Saturday, November 25, 2017

Stworz


Stworz - Blask wiecznego ognia
Werewolf Promotion, 2012
Genre: Pagan Black Metal

1. Zmierzch nad Sławią
2. Słońce niezwyciężone
3. Blask nad wiecznymi lasami
4. Celebracja cykli słońca
5. Tragedie krwią w śniegu pisane
6. Jesienne liście spadają w deszczu
7. Oblicze Chorsowe
8. Wiatr, co słowiańską pieśń niesie
9. Duma Lechitów
10. 1034
11. Rodzima wiara




If you missed out on the first two tape releases by Stworz like I did, this is your chance to listen to that old material. On the way to this compilation, I also missed out on some more splits and EP's... ah well, I've just resigned myself to reviewing what I have available from this project. Stworz also delves into releasing acoustic/folk styled releases amidst their metal albums and I'm not as interested in those.

Since this material pre-dates "Po czasu kres" this music is along similar lines, but almost more primitive in some ways. With "Blask nad wiecznymi lasami" first being released in 2008, you can still get an idea of the basic foundation Stworz was going for. That epic flavor put into the Pagan Black Metal style is ever present in Stworz's riffing style. However, I found the overall music to plod along a little more slowly compared to later releases. Some moments are great, but you can still tell that this is a pretty early effort for the project. As this project grows things get a little more elaborate and more well formed. The material featured from the split with Wolforder is little different. The production quality is a little better, the drums sound a bit more real. But writing wise it's not too different.

I've always enjoyed delving into a bands history and early years. While some projects may find some of their early material pretty cringe-worthy, Stworz, luckily, doesn't have that problem. However, it's certainly not great or a legend in the making. It's just not bad. It's a good start, that built into something really spectacular in my opinion. In the end, this isn't music to listen frequently, but it's fun to delve into a bands history and if you liked the more Black Metal days of Stworz's history this will be a must have in that case.

Stworz - Synowie słońca
Frenteuropa Records, 2010
Genre: Pagan Black Metal

1. Przekuwając myśl w czyn
2. Do młodzi sławiańskiej!
3. Synowie słońca
4. Nektar inspiracji
5. Jaryło
6. Łzy Europy
7. Kołowrót
8. My, Lechici
9. Ku horyzontów krańcom







In just the short span of a year the Stworz sound has developed rather dramatically. The songwriting alone just feels so much more mature for some reason. It's as if they struck upon an idea and approach to how their music should sound and it really just melded together very well.

On this album we'll still get a backdrop of Black Metal into their overall sound, with blast beats and harsh vocals. Coupled with the fact that it feels like there's a lot more influence from Nokturnal Mortum's folkier side being thrown into the mix. The overall feel and tone of the guitars actually reminds me of Honor's "W płomieniach wschodzącej siły", which was an album that focused on more pagan themes than anything else. There is a lot more folk instrumentation throughout this album, amidst its epic and passionate metal performance. I think "Мировоззрение" from Nokturnal Mortum bears the strongest resemblence in terms of song writing structure. However, Stworz puts their own twist on the themes and structure, not to mention folk elements unique to their region. So, Stworz is hardly a clone of the projects that started the whole Pagan Black Metal approach, but I feel that Stworz is striking out on a path all their own and will have a more unique voice in the genre with the way this album turned out to be.

While the first Stworz full-length was only okay, this is a major step in the right direction and they have definitely got my attention with this release. I really had no complaints about the album and I found it a very enjoyable album. It may not be one of the most compelling ever released, but it was still very good and definitely moving their songwriting in an excellent direction. I'm interested in what they'll come up with next, that's for sure.

Stworz - Po czasu kres
Frenteuropa Records, 2009
Genre: Pagan Black Metal

1. W ciszy jesiennych dni
2. Po czasu kres
3. Dzieje snem okryte
4. Porannych mrozów pieśń
5. Kosovo je Srbija
6. Tragedie pisane krwią w śniegu
7. Duma Sławii
8. Równonoc








If you're more familiar with the Stworz of 2014 or after, then delving into their back catalog may hold some fairly different things for you. I didn't really run into this band until they were fairly well established and I found their approach very captivating and I was hoping for more of that, so I delved deeper into their music catalog.

People that came to Stworz a little later will be surprised to hear the opening title track being a massive and fast blast fest. However, delving into the second track "Dzieje snem okryte" we begin to hear quite a bit of the sound Stworz would focus on more. One of the bigger differences is the use of a sort of distorted Black Metal voice for a lot of this album, as opposed to that sort of strong shout W. uses in later releases. He's not nearly as good with the Black Metal vocally speaking. He's not bad, but only okay. The guitar tone is also way too fuzzy, but in later releases this gets cleaned up quite a lot, so it's far more desirable to listen to. Still we get those wonderful epic passages that I wanted more of from Stworz and those are rife throughout the album. So, in terms of composition, this is actually a very well done album, and it's merely limited by its production quality, because a cleaner production would favor this style a lot more. The music isn't raw or unbridled enough. The other major issues is the very obvious electronic drum kit. I don't know if he majorly upgraded this kit later or just got an acoustic drum set, but the drum production improves dramatically at some point. For some reason I always think an electronic drum kit on a Pagan Black Metal album is a bit of an oxymoron... ah well, I do realize not everyone has the means or space for acoustic drums. Still, I would hire someone before delving into the e-kit for this.

Delving into Stworz's past I was expecting to hear far worse, but I think they've crafted a very good album here and it is merely marred by a sub-par production value. Overall the album has great songwriting and a compelling triumphant atmosphere, but it doesn't shine through nearly as much as future releases. So, Stworz is off to a strong start, but has some areas to seriously improve upon in the future.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Permixtio


Thy Winter Kingdom/Permixtio Split
Black Tears of Death, 2012
Genre: Black Metal
Thy Winter Kingdom - Gnosis:
1. Mourning Star
2. The Serpent's Spell
3. P.O.S.
4. The Dance of the Ancient Queen
Permixtio - Resurrezione:
5. Resurrezione I
6. Limbo
7. Resurrezione II







Thy Winter Kingdom: here
Permixtio:

I usually try to do full band discographies, but I've never heard of Permixtio. The reason I bought this split was for Thy Winter Kingdom, but after a sever and shockingly poor performance from the project that brought me here, I decided to see how Permixtio would fare.

Compared to Thy Winter Kingdom's side, they are certainly much better. Now, this doesn't exactly make them a good project, but it's much better. I don't know what their prior albums sound like, but there are some solid moments in these songs for sure. There is a decent amount of keyboard use throughout the songs, but not enough to really make this an outright symphonic project. They sort of bear the subtlety of Emperor in the mix. Like the Thy Winter Kingdom side though, the guitar tone is entirely too fuzzy and just doesn't sound particularly good in the mix, despite the fact that there are strong riffs. For some reason, one of the first things that came to mind was that Permixtio felt like a French version of Evilfeast, but not nearly as good. I know this project is from Italy, but sound wise, there's this sort of awkwardness at times that reminds me of French compositions such as Mütiilation, but it's just not done nearly as well here.

In the end Permixtio was much better, but it didn't really capture my attention enough to listen to other releases by this project. It also touches into the realms of the Depressive Black Metal style at times, and that's not a genre I'm particularly into (except for very specific bands)... but the fuzzy guitar tone makes more sense in that context. The project has, apparently, been put to rest after this split as well. Maybe it will be resurrected one day, but as of this writing it's finished. Either way, if this description intrigues you, you may find more merit in checking out this band than I did.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thy Winter Kingdom


Thy Winter Kingdom/Permixtio Split
Black Tears of Death, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

Thy Winter Kingdom - Gnosis:
1. Mourning Star
2. The Serpent's Spell
3. P.O.S.
4. The Dance of the Ancient Queen
Permixtio - Resurrezione:
5. Resurrezione I
6. Limbo
7. Resurrezione II






Permixtio: here
Thy Winter Kingdom:

It's been quite a while since I'd seen something from Thy Winter Kingdom and I was really excited to hear what new material the project had churned out after all these years. "InnerSpectrum" was a fairly strong album, so I was confident things would be steadily improving as their writing only got better and better.

Well, I wish I had better news to report, but the Thy Winter Kingdom of old is no more. Unless this is a creative blip on their march towards well written songs, this split is sorely lacking. Production wise, this album just sounds awful. It sounds like they were trying to make things "heavier", but instead it just sounds fuzzier with too much bass in the mix. As if they were using really awful amp simulators to get this guitar tone... Then there is mention of drum programming, which would only make the rest of this sound very poor.

The songwriting has also taken quite a dive in quality as well. There are moments that outright sound cheesy, and I'm not quite sure what they were thinking. I imagine they were under the impression it would sound scary, but it really doesn't. And then "P.O.S." shows up and one can only ask..."what on Earth were they thinking when they made this..." It's awful. Just outright awful.

This is a huge let down... I don't even know what more to say on this split. I was excited to hear some new razor sharp Black Metal, but they barely presented us with something competent. Aside from atrocious production, the songs are plagued with poor writing and outright goofy ideas. I really hope this band can get its act together if they decide to release more material... after this, though, I'll be buying with caution from now on.

Thy Winter Kingdom - Opus II: InnerSpectrum
Black Tears of Death, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. Preludium
2. Lucid Misantrophy
3. Old Throne Divine
4. Bleeding Scars (of Suppression)
5. Nocturnal Monologue
6. Path through the Forests of Bliss
7. Black Void








After a few years we finally see this duos first full-length surface. This was the first release that introduced me to the project. I quite enjoyed the album and was a little surprised when I went back and listened to the debut. Basically, everything I found problematic in the first EP has been rectified here.

They've definitely made some steps in upping the production quality and that's one of the first things we notice. The guitar is a little thicker, but it still has that signature thin tone, so it's razor sharp in the mix. The drums are mixed a little better, with the kick more up front, but the tom's fall into the background way too much. They also lengthened up their average song quite a bit, some tracks are even over six minutes on this release. This is a perfect framework for their music and I don't feel like their songs are suddenly ending. Instead they bring us on this wonderful vicious and cold journey, which imbues us with this atmosphere, but it never leaves us too soon.

Musically this album, for me, sits somewhere between Darkthrone and Satyricon. Most of the Darkthrone is heard in the first song "Lucid Misantrophy" and the rest feels more drawn off of Satyricon and Gorgoroth. However, Thy Winter Kingdom has a slightly more modernized approach to the writing, but it is certainly rooted in the feel of those projects. Just listen to how "Castle of Ice" plays out. The only tracks on here that are kind of useless are their interlude/ambient tracks. Sometimes, those can really add to an album, but on this they kind of break up the intensity poorly.

In the end though, the overall package is actually quite good. I thought "Opus II: InnerSpectrum" was an excellent Black Metal album. They're definitely on the more raw spectrum, but that only adds to the overall sonic quality. So, if you're a fan of the type of Black Metal Italy has been producing, this album is certainly worth checking out.

Thy Winter Kingdom - Opus I: Discipline of the Elements
Black Tears of Death, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. Preludium...
2. Fire
3. Water
4. Air
5. Earth (Mother)
6. Postludium...









I thought tonight I would sit down and review a much lesser known Black Metal band. I've had their material in my collection for a while now, so it's been a while since I've listened to it. Their debut album was notoriously difficult to track down and I've only recently gotten my hands on it in 2017, so it's kind of inspired me to delve into this project once more!

The debut EP from this project is only under twenty minutes in length, but nonetheless it is actually some pretty solid raw Black Metal. They bring us through a concept album on harnessing the elements, but there are no lyrics printed so we're left in the dark about their concept. While they're certainly not re-inventing the wheel here, the EP has a very good atmosphere and hearkens a lot to the Scandinavian sound of Black Metal. However, there's this extreme thinness in the guitar tone that I feel is more common to the Italian bands, such as Tenebrae in Perpetuum, and I think this adds a fiercer layer into the overall feel of their songs. In a lot of cases I would hate extremely thinned out guitar tone, but bands like Thy Winter Kingdom make it work within the framework of their sound and it doesn't detract from our listening experience.

If I had to level a complaint at this debut, it's that the songs are really too short. They manage to establish some very compelling atmosphere, but then it's over before we know it. The song "Water" feels like it just cuts out and ends. They try to include some Ambience and atmosphere into their songs and I find this just makes the songs end that much more abruptly. I think they do a really wonderful job of establishing this killer atmosphere and I feel their songwriting would be more satisfying if they merely extended things and extra minute or two in order to let us bask in their sound for just a little more time until we feel satisfied.

I think this is a fairly strong beginning for this project. I'm not sure it has a vast amount of reply value, simply because I quite enjoy raw Black Metal and I would really like it to leave me satisfied and they just don't build on their themes well enough to fulfill me. I do like their riffs and ideas, but I just want them more solidly arranged. However, this is just the beginning, so we'll see if future recordings leave us in a more positive note.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Masachist


Masachist - The Sect (death REALigion)
Witching Hour Productions, 2017
Genre: Death Metal

1. Selected for Execution
2. Distant Horizon
3. The Sect
4. Glorious Death
5. Vengeance Sworn
6. Hang Them
7. Leave the World Burning
8. The Root of Life
9. Our Light






This new album from Masachist came out of nowhere for me. I hadn't heard anything from the project in a while and all of a sudden a brand new album hit this year! I absolutely loved "Scorned", so I ordered this as soon as I was able to get my hands on it. Being released on Witching Hour means it will have pretty good packaging and a booklet that is more than two pages. While this is true, it's one of the more simplistic layout designs I've seen from the label.

If you liked the groovier nature of "Scorned" along with the crushing Death Metal feel, then their new album will likely interest you. One of the things I liked about "Scorned" was its ability to blend the grooves and fast Death Metal together, I feel like "The Sect" is a bit more focused on the groove aspects of their arrangements. There are still certainly fast blasting moments in the album, but they are few and far between this time. Instead "The Sect" focuses on a more heavy atmosphere to get its point across. I do enjoy a lot of those dark atmospheric moments on this album, but I wish it was balanced out a bit more. I also think that, writing wise, "Scorned" was a little better. The atmosphere felt darker and more tangible. It's not that "The Sect" lets you down, and it does hit really good high points, it's just not as good as the prior album for me. Not being as good as a really good album, still means you're a good album. I certainly like it more than their debut, for example.

Masachist continue their march down the path I wish Decapitated had gone down, blending that Yattering and Decapitated style is always satisfying. "The Sect" is still a really good album and I like this style a lot more than a lot of other Death Metal being produced. It's also always nice to hear Sauron on vocals again. I really wish he did more, but hopefully Masachist will produce more music in the future. I realize all the members in this band must have extremely busy schedules with other projects, but hopefully more music will come.

Masachist - Scorned
Selfmadegod Records, 2012
Genre: Death Metal

1. Drilling the Nerves
2. The Process of Elimination
3. Straight and Narrow Path
4. Manifesto (100% D.M.K.M.)
5. Higher Authority
6. Opposing Normality
7. Liberation
8. Liberation Part II
9. Inner Void







Wow... this was unexpected. After listening to "Death March Fury" I find "Scorned" to be a surprising progression in the bands sound. While "Death March Fury" really did feel like a continuation of "The Negation"... "Scorned" is something really different and it's quite refreshing.

Maybe I simply don't consume that much Death Metal anymore, so similarities between projects might not be as apparent, but compared to what I've got in my collection "Scorned" stands out as a really different animal. Rather than an intense blast fest, such as "Death March Fury", "Scorned" is far more focused on driving rhythms and they're constructed in such a way to actually feel haunting at times rather than just building on grooves. Just listen to the slow blast sections of "Straight and Narrow Path" and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. Are there punishing Death Metal riffs on this album? Certainly, but they're blended in with this really interesting material that gets the album to think beyond our usual grooves and punishing blasts. But I feel like that is a typical expectation for those involved with projects like Yattering and Decapitated. However, I think this group pushes the Death Metal envelope a little more in trying to add in more subtle elements in their compositions, which makes this album rather stand above a host of others out there.

Personally, "Scorned" is one of my favorite Death Metal albums. It pulls a lot of influences I enjoy and recasts them in a very well thought out fashion. They also took the time to write more normal length songs, so it doesn't feel as much like a blitzkrieg of blasting. This gives the songs room to breathe and allows the songs to have a much deeper and intense atmosphere. It creates for a much more dense feel to the music and it's unlike anything else I really hear in Death Metal today. I hear bands strike upon the elements in riffs here and there, but hardly an entire album of it and certainly not this cohesive!

Masachist - Death March Fury
Witching Hour Productions, 2009
Genre: Death Metal

1. Unveil the Grave
2. Inborn Obedience
3. Womb
4. Open the Wounds
5. Noxious
6. Malicious Cleansing
7. Appearance of the Worm
8. Crush Them!!!
9. Death Shall March
10. Open the Wounds (Promo 2007)
11. Malicious Cleaning (Promo 2007)



Somehow, I didn't hear about this project until the release of their second album. As a fan of early Decapitated and Yattering, I'm kind of dismayed I missed this until now. Here we are though... Masachist, featuring a veritable who's who of the Polish Death Metal scene. Masachist is, essentially a super group, and "Death March Fury" lives up to exactly that.

"Death March Fury" reminds of the next logical progressions of Decapitated's "The Negation", so if you are a fan of that album and are disappointed in the shift in Decapitated's sound, then Masachist is where you want to be looking. It's an advancement in many ways, because it features the stellar guitar arrangements of Thrufel and if anyone remembers Yattering, then you're in for a real treat! Throw in the punishing drum arrangements of Daray and you've got a real special album on your hands. We also have Heinrich covering the bass lines and many will recognize him from the band Vesania. The other guitarist, Aro, I'm mostly familiar with in terms of as an engineer and he's done some great work in that regard and obviously works wonderfully within the realms of Masachist.

If you managed to get a hold of the limited edition digi-pack like me, then you'll have two extra songs available. These are the two promo songs recorded in 2007 before Pig joined on vocals. The vocal work is being handled by Thrufel on these songs and he does a pretty good job. The production doesn't feel as heavy and punishing as the final album versions. While Thrufel does good vocal work, I do prefer Pig's vocals and its always nice to see him return to Death Metal. I was sad to see him leave Decapitated and I kind of stopped following that project when he left.

So, if you like punishing modern Polish Death Metal, Masachist is a must buy. It's both rhythmic and punishing at the same time, which is something I enjoy quite a bit from the Polish scene. For me, a lot of other Death Metal bands merely do one or the other, but not both so seamlessly. I also feel like there's this underlying layer of darkness in their sound that sets them apart from other regions of the world. Even though some riffing has obvious influences, such as you always hear Morbid Angel styled riffing in these projects, but they combine it with other elements in such a way that just feels different to me.

In the end, the only complaint I could really level at this release is that the songs are too short. In some ways I feel like the project is still just figuring itself out and the musicians will need to work together to figure out their own more unique song structure. For now, I'm content with a good album, that features nothing all that new to the Death Metal scene, but with competent musicians behind the project they can make this feel worthwhile.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Riivaus


Riivaus - Lyöden Taudein ja Kirouksin
Wolfspell Records, 2017
Genre: Black Metal

1. Lyöden taudein ja kirouskin
2. Uhrirovio
3. Pakanamalja
4. Alkemisti
5. Vihan temppeli
6. Tuhkasade










While I may have missed out on the Riivaus demo, I may as well just dive right in, because I have good news. The riffs are here. This debut full length is overflowing with some excellent and serious Black Metal riffing. Somehow another riff master has appeared on the Finnish Black Metal scene and it's always weird to see how this manages to keep going. But it does and while bands like Riivaus certainly aren't re-inventing the wheel here, I still wind up thoroughly enjoying the album and I'll probably listen to it often enough.

Riivaus is probably an amalgamation of all the great riffing bands in Finland. You certainly hear Horna as the mainstay style, but you get touches of Sargeist, Nekrokrist SS, Satanic Warmaster, Nattfog and I'm sure a thousand others that exist and can't recall at the moment. All of this makes for a wonderfully solid listen. In the booklet it says the album was recorded between 2014 to 2016, so obviously a lot of care and curation went into this music creation and I'm thankful for that. Sometimes bands just throw together an album and move onto the next riff, instead of writing a few riffs slowly over time to see if they can make something really special. It seems like Riivaus put time into the latter and it paid off with a good album where it doesn't feel like there is any filler riffs. Every song has a core catchiness that pulls the listener in immediately. Now the real challenge for this project is to see if they can pull this off again.

This is a highly recommended debut if you are a fan of the Finnish style of Black Metal. It really does have everything that draws us into that genre and for whatever reason I don't seem to be getting tired of this regardless of how many projects Finland produces.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hermóðr


Hermóðr - Det Förflutna
Wolfspell Records, 2015
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Disc 1:
1. Från skymning till soluppgång
2. Vargen
3. Thrudvang
4. Grav
5. Bestens Vrål

Disc 2:
1. Tillbaka till skuggorna
2. Ginnungagap
3. Intro (Förlorad)
4. Förlorad
5. Aska
6. Intro (Vid avgrundens kant)
7. Iskalla vidar
8. Vid avgrundens kant
9. Det som vandrar på gamla stigar

If you've missed out on all those digital EP's and singles published by the band on your their bandcamp, now we finally get the chance to own a physical copy of these songs on CD. If Hermóðr continues to put out these digital singles, I guess it will be a bit more tolerable if they compile it all onto a CD from time to time. For this first compilation it spans the entirety of two discs, because Hermóðr simply produces that much material. In the usual Wolfspell fashion this album is limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #316.

After listening to "Krigstid" it's kind of strange going back to some of these older Hermóðr songs and you really get a clear sense of how much Hermóðr's sound has improved over a short amount of time. "Thrudvang" while a really nice and majestic song, the production feels a little fuzzy to me and not in a way that's adding to the overall feel of the song. Either way, I'm quite glad to finally have a copy of this material on an actual CD now. As you can imagine, the songs featured on the second disc are a lot stronger, simply because they are newer. Strangely, the first three songs are all instrumental, so, as a listener, we spend a good amount of time just relaxing to some really beautiful songs. When we get to the "Förlorad" EP, things start to pick up quite a bit and we're back to some really excellent atmospheric Black Metal. "Aska" is the big surprise here, with it's Burzum styled chord structuring and some clean vocal passages that add a very haunting atmosphere overall. Weirdly, the other EP released in 214 "Vid Avgrundens Kant" isn't as good as "Förlorad". The production is a little fuzzier, so the songs don't feel as majestic in some ways.

One of the real treats with this re-release is the final track "Det som vandrar på gamla stigar", which is an all new song, just for this release. It's extremely good and falls in line with the quality we hear on albums like "Krigstid".

While, I didn't get into every single song on this release, I'm still glad to see these tracks hit the pressing plant, rather than listening to them as singles on bandcamp. If you're a Hermóðr fan, then this is absolutely worth checking out, especially the material on disc 2, that is by far the strongest.

Hermóðr - Krigstid
Wolfspell Records, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Krigaren
2. Stormen
3. Mitt Hem
4. Krigstid
5. Nattens Mörker











Skipping ahead to "Krigstid" we now behold one of my favorite Hermóðr releases. As before with the Wolfspell release this is limited to 500 hand-numbered copies and I own #37. As with "Vinter" and all the other releases some extremely provocative art was chosen and looking through the booklet merely enhances the listening experience. If the art chosen isn't actually Gustav Dore, then it's a serious look-alike, because most of the art is in that vein.

"Krigstid", so far is the most Black Metal in overall feel of the Hermóðr releases so far. It surely tends to the atmospheric side and our slower approach to the genre is still tried and true here. Although, it might be interested to see what would happen if Hermóðr did ever delve into the blast beat territory of the other giants in the genre. Regardless, Hermóðr carve out a fairly unique spot with this approach to the genre and the way the leads create an entrancing soundscape to interplay with the plodding rhythms is just masterful. At times "Krigstid" rivals the passionate compositions on Kältetod's album "Reue", which has some of the finest compositions around. While, for me, "Krigstid" never truly hits "Reue" territory it is quite the success for generating a similar feel and journey. My bias towards high speeds is likely holding me back on this particular opinion, although he does get close with the title track with the tremelo picked lead, which is simply glorious! Part of me wishes it would've built into a blast section, but alas, I was never satisfied here. It's still one of the finest tracks on the album, regardless.

The bonus track "Nattens Mörker" takes on a bit of a different tone from the rest of the album. On this track Rafn plays around with dissonance a lot more. It has a far darker and disturbing feel to his usual majestic music. But we eventually give way to some incredibly composed atmospheric parts in the closing minutes that meander between majesty and dissonance, so it's an interesting experience. I think it fits with the overall journey of "Krigstid" despite its slightly different composition approach.

"Krigstid" is an exceptional album, in my opinion, and, for me, it blows "Vinter" out of the water. It takes a lot of the ideas built in that recording and just enhances them ten fold. Rafn is really nailing something wonderful with this music and I hope he keeps it up. The only thing that's a bit worrying is how often he releases single tracks... why not just collect material until you have albums? This music is designed around going on a long journey, but that's difficult to achieve on a single track, unless you make it thirty minutes long. Either way, I'll keep listening and hope that Rafn isn't playing the odds of randomness to hit on amazing material and rather crafting with care and quality.

Hermóðr - Vinter
Wolfspell Records, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Frostfödd
2. Den Mörkaste Dagen
3. Då du Lämnade Mig
4. Månen & Skogen
5. Sorg
6. Vinter
7. En Plats där Tiden Dör









Let's fast forward over singles and jump right to the first full-length "Vinter". "Vinter" is, basically, everything I wanted a full length Hermóðr album to be. It features wonderful cover art that truly captures the essence of the music. This album was originally released on cassette, but I have the CD version limited to 500 hand-numbered copies of which I own 130.

"Vinter" is a slow and plodding journey, much like the first demo, but I feel like the writing and song structure have matured a little bit more since then. I feel like there is a more intense and deeper underlying current to these songs than Rafn wrote before. It has an even deeper and colder atmosphere before as well. Despite the general similarity between the tracks, there is enough variation to get lost in the album, while still finding it interesting.

Your average Black Metal fan may not be really enamored with this style, but if you come across a fan that is also a massive fan of Ambient music, then this is a must recommend. The same droning and meditative experience is very similar. I, for one, really enjoy that experience and "Vinter" gives us a chilling, yet strangely beautiful interpretation of style amidst all the harshness within.


Hermóðr - Hermóðr
Self Released, 2013
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Från Skymning till Soluppgång
2. Vargen














After a very successful demo release, Hermóðr has turned to the internet to release a massive amount of music. I'm not going to review all of these releases, because often the digital singles or two songs per release types of material was later compiled into a CD, which is a far more desirable listening experience, in my opinion.

This EP features two new songs the first of which is quite different from the first demo, but still quite good in it's own way. It features a droning clean guitar line with moments of haunting clean vocals. Another guitar lead will appear here and there throughout the song to give it more of a variation, but there are no drums and there is basically no actual Black Metal on this track at all. "Vargen" begins by following in a similar vein, but after about three minutes it kicks into a Black Metal song. It's a lot more subdued and somber than the first demo, but definitely feels like a continuation of that style. So, if you want to some soothing somber melodies then these two songs will surely hit the spot.

Hermóðr - Demo 2012
Fallen Empire, 2012
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. För alltid
2. Slutet på hans sista resa
3. Över de snötäckta bergen













It's unfortunate, I've missed out on the original release of this demo when it came out. I've gotten stuff from Fallen Empire before, but somehow this passed me by, which is a shame because the cover art alone would have surely caught my attention had I been paying any. Looking into the musician behind the project, Rafn, he has created a lot of music over the years. I've tried out some of his other projects and they tend to range more into the Depressive Black Metal/DSBM and that's just not my thing. Hermóðr, on the other hand, this is a project that I can get behind.

The first demo only features three songs, but the songs are pretty long, so it gives you a good amount of time to get immersed in the atmosphere of the project. Hermóðr is on the more raw spectrum of Black Metal, but Rafn has this wonderful minimalistic sort of lo-fi approach to the whole concept. The end results is some really immersive music, more akin to listening to a beautiful Ambient composition in many regards. The whole project's concept is built around nature and the landscapes of Sweden and the music really nails that atmosphere perfectly. It's cold and chilling, but at the same time has this underlying beauty to the whole journey. It's a droning unchanging landscape of frigid ice, but you can't help but marvel at the sheer beauty of everything.

I think Hermóðr bears some similarity to the style Burzum was creating, especially in the newer recordings where Varg takes a much more simplistic approach to his writing, however Hermóðr doesn't ever really play as fast as Burzum does, Hermóðr is almost closer to Doom Metal tempos, but the execution is entirely different of course. The general song design is built around a slow core riff, but then has this wonderful expansive lead guitar parts that really pull us into the music. Usually, I heavily prefer faster music, but for some reason Hermóðr really just captures the imagination and my need for speed never really comes into play here. Luckily, the vocal performance stays on the more typical Black Metal approach and never delves into the shrieks of DSBM, which drive me nuts. There are some softer sung/spoken word sections, which is what makes those parts feel all the more like Burzum to me.

So, if you like the idea of slow atmospheric Black Metal, then this is a band to really check out. I think people will find a lot to enjoy with this project and this first demo would launch a myriad of new releases over the next few years. Who knew this would turn into such a prolific project!



Thursday, June 29, 2017

Zorn


Zorn & NG Split
Christhung Productions, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

Zorn:
1. Vulkanischer Winter
2. War Command (Blasphemy cover)
NG:
3. Einheit 731
4. The Collaborator










Side NG: ...coming eventually...
Side Zorn:

Given how much I enjoyed listening to "Gegen Alles" I really wanted to track down the follow-up 7" split limited to 500 copies. As expected the new original song "Vulkanischer Winter" meets my expectations of quality after hearing a great album from Zorn. Essentially, if you enjoyed "Gegen Alles" this doesn't stray too much from that theme. With less than a minute left on the side available for playing Zorn cranks through a Blasphemy cover of "War Command". They do it justice, but I personally have never liked songs like this. It's also a massive difference compared to their original track, which I like a lot more at any rate. So, if you're a major Zorn fan and try to get all their material if you can, then you will not be disappointed with their side of the split!


Zorn - Gegen Alles
Christhunt Productions, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Gegen Alles
2. In der Dunkelheit
3. Verbrannte Erde
4. Manch geisterhafte
5. Kreaturen
6. Madenwerk
7. Deathfuck
8. V.c.H.u.j.B.
9. Zorn & Zerstörung V







It's actually been quite a while since we've heard a full-length from Zorn and I remember when this came out it took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting it at all, somehow it's impending release never made it my way until it was already here. I was happy to see them release this on Christhunt, which is a record label I've considered putting out fairly good quality releases for a while now. Naturally, when it finally came to my attention I ordered my copy of this right away.

While "Menschenfiend II" was a great success and it had quite the somber and melancholic atmosphere, "Gegen Alles" seems to shrug almost all of that off with the opening track. "Gegen Alles" is a more hard hitting raw Black Metal album compared to the other Zorn albums. Where on the earlier releases those hard hitting tracks were in the minority, this time I feel like Zorn has put something a bit more unrelenting in our paths. While the more melancholic riffing isn't gone forever in this album, I feel like this has more in common with early Endstille releases (albeit not nearly as insanely fast) than it does with some of the prior Zorn recordings. Unlike Endstille though, they tend to favor far catchier riffing, so maybe there's more in common with the German Pest in that regard? Either way, "Gegen Alles" is an extremely good listen. In some of the earlier Zorn albums I feel like certain songs or riffs could stall out, but "Gegen Alles" keeps my attention throughout the album. The only track that really slows down throughout is "V.c.H.u.j.B." and this wound up feeling more like an old Gorgoroth song than anything else to me.

In the end I quite enjoyed "Gegen Alles" quite a bit and will have this in my regular rotation for listening to Zorn. Needless to say I'm looking forward, even more, to future releases because this project seems to keep getting better and better with each release in my opinion.

Zorn - Zorn
Asatru Klangwerke, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Zorn
2. Shut Up Gothic Slut
3. Mongoloid (Devo Cover)













Just to show us the project hasn't gone silent Zorn put out a new EP with two new songs and a cover track. This is pressed on 7" vinyl and limited to 250 copies. I have the blue vinyl edition of this release. The first song, titled after the band name is more typical of what we expect to hear from Zorn. However, when we get to the B-side, things are a little different. You kind of get that impression with a song title like "Shut Up Gothic Slut" and it's basically what I expected. It's far more Punk styled Black Metal song than anything else. I'm not usually into the Punk styled Black Metal, but Zorn did a pretty good job putting it together giving it more of a Darkthrone feel than anything else in the end. The EP closes off with a cover by Devo called "Mongoloid." Naturally, they performed it in a Black Metal fashion and Zorn being a raw Black Metal band used guitar to cover the synthesizer lead portions. The drums were entirely re-arranged compared to the original to complement the more Black Metal performance and it came out pretty good in the end.

Zorn - Menschenfeind II - A.N.
Christhunt Productions, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Vektoren der Dummheit
2. Entfremdungsprozess
3. ...für eure Ignoranz
4. Hinter dieser Welt
5. Zerstöre den Mensch
6. Spottgeburten
7. Endloses Leer
8. Antichristliches Naturerbe








According to some sources there were some line-up changes and additions to Zorn for this album, but since no member is listed on this release I can't confirm anything. Strangely it's been a while since we've all heard from Zorn. However, in looking at the liner notes of the CD this was actually recorded back in 2007 and finally being released in 2009. In between this time a promo tape was put out in 2008 limited to 100 copies. I've never been able to get my hands on it, but I would love to if I could.

"Menschenfeind II" is quite the step up in the songwriting for Zorn. The recording is a little more polished, so it's not as good as the reckless sound of "Todesschwadron" in that regard, but the music is quite good overall. This is probably one of my favorite albums from Zorn and they've started using more layered guitars which add a bit more depth to the music. I really enjoy the way this album ended up turning out, though the booklet and layout is pretty minimal. Whatever went on with the band in its time from the last album till now, I hope will stay fairly constant. Although, I would like to see them revert back to the harsher production, because I felt that added a far more vicious dimension to their music and I very much preferred it.

In the end, this was quite an excellent album. This has been my go to Zorn album as of late when it comes to listening to the band. This might change when future albums are released, of course, but for now this is the one I enjoy quite a bit for the time being.

Zorn - Todesschwadron
Black Attakk, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Der, der das feuer personifiziert (Hellfire Invasion)
2. Parasitäre Drecksschergen
3. Der Tag an dem die Flamme sprach
4. Gotteskinder im stinkenden Schafspelz
5. Der Wind und sein klagendes Heulen
6. Auf Fleischlosen Schwingen in die Ferne
7. Sturmwind in den Mauern der Verdummungsstädte
8. Stahlgewitter des Zorns III





For me "Todesschwadron" is where Zorn really starts to take off. On this album they've really managed to figure out that balance of the vicious raw tone with well written music that supports the style. "Todesschwadron" is a pretty good foray into the realms of raw Black Metal, I'm not sure I would class this as a top release, but it's certainly an enjoyable listen!

At times "Todesschwadron" is up there with Endstille, but I've always found Endstille to be a little more mesmerizing and more solidly grabs my attention. It seems Zorn is on its way to having this effect, but I think Zorn will fall into having more of a Black Metal groove than Black Metal assault in their overall writing. The opening song of this album is an exception to that though, it's an intense and vicious opener that really did grab my attention. However, as the album progresses Zorn tries to switch things up a little more with filtering in some good mid-paced songs, so as to not re-create the likes of "Panzer Division Marduk", which can get quite boring after a while. Mix in a solid dose of older styled Satyricon and we've got a pretty good blend of things that I enjoy a lot in Black Metal. The guitar and bass are being blended and harmonized a lot more than before and it's creating a really excellent full effect in terms of Zorn's compositions.

Even though there isn't too much in the booklet, except some band photos and a couple paragraphs in German, I still like the overall aesthetic of the design. They even used a rougher paper than the usual CD booklet and I think the concept and layout fit the music very well.

In the end, I may not pull this album out as often as other albums, but when I do revisit it every once in a while I do enjoy listening to it. If your a fiend for raw Black Metal and just want to hear everything that's out there, this album by Zorn is a solid performance and I think most listeners will find it an enjoyable experience. At this point I'm pretty interested to hear what might be in store next for us, because it seems Zorn's compositions are getting stronger and more interesting as they release music.

Zorn & Grålysning Split
Supreme Chaos Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Zorn:
1. Es zittern die morschen Knochen...
Grålysning:
2. ...und die Flamme zerfrisst den Leib












Side Gråflysning: ...coming eventually...
Side Zorn:

After a full-length Zorn brings us another 7" split on vinyl. Like the last one this one is also limited to 666 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #87. It looks like everything was pressed on black vinyl this time around.

I wish I had better things to say about the track Zorn brings us this time. I feel like this is a step back to the days of "Schwarz Metall" in the sense that they're after the Marduk worship again. In fact one of the riff progressions sounds exactly like "Slay the Nazarene". It's really just different enough, but the chore progression for that chorus is here in my opinion. In the end, this is a bit of a sorry follow-up to the "Menschenfeind" album. Unless you must have ever Zorn recording, don't worry about missing out on this one.

Zorn - Menschenfeind
Neon Knights, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Endsieg
3. Faustschlag (In die Christliche Welt)
4. Mordlust
5. Kristallnacht
6. Sohn der manvatarischen Dämmerung
7. Die Gegenoffensive
8. Menschenfeind
9. Triumphmarsch Zorn II (Zerfall der Religionen)





It seems A. Blackwar's participation in Zorn was fairly short lived, because there is no mention of his involvement in the liner notes. For their second full-length Nachtschatten would be handling all guitar duties and already things are improved, as far as I'm concerned.

While "Menschenfeind" keeps that raw style of Black Metal recording that fits with Zorn, I find the songwriting improved. Already Nachtschatten is trying to work beyond the more generic formulas. While it's not always a success and not every guitar line is an amazing journey, the overall arrangements feel more varied and the guitar riffs feel a lot more thoughtful than before. It feels a lot more than just sawing away at the guitar in the hopes that blinding the listener with speed will make up for the boring riffing. Nachtschatten, obviously, doesn't work that way and his writing is off to a strong start.

"Menschenfeind" builds off the first album and cuts away a lot of more the lackluster filler material and focuses on stronger songwriting. While "Menschenfeind" isn't devoid of its filler material, there's certainly a lot less on this album than in prior releases. At least with this I feel like we're hearing more of what Zorn should sound like instead of just a continuation of Isegrim.

Zorn & Battlehorns Split
Supreme Chaos Records, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

Zorn:
1. Genichschuss
Battlehorns:
2. Pestenberserker












Side Battlehorns: ...coming eventually...
Side Zorn:

I missed out on the demo cassette released prior to this split, but I was able to get a hold of this release on 7" vinyl limited to 666 copies hand-numbered copies, of which I own 610. This is also pressed on red vinyl, I doubt there were other colors in the run, so all of them are probably this color.

Zorn aren't really offering too much of a difference from "Schwarz Metall" on this release, however, I do think "Genichschuss" has a bit more elaboration at times, which make the song a little more interesting to listen to. Part of the problem Isegrim had in songwriting was that a lot of it was just sawing away at a guitar with power chords or the like. Zorn is sort of in that rut, but breaking out at times. I feel like the potential is there, we just have to unlock it. Either way "Genichschuss" is moving in the right direction and hopefully that will happen soon for this project.

Zorn - Schwarz Metall
Last Episode, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. Hexenlichter am Nordhimmel
2. Schwarz Metall
3. Der Totale Krieg
4. Wiederkehr
5. Kriegserklärung an die Menscheit
6. ...in Flammen
7. Panzerzorn
8. Genickschuss




I've been a fan of Zorn for a little while now, but I've missed out on some releases here and there and I just give up trying to track them down. So my discography begins with their debut full-length. Last Episode has gotten quite a lot of flack over the years as being a sub par label releasing sub par bands, and in some cases that is probably true, but sometimes you get a couple great random bands out of Germany like Zorn, for example.

One of the other selling points for Zorn was the involvement of A. Blackwar in the project. I thought some of his work with Mystic Circle was okay and there were quite a few Isegrim songs that were pretty well done, but his best projects, for me, have been Zorn and Mord. This album sort of has the Gorgoroth "Destroyer" syndrome in the sense that a bunch of musicians all played various instruments to get the recording done.

While "Schwarz Metall" reminds me quite a bit of Isegrim, I think it's also a lot more raw and vicious at times. There are songs that just seem like a continuation of the Isegrim project, which can feel kind of boring at times. At others it seems like total Marduk worship, which can be good and bad. Some songs are truly great like the title track "Schwarz Metall", which I found very enjoyable. The vocal performance reminds me a lot of what we heard on the Octinimos albums, with that overly distorted voice approach. For me, I usually like this approach for a bit more of a flavor or extra texture in certain sections of a song, not on an entire album. We'll see if Zorn changes things up in the future.

In the end "Schwarz Metall" is okay, it's not great, it's not terrible, but it doesn't really stand out either. If you're a fan of A. Blackwar, then you'll probably enjoy this, especially if you ever wanted more out of the Isegrim project. I think Zorn is a little stronger than the later releases of Isegrim, so that's a bonus for them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Schrat


Schrat - Artefakt
Knochensack Versand, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Fluktuation
2. Knochenkult
3. Endzeitphilosophie











When I saw it announced that Schrat was releasing some new music, I immediately ordered a copy of this, because if it was anything nearly as good as "Schattenwahn" I certainly needed to hear more. Don't be fooled by the date on this release, the music was actually recorded back in 2011 and only now we are finally getting to see it hit the light of day! Probably why the EP is called "Artefakt".

As with "Schattenwahn" this EP captures the same majesty and excellent we expect from this project now. The opening song "Fluktuation" wastes no time in launching into an amazing riff that immediately catches our attentions, before launching into some very good melancholic atmospheres to blend in with the riff. The other two songs on the album follow in similar suit in terms of quality, with "Knochenkult" kicking the tempo up quite a bit and "Endzeitphilosophie" striking a middle balance between the two.

In the end if you enjoyed "Schattenwahn" you can expect the same level of quality in these songs. I'm really glad Schrat decided to release the material, because I've enjoyed this EP quite a bit. I truly hope there is more music in the works. It seems like it's been quite a while since they've done anything, if the last time they were in the studio was 2011.


Schrat - Schattenwahn
ARTicaz, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Prolog
2. Mal der Schande
3. Schwarze Brut
4. Transzendenz
5. Beschwörung...
6. Kriegsgericht
7. Jenseits der Einsamkeit
8. Eruption
9. Im Zwielicht-Abgrund
10. ...Erbamungslos






I, honestly, forget how I heard about Schrat, but "Schattenwahn" was my first experience with the project. Needless to say it grabbed my attention immediately! After a lackluster debut album, Schrat return with incredibly strong second full-length. I don't think I got this album too long after it's original release date and it's really stood the test of time, even five years later. I find myself still listening to this album on a somewhat regular basis and enjoying it.

There has been a bit of a line-up shift in Schrat and Nastrond has moved from drums to vocals. This was clearly a smart move in my opinion, because his vocals are actually quite excellent and sounds better than the first album. Leaving a gap in the drum seat, they turned to Seraph of Dark Fortress to session drum for them, which was a great idea. He's an extremely solid drummer and clearly performs well in the studio. The combination of these changes has launched Schrat into excellent status in my book.

"Schattenwahn" falls into the more traditional Black Metal variety of albums, but it's so well done I can't help but get into it. The production quality is perfect, everything is balanced and it's not too over produced. Now, while some people may find this album to be too similar to albums that already exist, I look at "Schattenwahn" in the following context. Take some of the best riffing Black Metal has to offer from various projects all over the world and put them on a single album and that's what I think of when I hear "Schattenwahn". Okay, maybe it doesn't have every single top riff, but I'm sure you get the idea. "Schattenwahn" is like a celebration of the best Black Metal has to offer rolled into one release. It ranges from extremely catchy riff sections similar to what Dödheimsgard has done in the past along with chilling sections that are reminiscent of "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas". Throw in some soaring passages similar to Lunar Aurora and you've certainly got my attention. They've definitely stepped up the writing on this album, as you can see.

In the end if you're looking for some extremely solid Black Metal then I can't recommend "Schattenwahn" enough. The changes Schrat has made has really turned into a winning formula for them and I hope they stick with this going forward. I look forward to anything else the put out in the future.

Schrat - Bestimmung Raserei
Self-Released, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro Abrechnung
2. Blutkatharsis
3. Reich des Schrats
4. Geist der Felsen
5. Erstickungstod
6. Steinernes Vermaechtnis
7. Bestimmung
8. Die Bestie








I wish I was about to regale everyone with tales of this great new band I found, but sadly this is not the album for that. Turns out their second album is where that whole aspect comes in. For now we have the debut full-length from Schrat, which the band self published. Now, I've never heard their demo and I can't compare the two, but if I ever track down a copy I'll listen and review it.

For now, let's just delve into the full length. I wish I had more positive things to say, but I don't have much. It's a fairly mediocre release by Black Metal standards. It has everything you expect and has some moments that reminisce of Bathory, but it is all only okay. The real problem is that nothing really grabs my attention. There's no fondness for the atmosphere the songs generate. "Erstrickungstod" has some good moments, so the band is capable of generating some interesting stuff, but for the most part this album falls quite short. The musicians behind the project seem to be quite competent and the production is pretty good, with a balance between audible and harsh. The vocals are a bit distorted in the mix though, but that's the only major issue I can see.

Overall this album is probably worth skipping unless you simply must have all the Schrat albums like I wanted. I can assure you the discography gets much stronger after this, but even though the debut wasn't all that memorable, it's not a bad starting point for a band.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Throane


Throane -  Derrière-nous, la lumière
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2016
Genre: Black Metal

1. Sortez vos lames, que nous perdions nos poings
2. Aussi féroces que nous repentons
3. Derrière-nous, la lumière
4. Un instant dans une torche
5. Contre terre
6. Nous blâmons la tempête de nous avoir laissés en plaies
7. A cette chute




Throane is a new project to hit the French scene, and strangely I missed out on it when it was first released and I'm only getting to this project nearly a year later. I'm disappointed in myself for missing this, because this album hits a lot of really excellent listening points for me. This is usually a genre of Black Metal where, for me, it has to be done just right and if it's not, I wind up disliking it.

Throane's debut album strikes a very careful balance between Ambient and very dissonant Black Metal. Playing with dissonance is fairly tricky business, especially in a way that makes me want to keep coming back for more, but Throane succeeds in leaps and bounds with this debut. In fact, my one and only complaint is that I wish this album was twice as long. It would really enhance that ambient and hypnotic effect generated by each track. As it is, this album only clocks in at about thirty minutes, which is far too short for a release that can launch its listeners into a trance.

"Derrière-nous, la lumière" pulls pages out of the books of Blut aus Nord's "MoRT" and some Deathspell Omega, while including some elements of Spektr for a more terrifying atmosphere. Mostly this album leans on "MoRT" in my opinion and really advances the ideas on that album to a far more pleasing conclusion. "Derrière-nous, la lumière" production wise is a very dense and suffocating album. Listening to this album you can just feel the weight of the music taking your breath away. The atmosphere is dark, convoluted, yet calming and entrancing at the same time. The vocals are very minimal, when they rear their ugly head, it is but a brief phrase in the greater work, but it really makes the attack of those moments all the more satisfying.

"Derrière-nous, la lumière" is an absolutely astounding debut release and I am glad to see it make the light of day with Debemur-Morti, because the art direction will prove important for this kind of project. While this debut has a really well done digipak release, I look forward to future albums where the art direction can be brought further. The one thing I worry about with a release like this is that it may be difficult to replicate. Where does the artist go from here that can breach new territory, while staying true to the overall foundation created here? Frankly, given the brevity of this release, I wouldn't mind something entirely similar, just so I can listen to them back to back in all it's sonic glory. We shall see though...


Cataplexy


Cataplexy - Devangelight
Zero Dimensional Records, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. De Evangel Light
2. Whirl of Skuldlight
3. Recrmisoned Vestige
4. Celestial Arcane Epitaph
5. Sphereflection
6. Silvery Supplicant
7. Hydraulis of the Ether
8. Dysastral Paradigm
9. Lifelessdawn







After a four year wait we finally get into the second release from Cataplexy. Somehow "Devangelight" manages to surpass the debut, which is a very impressive feat. I will always love the debut for it's harnessing of the raw production of old, but the songwriting on "Devangelight" is quite a bit stronger than even the first.

I'm not sure how much he's helping the band, but on this album they are joined by the legendary Hakuja from Funeral Elegy. Some of the guitar passages remind me quite of bit of something I hear on his solo project, so either way the influence seems to be appearing. Cataplexy continue their journey down writing violent, yet somehow sorrowful compositions. This album really shows how much the band has harnessed that wall of sound style of Black Metal and manages to make the songs interesting with some really killer lead styled riffs. One of my favorite songs on here is "Recrimsoned Vestige", I just look forward to hearing that opening riff every time. The album consistently marches along these lines and there isn't a single bad track on here. The vocalist is actually quite impressive and he's only gotten better over the years. His work on "Lunar Eclipse" was impressive, albeit a little peaked in the recording process, like most of the instruments, here with better production we really get a feel for what he can do. He has these excellent long winded screams that I look forward to showing up in every song.

Given Cataplexy's track record, I'm sure it will be quite some time for them to release another album, but I will be eagerly awaiting for the follow-up to this. Since every release is stronger than the last. Again, while some may complain that this is pure Scandinavian Black Metal worship, without a hint of the strangeness Japanese music holds for us Westerners... the fact that Cataplexy seems to consistently outperform a lot of bands in the West has me rather okay with this. While I'd love to hear some Japanese elements thrown into their mix sometimes, I just can't complain when your riffs are just this good. "Devangelight" is an excellent album by all accounts and I look forward to the next release from this project!

Cataplexy - ...Lunar Eclipse, Chaos to the Ruin...
Bloodbath Records, 2008
Genre: Black Metal

1. Dawn of the Black Sun
2. Hideous Path of Hate from the Abyss
3. Under the Moonlight of Sorrow
4. Graces of Infidel Blood
5. Blazing Choir Under the Secrets of Hell
6. Burn the False Idols
7. Elegy of Rotten Angel
8. Desolate Winds from the Devastated Souls
9. Groan of Eternal Hate





It's taken an unreasonably long time for us to get to the Cataplexy debut full-length, but it was worth the wait... I think. I thought, for sure, a new release would come shortly after their EP, but here we are about five years later with a full-length finally in our hands from this band. I still think it took way too long for us to get here, but in the end I really love this album. It's actually an incredible release that heralds back to the glorious Black Metal days of old. Who would of thought this would come out of Japan?

If you miss everything about the mid-90's era of Black Metal then this is the album you've been looking for. Unlike a lot of bands that try to recapture the feel and atmosphere and somewhat fall short, I think Cataplexy actually really succeeds. From the production values, which are raw and harsh to the musical composition which is hateful and sorrowful all at the same time, we have quite the release on our hands. They're definitely drawing from the faster bands and pull a lot of influence from the likes of Mayhem and Marduk, I'm sure. Sometimes these lead guitar passages cut through the mix and we hear some really beautiful things. I really wish they had managed to find this sound a lot sooner, they would have been real monsters of the 90's with music this good. Like, I said though, I think it was worth the wait and I am really happy to see this band do so well with their debut.

If you truly miss the bygone era of Black Metal then see it recaptured and revisited here to near perfection. Some may gripe that "they've heard this before", but that is hardly cause for concern, because when someone writes music this good I simply can't complain. I find myself listening to this material fairly regularly, even years after I picked up this album.

Cataplexy - Fields of the Unlight
Self-Released, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Through the Crimson Tears
2. Fields of the Unlight














After the release of their 1995 demo, which I don't have, Cataplexy disappeared from the world of metal. It might have been one of those cases of the early bands that release a few demo tapes then we never hear from them again, which happened quite often in the early 90's. However, fast forward to 2003, when Cataplexy had become a rather forgotten project, suddenly they return with this EP of two new songs. This EP was printed by the band and limited to 500 copies, of which I own #304.

Cataplexy's sound has been overhauled quite a bit. The musicians involved have clearly improved quite a bit, because now they perform a style of Black Metal more in the line of the violent and fast Scandinavian variety. This is certainly a major improvement over the likes of the "Teardrops" demo. Now they are writing songs that are both violent and have a certain level of that Black Metal atmosphere we all love. Some may complain that this borrows too much from the Scandinavian sound, but I'm fairly okay with that because Cataplexy manage to capture an excellent overall sound and they're good enough songwriters to make it worth our while. "Fields of the Unlight" is certainly the standout track on this two song EP, but I feel like Cataplexy is still trying to harness this musical change. They definitely have my attention more than ever before with these songs and I'll be interested in hearing what they produce next. Hopefully the project won't fall apart again.

Cataplexy - Teardrops Veiled Black Desire
Self-Released, 1994
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro: Resurect the Ancient Memory
2. Under a Mournful Sky
3. When the Rise of the Moon
4. In Absentia Densus Foris
5. And Yet... (The Rain Continuously)











What was Japan doing the early 90's while Scandinavia was playing Black Metal? Basically, doing somewhat similar things. Cataplexy, like most Black Metal projects started off as Death Metal and while Sigh beat them to the punch with being one of the earliest Black Metal bands in Japan, Cataplexy is possibly a close second. I'm not sure though, I don't seem to follow Japanese Black Metal as much, but they have produced some real gems over the years. I'm not sure how many copies of this demo tape were released, but according to the booklet I have #269.

While many might expect a strange Japanese slant on the world of Black Metal, much like Sigh performs, Cataplexy stays fairly true to a more European sound. Like many bands in the early 90's, "Teardrops Veiled Black Desire" is another fairly lo-fi demo that is nigh unlistenable. The music, by today's standards is unimpressive. I think it's really cool to delve into backgrounds of different regions and listen to their early material. For some reason early Cradle of Filth comes to mind when I listen to this. Cataplexy has some faster thrashy sections, but they also bring in some slower nearly Doom level material, so that's why I'm get a bit of a "Principle of Evil Made Flesh" vibe from the demo. Even though that album came out in '94 as well, it's not unreasonable for people to get their hands on earlier Cradle of Filth demos.

Anyway, this demo is pretty standard fare as far as I'm concerned. It didn't really grab my attention, but it also wasn't awful. Maybe as Cataplexy builds their sound things will improve as the years go on, but I feel like the band is still in the beginning stages and sorting out their influences.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nekrokrist SS


Nekrokrist SS - X-mas Ritual
Spread Evil Distribution, 2016
Genre: Black Metal

1. Itsemurha jouluaamuna
2. Renki













Well, this is an usual thing, two Nekrokrist SS releases in a year?! "X-mas" ritual was released on cassette and is limited to 88 copies. This tape comes with a pro booklet and dubbed tape with stickers. I'm actually surprised it's not hand-numbered. "Itsemurha jouluaamuna" begins with a sort of medieval folk sample, before launching into a scream where the song truly begins. It's probably one of the shortest Nekrokrist SS songs clocking in at under three minutes. However, it's a fast and catchy tune. "Renki" on the other hand is a slower more morose jaunt that has a bit of the older folk feel in the guitar arrangement. Unlike some of their long songs that start off slow and pick-up later, this song never does that, so just enjoy plodding arrangement. I'm not sure this is a must have in the Nekrokrist SS arrangement, but if you like collecting their material and hearing everything they put out then it's worth it.

Nekrokrist SS & Infamous Split
Hammerbund, 2016
Genre: Black Metal

Nekrokrist SS:
1. Lähtölaukaus
2. Antakaa Jo Kuolla
3. The Circle
4. Herrani Viha
Infamous:
5. Decadenza I
6. Decadenza II
7. Among these Cold Walls




Side Infamous: ...coming eventually...
Side Nekrokrist SS:

This year brings us an excellent split from Nekrokrist SS along with another project I really love Infamous. This was originally released on tape, but was later released on CD by Obscure Abhorrence. I have the CD edition (pictured above). Even though this is being released in 2016, these really aren't new Nekrokrist SS songs, since this was recorded way back in 2011, so this is more in line with the material we heard on the split with Nattfog. I do wonder how much material Nekrokrist SS is just sitting on and not releasing. Either way, once again this has some solid material on it and "Herrani Viha" has some of the more excellent riffs Nekrokrist SS has ever written! An absolute must have split.

Nekrokrist SS & Vöedtæmhtëhactått - I am the Chaos, the Abyss and the Gloom
Darker Than Black, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

Vöedtæmhtëhactått:
1. Christ Promised Never to Return
2. I came to Call Sinners, but Not the Righteous
3. And He Said - Satan!
4. The Divine Blighter
Nekrokrist SS:
5. Viimeinen Rukous
6. Tuomiolla
7. Tappajan Laulu



Side: ...Vöedtæmhtëhactått...
Side: Nekrokrist SS

Starting with a scream and launching into the catchy riffing I've come to expect from Nekrokrist SS we begin our journey of three new songs. As usual we have the yearly split from this project and this time it's pressed into 12" vinyl similar to the split with Nattfog. This release is also limited to only 333 copies. As with the other Nekrokrist SS releases nothing has changed really and we simply get three more songs of their usual style, although I feel their compositions are getting stronger as the band continues to write new material. I feel like the songs have a more cohesive element to them than when the project first began and their blending of droning riffs with catchy riffs is becoming more and more seamless as they write more material. Nekrokrist SS is, basically, a mark of consistently well performed Black Metal for me and while some listeners may gripe about the lack of change over the years, I'm pretty happy with this approach! I hope they stay this way for many years to come, although it doesn't give me much to talk about when it comes to reviewing individual releases.

Förgjord & Nekrokrist SS Split
Hammer of Hate, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

Förgjord:
1. Jättäkää minut korpeille (osa 1)
2. Kasketun maan laulu
3. Mieltensä sairastama
4. Kerpeikkari
Nekrokrist SS:
5. Musta viha
6. Tyhjyys
7. Hyljätty
8. Jättäkää minut korpeille (osa 1)






Side Förgjord: ...coming eventually...
Side Nekrokrist SS:

Now that we've got the full length out of the way we can return to our regularly scheduled split program! Nekrokrist SS has really hit a solid writing point and that continues with this split. "Musta viha" begins rather normally and nothing ear catching, but once we get a minute into the song we hit this exceptional riff sequence and the song really takes off. Easily one of the stronger Nekrokrist SS riffs in their catalog. Then we delve into the slower song "Tyhjyys", which doesn't pick up the pace until well into the song, but that's fine it has kind of an interesting contrast from the faster opening of their side. After this we delve into the lengthy dark and plodding "Hyljätty" which is an excellent closer to their side of the split. While it's not the usual fast paced hateful style, it's a little slower and has a lot more elements of melody in the song. This might create a bad contrast, but it really does work very well for their style and just like "Tyhjyys" the song does eventually pick up its tempo about half way through. Unfortunately, to me, nothing could match the majesty of that spectacular riff in "Musta viha", but the other two tracks didn't try to hit that mark, which was probably a good idea, because we can just simply enjoy them in their own right, instead of trying to compare them back to the opening song.

Nekrokrist SS - Der Todesking
Primitive Reaction, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Perkeleestä Syntynyt
2. Crematory Hymn (Burn in Hell)
3. Satan Calls Your Name
4. Kuolontanssi
5. Vala
6. Kirous
7. Der Todesking









Finally we hear a new full length from Nekrokrist SS and it's everything I ever hoped it would be! Raw Black Metal doesn't get much better than this and "Der Todesking" is an absolute must have album in my book. From start to finish it's probably one of the finest albums recorded in this realm of Black Metal. If you've always been a fan of the Finnish sound and enjoy bands such as Horna or Behexen, then Nekrokrist SS' "Der Todesking" should land high on your list as a must have.

"Der Todesking" falls in a very similar vein as the material we heard on the split with Faagrim, only this time we get the full length experience I truly wanted to hear when that split was released. My one and only complaint is that this could have been one song longer to get us closer to that forty minute mark, rather than just squeaking over the thirty minute mark. Either way, I'm grateful for a full length and I find myself playing it regularly as one of my go to albums for the more raw style of Black Metal. It really does sit on a similar level to Horna's "Envataangs Eflos" or Behexen's "By the Blessing of Satan" although "Der Todesking" doesn't sound exactly like these projects. "Der Todesking", while not re-inventing the Black Metal wheel, manages to put together a series of extremely strong songs that really make the album stand apart from other bands in this genre. I think some people will be overly quick to dismiss this project since it sounds similar to the bands above and early Satanic Warmaster, but I manage to find enough difference in the way Nekrokrist SS approach the genre that I find it immensely well done. And then there's the quality of songwriting. Not every Black Metal clone can write like this, while there are hundreds that sound like this, there are very few who write like this and that's what sets them apart. Just listen to the riff that hits about three and half minutes into "Vala" and you will know what I'm talking about. That song hits the raw Black Metal sweet spot so perfectly.

So, if you like your Black Metal vicious, raw and harsh, filled with all the hatred Black Metal was meant to filled with then "Der Todesking" is an instant classic, in my opinion. As usual, I will continue to look forward to anything else that comes from this project. They have yet to let me down and I can't imagine them changing anytime soon and that is why "Der Todesking" will be in consideration for my top ten.

Nekrokrist SS & Faagrim - Strike of the Northern Legions
Darker Than Black, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

Nekrokrist SS:
1. Dawn of Purification
2. Liekki
3. Gates of Insanity
Faagrim:
4. Through the Snow
5. Warriors of the Unlight
6. Comes Winter, Comes Sadness
7. Der Größte Bastard






Side Faagrim: ...coming eventually...
Side Nekrokrist SS:

I'm getting fairly accustomed to the yearly Nekrokrist SS release, but the split trend is only okay, I feel pretty ready for a new Nekrokrist SS full-length release. This split with Faagrim is in truly high order with both projects putting some great Black Metal into the release.

This split has some of the strongest Nekrokrist SS songs so far, they're extremely catchy yet viciously cold all at once. It's a perfect blend into their raw Black Metal style, which is why I am so ready to hear a full length now. The main reason is because three songs just isn't enough, I just want a solid forty or so minutes of this kind of material and I know the band can certainly deliver. While the music is not changing much, their overall songwriting structure has steadily been improving, so with each new release I enjoy it even more than the last and this split is no exception. Just listen to how excellent "Liekki" sounds!

Nattfog & Nekrokrist SS
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








Side Nattfog: here
Side Nekrokrist SS:

Another year another split, but I'm usually always excited to hear new material from Nekrokrist SS and this time they teamed up with the mighty Nattfog. Nattfog is also an extremely excellent project and I highly recommend their material as well. This was released on 12" vinyl only and limited to 500 copies.

Nekrokrist hasn't changed, at all as you'd expect, but this split does have some nice features. "Path of Depression" and "Talviyössä" are all new songs and they sound very good, as you'd expect. "Gas Chambers, Crematory and Hell" is a re-recording from their demo and with this line-up and quality it really shows that the song was actually quite good and merely marred by very poor production and probably performance at that time. "Path of Depression" is our usual faster paced Black Metal, but the lengthy "Talviyössä" takes a much slower term. Predominantly a mid-paced track it has a very sorrowful feel to it as we dragged down this plodding path.

In the end we get three great songs from two great bands, and you can't go wrong with that. Half the time the splits only have one good band, but not in this case!

Four Chapters of Satanic Evil
Azermedoth Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

Mystes:
1. Battlefield
2. Deadly Riders
Nekrokrist SS:
3. Scars
4. Nekrokrist
Khaos Abyssi:
5. Into...
6. The True Signs
7. Dead Gods
8. Plague and Pest
Calvarium Funestus:
9. Kult ov Funestum Spiritus
10. Call of the Imperial Throne


Side Mystes: ...coming eventually...
Side Khaos Abyssi: ...coming eventually...
Side Calvarium Funestus: ...coming eventually...
Side Nekrokrist SS:

Participating in Finnish Black Metal just wouldn't be complete unless you get involved in a long string of split releases. This begins Nekrokrist SS' foray into the deluge of split releases that surround the Black Metal scene. I actually enjoy splits from time to time, but I'm not that fond of four way splits. I, personally, prefer two bands on a split, but here we have four. The only other band I've heard of on this split is Mystes and I quite enjoyed the material I heard from them.

Nekrokrist only offers up a couple songs for this, but things are a little different this time around. First off, the band has a full line-up now, so that is an interesting change. I wonder if the project will be more consistent in recording and releasing music. Another major change is that they tried to clean up the harsh production quite a bit. I think they've managed to strike a good balance between being absurdly harsh and just harsh enough to give your songs some nice chainsaw edge to them. Here we get one new song called "Scars" and it is quite an excellent song, picking up pretty closely to where the self-titled EP left off with the first three songs. The other track is a re-recording of "Nekrokrist," which first appeared on the demo from 2003. Cleaned up, this track actually sounds considerably better than the original tape.

Nekrokrist SS - Nekrokrist SS
Satan's Millennium Productions, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Knife
2. Divine Light
3. There's No Place for You
4. Cremation
5. Cold and Black Grave











After waiting a couple years we have the pleasure of hearing a new Ep from Nekrokrist SS. I was hoping "Suicide" wasn't just a fluke in their discography and instead would indicate the new direction for the project. It really has! This self-titled release is spectacular. The first three songs are newer, written and recorded in 2007, while the last two date all the way back to 2003.

The first three songs have a more sorrowful feel to the riffing style. In many ways it's a bit more reminiscent of something Sargeist would do, or the way they tend to structure their riffs. Nekrokrist SS manages to have their own sound, relatively speaking, throughout this release. As you might expect things take a very drastic shift on the last two songs. The production is far worse then the opening three. The rawness actually works against the songs in this case, even though the riffs are still pretty good. I'd love to hear these songs re-recorded, everything just sounds so wish-washy as it pushes through this song with a weird wave-like feel to the overall sound and production. I'm kind of surprised they didn't bother to re-record the material so that it fit better with the first three songs, because now this isn't going to end on a very high note... but it's not like they could just put them at the beginning, because in most cases people wouldn't wait to discover the rest of the release, which is very good.

Ah well, it might not be the greatest thing, but I really did enjoy the opening three songs. If you're a fan of that Finnish style of raw Black Metal, then those are definitely worth hearing, the last two are only good if you really like extremely raw and poorly produced music, to the point where it's hard to hear what's going on.

Nekrokrist SS - Suicide
Primitive Reaction, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Suicide is Only Way
2. Itsemurha
3. My Blood on Altar
4. The End is Disgusting Life
5. Let Churches Burn
6. Stench of the Burning Corpses
7. Waiting the Mass Destruction
8. Shoot Yourself








"Suicide" is the debut release from Nekrokrist SS and it does not come on the heels of their demo. The demo was originally released back in 2003. So, it's been quite a wait to get an album out of this project. Topically I feel like this project has changed quite a bit. Despite the "SS" in the name, this really isn't an NSBM project and the band has even said as much. So, don't get confused with the demo tape, I think they were going more for the standard fair celebration of mass death plus being offensive all in one go. At least, that's the aesthetic I was getting from the demo.

Now, onto the music. Compared to the demo this is a huge step up in quality. "Suicide" presents us with some very fine Finnish Black Metal, hitting all the right chords that make me love the music from this particular region of the world. The demo tape felt like it had more of a punkier edge to the songwriting, but "Suicide" has more of a Horna type of edge to the music. I much prefer the Horna way of things, so I feel like this project is certainly trending in the right direction if they keep this up! They have one moment that has that Punk feel in "Waiting the Mass Destruction" but the style is more subdued this time around.

All in all this is a surprising change from the demo, but it's a pleasant surprise on my end. They also managed to keep the ultra raw style of recording for this release and it worked with the style very well. Don't expect anything except raw hatred from this project. "Suicide" has great riffs and great harsh atmosphere, so I'm definitely interested in following this project to see where it takes them next.