Monday, March 23, 2015


Faagrim & Zwartplaag - United Wolfish Hordes
Thor's Hammer Productions, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Die Zeit der Wintersonnenwende
3. Mein Pakt mit dem Wolf
4. Flamme empoer (Sieg oder Walhall)
5. Pagan Brotherhood
6. Intro/Renewed Vision of War
7. Black Visions of Hate
8. Wolventyrant

Side Faagrim: ...coming eventually...
Side Zwartplaag:

After hearing the new songs on "Haatstorm" I was looking forward to hearing the all new material for this split. Sadly this is the last recording Zwartplaag would ever produce before breaking up. It truly is a sad thing, since the material they were making was only getting stronger as time went on.

The material here certainly continues what was started with "Haatstorm", but it feels a lot more refined and the riffs are much stronger this time around. The drum production and overall mixing is a lot more balanced as well. It truly is a shame the project was put to end after this, because they were, surely, onto something much bigger had they continued. There are very few bands that play a simpler form of the late 90's style that interest me these days, but Zwartplaag has managed to make the music interesting and thus has a certain level of maturity to their writing. I think this is what really separates them from the other bands that immediately give off the feel of "I've heard this a million times already", even though some that can be attributed to their sound, I think they pull it off with a far stronger appeal and this sets them above the rest in many ways.

Zwartplaag - Haatstorm
Heidens Hart, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Forgotten Tower of the Moon
3. Countess of Blood
4. Nachtkwaad
5. Last Stronghold of Eternal Hate
6. Imperial Death March
7. Winds of Desecration and Lust
8. Den Plaag Geleden
9. Haatstorm
10. Outro

This is one of the times where I must stand corrected in my original assessment of the demo. Apparently Heidens Hart heard something in this band that I didn't. When I saw a lot of the songs from "Nachtwaad" appear on their full-length, I was a bit skeptical, but, wow, they translated quite well to a studio performance. Naturally, I found the newer songs stronger and I wish they had made more of those rather than focus on re-recording the demo below.

To be honest, this was the first material I heard from Zwartplaag and I did quite enjoy it immediately. Even though "Haatstorm" would be considered far more simplistic, but the riffing style struck something with me. It reminded me a lot of the later 90's style Black Metal that was out. I hear a lot of material like Isegrim or a lot of other material put out by Last Episode. I know there is a decent amount of Black Metal fans out there that did not enjoy that label, and to some degree I can understand why, a lot of the bands they produced were overly simplistic and the music had this rather "samey" feel as we listened to it. There are large tracks that feel rather dry, but for some reason "Haatestorm" feels a lot stronger than that. Opening the booklet and seeing one of the members wearing a Funeral Winds shirt comes as no surprise and perhaps that influence makes this a bit stronger. Even though there is a focus on just one guitar rhythm and no interplay of layering, Zwartplaag's debut still manages to pull off a solid sound. The only major complaint I could have is the drum production. It's almost "too triggered" and the drums sound like an e-kit, which they may have used. That's really the one thing that mars their rather raw feel. The vocals are heavily reverbed, which comes as no surprise and a minor complaint is that they are a bit loud in the mix, but not so loud that they totally take over the music.

This isn't the best thing I've ever heard, by no stretch of the imagination, but I really enjoyed this for what it is. It's a primitive old school style of Black Metal, and while others may find it a bit contrived, I think a large portion of the riffing is strong enough to stand up to this kind of criticism. If you enjoyed some of the bands I referenced above, then you may want to check out Zwartplaag.

Zwartplaag - Nachtkwaad
Heidens Hart, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Forgotten Tower of the Moon
3. The Last Stronghold of Eternal Hate
4. Interlude
5. Nachtkwaad
6. Outro

This is Zwartplaag's third demo and I highly doubt I'll be able to track down any earlier releases. Indeed, I believe I am lucky enough to have tracked this down rather recently. "Nachtkwaad" was released on cassette to an unknown limitation of hand-numbered copies and I have #206. Some copies come with a read cover, while others are the cover above in black and white.

Zwartplaag's demo is merely okay to me. It opens with keyboards that are very reminiscent of the old Dungeon Synth style performed by Mortiis, and I actually really liked this throwback feel. It's fairly generic Black Metal, but this is extremely common with a lot of newly formed bands. I think I was hoping the music would be a little more interesting by the time the third demo rolled around, but some bands take a while to brew a more interesting take on what has already been done. "Nachtkwaad" is not a bad demo, but it's certainly nothing new. The guitar riffs are heavily rooted in tradition, there is no fresh take on a differing blend. The drums sound programmed, but nothing is stated about this on the release... this would sort of make sense though since it lists Onmensch as doing everything except vocals. Perhaps this standard fair approach to Black Metal is why I never originally found this demo, because the project never really tore through the scene back then. It was only on the later material that we see some really nice stuff shine through.

I would class "Nachtkwaad" as not really a necessary listen, there are many bands who play this style and many who have done it a little better. "Nachtkwaad" shows that Zwartplaag can certainly meet the standard of what has come before... but the real question is will they be able to build something more into their sound to make it truly their own or play an atmosphere that feels extremely well done.


Tyhjyys - Tyhjyys
Grievantee Productions, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. 0
2. 1
3. 2
4. 3
5. 4
6. 5
7. 6
8. 7

Hailing out of Finland Tyhjyys really plays up the obscurity factor. Not much information can be found about the project. The reason I wound up picking this up is solely due to the fact that I've enjoyed a lot of Grievantee's releases over the years, so I decided to try my luck with this as well. As usual, Tyhjyys proves to be a solid band for their debut full length.

Tyhjyys sort of sits somewhere between the realms of harsh Black Metal and atmospheric Black Metal. I don't think the riffing is quite enough to push it to that atmospheric level that I'd expect from the likes of Csejthe, but there are moments where this is surely the case. Listen to the song "5" and you'll hear riffing that transcends the standard fair Black Metal.  Even so, Tyhjyys, sits somewhere in the glory of Horna and some of the more raw German styled bands I find quite endearing. The vocal performance is a little weak, but its wisely put in the back of the mix. Despite the lackluster performance here, it really doesn't mar the overall nature of the music. The vocals are also show up quite sparingly throughout the release, so the real focus is on the music and Tyhjyys gives us a great experience in that regard. They do a pretty good job between having some fast raging sections and slow melancholic periods. The real problem with this release is that at first glance it feels painfully generic, but you need to listen to this multiple times to really tease out the charm of the release. Only then do we realize that the foundation being laid here is quite well done.

With such a solid foundation, I am curious to see where Tyhjyys would go next. Will they release something in the future? Or will this be their lone standing effort and allow the project to fall into true obscurity where only a few listeners remain to remember what was done here...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Shores of Ladon

Shores of Ladon - Eindringling
Eternity Records/Sol Records, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Durch die Augen des Raben
2. Eindringling
3. Sturm der Unrast
4. Rauhnachtserwachen
5. Waldlied
6. Ungebrochen

It seems "Lupercal" was a success enough to get Shores of Ladon moving towards their debut full-length, "Eindringling". This was, honestly, my first experience with Shores of Ladon and it was originally sort of a random purchase from Iron Bonehead Productions, while I was a doing a larger order. I gave a quick listen to one of the tracks on youtube and they seemed interesting enough to check out further, I had no idea what I was getting into.

Now that I've heard "Lupercal" I was expecting more of that very interesting blend of sorrowful raw Black Metal and "Eindringling" really delivers this to us. The strange with the Shores of Ladon material is that it has all been released before, just like "Lupercal". Prior to this a lot of the songs were released via two song tape releases over the years. It seems the band takes quite a while to compose its songs and at this point I can only hope that amidst this re-recording of old material its giving them the necessary time to write new and even more powerful material.

Regardless, the studio recordings of this songs really brings out the majesty of the material. If I thought "Lupercal" had some wonderful material on it, I wasn't prepared for how incredible "Eindringling" would be. They simply do a wondrous job of marrying the spirit of ancient Black Metal and re-casting it in a more modern writing style, making, to me, Shores of Ladon not just another Black Metal band. Material on here conjures up all the memories listed on "Lupercal", but I feel the tracks on here can hit along the atmosphere of Ulver's "Bergtatt" at certain times, which is quite a beautiful reference. Minus Garm's clean vocals of course, but, honestly, if you're not Garm you should probably stick with harsh vocals and this is exactly what Shores of Ladon do. I tend to fall on the side of preferring harsh vocals over clean, so Shores of Ladon are doing it right, as far as I'm concerned. At times you can kind of tell the difference from their earlier songs compared to the newer, because the composition on the newer is a bit more refined and mature. Nonetheless the re-recorded material from their 2010 release is still quite solid as far as Black Metal is concerned.

As with "Bergtatt", "Eindringling" is only 36 minutes long and feels a bit short. I wish there was just one more song to hear! In any event, Shores of Ladon seem to be poised for becoming one of the stand out projects in Germany and I've taken to recommending them whenever people ask me for new Black Metal recommendations. I really hope totally new material is on the horizon, but, as with everyone else, I really do want quality over quantity, so I'm willing to wait as long as Shores of Ladon need to create a new full-length.

Shores of Ladon - Lupercal
Eternity Records/Sol Records, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Einklang
2. Knochenstaub
3. Lupercal
4. Brut und Seuche (Intro)
5. Brut und Seuche

I don't hold out much hope of finding the material released prior to "Lupercal" from Shores of Ladon. The good news here is that much of the prior material has been re-recorded by this point and it seems a lot of the "Promo 2010" material is still unreleased. However, I've decided to just start with "Lupercal", because this band is simply too good to ignore any longer.

Despite being a relatively new project this band really harnessed the sound of the early German Black Metal scene. The spirit of the mid-90's is definitely alive with this band and bands that can really hit this style well are something I really end up loving. It doesn't matter that they may not be doing anything new, this sounds absolutely wonderful to me. The EP opens with a somber guitar passage that feels reminiscent of the work found on Bethlehem's "Dictius te Necare", making me instantly interested in this. Indeed much of Shores of Ladon's riffing has a very somber feel to it, sort of answering the question: "What if Bethlehem had decided to play raw Black Metal instead..." and the answer is something wonderful. A lot of the elements feel reminiscent of fellow countrymen Pest, who put out some simply stellar material over the years. Shores of Ladon seem ready to take up their flag, but with a far more sorrowful backdrop, but nonetheless filling the space with extreme Black Metal. These wonderful passages are backed by shrieked vocals and blast beats, making Shores of Ladon's particular blend of influences feel rather different than your run of the mill emulators who simply want to revive Darkthrone for the millionth time.

I simply can't help but be instantly drawn into Shores of Ladon's world and I feel this will instantly appeal to quite a few Black Metal fans out there. The production is still rather raw, but very audible. Think later Moonblood releases and I think you'll get a decent picture of their quality. Or think early Pest releases. All very good and really helps add to the dark and raw atmosphere Shores of Ladon manages to harness.