Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Damnation (Pol)

Damnation - Resurrection of Azarath
Conquer Records, 2003
Genre: Death Metal

Rebel Souls:
1. Who Your God Is
2. Son of Fire
3. Rebel Souls
4. Azarath (Watching in Darkness)
5. From the Abyssland
6. Deliverance
7. Might Returns
8. Coronation
9. Spell Master
10. Sworn to the Darkside
Promo '98:
11. Nucleus of Darkness
12. Night of Blasphemy
13. Beyond the Gate
Cover Songs:
14. A Mansion in Darkness (King Diamond cover)
15. Bleed for the Devil (Morbid Angel cover)

I can't remember exactly when, but it seemed by 2003 the Damnation project was winding down. I know Metal-Archives list 2004 as the date of it's split, but I sort of remember the project floundering even before then. I can't remember if this compilation of tracks was an attempt to sort of strike fire into the project or to celebrate it's end. After this the project would really split off into two different bands: Hell-Born and Azarath. Hell-Born would have Baal and Les as the main members and Azarath had Bart and Inferno. Both of these projects would release their debut full-lengths the year after Damnation's "Resist" album came out. Varien wouldn't be involved in either of the projects. This is why I was sort of thinking Damnation was on it's way out and "Resist" wasn't exactly that critically acclaimed.

This brings us to "Resurrection of Azarath" which, as far as compilations go is pretty lame. Rather than pull material from the Damnation catalog of their best songs, this is just a re-release of "Rebel Souls" and "Coronation" and "Coronation" is missing a song entirely. This is also "Rebel Souls" without the intro. Basically, they ran out of time on the disk. What this does have though is the unreleased promo from 1998, which has songs nowhere else and a couple cover tracks. So, in the end, the real reason to pick this up if you're a major Damnation fan is that Promo from '98. It's interesting because at this point Inferno and Nergal were out and Varien had come back. The songs were pretty good, they followed far more in the footsteps of "Coronation" than "Rebel Souls", unfortunately. So they were more of that traditional Death Metal style that we would find on "Resist." The cover songs are okay, obviously their cover of Morbid Angel was good, because Damnation is very influenced by Morbid Angel. The King Diamond cover wasn't that great. The clean vocals weren't very exciting and, well, they didn't even try to re-imagine the song in their style really.

The booklet features the lyrics, even for the Promo and it has some old photos the band took throughout these recording sessions that never made it onto the releases. Other than that it was a bit disappointing because it would have been interesting to have a historical write up from someone like Les thinking back on the years of Damnation, given how influential the project wound up being.

In the end this is only a sub par compilation, only because I already have anything and they couldn't be bothered to really make a "best of" release that covered their entire catalog. It's just a really bizarre way to re-release this music and then to not even include all of "Coronation," but hey, at least I was able to hear "Promo '98" and that's about all I came here for anyway.

Damnation - Demonstration of Evil
Time Before Time Records, 2003
Genre: Death Metal

Everlasting Sickness:
1. Intro
2. Everlasting Sickness
3. Unholy Dissention
4. Reborn Again
5. Merciful Hatred
6. Outro
Forbidden Spaces:
7. Intro (Jesus Wept)
8. Pagan Prayer
9. Time of Prophets
10. Forbidden Spaces
Unreleased Rehearsal:
11. Intro
12. Learning Into New Reality
13. The Land of Degradation
14. The Ruling Truth
15. Outro

"Demonstration of Evil" isn't anything new from Damnation, it's a tape compilation of their demo material from the early 90's. It's go a pro-printed booklet with a dubbed tape limited to 333 hand-numbered copies and I have #146. Even though the booklet is pro-printed there isn't much to it, just a one sided J-card. It's also got a few errors. For example, it lists Varien as having played drums on "Everlasting Sickness", but Wawrzyn played drums on that. It also lists "Learning Into New Reality", which is from the "Reborn" album and called "Leaving Into New Reality". Oh well, the main reason I picked this up is because it was probably the only way I was going to hear the "Everlasting Sickness" demo and I didn't really care about much else.

For these old demos being re-released on tape they weren't all that bad in terms of recording quality. "Everlasting Sickness" is much more typical Florid styled Death Metal, but with "Forbidden Spaces" we start to hear Damnation move more towards that strange chaotic style that would eventually result in the "Rebel Souls" album. Which, for me, is the peak of their recording career. Back in 2003 this tape was worth getting for the demos, but now that "Demo(n)s" was released on CD in 2015, you're better off just getting that. The rehearsal version of "Forbidden Spaces" and extra tracks aren't all that worth it. The rehearsal tracks aren't absolutely horrible sounding, which is a bit surprising for a 1994 recording, they're basically what you'd expect a rehearsal to sound like.

Damnation - Resist
Dark Realm Records, 2000
Genre: Death Metal

1. Your Pain is Not for Me
2. In Resistance
3. Confession
4. Voices of an Unknown Dimension
5. Absence in Humanity
6. Forsaken by Destiny
7. Against My Enemies
8. Invisible Force
9. Down of My Feet

It's been a few years since Damnation had put anything together and I'm sure a lot of that had to do with line-up changes again and possible touring duties for Les related to Behemoth's "Satanica" album. However, it seems that partnership has totally collapsed, because I can't help but notice the absence of a shout out to Nergal and Behemoth... but there is a shout out to Inferno and Azarath, which kind of says volumes. Either way, it seems this was the last gasp of this project as Bart and Les tried to get a team of musicians together for one last album.

First and foremost their original drummer Varien is back in the project. He actually wrote a lot of the lyrics on their original material and on "Resist" he wrote all the lyrics. I will say Varien's drumming has improved immensely over the years and he easily handles all the drum work on "Resist" quite well. Normally I don't bother with commenting on this in a review, but it's almost too funny not to bring up. But Varien has lot to say in his "thanks" section. Baal has almost nothing to say and Les and Bart are short and sweet, but Varien is a full page... and wow, it's a lot. Beyond the usual of thanking musicians, he takes time out of the booklet to thank his favorite movies and video games like Conan, Predator, and Aliens amidst many others. His favorite books and actors etc. At one point he thanks Greenpeace for fighting for the Earth... but then in his "fuck off" section he says a bunch of racist stuff (which was kind of weird/funny after thanking Greenpeace and National Geographic, but I guess that's why Predator 2 didn't get a thank you). Then he moves on to dig at a specific Black Metal band, that he doesn't actually name but puts everything in quotes so we get the "wink wink" hint, he then calls them amateurs, which is promptly spelled incorrectly. You know, I give a lot of leeway to non-English speakers, but come on. If you're going to lay into other people for not being as "elite" or "cool" as you, at least do it flawlessly. I'm not taking time out of this review to make fun of "Down of My Feet" (and no, it's not about hobbits) at any length.

Well, after that interesting journey let's delve into the music. "Resist" maintains that signature Damnation sound, but as I mentioned on the "Coronation" EP the song writing is moving towards a far more organized fashion and we're losing some of that Damnation chaos that was inherent in the founding of the process. And this project being fairly chaotic from an arrangement standpoint makes Varien's dig about "that" Black Metal band all the funnier. "Resist" feels a lot more like a Florida Death Metal release than any of the others. While Les and Bart listed those influences early on, you can just hear the influence more apparently in this. There is even riffing that attempts to get things to sound a bit catchier and the pre-cursor to future Hell-Born releases is certainly present here. For vocal duties, I assume Les recruited Baal, now going by Raven. They would have crossed paths working on Behemoth's "Grom" together and it seems they've decided to work together again after only putting out the first Hell-Born EP a few years before this.

Once again "Resist" has the same trappings of "Coronation" where nothing is particularly memorable. The dense atmosphere of "Rebel Souls" has been stripped out of the project, which really was the bridge to making the material far more interesting to listen to. Despite Varien's elitist posturing, "Resist" wouldn't hold up and eventually Damnation would split entirely. Bart and Inferno would work on Azarath after this and Baal and Les would focus more on Hell-Born. I just hope the split was amicable, because Bart and Les created something really great with Damnation at one point. "Resist" is probably only worth getting if your a completion like me and just want to hear everything from a band you like for good or bad.

Behemoth/Damnation - And the Forest Dream Eternally/Forbidden Spaces
Last Episode, 1997
Genre: Death Metal

Behemoth: And the Forest Dream Eternally
1. Transylvanian Forest
2. Moonspell Rites
3. Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic)
4. Pure Evil and Wrath
5. Forgotten Empire of Dark Witchcraft
6. Pagan Prayer
7. Forbidden Spaces
8. Time of Prophets
9. The Ruling Truth

Side Behemoth: ...coming eventually...
Side Damnation:

I don't have a lot of interesting stuff to say about this musically, other than delving into the split history. I believe this is the first time these demos have been put to CD. Normally it would be very strange to release these recordings like this because Behemoth is such a Black Metal band and Damnation is such a Death Metal band, but seeing the cross over of musicians sort of makes it obvious why this split happened. 

I can understand why Damnation might feel their demo deserves a release like this, but the Behemoth release, which was probably sold out by now, is only two years old. Why not re-release some old Behemoth demo too? The original version of this Behemoth EP came out in '95 and had a black and white cover. Very strange to re-release it in this fashion in my opinion. The major complaint I have about this is that I really wish Damnation's album cover for their side had included a legit album cover version somewhere. Instead it's just on the back of the jewel case with the track listing written over the front of it, unlike Behemoth's cover which gets proper treatment.

At the time it was the only way to get the original "Forbidden Spaces" recording, but since that has changed there is absolutely no need to rush out and buy this split. It doesn't have any new material from either band and unless your some kind of collector that needs every release from the Last Episode record label, it's just not worth hunting down.

Damnation - Coronation
Last Episode, 1997
Genre: Death Metal

1. Coronation
2. Spell Master
3. Sworn to the Darkside
4. The Land of Degradation

Shortly after the great success of "Rebel Souls", Damnation struck back a year later with this short four song EP. There's a bit of a date discrepancy, online it lists this as coming out in early '98, but my CD says 1997. There was probably a delay or something with the pressing, but this was recorded in February 1997 just a year or so after the recording of "Rebel Souls." Some more line-up changes have occurred, Dagon the person behind the bass and keyboards on "Rebel Souls" has departed. So, to fill his role Les turned to Nergal of Behemoth to join him and Bart on this effort. At around this time Behemoth put out the "Bewitching the Pomerania" EP in 1997 which features Les and Inferno as members. So this was Inferno's beginning work with Behemoth. Sadly, Les would not continue on to "Pandemonic Incantation" for some reason, perhaps to avoid touring and maybe in hopes to focus on Damnation. However, Les would later rejoin Behemoth to put out "Satanica" one of the major break out releases for that band.

In any even "Coronation" is a crossing of paths of these great musicians. It's interesting to say that "Coronation" is a rather different album compared to "Rebel Souls." It feels a lot more organized and straight forward. They've sort of dropped some of the interesting haunting clean sections, probably in a hopes to make a more cohesive effort. There's something that just worked for the earlier recordings where there was this wild abandon... like musical composition was just thrown to the side and they just went for it. Here, I think they are trying to bring more songwriting into the mix and the song "Coronation" does have some attempts to have catchier riffs, but they do wind up sounding more like something Vader would compose. I wouldn't say Damnation has lost their edge, merely they've lost a little bit of their style by trying to make things a bit more coherent.

"Coronation" is good, solid Death Metal, but there was a weird ethereal element built into "Rebel Souls" that this lacks. When they started getting organized it feels like they are falling into Death Metal writing traps that many bands have always done, so it winds up having this, I don't want to say generic feel... but it doesn't feel nearly as wild. The songs are pretty good, they're just not stand out songs, nor are they particularly memorable. Not that "Rebel Souls" had memorable riffing, but that album is memorable for an entirely different reason, whereas "Coronation" just isn't memorable at all in the grand scheme of things. It's not a wild ride like "Rebel Souls"... it's fast and it's Death Metal, but if you're going to try to organize in this fashion you really do need to have those catchy riffs that keep a listener coming back.

Damnation - Rebel Souls
Last Epitaph Productions, 1996
Genre: Death Metal

1. Prelude to Rebellion
2. Who Your God Is
3. Son of Fire
4. Rebel Souls
5. Azarath/Watching in Darkness
6. From the Abyssland
7. Deliverance
8. Might Returns

When I refer to the legendary status of Damnation, this is the album I'm specifically referring to. "Rebel Souls" was a real game changer, while compositionally it was quite similar to "Reborn..." it just had that extra refinement that made it work so much more. There's a massive amount of history to unpack on this album, so I'll try to do that as best as I can.

History time. In the short span of time between the debut album and this follow-up Damnation has gone through some line-up changes. Long time drummer Varien, who had been with them since the demo days left the project. At this time, to me, he was one of the weaker links in the project, so I'm not too fussed about his departure. So they found none other than a young drummer who would go on to be one of the most famous drummers in Poland, Inferno. He was only about 18 or so at this time and I believe this is his first major recording. Now, by this point Les had joined a small Black Metal band at the time called Behemoth and he was playing bass for them at the time. He first appeared on the now legendary "Grom." This is likely how Nergal crossed paths with Inferno. Around this time Baal had decided to leave Behemoth as well, so after this Behemoth turned into this sort of Damnation/Behemoth super group and as we know Inferno would stay to be their long time drummer turning it all into quite a career. Les, on the other hand, would continue to play in Behemoth for a few more years eventually playing second guitar on "Satanica" which really put Behemoth on the map. Sadly he would leave Behemoth shortly after.

Now, some people may be asking about this other word showing up here in the track listing... Azarath. That's right, the Azarath concepts date back to Damnation material as well and members would go on to form one of the most intense Polish Death Metal bands Azarath with Inferno on drums and Bart on guitar! Now you can see why an album like "Rebel Souls" holds such massive influence for these scenes and to top it all off it's an awesome album!

With better recording quality available and some serious control in the drum section "Rebel Souls" is an amazing album. It's still weird and Les and Bart tend to compose music that feels abrupt and disjointed at times, but that's part of the weird charm of Damnation. This disjointed style is probably why the project would never really make massive moves in the scene and stay forever underground, because there's almost so much going on it's hard to keep up. There's no catchy rock out sections either, it's all weirdly intense material mashed together with atmospheric guitar passages, but somehow these guys made it work. And with Inferno being a far more accurate drummer, it feels like it's a lot smoother in it's overall execution. When you consider Inferno is all self taught, playing an album like this is quite impressive to jump into, because there are so many changes happening. Les' vocal performance feels a lot stronger on this album as well. "Reborn..." sounded pretty good, but on "Rebel Souls" his vocals feel much stronger. They don't have as many of the haunting spoken word sections, but they do pop up from time to time. I always thought they were an interesting thing to throw into a section of Death Metal like this.

There you have it, the crazy crossover history of "Rebel Souls." A must have, in my opinion, for Death Metal fans. Damnation was always working in a somewhat different way, but this really just shows how good their ideas could come across if executed correctly. I still pull this album out every now and again to listen to it over twenty years later.

Damnation - Reborn...
Pagan Records, 1995
Genre: Death Metal

1. Pagan Prayer/The Antichrist
2. The Land of Degradation
3. Leaving Into New Reality
4. From Broken Cross (Bleeding Jesus)/Time of Prophets
5. Infestation/Maldoror is Dead
6. Forbidden Spaces
7. The Ruling Truth
8. Behind the Wall of Tears
9. Reborn...

Damnation's demo "Forbidden Spaces" is certainly legendary amidst the Polish scene, but all the tracks from that demo can also be found on their debut full-length "Reborn..." Damnation is a band that is absolutely legendary in the Polish scene from what I can see and remember of the time. They stood outside from their compatriots like Vader and Trauma to make something that was truly pretty different. Damnation still had those hard hitting Death Metal riffs of the aforementioned, Bart and Les' guitar work in this project threw in some really different and strange elements into the mix. They could be sort of on par with what Christ Agony was trying to do. Albeit Christ Agony was never going for a blistering and intense Death Metal feel like Damnation was. Damnation kind of skirts around that territory of Black/Death Metal more than being strictly exactly one thing and they're one of the first bands to be blending these things together. In that respect they put a bit of Necrophobic in mind with some of the more haunting and evil sounding aspects of their music, but Necrophobic was never interested in blistering blast beats, which is something Damnation goes after constantly.

As a piece of history "Reborn..." is a really cool album, but it never really transcends that into more timeless legendary status. "Reborn...", unfortunately, feels a bit sloppy in its execution. As if all the musicians behind the ideas were composing songs a little beyond their ability. The drummer just hits things as fast as he possibly can and to me sounds like he's struggling to keep up at times. So the whole effort feels a bit disjointed, but that doesn't take away from what this band was trying to convey with their debut. There are some really excellent ideas on here. I want to compare some of these ideas to Morgoth's "Odium" album, but much faster, just listen to "Infestation/Maldoror is Dead" and I feel like you really hear that classic "Odium" style. However, what Damnation did was blend a lot of that in with more of an extreme vibe, drawing inspiration from things like Morbid Angel or Mayhem. In the booklet they have a "dedication" list of the musicians they are inspired by, however, I would say Les and Bart's interpretation of these sounds wound up being quite unique. It is amusing to read that they emphasize "old Morbid Angel" in this and other bands, because I assume "Covenant" was a bit of a sell-out album for these guys at the time. That's okay, you can certainly hear the "Blessed are the Sick" and "Altars of Madness" inspiration, especially in some of their solo ideas.

"Reborn..." has some great ideas on it, but with more suspect execution than you'd probably want. If these guys had been able to have a far more professional recording and performance I think things would have gone quite differently for this band. Either way, when it comes to the underground of their time anyone that grew up in that era knows about this band. If you're a major fan of the Polish classics, this is a must have discography.

Saturday, March 7, 2020


Odal - ...wilde Kraft
Christhunt Productions, 2005
Genre: Black Metal

1. Einklang
2. ...wilde Kraft entfesselt
3. Aus hassgeschwellter Brust
4. Der Worte Gewalt
5. Die Rast unter der Eiche
6. Flammendes Schwert
7. Un frei zu sein Pt. II
8. Gabe der Vollkommenheit
9. Ausklang (Das Siegeslied)

It seems like Odal has quite a discography already, but "...wilde Kraft" is only their second full-length. Odal's material has been on a fairly steady rise as far as I'm concerned and this absolutely blows the debut out of the water.

It seems writing and arranging on all those other EP's and Splits has truly paid off because it has given rise to an excellent Black Metal album in the guise of "...wilde Kraft". There isn't a single bad song here and all the riffing follows a primary path of triumphant riffing. It has that ever present style, but for some reason I want to say it reminds me a bit of what you would think Moonblood would do next. On that note, it's probably more similar to Nachtfalke then, only far more Black Metal. Which is probably why I really love this album. The album is split by "Die Rast undter der Eiche" which is a nice acoustic interlude and reminded me of Dissection, more because Dissection did that on their early albums, not because it sounded similar. The songwriting changes up a bit with "Un frei zu sein Pt. II", which sounds quite different from the rest of the album. It's much darker and stands out amidst the other songs because of it. It's also strange in the sense that it claims to be a "Part 2", but there is no "Part 1" in the rest of Odal's entire discography. Maybe Taaken is still sorting it out...

In any event, the prior Odal releases have all culminated into this excellent album. So, if you're a fan of those triumphant German riffs then this Odal album gives them to you in one solid album. If you're looking for a place to start delving into Odal, then this is the album to check out at the very least. It's absolutely wonderful music. The tough part is going to be building the band from here... this will be a tough album to follow.

Branstock/Cultus/Odal/ Deathgate Arkanum Split
Heidens Hart, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. Donars Zorn
2. Folgend den Spuren
3. Tragwldia
4. Des Wodans Zorn
Deathgate Arkanum:
5. Jenseits der Tore

Side Branstock: ...probably never, didn't like this...
Side Cultus: ...coming eventually...
Side Deathgate Arkanum: ...coming eventually...
Side Odal:

I've never heard of any of the other projects on this split and Odal was the only reason I picked this up. Branstock seems to be some crappy Nationalist stuff that usually sounds bad. Some of the other projects seem okay, but nothing really stands out and Odal stands as the best project on this split in my opinion. This material is pressed on 10" vinyl and limited to 500 copies.

The Odal material is pretty good. Taaken has more guitar layering happening and there are sections with a sort of chanted vocal part that works very well within his music. The interesting part is it looks like the liner notes say the song is from 2002. If that's the case I'm surprised it was never released, because it's a pretty good song.

In the end this split is probably worth skipping. One good song from Odal is not worth the shipping of an entire 10" vinyl as far as I'm concerned, especially overseas.

Odal & Surturs Lohe Split
Christhunt Productions, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

1. ...und auf Erden tobt die Schlacht...
Surturs Lohe:
2. Enter the Fields of Clear Blue Sky

Side Surturs Lohe: ...coming eventually...
Side Odal:

Odal have been delving into the split release track and for their second split they team up with another great German band Surturs Lohe. This is pressed on 7" vinyl and limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #97.

The Odal contribution to this split is nothing new for that project. If you've been following Odal thus far you sort of know what to expect from their traditional form of German Black Metal. This isn't far enough removed from the prior split and the new song can easily fit within the framework of the last EP. Taaken is definitely on a strong writing stint and I've enjoyed nearly everything he's done on the past few releases.

Odal - Einst verehrt von allen
Christhunt Productions, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Einst verehrt von allen
2. Thüringland in eisiger Kälte
3. ...durchwandernd die Heimat
4. Germansk

Taaken seems to be constantly writing new material and they refuse to wait and release it in with a full-length, so with the success of "Sturmes Brut" Odal have hooked up with legendary German label Christhunt Productions to release their new EP. I believe this was first released as a split with Raven's Empire on 12" vinyl. However, these separate CD versions were also released in the same year and on here we get all three new songs and a re-recording of the demo song "Germansk" as a bonus.

The EP opens with "Einst verehrt von allen" and what an awesome song. It immediately hooked me in with some really killer riffing. This holds up quite well throughout the song and it's one of the most ear catching Odal songs written so far. "Thüringland in eisiger Kälte" is quite different and it's not nearly as exciting sounding, but it is very melancholic. The third new song brings us back closer to the first song with it's overall catchiness. I really like this form of Taaken's writing and it seems quite a step forward from the earlier material. This EP does a decent job of wanting me to hear more in this style and I definitely look forward to what Odal will produce in the future, because they keep getting progressively better with each new release.

Odal - Sturmes Brut
Darkland Records, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

1. Einklang
2. Traum von Finsternis
3. War
4. A New Beginning
5. Shadows of Doom
6. Sturmes Brut
7. Ausklang

After two EP's and a demo Odal finally hit us with their debut full-length "Sturmes Brut". Now there are multiple editions of this release and the first and second pressings had no bass guitar on them, you don't get much more tried and true Black Metal than that! However, in 2009 Taaken returned to this release and had Naudhiz step in and record bass lines onto the original recordings. I happened to be late to discovering Odal and I have the 2009 edition, with bass.

Odal's songwriting has changed fairly dramatically from the demo and the first two EP's. Don't worry, those elements are still ever present in their music, but they've definitely varied up their riffing a little bit more. A new drummer has joined the project and I think that has opened up things for a more varied writing approach. With the addition of Grroll behind the kit it's allowed Taaken to write more complex material and really vary up the feel of his songs. Musically this is right in line with where German Black Metal influenced by the likes of Moonblood, Darkthrone, or Arckanum would wind up progressing into it. "Sturmes Brut" is just an amalgamation of classic sounding Black Metal and it maintains that raw recording feel.

So, if you like that harsh and cold feel of Black Metal then this debut from Odal is everything you've wanted out of an early 2000's release. The songs are well written and enjoyable even if the riffing is nothing new for us veterans of the scene. The cold atmosphere is enough to keep me listening. And while I may not pull this album out on the regular, I'll enjoy it when I realize I haven't listened to this in a very long time.

Odal - Fimbul Winter
Sombre Records, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

1. Warriors of the Night
2. Fimbul Winter

Right after their "Germansk" demo Odal immediately turned to making 7" releases. Unfortunately, I missed out on getting an original press of the "Traitor" 7", so we're skipping right to the "Fimbul Winter" release. Maybe I'll fill in the release gap some other day. "Fimbul Winter" was released by the legendary Sombre Records and its listed as being to limited to 350 copies, but there is no numbering on the release.

"Fimbul Winter" continues with where "Traitor" left off. They had already lengthening their songs on the "Traitor" EP and that continues here with "Fimbul Winter", which is a massive improvement over the "Germansk" demo. Hearing the material in a more well mixed environment is far more enjoyable as well. The material is still recorded in that mostly raw Black Metal fashion, but it's not too different from the early German and Norwegian recording quality of the early 90's. The riffing is fairly similar to a blend of that late 90's German style and early 90's Scandinavian feel. Some may find the riffing overly redundant to these time frames and since Odal is using a traditional recording style, this is really bringing nothing new to the table. However, with the extended song length Odal manages to have a more expansive feel than their demo, which is really what these riffs needed.

If you're a fan of that traditional German Black Metal style then Odal is a band worth checking out for sure. I really like their overall sound and, even though this nothing new, I definitely enjoyed listening to these two songs. It will be nice when this band is ready to put out a full-length.

Odal - Germansk
Self-Released, 2000
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Das Ende
3. Musik der Schlacht
4. Germansk
5. Transilvanian Hunger (Darkthrone cover)
6. Outro

Odal hail out of German and they play a blend of that Pagan/Black Metal style. Where it feels like they recast some of the old Folk styles with distortion and tremolo picking. "Germansk" is a short fifteen minute demo with three original songs and one cover. Basically, the gold standard format for a Black Metal demo. The tape comes as a xeroxed cover with just a dubbed cassette, there is no hand-numbering.

The original songs are short and sweet and clock in under three minutes each. They definitely could have doubled the length of these songs for a more droning atmospheric feel, but all the songs meander around a couple riff ideas, which is why the band probably kept the material so short. The material is ultra simple and lands somewhere in the realms of Darkthrone meets Arckanum to some degree. The drumming is ultra simple and there isn't even much in the way of blasting through these riffs, rather keeping a simple rock beat, which gives everything a bit of a different feel from the norm. The most blast beats certainly show up with their cover of "Transilvanian Hunger", which is also the longest song on this demo, strangely enough. Either way they did a pretty good job on this, regardless of how poorly recorded it may be.

Odal sounds like a band that I could get into from this original demo. Their original riffs are pretty good and as they grow as a band I could definitely see them putting out some much stronger material. As usual with demo's, I usually recommend people skip out on them unless they're really interested in where a band came from. "Germansk" isn't exactly going to be tearing up the demo scene, but it's a good first effort and I'll be interested to hear where they land in a studio setting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


 Darchon - The Stygian Black Beyond
Kunsthauch, 2015
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Apeiron
2. Outer Darkness
3. Caldwell (NGC 5128) Centaurus A
4. Selene
5. Crossing the Celestial Path to Infinities and Beyond
6. Auslander Hostility
7. Into a Cosmic Solitude
8. Unseen Kingdom

Bonus: Cosmicism:
1. Cosmicism Pt. 1
2. Cosmicism Pt. 2

It has finally arrived, the debut full-length from Darchon! This release contains over an hour of music, so make sure you set aside some time to experience this journey. I was lucky enough to get the limited edition version of this which comes with a poster and bonus CD. This edition is limited to 100 hand-numbered copies and I have #2.  The regular edition is limited to 200 copies.  As with the split, this comes with an envelop with a different cover (above) than the CD itself. The regular CD is inside the envelop and comes in a beautiful multi-panel digipak. The bonus CD is just a CDr in a small plastic envelope, probably so they could fit everything in the main envelope.

Despite the fact that his is Darchon's debut album, some of the music is actually quite old. Much of it was actually written and recorded before the EP even came out. So, in terms of writing, the EP is the
most recently written material. Some of this material dates back to 2009/2010, which is around when the Split material was recorded as well. Given the stark influence by projects like Darkspace, Darchon has a bit of a different format to their album. They arrange the material in such away that it mostly alternates between Black Metal and Ambient tracks. Darchon's Ambient prowess is a step above some the main projects that follow in this regard. The integration of synth work at this level manages to elevate the overall compositions and add a layer of complexity into the mix that can feel a bit different. Unfortunately, and probably by design, the riffing is rather overly droning. In this area Darkspace and Paysage d'Hiver cannot be beaten, they bring such solid riffing to the table that it is tough to compete. Which is why I think Darchon is really trying to do something a little bit different in the grand scheme of things. This droning approach that is more in line with Ambient really works in Darchon's favor making a release that is more mesmerizing in some regards. It's great music to just zone out, because it doesn't overly grab your attention, so it has a more meditative quality. The closing track "Unseen Kingdom" is one of the most unique tracks from this brand of Black Metal. It crosses paths with Industrial quite a bit and reminds me a lot of the Mexican project Hocico. If Hocico played Black Metal, this is, probably, what it would sound like.

The bonus EP comes with two extra tracks on of which is another Black Metal song. There isn't much info about this in any of the packaging, so I'm not sure how old the tracks are. "Cosmicism Pt 1" fits very well into the overall aesthetic of the album and really just continues the themes we've heard before. "Pt. 2" though, is a very different ambient track. This is extremely in line with the Ambient sections Darkspace uses and it just feels way more threatening. Layered into the background is a lecture about Black Holes and with the static ambience makes it a really interesting piece. I almost wish these two tracks weren't only on here and instead made their way onto an album. The Ambient piece would be a great setup for an intro or an outro of an album.

In the end Darchon created quite an awesome debut as far as I'm concerned. I can see why people might not like it as much, despite the heavy Darkspace influence, I'm not sure a lot of people are interested in listening to this much Ambient in between each Black Metal track. I think it makes for an interesting experience and presentation, but I'm rarely in the mood to listen to both, so I find myself skipping the Ambient tracks and just delving into the Black Metal sections more often. I think that's the only major thing people would really have a problem with, or thinking this is very derivative of Darkspace, but it's really not. Darchon's journey and feel, while inspired by the likes of Paysage d'Hiver and Darkspace, do have a fairly different feel overall. So, I think Darchon is some relatively brilliant stuff and I'm interested to hear new music from this project for sure. Hopefully all the material he was sitting on is out now and he can march forward with writing new material.

Darchon - From Unknown Vastlands of Isolation and Death
Self Mutilation Services, 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. From Unknown Vastlands of Isolation and Death
2. The Pleiadas

After a couple years Darchon return with two more tracks, only one of which is a Black Metal song. It's impressive how slow some people can work on material, but I guess he just wanted to throw something out into the world to show the project wasn't dead. "From Unknown Vastlands of Isolation and Death" reminds me a lot of what Darkspace does, but this feels like a lesser or a lighter version of that power house of a project. Darchon is clearly influenced by this kind of material, but Darchon also touches on a lot more various Black Metal inspiration throughout a lot of his writing. The vocals are a barely existent and very buried in the overall mix of the music. Vocally it's not that spectacular, so I can see why they would bury the vocals in the overall mix. "The Pleiadas" is an Ambient, mainly piano driven track and it's actually quite enjoyable. It has some extremely spacey qualities to it and really compliments the track name. When it comes to performances of this nature I would say Darchon is actually a far more talented composer than the likes of Darkspace, but Darchon does need a bit more work in the Black Metal department if they ever hope to truly compete with stronger projects of this nature. While the material on this EP may not stand out in the grand scheme of things, it's good to know Darchon is still around and I'm still looking forward to any music released in the future.

Battle Dagorath & Darchon & Lorn - Enshroudment of Astral Destiny
Kunsthauch, 2012
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Battle Dagorath:
1. Echoes from the Ancient Skies
2. Warspirits of Annihilation
3. Nocturnal Elegy
4. Oceanus
5. Shadows from the Elder Chasm
6. Breath of Typhoeus
7. Vain Foreseen

Side Battle Dagorath: ...coming eventually...
Side Lorn: ...coming eventually...
Side Darchon:

The first stirrings of Darchon were found originally on myspace, but it doesn't seem like it was too long before they were able to produce a split with the likes of Battle Dagorath and Lorn. Darchon is a one man project from Greece and composes some extremely well made material. It seems Kunsthauch snapped him up real fast and has been producing some high quality physical releases ever since. This first release comes in an envelope with a beautifully designed digipak.

If you delve into Darchon and find yourself reminiscing about things like Darkspace you probably aren't too far off. Darchon is fairly similar in design and aesthetic to Darkspace. They even put to use some excellent synthesizer sections amidst their raging Black Metal. While Darchon's material is fairly long, it's nowhere near the level of song length that Darkspace reaches for. Despite the cosmic themes and synthesizers I think Darchon is more similar to Paysage d'Hiver in their overall sound. Like these projects Darchon sadly uses programmed drums. While they don't add much beyond a monotonous beat to the project, we're really hear for the overall atmosphere being generated. "Shadows from the Elder Chasm" actually has moments that remind me over early Emperor quite a bit, so hearing that blended in with the more modern take on Atmospheric Black Metal made for an interesting aspect that worked very well. "Breath of Typhoeus" is the shortest track and not a Black Metal song at all. Instead it's more of an Ambient type of track, but I actually which is was quite a bit longer like the actual Black Metal songs, because it really puts you in an impressive atmospheric space after listening to the other two songs.

Darchon have an impressive introduction to the world and this is absolutely a project I'll be following in the future. I really hope a full-length is forth coming, because a three way split isn't going to be enough for this project.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Temple of Baal

Temple of Baal - Mysterium
Agonia Records, 2015
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Lord of Knowledge and Death
2. Magna Gloria Tua
3. Divine Scythe
4. Hosanna
5. Dictum Ignis
6. Black Redeeming Flame
7. Holy Art Thou
8. All in Your Name

For some reason I entirely missed out on this release when it first hit. It wasn't until a couple years later that I was looking through a distro and realized I didn't have this album. So, I ordered it immediately since I've been following Temple of Baal for quite a long time now. After "Verses of Fire" I was expecting more of the same, but "Mysterium" delivers a rather different experience overall.

The major difference with this release is the fact that long time guitarist Alastor has left the band. It seems this happened while they made "Verses of Fire", because if you read the liner notes it says "Extended thanks to Alastor. Best of luck in the new life you've chosen." For "Mysterium" they've recruited Sathor from The Order of Apollyon and he also is a live guitarist for some other very notable French projects. Some of the issues I had with "Verses of Fire" where they tried to infuse aspects of their earlier sound into the material are, essentially, gone at this point. "Mysterium" is a far more focused album, but there feels like a bit of a drop in the crushing intensity and instead they build more of an atmosphere into their overall sound. Some riffing reminds me quite a bit of Hell Militia and Aosoth being blended together. They still cast these elements in a far more Death Metal light, but this is one of the more cohesive albums Temple of Baal have put out in quite a while. I would like to hear some more of that intensity put back into the mix, because I always thought that made their songs sound a lot more vicious compared to other projects. If they can blend the two together more seamlessly they would have quite an incredible album on their hands.

If you've been a long time Temple of Baal fan then "Mysterium" will not disappoint. Some people may miss the infusion of the catchier rhythms thrown in, but I like how the album feels like an entire work, rather than a collection of songs that sounded good. I'll definitely be interested in hearing what they have in store for us next.

Temple of Baal - Verses of Fire
Agonia Records, 2013
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. το αστέρι 418
2. Bloodangel
3. Arcana Silentium
4. The 10th Aethyr
5. Gates of Death
6. Gnosis of Fire
7. Golden Wings of Azazel
8. Lord of the Raging Seas
9. Serpens Luminis
10. Walls of Fire

After the material Tample of Baal brought to the split with Ritualization I was looking forward to their next full-length quite a bit. "Verses of Fire" does kind of continue in that theme, but the bring back some of their older styles into the fold. I have the digpak CD version of this and it comes with a very well done layout and full booklet. This album is also quite long with it clocking in at over an hour in length, which kind of surprised me.

Musically Temple of Baal continue to push forward with that ultra modern Black/Death style they've been developing over the past few years. I actually like the collection of songs on the prior split a little more than what's on this album. The album isn't bad, but it doesn't feel as cohesive or outright dark and threatening. There are too man moments where they hearken back to bringing in some of the Thrash riffing or a catchy phrase here and there from their earlier days. It's not that they're bad at writing these riffs, but they break up the atmosphere of the album quite a lot. I think Temple of Baal is just better at writing those dark and vicious or uncomfortable riffs and when they insert an outright Thrash riff into that type of song it really breaks the atmosphere they build. Some songs are outright similar to American Death Metal like "Golden Wings of Azazel". They do a great job of playing this style, of course, but it just makes for a strange blend into the overall mix of songs on the album. Though, they fit this song in a lot better than some of the random catchy riffs. Vocally Amduscias is adding a lot more into his range. Here you'll hear some outright yelling styled vocals that add an extra kick to some of their more atmospheric sections. It really works well within the framework they're using it and I hope he continues to add more of this variation into the music.

In the end, I do like "Verses of Fire" despite it being somewhat all over the place from time to time. They manage to keep it focused enough to make it quite enjoyable, but the razor sharp focus of the split made it apparent what kind of power Temple of Baal can wield if they stick with one framework. If you're a Black/Death Metal fan, Temple of Baal is producing some pretty intense and well written music.

Temple of Baal & Ritualization - The Vision of Fading Mankind
Agonia Records, 2011
Genre: Black/Death Metal

Temple of Baal:
1. Ordeals of the Void
2. When Mankind Falls
3. Slaves to the Beast
4. Heresy Forever Enthroned
5. Ave Dominus
6. The Second Crowning
7. Devil Speaks in Tongues (Mortem cover)

Side Ritualization: ...coming eventually...
Side Temple of Baal:

It's been a little while since we've heard from Temple of Baal, which is a good sign they're taking their time with material rather than just cranking it out. So, it's interesting to see them return with only four new songs with this split. However, when you delve into it you'll see they've picked up a new drummer. Antares was a good drummer for the project, but after hearing this I feel like Skvm is a better fit. The drums feel so much more powerful and extremely tight with the project. So, however he's approaching the kit is instantly fitting with the sound of Temple of Baal.

The opening track "Ordeals of the Void" is a massive powerhouse that feels a lot more intense than anything they've really done before. They've lost a lot of that catchier riffing you'd see show up from time to time and instead focus on a much darker and intense atmosphere. I think production wise they finally found a decent balance for how much they want their music to sit in the low frequencies. They use a lot of Black Metal riffing in the French tradition, but have it recast in this far more intense fashion which works really well on the songs. As far as the Temple of Baal side of things go, I think this material sounds spectacular and I can't wait to hear what's in store for them next. I really hope this drummer sticks around too, because he's an extremely good fit for the project.

Temple of Baal - Lightslaying Rituals
Agonia Records, 2009
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Piercing the Veils of Slumber
2. Triumph of Heretic Fire
3. Black Sun of the Damned
4. Angstgeist
5. Dead Cult
6. Hate is My Name
7. Poisoned Words
8. Vectors to the Void
9. Blessings of Blackfire

It's actually been quite a few years since we've gotten a full length from Temple of Baal. The two prior splits were probably just to show that the project wasn't entirely dead. I remember being pretty excited when I saw this album come out, part of it had to do with the eye catching cover design and really excellent album title. Strangely, I remember my first listen wasn't all that favorable.

However, now that I return to this album years later, I think this is some really solid Black/Death Metal. Temple of Baal have always sort of been on that edge where there was still too much Black Metal in their sound to call them a truly hybrid. However, with their split with Aosoth it started to become apparent that some aspects of their sound might be evolving. With "Lightslaying Rituals" they truly overhauled their sound enough to be a full on Black/Death Metal band. I know some people might see that and think "oh, Behemoth", but that is definitely not the case. Temple of Baal sounds nothing like that. "Lightslaying Rituals" sounds way grittier and dirtier, almost like if you took the old Swedish Death Metal guitar tone and recast it into a Black Metal framework. their guitar lines have also gotten more elaborate and I hear a lot more layering than in prior albums. Production wise this album feels so much thicker than the prior albums. However, the low end might be a little too low and it winds up dominating the overall feel of the album. Other than that, this is the best production value Temple of Baal have ever released. It's kind of amusing to listen to this after all the posturing of their demo days where they seemed to revel in the trashy production quality.

In the end if you were expecting another old school Black Metal effort from Temple of Baal, you might find yourself sorely disappointed. Instead we have the brutal punishing sounds of Death Metal heavily infused into their sound. They still maintain some of those catchy riffs that show up on prior albums, but even if not all the riffs have that catchy quality they are pretty well written. Some of their outright Death Metal riffs could stand some improvement, but I think they are a bit out of their element in composing this way, so I look forward to see what they bring in the future. I can't remember why I initially didn't like this release, but on re-listening to this, I think it came out pretty good. It's a lot better than a lot of the Black/Death Metal bands out there.

Temple of Baal & Aosoth Split
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

Temple of Baal:
1. Dead Cult
2. ... of Fire

Side Aosoth: ...coming eventually...
Side Temple of Baal:

Temple of Baal return with a new track and a split with a fairly unknown project called Aosoth. Aosoth is very interesting and plays a brooding style of Black Metal against Temple of Baal's hard hitting "Dead Cult". Temple of Baal pushes their sound even heavier and thicker for this song compared to the last album, I think. The writing feels a little more mature and cohesive as well. It still maintains that dark and vicious feel to their music so it really complements the Aosoth side as well. This is definitely a split worth checking out and it's beautifully pressed, as I've come to expect from Debemur-Morti products.

Ancestral Fog & Temple of Baal Split
Battlesk'rs, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

Ancestral Fog:
1. Fundaments of Life Denied
2. Von (Von cover)
Temple of Baal:
3. Living Fleshthrone
4. Satan's Legions

Side Ancestral Fog: ...coming eventually...
Side Temple of Baal:

This next split with Temple of Baal comes with a real treat in the form of Ancestral Fog. Ancestral Fog really stole the show for me on this split, but the Temple of Baal songs are pretty good too. As with all 7" releases I'm sure this is limited to some amount, but there is nothing listed on my copy.

Even though this eventually came out after "Traitors to Mankind" on the vinyl itself it has a date of 2005 and makes me think this was delayed in pressing. It would be weird for Temple of Baal to release "Living Fleshthrone" again right after their album hit, so that's why I think this wound up getting delayed horribly. "Satan's Legions" appears to be an entirely new track though. Maybe a track they didn't really feel fit on the album, but still good nonetheless. It actually reminds me of that disgusting feeling Black Metal we hear in projects like Hell Militia, only Temple of Baal is a bit heavier by comparison. Either way, regardless of the delay I'm glad this had something new to share instead of just the one track from the album.

Temple of Baal - Traitors to Mankind
Oaken Shield, 2005
Genre: Black/Death Metal

1. Living Fleshthrone
2. Traitors to Mankind
3. Graveyard of Disgust
4. Bleeding Thoughts
5. Under the Spell
6. Visions of Carnage
7. Crawling in Blood and Puke
8. Bitter Days
9. Death Inquisition
10. Flames of Baal

As a follow-up to their debut, this is not at all what I was expecting from this project. "Traitors to Mankind" really changes up their entire sound. Where we once had 90's Black Metal worship they've injected quite a dose of Death Metal into their overall sound. This time around a little more care was put into the booklet and design, so it's a bit more interesting to look at from a physical stand point. They also backed off from the posturing in the liner notes, which I'm thankful for.

"Traitors to Mankind" sounds and feels quite different from their earlier releases. The first two songs are solidly in the Black/Death Metal camp, but when we get to "Graveyard of Disgust" we hit more in their usual Black Metal territory. It's almost as if the band was transitioning to more Death Metal over the past couple years. One of the other reasons things sound quite different is they enlisted Glorior Belli and Black God drummer Antares to fill the drum throne left by Herr Rikk. I'll be honest, Herr Rikk did a good job on the early releases, but Antares is the better drummer. This album is also engineered in such a way that I can actually hear the kick drums, on all the prior albums they were mostly an incoherent rumble. So, it's a nice treat to be able to hear them this time around. They clearly weren't afraid to experiment more with this release, just listen to "Bleeding Thoughts". They wound up re-recording "Bitter Days" from the Sargeist split and it sounds so much darker and heavier on this recording. They've also started included guitar solos into their music. They're not over the top well done, so I don't really care about this addition to their music.

"Traitors to Mankind" maybe feel all over the place in terms of a general composition theme, but for some reason it really works to their advantage on this album. It winds up creating a really excellent blend of Black and Death Metal, with the occasional Thrash riff thrown in for good measure. It maintains that Black Metal atmosphere throughout which is really well done this time around. It feels somewhat new, but simultaneously old. All in all "Traitors to Mankind" is well done album that I still enjoy to this very day.

Temple of Baal & Sargeist Split
Grievantee Productions, 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Temple of Baal:
1. Bitter Days
2. Wraith Messiah

Side Sargeist: here
Side Temple of Baal:

After a successful debut Temple of Baal return with another split. I missed out on their first one with Eternal Majesty, but maybe I'll track that down someday. This time they team up with the mighty Sargeist. I like Sargeist a great deal, so it was a real treat to see two bands I like show up on a split like this. This is pressed on 7" vinyl limited to 500 copies.

If you enjoyed "Servants of the Beast" the song "Bitter Days" really does pick up where the full-length left off. It's interesting to note how much thicker the guitar tone Temple of Baal uses compared to bands like Sargeist, who are far more thinned out. Temple of Baal feels a little heavier than others for this reason. "Bitter Days" is a pretty good song overall and captures the atmosphere Temple of Baal seems to be striving for at this point, which is much improved from their demo efforts. Definitely a split worth having in any collection.

Temple of Baal - Rituals of Black Plague
Paleur Mortelle, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Backstab
2. Tempting the Bastard
3. Deathblessed (At the Hornlike Spears)
4. Faces of the Void
5. Slaves to the Beast
6. Black War
7. Ruins
8. Woman of Dark Desires (Bathory cover)

Shortly after "Servants of the Beast" hit a live album was "recorded", which I assume took place on their tour supporting their debut full-length. This is released on cassette and limited to 300 hand-numbered copies and I own #112.

This is the Temple of Baal recording no one wanted. In fact, recordings like this are basically what no one wants around at any rate. They're just a waste of space in anyone's collection. Everything is massively blown out and has this layer of annoying distortion going on. You can hear the guitar riffs from time to time and they are the quality we expect from Temple of Baal, but everything else is such a jumbled mess that it's a real waste of time to listen to this material. The vocals are wildly blown out, but there is actually less distortion on the vocals than the on the "Black Unholy Presence" demo.

They try to cover up all this atrocious crap with having a super "true" attitude on the liner notes saying "Rituals of Black Plague has been released only for true underground maniacs. Direct raw live sounding roughly recorded." In other words, this sounds like absolute trash and if you don't like it then you're not a "true" fan. I need to stop reading the liner notes from this band... basically, unless you really must have a complete Temple of Baal discography, you can seriously skip out on this one. It's a giant waste of time and I probably will never listen to the whole thing.

Temple of Baal - Servants of the Beast
Oaken Shield, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

1. Backstab
2. Triumphing Blasphemy
3. Towards Eternal Death
4. Years of Hatred
5. Deathblessed (At the Hornlike Spears)
6. Slaves to the Beast
7. Ruins

Temple of Baal have teamed up with Oaken Shield, a subsidiary of the legendary Adipocere Records to release their debut full-length. After two demos that were good, but weren't incredible "Servants of the Beast" really show the band has something to show us. It seems the band has dispensed with some of the overly raw recording concepts and is also writing more interesting songs overall.

On their debut we don't see any of the material from their demos given the studio treatment. While some elements of their demo's style shows through, a lot has changed rather dramatically. They still stay pretty heavily rooted in the more early 90's Black Metal style, as we'd expect, but musically it reminds me a bit of early Deathspell Omega, Merrimack and Watain. The Watain reference is no real surprise seeing as how Danielsson did the cover. There's a great deal of early Thrash styled guitar lines thrown in as well. "Triumphing Blasphemy" has some seriously catchy guitar work, giving that reminiscent old Bathory feel. However, the blend is different enough to have the band stand out enough in the sea of similarly styled projects. The vocals are completely overhauled as well and it doesn't sound like Amduscias is screaming into a distortion pedal. Instead the vocals sound natural and gives a much better authentic presence. Instead he opts to create more intense moments through layering, not distortion.

We also have a full booklet with lyrics. Lyrics are the usual Satanic variety, so nothing vastly different there. There's even a thank you section! I always find it amusing when I read liner notes and this comes up "Deathwishes to nowadays 'BM' audience: You are nothing but slaves!" Okay, calm down cool guy... you're debut album is good, but not that good. "Servants of the Beast" isn't going to go down in history as one of the finest or most revolutionary Black Metal albums out there. Spare me the "tough guy" attitude in your thank you list. Plus, I think this particular viewpoint shows up on more Black Metal albums than I care to mention. If every band hates their audience then no one is listening to any of your music. Why bother releasing and distributing anything? I've never understood this bizarre viewpoint, just make music for yourself, don't release it, don't play shows. It's simple.

Despite these goofy moments, "Servants of the Beast" is actually a really good album and I enjoyed it quite a bit when it came out. I may not pull the album out very often, but when I throw it on from time to time I do find it enjoyable. Temple of Baal did an excellent job of nailing that mid-90's atmosphere of Black Metal, right down to the recording quality. This early 2000's era was one of the last times we'd be able to hear this from bands, since a lot of studios and bands were forced to upgrade their technology in general.

Temple of Baal - Black Unholy Presence
Chanteloup Creations, 2000
Genre: Black Metal

1. Tempting the Bastard
2. Black Unholy Presence
3. Spirit of Vertova
4. Black War
5. Faces of the Void
6. Woman of Dark Desires (Bathory cover)

"Black Unholy Presence" is the second demo from Temple of Baal and it's not too different from the first one. In fact you'll notice a lot of the songs re-appear on this recording. I missed out on the original pressing of this and instead I have the Oaken Shield pressing from 2002 limited to 888 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #321. The Bathory cover was not featured on the original release and is a rehearsal recording from 2001.

Given the fact that these demos are recorded only a year apart "Black Unholy Presence" doesn't have all that much more to offer us, except for a few new  tracks. The recording quality is, honestly, a little bit better. It still retains that old, raw rehearsal feel to the music, but they clearly used a much better setup this time around. With this we can definitely enjoy the riffs a lot better, so, if you're looking into some of that nostalgic feeling Black Metal, Temple of Baal certainly brought that with this new demo. Songs like "Spirit of Vertova" have that great blend of Black Metal intensity and groove, so to a certain degree I think their songwriting has improved even from the last demo. The only aspect of the demo that isn't great are the vocals. The vocals are so blown out that the vocalist might as well just be using a distortion pedal, and, in fact, that is probably what he was doing. These vocals never sound for a whole release. They work in subtle moments, but just usually sound terrible overall. That's really the only thing I found overtly annoying.

If you are a die hard fan of old school demos and Black Metal, Temple of Baal definitely don't disappoint. This is early 90's worship through and through. I like that they manage to stay raw on the demo, but not so raw you have no idea what's going on.

Temple of Baal - Satanas Lux Solis
Self-Released, 1999
Genre: Black Metal

1. Undead Soul
2. Tempting the Bastard
3. Spirit of Vertova
4. Hunters
5. Woman of Dark Desires (Bathory cover)
6. Black War

The is the first debut from Temple of Baal out of France. Some members would go on to be involved in some other great projects outside of this one. Amduscias has already worked with the likes of Antaeus and I believe it was through that relation that I had first heard of Temple of Baal. This demo is not professionally done and instead has a xeroxed booklet and dubbed tape. These were limited to 200 copies and inside mine it says #55, but it doesn't list the limitation.

"Satanas Lux Solis" is pretty much everything you'd expect from a raw and poorly recorded demo. It even says in the liner notes "This piece of darkness was recorded live in the fucking studio", which I assume probably means practice space given the quality of recording. And from there I assume this is just whatever was captured on a mixer, because I doubt there was much mixing after the fact based on how this sounds. However, the recording quality works for this type of music really well, that raw unbridled sound fits the aesthetic Temple of Baal is really going for. You can technically hear everything well enough to figure out what's going on. The only thing I might change a little is having the guitars louder so I can hear the riffs better. In a lot of ways Temple of Baal borrows their sound from Bathory, so it's no surprise that we see a cover of "Woman of Dark Desires" show up on this demo. If you throw in some Mayhem and Darkthrone you probably have a reasonable idea of what Temple of Baal is going for musically. Songs like "Black War" have some of that old LLN feel in the way the structuring is a bit more dissonant, which is something I like quite a bit.

I don't think Temple of Baal's demo is really going to stand out in the massive sea of Black Metal demos these days, however, I think "Satanas Lux Solis" is a solid start for this new project. I could see them writing pretty solid material in the future. If you're already a Temple of Baal fan you should check out where the project started, a journey that I always find rather interesting. I'm looking forward to what comes next!

Saturday, December 8, 2018


Mascharat - Mascharat
Seance Records, 2017
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Bauta
3. Médecin de peste
4. Mora
5. Vestibolo
6. Simulacri
7. Iniziazione
8. Rito
9. Outro

Mascharat is a new and very excellent Black Metal project coming out of Milan, Italy. It's not surprising to look at their discography and see only one demo before being snatched up by Seance Records. Seance Records has become a mark of quality for me with a good amount of very strong releases and I'm always interested to see what that label releases and Mascharat's debut is absolutely no exception in the quality department.

Mascharat blends together a lot of various forms of Black Metal I like culminating in quite an impressive debut album. Mascharat have this great raw Black Metal sound, but it's mixed well enough that we can hear everything quite well while still having that raw sharpness to the overall sound. Mascharat is a bit of a melting pot of Black Metal from all over Europe, but I think the primary sounds are Italian and French. Italian is obvious, they have that sort of Tenebrae in Perpetuum raw quality with some classic Italian projects like Necromass in the mix. A lot of their riffing and chord choices remind me a lot of the French bands, such as Mütiilation. Even the guitar tone reminds me of Mütiilation at times. Vocally they remind me a lot of Dim from Tymah, which is wonderful as Dim is one of the best vocalists out there, so to even compete on her level is rather impressive. This all makes for an exquisite blend in itself, but you throw in the sections that have this medieval quality to them or renaissance feel, then you have something truly well made. Mascharat don't try to wow us with speed or take on an overly brooding nature, instead they keep a comfortable mid-pace and keep our attention with songwriting.

The booklet is quite simple but well designed. I appreciate the fact that they provided the Italian lyrics the songs are sung in as well as translations in English. The way they handled layout for this is reminiscent of a modern translation of an old book, which features both texts. The one and only complaint I can truly level at this is that when the discs were pressed a few seconds of silence was inserted between songs, but the way these songs are composed there should be no silence between the songs at all. The silence is kind of a jarring experience when it shows up between songs, so it's a shame this happened. Hopefully if they do something similar in the future they'll force a repressing of the disc.

In the end I hope more people will check out Mascharat. They sort of fall into that occult Black Metal area, but I think they manage to do it in a such a way that they don't sound too generic. This is an excellent start to a new project and I'm definitely curious where they will take us next, because they are certainly working with a very strong foundation.