Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ghremdrakk


Ghremdrakk - Je m'Exalte
Grievantee, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Toxicomanie
2. Tempelgruis
3. Astree Vortex
4. De Ascent
5. Chaos Home
6. Unheimisch
7. Chemikinesis
8. Servitor, Servitor
9. Voidtrek







After "Sterrenpracht" I was pretty excited when "Je m'Exalte" got announced, because I was very curious how this band would grow out of the solid foundation they laid on their debut album. Signing with Grievantee, I had some decent hopes for the release. All of these hopes were dashed against the rocks once first Black Metal song hit.

Now, I fully know, that Shatraug loves raw production and sometimes it can really work well. The obvious Horna inspiration among other bands, I'm sure is what drew Shatrauge to release this band... but the raw production is pushed way too far on this release. "Sterrenpracht" was, honestly, a far more perfect production quality for Ghremdrakk's sound. It's an absolute shame that "Je m'Exalte" is having these problems, because all of this music is actually quite well composed. If they had used similar production values, then this would be over an hour of some extremely wonderful Black Metal. Sadly, everything feels overly distorted, with the cymbal crashes drowning out far too much of the guitars. Meanwhile Gaur's vocals screech over the mix. If this was mixed and balanced more audibly, I would be impressed, because he really gives Torog's performance on "By the Blessing of Satan" a run for its money, which is truly impressive. Sometimes the writing on "Je m'Exalte" is an improvement over "Sterrenpracht," but at other times some out of place riffing can show up as in "Chemikinesis" which has a catchier riff that just doesn't fit.

Even though I got a bit used to the production as I listened through the album, it is still quite a step down from "Sterrenpracht". It really mars how enjoyable this album could have been. Slogging through over an hour of production like this is pretty difficult. A decent portion of their songs are near the nine minute mark in length and perhaps this was a bit too long for some songs. If you're interested in checking out Ghremdrakk I would start with their debut, and if you absolutely love the project check out this album. Perhaps really adoring the style will help overcome the production downgrade.


Ghremdrakk - Sterrenpracht
GoatoWarex, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. De Sfeer van Daath
2. Doodsbidders
3. Geselvaart
4. Doorheen de Nevel der Sterren
5. Nachtelijke Fanfare
6. Wegen Oazer God
7. Naar de Kring
8. Craeyeveld








Ghremdrakk is a Belgian band playing a fairly raw style of Black Metal. I haven't listened to Ghremdrakk in many years and I got this around when it was first released. It had actually gotten to the point where I'd completely forgotten what this had sounded like. Usually that doesn't bode well for bands in my collection. Revisiting "Sterrenpracht", was actually an enjoyable thing for me this evening.

While I would never say "Sterrenprecht" is an amazing listen or a must hear, I did quite enjoy the album. Ghremdrakk aren't doing anything new to Black Metal, but they do a pretty nice job at writing and composing a cohesive album. I'm not sure anything is particularly memorable to me, but I'm looking at "Sterrenpracht" as a whole and the atmosphere they manage to conjure is a really excellent one. While a lot of the songs can fall to the background, since none of the riffs really cut through and command attention, the droning quality to their music makes for an excellent and rather calming affect amidst all the harshness in their raw style. I would say this band is sitting somewhere between the realms of Moonblood and Horna, but without any of the aforementioned bands' catchy riffing style. Ghremdrakk keeps their sound very basic and minimal, and strangely it really works for them. In that spectrum I managed to find quite a bit of enjoyment. The music isn't particularly fast either, instead favoring a more mid-paced style and feel to lull the listener into their world.

So, if you really like that raw and cold sounding Black Metal, I do recommend checking out Ghremdrakk. I found their album to be quite enjoyable. While I may not find the music to capture my memory deeply, I seem to enjoy what they're doing whenever it's on, so they must be doing something right! Sometimes they're throw in these extra textures like acoustic or clean guitar sections and they really stand out wonderfully.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Waldstille


Waldstille - Mirrors of Dreams
Rigorism Production, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. In the Labyrinths of Winter
2. Requiem
3. Mirrors of Dreams
4. Shivering
5. Poison Thoughts
6. Gaze into Eternity










I didn't have the pleasure of hearing this release until the middle of 2015, but I saw a friend link a video sample on youtube and I was immediately enamored with the material. I knew I had to have this, so I tracked down the album and bought my own copy of it. It's sort of a "do it yourself" CD, with a printed booklet and CDr. The packaging is, naturally, very minimalist due to this, but that's okay. Waldstille is a one man project out of Russia. Waldgeist seems to have quite a few other projects, but I haven't had the chance to listen to any of them yet. If they're anything on part with Waldstille, I'll get my hands on them eventually.

"Mirrors of Dreams" is a very somber and droning style of an album. It features extremely long winded guitar lines, which really drive the immersion and hypnotic factor for the listener. The vocals are in the higher range typical of DSBM, which I usually do not like, but they're so far in the background of the mix that they really don't mar the music at all. This allows us to really be entranced by the, often, slow moving passages as if meandering across a vast winter landscape. The music has a cold and chilling quality to it, which is only emphasized by its simplicity. So, tracks like "Shivering" really stands as being aptly titled to coincide with the music's sound. The drums have a rather monotonous quality to them, and I think this is the one major area the album could have been improved. They are either slow or mid-paced to match the music, but there is really no variation between hi-hat (or ride), snare, and double bass with an occasional crash cymbal hit for good measure. But you only ever hear one kind of crash. I can see the logic behind a minimal approach to the drums, but I would have enjoyed a bit more variation, not too much. Constantly crazy drum fills would have also made it far too distracting to listen to. I think Waldstille just defaulted to a safe drum arrangement rather than trying to over complicate things.

In the end I really found "Mirrors of Dreams" a truly beautiful and excellent journey. I really hope Waldgeist makes more material for this project amidst all his others, because I really liked the direction of this first album. I'd like to see what can come in the future with this kind of style. Many listeners may find this a long winded and droning album, so you may find it boring to some degree, for me though, I really quite liked it. It just had an excellent presence that sucked me into the overall atmosphere of the music.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Isvind


Isvind - Gud
Folter Records, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Flommen
2. Ordet
3. Himmelen
4. Dåren
5. Tronen
6. Boken
7. Giften
8. Hyrden
9. Spiret





When I saw Isvind announce the new album I approached it with a bit more caution, since I wasn't immediately enamored with "Daumyra". However, when I finally heard a sample off it I was immediately interested! I thought the new track sounded really good, so I planned to definitely pick this album up. I was also surprised to see that it looks like Isvind has rounded out the ranks and no longer approaches the band as a two piece.

The catchier riffs I lamented missing during "Daumyra's" straight forward approach are back in force for "Gud". This is more of what I was expecting as a follow-up to "Intet Lever". That stark Darkthrone influence, which has been ever present is certainly back, but I feel like there's a bit of Tulus in the mix, especially with the female vocals showing up in a few tracks. The opening song had a surprising intro that sounded almost uplifting, until we get to the real meat of the song and then that ravishing grimness in Isvind's sound came out loud and clear. If you're lamenting this change from "Daumyra", there is still a presence of the Kampfar/Immortal blend throughout the album. It's just been further blended with their original sound. I think this blending of styles is what makes Isvind great, because Isvind has always had a very strong writing style, so I usually find listening to the band quite enjoyable. The fact that we've got a really strong blend of bands I really like makes Isvind stand all the stronger and sets Isvind apart from their influences.

So, if you were slightly disappointed in "Daumyra's" sound, then I recommend paying a visit to "Gud", which, I think, most people were expecting the follow-up to sound like. It's a wonderfully cold and majestic album. At this point, I am happily looking forward to what Isvind will produce next.


Isvind - 1993-1994
Kyrck Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

Nivelheimen 1993:
1. Intro
2. Over Blaamyra Steg Kongen
3. Dauingene ut av Underverden Steg
4. Om Natten Flyr Fanden
5. Nivelheimen
6. Lysningen i Skogen
7. Nattens Vingeslag Bryter Stillheten
8. Skyggeskogen
Herskerinnen 1994:
9. Intro
10. Herskerinnen
11. Aasgaardsreien
12. Vinteren, Min Herre
13. Kvite Ætt's Seier
The Call of the Icewind 1992:
14. Falling Down Into the Heat
15. Haunted by Demons
16. Eit skrik i ei kald natt under ein morbid, kjølig og sølvglittrande måne

If you missed out on the Isvind demo material like most people then in usual Kyrck fashion, you're in for quite a treat. I really like Kyrck re-visiting the past with their demo re-releases. I would also venture that getting the material direct from the band is better than any of our 20+ year old tapes at this point! So, for me, the sound quality alone makes this compilation worth getting. You get some of that tape hiss feel in some songs, but overall it's a lot better than my old tapes. The only rather strange thing is that the last track on "Herskerinne" "Lyset Flakker..." is not on this re-release. The real bonus to this release is the material from 1992 when the band was originally called Ice Wind. I was rather interested in hearing this material, but could never really find it anywhere. Now that I've heard a few songs off that original demo, I can see why the band wasn't interested in re-releasing all of it. The material is pretty and still sounds rather poor in quality. However, "Nivelheimen" and "Herskerinnen" still stand as strong demos for the band. I still wish some of these songs had been re-recorded for their studio album... ah well.

Isvind - Daumyra
Folter Records, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Kast Loss, Brenn Alt!
2. Burn the Kings
3. Blodstorm
4. The Dark Traverse
5. Djevelens Svær
6. Myra
7. Speculum
8. Klabautermann






When I saw Isvind was entering the ranks of Folter Records, I was immediately pleased. I usually quite enjoy the material Folter publishes, and I assumed Isvind is a band I would continue enjoying. So, imagine my surprise that upon getting "Daumyra" on my desk, I really didn't enjoy it immediately.

Upon re-listening in more detail, I think it's because this album doesn't have the same level of hooks "Intet Lever" had built into it. "Daumyra" is strangely absent of this kind of riffing. Except when Darkthrone takes over in the song "The Dark Traverse", but for the most part the album takes on a more standard Norwegian Black Metal feel. For some reason I get the impression that a lot of Immortal has been infused into the bands sound. This certainly isn't a bad thing and upon second listen I'm finding "Daumyra" a lot more enjoyable than I did in my initial experience. "Myra" has some really good moments that catch me, but for the most part the album didn't really grab or demand my attention as starkly as "Intet Lever" really did.

I  think the problem with "Daumyra" is that a lot of people may write the album off as something they've heard a million times. In quite a few ways, that's rather true, but that doesn't change the fact that "Daumyra" is still a well written album. In fact, it's probably a lot closer to the "Dark Waters Stir" style than what appeared on "Intet Lever". In many ways this is a colder and more chilling release, which might coincide with the water and ship concept art. Unfortunately, I think people might write it off too quickly. I did wind up enjoying it, but I think I still like "Intet Lever" a bit more.


Isvind - Intet Lever
Self Released, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intet Lever
2. Kjølhalt
3. De Dødes Maskerade af Synd
4. Pisslunka Kjøtt
5. Vaginamaria
6. Dommedags Grimmtunge Slegge
7. Hjemsøkt
8. Himmelfjell







Based on the track I heard with the split, I would say "Intet Lever" is a rather pleasant surprise. Even more surprising is that this was self-released by the band. However, this is a professional release through and through, so don't think this is a demo of any kind. The musicians behind Isvind have been around for a while and they clearly know how to record a quality product.

There are a lot of things I really love about "Intet Lever" and a lot of that stems from their ability to create some really killer catchy sounding riffs while still maintaining an incredibly cold atmosphere. Since Darkthrone has really moved away from playing their brand of Black Metal, I feel like Isvind is really continuing their saga and not in a copycat/re-hash fashion as most bands perform, but due to Isvind's age, I think they understand how to move the methods forward. Just listen to that opening riff on the title track that really hooks you in. It's so incredibly perfect. This kind of excellent riffing shows up all over the album as in tracks like "Pisslunka Kjøtt". To show that their earlier folkier elements aren't lost to the raging Black Metal the majority of the album exhibits we come across "Dommedags Grimmtunge Slegge" which bears a distinct Satyricon/Kampfar vibe. So, there are some decent variations and elements thrown into the mix, which really makes "Intet Lever" a very powerful sounding release.

I had the pleasure of seeing this band live in Montreal and it was wonderful. They played a lot of material off this album as well as some of their earlier stuff. I was truly hooked on this project when I got to see the title track performed and they've probably solidified a fan for life if they can really keep producing music of this quality! Cold Norwegian Black Metal still breathes strong within the realms of Isvind!


Orcrist / Isvind Split
Hearse Records, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

Orcrist:
1. Intro
2. Det Hedenske Norge
Isvind:
3. Entropi











Side Orcrist: ...coming eventually... maybe...
Side Isvind:

After a massive hiatus with Isvind since 1997 the band finally returns with this split with Orcrist. Sometimes a break for a band can be a much needed endeavor, but with strength of "Dark Waters Stir" it was kind of sad to see the project come to a close with such a strong debut. I wasn't really expecting the band to pick up where they left off, but this is also a sort of unexpected direction for Isvind. The Black Metal has a lot more "rock" elements in there a la Darkthrone or maybe even some Khold, but not nearly as groovy as Khold, much closer to Darkthrone. I thought the song turned out okay for the first foray into the world of Isvind again, but it's rather different from the "Dark Waters Stir" style. I'll be interested to hear where the band goes with this return.

Isvind - Dark Waters Stir
Solistitium Records, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Ulv! Ulv!
3. En Gjennområtnet Hytte
4. Stille Sjel
5. Lysningen i Skogen
6. Dark Waters Stir
7. As Rane Comes Down
8. Bankeånd/Poltergeiste






"Dark Waters Stir" finally brings us the debut full-length from Isvind. As I mentioned earlier, I missed out on the earliest Isvind releases as they were coming out, so the copy of "Dark Waters Stir" that I own is the re-release in 2012 by Kyrck Productions. The re-release has the cover from the 7" along with the 7" as a bonus track. It even has a song from the "Herskerinnen" demo tape. This is definitely a bonus, because having the EP on a CD is totally worth it.

As I explore Isvind's back catalog I conjure up all kinds of nostalgic memories of enjoying the first Dødheimsgard, early Gorgoroth, Satyricon and more. If this had been released in 1994 Isvind probably would have been a name typically found amidst the legends since it is not markedly different in style from the second demo. Further making Isvind's career a little more unknown was the inactivity after this album was released. After this album we don't hear anything from the project for many years. Considering Solistitium releases weren't the easiest to get in the U.S. in the 90's, it's no wonder I wound up missing out on this excellent project. On this release we get mostly new songs, with Isvind not conjuring up too much from their early demos. However, I was excited to see them give studio treatment to "Lysningen i Skogen" from the "Nivelheimen" demo tape, since that was one of the stronger songs on that tape.

So, if you're looking for a very authentic Norwegian Black Metal release straight out of the early 90's style, then "Dark Waters Stir" might be an album you missed out on as well. It really is on par with the great projects I referenced above and if you liked their albums, there is no doubt you will find merit in this as well.


Isvind - Isvind
Solistitium Records, 1994
Genre: Black Metal

1. Isvind
2. Herskerinnen
3. Et Slag mot de Veike...













Here Isvind finally brings us some studio recordings released by the now legendary Solistitium Records. This is released on 7" vinyl and I'm sure its limited, but my copy doesn't list anything about it.

Isvind brings us two songs, one brand new and one re-recorded from the "Herskerinnen" tape. The new song is very good and very much in line with what we heard on the previous demo. In fact hearing the studio version of "Herskerinnen" only emphasizes how much I'd like to hear the entire demo get studio treatment. Alas, we only get one, but it's very well done. While this approach to Black Metal had been well established over the past few years, Isvind certainly do the genre justice and show their writing to be on par with the already established great bands. Definitely worth hearing.


Isvind - Herskerinnen
Yggdrasil Productions, 1994
Genre: Black Metal

1. Rittet fra Muspellheimen
2. Herskerinnen
3. Aasgaardsreien
4. Vinteren, Min Herre
5. Kvite Ætt's Seier
6. Lyset Flakker...










Isvind return with their second demo tape in 1994. While I'm sure this tape is limited, there is no limitation disclosed anywhere on my copy. The booklet is printed on glossy paper and there isn't much to it.

"Herskerinnen" has lost some of that relation to the Viking Metal bands I mentioned before, but it seems to have taken on a blend of old Satyricon and Emperor, which is making this a really interesting and quite a wonderful listen. If this is a direction Isvind is going to be moving for the future, I think we are in for some wildly wonderful Black Metal based on the material we're hearing on this release. The Viking style comes back in a traditional sounding folk song with "Kvite Ætt's Seier". It then proceeds into "Lyset Flakker", which was only an alright song. The demo seems to end on this strange not with songs like "Aasgaardsreien" being a real high mark for this release.

I really liked the direction of some of these new songs and I hope to hear more of that in the future. It sounds like Isvind is a ready for some studio treatment, so hopefully that will be coming our way real soon. They've certainly come a long way since the Ice Wind days already.


Isvind - Nivelheimen
Self-Released, 1993
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Over Blaamyra Steg Kongen
3. Dauingene ut av Underverden Steg
4. Om Natten Flyr Fanden
5. Nivelheimen
6. Lysningen i Skogen
7. Nattens Vingeslag Bryter Stillheten
8. Skyggeskogen








I, for some reason, never heard about Isvind until after the year 2000, which is weird to me considering the legendary status the band seemed to hold when they put out "Intet Lever". Either way, I was immediately smitten with the project and I've tracked down everything I could find by this band, whom has quite a long history. I was never able to locate the demo before this one called "The Call of the Ice Wind", which was also released under the name Ice Wind. The only material I've ever heard was on the recent release "1993-1994" which features three songs off the 1992 demo.

So, here we arrive at "Nivelheimen" the bands second demo and heralds in the name change to Isvind. This comes as a cassette only and there were two pressings, one in 1993 and one in 1994. Both pressings seem to have been hand-numbered and I have the repress from 1994 with #138. The opening track "Over Blaamyra Steg Kongen" is an interesting piece and has a bit more of a folky feel to it and features vocals that are sort of chanted. This is similar to what Enslaved has done and what bands like Storm or Isengard would put out. However, after this we delve into Black Metal that shifts its pacing between slow and melodic with some faster paced material. Some parts remind of what Mithotyn would later put together, but at a slower pace. Since Mithotyn and Isvind were operating at around the same time I imagine each bands demo work probably found its way into each band.  I also feel Helheim and Einherjer were drawing influences from all these bands around the same time. While, I'm relating Isvind to a lot of Viking Metal, I'm not sure "Nivelheimen" would rate as on the same level. The music is very raw and there are Black Metal sections that I feel would be more closely related to something like Darkthrone, which I'm sure is an influence! The opening riff of "Lysningen i Skogen" make that pretty apparent.

In the end its a very solid demo from a promising young band. If you missed those raw years of the Norwegian spirit checking out Isvind demo material will bring you back to those early days real fast. I remember when the vast majority of Black Metal being released was in this vein and it really brings back some fond memories of finding new bands when I was younger.

Àrsaidh

Changed Name to Saor

Àrsaidh - Roots
Darker Than Black, 2013
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Roots
2. Carved in Stone
3. Saorsa
4. A Highland Lament










Here we have the debut album from Àrsaidh, which I picked up back when it came out. The project has since gained some ground under the name Saor. It's strange that I don't hear too much out of Scotland from the Black Metal world, despite that region of the world having some breathtaking history and landscapes to inspire such musical aspirations. I may just be ill-informed, but I haven't heard much cross the great pond and this is one of the first. However, if Àrsaidh is any indicator to what is brewing in the region then there should be some seriously high hopes.

"Roots" is a really beautiful and majestic album. If you like tinges of folk elements added into your Atmospheric Black Metal then surely you'll feel wonderfully immersed into "Roots". Aspects of this remind me a bit of what Altar of Plagues did in their early days, but Àrsaidh have tinges of Ukrainian styling along the lines of Drudkh. Witnerfylleth certainly shows up in their sound here and there, but Àrsaidh, while influenced by that sound, expand it a little by adding in their own tinge of highland atmosphere.

Naturally this is a great album. However, shortly after this release the band has changed its name to Saor, because there were issues with certain internet services use the "À" character in their name. Still "Roots" is a wonderful album, so look for it under the name Saor now.





Monday, September 7, 2015

Kältetod


Kältetod - Talpfade
Eternity Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Talwärts
2. Treibend
3. Fluten
4. Urnen












Released at the same time as "Reue" is the vinyl only LP "Talpfade". As with "Reue" its also limited to an undisclosed amount and pressed in multiple colors. I have the Grey vinyl with #75. When "Leere" was repressed in 2010 only Side A of "Talpfade" made it into the Appendix section, which does make me a little sad and I would like to see this full album get the CD treatment... someday perhaps.

If you think "Talpfade" feels a little more primitive than "Reue" you'd be right. While the composition happened around the same time as "Reue" and thus being post-"Leere" the quality is quite high, but its still has an older feel closer to "Leere" because the recording took place between 2004 and 2005. So, production wise, it's a little closer to "Leere", whereas "Reue" is a much newer recording and has a much stronger presence. I wonder if these tracks are just something R. didn't feel really fit inside the space that is "Reue", although I would argue that moments of "Talwärts" would certainly fit. In fact the track could probably be re-worked with different riffs and become quite an immense piece of art. "Trebend" is just as wonderful as "Talwärts" and it has moments that really engage the listener. The B-side is a little different, and perhaps why it was not released in the "Leere" appendix. "Fluten" actually has a bit more of an Ambient Black Metal flair with the use of keyboards in the background. "Fluten" also drones a lot more and even has a slower pacing than our usual Kältetod experience. "Urnen" is, once again, a bit different in scope. The opening feels a bit like my favorite track from "Reue", but then segues into a really crushing rhythm section, before returning to the more beautiful chord structuring.

As you can see "Talpfade" has quite the myriad of experiences for listeners. "Reue" still stands above this release, but the B-Side of this album is on par with Side-A, so I really do hope those tracks will be put on CD someday.


Kältetod - Reue
Eternity Records, 2010
Genre:  Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Vor Entflammten Erinnerungen
3. Zermürbt Durch Reue
4. Nur vom Eiswind noch Getragen
5. Das Lächeln der Verwesung
6. In die Glut der Weltenseele
7. Grau in Grau







Here we finally have the proper follow-up to "Leere" with "Reue". From just looking at the cover this feels like a far more thought out Kältetod and "Reue" really manages to deliver the feeling to complement the artwork. This is limited to an undisclosed amount, but still hand-numbered and I own #505.

I was fairly fortunate to be rather late to the Kältetod game. I think if I had just heard "Leere" I wouldn't have been so enamored with the project. In fact, I may not have tried "Reue" based on my past experiences unless a friend really insisted I do so. However, I first experienced Kältetod with the song "Nur vom Eiswind noch Getragen" and I was immediately taken aback by how incredible the songwriting was. "Reue" stands as a solid masterpiece in Kälatetod's discography and it really stands out as one of the finer Atmospheric albums in the Black Metal genre. I really can't say enough good things about this release and it is certainly in the top 10 for the year.

While Kältetod's vocals have never been particular great, and "Reue" is no exception, I find the overall composition overshadows this quite a bit. Even though my favorite song "Nur vom Eiswind noch Getragen" stands out as the lone slow and somber track, the rest are fast paced with chord structuring and riffing that is truly stellar. R. manages to make such an immense and emotive reaction with his writing, so much more than he ever had before. According to the liner notes, this album was composed between 2004 and 2006, then recorded between 2007 and 2009. These may seem like a long time to create 40+ minutes of music over seven songs, but if you're demanding ultra high-quality this is what it takes. "Reue" is a truly beautiful experience and if you're a fan of the Atmospheric Black Metal scene I think "Reue" can stand as a testament to high quality writing. Some people may find the vocals a little bland, but I'm hoping they can see past that and really pay attention to the music with the way a lot of this riffs are crafted.

In the end, I hold "Reue" as one of the top releases in the genre, and while I 've only been listening to Kältetod for a few years now, I've noticed "Reue" is in constant rotation when it comes to my listening happens. A truly amazing piece of art, one I'm rather skeptical if R. could ever outdo.


Kältetod - Verstummt, Erblindet, Verdorrt, Erfroren
Raging Bloodlust Records, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. Verstummt und Erblindet
2. Verdorrt und Erfroren
3. Willens Ende
4. Vom Horizont im tal der Schmerzen








The follow-up to "Leere" is this 12" EP, which I missed out on getting when it was released. Now, I'm not complaining because it afforded me the opportunity to wait until a CD version was released in 2008. The version I have a CDr limited to 222 hand-numbered copies and I have #104. The additional bonus is the fourth track which was originally released on the split 7" with Regnum from 2004.

The first thing you'll notice is that the musical quality isn't even close to on par with the split that just came out or "Leere". I was kind of surprised about this until I bothered to look at the liner notes. All of this music was composed between 2001 and 2003. In fact there's a promo tape from 2003 called "Trümmer" and all three songs can be found on there. So, if you were looking for an advancement of the "Leere" sound, then you'll be pretty disappointed. This EP's music really sits in the space between the two demo tapes and the release of "Leere". It's definitely a lot better than the demos, but the production quality is fairly similar to the tapes. The bonus track steps the production quality up a little bit, but definitely feels like a precursor to "Leere".

So, if you were expecting something that grew the sound founded on "Leere" you might be disappointed, but if you were curious what Kältetod sounded like in its early formation, then this is a great historical representation. The songs are a little better than those found on the demo tapes, but they're all pretty closely related. Still the demo tapes had moments that were quite stellar by comparison.


Veineliis & Kältetod Split
Ashen Productions, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

Veineliis:
1. Son of Angurboda
2. Without Mortal Agony
3. Deserted Rooms of Concrete
Kältetod:
Aus Trümmern...
4. I) Erwachen, II) Wahmehmung
5. III) Reflexion, IV) Erinnerung
6. V) Erkenntnis, VI) Erheben
7. VII) Suche, VIII) Reflexion II




Side Veineliis: ...coming eventually...
Side Kältetod:

I missed out on Kältetod's first split with Regnum, but I managed to get a copy of this. I actually have the CD edition of this pressed in 2008 by Temple of Torturous. It comes as a very hard cardboard digipak, similar to Spectral Lore's "I". I'm not really a fan of this packaging, it's kind of weak and the CD isn't really in a tray.

"Aus Trümmern..." Sort of picks up where "Leere" has left off, but it has a bit more depth to it. The composition is even more emotive than "Leere" even was. The whole work is far more cohesive, which makes sense since it's supposed to convey a single concept. Sometimes some of the passages can delve into a little bit of monotony, but overall this is an excellent work and I really like the direction Kältetod is heading at with this material. R. is starting to play with guitar layering a lot more overtly and the interplay between the layers creates an extremely strong atmosphere. The overall riffing is much stronger and I really look forward to what Kältetod might work on next, considering the direction this project is taking.


Kältetod - Leere
Westwall Productions, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Wiederhall der Leere
3. Kältetod
4. Von Vertrauter Vergänglichkeit
-. Hypnos
Appendix: Talpfade (2010)
5. Talwärts...
6. ...Treibend








Here it is, Kältetod's legendary debut. It was originally released by Westwall Productions in 2005, but I missed out on that one. Perhaps I will pick up the original someday, because my repress by Eternity Records from 2010 is missing the "Hypnos" track. However, there were two major reasons to buy the repress, which are that it's a remastering of "Leere" and as a bonus we get two tracks from the
"Talpfade" album on CD. Prior to this "Talpfade" was only on vinyl and while I would prefer all of "Talpfade" on CD, I'll take two tracks over zero tracks. The repress is a beautiful digipak edition and limited to an undisclosed amount of hand-numbered copies, of which I own #417. The updated layout and cover brings the album more in line with the art direction of "Reue" and the other releases.

Compared to the demo material, I think "Leere" is, at times, a bit of a step back. "Leere" seems to focus more on the raw chord structuring and droning elements of sawing away at the guitar to create that sort of expansive experience as we engage the length of the songs. Sure, the album is broken up with some picked chords only driving a solid atmosphere home for us and those moments are wonderful. There is also some keyboard synth elements briefly at times and this only enhances our experience with the extra layer. However, some of those really spectacular atmospheric lead guitar moments found on the demo are few and far between on the debut. "Leere" keeps things simple for us, which is why it probably still sits in that transitory time of Depressive Black Metal and most people put "Leere" into that category. However, I think "Leere" arrived at a time when the typical trappings of DSBM were evolving and a lot of bands moved into the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal, which Kältetod almost certainly did with their later releases. "Leere" itself is a wholly different experience from what I hear from the top genre definers of DSBM, "Leere" isn't an agonizing experience, it's more beautiful and melancholic, which is why its sort of sitting somewhere on the fringe of the two genres, before R. takes a full plunge into the Atmospheric genre.

I'm kind of surprised Hypnos was removed the re-release, since it's a really wonderful song. I think some of the riffs or the song itself got re-arranged later on "Reue" though... something about it seems extremely familiar.It is sort of a strange song and very different compared to the other tracks, especially with the breaks with the bass guitar only playing. Either way, I'm still pretty happy to have the "Talpfade" material on CD, even if there is a pretty big difference in the maturity level when it comes to the writing style. I think some of the "Talpfade" concepts are pretty old, but the overall arrangement is a much more exciting experience than "Leere".

While "Leere" is still the beginning stages for what Kältetod would become, the debut album is still pretty solid. At times it's a little overly droney and can have boring moments, but this is still a solid foundation and backdrop for what will eventually come.


Kältetod - Von Kerken und Ruinen
Self-Released, 2004
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Aus des Kerkers Stille Atmend
2. Erst im Untergange ewig
3. Im Zweiten Grabe
4. Vor Ruinen
5. In der Kakophonie toter Träume










Kältetod is a band I found a few years ago and somehow sadly missed out on the material as it was being released, but it has grown to be one of my favorites. I actually listen to, at least one, of their albums very frequently, which means I really am curious about their back catalog. Like many people out there, I missed out on the original two Kältetod demos "Aus Kerken..." and "Aus Ruinen..." both from 2003, but I was extremely lucky to get my hands on this demo compilation limited to an undisclosed number. However, they are hand-numbered and I have #99. It comes packaged in a strange CD box with xeroxed booklet and cover. There isn't too much to the booklet though, as I kind of expected. I do kind of want the original tape versions, simply for my archives and enjoyment of this very good band.

The track layout is a little odd for this release. The first and last tracks are from the first demo "Aus Kerken" and the interior three are from the second demo "Aus Ruinen..." The even stranger thing is that there's a sixth track listed, at least I think it's a track title, "Durch Laubes Fall und Rebels Schleier" and it makes me wonder if this was supposed to be a bonus track that, for whatever reason, never made it onto the disc.

Kältetod's first two demos are pretty primitive and they have some objectively serious problems. One of which the drums are so low in the mix their nearly inaudible. They're clearly programmed and perhaps that is why R. has pushed them to the back of the mix. His vocal work is merely okay, it is nothing special and certainly nothing exciting. However, the guitar arrangements are extremely strong. With the demo material you can hear some layered sections with leads and certain other passages that hint at the glory that Kältetod will eventually become. However, these incredible passages sit amidst a rather typical tried and true style of raw Black Metal sawing away at rather droning chords. It works, but you can tell the material is still in its primitive stages, it even sounds like some of the stronger riffing on her wound up on future full-lengths, which is a very good thing. I, kind of, wish other bands would do this, where picking apart strong moments on a demo found a better setting someplace else.

So, if you're as enamored with the Kältetod sound as much as I am, then this is certainly worth hearing. Thus I have linked below an upload of the full recording on youtube, since this is so limited. It's nice to see the limitations the band had to overcome over the years. In fact its really exciting to listen to this and realize how much the project grew over the years.




Saturday, September 5, 2015

Top 10 of 2014

2014 turned out to be, yet another, astounding year for the music I enjoy. While 2012 and 2013 were all great, I feel like the volume of above average releases was a bit higher this year. In the prior years creating the top 10 was a little easier, but this year, I had about a clear top 6, but after that there was so much excellent music from all kinds of bands that it proved very difficult to choose. Thus, I've resigned myself to going a little over the 10 mark... I truly apologize for this. Honestly, after number 6, I feel like the order is much more random and there is no "real" order imposed on the list anymore.

15. Saor - Aura (Northern Silence Productions)


Saor has undergone a name change and they were once known as Arsaidh. Usually it's pretty hard for a folk-ier style of metal to hit my top list, but Saor have put together a pretty beautiful album this time around. They've really blended the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal in with the Celtic elements very well to make a really great listening experience.

14. Winterfylleth - The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight Records)


Even though Winterfylleth hasn't really deviated from the sound on their previous albums and it feels like a continuation of "The Threnody of Triumph", I can't deny that I really quite enjoy listening to their music. It's really due to this rotation that I feel compelled to include them in my list.

13. Mortuus - Grape of the Vine (The Ajna Offensive)


Review here

I was so ecstatic when I saw a new Mortuus was entering the world of Black Metal. I really enjoyed their debut full-length and I'd been following the band since the release of their 7". While I really enjoyed "Grape of the Vine", I'm finding that it's not in my rotation nearly as much as some of the other things I got this year. There's aspects of this that make me want to objectively put this with the top 5, because the musicianship is that good and I really do consider this a must buy for 2014, but I'm just not listening to it as much as the other releases. Whenever I do give this a listen, I quite enjoy it!

12. Blood Stronghold - From Sepulchral Remains... (Witches Sabbath Records)


This band was a new find for me and I was really excited when I heard them. This band plays an excellent style with haunting and melodic atmospheres. As with many bands like this from Australia they have a bit of that Pestilential Shadows/Nazxul (modern) style to their feel, which is nothing to complain about!

11. Gratzug - Offenbarung (Hammerbund)


Gratzug plays really awesome Atmospheric Black Metal derived from the likes of Paysage d'Hiver given the thinness and harsh feeling of the guitars, but they add a layer of majesty that the rawer Paysage d'Hiver lacks. The major complaint I have with Gratzug is how difficult it is to acquire their releases. However, if you do manage to get your hands on one, I do not think you will be disappointed and "Offenbarung" is an absolutely excellent release.

10. Pestilential Shadows - Ephemeral (Seance Records)


Pestilential Shadows has had a strong string of output for quite a few years. The latest release "Ephemeral" is really no exception to that rule. It really stands as a continuation of their "Depths" album, but I feel the sound is even more refined. This really stood as a really beautiful and haunting piece this year.

9. Totale Vernichtung - Ritualmordlegenden (Darker than Black)



Totale Vernichtung is kind of an odd band, the vocals are merely okay and sometimes they're a bit loud in the mix, but the music is really quite excellent. It's very strange, because a lot of the structuring is based on major chords and scales, but Totale Vernichtung really manages to make this sound raw and grim at the same time. I feel this would be a challenging thing for a lot of bands and to consistently perform it so well is quite a feat. They really captured my ears with their debut full-length "Feuerbestattung" and "Ritualmordlegenden" doesn't really have a massive difference from that album, which is okay, because I really just wanted more and more from this project!

8. Туман - The Past is Alive (No Colours)


Review here

I've enjoyed Туман's music for quite a while now, but "The Past is Alive" really took their sound in a new and haunting turn. It really captured my imagination so much more than their previous works and I truly loved it. Hearing Dim's spout her sinister vocals really added a whole new dimension into their shift in guitar work. Their vicious and raging style, took a bit of a step back, to compose songs that seem to linger in the consciousness rather than blasting our heads in for a whole album.

7. Stworz - Cóż Po Żyznych Ziemiach (Werewolf Promotion)


Stworz really caught my ear this year. It has moments of Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum shining through, but with a vocal performance that is rather different from both. While there was merely one moment on the album that I felt was a bit out of place, I can't help, but love the album Stworz has given us. It's majestic and expansive in scope and truly a wonderful journey!

6. Infamous - Rovine e Disperazione (Eremita Produzioni)


Review here

Infamous was another new one for me this year and "Rovine e Disperazione" really nailed the raw and majestic feel I really look for in some Black Metal. The writing is just spectacular and really captures the listener in their dense and harsh atmospheres. While their earlier works were pretty good, none of them are really as strong as this album and this seems to be bringing the project in a more mature and refined direction.

5. Grisâtre - Paroxistique (Dusktone)


I really enjoyed "Esthaetique" and this new release came out of nowhere for me. One minute I turned around and it was released. I feel this sort of really upped the ante on the foundation that was laid with "Esthaetique" and the songwriting and riffs, in general, are much stronger. The songs are also vastly longer, so prepare for quite an involved journey!

4. Blut aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III


After "Memoria Vetusta II", I really wasn't expecting this release at all. Which makes sense, since it does state on my release that "Memoria Vetusta II" was supposed to be the end of that arc. So, it was with great surprise and pleasure that many of us saw the announcement that "Memoria Vetusta III" was announced. This is actually a far more involved album than "Memoria Vetusta II" if that's possible, but I feel I find them both equally enjoyable. So, why is this number 4? Well, I did rank this as number one originally, but then I realized I haven't been playing it as much as I play the first three. The next three releases I seem to listen to a lot more regardless if "Memoria Vetusta III" may be objectively better in some respects.

3. Earth and Pillars - Earth I


Review here

It always surprises me to see a band debut hit so high on my listening. However, Earth and Pillars really put together a truly amazing atmospheric experience. One I've enjoyed returning to frequently over the years. Their packaging and layout really mirror the music perfectly, so this band is truly the full package experience and if you're looking for a very good Atmospheric Black Metal experience from 2014, I feel Earth and Pillars will not steer you wrong.

2. Darkspace - III I


Review here

I guess this will come as no surprise ranked at number two, given my love for their third album. While not much has changed from the third album, Darkspace still prove they are very strong authors of very compelling music. Coupled with the long wait between releases, they built quite a bit of anticipation and then really delivered on that with quite a good album.

1. Kriegsmaschine - Enemy of Man


Review: here

This was another wholly unexpected release. Due to their focus on Mgła, I thought, perhaps, this project was forgotten, but then Kriegsmaschine returned with a truly amazing album and something very different from what I was expecting. This release truly grew on me over the year and it really wound up being the release I return to and listen to most. It's a pretty stunning and wonderful piece of art.

What Death Metal did I buy?

The new Vader came out and that was pretty decent. Behemoth's "The Satanist" hit and amidst all the fanfare I still enjoyed "Evangelion" a bit more. Deathcult's "Pleading for Death" was a really excellent experience and I highly recommend that band to everyone looking for some old school styled Death Metal. At the Gates' "At War with Reality" hit to mark their big return... I still haven't listened to it yet. I listened to a track and it was okay.

Who else was up for considering?

The real tragedy is Pest's "Buried". Sadly Pest's drummer Mrok was killed in a car accident and completion of this album never really happened. What we have is a few rehearsal songs of new material that was from the upcoming release, and let me tell you, it's incredible. Seriously, it's easily  top 5 level of awesome. They did the best they could with "Buried" to show off some of the new material and give the listeners a few rarities, but it was a very difficult choice to eliminate it from the top 10. My reasoning had more to do with the fact that it wasn't a full album, which may sound unfair in some ways, but realize I literally spent months thinking about this in the back of my head and I just decided to take it out of the running and mention it here. Here's my full review

After this, there's just so much to list, albums from the likes of Zorn, Sühnopfer, Death Fortress, Blood of Kingu, Erebus Enthroned, Skogen, Sorcier des Glaces, just more stuff than I know what to do with... maybe I'll make a list later.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nattfog


Nattfog - Mustan Auringon Riitti
Hammer of Hate, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Blinding Fog
2. Path of the White Wolves
3. Reaching to the Stars
4. Mieleni Mustissa Merissä
5. Kosmisen Usvan Ympäröimänä
6. Mustan Auringon Riitti
7. Kaksitoista Askelta Luvattuun Valtakuntaan







Finally, we have reached Nattfog's debut full-length. I'm rather surprised this is on the heals of their split with Nekrokrist SS, but it seems the band may have been more productive in writing new material since 2008 than I previously thought, given the fact all of this was recorded in 2010.

The music on "Mustan Auringon Riitti" is a bit slower and more contemplative than the prior Nattfog material. The earlier material feels harsher and more hateful. Even though the production quality on these tracks is a bit better and more clear, Nattfog still maintains that gritty harsh feel to their overall sound. Sure, some of the earlier style shines through every now and again, but their slower, more melancholic approach really dominates the entirety of this release. I really enjoyed both sides of the project for different reasons. I sort of hope that they play around with blending the styles for future efforts, because that would sound rather interesting in its own regard. As it is, I imagine fans of their previous work will continue to enjoy this approach to their sound.

This is a very strong debut and brings us something a little different from previous efforts. I wouldn't say they're re-inventing anything, but Nattfog does an excellent job crafting this style of music, so I can't imagine fans will find it particularly disappointing.


Nattfog & Nekrokrist SS Split
Primitive Reaction, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

Nattfog:
1. Yöni Usvassa
2. Ancestral Echoes
3. Under the Cross of Woden
Nekrokrist SS:
4. Path of Depression
5. Gas Chambers, Crematory and Hell
6. Talviyössä








Nekrokrist SS: here
Nattfog:

It's been a few years since we've heard from the realms of Nattfog and I'm kind of surprised to see them resurface with only three songs on a split. Over that time frame, I figured more music would come, but that's fine, because we get a split with Nekrorkist SS, which is another excellent band out of Finland. This split is limited to 500 copies and pressed on 12" vinyl. It comes with a lyric sheet insert as well.

If you found yourself enamored with the demo material, then you'll be pleased to hear that little has changed in the way Nattfog approach their music. This is easily a continuation of the style we were first exposed to. The opening song is a mid-paced catchy and melodic piece, which is exactly what I wanted to hear out of Nattfog. The second track, "Ancestral Echoes" speeds things up a bit and we are driven by the standard Black Metal blast beat, but not at a blisteringly fast pace. This song, over it's eight minutes, manages to form into a piece with some extremely passionate and wonderful closing rhythms. We finally close with the slow, yet hateful, "Under the Cross of Woden", which serves as a wonderful closer. These three tracks make it even worse that this isn't a full-length. Nattfog is definitely ready for it with their sound and writing style. Hopefully, that's coming in the near future.


Nattfog - Nattfog
Wolfsvuur Records, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Diabolical Winds
2. At the Shadows of the Fallen Walls
3. Everlasting Fields













The first rumblings of Nattfog were ushered in in 2008. The original format was in a CD-R form coming from the band, but the music was so strong that a few months later it was pressed officially on tape. There have been two pressings of this tape with pro-printed cover so far, both pressings limited to 150 hand-numbered copies. I own a 2nd press and have #106. This just goes to show the strength of Nattfog's first work upon entering the Black Metal scene.

If you've been enamored with the Finnish Black Metal sound along the lines of Horna and other harsher compatriots then Nattfog is exactly something you will enjoy. The Nattfog demo is harsh, catchy and has some really wonderful melodies strewn throughout. Nattfog is like a more well tempered Horna, meaning they don't assault us with blasting fierceness, instead Nattfog has a bit more of a melancholic bent a la the Horna's slower renditions. A band performing an entire demo of this style is actually really awesome.

If the above description is, at all, appealing then you know Nattfog is off to a rather strong start. I can't wait to see how this project evolves in the future. Definitely a project to be watching...


Monday, May 4, 2015

Monarque


Légendes:
Sepulchral Productions, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Forteresse:
1. Wendigo
Chasse-Galerie:
2. Le Bois des Belles
Monarque:
3. La Griffe du Diable
Csejthe:
4. Murmures Nocturnes








Side Forteresse: here
Side Chasse-Galerie: ...coming eventually...
Side Csejthe: here
Side Monarque:

Finally making my way through this entire split. As I've said in my other reviews for the projects, this is one of the best splits around. Limited to 500 copies on two 7" vinyl and I own #69. Every band involved has submitted absolutely stellar tracks and Monarque is no exception.

As with "Lys Noir", this isn't really a new Monarque song. It first shows up in their live set "Under the Black Sun" from 2011, but has never received studio treatment. While this song is very good and beautiful, in its usual Monarque style, it does have some far more vicious and intense moments. This is probably why it never wound up in the "Lys Noir" recordings, it doesn't really match that aesthetic. "La Griffe du Diable" while having atmospheric moments, has a much more fiery and intense atmosphere. There's a level of viciousness to the song that doesn't fit with the melancholic beauty of "Lys Noir", but it certainly fits on this split! Here we have an excellent celebration of the Québec scene and Monarque is certainly a major representative of that sound for me.


Monarque - Lys Noir
Sepulchral Productions, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. L'appel de la Nuit
2. Vigor Mortis
3. La Quintessence du Mal
4. Solitdue
5. Mes Condoléances
6. Au Seuil des Ténèbres (Frozen Shadows Cover)
7. Comme les Vers; sous la Bannière du Lys Noir







Finally we have a new full-length from the world of Monarque. However, if you've been following their musical career and releases none of this is new material. The only new thing we have is the Frozen Shadows cover song. What "Lys Noir" really gives us is stellar production quality of these songs that were demoed before. Given the fact this easily hit my top 10 this year, the songs clearly needed studio renditions.

"Lys Noir" builds mostly off the "La Mort" demo, which is by far the best material I've heard from Monarque, so it should come as no surprise that when their best material gets full studio treatment everyone is entranced. Even though the recording quality is vastly upgraded from their previous studio efforts, they've still managed to maintain that organic feel to their music. Nothing is overly digitized, as we hear with a lot of modern recordings. No, Monarque, like many of the Black Metal bands all over stick to a far better recording concept and it really makes the feeling so much more tangible. While "La Mort" is raw and harsh by comparison, the studio versions have a far more pristine edge to them, but the harshness of the guitar tone is still maintained quite well. What we really get is a much better mixing job, letting all the elements really shine through in a far more balanced fashion. The demo is good enough, but it's not even close to on par with the quality we get here. Still, there are some that prefer the raw unbridled nature of Black Metal and "La Mort" really serves that purpose perfectly and I'm really glad I have both recordings, to be honest. "Lys Noir" comes as far more accessible and it is no wonder the scene was all a buzz when this was released. I, honestly, enjoy both versions, but this one will always stand out quite a bit more. I think a lot of tracks have been embellished a little more, because I feel they are a lot more elaborate and involved than just what we heard on the demo.

"Lys Noir" is definitely one of the must hear albums out there. I highly recommend picking this up if you enjoy the likes of atmospheric Black Metal. This is, essentially, the progression I wanted their sound to take as they developed over the years. It's really wonderful to see that realized and I'm excited to see where Monarque will go from here.


Monarque - Vigor Mortis
Profane Wax, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Vigor Mortis
2. Deathcrush (Mayhem Cover)














So, this is one of the cooler, yet sadder aspects of my Monarque collection. The packaging for this is so neat. The cover pic above is a rather large, almost poster like size. Inside is housed a Monarque patch and clear vinyl record. The record is an 8" vinyl and it's actually a square. I've never seen anything like this, so it's very unique in my collection. With that uniqueness comes limitation and here the vinyl is limited to 50 hand-numbered copies and I own #46.

Now, the sad part about this is that this vinyl will not play. I don't know if I have a defective copy or what, but it won't play through the full songs on either side. The only way I've been able to hear anything off this vinyl is due to a youtube upload, which only plays half of "Vigor Mortis" and a little of the "Deathcrush" cover. This is not ideal, but I wish I could hear both songs in full. We first heard "Vigor Mortis" on the "La Mort" demo and hear we are treated to a better quality version. The "Deathcrush" cover actually reminds me a lot of Ophthalamia's version, which appeared years ago on the "Nordic Metal" compilation. Both are definitely outstanding version!


Sorcier des Glaces & Monarque Split
Obscure Abhorrence Productions, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

Sorcier des Glaces:
1. Macabre Sunset Over the Northland
2. A Blaze in the Northern Sky (Darkthrone Cover)
3. Unholy Path to Immortality
4. The (Night) Throne
Monarque:
5. Le Feu et le Sang
6. Éloge De La Malveillance
7. Sacrifice (Bathory Cover)





Side Sorcier des Glaces: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

Adding to Monarque's growing list of splits has brought them to working with Sorcier des Glaces, another one of my favorites from Québec. Luckily this is pressed on CD and seems readily available for the public to consume.

Monarque opens their side with "Le Feu et le Sang", which we first heard on the live tape "Under the Black Sun" and the studio version of this song is everything I ever hoped it would be! I can see why they opened the festival with such a good song. The second track is something that showed up on the "Diatribe" EP in 2010. Given the limitation of that EP, I can see why a re-recording of the song made sense here. I wish they would put out the other song, so we could at least hear it somewhere. However, perhaps it didn't make sense atmospherically with the other two tracks on here. Monarque closes their set with a Bathory classic. Monarque's version came out quite good, preserving that harsher quality, but still an upgrade from the original 80's recording. I think the way Monarque records strikes a good balance between the raw/audible, so this worked really well for an old Bathory song.


Monarque & Crépuscule - Déestance
Sepulchral Productions, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

Monarque:
1. Le Rite du Misanthrope
Crépuscule:
2. À Marée Basse, dans les Abysses











Side Créspuscule: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

Monarque heralds in the new year with a great split with Créspucule. Pressed on 7" vinyl and limited to 500 copies. Two versions were made, the first 100 are on translucent green vinyl and the other 400 are standard Black vinyl. I have the standard version. It also has an insert with lyrics from both bands.

Monarque offer up an interesting and mid-paced song for the most part. I feel like the song has more of a droning Ambient feel compared to a lot of their other material. They do a pretty good job with this, since their style has been trending in much more of an atmospheric vein and this is just more of an extension of that. It would be interesting to see them sift some of these styled songs into their recordings instead of just doing straight ambiance sometimes. The track has a far more ethereal quality than some of their prior material.


Monarque - Under the Black Sun
Les Productions Hérétique, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Le Feu et le Sang
2. Fier Hérétique
3. L'Abysse aux Charognes
3. La Griffe du Diable
4. Ces Immondices
5. Vermines
6. Le Grand Devil
7. Vent du Nord
8. Aux Confins des ses Abîmes







Here we have another live recording of Monarque and this is quiet a long set, which is quite cool in its own right. This is a sound board recording from Under the Black Sun Festival which is in Germany. As usual with these cassette releases I'm sure these are limited, however, no limitation is actually stated on the tape. It's probably limited to 100 copies in the usual LPH fashion.

The recording quality from this show is actually pretty good! For a soundboard recording everything came out quite well and I was very impressed. I feel like a lot of these recordings are often a craps shoot, because who knows if the band sounded great that night etc. Monarque actually open their set with an entirely new song and it sounds spectacular. This needs a studio version as soon as possible! I don't know why, but it feels like this live set really hit harder than some of the Monarque songs on their album. Take "Fier Hérétique", for example, it's a fine song on album, but I feel like it really hit hard in this live setting. Probably goes to show the strength of the crowd reaction to Monarque's music. The set list consists of a lot of great Monarque songs, sadly "La Mort" was probably still in the writing process and Monarque hadn't been able to work this into their live set in time. It would have been great seeing how people reacted to the tracks of "La Mort", but I guess that's for a future live release! They close off their set with one of my favorites "Aux Confins des ses Abîmes", which is an excellent closer.

If you're a fan of live recordings, this is actually an extremely good one. This is probably the best live recording of Monarque so far, so if you can track down a copy you'll be rather pleased.


Evil Wrath & Monarque Split
Darker than Black, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

Evil Wrath:
1. Légion Anti-Humaine
Monarque:
2. Vermines












Side Evil Wrath: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque

After an incredible demo Monarque returns to split territory. This time we have a new split 7", and with all the releases in between I feel like it's been a long time since they've done a 7"... but it's only been about a year. I'm sure this release is limited, but no limitation is listed on the release. However, some places claim it is limited to 300 copies.

Now this isn't a new track from Monarque, some of you may remember the bonus track found on "Messe Noire", which was the only studio related track. Here we have a much more expanded version of the song. It opens with nearly a minute of samples to create an atmosphere. My only real complaint would be that it feels like those samples create a more sinister atmosphere, before launching into some very good Black Metal. Monarque's music, to me, doesn't really fall under the truly sinister spectrum. It's almost too melancholic to be thought of that way. While I'm sure "Vermines" is no less hateful, it's just not nearly as vicious and violent like some Black Metal bands can achieve. I'm not saying Monarque should go for this sound, that would change everything I love about Monarque and the Black Metal developed on "Vermines" is in line with their sound and it is certainly excellent. The expanded song is quite well done and I'm glad they decided to give it further treatment.


Monarque - La Mort
Les Productions Hérétique, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. L'Appel de la Nuit
2. Vigor Mortis
3. Solitude...
4. Mes Condoléances
5. Comme les Vers
6. Ruines...










Finally, I think we are running into an era where Monarque is running out of old material to re-release, so here we have a new demo. It's entirely new material! There have been two pressings of this on cassette, both are limited to 100 copies. The first pressing is hand-numbered, but the 2nd is not. I own the 2nd pressing, because I was a little late finding Monarque.

Listening to this... I am definitely excited for the next Monarque release. This demo is excellent. Monarque have definitely been trending their music in the direction I felt really made their core writing perfect. The atmospheres and layering here feel so much more elaborate and deep compared with their earliest material. Listen to how incredible the atmosphere in "Mes Condoléances" sounds. This is a far cry from the early days of Monarque and I think that track really shows their newer songwriting prowess. The overall production quality is actually pretty good, the only time this decreases is with "Comme les Vers", which sounds a bit more raw than the other tracks.

An excellent demo in the end, I really look forward to hearing what's in store for us next from Monarque. It seems like they have quite a bit of new material to work with right now... and we're all still waiting on that next full-length.


Monarque - Diatribe
Les Productions Hérétiques, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Nous, prophètes de l'Interdit (Intro)
2. Éloge de la malveillance (Gloire au Chaos)
3. ANTI: Un portail funèste (Anti-Human)












I never thought I'd wind up with a copy of this in my hands, but here it is. I finally tracked one down. This comes in a a very tiny envelope, because this is on a 3" CD-R and limited to 99 copies. This is a small little sample of what Monarque has been working on. "Éloge de la malveillance (Gloire au Chaos)" would later appear on the split with Sorcier des Glaces. The demo version of the song is really well done, as I've come to expect from Monarque's in process material. The two other tracks did not appear on anything else. The first is the intro, which expect to be some sort of ambience to really showcase the main track. I was surprised to see "ANTI" is a solid nine minute Noise/Ambient track. It's more on the Noise end of things, which kind of really kills my interest in it. So, even if you're a die-hard Monarque fan, you really aren't missing out on too much. The version of "Éloge" on here is a little different and I feel like the Ambient elements in the background are a little different than the final version and has a solid minute more to the song. Even with this difference, I'm not sure I can say it's different enough to really warrant missing out on this demo version. Either way, I'm rather happy to have this version and finally track down this EP.

Monarque & Neige et Noirceur - Cantvs Maleficvs
Obscure Abhorrence, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

Monarque:
1. La Quintessence du Mal
2. Le Grand Devil
3. Cancer Maldroit
4. Aux Confins de ses Abîmes
5. Oubliettes
Neige et Noirceur:
6. Hymne III
7. Hymne VI






Side Neige et Noirceur: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

Finally, we have a release with some new material from Monarque! After all the re-releases and live material it was certainly about time we heard something new. Unfortunately, this isn't a straight full-length, instead Monarque splits with another great band Neige et Noirceur. This isn't all new material, indeed, "Aux Confins de ses Abîmes" is from the 2008 split with Mortualia. I'll hardly find reason to complain about this, since I did say earlier I wanted to have this track on a CD somewhere and now I have it.

On this release, we really get two new Black Metal songs. The two opening tracks are the fully new material and it is extremely impressive work. They've really figured out away to manage the way their style wants to handle atmosphere. It really is a solid progression that, I think, started to show up more with "Aux Confins de ses Abîmes", which is why this track really fits well on this release. "La Quintessence du Mal" is a great track, but at only four minutes, it feels a little on the shorter side. So, things feel like they end before getting extremely immersed. Strangely "Le Grand Devil" is quite a long song, but with very few sections with vocal accompaniment. It really does build a rather deep atmosphere. These two songs really do a good job showing the growth of Monarque's compositional prowess and all I can say at this point is that I really hope a new full length is coming soon. The other two tracks "Cancer Maladroit" and "Oubliettes" are both instrumental more ambient styled tracks. I do wish there was a bit more new Black Metal songs, but I can understand the limitation with this being a split and all. Anyway, this is absolutely worth getting considering the quality of the material.

Monarque - Messe Noire
Sepulchral Productions, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. L'abysse aux Charognes
2. Vent du Nord
3. Mes Blessures
4. Le Revenant (Mortifera Cover)
5. Vermines











See, if you missed out on the earlier live material from Monarque, more was sure to show up! Here we have a concert recorded in Québec in 2010. As usual with most Monarque releases, it seems, this is limited to 1,000 hand-numbered copies and I own #668.

This live show has a rather big change for Monarque, and I can see why the recording and release was a worthwhile endeavor. On here they bring a second guitar on stage, which really rounds out their sound very well. This is far stronger than the other live recordings we've ever heard before. The recording quality is very good throughout, so this really does an excellent job of capturing a Monarque live show. The set list is pretty good, I'm not a big fan of "Labysse aux Charognes", but the rest of the songs came off quite well. They close their set with "Le Revenant" by Mortifera and they do a great job with this. The closing track "Vermines" is a totally new song, but it sounds rather like a demo version of the material. It's quite a good song, building the atmosphere we've come to expect with the newer Monarque material. It seems Monarque have a lot of new material kicking around, but their releases are mainly only covering older material lately or live stuff. I really hope some new recordings are waiting for us in the very near future at this point.

One of the added features of this Ep is that you can put it in your CD drive and actually watch the live performance! They did a pretty decent job with the recording. It has a very "do it yourself" feel, but it's more than one camera from the back of the venue at least! So, in that regard the show recording actually came out pretty well.


Monarque - Blasphèmes et Cultes Morbides
Ewiges Eis Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Fier Hérétique
2. Vent du Nord
3. Un Passage dans las Vallée
4. Extinction
5. Marche Funèbres/Aliénation
6. Lycanthrope
7. Cortège Macabre
8. La Vallée des Larmes (Black Book Rehearsal)
9. Je ne suis Pas (Demo)
10. Marche Funèbre (Demo)
11. Funérailles dans la Vallée...





If you missed out on the original pressing of "Fier Hérétique" now is your chance to get your hands on it. Like the original pressing though this is limited as well. However, this time around it's limited to 666 hand-numbered copies and I own #62. For the collectors of the band, they've added on some bonus tracks, so that you wouldn't just be mad it was a re-release.

The first five tracks are found on "Fier Hérétique" and the first new track we run into is "Lycanthrope", which is mostly an instrumental track that begins with an ambient nature that eventually turns into acoustic guitars. Some of you may recognize "Cortège Macabre" from their first 7" split with Blackwinds. I still think the guitars are overly fuzzy and I wish they had put "Aux Confins des ses Abîmes" on here, because I would have loved to have that on CD. Next we have some demo and rehearsal tracks to finish off the album. The rehearsal tracks are actually quite good. The demo version of "Je ne suis Pas" is great and was awesome to hear and I liked this version a bit more than what showed up on the re-recording. It's probably the same version featured on the "Désécration" compilation from 2008. The final new track, "Funérailles dans la Vallée..." is another ambient styled piece, which is actually very well done and I quite liked it as the outro.

In the end if you missed out on "Fier Hérétique" and consider that a must have, you won't go wrong with this. The additional tracks are actually very good additions, in my opinion. They really sit in the original feel of the debut.

Monarque - Traditions, Blasphèmes et Sacrifices... Live!
Les Productions Hérétiques, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

Côté Traditions:
1. Intro 2008 / Ces Immondices
2. Aux Confins des ses Abîmes
3. Le Vent du Nord
4. La Vallée des Larmes
Côté Sacrifices:
5. Intro 2009 / Mes Blessures
6. Je Ne Suis Pas
7. An Eternal Kingdom of Fire (Judas Iscariot Cover)






As you can see by my cover I missed out on the original edition of this in 2009, instead I own the 2011 repress. As with all LPH releases, I'm sure this is limited to some number, but it was never disclosed how limited it was. It has an entirely different cover than the original press. Both covers are pretty nice though.

This material is a raw audio rip from various camera footages. The recording quality actually isn't that bad and you can hear the band quite well. Since only a single guitar is used live, there are aspects that don't hit quite as majestically, but they actually do quite a good job live with only one guitar. The recording quality on the 2008 material is probably the best, the 2009 material is a bit messy. The worst quality rip is the Judas Iscariot cover. It sounds like the the performance went very well, except the quality of the recording is quite a bit worse.

This tape is, likely, only for the die-hard fans of Monarque. Honestly, if you missed out on this release, I wouldn't be that disappointed. This is the second live release in the course of a year, so I imagine there will be more to come!


Monarque - Ad Nauseam
Sepulchral Productions, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Ouverture
2. Ces immondices...
3. Mes bleassures
4. Un essaim de corbeaux
5. Je ne suis pas
6. L'abysse aux charognes
7. Non-rédemption
8. La vallée des larmes
9. Noirceur







When a new Monarque full-length was imminent, I wasn't really expecting this. This is mostly a re-recording of Monarque's demo. The production is in line with the last split though, so I imagine it's quite an improvement. I have never heard the original demo material, so I can't really compare.

As this is a re-recording of their demo, the guitar work is far less elaborate than their newer material was trending over the past year. It's a lot more in line with "Fier Hérétique", but I feel that "Ad Nauseam" has a level of majesty and intrigue that "Fier Hérétique" lacked. I can see why some people who heard the demo were a little disappointed in the debut full-length. "Fier Hérétique" had its moments, but not nearly as many as "Ad Nauseam" clearly had. Even though the guitar work is far more simplistic and there is almost no layering, the core riffs are extremely well done.

It wasn't enough just to re-record the demo songs, they've actually added quite a few new songs. The first to show up "Je ne suis pas" isn't that new of a song as it appeared on the "Désécration" tape in 2008. Naturally this song is quite in line with the style of "Ad Nauseam". After this "Labysse aux charognes" kicks in and this is night and day difference, starting with a Thrashier riff before breaking into a blasting section with a rather droning riff and going into some serious Darkthrone worship eventually. The real sad part about this track is that it truly has some beautiful moments, but these Thrash sections with the catchier Darkthrone style, really pull me out of any atmospheric space "Ad Nauseam" was building. I really wish they would revisit this song and focus more on the atmospheric sections, since that takes up the majority of the time anyway... I would really love to see this track salvaged and rebuilt somewhere else.The other new song "Non-rédemption" sounds like it could have easily appeared on the earlier material, and this brings back to some state of normalcy for the Monarque style.

They keep "La vallée des larmes", which is a smart move given the nature of this song. It's a far slower pace and very atmospheric, so it really shines as a closer to an album. While this re-recording had some up and down moments, I can really see why people raved so much about the demo. I can also see why that would demand a re-release of the material at some point, so I am really glad they did this.


Monarque & Mortualia - Hymnes Funeraires des Rois
Obscure Abhorrence Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

Monarque:
1. Aux Confins de ses Abîmes
Mortualia:
2. Death Serenity










Side Mortualia: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

After hearing the last split, I was looking forward to whatever Monarque had in store for us next. Another split is what we hear first, with another very good song. This is also pressed on 7" vinyl and limited to 500 copies. There is no hand-numbering on this. The packaging is very basic and there is nothing inside the sleeve.

For this split Monarque submit another far more atmospheric and melancholic track. They're definitely incorporating lead guitars sections far more than ever before, which is really giving their music that extra element to make it special. This is the piece I felt was missing on "Fier Hérétique", and this is how I wanted them to build on that foundation. "Aux confins de ses abîmes" is a fairly mid-paced track, but it is one of the most beautiful. When the acoustic guitar breaks in, it really creates a wonderful musical space for the following harsh Black Metal to break into. The guitar tone is quite a bit cleaner this time around, which serves to make the atmosphere far more immersive this time around. I really hope this is the direction of Monarque's next full-length and I want a whole album of this type of material!


Blackwind & Monarque Split
Zyklon-B Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

Blackwind:
1. The Strayings of Inexistence
Monarque:
2. Cortège Macabre












Side Blackwind: ...coming eventually...
Side Monarque:

Unfortunately, I'm missing the tape that comes between the debut and this split, so my collection picks up here. This is Monarque's first split on vinyl. The packaging opens up to feature the lyrics on the inside. This release is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies and I own #112.

Monarque's contribution to the split is very good. I actually feel like its quite a difference compared to what was first displayed on "Fier Hérétique". "Cortège Macabre" feels a lot more well thought out, it has moments of pure melancholy and beauty. It's not a blast beat driven song, instead it falls more into the realms of a Forteresse blend of atmosphere. A blasting section doesn't even show up until about five minutes in, but the riff it develops doesn't take away from the majesty of what came before at all. The one, and only, complaint I could furnish to this is that the guitar distortion is far too fuzzy. Some fuzz in the distortion is okay, but for things this majestic having a slightly cleaner distortion feels a little better. In the end though, this is, ultimately, quite an impressive track and I really hope this is a deeper composition direction for the future of Monarque.


Monarque - Fier Hérétique
Mankind's Demise Records, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro: Ces charognes éparses
2. Fier hérétique
3. Le vent du nord
4. Passage dans la vallée
5. Extinction
6. Marches funèbres
7. Outro: Isolation









Since the only version I have of Monarque's demo is the re-recording, I'm going to start with their debut release. Two years after their demo Monarque brings us "Fier Hérétique" with all new tracks. Nothing from the demo has been re-recorded here. This album is actually rather difficult to track down today and I admit I did not get this when it first came out, but was lucky enough to find someone selling their copy. One of the reasons this is challenging to find is because it is limited to 500 copies.

"Fier Hérétique" sits somewhere in the realm of melodic Black Metal and atmospheric... it is tough to say which, exactly. However, these elements are generated by fairly conventional means and, in that regard, this is really nothing I haven't heard before by other bands in the 90's. However, Monarque have a great deal of promise, for their writing is pretty good at this stage. There's a clear, underlying, beauty in the passages that Monarque creates and at times lead sections kick in to give a riff a far more soaring nature. Even amidst all of this, this album still doesn't really grasp me like others have in the past. There is nothing off-putting, but their isn't enough truly stand out moments to keep me really fiending for more in the same way other compositions have.

In the end, this is still quite a good debut. The stand-out moments, really do stand out quite a bit and hopefully Monarque can harness that even more in their future releases. However, with the lulls between excellence, the album doesn't really reach that soaring beauty that I would really want to hear. Definitely a project to be watching for future releases. A solid foundation has been laid, let's see what they do with it from here.