Poland. So I tracked down what I could and eagerly awaited the release of their 2013 debut. For a band to debut with a #3 slot is pretty impressive. Plaga also forced me to make some major arrangement changes in my list. I know this has even hit #1 on some peoples lists, but my top two were pretty solidified this year and Plaga was unable to move them. Actually, when I had my lists split between Atmospheric and regular Black Metal Plaga was my #1 for the Black Metal list.

2. Sombres Forêts - La Mort due Soleil (Sepulchral Productions)


Review: here

I've noticed that I have a slightly divergent opinion with a lot of other reviewers out there. Many consider Gris' effort to be the better release between these two amazing releases. However, for me it has always been Sombres Forêts which I loved most. I'm not sure why there is such a clear difference for me, but I felt I was drawn into this album so much deeper. So when it came to listening to an album of this nature, I was always going back to hear this again and again all year.

1. Csejthe - Réminiscence (Eisenwald Tonschmiede ‎)



Review: here

I had toyed over and over with the idea that Csejthe and Sombres Forêts should be swapped in my numbering. Sombres Forêts' style is arguably more grandiose and compelling, but there's just something about this Csejthe album that I instantly fell in love with. This is by far the album I wanted to keep listening to more and more during the year. I feel Sombres Forêts and Csejthe probably stand on equal ground and it truly is due to my listening to Csejthe more that set it apart in any kind of quantitative aspect.

Now to answer some obvious questions.

What Death Metal did I buy?

The latest from Centurian, Carcass, Hypocrisy, Hate, Misanthrope, Purgatory, Suffocation and Trauma. I honestly still haven't listened to the latest Hypocrisy yet. The new Carcass was highly sought after and was reminiscent to "Necroticism" and this was a great thing for some classic sounding Death Metal. The ones I probably listen to most are the latest Purgatory, Trauma and Centurian though. So, if you like my Death Metal interests you should check those out.

Any demo material of note?

Well, Ephemer released a second demo this year that I thought was very well done. If they had released a full-length I would have had to re-arrange my top 10 for sure. That's about all I remember for demo material. I picked up a lot of classic demos this year, but Ephemer is the one new one that stands out for me.

Who else was up for consideration for your top 10?

Let's see Falkenbach was certainly toyed with due to their incredible release "Asa". He has really outdone himself in that genre this time around. Cult of Fire almost kicked Monarque out of the #10 slot and I really considered this for a long time and, honestly, both bands probably stand equal for me. But I had to cut the way I ended deciding to deal with my list. Mord'A'Stigmata released a shockingly good album that I absolutely recommend. I heard about this through the guys in Blaze of Perdition, which I'm thankful for.

Nekrokrist SS put out a full length this year and if you're a fan of raw Black Metal then this is a must have. I probably should have tried to find them a space in the top 10 considering how often I listen to the album... but they are certainly within the top 20 range.

Throne of Katarsis released a great album this year and it's funny because I had always seen their name on distros, but never bothered to get anything. However, I was impressed with their stage presence at Messe des Morts III and decided to give their latest album a chance. It turned out to be a very good album. You should keep this in context too, out of 150 albums this year that I heard, they were in my top 20, so that's very good. Graveland's latest effort is also worth mentioning. Rob Darken always does great work and I've been following that project since "Thousand Swords" was released. It was a tough year for him to compete in though, but he usually releases material near the top even if it's not in the actual ten best.

For the general Black Metal category, I definitely loved Aosoth, Arkona, Endstille, and Deus Mortem this year. That new Endstille was surprising to me because I haven't really enjoyed a lot of their music lately, so for me to put it near the top best this year was surprising. In prior years I would not have even considered it. They did hit #1 spot years ago with "Navigator" though. Arkona's effort was quite good too. I like them a lot, but some of their music was getting a little samey, but with their latest I feel like Khorzon really struck back with a solid effort. Again, highly recommended. A lot of people are going crazy for the latest Aosoth and they did an exceptional job this year. Deus Mortem released a very stunning album as well and they've really built a solid style on the full length.

Annthennath


Annthennath & Quintessence - Eram quod es, eris quod sum
Armée de la Mort Records, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

Annthennath:
1. Living in Vanity
2. An Encounter with the Dead
3. The Lesson of Fate
Quintessence:
4. L'Ultime Débaicje
5. Rendez-Vous avec la Mort
6. Le Repos Éternel







Side Quintessence: ...coming eventually...
Side Annthennath:

Wow, just wow. I was not expecting this and for some reason I was few months late to this release, but as soon as I found out about it I immediately ordered it. Based on what we heard with "Bridges to Nothingness", I expected nothing less than some of the most well crafted Black Metal out there. It's been quite some time since we've heard from this band and I'm glad to see they are still going strong and I truly do long for a new full-length, but I'll settle for a new split with the amazing band Quintessence. It is not often I get splits where I really enjoy both bands, but this is one of them! This is released on 12" vinyl and limited to 300 copies, which I'll assume will go fast, given how incredible Annthennath are. I still think Annthennath is one of the better kept secrets in Black Metal today, but they always manage to deliver some truly stunning material. It comes in beautiful gatefold packaging with stunning and historic artwork. This really makes the release even more worth getting.

It seems over the years the band has lost the guitarist Lyshd, but that hasn't stopped N from composing some incredible Black Metal with Welkin's incredible bass work in the background. Annthennath always manage to craft this incredibly high quality melodic and moody feeling Black Metal. It always has this soaring melodic element, but cast in an ugly disturbing fashion, which is fairly usual for the French scene and one of the reasons, I think, I adore the regions contribution to Black Metal so much. They take the oft used Scandinavian formula and twist it ever so slightly to give you an entirely different emotional experience.

In a mere three tracks we have an incredible experience. If you haven't heard of Annthennath yet, it really is in your best interest to do so. If this was a full-length it would surely be hitting the upper tier of my top ten for this year. So, I'm really hoping for a new Annthennath full-length in the near future. This kind of Black Metal should be heard by all, as far as I'm concerned! Get this before its gone.


Annthennath - Bridges to Nothingness
Armée de la Mort Records, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Life Abhorrence
2. Death Glorification
3. Nothingness Achievement
4. Rivières de Sang
5. Subhuman Terrorism
6. Omega
7. Existence Fanée
8. Suicide Onirique







Annthennath has had a very productive block of time and very soon after "States of Liberating Departure" they've already written and recorded new material ready for release. Unfortunately, this isn't entirely new material and "Bridges to Nothingness" serves as a sort of compilation once we move beyond the third song. After this new material Annthennath would grow quite silent for many years and as of 2014 they still do not have any new material being released.

This album opens with three new songs and they are absolutely magnificent! This is some of the best Annthennath material I have certainly ever heard. With the band writing material this strong I'm saddened to see they would quiet down and I can only hope they are working on quite the magnum opus in the meantime. The guitar work is exceptionally melancholic and the bass guitar really cuts through on these recordings making it a really haunting experience as well. Two very interesting emotions to go through at the same time and Annthennath really nails it perfectly. Shaxul's lyrics may be the most nihilistic this time around and with him giving voice to the music really sets the stage for a very memorable listen. "Death Glorification" is probably my favorite of the new songs though.

After this we get to hear the demo tape "Subhuman Terrorism" on CD finally. If you missed out on the tape it's a little different and more simplistic than their modern material, but I always like being able to hear a bands history. So, if you're like me and missed out on this tape then this is great to hear to catch up on Annthennath's history. "Existence Fanée" seems to be one of the more interesting tracks on here. It's a studio recording from 2005 before Shaxul ended up joining as vocalist, so the vocals are performed by N6. I think this track gives us an interesting sense of what Annthennath would have been like if Shaxul had never joined. I think N6's vocals improved quite a lot, but they carry a very different presence compared to Shaxul's. I think Annthennath's music would have still been quite successful, but Shaxul's vocal style really brings things to life in a very different way and I actually prefer his vocal style. Still "Existence Fanée" is a good, if older song. The final track is a noisy recording of the bands first rehearsal in 2002. You really can't tell what's going on due to the poor quality and I guess it's an interesting piece of history to hear.

In the end the new tracks make this well worth getting and it makes me hopefully that a new album would surface sooner, but it really hasn't. I really just hope this project hasn't been put aside, because I think these musicians were really hitting upon something great. This bands newer material is highly recommended!


Annthennath & Frostmoon Eclipse - Human Infanticide
Armée de la Mort Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

Annthennath:
1. Medea Encomium
Frostmoon Eclipse:
2. Newborn Misery











Side Frostmoon Eclipse: ...coming eventually...
Side Annthennath:

After an immense debut full-length Annthennath have also lined up doing a split with another new song. This song is featured on this 7" split with Frostmoon Eclipse and is limited to 300 copies. One of the special things about this recording is that it was done in Drudenhaus studios by Anorexia Nervosa's Xort, and I always feel he does an exceptional job when it comes to production. His methods have definitely let the Annthennath sound shine through perfectly.

"Medea Encomium" is a truly spectacular song with some of the more misanthropic lyrics probably out there. The song is an excellent blend of the more melancholic guitar stylings on the earlier material blended with some wonderfully raging viciousness. Usually this kind of thing can be difficult to pull off, because a song can wind up feeling disjointed and thus ruin the experience for the listener However, I think "Medea Encomium" really blends those two concepts perfectly. I really think Annthennath have put together a wonderful sound and I always quite enjoy when their music comes on. So, if you truly enjoyed "States of Liberating Departure" then this track is also a must hear for fans of this project.


Annthennath - States of Liberating Departure
Pictonian Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Survival Activation
2. Emotional Balance
3. Symbolic Awareness
4. Sexual Transcendence
5. Somatic Hedonism
6. Electric Destiny
7. Bloody Rivers
8. Atomic Demise







After a mere two demos, I still feel like a full length from this band was long coming. After "Paeans of Apostasy" you could tell the band had a strong line-up with a more mature musical direction and they were ready to log some serious studio time! Well they did not let down, the beautifully designed "States of Liberating Departure" is a great release. The booklet and all the art surrounding it are also quite beautiful as well, truly making this worth buying.

I really liked the direction "Paeans of Apostasy" was heading, but I still felt parts were a little disjointed. "States of Liberating Departure" definitely fixes any of the problems from before and really builds on the strengths of the prior demo. I will say the opening track "Survival Activation" is an interesting choice to open with. It's the hardest hitting and shortest track on the album. It's a very no-frills type of track of fairly traditional sounding Black Metal. However, even though it transitions into "Emotional Balance" well, "Emotional Balance" does eventually take one some of those more melancholic guitar arrangements we heard on "Paeans of Apostasy".  At times I hear touches of early Deathspell Omega, but I'm actually not sure how much that perception is influenced by Shaxul's signature vocal style. Other moments really hint at a Shining influence, but I really think Annthennath present stronger material for me. The real stand out aspect and what sets Annthennath apart from other bands playing this style is Welkin's stunning bass performance. He really makes this material shine. Annthennath's material would be quite good regardless, but the care taken with writing interesting bass lines really gives their music an extra dimension that just isn't as present in most Black Metal projects.

So, if you're looking for a band that sits in the realm of melancholy, but actually has a more vicious edge then Annthennath is probably just the Black Metal band to fit that requirement. It is interesting to hear that they can harness some very intense moments amidst a rather somber chord structure, but they pull it off quite well and everything fits together quite nicely.


Annthennath - Paeans of Apostasy
Goat Music Records/Genocide Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Paean of Apostasy
2. Terminate It
3. The Only Escape
4. Anti-Human Terror
5. Subliminal Terrorism










This is Annthennath's second demo and there have been some serious changes in this project. This is one of those time frames where a listener would begin to think this project is dead. It took four years just to get to a second demo, which could be considered unfortunate, but in this case I'm going to say the time away seems to have been quite well spent.

I think Annthennath have found a better voice than guitarist N6 on vocals. Here we find out where Shaxul went after leaving Deathspell Omega and I must say he fits in perfectly with Annthennath's sound. Annthennath's sound has also changed drastically. I feel like the guitar lines have become far more contemplative and melancholic. This really gave license to Welkin to develop some truly incredible bass lines for this album. I have a feeling that "Paean of Apostasy" is the most recent track composed, because it is by far the best on the album. The other tracks are good, but just not nearly as compelling in the same way. The album really changes with "Anti-Human Terror" and these seems to be closer to the material we heard on the first demo. This song had a more raw and basic feel to the way it was composed and it didn't fit as much with the rest of the atmosphere this demo builds upon. "Subliminal Terrorism" which is basically attached to "Anti-Human Terror" is just an Ambient outro.

So, other than the final track, this is an excellent demo. This is a great direction for Annthennath and I truly look forward to wear the project will go in the future. The addition of Shaxul really adds a wonderful layer to their atmosphere that just wasn't there before. While I don't think Shaxul would sound very  good in modern Deathspell Omega, he fits absolutely perfectly with Annthennath. He is lucky to be part of project that complements his vocals this perfectly again. This is definitely worth hearing and watching for the future.

Annthennath - Subhuman Terrorism
Krieg Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. Rivieres de Sang
2. Subhuman Terrorism
3. Omega













Strangely I missed out on hearing this band until very recently (2013). Given my love for Deathspell Omega and their early work, I never payed attention to what Shaxul was up to. Now, "Subhuman Terrorism" came out before he joined this project, but he would eventually join and that's why I end up with this demo tape now. I think this tape is quite long gone, unfortunately, so I am forced to review some mp3's I downloaded.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this project, seeing as how I haven't really listened to any of the material I own from them. The songs are pretty lengthy, so luckily the music is pretty good. I think at this point Annthennath have a lot of Burzum influence, but since I've never really been a huge Burzum fan, I rather like Annthennath's approach. One aspect that I wasn't too into were the vocals, since they model Varg's original high pitched wail for the most part. At times Annthennath's music is a lot catchier than a lot of the earlier Scandinavian bands. One aspect that really stands out is the bass guitar, which I was not expecting at all. In most Black Metal band the bass guitar is not very present, other than to thicken up the tone of the music (otherwise it sounds far too thin). However, Annthennath have the bass mixed very prominently and even it takes some lead parts during the music. This was a very awesome thing to hear. The closing track is an epic eleven minutes in length, but there's a solid break in the middle where we hear a piano and a human crying in pain or something with other sound effects. This sort of reminded me of something Shining would do and maybe there is a degree of influence from that project. After this break, the song picks up with some absolutely great riffing. The bass takes on that haunting feeling like we hear on "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas," which sounds especially perfect for closing off this demo.

In the end Annthennath have produced a relatively interesting debut and I would be interested in hearing what they produce in the future. I think this is a fairly strong beginning and I'm curious to see if they'll grow beyond their main influences.


Seth


Seth - Era Decay
Avantgarde, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. Marchemergence
2. March of the Consistory
3. Umbilical Cutting
4. Co-Existent Species
5. Ascention
6. H-Eradicate
7. Xtasian Ostix
8. A Pallbearer's Gloom
9. The Blade Upon Mankind





Well it seems that every time I turn around this year I get blown away by yet another album.  This is how it has gone for me so far this year.  I buy Blut Aus Nord’s “The Work Which Transforms God” off of a whim and I am completely astounded to the nature of the creativity.  I purchase Deathspell Omega’s latest album “Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Cirvmspice” because I liked what I heard on their demo.  The end results, is I hear a major contender for album of the year due to the immense creativity behind the music and lyrics.  Next in line to be released is the latest from Anorexia Nervosa, who changed their image and made their music all too compelling.  I had been anticipating another release from them, but I was surprised to see them improve.  Now most recently this brings me to what I’m writing about now... Seth. If you have not noticed a trend yet, I will point it out now.  All of the bands are from France.  Something happened this year in France where all their bands decided to release some of the best material this world could ever comprehend in one given year.

The most shocking thing about this is I was beginning to see Black Metal’s creative nature slow down in the Scandinavian countries.  Granted bands were still producing top quality material, but they haven’t been putting together material that I found inherently different or all that new to the scene. France picked up the ball this year and started releasing the next and much needed wake up call to Black Metal.  I honestly wasn’t expecting this, but France has changed a way in which I look at Black Metal.  I had accepted the fact that most bands would never be very well informed in terms of religion, but I’ll be damned, France with its incredibly rich religious history has fueled all these bands.  One of the more disappointing aspects in extreme metal is the inherently poor lyrics, but without a doubt France has produced some of the most intellectual conceptualizations of religion and philosophy I’ve seen outside of textbooks.  It truly must be a different culture over there.

Now, I enjoyed “Divine-X” quite a bit, but I would have never said Seth was a band to be reckoned with.  They were experimental in their own right, but they were missing something in their music in my opinion.  “Divine-X” was well composed, well thought out, the lyrics were marginally interesting.  Never, would I have expected Seth to become a top contender for best album in existence.  “Era-Decay” has piqued my interest to the point where I can ignore it no longer.  Granted Deathspell Omega has caught my eye more.  “Era-Decay” musically is by far one of the best things I have heard all year.  I am currently furious with France for producing so many possibilities for album of the year.  Especially from one country, that’s just too much to comprehend.  If you listen to one song off of this album make sure it is “Co-Existent Species,” possibly one of the finest Black Metal songs I have ever heard.  There is a section where the guitars play off of each other to create a dissonant, yet melodic passage.  This is only accounted for by their sheer brilliance.  The production is probably similar to that of “Divine-X,” but they actually use a lot of right/left speaker panning, which makes the songs interesting to listen to.  Sometimes it is very subtle and the listener is just impressed and proud of themselves for picking up on it.  One of the major things “Divine-X” was missing in its musical presentation was the sense of incredible power.  “Era-Decay” is performed with an incredibly powerful sound, it’s full and exacting.  It cuts right to the heart of the listeners being and leaves them desiring ever more.  I was disappointed when this album ended, for it is an incredible masterpiece to behold.  However, I would not want Seth to simply release a follow up album to this that is the same, I hope they continue to progress.  Though I love the style portrayed through this album.  There has also been an interesting line-up change on this album.  Their lead guitarist and vocalist Nacht who performed on “Divine-X” and albums prior to that has left the band.  Judging from what I hear on “Era-Decay” it is possibly one of the best moves Seth has made.  The new vocalist, Black Messiah, in my opinion is actually better than Nacht.  He has a much more powerful voice and appears to harbor more of a range.  Naccht’s replacement on guitar is also very suitable, for I can only hear good things coming from the guitars on this album.  However, the primary songwriter Heimoth is still with the band and he only improves as the years go on.  The drumming is just as exacting and interesting as that found on “Divine-X.”  However, I think as a writer Alsvid has become more refined for the drums flow much easier on “Era-Decay” and they were much more chaotic on “Divine-X.” “Divine-X” found Seth experimenting with keyboard elements and effects.  “Era-Decay” brings them further down that route; there are even instrumental tracks that are all strange keyboard effects.  This adds the technological feel to some of the tracks, but they are not used throughout the entire album because that would simply overwhelm the incredible guitar work.  This is not at all a keyboard driven album and it is by no means a blend of techno into their brilliant compositions.

The music has this incredibly powerful essence that gives the listener the feel that Seth is giving out commands rather than just playing a song.  Their message is also one to be heard, for their lyrics are quite well written.  The lyrics seem to deal quite a bit with genetics, or at least it is a recurring theme on this album.  I would venture to guess that this is probably due to the fact that the Human Genome Project has been finished.  This opens up a whole repertoire of material for extreme metal bands who know about the ethical issues surrounding engineering the human genome.  A major ethics issue comes in from a religious background.  There is even a French philosophy called Patrimoine Génétique that basically discusses how mankind was made in the image of God.  Therefore our genetic sequence and genome is that of God.  If one decides to tamper with the code then one is tampering with God and that is a very sacred element in terms of religion.  So God as the primary father of mankind would not want his image changed for it is a sacred gift to mankind.  Essentially God’s creation of the Genome could be considered heresy in some circles because the Genome is in a sense the essence of God on this earth.  Never mind my own personally knowledge of the fact that within all those A’s, C’s, G’s and T’s we are riddled with multifaceted replicating parasites and ridding the Genome of those may not be a bad thing, but ridding them could in turn create other complications with the human genetic code.  However, this is not one of my philosophy or ethics papers, so I will leave it at that.  “Era-Decay” is by no means a concept album in my opinion, which is something I find disappointing.  While some songs deal with the genetics of humanity, others deal with the existence of god and how we are all equal in the end no matter what god we worship.  “H-eradicate” I assume deals with the Hydrogen Bomb, since that makes the most sense in my mind, plus it discusses mass human destruction.  However, the topics are varying each song oozes with philosophical musings, which is something Seth has never really had in my opinion.  A type of drug was not even mentioned once on this album, which I respect quite a bit because on an earlier release they had a track entitled “Jesus Acid Christ” and in my opinion that is a preposterous philosophical analogy.  Maybe acid heads find it compelling and interesting, but I find it to be of below average education level.  Unless they are supposing the Bible was written by someone on “acid”...  Well, regardless today we have “Era-Decay” which is far superior in breadth and scope.

“Era-Decay” is surely a contender for album of the year, but I believe its lack of having an all encompassing concept is what will push it down from the podium. However, this album still receives a perfect score for its inherent perfection in all other aspects. Just when I thought I was going to be giving out a lot less tens this year, France had to come along and enter the market. Just when I thought I was becoming a much harsher and refined listener/reviewer France entered the market of Black Metal at full force. Alas, here are with some incredible music and yet another string of must have albums for this year. Enjoy.


Seth - By Fire, Power Shall Be...
AMSG Productions, 1997
Genre: Black Metal

1. Until the End
2. The Forest of the Damned (Forever Lost)
3. The Chimerical Quest












After hearing Seth's demo I don't think I would have ever imagined they would produce a recording like this. You really don't get the sense that their music is going to tend in this direction. Seth have returned with a new sound and even with a new logo. It seems none of the work on the rehearsal demo ever made it into the studio, which makes sense given how different the material sounds.

"By Fire, Power Shall Be..." is a recording soundly rooted in the sounds of Scandinavian bands, but this time around Seth evokes a far more epic and melancholic approach. All the tracks are over nine minutes in length and even include keyboard sections here and there for added emphasis. Finally Heimoth is able to record two guitar tracks and it really makes quite a big difference for the Seth sound. To top it off Foucon Noir's bass work is highly audible making for an excellent backdrop to the music. Seth sound very polished and experienced, which is shocking given that they're a rather young band at this time. However, they still haven't really hit that creative stage that truly separates them from other Black Metal bands that already exist. I get a sense of Dimmu Borgir, Old Man's Child, and Ulver from this recording. Keep in mind that this is with a 1996 reference and all those projects sounded very different back then, but they were no less extremely influential to the development of Black Metal as a whole. I feel that Seth is most similar to those bands because of how melodic and beautiful their music is presented. It's definitely not on the vicious or even extremely dark side. Instead Seth uses artful approaches with keyboards and acoustic passages to paint a beautiful picture for us. All around I found this EP fairly calming and beautiful.

Despite the fact that Seth is still re-inventing their sound, this is actually a really good album. Seth clearly show they are stellar musicians and beyond that excellent song crafters. I highly recommend checking this out and Seth is on my list of bands to watch for sure.


Seth - Apocalyptic Desires
Drakkar Productions, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Infinite Corridor
2. Darkness Remains
3. The Black Weapon
4. Apocalyptic Dreams
5. Until the End











Considering I've had this band discography for quite some time, I figured it was high time I start reviewing this given the fact they've returned in 2013 with a new album. This is Seth's original demo tape released through a young Drakkar Productions known for releasing very underground French projects. Seth is no different at this stage of their career. This demo is certainly limited to some number, but I'm not sure how many were made. I own #92, so maybe they pressed 100?

The early days of Seth were in the guise of a fairly raw and traditional sounding Black Metal band. The rawness is no doubt that this is a rehearsal recording according to the booklet recorded on the 27th and 28th of June. Naturally the mix is certainly suspect and it's not easy to hear everything through the incredibly raw recording. What I get out of  this is that Seth is clearly a skilled band with decent guitar work, but since this is a rehearsal there is only one guitar playing. One of the aspects of Seth that later became clear was how reliant on a second guitar their music was. The music is okay with a single guitar, but Heimoth's care with writing two guitar lines really made their music stand out a lot more. I think the French scene was still dealing with it's influences from the Scandinavian bands, so the demo doesn't sound too different. I think France's scene would develop more over the next few years and Seth would be a necessary band in that development, but during these times I feel like you either followed the twisted approach of the LLN or you followed in the footsteps of the founders of the genre. Seth is clearly following the Scandinavian approach, but I think they would eventually come into their own on future releases.

In the end their first foray into the scene is not too bad. I keep trying to remember the time frame in which this was released and thinking back to what it was like when I first heard Seth. I don't remember everything I heard and I don't think Seth was a band I immediately latched onto. It was only in later releases that I really felt Seth were doing something special. We'll see how it goes... I haven't analyzed their discography very deeply in a very long time.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mgła


Mgła - With Hearts Towards None
Northern Heritage, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. With Hearts Towards None I
2. With Hearts Towards None II
3. With Hearts Towards None III
4. With Hearts Towards None IV
5. With Hearts Towards None V
6. With Hearts Towards None VI
7. With Hearts Towards None VII









Mgła take a step back in their approach and present us with something that can only be experienced with calm and careful inspection. "With Hearts Toward None" is not an album you tell people about because of how "catchy" the riffs are, or how the moments induce "head banging"... no, this album is about a mind expansive experience. One that is achieved by sitting quietly and observing what is being performed. This is arguably the best album released this year. The release of "With Hearts Toward None" also brings us a new interesting fact, Mgła can now be experienced live. I happened to see them in Montreal with Forteresse and I have to say that Mgła is also the best band I have probably ever seen live. They perfectly embody what I imagine a proper Black Metal performance to entail. No crowd interaction. No moshing. No acknowledgement of an audience at all. This is everything Black Metal was meant to be and this is exactly how this genre was meant to be engaged by an audience. This has, naturally, only heightened my respect for Mgła.

Critics the world over seem to agree this album is incredible, but I have read many reviews about how it's formula is similar to that on "Groza" and I think they are somewhat mistaken. After a four year wait I would not expect M. to simply rehash something and I don't think he has. "With Hearts Toward None" is actually a lot more simple in it's approach. It's actually a minimalist ideal with a focus on building a very particular atmosphere. They still use the the approach of crafting an interesting rhythm while the lead section generates a more droning feel. However, a lot of the rhythms are a lot simpler this time around and the crafting of the arrangement focused on riffs that work well together, but in repeating them enough times when they first show up that you never have to return to them again. This way the listener feels rather satisfied with how often they've experienced an intoxicating riff. And these riffs truly are intoxicating. This approach of simplicity has also faced Darkside with a new challenge of writing interesting drum lines that don't drone on, but also creating a very interesting backdrop. He has succeeded where I feel many drummers would fail. Darkside creates very interesting arrangements and the way he interacts with the droning guitar sequences is very fascinating. He actually manages to keep up a feeling of monotony while doing fairly different things and varying up his drum arrangement. Subtle things stand out far more and one gets a more appreciative feel for his technique and arrangement ideas.

There isn't a single misstep on how this album was crafted. It takes four years to compose perfection of this level and that is some seriously hard work. This is another level of respect for me. Mgła don't feel they have to release an album every year or two. Instead Mgła release an album on their time-line when an album is ready for publication. The level of work and building towards the perfect feel is almost mathematical. The amount of work and time I dedicate to that subject is what I imagine Mgła dedicating on crafting an album. I am definitely glad they've gotten away from releasing EP's in the interim and instead focused their skills on crafting a single cohesive effort. I will happily wait four years for albums of this caliber.

M's lyrical approach on this album is nothing less than spectacular. The majority of Black Metal bands don't have anything interesting to say, but once in a while we hear bands with lyrics that are interesting to read. Mgła does have some standard stuff like calling down apocalyptic devastation upon the Earth, but it is done in a far more artful manner than the standard form. Also we get very different lines like:

A monument is risen
To be seen from afar
Erected by thieves,
Financed by murderers
And secured by lawyers

This evokes an incredible image of what mankind is mostly concerned with. Other tracks call for another massive flood. Beseeching angels to come and set the Earth free from the flesh, for we have turned this place into a reeking cesspool and nothing should be allowed to live here. We are not to afforded such a privilege. In many levels I have to agree... given the fact that I spent last summer looking at climate change models and my recent studies of how arctic ice is being affected... it's pretty clear that we are not worthy. Despite what the back of "With Hearts Towards None" states, the only solace I take is that all we are doing is killing an environment that supports our form of life. Earth will still exist long after we're gone and life will likely exist as well, it just won't be human.

If I had to find a single fault in this album it would have to be the meter in which M casts his vocals. If you read along with the lyrics the vocals have more of a "spoken word" format. They are just being spoken over some music, rather than trying to fit into the meter to carry the rhythm section together. It's actually barely noticeable when you don't read along, but when you do it is pretty clear. I feel that on "Groza" M took more care to fit the vocals into the music more cohesively. Now when it comes to vocal presence and tone this is actually leagues ahead of "Groza". Whatever vocal tone M has figured out since his wonderful performances with Kriegsmaschines "Altered States of Divinity" has reached a serious crescendo with this album. His tone is nothing less than perfection. While his approach may not be as dynamic as earlier works, it works with the droning approach for much of this album and keeps the listener in a very particular state.

"With Hearts Toward None" is, hopefully, not Mgła's magnum opus. I only say this because I truly hope Mgła can somehow top this release. Even if they get into a veritable writing rut and just build on this I will be satisfied. Knowing that a band of Mgła's caliber exists and continues to release solid material gives me hope for the younger generation of Black Metal fans and future bands.



Mgła - Groza
Northern Heritage, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Groza I
2. Groza II
3. Groza III
4. Groza IV












After "Further Down the Nest" I was really hoping for the best with "Groza." Luckily, after a year since that release I think M really nailed down the best ways to approach this project and still have it stand as a separate entity to Kriegsmaschine. I feel that Mgła have really locked down their productions issues from before. The guitar tone is just the right level of thickness to generate a nice layer of density for the listener, but it is not so thin that it cuts through their atmosphere in a jarring way.

Despite there only being four tracks we have nearly forty minutes of music to experience, and I do mean experience. Listening to "Groza" as a whole is almost a requirement, because the arrangements simply flow together so perfectly. "Groza I" kicks off with a slow and haunting guitar line, similar to "Further Down the Nest II", but where the latter track failed "Groza I" applies this in a far stronger fashion and builds to something much more meaningful. You also notice how well crafted the bass guitar is into their overall sound and this is maintained throughout the entire album. You'll really hear the bass guitar well crafted into almost every aspect of this album. Darkside's drum performance is simply perfect and I've realized that his drum arrangements are actually very interesting. I feel that without him behind the kit Mgła would be in danger of falling into monotony. However, Darkside seems to have a great intuitive sense on how to arrange and craft a drum sequence that truly compliments the atmosphere of Mgła.

Every song is quite dedicated to generating this incredible atmosphere and strangely I think some people may find the approach a little monotonous, but that's part of the transcendental nature of Mgła's music. It really puts the listener into a particular state and allows them to revel in each riff carefully. Only at this level can you truly hear all the subtle textures Mgła is evoking with their compositions in "Groza".

M's vocals are actually much stronger this time around too. He's really figured out a great way to blend the usual higher range approach with his lower tones. His voice really commands serious attention when it appears. Adding to that feel has to do with how the lyrics are written. They are short clipped sentences evoking as little as possible. But collected together we manage to have some well written and compelling material. I used to do lengthy analyses of lyrics when I was younger, but I just don't have time for that. However, I will say that Mgła's lyrical approach is much stronger this time around and ranks up there with the lyrics on Kriegsmaschine's "Altered States of Divinity". Mgła has always had fairly strong lyrics, for M is a great writer, but I think "Groza" really shows a level of maturity that was not as present in the earlier works.

Truly a stunning album. A clear top album for 2008 and Mgła is trending down a road that will put them in the top album every time they bother to release something new.


Mgła - Further Down the Nest
Todeskult, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Further Down the Nest I
2. Further Down the Nest II














After an incredible performance on the "Mdłości" EP I was excited to hear what Mgła had in store for us next. Unfortunately, they only had another EP coming in the guise of "Further Down the Nest". I wish I could say it was better than "Mdłości", but I don't think that's the case.

"Further Down the Nest" actually opens with an excellent track. It's vicious intensity blended with their haunting approach makes for a very compelling song. It also has this ever present epic quality that just adds to the layer of interest. The production value of these recordings actually isn't as good as that found on "Mdłości" in my opinion. The guitars feel a bit more thin this time around and I think that might affect the atmosphere a little bit. On "Mdłości" the guitars were a lot thicker and the recordings had a much deeper presence. "Further Down the Nest I" is by far the track to hear on this EP, but the second installment is a little lackluster. I think Mgła are still experimenting with what works for this approach. Perhaps this is why a proper full-length hasn't seen the light of day. "Further Down the Nest II" sort of plods along at a very slow pace, which sort of works for the atmosphere they're trying to build, but I feel like something is lacking in the performance. The guitar line doesn't really go anywhere, so as a result, neither does the song. Part of the reason this might not work out so well is because of how strong the first track comes across and the second just can't compete with it's overall strength.

In the end, I still look forward to what Mgła has in store for the future. I really hope they can sort out some of the kinks in this style, because when they do it right, it is literally like listening to Black Metal perfection! It was only a matter of time before someone invented this approach. I haven't heard riffing this cold and dark in many years, so when Mgła nail this, it really conjures up some nostalgic feelings, but in a very new approach.


Mgła - Mdłości
Under the Sign of Garazel, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. Mdłości I
2. Mdłości II














Mgła has deigned to grace us with their presence a second time in 2006. Due to my general oversight of this incredible project, I did not get the original 7" release from Under the Sign of Garazel, despite owning many releases from this label and being a prolific collector over the years. I don't know if I'm willing to pay the current asking price, but luckily in 2007 this was released on CD with their second 7" "Further Down the Nest".

With this EP they further the haunting style developed on "Presence" and we really do need a full length from this project sooner rather than later. The opening track "Mdłości I" is nothing less than stunning. Actually both tracks are stunning. Their atmosphere is utter perfection and somehow Mgła manage to sound so much darker than a lot of the other Black Metal projects out there. For example, the interplay between the lead and rhythm guitars in "Mdłości I" are utterly perfect and I feel like it's somewhat an unorthodox approach. For the rhythm section is actually playing a fairly catchy riff, but the lead section is playing a really haunting passage, which makes for a really awe inspiring experience. Almost no one is playing Black Metal like this in 2006. Mgła have somehow stumbled onto the next phase of Black Metal transforming it into something slightly different and far more interesting than what many bands have been able to accomplish.

M.'s vocal approach has even shifted a little for this recording. He's favoring a sort of deeper vocal approach than the standard higher ranged vocals in Black Metal. The end results is something truly dark sounding and I would never compare this approach to a Death Metal growl, because the way he's approaching the vocals actually feels a lot more haunting. It marries with the guitar's atmosphere perfectly.

I truly feel like I missed out on something by not getting this in 2006. I think this was around when I started backing off on paying close attention to the scene though. I think when you engage in something that closely for so many years, you need to back off once in a while... I just wish this hadn't been a casualty of that. In any event, the music is at least readily available on CD's now and I highly recommend people make it a point to purchase this. The historical value to the genre is immense.


Mgła - Presence
Northern Heritage, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. I
2. II
3. III













Mgła return with "Presence" a short EP of only three songs and that's really the worst part of this release. I would have much preferred a full length of this material. After their work on the split, I wasn't sure what direction Mgła would go, but whatever they decided to do with "Presence" was absolutely the right idea!

Mgła have truly improved on their sound. The songs are so much more rich than the prior material. I feel like their ability to craft songs with cohesive atmosphere has suddenly appeared. I feel like M has sort of stumbled upon this ability all of a sudden, because with Kriegsmaschine's "Altered States of Divinity" we get a similar level of high caliber Black Metal. Not only do the tracks generate a wonderful atmosphere, they are also epic in quality as well. This is a huge difference from "Power and Will", which didn't really have an epic feeling at all with respect to general composition. Even the vocal presence is far more varied and commanding than ever before. So Mgła have basically provided improvements all around and I really can't wait to hear what they have in store for us next.

For me, this is where the Mgła discography would truly begin. This is where they begin wandering down the path that would ultimately read to their magnum opus in 2012. You can hear early foundations being built and later we hear them become very strengthened. I remember not being terribly impressed when "Presence" was released, but I realize now it's probably because I never really gave it the deep consideration it really deserved. I regret this greatly, because I didn't Mgła was really heading anywhere at this point, but I see now that even back then they were onto something major.


Various Artist - Crushing the Holy Trinity
Northern Heritage, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

Disc 1: Father
Deathspell Omega:
1. Diabolus Absconditus
Stabat Mater:
2. Above Him

Disc 2: Son
Musta Surma:
1. Kalpeina Helvetin Tulessa
2. Ruton Ruhtinas
3. Hän On Pimeys
4. Valkeuden Hauras Tuhka
Clandestine Blaze:
5. Untitled
6. Destroyer of the Nations
7. Trophy
8. Behind the Faith

Disc 3: Holy Spirit
Mgła:
1. Power and Will I
2. Power and Will II
3. Power and Will III
4. Power and Will IV
Exordium:
5. Ei Toivottu Vieras (Intro) / Tyrannia Martyrum
6. Craving Vehemence
7. Unevangel

Side Deathspell Omega: here
Side Stabat Mater: ...coming eventually...
Side Musta Surma: ...coming eventually...
Side Clandestine Blaze: ...coming eventually...
Side Exordium: ...coming eventually...

Side Mgła:

I remember when this split came out and it was quite the release. Everyone wanted a copy and even today it is probably very highly sought after. I really picked this up solely because of Deathspell Omega's contribution, but I wound up discovering some very good Black Metal from the other projects featured on here. I was aware that Kriegsmaschine was around when this was released, so the idea that it's members would be presenting us with a new project called Mgła I was pretty interested in hearing it.

The Mgła portion being called "Power and Will" is some pretty good stuff. In some respects I couldn't guess they would ever morph into what they eventually did in the future, but you can hear some foundation being laid here that trended in that direction. The first song starts with traditional fast and vicious Black Metal recorded in a relatively raw fashion. I remember initially dismissing the band as performing material I've heard quite often and that's probably still true today. This perception would eventually lead me to the grotesque error of never paying attention to their vinyl releases and thus missing out on some of their high quality transitional material. Much of the music here has been done many times and Mgła aren't doing it any differently, so there are only some parts that stand out quite a lot. I really like "Power and Will III" because a lot of the riffing reminds me of early Deathspell Omega... and judging by the track featured on here, we'll never hear that again. "Power and Will IV" has some ruminations of Mgła's future and even some of Kriegsmaschine's styling.

In the end Mgła's first effort is solid. It's not fresh, but it takes time for bands to develop that level of caliber now. Mgła are a clearly talented band, but even back then I felt they could do more. We'll just have to wait and see what the future holds for this project.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Plaga


Plaga - Magia Gwiezdnej Entropii
Societas Oculorum Arcanorum, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro - Left Hand Prayers
2. Trąby Zagłady Cz. II
3. Śmierć Cieplna Wszechświata
4. Slaying The Spiritless Abel
5. Magia Gwiezdnej Entropii










Here is the moment we've all been waiting for. A Plaga full-length and they really give us something incredible to talk about this year. They've really solved a lot of production problems they were having on the prior releases. Everything is superbly well done so that only the darkest atmospheres shine through.

It's rather incredible how much of this very compelling Black Metal was released this year. However, when I look back at what had been released in 2012, this year is a little weaker, but we've still had some very stunning releases to celebrate this year. Plaga's "Magia Gwiezdnej Entropii" is certainly one of them. Black Metal's focus on crafting atmosphere has really reached an all time high. I would love to say this is the pinnacle, but I feel like every five years or so the genre gets a jump start with a new an interesting approach. The level of darkness bands like Mgła are able to evoke with albums like "Hearts Towards None" is simply mind blowing. I really hope people don't start looking at Plaga as Mgła Part 2, because I have seen comments to that nature. I feel like Plaga's approach is fairly different, but the Mgła influence is clearly undeniable. What I really feel we have on our hands here is a blending of Csejthe and Mgła's style to create something in between. The lead guitar sections a solidly in the form of Csejthe and they can even take on a somewhat melancholic feel. However infused with this is the sheer power of Mgła, which casts this feel in a vastly different light. Plaga sounds angrier and far more commanding, especially when some of the vocal lines kick in. I feel like I am being called to action, whereas I rarely got this feeling from either Csejthe or Mgła.

In the end this is a 2013 release not to be missed as far as I'm concerned. The Mgła influence is undeniable, but I do not know if the musicians in Plaga even listen to bands like Forteresse or Csejthe. If you like that signature Quebec sound cast in a more violent light this might wind up being a very interesting listen. I sure found it very impressive and this is an album I'm sure I'll listen to for a long time to come.


Plaga - Pożeracze Słońc
Societas Oculorum Arcanorum, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Goblet of Bitterness
2. Pożeracze Słońc
3. Sznur












Plaga finally return with a studio recording this time, but again with only three tracks. I like seeing that they spend a lot of time on their writing process, but I am eagerly awaiting a full length from this band! Perhaps this EP is just to show that the band is still working on material and new songs are still being written.

If you enjoyed the first two songs from this band, I find it hard to believe you would dislike this material, since it is written in a very similar vein. "Goblet of Bitterness" opens with a far more intense sounding approach than I was expecting. Despite the lead guitars having that somber approach, the drum work is fast and intense giving the song this strangely vicious feel. You would imagine that these opposing forces wouldn't seem to work well, but with Plaga they manage to make this work. It actually sounds quite different from a lot of other material being performed today and I think that's one of the reasons I think Plaga really adds to the world of Black Metal.

I need to geek out for a minute, because Plaga included something very cool in this booklet. Behind all the occult and ritualistic imagery, we unfold the booklet to see a fairly famous image from modern documentaries on cosmology. The image is a Black Hole siphoning off aspects of another Sun. The image alone is great, but what's even more interesting is they also include some of the physics equations. I've seen some of these when I was working on my degree, but one of the most notable is the equation that finds the Schwarzschild radius. This is the radius around a Black Hole in which light cannot escape, hence the division by c^2. The equation solving for T, looks similar to an equation called the Bohr radius, which was for solving the radius of an atom. I vaguely remember using this quite often when I took a class that covered some basic Quantum topics. I'm not sure what the other two equations are, I'd have to scour my text book shelf. The function solving for phi is probably a potential function of some kind, since that is a pretty common Greek letter to use for that. I have no idea what the fourth equation is though I don't remember seeing it.

Anyway, Plaga tease us with another great release. I still want a full length and I would love to see more math and physics! The drum production is a little better this time around, but I still think it could be cleaned up a little more. Not too much, they're very close to having nearly perfect production for this style with an excellent balance between raw and very well mixed. I truly can't wait to hear what will be next from this project, because I am expecting great things.


Plaga - Trąby Zagłady/Triumfalny Taniec
Self-Released, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Trąby Zagłady
2. Untitled
3. Triumfalny Taniec...










Plaga enter the Black Metal scene like a force to be reckoned with. Originally self-released on a tape in 2009, this band is quickly noticed by many in the world of Black Metal. I am reviewing the re-released CD version from 2010 published by Societas Oculorum Arcanorum.

The absolute worst part about this release is there are only two tracks. Plaga leaves us wanting more with every second that ticks by. I think many will draw comparisons to Mgła, which is probably a major influence for Plaga. However, the way Plaga approaches the lead sections feels quite a bit different and just enters a different level of atmosphere. It is unsurprising that we see this material was re-mixed by Mgła. The end results is some of the darkest and most compelling Black Metal being performed. The material comes across as a bit more melancholic and somber compared to the medatative intensity Mgła is generation. The only other aspect of this release that didn't work out very well was the drum production. Unfortunately, the drums came out very poor during the recording process and somewhat mars the material. I would love to hear the tracks re-recorded, but that is probably unlikely. Despite how epic "Triumfalny Taniec..." is with its nine minute opus, I think "Trąby Zagłady" is the stronger of the two songs. The untitled track is just an acoustic instrumental that merely sits between the two songs.

In the end this is some incredible material. It actually reminds me a bit of the type of Black Metal being produced by Quebec projects like Forteresse. However, Plaga's approach is so much more dark and sinister that it sounds like a very different take on that style of Black Metal. I really can't wait to hear what Plaga produces in the future.


Konkhra


Konkhra - The Vicious Circle
Self-Released, 1990
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal

1. Web of Nemesis
2. The Vicious Circle
3. Hunger
4. Living Savages

As much as I wish I had a copy of the Konkhra demos, I just don't. Instead I got the recordings from the special edition of "Nothing is Sacred". I first came across Konkhra with the release of "Spit or Swallow," but I always found their material notoriously hard to find in the U.S. Only after the internet existed did I start having a much wider range easily available to me! So I've been tracking down the other Konkhra releases and I was pleased to see the special edition had their demo material for re-release.

Back in the '90s Konkhra played some form of Death/Thrash, which was pretty typical for Death Metal bands around this time. As I've said in my other reviews, the Death Metal bands were still trying to transition out of the Thrash genre, which was quite a difficult task for many bands. Growing up and listening to all this great Thrash is naturally going to affect the way you compose music and Konkhra is no exception. The thing I like about hearing Konkhra at these early stages is their Thrash influence is a lot more broad compared to the American Death Metal bands. Being from Denmark we hear a lot more of that furious German Thrash sound that was so well known in this area. Even though this feels quite similar to a lot of the earlier Death Metal in America, it still has that touch of the more European sound that Thrash had. I'm actually a little surprised there wasn't much Swedish influence from the Death Metal bands like Edge of Sanity, Nihilist, Grave, and Dismember. I think the Swedish approach was much heavier than the American Death Metal bands, as far as guitar tone is concerned at least, but Konkhra favor a bit thinner guitar tone which is similar to the Thrash Metal bands of the 80's.

Maybe someday I will be lucky enough to own this piece of history. It's good as far as demo material goes, and was probably quite lauded in Denmark. For some reason I don't hear a lot of music come out of Denmark, but I believe Konkhra would be one of the premier Death Metal projects in that area.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sezarbil


Sezarbil - The Unknown Empire
Leviathan Records, 2000
Genre: Black Metal

1. Pagan's Wind
2. The Last Battle
3. Attack of Darkness
4. Prophetical Darkening...
5. The Curse of Painful Reality
6. Immortality Part II
7. The Unknown Empire
8. The Arrival of Lords of War
9. Wails of the Night
10. Géniové (Master's Hammer Cover)





This is Sezarbil's debut full length and after hearing their material on the three way split, I wasn't too excited about what they might have to offer. This release seems pretty difficult to find these days, so I guess I'm lucky to have found a copy of it. I do like the cover and album layout that goes with this project, but the music just isn't for me.

Sezarbil bring us another, mediocre performance, for lack of a better term. I don't think "The Unknown Empire" is outright a terrible release, nor do I think it is particularly stellar. I actually have a very neutral feel for most of this release. "The Last Battle" is a sort of more melancholic approach to Black Metal. It has lots of clean sections, relatively slow metal aspects all designed to build a sort of "dark" atmosphere. The problem is that it doesn't quite do that for me and there's nothing that really pulls me into the material. The next song is totally different with "Attack of Darkness", which has an excellent riff that hooks the listener in, but it really is just the one riff that works. Other parts of the song don't do anything for me, but that catchy riff is quite well done. The drastic change in song structuring is rather jarring, but in this case I welcome it because the opening track didn't set a very good stage for me. The rest of the songs seem to be more of a typical Black Metal approach, sometimes delving into something similar to "The Last Battle."

In the end there was just nothing that captured me on this recording. A lot of the Black Metal is highly derivative of the typical stuff being performed in the late '90s. I don't think it's done particular well, or else the derivative nature wouldn't bother me much and I would still garner some enjoyment. Right now Sezarbil are a band that just aren't performing a style that truly interests me.



Maniac Butcher/Sezarbil/Inferno - Proti Všem...
Pussy God Records, 1999
Genre: Black Metal

Maniac Butcher:
1. Metal from Hell
Sezarbil: Temný Sen
2. Varování
3. Temný Sen
4. Příprava K Boji
5. Zničení Církve Svaté
6. Immortality
Inferno: Chrám Nenávisti
7. Intro: V Prach A Popel Vše Obráceno Jest / Krev
8. Krajina Zasvěcená Ďáblu
9. Vládce Hor
10. Chrám Nenávisti / Outro: Dovršení Křesťanské Zkázy

Side Maniac Butcher: ...coming eventually...
Side Inferno: here

Sezarbil is another band where I give up on finding their demo material in any form. So we begin here with their three-way split limited to 666 copies of which I own #483. After finally sitting down to listen to the Sezarbil side (I honestly have tons of material I've owned for years, but never listened to), I'm glad I'm listening to this now after I've purchased their later full-lengths. I figured doing a split with Maniac Butcher and Inferno put your music on a higher caliber level, but I did not find the Sezarbil side of this very compelling.

Sezarbil play a rather odd form of Black Metal to me. They try to blend a very slow and plodding arrangement with some faster parts thrown in once and a while. Sometimes this can really work if the Black Metal is heavily atmospheric or haunting, but Sezarbil's approach is kind of dry and thin. It reminds me a little bit of what Maniac Butcher was performing on their demo material, but those were a very long time ago and recasting that approach with a modern band does not age well. Some parts are alright, but for the most part I found the music rather dry. "Zničení Církve Svaté" has a fairly catchy riffing sequence and is probably the most stand out track on their part of the split. Sezarbil close with a rawly recorded instrumental called "Immortality" originally recorded around 1996.

I have no idea where Sezarbil is heading from here, except that I've sampled their later releases and they were quite different and much better. I can sort of see why this material was never in high demand for a re-release. We'll see what Sezarbil do for their debut full length. For now, this music just didn't grab me.