Thursday, August 28, 2014

Anaal Nathrakh


Anaal Nathrakh - Desideratum
Metal Blade, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Acheronta Movebimus
2. Unleash
3. Monstrum in Animo
4. The One Thing Needful
5. A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair
6. Desideratum
7. Idol
8. Sub Specie Aeterni (Of Maggots and Humanity)
9. The Joystream
10. Rage and Red
11. Ita Mori




After the mighty "Vanitas" I was pretty excited to see Anaal Nathrakh's return with a new album. I was glad to see the two working together despite being separated by an ocean now. There seem to have been a lot of changes over the years, because Anaal Nathrakh now stands signed by Metal Blade, but I figured their sound wouldn't be affected too much by this. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of great things to say about this album. I think it stands as one of the more disappointing in their career, but it actually could have been fairly decent, which is why I think this is so much more disappointing. It didn't have to be a poor album at all, but as a whole, it rather stands that way.

Long running bands like Anaal Nathrakh aren't always going to release music I like and I absolutely understand their interest in experimenting after so many years. I also understand their choices of experimentation fully, the problem here is that they didn't really work for a few reasons. I'm going to try and explain this to the best of my ability.

Anaal Nathrakh have ventured into the territory of adding far more electronics into their music. This doesn't always turn me off immediately, in fact there are moments where Anaal Nathrakh remind me of the early 2000's when a lot of Black Metal bands started experimenting with this. A lot of the bands back then had more of an industrial feel added in, but this being 2014, Anaal Nathrakh incorporated elements of the ever popular Dub Step style. Now, I absolutely do not like that genre, it just sounds stupid to me, but with an Anaal Nathrakh backdrop it just might work. I totally understand why Mick used the style. It has this chaotic distorted quality that should work within the framework of Anaal Nathrakh's inherent chaos. Maybe this would have worked perfectly on an album as frantic and chaotic as the "The Codex Necro", but that is not the album Mick composed on the guitars. This is the most tame guitar composition I've ever heard from Anaal Nathrakh. It's moody and brooding and often times very heartfelt when we hit those melodic sections. Listen to the melodic section in "The One Thing Needful". Perhaps Anaal Nathrakh would have been better served by borrowing the electronic stylings of 20.SV, to keep that sort of distorted texturing, but in a far more controlled atmosphere. Some of the darker passages of a group like Hocico would have also meshed quite nicely with this slower sound. The songs that don't have any or very little electronics seem to work fairly well. But they don't truly hold up in the writing all the time, sometimes falling into Metalcore elements that are just unnecessary.

Another problem with the recording is where it seems Mick has dropped the guitar tuning even lower. It's running into those realms where it starts to become incomprehensible on the low notes. I don't know if this is in response to all the rage of 8-string guitars from the Djent scene, but it doesn't work with this style. It works with Djent because the low notes on the guitar are usually just single hits, but with Anaal Nathrakh, and Black Metal in general, there is a lot of tremolo picking. Once you get into a certain tuning range the low notes just sound all muddled together and stop standing out at all.

In the end I feel like "Desideratum" has conflicting goals with itself. I think if the band had focused on making a brooding and dark album that sounded huge, rather than trying to insert the elements of chaos haphazardly it may have turned out to be a more successful album. I think if they had focused on that kind of riffing instead of exploring other areas, this album could have pulled itself together as a real cohesive force. Instead this seems to lack direction and some of the compositions seem to lack the stand-out riffing of the prior releases. As the band sorts out direction, if they want to take a shift in their sound, we'll see if they can filter out what works and make a better album next time. I just hope they tend more towards the Black Metal than the core/dubstep found on this release, because that stuff just sounds idiotic in this atmosphere.


Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas
Candlelight Records, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Blood-Dimmed Tide
2. Forging Towards the Sunset
3. To Spite the Face
4. Todos Somos Humanos
5. In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis ici Bas
6. You Can't Save Me So Stop Fucking Trying
7. Make Glorious the Embrace of Saturn
8. Feeding the Beast
9. Of Fire, and Fucking Pigs
10. A Metaphor for the Dead





Here we have a new Anaal Nathrakh on the heels of "Passion". The last time this happened it didn't go so well for Anaal Nathrakh and they wound up releasing one of their worst albums in their catalog. I'm happy to report that "Vanitas" is a ridiculously strong album in their catalog. I did have some glimmer of hope for it, since there were some really strong elements on "Passion" and "Vanitas" really takes everything I didn't like on "Passion" and makes it go away.

With "Vanitas" I think Irrumator finally figured out how to make the elements of "In the Constellation of the Black Widow" really work the strong parts of "Passion". This made "Vanitas" as strong as "Eschaton" without making it feel like Anaal Nathrakh were re-treading that album. I think this is the direction the band was really trying to find over the past few years as they desperately tried not to redo things from the first three full-lengths, while staying true to their original foundation in sound. They seem to have given up on trying to make the melodic thing work, and instead have gone more for a haunting Black Metal element. Perhaps this forced the vocal line in a particular direction, but there are very few clean elements on this album. I won't complain, because this really works in  Anaal Nathrakh's favor in the grand scheme of things. The end result is an album that feels huge and dark at the same time.

"Vanitas" is truly a special release. It's been a long time since I've heard an Anaal Nathrakh album that was flawless and I enjoyed every single track. I'm really glad they managed to put this together and had it in them to really write something this consistently solid. Who knows what is in store for us next... but after having analyzed their whole catalog I'm sort of prepared for some decent albums that won't blow me away until another "Eschaton" or "Vanitas" rears its ugly head. However, Anaal Nathrakh make it well worth our wait for these immense gems that are just overflowing with solid material. "Vanitas" brings me back to the days of what made this band so alluring to get into.


Anaal Nathrakh - Passion
Candlelight Records, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Violenti Non Fit Iniuria
2. Drug-Fucking Abomination
3. Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria
4. Le Diabolique est l'Ami du Simplement Mal
5. Locus of Damnation
6. Tod Huetet Uebel
7. Paragon Pariah
8. Who Thinks of the Executioner?
9. Ashes Screaming Silence
10. Portrait of the Artist






Based on the last two albums, I wasn't all that excited with the release of "Passion". I didn't have the highest expectations, I wasn't expecting to be blown away, but I did expect something decent at least. I usually feel safe buying Anaal Nathrakh albums in that regard. As soon as I put this in the player, I felt like something was different. The past couple years seem to have done well for Anaal Nathrakh in the writing department.

Starting with "Violenti Non Fit Iniuria" this really had a different feel compared to the prior releases. A lot of the material feels like Black Metal has been heavily infused into the major aspects of their sound. The very opening of the song is very reminiscent of Behemoth's "Evangelion". "Drug-Fucking Abomination" actually have moments that heavily remind me of Irrumator's other project Frost,which I also thought was pretty well done. It's interesting to see that this song also is over seven minutes in length and probably one of the best on the album, because it is just overflowing with atmosphere. They seem to experiment a bit with track length on parts and have one song that is only a minute long and another that is under two minutes, giving these tracks a sort of Napalm Death styled Grind approach. However, it's really not much of real Grind, because the songs structuring is still heavily Black Metal or Death Metal in nature. There were moments that didn't really work with the writing, but this has some of the strongest material since the days of "Eschaton." When looking at this album deeper, though, I think they should have stuck with an EP. Stretching this to a full-length really weakened it. The only track I, outright, didn't like was "Tod Huetet Uebel", which features Landfemann, the legendary vocalist featured on Bethlehem's "Dictius te Necare". Unfortunately, I don't think the years have been so kind to his voice and I'm not sure his approach really works with Anaal Nathrakh all that much, to be honest. After this point I feel "Passion" weakens a bit, but I loved the strong start and really thought this added a lot to the Anaal Nathrakh discography at times.

Luckily on "Passion" the good moments really outweigh the bad. I would definitely like to hear more along the lines of "Violenti Non Fit Iniuria", "Drug-Fucking Abomination" and "Le Diabolique est l'Ami du Simplement Mal", which are the finest songs on the album to me. In the grand scheme of things I think this is one of their strongest efforts in a while and absolutely worth getting your hands on.


Anaal Nathrakh - In the Constellation of the Black Widow
Candlelight Records, 2009
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. In the Constellation of the Black Widow
2. I am the Wrath of Gods and the Desolation of the Earth
3. More of Fire than Blood
4. The Unbearable Filth of the Soul
5. Terror in the Mind of God
6. So Be It
7. The Lucifer Effect
8. Oil Upon the Sores of Lepers
9. Satanarchrist
10. Blood Eagles Carved on the Backs of Innocents



I remember when I first got this, I wasn't paying as close to the music scene as I normally did. In fact I had outright stopped doing any kind of review process, but when I was flipping through albums in my local music store, I came across a new Anaal Nathrakh. I thought it was quite a short time between albums.... but it was me who had lost track of time and I see that there has been a couple years between releases. This seems to be the best approach for Anaal Nathrakh, I feel that if they don't spend enough time letting ideas distill a poor quality album results.

"In the Constellation of the Black Widow" doesn't really bring us anything new from the camp of Anaal Nathrakh, but it does wrest control from the rather lackluster display found on "Hell is Empty and All the Devils are Here". This also marks a return to Candlelight for the band, which is sort of interesting to have albums released in this disjointed way from labels. Either way this is a step in the right direction from the previous album. I was a little worried at first, because the first song had those melodic moments that show up all over and I wasn't sure if we were in for more of the same. They do show up here more often on this album, but the approach is used a bit more sparingly and the sections with this have more haunting guitar lines than melodic a lot of times. Just listen to "More of Fire than Blood". They also upped their levels of chaos and at times there are reminiscent moments of "The Codex Necro", but these are few and far between. "The Unbearable Filth of the Soul" seems to be heavily influenced by Fear Factory with the way the main riff is laid out, and seems like an attempt to have this album's version of "Regression to the Mean". Fear Factory structuring shows up again with the opening riff of "Oil Upon the Sores of Lepers". I say Fear Factory over the likes of Meshuggah, because it's not as djent sounding and focuses more on the triplet feel.

Overall, this is a decent album. It's a much stronger effort than "Hell is Empty and All the Devils are Here". While there is some return to the chaotic style, this album doesn't feel as edge of your seat intense as their earlier works. I think, at times, Anaal Nathrakh struggles to really find what to do next and is defaulting with experimenting with textures for good or ill. I feel like Irrumator is trying to find the best way to execute the use of melody amidst all the chaos and he hasn't quite nailed that careful balance, so the albums come off sounding far more subdued. There are certainly still some strong moments, but in the end I'm still going to pull out "Eschaton" before putting this on when I'm in the mood for Anaal Nathrakh. "In the Constellation of the Black Widow", while not the best they've ever done, is still a very fair album from the project, which is still very strong compared to many other bands out there. There's really nothing like this band out there and I'll take a fair effort from Anaal Nathrakh way before I start listening to the likes of modern Dimmu Borgir trash.


Anaal Nathrakh - Hell is Empty and All the Devils are Here
Feto Records, 2007
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Solifugae
2. Der Hölle Rache Kocht in Meinem Herzen
3. Screaming for the Unborn
4. Virus Bomb
5. The Final Absolution
6. Shatter the Empyrean
7. Lama Sabachthani
8. Until the World Stops Turning
9. Genetic Noose
10. Sanction Extremis (Kill them All)
11. Castigation and Betrayal



Usually when a band releases an album every couple of years with everything being well written they get into a good routine of writing and releasing material. Well, Anaal Nathrakh are sort of breaking that buy releasing an album in the following year after "Eschaton". This tends to send up some red flags as to how rushed the album may have been. In a lot of ways, I really think this album comes off as a bit rushed and on the result for Anaal Nathrakh is actually a less intense and less chaotic album. This album has its moments and certain new aspects work well, but it's not really the same. It's really not a tempering of the material found on the earlier works.

While there are some wonderful riffs on this album, I feel they are few and far between. Instead the music tends to aim for a crunchier and heavier riffing style to create the foundation of the song. The songs will then deviate into a far more melodic sequence where Vitriol tends to sing clean over it. It seems the album is quite formulaic in this respect and I remember feeling a little disappointed in it when I first heard it. Later, I put it on and thought it sounded better, but I was listening to it more in the background and not paying much attention. Apparently that's when I find this album good... when I don't pay attention to it. In analyzing it this time round, I am disappointed in it. It's actually not a great follow-up to "Eschaton". It doesn't have the same level of intoxicating riffing as the prior albums. Songs like "Genetic Noose" show up and give us great atmosphere, but these are few and far between on this album.

Ultimately, Anaal Nathrakh's devotion to melody and formulaic songwriting really marred this album for me. It just doesn't stand out in the discography. I get the impression they opted for heaviness over writing good riffs in many sections of this album. There are great riffs once in a while, but this is very different from the vast collection of great riffs on each of their prior releases. With so much clean singing taking place on this album and the extra melodic guitar lines, we walk away with a release that just doesn't measure up to Anaal Nathrakh's usual levels of intensity and viciousness. The song that works best with the new melodic approach is "Virus Bomb" in my opinion. The only song that comes close to the insanity of prior efforts is the closing track "Castigation and Betrayal" and perhaps this is why people look more favorable on this release. I figure people stop paying attention to a large portion of this album, but it ends on such an intense note, they figure nothing has really changed that much. I bet that's what I thought when I re-listened the second time. In any event, don't expect the same Anaal Nathrakh this time around...


Anaal Nathrakh - Eschaton
Season of Mist, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes
2. Between Shit and Piss We are Born
3. Time Wave Zero
4. The Destroying Angel
5. Waiting for the Barbarians
6. The Yellow King
7. When the Lion Devours both Dragon and Child
8. The Necrogeddon
9. Regression to the Mean




After "Domine Non es Dignus" won me back to looking forward to Anaal Nathrakh, I was excited to a see new release imminent on the horizon. Little did I know, at the time, that it would swiftly launch itself into being of my favorite Anaal Nathrakh albums of all time. "Eschaton" really is that good and it truly stands the test of time for me. Further embracing the media's reaction as being one of the most chaotic acts out there "Eschaton" sports album art right out of Chaos Math with Fractal patterns being used all over.

While "Domine Non es Dignus" brought us more experimentation and Death Metal into the Anaal Nathrakh sound "Eschaton" brings us back to a heavier focus of Black Metal. They also really figured out how to manage the level of chaos in their sound so that the songs are both memorable and ridiculously intense at the same time. They do this by really taking care on structuring the fast and slow riffs together. The strange part with Anaal Nathrakh is that the viciousness and intensity is what really sticks out to people and that's what everyone seems to remember hearing. But if you sit down and really analyze "Eschaton" it's really not that fast or intense of an album from a musical stand point. Somehow, Anaal Nathrakh has figured out how to give the impression of utter intensity without actually playing all that intense. It's quite striking, because after "Eschaton" is over its really how you feel about what you just heard. However, there are a lot of atmospheric and haunting parts and the Death Metal riff in "The Destroying Angel" is downright catchy! The clean verse section of "When the Lion Devours both Dragon and Child" is outright melodic, it doesn't even come off as ugly or disgusting. What do we remember though? The intensity, the viciousness, and the vile nature of the album's overall aesthetic. I can't figure out why... and it really isn't all in Vitriol's voice. Certainly his frantic and varied vocal performance helps, but that's not even remotely close to where it all is. Perhaps this is a major reason I love this album... it manages to make something seem intense in a very contradictory fashion to me, it really makes me appreciate what they've developed here. Also, the album closes with "Regression to the Mean", which is an incredibly atmospheric song and a concept from statistics... even though I never found statistically analysis very interesting, the song is amazing though.

This truly is an "Eschaton" for the band. I feel this is where they harnessed their craft in such a measured and well thought out way that it is one of their strongest releases. This really gives off a very catastrophic feel and it truly feels like you just experienced a whirlwind of chaos, this is even the case despite the song closing on the moody and slow "Regression to the Mean". It's a very interesting album and extremely well thought out if you spend time really looking at everything within their system of creation.


Anaal Nathrakh - Domine Non es Dignus
Season of Mist, 2004
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. I Wish I could Vomit Blood on You... ...People
2. The Oblivion Gene
3. Do Not Speak
4. Procreation of the Wretched
5. To Err is Human, to Dream Futile
6. Revaluation of All Values (Tractatus Alogico Misanthropicus)
7. The Final Destruction of Dignity (Die Letzten Tage der Menschheit)
8. Swallow the World
9. This Cannot be the End
10. Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light



After an EP that I found lack luster, I was beginning to worry that Anaal Nathrakh only had one really great release in them. Sometimes that happens, a band puts out such a devastating debut, they just can't ever seem to overcome that first album. Luckily, Anaal Nathrakh have a lot more to offer than just the one album. Enter "Domine Non es Dignus", which is a very proper follow-up to "The Codex Necro" and actually does make some effort to advance their sound.

Aside from the intro, which I always skip, this is a great album. The intro is just someone throwing up with all kinds of effects put on the recording. It's actually vastly annoying. However, once we get into "The Oblivion Gene" we realize why we've all picked up this album. They've really made some advances from the EP. "Domine Non es Dignus" returns to the intensity of "The Codex Necro", but they managed to create a far more thought out sounding album. It doesn't sound as chaotic or frantic compared to the debut. Here they also begin to back off from the harsh Black Metal assault and infuse a bit more Death Metal into their riffing style and sound. With this they've also infused a level of atmosphere into some of their compositions, which makes for a much more dynamic listen. Due to this "Domine Non es Dignus" doesn't come off as insane and chaotic, instead it feels a bit more tempered and focused. This isn't, necessarily, a bad thing, since Anaal Nathrakh keep a good level of interest in their writing, so it works pretty well in the end. Still, I'm not sure something as uncompromising as "The Codex Necro" would be easy to pull off again. Vitriol's vocals are as menacing as ever and he certainly rounds out his skill levels with many tracks, even including clean vocals in some sections, which we were first introduced to on the EP. There's even one part of "Do Not Speak" where he absolutely nails the vocal style of John Tardy from Obituary, and I've never heard someone hit that tone as perfectly... other than Tardy himself! That was certainly a pleasant surprise.

In the end, while this is not a return to "The Codex Necro" insanity, they do aim to up the powerful nature of their music with this and it hits hard in that regard. They definitely are trying to play around with the balance of the insanity and the more thought out writing approaches and "Domine Non es Dignus" yields quite the experience in this regard. I really have no complains about this album and I think it is one of their finest. I quite enjoy their new approach far more than what they were doing on the EP, so perhaps that's why this stands out a lot for me.


Anaal Nathrakh - When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind will Reap as it has Sown
Mordgrimm, 2003
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Cataclysmic Nihilism
2. How the Angels Fly in (We can Never be Forgiven)
3. Never Fucking Again
4. Genesis of the Antichrist
5. Atavism
6. When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind will Reap as it has Sown
BBC Rock Show Live 23, March 2005:
7. Human, All too Fucking Human
8. Swallow the World
9. Do Not Speak


I remember when this came out a friend of mine had an original copy of it, so I was able to give it a listen before I purchased it. Initially I thought it was a pretty weak release and it wasn't until years later when I wanted to fill in my Anaal Nathrakh collection that I eventually purchased a copy of this. The version I have is the 2005 edition published by Earache, which includes the BBC show recorded in 2005.

I after "The Codex Necro" Anaal Nathrakh were left wondering what they could possibly do next. They had already marked their footprint on the metal scene, but what could possibly be next. On this release they clearly wanted to keep their core sound there and in many ways this doesn't really deviate much from the original path. I feel like a little more Death Metal has started creeping into their sound a little bit, but in the grand scheme of Anaal Nathrakh, I'm not really convinced this is a great effort on their part. For some reason, things don't sound as insane and frantic. The shift in this quality to their music feels like they've left something truly missing from their sound. My favorite song on here is probably "Never Fucking Again", because it has this wonderful riff that is vaguely reminiscent of "Submission is for the Weak", but it doesn't have the same edge to it... so in that regard it's also a little disappointing. I think in some tracks they were trying to go for a more haunting and dark edge, but it just doesn't fit amidst all the ferocity they try to include from the first album. I think this is certainly the case with the inclusion of clean vocals on the title track. While Vitriol's vocals are, as expected, good even in this regard, it just didn't help this release any.

The bonus section is mostly taken off of "Domine Non es Dignus", but they open with a track from "The Codex Necro". Apparently, Nick Barker and Shane Embury helped out to fill out the performance. These are extremely interesting versions to listen to, because you can really hear how much is done in studio. They do a good job capturing the original sound, but it feels a lot more raw and minimal compared to the original recording. Vitriol's vocals sound just as devastating here, proving he can really pull this kind of material off in a live setting.

I really hope Anaal Nathrakh can find a solid direction for their sound after their immense debut. Some fans may enjoy this, but I think its only good for the die-hards that really need a complete discography. This just doesn't have the same fire as before. I really hope they can get back some of the intensity for the next full-length.


Anaal Nathrakh - The Codex Necro
Mordgrimm, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Supreme Necrotic Audnance
2. When Humanity is Cancer
3. Submission is for the Weak
4. Pandemonic Hyperblast
5. Paradigm Shift - Annihilation
6. The Technogoat
7. Incipid Flock
8. Human, All too Fucking Human
9. The Codex Necro







Here is the first exposure I've ever had to Anaal Nathrakh, and at first glance I remember thinking it was pretty good. I mostly remember it being outrageously intense. Anaal Nathrakh have managed to bring the foundation set out in the demos into a far more cohesive light. Instead of really choosing a particular direction, they ended up blending a lot of the earlier material together in a sort of immense melting pot. It makes for quite an incredible debut in the grand scheme of things.

Now, I do agree with a lot of reviewers out there who say Anaal Nathrakh isn't really doing anything new. And that is true, they don't have a new take on the riffing in Black Metal or the way instruments are performed, everything is pretty old hat in that regard. However, when this came out I still felt this was incredibly different from anything else I had heard at the time. It really stood out in my mind as being the most chaotically intense album I had ever heard. Track after track of this album is just an unrelenting punishment, and its interesting to note that not all of the tracks are played at top speed. Despite having sections of songs that are quite slow, they always manage to keep up that devastating essence throughout this recording. I feel like this is one of the major missteps in Marduk's "Panzer Division Marduk", for Anaal Nathrakh have released an album that is far beyond the normal levels of extreme. Even though the general performance isn't hugely different, its really the combination of elements that does this album justice. Vitriol's vocal performance is off the charts in terms of frantic insanity. Some songs have me wondering if he's falling on the "Slowly We Rot" approach from early Obituary where he's just screaming and not actually saying anything. That being said, another aspect of the heaviness is generated by the down tuned and crushing guitar tone, which bears resemblance to Death Metal almost. The riffing is almost entirely Black Metal though. Appropriately to add to this insane atmosphere you will a bit sampling from the movie Event Horizon, which is quite apt as being one of the more terrifying movies of its time.

"The Codex Necro" is quite the whirlwind of an experience. To say their debut is a success is an understatement, especially by 2014 as I write this given their well known appeal in the scene. I feel that "The Codex Necro" holds a special place in my mind as a benchmark of intensity. In some ways Anaal Nathrakh would push the envelope further in the future... but they would never really recreate the intoxicating feel of "Submission is for the Weak".


Anaal Nathrakh - Total Fucking Necro
Leviaphonic Records, 1999
Genre: Black Metal

Anaal Nathrakh: 1999
1. Anaal Nathrakh
2. Necrodeath
3. Ice Blasting Storm Winds
4. Carnage (Mayhem Cover)
Total Fucking Necro: 1999
5. The Supreme Necrotic Audnance
6. Satanarchrist
7. L.E.T.H.A.L.: Diabolic
8. De Mysteriis dom Sathanas (Mayhem Cover)
9. The Technogoat
Bonus:
10. Necrogeddon



I don't own Anaal Nathrakh's demos individually, instead I picked up this compilation shortly after hearing their album "The Codex Necro". I missed out on the original pressing of this release as well, but I managed to obtain the Rage of Achilles version, which is much better than the original. The track listing above reflects the Rage of Achilles version. The version I own has the complete two demos with all the cover songs and bonus track "Necrogeddon", which is the pre-cursor of a track later used on "Domine Non es Dignus". After hearing "The Codex Necro" their material quickly became in high demand. To give you an idea of how old this is, the official Anaal Nathrakh website is housed in a geocities location as stated by the booklet!

I'm actually surprised it took two demos before Anaal Nathrakh got a contract, because after hearing the self-titled demo you can tell this band was really onto something interesting. The band is a duo starring Irrumator on all instruments and programming and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. on vocals... whom I will just call Vitriol at this point. Screw all those periods. One of the shocking things on this release is that this has some of the more realistic sounding drum programming for its time. Even though all this technology was being used Irrumator still managed to keep the music extremely raw, hence the title of the compilation "Total Fucking Necro". The self-titled demo actually has a lot of very catchy and groove styled elements to its style, which is not the norm for late 90's Black Metal. The second demo is truly a shining moment for he project... opening with "The Supreme Necrotic Audnance" we hear this band has already evolved in such a short amount of time. They've seriously upped the intensity level and Vitriol's vocal performance is even more menacing than before. Strangely I feel that "Satanarchrist" mellows out the eel of the albums a little bit. It's a far more melodic song and just doesn't follow the punishing atmosphere of the opening track. From here they proceed to perform one of the better covers of "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas" out there. Part of me sort of wishes they would redo this with their more modern sound, but there's just no replacing the raw viciousness of this I think. Vitriol does a great Atilla for a little while, but then falls into doing his own vocal interpretation, which is really what makes this shine. Its one thing to copy, but can you add your own twist? And he certainly does and the result is something far more frantic than the original. It certainly makes for a great atmosphere.

Between the two demos we have a lot of variation for the project. Catchy sections, some more somber piece, and other absolutely punishing and menacing tracks. Everything has great riffing, but I wonder if they can harness all this power they can apparently wield in their sound. It's obviously time for a full-length to be unleashed next, but we'll see what shape that will take. If I had heard these demos first, I would be wondering what the answer to this question would be.


Pure


Pure - Kingdom of Wrath
Humanity's Plague Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Nightside Throne
2. Astral Vanity
3. The Red Moon
4. Shroud of Hate
5. Imara
6. This is Life
7. The Last Ritual









If you are familiar with the band Borgne, then you know this musician has a lot to offer. Maybe not in all of his projects... since looking through his roster on Metal-Archives gives a huge smattering across many genres. However, with Pure he delves into the realms of raw Black Metal, which is something I'm very interested in. The name of the project really isn't that great, even if it makes sense given what he's playing. There must be hundreds of bands in existence with this name out there... The art direction certainly fits the project and hearkens back to the mid-90's of Black Metal for me. The booklet contains pictures with just a single line of lyrics here and there to be vague, but enough for us to get a sense of the lyrical concept.

Despite being listed as raw, the recording quality is actually pretty decent. The guitars are a little fuzzier than usual in his later Borgne material. Now that Borgne has trended into the full Atmospheric Black Metal route, Pure reminds me a bit of Borgne's early days, like "II", for example. So, if you've missed that furious harsh edge in the Borgne sound, its being sort of resurrected here. Sometimes the modern version of Borgne can't be escaped in the atmospheric edge of some songs like "The Red Moon" or the length of some of these tracks being nearly ten minutes in cases.  This still has the same high quality in song writing, so it makes for a great album. It's a pretty dynamic experience wending through passages of sheer intensity, while having melancholic sections that bring the listener to a nice lull in the storm of hatred. Tracks like "This is Life" have riffs that really stand out to me and are simply exceptional songs.

While this may not be the "raw" Black Metal people would expect, it's still quite good. It's not raw like Moonblood, or Horna, or any of those bands, so if that's what you're expecting you might be a little disappointed. Still, the strength of writing holds this up quite well, which is something I've come to expect from this musician. It's actually nice to see him return to a more vicious style of Black Metal, perhaps waxing nostalgic as many musicians do after years developing their newer sounds. If you were a fan of the earlier Borgne material this is a must have.





Absolutus


Absolutus - Ostendit Quam Nihil Sumus
Goatowarex, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Scale of Nothingness
2. The Ascending Plague
3. Dislocation of Time
4. Until the Conclusion of Ages












I think this was initially a random purchase on my behalf... probably motivated that it was released by Goatowarex who has released some very good Black Metal over the years. That being said, you should not expect a revolutionary work here, instead you should expect an exercise in the beauty of minimalism. I remember putting it on the first time I heard it and thinking it was pretty decent, but I've never really sat down and given this the proper listen it truly deserved... until now. The booklet is just okay. It's only a folded piece of paper, with, I think, only some of the lyrics inside.

Absolutus do something rather interesting with the minimalist Black Metal they perform. It's heavily rooted in "Under the Funeral Moon" era Darkthrone, albeit probably a bit more well thought out at times. From here they construct only four songs, but the whole album clocks in at over forty minutes in length. Now, before you say you can't take the same riffing for ten minutes, Absolutus have written some extremely good material here and for whatever reason it's perfect. The overall presentation, down to the vocals even reminds me a bit of Trimonium, who is known for their very epic riffing style. Absolutus basically reproduce that feeling here in their songs, but bring a sort of Atmospheric immersion to their art. Of which, the only complaint I have is the lack of variation in the vocals and the vocal tone isn't that compelling with the music, but these are my complaints about Trimonium as well. If their riffing wasn't so incredible, it would probably not be a very interesting project in the end. I think the vocal tone is intentional, going for more of an Abbath approach to the voice. For some reason when I first heard this I thought it reminded me of Moonblood... but upon further reflection, I feel ridiculous for thinking that in some ways.

In the end if you're looking for an interesting take on very traditional Black Metal, you may be pleasantly surprised with how good this album is. While it may not be something to listen to over and over, but if you revisit this release sparingly it is likely you will find it enjoyable every time. It is well executed minimalist art and in that realm it stands very strong.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Demonic


Demonic - The Empire of Agony
Necropolis Records, 1997
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Everlasting Shadow
2. A Dark Journey towards Desolation
3. His Eyes Burn Hate
4. Evoke the Demon Lord
5. Diabolic Blood War
6. Wandering through a Cold Mist
7. Spell of the Witchdemon
8. Lead Us Into Darkness
9. Torment their Christian Souls with Infernal Powers




After waiting a couple years Demonic finally unleashes their debut full-length, featuring their new logo with added inverted crosses. Now the unfortunate thing for this band after this release is they didn't release anything else, then with the demise of Necropolis Records, I think it has sentenced these releases to be forgotten by the larger community over a decade later. This is not so surprising to me, Demonic's music is, likely, only special in a nostalgic sense of the late 90's Black Metal scene. I always thought Necropolis did the bands art justice and that is no different for "The Empire of Agony". This comes as a nice digipak version with a full booklet featuring lyrics and band pics.

Demonic basically delivered everything you could ever want out of a Black Metal album. But I think its a "want" restricted to the bare minimum of Black Metal, now that I revisit this release. It has some solid riffing, but a lot of it is quite general, when compared to the great scheme of the genre today. Demonic focuses mostly on a hateful atmosphere, but every so often things delve into this a dark and haunting feel as keyboards enhance their sound in songs like "A Dark Journey towards Desolation" and "Diabolic Blood War". In other respects, I feel their songs are a bit on the short side, many not going much beyond three minutes. I think this gives the experience more of a Death Metal feel, because some tracks are just over before you know it! So, there's no really getting lost in the atmosphere as the album progresses. In their defense, I don't think we really consciously thought about writing Black Metal song like that back then, we just wrote songs that sounded good to us. The majority of the material is well written though, so it really does make for a solid Black Metal release. Most of the tracks from "Lead Us Into Darkness" have been re-recorded for this album as well. The only one that doesn't appear is "Når Mørket Faller", so that's still worth hearing on some levels. Also, the drums aren't as ridiculously thunderous on "The Empire of Agony", which was sort of disappointing, but overall the production values are a little more balanced.

In many respects, I can understand why this has been lost to history, in others it makes me sad. This was a great time of Black Metal for me in high school. I think I was a Sophomore at this point and the 90's Black Metal scene was going very strong and releases were becoming more available in the U.S. Not to mention Necropolis Records was going strong and bringing bands around for tours quite often, so that made this era special, and with all that Demonic sits in there for me. I'm sure people will still garner some enjoyment from their style today, but I think many will consider this generic by today's standards... at least until you look at that date of release. Even then, it was still probably generic, but not as much as today!


Demonic - Lead Us Into Darkness
Necropolis Records, 1995
Genre: Black Metal

1. Spell of the Witchdemon
2. Unholy Gates of Limbo
3. His Eyes Burns Hate
4. Når Mørket Faller











Demonic is a Black Metal band out of Norway from the early 90's that has probably been lost to the annals of history. I missed out on getting their 1994 demo, but everything was re-pressed on this "Lead Us Into Darkness" EP with one extra track called "His Eyes Burns Hate".  So there is really no need for me to track down the original tape. The major reason this wound up in my collection is because it was released by Necropolis Records. This label was pretty well known for signing really good Black Metal acts in the 90's, so I usually purchased their releases when they came out.

This was recorded in the now legendary Grieghallen Studio by Pytten and it has that production quality similar to a lot of the Norwegian bands. The drums are absolutely thunderous, similar to what you'd hear on "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". The demo parts actually remind me a bit of if Enslaved played a style of Black Metal that didn't involve any Viking themes or Folk styled elements. There is a bit of synth being used throughout the album, and this makes seem a bit more like Enslaved's "Frost", but this is well before that album even came out! Demonic have more of a Gorgoroth feels to their atmosphere and approach though, since it falls in the realms of being more hateful sounding.

This is an excellent demo and I can certainly see why Necropolis would pick them up right after hearing it. Demonic may never be considered a giant of the scene, but I always thought they did a really great job with their music. Maybe not a monumental classic, but it's a classic to me in many ways.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Eïs

Previously Known as Geïst

Eïs - Wetterkreuz
Lupus Lounge, 2012
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Disc 1:
1. Mann aus Stein
2. Auf Kargen Klippen
3. Wetterkreuz
4. Am Abgrund
5. Bei den Sternen
6. Thou Whose Face hath Felt the Winter's Wind (Sun of the Sleepless Cover)

Disc 2: The Quarrymen Selections
1. Captivus
2. Auf Kargan Klippen
3. Wetterkreuz (Odyssey Remix)
4. Am Abgrund (Laudanum Induced Mix)
5. 72 Seconds

Three years seems to be the right time frame for Eïs to put together an album. This is the follow-up to the rather monumental "Galeere" and Eïs trend further down that path. It doesn't look like "Galeere" is being repressed under the new name any time soon. When I saw that "Wetterkreuz" was set to be released, I immediately ordered a copy of this limited two disc edition. It comes housed in a beautiful digibook and is limited to 850 copies. The booklet is beautiful, but my only complaint is that it is glued into the book, so you can't look at the booklet separately. It seems Eïs has also undergone further line-up changes and is now down to a two piece. Luckily this doesn't seem to have marred the compositional quality since "Galeere" and in fact Eïs has only grown since that time.

"Wetterkreuz" is certainly their strongest album so far and with the atmosphere ever improving it makes Eïs even a more to be paying attention to. It seems the nautical theme of "Galeere" has given way to a sort of cosmic coldness. In order to evoke this Eïs blends together a sound that really works well together. They take their usual approach to the work, but I hear serious influence from ColdWorld and Darkspace. The atmosphere, I hear touches of the ColdWorld style, but the Ambience driving some areas I feel is more of a Darkspace/Paysage d'Hiver blend in a lot of ways. However, Eïs has always had more of an uplifting atmosphere at times, so they take those styles in a rather drastically different direction. This isn't bad, it just gives the music a more chilling epic quality. Eïs also writes in a more melodic fashion similar to Der Weg einer Freiheit and Lunar Aurora at times. All this gives Eïs their own special sound that was first being developed on "Galeere" and "Wetterkreuz" is another chapter in, what I hope, will be a legacy of really stellar material.

The second disc is a very strange thing and if you're looking for more Black Metal, this isn't the place to look. If you're a fan of Ambient, however, then this may pique your interests a little bit. Usually I get a little worried when I see "remix" attached to songs. These days I tend to expect full on techno remixes of metal songs, but that isn't entirely what happened with these. Instead these seem to be more Ambient remixes of the songs, which really fits the material perfectly. Some parts are outright haunting. When electronic drums kick in they remind me of something I would hear off of The Axis of Perdition's "Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital". The only track that stands out as having a far more Techno aspect is "Wetterkreuz (Odyssey Remix)" and there are parts that have that Techno styled drumming, but with this atmosphere it reminds me of something you could hear off the Pi motion picture soundtrack. I suppose that really is the interesting aspect of this second disc, it attempts to harness the atmosphere without the Black Metal. So, many tracks are chilling and spacey in  their presentation. Overall, it is pretty well done, but I'm not sure how often I'll pull this disc out to listen to in the grand scheme of things. "Wetterkreuz" itself is, naturally better, and I have stronger Ambient releases in my collection already, but this is an interesting idea and I do like the approach. Perhaps if one artist attempted to capture the Ambient essence, this would come off as a stronger second disc, but with the multiple artists you get a rather varied interpretation. I think that variation is what marred the Ambience I really look for when I delve into that style.

In the end "Wetterkreuz" is one of the finest albums I've heard this year. It will likely be in my top 10 for 2012. If you're just finding Eïs, you've started at quite a high point, but "Galeere" is another album you should check out as well. While "Wetterkreuz" heavily improves from that release. Eïs have given us another beautiful and encompassing album.


Eïs - Kainsmal
Lupus Lounge, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Erben aller Einsamkeit
2. Einst War es Mein
3. Lykoi
4. Stille Wasser
5. In Pans Hallen
6. Kainsmal
7. Carpathian Forest (Carpathian Forest Cover)








At the same time the "Patina" re-release hit, we also go the "Kainsmal" re-release. Naturally, I purchased both when they came out. This is really same kind of format as the prior review. It's a two disc set with the first disc being a revised version and the second being the original version. They go a little bit further with this re-release and offer a Carpathian Forest Cover as a bonus track.

This one offers some even heavier work done on the booklet. Even though the cover has remained largely the same, the booklet has been done in much greater detail. Again, the guitars have been heavily re-recorded, giving this album an almost entirely different experience for the listeners. I'm glad to see that Alboin commented on the split with Ainvar in the liner notes, because that was something I was quite curious about. It doesn't go into any grave detail, but it does address there was quite a problem with the split. In the end, this is the "Kainsmal" version to hear. It's much stronger than the first and "Kainsmal" was a much better and more cohesive composition when compared to the first, in my opinion. I'm pleased to see re-releases that are actually worth my time to get rather than just some remastering.


Eïs - Patina
Lupus Lounge, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Snow White
2. Wanderer bei Fels una Fjord
3. Thanatos Phobein
4. Winters Schwingeenschlag
5. Norn
6. Patina
7. Jingian
8. Spätsommerabende








It seems this band is not having the greatest luck with their band names. From Eismalsott to Geïst and now to Eïs, this time being forced because there is already another German band named Geïst. With this problem requiring an immediate change after their 2009 master-piece "Galeere", I think the band tries to make the best of it and has used this to re-launch some of their earliest material. Rather than just release a new album under their new name and probably confuse people, they first re-release their first two albums from the Geïst name. Don't worry, they actually make it worth your time to get these and these are absolutely the editions you'll want to get ahold of if you are a new fan of the band.

Here we have the "Patina" re-release. It's a two CD edition of this album and the first disc is the "revised 2010 version", which has quite a lot of changes. There has been some re-tracking of guitars, fixing mistakes here and there, and just making the guitar performance all around more solid. The songs, as written, haven't changed at all, they've just had their recorded parts improved. They've also given this a major re-mixing and you can tell its been overhauled when compared to the original version. Then they've finished it off with the obligatory re-mastering that most re-releases only give us. That wasn't enough for Eïs, they went the extra mile to give us something a little more for the fans of their music. They've also redone all of the art on the release and redone the booklet entirely. In the jewel case inlay there is a little interview, of sorts, where Alboin recollects what it took to make this release. It was really interesting to read this and see how this album developed in the early days and their problems with labels and recording.

It really is a huge improvement over the original "Patina" experience, which I thought was only okay. Sure, it had potential, but with this edition you feel that a lot more. There are still pieces that are out of place and it is certainly not as mature as "Galeere", of course. Some of the tracks still feel out of place with their riffs amidst some extremely atmospheric tracks, but all that can be read about in my original review. Either way, I did enjoy revisiting this album with all the new improvements.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Geïst

Changed name to Eïs

Geïst - Galeere
Lupus Lounge, 2009
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Galeere
2. Einen Winter auf See
3. Durch Lichtlose Tiefen
4. Helike
5. Unter Toten Kapitänen











As we can see, that 2008 demo got them the contract with Lupus Lounge and soon enough the band was in the studio recording their third full-length. This is absolutely their best release to date. In the liner notes of  "In den Werften der Galeere" they mentioned the album art of that release not really working as the proper cover concept for "Galeere", so that's why it was used on the demo. This makes a lot of sense having seen the proper "Galeere" cover. Its incredibly eye catching and tends towards something nautical themed, and reading the liner notes here I get that impression. The cover is done by Lukasz Jaszak and it looks like he is very influenced by the great maritime artist Turner.

Musically this is absolutely their most cohesive sounding album. Every track flows with every other track and nothing ever feels out of place. They also have a huge sound overhaul and really delving more into the Atmospheric bent on things. There's only a couple times on the release where I feel a particular riff seems out of place, but they actually do a great job of bringing you back into the fold. There's one riff that has a sort of "rock" feel to it, where they're trying to transition out of something and it seems off putting, but then a lead guitar section kicks in which makes it work. The bump in the road does sort of stand out though. Luckily these are very few and in the grand scheme of the experience this is an incredible album. They've also taken special care to include a lot more Ambience in their tracks to really build that atmosphere more. It has an effect similar to what Paysage d'Hiver would do with their introductory sections... only less wind for Geïst. Instead in parts they've opted for boat sounds... and by that I mean they basically recorded the sound of a ship on the water where you hear the ropes and rigging tightening. There are parts of the songs have such an incredibly soaring atmosphere that it is just wonderful to hear as in "Einen Winter auf See", which is one of the finer tracks off this release. Actually, all these tracks are great... there isn't anything outright bad on here.

Truly a crowning achievement for Geïst and I really love the direction their music is taking. It will be interesting to see where they would end up going from here, but I feel like this is the beginning of a new compositional era for the band. Hopefully, they manage to harness this even more in the future. If you are a fan of Atmospheric Black Metal, you will not be steered wrong by "Galeere". Furthermore, the nautical theme gives it a sort of more interesting perspective. The band photos appear to look like the band are recently risen from the dead, but originally from the 1700's. Perhaps there is some influence in concept from Carach Angren, but their own ghost ship concept wouldn't come out until a year after "Galeere". I find Geïst's approach deeper and more interesting, though Carach Angren is not a bad band, just that Geïst sounds a little better in my opinion.


Geïst - In den Werften der Galeere
Lupus Lounge, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Galeere
2. Helike
3. Unter Toten Kapitänen










It's been quite a while since we've heard from Geïst and a full-length release is imminent for the same year as this EP. In fact this comes out only a few days before the full-length looking at the dates. There's a nice little explanation of its creation from Albion and what this is is a demo recording from 2008 to show Lupus Lounge what they've been working on over the years. After listening to this, I can see why Lupus Lounge picked them up from here. This comes in a digi-pak release limited to 320 hand-numbered copies and I own #293.

It seems the time away from composing has done this band a world of good. I feel like this is a much more cohesive creation and it further develops the stronger parts featured on "Kainsmal". The music is also taking a far more atmospheric trend in the way its written and developed as the songs progress. The third song on here "Unter Toten Kapitänen" is over fourteen minutes in length, so their tendency to write those long and soaring riffs really works with the track lengths. The theme behind the work seems to be more of a maritime type of lyrical approach. The music, seems to favor a more beautiful and melodic trend over being dark and hateful. Still the music is heavy and intense at times, which actually does encompass a good representation of the ocean or sea voyages in general.

Being a demo recording, this is actually fairly well made. Sure the snare tone is way too tingy, but it doesn't detract from the higher quality writing this time around. You can only expect so much quality from demo or rehearsal recordings, and I would say this falls on the higher spectrum of quality. That being said, I'm looking forward to the full-length quite a bit now. It will be very nice to hear these songs with proper studio treatment.


Geïst - Kainsmal
Cold Dimensions, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. Erben aller Einsamkeit
2. Einst war es Wein
3. Lykoi
4. Stille Wasser
5. In Pans Hallen
6. Kainsmal









For Geïst's second release they have signed with the prolific Cold Dimensions which is run by Whyrhd of Lunar Aurora. They seem to have good luck finding labels, starting with the well known Solistitium is no small feat. In such a short amount of time between releases, I wondered what could have changed with the project, but it seems quite a bit is different.

Where "Patina" lacked focus, "Kainsmal" is very focused. With this new focus I think Geïst have had to revisit the ideas of their sound and where to draw influences from. The end results is that "Kainsmal" sounds a lot like material we've all heard before, albeit its solid and good Black Metal. Think of the earlier releases of Abigor blended with some cold Norwegian atmospheres. The goods news with "Kainsmal" is that it gets progressively better. The first three tracks are very decent Black Metal. Its high quality and well recorded, but there isn't much that really captures the imagination or really draws you in. The last three tracks that starts to change and the riffs get much stronger and a lot more memorable. So, while this is nothing we haven't heard before over the ages, it is still a fairly well written album with a few shining moments.

I certainly prefer "Kainsmal"... although I miss that Paysage d'Hiver styled moment and wish they had tended in that direction a little more. However, having a more focused released is far more desirable, especially since Geïst falls on the side of being more atmospheric, which means you really need to draw your listener into your album and keep them there. Too varied and you've missed the immersive effect. Luckily "Kainsmal" seems on the path to keeping that focus, hopefully there are bigger things to come in the future.


Geïst - Patina
Solistitium Records, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Snow White
2. Wanderer bei Fels una Fjord
3. Thanatos Phobein
4. Winters Schwingenschlag
5. Nom
6. Patina
7. Jingizu
8. Spätsommerabende








First we need to go over some history. This, actually, wasn't supposed to be the debut album for Geïst, instead it was to be the debut for a different band named Eismalsott. This is really the entire line-up from that project and "Patina" was supposed to be Eismalsott's debut release. It seems there were some issues and in the liner notes referencing guitarist Ainvar it says "Ainvar is not part of Geïst anymore; he's continuing with his project Eismalsott in solitude, as it should be." So, clearly there has been some serious division in the band.

Based on that Eismalsott gave us some strange and varied music at times and "Patina" has this sort of feel, but I feel that it is much more focused on Black Metal. The intro to "Patina" is actually taken from the "Snow White" demo of Eismalsott, but that is the only Eismalsott track that appears in this newly named project. At times this album really can border on the Atmospheric Black Metal edge, but the entire album doesn't have this quality, unfortunately. The atmospheric material is the strongest by far and songs like "Winters Schwingenschlag" are the strongest on the release because of it. There are riffs in the title track that are simply awesome and very reminiscent of something we would hear Paysage d'Hiver release. Other times the riffs and leads sound like the yare influenced by Trimonium, as with "Wanderer bei Fels una Fjord", but the underlying structure feels more dissonant rather than melodic. Then there are these weird harsh and raw Black Metal tracks like "Nom" and "Jingizu", which sound like something early Darkthrone and Gorgoroth would blend together. They stand-out on the release as seeming not to really belong amidst the mix other influences.

Geïst seem to have recorded a collection of Black Metal songs of varying styles. This makes for a rather disjointed feel to their album and atmosphere. Some parts are very good, some parts are mediocre. Nothing is outright bad and these guys certainly know what they're doing when it comes to performing Black Metal, but I feel their writing lacks focus. The title track, for example, wends its way through a huge amount of riffs and never really feels like it has focus on anything. It will be interesting to see where Geïst eventually fall on the side of Black Metal, but for now "Patina" has promising moments, but lacks any real direction to me. We'll see where they go in the future...


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Manii


Manii - Kollaps
Avantgarde Music, 2013
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Skoddeheim
2. Liv-øydar
3. Likfugl Flaksar
4. Ei Sjæl som Sloknar
5. Kaldt
6. Endelaust
7. Ei Beingrind i Dans
8. Avgrunns Djuv








Does anyone remember when the band Manes was a two piece and used to play this disturbing Thorns inspired style of Black Metal? No, probably because that band has turned into some modern rock piece of nonsense. Rather than change the name of Manes once they decided not to play Black Metal they just kept the name, which was a really stupid move, resulting in a lot of bad reviews for "Vilosophe". Instead, some fourteen years later the original duo of Manes seem to have rekindled their desire for Black Metal and released an album under the new name Manii.

Who would have thought that "Kollaps" would enter the scene on the waves of some very relevant Atmospheric Black Metal. This is unusual, because I don't hear a lot of relevant Black Metal coming out of Norway these days. Perhaps I am not paying much attention there, but Manii is in rare form. If this kind of release was in Cernnunus' blood, he could have been at the forefront of the Atmospheric revolution in Black Metal. Instead, I herald his return with this incredibly beautiful experience. It's largely dark and melancholic in atmosphere. It is certainly not a fast release and it feels similar to Sun of the Blind at times in some of its elements and approach. "Endelaust" has piano sections that make me think of things I would expect to hear on a Dødheimsgard release, but it really works amidst the harsh guitar. I think I also hear a lot of Vindsval's "The Eye" in this with the kind of texturing we get. The chords and lead guitar work a very reminiscent of what we heard with Mortuus, so if you'd like to hear their sound recast into a much more atmospheric approach then "Kollaps" will blow you away. There is, of course, the ever present Thorns atmosphere and "Avgrunns Djuv" feels like a slower, moodier take on elements of the self-titled Thorns album, especially with that piano line wending its way behind the guitar.

I truly hope this release is not lost in the mire of Black Metal released this year. It is a shining gem amidst many mediocre and bad albums. However, the new name may elude people, especially the ever present trend of short memories I feel is plaguing the scene today. Still, Manii is a return to the days of Black Metal that we have been wanting from these musicians. It makes me wonder if Manes had stuck with Black Metal if they would have trended this way eventually... maybe stepping away from the genre is what it really took to create something like "Kollaps" and for that I can hardly fault them. I really hope Manii continues to inject its atmosphere into the genre more often and stays active for years to come


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Throne of Splendour


Throne of Splendour - Facing the New Dawn
Garazel Productions, 1999
Genre: Pagan Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Winds of Pride
3. Following the Eternal Voices
4. Facing the New Dawn












Throne of Splendour is a little known project out of Greece. The release of this tape on Garazel Productions is really what brought me to purchasing the tape, which is really just on the demo material level. This is also their second tape, I have missed out on the first and have, truly, no idea where I would even track it down. I will simply wait for someone to come along that wants to part with it. This tape, however, comes as a pro-printed double sided booklet with a dubbed tape.

Throne of Splendour is not your typical Black Metal project. It feels like they are sort of a slightly new take on the Graveland sound, to be honest. One of the major reasons this gets a Pagan Black Metal feel is because of its less conventional drumming approach. Rather than use a drum kit, they stick with traditional old world hand drums and a tambourine to keep the pace of the songs. The intro song and closing song "Facing the New Dawn" are simply clean guitar songs. They certainly create that cold and old atmosphere you would expect. "Winds of Pride" and "Following the "Eternal Voices" have distorted guitar lines that resemble the work of Rob Darken in many ways. They also feature the traditional harsh vocals of Black Metal. The music definitely has that epic and ancient feel to it, so in that regard they have certainly succeeded. One of the strange things related to this music is that it is very anti-Muslim or "Moslem" as they've written it in the booklet. I find this interesting, because this is a very early occurrence for that stand-point in Black Metal. It is only later that this stance becomes far more prominent in the genre, going beyond the more usual anti-Christian standpoints.

Overall this is pretty good and quite interesting material. So, if you've ever wanted a slightly different approach to the Graveland style this might be of interest to you. I think in later Graveland albums you would even see Darken including a lot of these elements in his music, so its tough to say who influenced who in some respects. Graveland is certainly the far more well known band in this case, hence the references. The musicians involved with Throne of Splendour seem to have stopped being involved in the music scene altogether though...

Nightwolf


Nightwolf & Ravenclaw - Conspiracy Against Christianity
Obscure Arts Productions, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

Nightwolf:
1. Intro
2. Twilight of the Night (Dusk)
3. Kingdom of Hate
4. Night without Return
5. The Shadows of the Ancient Fog are Rising
6. Dawn
7. Outro
8. Conspiracy Against Christianity (Split-song)
Ravenclaw:
9. Destroyer
10. On the Throne of Fire
11. The Prophecy Comes True
12. Necromancy
13. White Pigeons Fly Nevermore
14. I Hail the Night
16. An Everlasting Fire Burns Our Souls

Side Ravenclaw: here
Side Nightwolf:

This is the only recorded material from the Nightwolf project. It's a solo project of Celticmoon, who has recently died in 2014. So, it's kind of surreal that I finally got this release in that same year and now am doing a review for it. It looks like he has been involved with a few projects over his time involved with music, but this is the first I have ever heard. I, naturally, picked this up seeking out the Ravenclaw material, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear how good the Nightwolf material is. This comes as a cassette release with a multi-panel, but single sided booklet and is limited to 200 hand-numbered copies of which I own #138.

As you'd expect from someone doing a split with Ravenclaw, Nightwolf's music is pretty raw, but it's also extremely good. You can clearly hear some serious Moonblood influence in the way the songs are written, and maybe that's why I really find it enjoyable to some degree. The good part is that its not really a rip-off in any way, instead its sort of its own thing. The guitar riffs manage to have a fairly epic quality to them at times, which can give the music this sort of soaring feel to it. Other times things are just fast and grim like "The Shadows of the Ancient Fog are Rising". The final song on the Nightwolf side, and title track of the split is a joint creation between Celticmoon and Gaamalzagoth. The song definitely blends their two styles together, with Gaamalzagoth lending his vocal performance to the majority of verses, as far as I can tell. It definitely makes for a true old school sounding song in that regard.

It's a real shame that this is the only thing Nightwolf ever did. It would have been interesting to see Celticmoon build the project more over the years, but that will never happen now. It's certainly some quality material written at a very early time when this would sound relatively fresh during some of its moments, so for that it is a quite commendable release. It's too bad this release is stuck in the relative unknown, as I have never heard the band named uttered in conversations.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Funeral Mist


Funeral Mist - Maranatha
Norma Evangelium Diaboli, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Sword of Faith
2. White Stone
3. Jesus Saves!
4. A New Light
5. Blessed Curse
6. Living Temples
7. Anathema Maranatha
8. Anti-Flesh Nimbus








Six years! I can't believe it has taken so long to release a new album. Okay, granted Arioch has since joined Marduk and is singing for them now. So that vocal experiment with "what would Marduk sound like with Arioch on vocals" turned out to be rather fortuitous for him. Since Marduk sets such a demanding schedule for its musicians, I am not entirely surprised "Maranatha" has taken so long to complete. Over the years Marduk's sound has also been outright blended with the Funeral Mist approach making it more difficult to tell the difference between the two projects. Not that I'm complaining... I actually like Funeral Mist a lot and more Funeral Mist is not a bad thing to me. However, for whatever reason the winds of Black Metal have changed quite a bit. There are loads of fans out there that have labeled Funeral Mist as rather in vogue to hate. A lot of Norma Evangelium Diaboli bands are suffering from this attitude as we transition into the teens of the new millennium. I'm not sure what has happened, maybe Deathspell Omega's rise to prominence was too swift... but whatever the reasons it is now really cool to hate these bands. Any band that spends time researching lyrics and coming up with well thought out ideas is swiftly lambasted by a particular group of fans in the scene. For whatever reason they explain this as being disingenuous to Black Metal, but I, personally, think this is the direction Black Metal really needed to go in. It needed to get more thought out, it needed some realm of growth in an area. Lyrics and conceptual art seem to be one of those areas. I have no idea why this would get bands like Funeral Mist labelled as fakes, even by the old standards... and it's not like Funeral Mist is new to the party here. They essentially haven't changed much since 1996 when "Havoc" came out on the musical front. Its like people don't care about the history of a band and if they were that fake, the scene should have been complaining about that since "Devilry" was released. Instead I see people praising "Devilry" left and right for how amazing it is... well "Maranatha" isn't hugely different from "Devilry", sure its a more mature record and the compositions are more thought out, but that frantic and violent sound we all fell in love with in 1998 is still here. I am going to continue to listen to Funeral Mist and I'm going to enjoy the music Arioch crafts, maybe its because I am an academic and work in academia. Maybe that makes me a fake too, but I don't particular care about that because I appreciate the thought that went into this album.

I was instantly interested in "Maranatha" when it was released. I was expecting a fairly solid release, but I wasn't expecting their finest creation ever. I think over the years Arioch has been able to experiment a bit more within the ranks of Marduk and by the time "Maranatha" rolled around his ability to forge especially good material was at a very high point. A lot of the things I complained about during the "Salvation" review have been entirely fixed here. The first, and most noticeable, is that the vocals sit very nicely in the mix and nothing is overpowered. This must have been a mixing nightmare given how dynamic Arioch's performances tend to be. He also takes a step back and doesn't come off as if he needs to fill the musical space with screams and lyrics every second. There are points where we can just bask in the atmosphere of the music being generated, which is something that has been kept away from us in Funeral Mist. That being the case, the songs are much more well crafted than ever before. That usual fast and frantic style is ever present on the release, but he's done a better job creating more of the atmospheric droning styles this time around. Its far improved from "Circle of Eyes" and I really appreciate that a lot.

"Maranatha" seems to seek to do at least one thing throughout the album. Create some of the most disgusting and vile atmospheres you can be subjected to. This is painfully apparent from the moment you see the album cover. The art direction throughout the booklet keeps up this disturbing attitude and is easily conveyed in song after song on this album. The focus on creating that atmosphere is really what makes the album stand out so much, it allows us, at times to just bask in the power and intensity of the violent delivery. Its interesting because the "ugliness" generated isn't that tense and disturbing style found in typically in France, but instead is generated from the vocal layering, frantic guitar composition and samples. The lyrical approach goes after a perversion that points out the general hypocrisy in religion. They are clearly well researched lyrics and it is far superior to the run of the mill "Satan is awesome, and Jesus dumb" variant we've all been putting up with for years. I really like the fact that they push this envelope in the lyrics and it gives the album a sort of contemplative intensity that is lacking in a lot of other areas. The only song I didn't like on here was "White Stone" and its a shame it sits as the second track, because it really throws off the atmosphere between the songs. I'm actually not sure if I would want it thrown off here or later in the album... either way when I listen to "Maranatha" I skip this track constantly.

I really think this album is worth the time invested in it. Arioch hardly strikes me as a fake in the realms of Black Metal. Given his past performances and current standing in the scene, I see no reason to believe that. If you don't like the album, you don't like the album, and that's fine. I just don't see the point in railing the musician who has been involved for many years in a band that hasn't changed a ton over that time frame. "Maranatha" is easily Funeral Mist's best release and it is one of the best albums I've heard in all of 2009, which is saying a lot, because often a single bad track is enough to doom my interest in putting it in the top list, but the rest of the material simply can't be denied. This also features one of Arioch's most impressive vocal performances ever laid down and I can't imagine how people wouldn't appreciate this. It's so vicious and violent and nothing like it really exists out there...


Funeral Mist - Salvation
Norma Evangelium Diaboli, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Agnus Dei
2. Breathing Wounds
3. Holy Poison
4. Sun of Hope
5. Perdition's Light
6. Across the Qliphoth
7. Realm of Plagues
8. Circle of Eyes
9. Bread to Stone
10. In Manus Tuas






We've waited quite a while for a proper full-length from Funeral Mist. "Devilry" was just a teaser for what was to come in the future. I think it was a smart move for Funeral Mist to focus on putting together a full-length rather than just releasing EP's over the years, because the full awe of "Salvation" makes it well worth our wait. This is actually the first release where I heard of Funeral Mist, but I had already known Arioch from the project Triumphator in the 90's. I was surprised to see Funeral Mist dated back even further and I started looking for the earlier material as best I could.

Its interesting to note that Katharsis as also released a new full length on the same label and both albums vocally begin with seriously heart wrenching screams. I would say one has influenced the other, but they were released in the same year around the same time. There may be some influential play between the bands, since both bands perform a fairly chaotic form of Black Metal. Funeral Mist relies on a similar guitar tone that is razor thin, which gives the album this incredibly vicious edge to the performance. Similarly the production is just as raw and harsh as you would expect from either band. The raw production value really gives Funeral Mist a more intense edge than Triumphator, even though the whole point of Triumphator was to be fast and intense. Funeral Mist really outdoes that completely with "Salvation". The one serious criticism I can truly level at this release is that the vocals are too high in the mix. Granted I enjoy Arioch's vocal performance immensely, but in tracks like "Agnus Dei" it is simply overwhelming. Arioch seems to go after cramming as many vocal lines as possible on songs like "Breathing Wounds", so that neither he nor the listener get much of a break to listen to the music. This technique is successful, only, in making the frantic pacing ever more apparent. While, I'm sure, this is the atmosphere Arioch wished to achieve, I still think a break here and there would be warranted. When he does back off a little the songs really shine. Look at the way "Perdition's Light" closes, simply magnificent or the song "Realm of Plagues". His guitar riffs are not bad, they are simply tried and true, but they are not bad. This is nothing we wouldn't expect to hear from the days of "Devilry" at any rate. A somewhat fun fact is that I'm pretty sure the sample which opens "Sun of Hope" is from the same thing Abigor used to open "Kingdom of Darkness" off the "Verwustung" album.

An aspect that Arioch experiments with on this album is with writing epic tracks. Now, I wouldn't have expected the usual intense and frantic riffing to hold up over time and neither does Arioch, apparently. On "Circle of Eyes" he falls on a droning guitar line. And I really do mean it drones on forever, neither the riff nor the drum line changes until about eight minutes in. Between Arioch's vocals and the Gregorian chant samples, the song actually manages to be relatively interesting. The fact that the lyrics for this track are some of the best on the album helps a lot too. I also noticed that his vocals are set more in balance with the rest of the instruments, making the song stand out in that regard too. I remember at the time really loving this song, but since its release I've definitely heard other bands do it better. "In Manu Tuas" is the other song that clocks in at over twelve minutes in length, granted the metal stops around seven minutes in. It also closes out the "Salvation" experience and it really does end on a high note. "In Manu Tuas" is an incredible song and one of the best on the album for sure. After the seven minute mark we are treated to some really twisted sort of classical music. Given the fact that Allegri is referenced on the lyric sheet, its probably by him.

In the end "Salvation" is quite the experience. This is also towards the beginning of when the releases from Norma Evangelium Diaboli would dominate the new millennium. They really struck a chord with people at the right time and many of the bands have just taken off as people really wanted to hear more and more. Funeral Mist was certainly long overdue for a full-length and they certainly have given us an excellent release, one of the finer throughout Black Metal, for me, with a vocal performance that few, if any, could ever truly rival.


Funeral Mist - Devilry
Shadow Records, 1998
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Devil's Emissary
2. Bringer of Terror
3. Nightside Phantom
4. Funeral Mist
5. The God Supreme
6. Hellspell 2










This is Funeral Mist's big break into the scene and they have really composed a collection of some of the more vicious elements you can find in Black Metal. This was original pressed on 12" vinyl and limited to 300 copies. Unfortunately, I am reliant on the Norma Evangelium Diaboli release pressed on CD in 2005.

"Devilry" hit the scene harder than "Havoc" really did. Funeral Mist go after a sort of intense and frantic songwriting style, which is unusual for me, because I don't think I've ever really enjoyed a chaotic writing style much. I tend to enjoy more focused and well thought out songs, but Funeral Mist, for whatever reason, come off sounding frantic and chaotic. Which is part of the reason "Devilry" sounds so intense. The vocals certainly help that tension, since Arioch's voice is all over the place. He layers, he uses effects on his voice, etc. Sometimes the effects sound a little cheesy as in "Bringer of Terror" when he uses that high-pitch shifted aspect. However, the opening riffing style of the song will, for me, be a fairly signature Funeral Mist style of guitar approach. A lot of bands try to sound dark and sinister... but Funeral Mist just sound outright evil with "Devilry". It just comes off as intense and violent, rather than dark and mysterious, which I believe is Funeral Mist major aim. It's interesting to hear on here that they've re-recorded the song "Funeral Mist", which originally appeared on "Darkness" and you can hear how different it sounds with Arioch on vocals. When he roars out "Funeral Mist" its just spectacular and the original just didn't have that same level of delivery.

In the end, this is quite a successful release. It really continues the ideas that were founded on "Havoc" and develops them even further. I simply like the palette that Funeral Mist is trying to experiment with. They're not trying to do anything overly ground breaking, but they are trying to develop something marginally different and interesting to give the Black Metal listeners.


Funeral Mist - Havoc
Pounding Metal, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

1. Realm of Shades
2. Hellspell
3. Nightside Phantom
4. The Old Ones Grin












With the seeming demise of the project all efforts have fallen on Arioch to take over. Based on "Darkness" who would have thought such a musician was sitting behind the bass guitar. The band returns with a fire unlike anything else around. I'm almost in shock that this didn't work its way over to me back in the 90's, since this is exactly the type of Black Metal I was interested in at the time. Arioch finds himself on the forefront of the upcoming Swedish scene and he probably didn't even know it at the time. "Havoc" only sees the need for a replacement drummer, which is the only instrument Arioch doesn't seem to play, so who does he team up with? None other than the now legendary Necromorbus. Together they would begin to found a new level of sinister darkness in the Swedish scene. This was recorded in the early stages of the Necromorbus recording studio and it would soon become one of the eminent Black Metal recording studios in Sweden, in some cases overshadowing the legendary Abyss studios.

I actually managed to get my own copy of this demo and its a real gem in my collection, given how much I like Funeral Mist. It has a multi-panel booklet, but it is only single sided for the printing, and is on a dubbed tape. I'm sure it's limited to some quantity, but it doesn't say on the tape. In the liner notes Arioch has a statement concerning the release of the demo under this name: "This release shall not be compared with the first demo, or with any of the earlier material by Funeral Mist. The past material was all written by the previous guitarists Typhon and Vintras who no longer are a part of the mist.. But I decided to continue under the same name even if the music is totally different today as I now am the only songwriter." Even though, I've clearly compared the releases, he's not entirely wrong, this is basically a different band with completely different goals. Far better goals if you ask me...

Now you have to keep in mind that this is before bands like Ondskapt were performing, this is before Watain was even around, this is before all those bands performing that more infused darkness in their music. The early Swedish scene fell in the footsteps of either Marduk, Dissection, or Dark Funeral. Funeral Mist seems to throw off all those chains and casts a huge infusion of the Norwegian atmospheres a la "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas", blending in the intensity of Marduk, and casting everything in a whole new cloak of darkness unlike ever before. Arioch seems to draw influence for the sinister vocal performance from Attila and then just ups the ante ten fold. A truly crushing and jaw dropping performance. Ultimately, I'm quite glad the band dissolved in the way it did... I'm sure we would have gotten "Havoc" one way or another, but perhaps the band falling apart prompted Arioch to focus on writing more original material.


Funeral Mist - Darkness
Self-Released, 1995
Genre: Black Metal

1. Dreams of a Time Before Time
2. Funeral Mist
3. In Black Silence
4. In the Shadows I Wait
5. Blasphemy
6. Infernal Atavism







Now, I have no idea who originally started Funeral Mist, but the incarnation that exists in modern times is a pretty far cry from how the project started out. It seems the project started in 1993 and put out a promo before "Darkness", but "Darkness" is the earliest material I can find from the band. I, unfortunately, don't own a copy of this release and am instead reviewing some mp3's I downloaded. At this time the band had a full line-up and features members that would play with prominent bands like Dark Funeral and Thyrfing. It makes me wonder if Arioch was just starting out in the music scene and here he joined a band on bass, since it doesn't look like he got involved with the project until it existed for a year.

Back in 1995 Funeral Mist sounded like a fairly typical Black Metal. They have serious moments of Dissection worship in the bands self-titled song "Funeral Mist", but far more rooted in Black Metal than that of a Death Metal blend like Dissection. They have that melodic edge that was pretty common to the early Swedish scene and they pull it together with a relatively dark atmosphere. It's certainly not a bad demo at all and, honestly, if the band had continued in this fashion I think they could have produced some interesting Black Metal. They were starting out at a time when that pure Swedish sound was garnering a lot of interest by fans around the world, but Funeral Mist was just too underground to be noticed at this time.

After this it sort of appears the band entirely fell apart. At least the aspect of it having a full line-up seems to have disappeared overnight. Typhos, who performed guitar and vocals went on to play guitar in Dark Funeral for a time. Vintras joined Thyrfing for a while, but never recorded anything with them. I have no idea where the drummer went off to, and this left only the bassist. He seemed the only one interested in performing music and all the other musicians seem to have left the Black Metal scene altogether.