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
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 - 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 - 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 - 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


Previously Known as Geïst

Eïs - Stillstand und Heimkehr
Lupus Lounge, 2018
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. An den schwarze besandeten Gestaden
2. Stillstand und Heimkehr

Eïs return with an EP this time around, despite the usual wait of a few years between their releases. It seems like there have been some line-up changes and the band is working with a new drummer called Torrent. I'm certainly sad to see Marlek go because his drumming was something I always found extremely enjoyable about Eïs and he always did an excellent job arranging interesting drum sections for the project. Torrent had some fairly big shoes to fill as far as I was concerned and he did a quite admirable job on his first recording.

This EP begins with a really melancholic piano piece before launching into the usual excellent Black Metal we are used to form Eïs. I know after "Bannstein" Alboin had decided to part ways with the other members, but it seems Abarus is back in the fold, which I think is a good thing, because I feel like it would be hard to imagine Eïs without him involved. Keeping Alboin and Abarus to work on the Eïs material gives us a bit of seamless continuity, so things have not changed that drastically in the grand scheme of the Eïs writing. The two new members, Dante, and Torrent perform admirably, so its nice to see they will be working with quality musicians that can keep up with the back catalog and demands of this project. This is also the first album that Eïs has recorded on their own, sure it was mastered in a studio, but the core recording and mixing was done by the band. The end result? Something more raw and primal, which hearkens back to the early days of Black Metal for me. I daresay I actually like this a lot more than their polished sound. With the new equipment and the way modern DAW's work they are able to record something in a more raw fashion, but still achieve a far more balanced mix where all the instruments can be heard. This is certainly much different from the days of old recording on fourtracks as a full band! Perhaps if they want to record something as elaborate as "Bannstein" you'd need the professional studio touch, but for something simpler like this EP, the "do-it-yourself" approach fits quite well. Everything feels more organic, which is a quality I strive for in my own music.

In the end, Eïs have given us an interesting treat that, while sounds like it belongs in their catalog, it has this different quality and overall edge to the sound. It's more like a "what if" scenario where Eïs is re-imagined in the realms of more raw Black Metal, but with enough quality to not have outright noisy production. I like it, the songs feel more aggressive like this and a bit more passionate. Either way, these are two excellent songs and are must haves for any Eïs fan out there.

Eïs - Bannstein
Lupus Lounge, 2015
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Ein letztes menetekei
2. Im noktuarium
3. Über Den Bannstein
4. Fern von Jarichs gärten
5. Im schosz der welken blätter

I've always looked forward to new material from this excellent German band and even though three span the time between the last album and "Bannstein" you can sort of tell that Eïs have hit their stride. I think Eïs have hit on the exact sound and imagery they're looking for as a project, so ever since "Galeere" the project has been meandering artistically in that particular niche for their desired sound.

"Bannstein", to me really just picks up where "Wetterkreuz" left off, except production wise this album tends to feel even more grandiose. Even just the opening song "Ein letztes menetekei" hit me a lot harder than I was expecting. Eïs usually has a much more melancholic feel and tone to their albums, but this one really hits harder for some reason. The music is just as majestic and wonderful, as we've come to expect from the project, but, wow, this album just leaps off the disc into your ears. One of the aspects that stands out a lot more than the others is the orchestration. Now, this isn't focal enough to launch Eïs into Symphonic Black Metal territory, but it's adding a layer of atmosphere to the music that just gives everything a fuller feel, such as we hear in Emperor. You'll hear flairs of keyboard work and orchestral instruments cut through the mix that just add to the overall flavor of the music. It never gets so in the front that we're at Anorexia Nervosa level, but Eïs play intense enough that they could probably compete with that project. However, Eïs never quite gets to the sheer vicious intensity of Anorexia Nervosa, they take a much more mesmerizing approach to their music, which keeps that deep atmospheric quality going throughout the album. With the orchestration layer Eïs plays around with a lot more varied melodies than their previous efforts such as in "Über Den Bannstein" after the acoustic section and it works out quite well for them.

If you've been a long time Eïs fan then "Bannstein" certainly won't disappoint. Their additions build on the "Wetterkreuz" ideas and give it an even more intense majestic feel. They do their usual excellent job of playing around with intense moments transitioning to majestic melancholic sections making their material a really dynamic journey for us listeners. Coupled with superb musicianship and songwriting makes Eïs an always wonderful journey as far as I'm concerned. "Bannstein" is yet another killer record in this projects catalog.

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


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 - 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...