Tuesday, November 16, 2010

HYPNOTIC DIRGE RECORDS - "Melancholic Epiphany (The Trance Formation is shattered)" Review

Compilation, Hypnotic Dirge Records
November 7, 2010

Usually when a compilation is released especially one that only features a track per artist (such as a record label compo) I tend to ignore it completely. More than likely these releases mean nothing more than mere promotional tactics from the company at hand to try and get their more obscure artists to gain more recognition when fanboys of the more established bands pick it up to complete their collection. We are generally given each artist’s most mainstream and accessible sounding singles that will or are already featured on their own full-length releases, and with them appearing on an album with less talented acts it really defeats the purpose.

That being said, completely throw all that out when talking about this release from Hypnotic Dirge Records, which marks the company’s 2 year anniversary, for while it can also be seen as a promotional stunt, it more than makes up for it with exclusive tracks from prominent guest artists such as Njiqahdda as well as some of the strongest pieces from many of the label’s own artists. But that’s not all; we are also treated to some promotional videos as well as official music videos that are very professionally done, despite the independent budget. Not only do we have these two common musical mediums, but it is also lined with interesting album art that links the aesthetics of each artist’s contribution to become one grand opus, let alone 11 random tracks. This is finished with a few very interesting essays and short stories about a few of the tracks and the project as a whole, that despite being fairly lengthy (as far as albums are concerned) are rewarding to read, even for someone who doesn’t care for it normally, as it really puts the finishing touches in on the release and really helps the general message.

I will begin what should be a rather lengthy review with the audio section, which is opened up with “Big Crunch” by: The Foetal Mind. This track reminds me a bit of Katatonia and Esoteric mixed together if that makes sense. Very nice production quality and the vocals are impeccable. The only pet peeve I have is that the track fades out, but I’m probably the only person I know who gets annoyed with stuff like that.

We then see a pretty similar funeral doom style in Funereal’s “Of that which Lies beneath…” though being the second track in this is a nice transition to allow a slow progression between the artists’ styles throughout the release. The track itself is very acceptable for the genre if not solid. The Gothic influence toward the end with piano and violin incorporation is very organic and not overdone at all.

“Stargates Eternal Beheld My Nightmares” is next up from Funeral Fornication. Now we start to see things going from a funeral doom genre into Gothic black metal. When I reviewed a previous FF album (a year ago, I believe) for the label itself, I mentioned that this one man outlet from Canada had great atmosphere in the music, but was a bit too repetitive for my liking. With this track, while things are not complex, the tediousness associated with previous work has been fixed greatly and the song is very enjoyable.

Exiled from Light’s “We Writhe as Worms (‘Neath Withering Skies)” is the first “epic” on this release spanning over 12 minutes in length. Not only that, but this is where the album really kicks into gear. While Mort still uses basic MIDI output for synthesizer, he has learned it’s best to use the more atmospheric sound outputs if going down that root and the average listener will probably enjoy it very much. His depressing shrieks for vocals and dissonant guitar riffs make this a great depressive black metal piece. It may not need to be as long as it is, but as background music, you can’t go wrong.

This leads us to my personal favorite of the release. “Outside… Alone” by netra. This one man act from France has a very eclectic sound which shows he must be a very diverse listener as well. While it can easily be labeled as black metal, there are too many outside influences that deserve recognition as well, such as heavy blues influence in the melodies, Goth rock atmosphere and even trip-hop vocals. I really enjoy this because of how organic and non-gimmicky it sounds and I appreciate someone going out of the conventions of “what’s metal” to not only incorporate a sub-genre of hip-hop (and no, not throwing in party rap or Eminem like many mallcore bands do) but prove that it can be done tastefully.

A rather interesting change of pace is given to us when we transition from that depressive urban track to the nature inspired, “The Shimmering Radiance of a Thousand Stars” by ambient/neoclassical great Ancient Tundra. It really connects with the messages provided in the album art critiquing industrialism. Unlike other AT works, this has completely different software and is unusually optimistic, yet strangely haunts the listener and may also be seen as pessimistic by others as well. It may be a bit schmaltzy (not the best word, per se) but I enjoyed it a lot, and while not my number one Tundra song, it’s definitely up there and the most professional sounding. Actually, this may be a bit tangential but when I first heard this, I imagined the scene from Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Howl’s Moving Castle” when you see the title character’s childhood. Weird? But anyway...

There’s a great transition from this piece to Njiqahdda’s “Nji taaevaasti vortaa est flaami.” You should already know about this Illinoisan band from my previous review, so I don’t really need to go into much detail. I will say except for the intro this piece is a lot more black metal inspired than other works I have heard from them, and it just keeps them all the more interesting.

Another album highlight comes with the epic folk black masterpiece “Croix de Feu, Croix de Fer” by Québécois great Neige et Noirceur. I already reviewed the album this track comes to us from, so I again don’t need to go into the details. I will say though that if the rest of that album was as good as that individual track (not to take anything away from their merit, since they are indeed great) instead of an 8/10 I would have gave it the fan boy rating of 12/10.

The next two tracks are probably my least favorite on the album, but that is no insult at all, as they themselves are excellent. Funeral in Heaven gives us some straight up black metal with the epic “Bhandhana [Gatahaththey Katha Wasthuwa]” which after over 12 minutes is complimented by Autaric’s death metal styling in “Cremation Divine.”

We conclude the hour and a half of audio goodness with Old Forgotten Lands featuring Requiem Nocturne. They bring us another ambient piece in “Hour of the Wolves.” When I reviewed the Ancient Tundra/OFL split, I wasn’t that much of a fan of the OFL side despite É being a band mate. I felt it was too generic and the melodies were too basic. While we are given a primitive folk style of ambiance, this track is a major improvement over the previous releases of Old Forgotten Lands. I see a huge influence from Wardruna in this one, with ritualistic percussion, indecipherable whispers and inspiring ambiance. RN also gives us added flavor with nice acoustic guitars; very nice work for these guys.

I won’t go into too much detail on the six videos, since two are merely promo videos for forthcoming albums and two of the four music videos are also released on this album as audio. The only video only tracks (as far as this release only) would be netra’s “La Page,” and The Foetal Mind’s “La Corde Rouge;” both of which are very enjoyable. As I said earlier every video is very professional, and I’ll leave the text media up to you to enjoy. In conclusion, this is a very special compilation and worth picking up, especially since it’s free of charge. If not the, this is definitely one of the best promos I have ever had the privilege of experiencing and HDR and all its artists deserve much more recognition than they already have.
Download this release at: http://www.hypnoticdirgerecords.com

(10/10)
Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A.M.S.G. The Principle Of Evil Becomes The Ideal Of The Promethean

Supremacy Thru Intolerence  November 2010



When the news of a new band featuring the the voice of Canadian black metal terrorists Ouroboros as well as other hierarchy of the canadian scene had risen,I was very curious.At worst it would sound like a collective of all of the former and present bands the members have been a part of,which to me isn't never a bad thing.But would it live up to such high standards?So needless to say i was a little apprehensive when this mcd arrived in the mail as i was completely unaware of what was going to bestowed upon my ears.Album opener THE INVOCATION OF THE NAMELESS ONE starts off with a black metal cliche,the orchestrated intro which thankfully isn't overdone and actually sets up the mood of the album quite nicely.This leads up to the mid paced opening riff which vaguely reminds me of early mayhem(again not a bad thing) but not to worry as this mcd is chock full of pure canadian filth and evil.The riffs twist and turn like a constricting serpent and angelfukk witchhammer sounds utterly possessed  as he shrieks,growls,and whispers thru all 3 incantations of pure satanic madness!Track 2 GODDESS OF THE HIDDEN MOON(loved the temple of doom excerpt,quite fitting) is fast and furious as it is probably the most well written song on this record and features some very nice bass work.Tormentor further proves to be one of the underground scenes best secrets as his battery is furious,crushing,and technical and his style is easily recognisable.It is also the shortest of the 3 songs.The album closes with my personnel favorite track, BLACK TONGUES OF THE GOAT,which like the previous 2 songs starts off with the intro,again relatively short before plowing forward into darkness.This song is also the most varied riff wise,lots of changes and some brief but effective clean work near the middle of the song and it ends the album very accordingly.At 3 tracks and clocking in at around 21 minutes,this was the only glaring downfall of this mcd,it left me pissed off and wanting much more,it might have not been a bad idea to add at least another song, maybe 2.If that would have been the case it would have been a top 10 album,yeah its that fucking good losers!!!So to all of you dumb fucks out there searching for the most grim and kvlt and all of you so called true satanists,listen to these 3 sermons,which by the way extra kudos for superior lyric writing,and then proceed to killing yourself as you most likely won't get it and the world is a better place without you.

                                                                     9/10
Review by Bastard Son Of God

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NJIQAHDDA – “Valsuaarposmiis” Review



Extended Play,
E.E.E. Recordings
November 2, 2010

The rise in popularity of black metal has led to numerous trends for better or for worse. One of those trends has been prominent with the technological revolution that is the internet. Many so called “bedroom bands” came into existence when members of said bands discovered the primitive recording styles of early raw black metal bands and the ease of producing such albums.

The problem with this is while the earlier acts were doing something new and mastered the aesthetic of said recording technique (despite it merely being a statement against mainstream music), many of these modern BM bands tend to attempted to replicate the style of their inspiration, but more often than not fail miserably and produce B rate imitation of said inspiration at best.

It’s rather frustrating for me when I try to discover new lesser known acts I have to sift through this unoriginal garbage, like searching for a diamond in the rough, until I find something worthwhile to listen to. Some bands even go to absurd measures and release albums with totally undecipherable sounds which we only can assume is drums and guitars. To make matters worse they release way too many albums a year, which makes it seem like they simply do this to sell more and completely disregard waiting for inspiration to make something truly memorable. Then they have to follow the stereotypes associated with black metal which makes things even more tedious. But I digress.

Njiqahdda is one of those rare examples of a self produced black metal band that offers a more than rewarding experience upon listening. They even have over 40 releases under the name (as well as its alter-ego so to speak, “Njiijn”) and while I’ve maybe heard only half of them, I can safely say they have the formula worked out almost perfectly. Recordings aren’t over polished with mainstream quality, but they are very decipherable, yet still have a nice feedback. Lyrical themes are very interesting and different focusing on meditation, transcendence and nature as opposed to mere clichés in the genre. Finally their musicianship is very ergonomic for their psychedelic black metal style (solid but not show-off like) and they have developed a distinct sound that is their own (and not gimmicky) yet slowly progress the style with each release so it stays fresh and relevant. When I recommend this special act to more casual listeners I describe it as a lovechild between Burzum and Pink Floyd, but I think a more accurate description would be an Earth, Eloy and Drudkh hybrid, but even that isn’t anywhere near describing the sound.

With that, I believe Valsuaarposmiis is their 43rd official release, and with that we are offered a different release than other works, and again it is still very Njiqahdda sounding. I will admit I do prefer a few previous entries to this one, but that will not take away the merits of this EP. We have three tracks totaling in 37 minutes and 37 seconds, so you know you’re in for some long ones, but that is expected from Nji. I noticed from the beginning this album seems to have a lot more drone influence than previous ones (disregarding the Njiijn releases of course) and the chord progressions are a bit depressive compared to the more mystical sound we are used to from these Illinoisans. We are also greeted intimately with beautiful acoustic guitar passages that are a nice addition to their arsenal.

The opening piece “Valsuaarposmiis I” brings us into a relaxed state with calm and melancholic acoustic guitar backed by tremolo strumming which reminds me of the acoustic bits of Negură Bunget. We are then brought into Njiqahdda’s signature style black metal, but with more complex drum patterns that are strange yet delightful for the genre, which organically flows into some space rock passages.

“Savantuu Savoari” is probably the most straightforward song on the album with the first half being pure atmospheric black metal and eventually turning to drone doom metal toward the end. I really like the main riff of this one, very reflective and saddening.

The concluding track “Valsuaarposmiis II” is by far my favorite on this release and possibly in my top 10 Nji tracks so far. The static distortion on the mantra-like speeches and screams and the hauntingly mournful clean vocals make a very appropriate ambiance for a “thinking song.” The noise inspiration is a very nice addition to the ambiance as well as is the organ in the background while we are greeted with a repetitive strumming of just a few guitar chords (which actually came out very nice and not tedious at all.)

To conclude, this album comes highly recommended as one would expect from Njiqahdda. I don’t know how they manage to release so many CDs a year and still keep fresh without sacrificing their core style, but I’m definitely not complaining about that. I would not just recommend it to my fellow metal heads, but to anyone interested in eclectic or progressive music. Well worth the investment.

(8.5/10)
Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

NEIGE ET NOIRCEUR – “La Seigneurie des Loups” Review



Full-length,
Sepulchral Productions
November 9, 2010

Neige et Noirceur is a band that has made quite a name for itself in the independent black metal scene. As one of the leaders in the Québécois scene, they help lay the foundation for a style that makes Montréal stand out in today’s black metal circles. I reviewed their earlier release from Hypnotic Dirge Records, “Crépuscule Hivernal sans Fin sur les Terres de la Guerre” in the past, and while I enjoyed the dark atmospheres very much, I had to critique the overly used repetition. They really improved from that release and we see an excellent and potentially classic release with “La Seigneurie des Loups.” While I am open minded about all music, this album is “my style” so to speak; unique black metal mixed with serious folk music and historical lyrics in a dark setting.

One second into this album and I marked out. We are greeted with a really awesome Jew Harp sequence (one of my favorite instruments to play around on) with a flanger effect in the background. While this is going on we have ominous power chords on the guitars strumming in, and then finally enter in with headbanging goodness of black metal blast beats and warlike riffs accompanied by vocals that remind me of Burzum’s Filosofem. This badassery is only the beginning of the first track titled, “Croix de feu Croix de fer.” My ears nearly had an orgasm from all the folk/black melodies in this piece alone. While folk is usually diverse instrumentally, it tends to be very repetitive in theory, but we are given a wide variety here with atmospheric black metal and drone meeting each other harmoniously (or is it dissonantly being that it’s BM? Whatever you consider the good one).

The song cuts out to sound effects and some agitated words in French. I don’t know what they were saying but it fits the mood of the music perfectly. Then the song kicks back in; this time much more ominous. The tumult of this piece goes throughout until we are brought back to familiar folk riffs featuring Jew Harp, percussion, chanting and tin whistle; an homage to Québec’s Celtic side and truly an epic piece of work. It even leads us into the follow-up track “Ancien Folklore Québécois” perfectly. This one being a very nice Celtic jig fused with raw black metal.

“1834” provides us with a nice acoustic instrumental, pretty much an interlude if you would, but don’t skip it. It sets the mood so well for the title track. Speaking of which, after an ambient intro, we are attacked by a threatening wall of power chords. This leads us to the main section of the song; very dramatic work. Slowly we see subtle progressions that add in haunting keyboard backing over the course of this piece.

“Les plaines de Krolok” closes this masterpiece of an album with the darkest portions of the entire CD. There is even more experimentation in this one with spacious synthesizers and more warring chants in French. The track closes with some long ambiance that reminds me of the work of Ancient Tundra. Very nice!

Anyone who is a fan of Québécois black metal would be insane not to pick this piece up. Neige & Noirceur are really coming into their own with each new release, and are solidifying a place among the elite acts in the genre. This is essential.

(8/10) 
Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

FORTERESSE – “Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines” Review



Full-length,
Sepulchral Productions
November 9, 2010

In Forteresse we find another member of the so-called “Métal Noir Québécois” scene. This group from Montréal shows a strong patriotism toward Québec’s history and an apparent yearning for the Canadian province’s independence. This reflects in the somber mood of their work. Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines furthers this melancholic feel by including more keyboard driven ambiance than ever before. The act feels the message of the album cannot be fully comprehended unless one listens to it in its entirety. Thusly, they have named every single track the same eponymous name as the album title. While under this notion I think it’d be more appealing to just have 1 long track, maybe they intended a natural rest between the passages. Nonetheless I will look at this album the way they intended.

While I have no knowledge of the French language, it is difficult for me to decipher lyrics and develop an understanding of the purpose of the work on that merit alone. Therefore I must rely on the theory behind the musical composition alone. Each track is very repetitious, perhaps too much for me to enjoy on regular listening experiences. I’d have to be in the right mood to fully appreciate this piece and I think more impatient listeners won’t take a liking to this. However, if you can get over this, you will find some of the darkest and most beautiful ambiance inspired riffs today and could easily find yourself addicted to the work; the “fourth track” being my personal favorite.

Not a lot I can say about this, having limited knowledge of the artists’ intentions due to language barrier, but I think this is an album you will either love or hate. If it had a bit more variety it would definitely be love all around, but listen to this and decide for yourself.

(7/10)
Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

11 AS IN ADVERSARIES – “The Full Intrepid Experience of Light” Review



Full-length,
Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation
November 22, 2010

What an interesting band. The name is interesting and so is the music. 11 as in Adversaries define themselves as Metal/Rock/Psychedelic. I see them more as Hardcore, though progressive. Normally I am not a fan of this but I must say I enjoyed this release a lot. I saw on their facebook page they were influenced by heavy prog group The Mars Volta as well as Mastodon and it really shows in their music. These influences make a much more artistically credible act than your typical “–core” band.

The Full Intrepid Experience of Light begins with its eponymous track. Right off the bat we are introduced to dissonant guitar riffs and electrical feedback that feel like they fit in a psychological horror film. The track then picks up to mid tempo yet technically sound notation and vocals. I will say my one major gripe with the album is the singing gets on my nerves. I’m not against clean vocals because “it’s not true” or any of that bullshit, but this instance has very whiney and stagnant singing, that isn’t bad at first but gets a bit dreary after a while. Getting over this, this is a very nice song that fuses the styles of the two bands I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

“Agitation in the Glorious Theme” follows up with some nice psychedelic strumming along with a funky riff. This song makes it clear that 11AIA is a metal/rock crossover that is worth listening too. It has a rather mainstream feel to it, but still it gives us avant-garde elements. Despite a very different sound I’d like to compare it to the works of Mike Patton, just on the basis of that description.

“The Night Scalp Challenger” saves us a little from the monotonous vocals with screaming, but the clean portions are still present. Here we have a very dark but jazzy tune that makes me think of metal burlesque show if there were such a thing. The progression from the previous tracks is slow, but we’re starting to really get variety in the album, for the follow up track is very experimental.

The fifth piece is merely an interlude with the closing track seeming to reflect the earlier parts of the album. Overall, this is a pretty good release and probably is one of the albums that will draw casual fans in but also impress some of the more open minded metal heads. The vocals don’t entirely ruin it for me, but I find that I can only take the album listening to parts at a time because despite the variety instrumentally, the one dimensional singing almost negates that into tediousness. I will recommend this album nonetheless.

(7/10) 
Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

TORTURE DIVISION – “Evighetens Dårar” Review



Compilation, Abyss Records
October 12, 2010

Here we have another Swedish death metal band. Note that Evighetens Dårar is a compilation of the bands previous three demo releases of the same name. I’ll be honest, my first listen I felt this was rather run of the mill for modern death metal. However, after a few more listens it grew on me a bit. I mean, you have 3 members of The Project Hate MCMXCIX thrashing out in this death metal trio and the infamous Dan Swanö producing this release, so it has to come with its merits. I can just be a little fussy about today’s death metal, as I tend to be more fond of the earlier styles of the late 80s and early 90s, but after getting over that, I must say this is a solid release.

Reminding me heavily of fellow Swedes Bloodbath and Hypocrisy, this is a very straightforward and brutal DM incarnation equipped with blast beats and neck snapping riffs throughout. In fact because of this, more mid-tempo tracks such as “Eld och Plagor” seem to be more memorable because of their uniqueness compared to the rest of the CD, due to more melodic sections (and by that I don’t mean pop-hook melodies you see in melodeath).

I would like to try and make a longer review of this compilation, but with it all being done before there really isn’t much to cover. It grew on me yes, but every track seems like it could be any old song from as I said Hypocrisy or Bloodbath. This is not a bad release, and I would recommend it for fans of Swedish Death Metal, but I expected much more from the members of this act.

(6.5/10)
Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

JOHNNY LÖKKE – “Promises and Lies” Review



Full-length
, Big Riff Records
October 19, 2010

Ah, old school heavy metal; a genre of music that tends to scream “badass”, “cheese” or even a combination of the two. Love it or hate it without it the more extreme bands we listen to today may have never came into existence. With Johnny Lökke’s third full-length we are given a more aggressive approach to his classic metal revivalist style that flaunts shamelessly apparent influences from legends such as Judas Priest, Armored Saint, Accept and the late Ronnie James Dio. I even notice similarities to King Diamond with the more high pitch singing, which for me is just the right amount of cheese for a traditional metal classic to be very fun to listen to, yet still be taken seriously critically. Johnny is so old school that he refuses to follow the modern power metal trends of incorporating symphonic styles especially when it comes to orchestras. No, Lökke wants it to stay as pure and tough as it was back in the day, and this just makes his work stand out even more.

Promises and Lies opens up with “Accident of One,” and I must say it fits perfectly as track 1. From the first riff the listener knows exactly what to expect from this album and will not be disappointed throughout. Marching riffs, crazy solos and very nice vocals that capture the spirit of the subculture quite well and naturally invite listeners to sing a long in a boastful manner are what make the track. This one will bring pride to metal heads.

It would be rather tedious to review each track individually as this isn’t the most original album. It wasn’t intended to be anyway. I will say each track is high quality and a dull moment is rare if any are present. A song that really stands out to me in particular though would be the fourth track entitled, “Heal Me.” Lökke dominates the track with a simple but effective riff that is very headbangable. The solos are also some of the best on the album, and the falsetto vocal-ism is insane and reminds me of both King Diamond (again) and Tim Owens. The album also seems to really kick off at this point on compared to previous tracks. The song arrangement is nicely done and each track builds up to the next while still being distinctly it’s own.

“Burning the Wheel” for the most part reminds me of early W.A.S.P. musically, but the chorus reminds me of Iron Maiden’s better songs. However, Johnny’s signature singing keeps it his own and not merely a rip-off. “Obsession” is another track I see influence from W.A.S.P. as well as Judas Priest and even a bit of Motörhead. The triplet oriented rhythm makes it a very fun moshable song despite its moderato tempo and easy to the ear melody. But, I must stress, yet again, THE SOLOS!

I should wrap this up before I go on a fanboy rant and say the same things over and over again. If you like old school metal, definitely pick this album up. Clocking in at about 42 and a half minutes, you are given eleven songs of sheer tough guy cheese, the good kind of cheese that is. Also before I forget “Virus” is another highlight on the album. It may be a bit one dimensional, but consistent listening is very rewarding.

(8/10)
Reviewed by: Matt Coughlin

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weapon From The Devils Tomb

  

October 2010
The AJNA Offensive                                                                    

I was one of those people who had initially heard of this band through word of mouth and a few select interrogations in various zines both published and otherwise.So when i was finally able to secure a copy of the Canadian bands debut long player Drakonian Paridigm I was initially underwhelmed,but after several listens,i to worshipped at the alter of weapon.So saying that my expectations for their newest slab of orthodox devil worship were high would be an understatement.From the devils tomb opens with the title track which in my opinion is one of the best tracks on this album.The slow dirge of the opening riff sets up for a spiral into blackened death madness which happened so frequently on their last album sets the album up very nicely,vocalist monarch's prayers to Satan are very fitting but surprisingly low in the mix which is one if not the only low points of the album.Furor Divinus is an utterly savage track and 1 of my favorites on the album.The production on this record is slightly less"produced" then the debut which adds a lot to the songs and arrangements.The lyrics are also amazing,some of the best i have ever read and obviously very well researched and thought out.The instrumental track "lefthandpathyoga" is an very nice change with acoustic guitars in this instrumental track are brilliant!!!But probably the my personal favorite song on this record is the "The Inner Wolf" with it furious mid paced riffs and ghoulish atmosphere,along with some of the best drumming in the underground!!The chanting in this song fucked up my soul.While this album is defiantly more death metal in theory,there are several melodic moments and traces of the early Greek scene spread through out the album.Bottom line is that this album is without a doubt one of the years top 10 best records and if you haven't got this or have not heard the first album you need to get it now or die a poser douche bag!!!!Hail weapon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                                                                   9.5/10
Review by:B.S.O.G.

Friday, October 22, 2010

SARGEIST - LET THE DEVIL IN - Review



SARGEIST - LET THE DEVIL IN
Full-length, Moribund Records
November 9th, 2010

So after 5 very long years the demonic beast known as Sargeist has returned to crush all in it's path. LET THE DEVIL IN no doubt is a long awaited release by those in the black metal underground, especially this scribe. Empire Of Suffering opens up the album in traditional fashion, loud, fast and raw as hell!! Torag's vocals are vicious and uncompromising and there is even a little variety to his voice. A lot of people maybe got on this band for their earlier works being Darkthrone clones, but this record certainly sees the band easing away from that and finding itself. While most of the album goes by at a furious pace, with Shatraug riffing like a madman. While most may see this record as a repetition of disciples or satanic black devotion, there are plenty of subtle differences that make this record a bit of a progression, for example the third track FROM THE BLACK COFFIN LAIR moves along at a slower more depressive pace which breaks up the blasting fury and gives the listener a break before the punishment begins again on BURNING VOICE OF ADORATION hits you with the typical Sargeist sound. The band is more and more sounding like a nice mix of the members other projects which in my opinion is a good thing. So the bottom line is this is a very good but not great piece of satanic Finnish black metal that should push Sargeist into the upper ranks amongst their countrymen. No reinventing the wheel,but a solid release nonetheless.


8/10
Review by B.S.O.G

Thursday, September 30, 2010

HALFORD - 4: MADE OF METAL Review



Full-length, Metal God Entertainment
September 27th, 2010
 
I found the new HALFORD album rather disappointing to say the least, his voice is great but I don't like the production job; it's cheesy and sounds a little hollow, helplessly juvenile lyrics repeated over and over again ad-nauseum don't help the situation... there's no urgency on the entire record like he had on his tremendously triumphant "RESURRECTION" album, when he was in a position where he had to prove to the METAL scene/community that he was back for good, in a big way!

I consider "RESURRECTION" to be the best album JUDAS PRIEST never made! Even when Halford was accepted back into the ranks of Priest, "ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION" was only half as urgent sounding as "RESURRECTION" was in comparison, despite being a magnificent comeback album in every sense of the word! Then Priest decided to get all EPIC and do the mediocre "NOSTARADAMUS" which ended up being a tepid, over-wrought, lengthy affair... a 'Metal Opera' that was just too soft in light of what JUDAS PRIEST have been known to churn out over the years!

Halford's last effort was the HALFORD 3 : WINTER SONGS album which was a collection of Metalized Christmas songs, of all things, another rather mixed bag that really had heads spinning in wonderment! HALFORD 2 : CRUCIBLE had it's moments but was a rather lukewarm sophomore solo effort with great production and fantastic vox, the songs were well written but the album lurched along with a sludgy heaviness that never seemed to pick up speed and nothing on the album really stood out... the same goes for this new album except the production is very clean in a hollow plastic sort of sterile way, the lyrics have no depth and are constructed of a series of annoyingly repeated choruses that defy imagination leading to the listener zoning out and doing other things while the album is playing! Not a good sign for a return to the fray!

The album cover is the worst part of this package, a Metal racing car with the words "MADE OF METAL" emblazoned across the front... stupid, silly title and an absolutely awful album cover only hint at the lack of depth the listener becomes painfully aware off from the first track.

I love HALFORD, I love JUDAS PRIEST and I always will... Rob Halford is thee greatest METAL vocalist of all time, even Pavoratti admitted as much, but there has to be an injection of urgency and depth into his solo albums if he wants to gain more METAL fans in future and keep the old loyal ones as well... this album treads dangerously into Pop-Metal territory, though I hate to admit it... cheesy ballad-lite tracks, repetitious chorus's and lackluster, empty lyrics all the way through... add up to one painfully boring album that's not going to have longevity as one of it's attributes. That being said, there are a few interesting moments and ideas on the album and in general i enjoyed this album simply because it was something new from a man and a singer I hold in high esteem!

Reviewed by Damien Bentley
SCORE: 75/100

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Enslaved (Nor) - Axioma Ethica Odini Review


Full-length, Indie Recordings
September 27th, 2010

Another exemplary new full-length album from ENSLAVED, this should get the hair standing on the back of your neck and arms within the first opening notes! No contest! If you are a die-hard ENSLAVED fan and especially a fan of their latter day works of genius Progressive Viking/Black Metal, then this is most likely going to be Album of the Year for you!!!

The album is released through Indie Recordings on September 27th, 2010 in most places though some Release dates differ: Europe - September 27 & North America - September 28.

The album was Recorded at three different studios in Bergen, Norway: Duper Studio, Earshot Studio and Peersonal Sound Studio. Cover art by Norwegian artist Truls Espedal, suits the albums sound perfectly and is a complimentary piece of art in it's own right!

The album is available as a Special Edition in a gate-fold seven-inch format with the entire album on CD and a seven-inch vinyl single as a bonus, as well as a regular jewel case edition and additionally on double vinyl as well. The bonus seven-inch single includes new recordings, "Jotunblod" and "Migration".

A fantastic album with some marvelous tracks from beginning to end, as with all ENSLAVED albums, this demands t be listened to from beginning to end as a complete piece of work. It's still got that glorious epic flowing feel to it, that frigid Pagan iciness, Grutle's gravelly shrieking growls and that magnificent Pink Floyd like Progressiveness to it that has made the band the powerhouse they are today, truly a band to be reckoned with... they have really carved out heir own niche within a genre that become convoluted and polluted by copy cats and overdone Folky efforts! None of that here, just pure genuine effort and passion that flows naturally without sounding like they are trying too hard like some bands... in fact, this record sounds effortless like river flowing downstream naturally.

Tracklisting:
1. Ethica Odini 07:59
2. Raidho 06:01
3. Waruun 06:42
4. The Beacon 05:38
5. Axioma 02:20
6. Giants 06:37
7. Singular 07:43
8. Night Sight 07:36
9. Lightening 07:51
Total playing time; (58:27)

Ethica Odini is the perfect track to open the album with and the track the band chose to introduce the new album prior to official release. Giants is another tremendous track though every track has it's own nuances and merits individually. Fantastic piece of work, I know I will continue to listen to this album many many times again in future, over and over again as I never get sick of it and it never tires me, always makes me want more!

SCORE: 666/666

Reviewed by Damien Bentley // Sept. 21st, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vektor - Black Future



Vektor - Black Future
Full-Length, Heavy Artillery Records
November 2009


Throwback, retro, old-school metal. Admittedly, I loathe these kinds of bands and the entire concept (usually). The idea of a band doing something completely unoriginal and rehashed makes me frustrated, not only as a listener, but also as a fellow artist. Granted there is nothing wrong with enjoying the glory of the past flames, usually it is impossible to recapture that 'old-school' magnificence...Getting this promo in the mail, I cannot honestly say I was expecting a whole lot. The band logo and artwork screamed 'retro'. The band logo looking far too similar to the Voivod logo, I feared for the worst.

This album was a lesson in never judging a book (or album) by its cover. I put the disc in and literally had my head blown off and my ass handed to me. Vektor dealt me a blow I was certainly not expecting, but welcomed with open arms. 'Black Future' is stylistically all over the place, the band runs through thrash, progressive, black(ish) and death(ish) moments. Extremely intense, furious, complex and melodic, Vektor tear through this 70 minute opus with no stone left unturned. This is no throwback band, this is a band that embraces its forefathers and blazes forward with feverish ambition. Sounding like a chaotic mix of Voivod, Athiest and later-era Death - with the vocals sounding eerily like Ihsahn at times - Vektor is truly making a name for themselves and a respectable one at that.

The musicianship on this album is amazing by all accounts. Complicated song structures and dissonant melodies are found on nearly every track. Superb drumming, fluid bass playing, shredding guitar riffs/solos and passionately howled vocals make Vektor stand out from the pack. This album is a headbangers dream...It is probably a good idea to do some neck stretches before listening to 'Black Future' because I found myself rocking out for the entire duration of the album. Stunning.

Kudos to Vektor and Heavy Artillery for really giving me something unexpected. I can honestly say I am very impressed with this album and will surely be following this band for as long as they keep up this kind of brilliance. For fans of unique and original METAL, do yourself many favors and pick up 'Black Future'. I can assure you that disappointment is not something you will find here. Its always great to have cynicism turned on its ear and to be rewarded with a true musical gem such as this. 'Black Future' made my day.

Rating : 9/10

Reviewed by E.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Stone (Srb) - Old Wounds Bleed Misanthropy



EP, Diabolist Services Cult
May 12th, 2010

10" Gatefold Picture MLP.
Limited to 500 hand-numbered copies.


So in my hands is a copy of "OLD WOUNDS BLEED MISANTHROPY", the newest release from Serbian horde The Stone. The band had decided to re-record 2 classic songs with the current lineup and also threw in Slayer and Masters Hammer covers to sweeten the deal.

"Za korak paklu blize" starts things off right, blasting from the turntable speakers with vengence and fury!!!!! The song sounds a little clearer and is executed flawlessly by the current formation. The track which is exclusive to this release originally appeared on the bands recording "SOME WOUNDS BLEED FOREVER" which happens to be their debut full length, so the clearer production doesn't take away to much from this track. Track 2 is "Vihor paganske osvete" and appeared originally on their 1998 demo recording "Unveiled Evil" demo and gain the production makes everything a little clearer without taking away the majestic savagery away from the original intent. The Slayer cover "Aggressive Perfector" changes things up a bit, but is nothing more then a tribute done many times over to a band that has influenced countless numbers of extreme metal bands. The Masters Hammer cover was an obvious choice for the boys from Serbia and is a fitting end to the 10" and also exclusively only on this release.

But the real winner here is the presentation of this album released worldwide by intolerant vinyl only label DIABOLIST SERVICES and FUCK ME....the packaging is beautiful. Heavy stock gate-fold and the picture disc is also of the highest quality as well. My version also came with a really nice parchment paper insert and a patch. One of the best, if not the best vinyl I own, simply based on the packaging alone. The music is great as well, but unless you are really into this band, then it is not essential. But overall another winner for DSC and The Stone!

Music : 7.5/10
Total Package : 8.5/10


Review By B.S.O.G

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Negura Bunget Interview.



Negura Bunget Interview: By E. for The Werkshed, Interview with Negru



Q: First allow me to say that this is an honor for me to interview Negura Bunget. Virstele pamintului is an absolutely amazing record and seems like a genuine progression from the brilliance of Om. For those who have not heard it yet, how would you describe it to someone unfamiliar to what you do? And how would you describe it to someone who is completely familiar to your previous works?

Negru: For the ones familiar with our work, I would say Virstele pamintului is as much of a natural evolution as it is a new beginning.




Q: Virstele pamintului (much like many of your previous works) is a very cohesive album, each part is just as important as the last and they all come together to create a unified piece of art. This album seems very much like a concept album of sorts. Do you see it this way? If yes, what is the underlying concept behind this album?

Negru: Yes, I’d sat this is truly conceptual album. Vîrstele pămîntului (Ages of the land) is as the title suggests an album about ages, about places of the earth and places of the spirit, about bounds transcending worlds. It’s an album that tries to shape a personal vision on the essences that made us who we are now. We look back so that we can understand use, the present and our future. Symbolically the album is based on the principle of 9. 9 is the triad of the triads, symbol of fulfillment of the creative effect. It symbolizes the return of the multiplicity to unity (like the snake biting his tail). 9 is the number of patience, of meditation and harmony. The earth is where we came from and where go back into, the one from above and beyond us. Understanding and respecting it means to understand yourself, your purpose and destiny. Vîrstele pămîntului is an album about embracing your destiny, about choosing and consciously assuming a way of life.




Q: You have also released Maiestrit this year, what is your opinion on the differences between the original and re-recorded version? Are there any plans to re-record any of your other older material in the future? Why did you pick this album from all the ones in your catalog to re-record?

Negru: There are a lot of differences between the two versions. Maybe not major ones, but if you look into details, a lot is changed, modified, re-shaped… so that in the end we rather see Maiestrit as a new material than a simple re-recording. We don’t have any plans to re-record other materials. That’s why we saw Maiestrit as a symbolical and of an era. The past is entirely behind us now, we are solely focused on the future. We were never satisfied with the original outcome of the album. We felt there was a lot more that we didn’t managed to capture, both in terms of production and performance. So our mind set was to make it right this time, do every little aspect as it should be. Was not easy, and we ended up working on this material maybe more than on a new album, but it was worth in the end.




Q: Despite the tumultuous line-up disintegration of the old guard, NB has managed to compose new material that is very much akin to its elder works and does not regress in anyway. How is the working relationship with the new members so far and have you come to any kind of closure/resolve with the old members?

Negru: We’ve been quite fortunate to find the right people for this endeavor, so things are working out pretty well. We are of course just at the beginning, there’s a lot more to be developed, and a long journey is ahead of us. But we are aware of this, and we are really keep do put all the hard work to make things happen the way we know they should. I have a clean closure with the old members since the very beginning. I don’t hold any grudges or regrets about the course of action I took. I can’t say it’s a similar feeling from their side, but I can always speak only for myself.



Q: Negura Bunget, since its inception, has seemed like a band dedicated to blazing its own path. Was this something that was intentional since the birthing of the project or was it more of a natural progression that continued to evolve more over time?

Negru: I was just the natural way we progressed… Of course in time you became aware of such matters, and you can take care even better of all the different aspects involved, which is exactly what we did.



Q: You are currently embarked on a tour in support of your new material. How has the crowd reaction been to the new material so far? Are there any plans to come to the United States in the future?


Negru: So far the reactions towards the new album have been amazing, both at the concerts, and in the media. It’s even more than we could have expected. We have tried to arrange a US tour for quite a while already. It’s not easy to plan such a thing for a band like us, but I’m sure we will make it happen soon.


Q: Negura Bunget has always been a very spiritual band both musically and lyrically. How does your spiritual ideology effect the music and even more so, your daily lives? How would you categorize your spiritual ideologies?


Negru: Everything we do is a consequence of who we are as persons. Spiritually shapes you character, so in a way or other is directly involved is every aspect of our lives. That doesn’t mean of course we endorse that over-spiritual approach where every gesture has a meaning. We are normal people, and our interests are just private so I would say our spiritual ideologies are of a personal nature. We do not embrace any official systems and certainly do not preach to other our beliefs.



Q: One of the things that has been noteworthy of your band is the use of film/video that completely compliments the music. Are there any plans for more videos/film work in the future?

Negru: We do have some plans on this matter. For once we just finished the first clip for a track of new album – Dacia Hiperboreana. It’s a 9 minutes long rather unusual visual exploration… We also have a live DVD almost completed. It’s our biggest project s far, as we set up an entire gig in order to film it right and offer a full live experience to the watchers. It should be released on Prophecy before the end of the year. Other that this we have some much ampler plans, but unfortunately I can’t say much for the moment about them.




Q: Over the past few years you have essentially taken on all aspects of the creative process, from writing to recording. What is the major factor that led you to record your music yourselves? Do you find it difficult to create and produce your art?

Negru: I think we just wanted to take care directly of all the aspects. It’s not like there are many peoples around here on which we could depend on doing a better job… so we were also somehow forced to take this approach. But the more we get into such aspects, the more natural we feel we can take things even higher, so it’s not at all like a burden.



Q: Negura Bunget has always had a very abstract take on album artwork. Very much different from the typical black metal fare, but manages to compliment the music perfectly. Many bands fail to use artwork to its full capacity, in regards to creating art that is whole, complete and represents the musical side of what they do. What is your opinion regarding the visual side of your art and how important is it to you?

Negru: I think every aspects of a new material count. From production, layouts, packaging… they all offer us different means of expression. We also enjoy taking new paths with everything, make something of our own. For the artwork side we’ve also been fortunate to have some close friends which help us a lot…



Q: You had been doing the Negura music web/magazine, but it seems to have been on hold for a while now. Are there any plans to move forward with it or is it pretty much obsolete at this point?


Negru: I haven’t put this project entirely behind. In fact I still feel time will come to make yet another issue of the magazine, and I mean of course the printed version. I already have the material for an entire issue, but it’s just getting a bit too old now, so maybe I’ll have to start it again from scratch. And as printed magazines are getting rare these days, my determination is just getting stronger.


Q: It seems you are working with other bands in your recording studio as of recent (Wodensthrone to be one of them). Are you planning to do more outside recording work in the studio or is it more for friends/acquaintances and such?


Negru: We don’t have too much time to take outside recordings… But we did quite a few meanwhile, especially local bands that we pretty much knew one way or the other.



Q: Well that is about all I have for this interview. I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. If you have any last words to put out there, please feel free to do so. The Werkshed and myself would like to wish you and the band all the best in your future endeavors.


Negru: Thank you too for the support! I hope we will make it soon to US, and people will have the chance to experience directly what Negura Bunget is all about. Meanwhile we have a lot of projects coming out this year, so keep an eye on everything.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Symbiosis/Ancient Tundra - These Engulfing Winds Never Die CD/DVD
Full-length/split, Hypnotic Dirge Records, March 14th, 2010

Here we have the latest release from both Italian dark ambient artist Symbiosis and Canadian neo-classical ambient artist Ancient Tundra. Few and far between is the split album that actually works throughout its entirety. Split albums usually work best when each artists offering compliments the other while still retaining the ability to stand on its own. Fortunately for this album, its works in the manner in which most split albums fail. This album is also unique in the respect that it is a CD/DVD combination release, so both the audio and visual mediums are explored to their fullest ability. Thus, the album will be reviewed in two phases; audio and visual.

Audio;
The album starts with the offering from the project Symbiosis. This project has been around for quite some time, having numerous releases on various labels. This release finds the project honing some of its most developed and intricate compositions to date. Enveloping, atmospheric and fresh sounding, the sound is best described as neo-classical inspired dark ambient music. Classical styled instruments make up the bulk of the soundscape, drifting between somber, haunting and epic. Symbiosis creates a sound that is much like the soundtrack to an album that does not currently exist. The movements are sweeping and charismatically cinematic. While listening to his half of the album, I continually found myself visualizing an overtly abstract piece of film noir playing out as each track entered and faded back into the abyssic mind of the projects creator. All of this ends on the hauntingly somber finish of his portion of the split; a distant, harrowingly epic musical piece that fades away on an almost hopeful note, thus laying the framework for the second half of the split to enter.

The Ancient Tundra half of the album begins with a cyclical sounding synthesizer that almost gives the illusion of being trapped in a glacier. Everything can be seen, but has a thick sheet of ice obscuring its true identity, freezing you alive while you try to look out and get a last glimpse of life before dying. The overall feeling from the Ancient Tundra half of the record is very mournful and almost like the idea of eternal winter; frost covers the plains, seeds freeze and rot in the ground, all is lost to the great mystery of nature. Ancient Tundra also manages to infuse his works with some haunting vocals and minimalist percussion to add a bit more depth to the melancholy. I must also add that his second track "Land of The Midnight Sun" is one of the most depressing and mournful ambient pieces I have ever listened to. Its very dirge-like and sorrowful, almost like the song to be played at the funeral of the person you most love. His half of the album ends with what almost sounds like the second movement of the first track, ending his portion on the same kind of feeling that it opened with.

Visual;
The DVD portion of the album is split into 3 sections; one for Symbiosis, one for the label (promotional videos) and one for Ancient Tundra.

The Symbiosis section of the DVD is made up of 3 videos, one of a Symbiosis track not featured on the album and two for the artist's solo project. The Symbiosis video is somewhat of a narrative slideshow kind of video. Still images are presented (of people in nature, nature itself, space, etc.) with overlays of text to tell a bit of a story. The bulk of the text is in what appears to be Italian, so I cannot recite what exactly it speaks of, but based on the imagery used, it is some kind of story that involves the tale of a land far away in the throes of the deepest winter. The other two videos are super abstract collages of random imagery allied with dark militant-esque industrial musical pieces. Shapes move to and fro with snippets of people, candles, architectural works, color treatments, etc.

The Ancient Tundra portion of the DVD was a bit more of what I had expected to see; landscapes of winter set to music. Each track from the AT side of the split is given a video treatment, as well as an track not on the album and a montage of the original footage from the first 3 videos. I think the visuals used in the AT portion of the DVD were selected well and fit the sound/theme of the music to a T. Desolate landscapes, barren trees, a single person walking amidst a sea of snow, all compliment the chilling and somber tone of his soundscapes. The color patterns in the AT videos are also very fitting, cold color patterns and tone evoke the feeling of the music. Many of vignettes are slowed down and progressively take form over the span of the track.

Overall;
I enjoyed this release quite a bit. I found the attention to detail was well formed and complimented the release the way it needs to be, in order to be fully realized. The sound production is clear, vast and easy to enjoy. The video production is of medium quality, but fits the music perfectly. I personally enjoyed the Ancient Tundra side of the split more, not to say the Symbiosis half was bad, because it was quite good, but the AT material was a bit more to my liking. Plus I also think the AT portion of the release was a bit more fully realized and cohesive to the concept of the album. But overall I found this album/package to be very enjoyable in all its aspects. I must also say the packaging was nice as well, a super jewel box layout, which contained a booklet with some stunning landscape photography.

I would recommend this album to fans of ambient and/or neo-classical music. Even to those who enjoy soundscape based music, as the album has a very cinematic quality throughout its duration. This is a great slab of dark ambient music, cannot wait to see what both artists have in store for the future.

Reviewed by E. - Symbiosis side = 7/10 - Ancient Tundra side = 8/10

Ludicra - The Tenant Review


Ludicra - The Tenant
Full-length, Profound Lore, March 3rd, 2010

USBM is something that has been very give or take since its inception, many of the projects flooding out from the US are contrived, poorly executed and pointless. Over the past few years they have been some serious strides in its movement, with some amazing bands taking form. Ludicra, while not a 'new' band, are one of the few who give the US scene some noteworthy credit. While they have referred to themselves as 'Grey metal', to these ears, its as black as it gets. I have been a fan of this West Coast act for quite sometime, but I was really thrown for a loop with their new album; The Tenant. After a label change and a few years putting the album together, Ludicra has created their most mature and amazing album yet.

The Tenant displays outstanding musicianship, songwriting and performance ability. Every song is unique, impeccably well-executed and plays out within the album almost like a concept record. Each song has its place in supporting the others and if taken away, would not give the album its whole sounding feel. Melodic and sometimes angular guitar riffing (with some killer solo/lead work), pulsing low-end bass, grinding drums and passionately executed vocals make up the bulk of the album. The songs twist and morph between doomy dirges, punkish rages, atmospheric post-rockish sections and blasting, intense black metal. There is not a single dull moment on this album, each track is meticulously structured, given room to breathe and then allowed to collapse atop the listener. Each member of the band shines in this record, all complimenting each other but still standing ground on their own.

The production is outstanding on this album; clear, warm, super dense and beautifully organic. There is no muddiness or awkward sound colliding, each instrument is clearly heard (the bass tone is amazing and each note is noticeable - quite a feat on a black metal album) and comes together in a huge wall of sound. The album sounds big, boomy and is sonically pleasing in every possible way.

The artwork is quite noteworthy as well; odd urban meets organic photography that depicts typical home-esque settings in very atypical scenarios (a bed in a lake?) and is adorned with some beautiful spot varnishing. Every single aspect of this record is complimentary to each other and was undoubtedly well-thought out. This is a fully realized and composed piece of artwork that is unique and amazing in every way. I truthfully have not a single bad thing to say about the album.

It may still be early to make calls and there have been some amazing records released this year already, but I am picking The Tenant to be my personal favorite record of the year. Yes folks, it is THAT good. Do not sleep on this album, it is worth every last second spent listening to it and absorbing it. Absolutely amazing.

Reviewed by E. - 9.25/10

Burzum - Belus Review


Burzum - Belus
Full-length, Byelobog Productions/PHD, March 8th, 2010

This is undoubtedly the most anticipated record in black metal for well over a decade. While many of the reviews I have already seen of it are either wholly praising or bashing the album, it is safe to say there is no real middle ground in regards to this record (or Varg himself). While many fans were anticipating some more akin to his older works, many of us knew that this simply was not possible. How could some one who has been imprisoned for all that time come out and make the same thing he made in his youth? He simply could not, people change a great deal of time and Belus is a key testament to that. While listening to this album there is one thing that is undeniable; this is a Burzum record, plain and simple. Everything that made Burzum who he was is still intact, just refined a bit and presented in a new fashion.

The simple yet breathtakingly hypnotic riffing is still used, the simple, short-cycled drum rhythms and the underpinning counterpoint bass are all still here. The only real difference is the vocals, the vocals are very much like the ones presented on Filosofem, just without all the distortion and thin production. Another big difference is the usage of clean vocals and while Varg did hint to these on older recordings, they are much more prevalent on Belus.

Everything presented here is classic Burzum, funneled through the filter of a much older (and maybe calmer?) man. To these ears, this album was a step right back into the 90s and seems like a perfectly logical follow up to the mind-bending masterpiece that was Filosofem. Its almost as if time had stopped for all these years and Varg managed to pick up exactly where he left off before his imprisonment, just channeled through the spirit of an older, possibly more wise person.

One of the biggest changes outside of the vocals is the production. Gone are the old, cavernous and cold sounding recordings of the past. That production is replaced with a shockingly warm and thick sounding record that works quite well with the new material. This album is not overproduced by any means, but is clear, warm and has a depth that is much different than his earlier works.

On numerous forums I have seen lashings about the possible use of a drum machine and the album being home recorded. To that I say, even if both of those were true, would it really matter? It seems many people have been inclined to use any little thing to mar this record that they can. To me, it makes no difference. I could care less if he used a drum machine or recorded it at home, simply for the fact that this is the Burzum record I had very much wanted to hear. I did not have high hopes for this album at all, but even upon the first listen I was convinced that Belus truly was and is something special.

Aside from Sverddans (which is a good track, just a bit out of place amongst the rest of the album), I do not think Varg could have recorded a better 'comeback' album. It continues the past tradition of Burzum, but adds new dimensions and facets that are very much fitting to the record. For some it may take many listens to the album before they get what is really happening here, but the time invested is definitely worth it. A truly outstanding album, as only Varg could have presented it.

Reviewed by E. - 9/10

Friday, April 16, 2010

SEMARGL (Ukraine) - "ORDO BELLICTUM SATANAS" Review


SEMARGL (Ukraine) - "ORDO BELLICTUM SATANAS"
Full-length, Twilight-Vertrieb, March 12th, 2010

Released March 12th, 2010... This is the fourth full-length album from SEMARGL and it reaches beyond any existing current styles of heavy music, presenting the listener with a creative meld of aggressive Satanic Black Metal, Death Metal vocal counterpoints, elements of old-school Thrash and Black'n'Roll dynamism combined with a totally unexpected new approach to the bands original sonic assault including some Electronic elements and various female vocals of varying styles!

First of all, let me start this Review by saying this is one of the hardest albums I've ever had to review, not because I like it or don't like it or can't describe it accurately... but rather because it is so diverse that it leaves your jaw hanging on the ground, after multiple listens I still didn't know how to approach reviewing this album. I've sat on this album for a whole month now and still couldn't come up with an acute approach to capture it accurately! It really is an album that has to be heard rather than dissected and analyzed to death!

There are some quite distinct influences directly linked to the creative input of the various guests on the record including Jonny Maudling (BAL-SAGOTH , MY DYING BRIDE), Nera (DARZAMAT), Iscariah (IMMORTAL, DEAD TO THIS WORLD, NECROPHAGIA), Novy (DIES IRAE, BEHEMOTH, VADER), Vrangsinn (CARPATHIAN FOREST, NATTEFROST, PHOBIA) and if I remember correctly, Ashemidi (MELECHESH).

The album contains 12 separate tracks, built around the bands common ideological Satanic manifesto, written and Recorded in Kiev at Blacklight Recording Studio. Includes a terrific 16 page booklet with marvelous artwork and photography!

It's going to very interesting to see how audiences take to this record; in one sense the record is so overtly creative that it will undoubtedly win over new fans and that same creativity and diversity is also sure to drive away many Extreme Metal purists. In order to fully grasp the direction SEMARGL have chosen to take their sound, we need to follow their slow burning evolution from their diabolical Debut album, "ATTACK ON GOD" which while a symphonic BM album was quite an extreme album in it's own right! The bands 2nd album, "SATANOGENISIS" saw SEMARGL progress into a more modern SATYRICON type direction as well as dabbling in dark electronic sonics, further explored on their 3rd full-length album, "MANIFEST"... when following their evolution it's easier to see how they arrived at this point!

The first 2 songs the band played live, from the new album, prior to it's release displayed a much more direct driving Thrash influence in both the drumming and riff style... some will hear an early METALLICA Thrash riff influence in the aggressive, punchiness of some of the new tracks. The band decided not to make the entire album follow that path and added female vocals on several tracks as well as Industrial Electronica to certain trax that will remind some of a mix between RAMMSTEIN and PRODIGY, and are quite surprising to say the least! Nera from DARZAMAT appears on the track "Credo Flaming Rain" and the song begins with a beat and sound reminiscent of Trip-Hop in the vein of PORTISHEAD and proceeds with a steady clean female vocal line for the duration of the track! Whereas on other trax like "Credo Possess", female vox are used as a backing enhancement or additional element to the male gravel throat-ed Death Metal style vox by Rutarp while a Thrashy straightforward chugging riff plays over a steady Thrash beat.

The most surprising trax for me are those like "Credo Vrangsinn" which is entirely Electronica and is extremely short at only 2mins of playing time, produced and procured by the CARPATHIAN FOREST Bassist, Vrangsinn himself... this was quite a shock in some ways and will definitely have some listeners completely confused or in a total conundrum!

Another really different sounding track is "Credo Revolution" with it's high pitched backing female vocal and Electronica elements immediately reminding me of my favorite PRODIGY track, "Break & Enter", both the album version and the 2005 Live Edit Remix come to mind so I think fans of ABORYM on their "WITH NO HUMAN INTERVENTION" album might really enjoy some of the elements present on this album!

If you forget about constrictions or personal opinions regarding "how something is supposed to sound" in Extreme Metal, you will discover a heavily diversified sound teaming with a multitude of oblique ideas running in every direction yet still held together by a solid production and thematic manifesto... the key to the album is the Philosophy behind it... how to present Satanic Extreme Metal in a new and creatively inventive way that hasn't been done before by adding new elements to it and allowing those elements to stand proud in heir own right, regardless of any existing sound or on predilections or expectations listeners and fans might have! This is an album you have to listen to and go with the flow of the album, without comparing it to any other record you've heard, no matter what sonic elements are at play on any particular track!

The main thing about this album is, I think that due to it's direct approach (coupled with it's unique diversity and creativity), will translate to the live stage extremely well. The chugging Thrash riffs and drumming are sure to keep audiences headbanging, the Death Metal/Black Metal vocal combination maintains the extremity in the music, the experimentation and Electronic/Industrial elements will provide a unique background to the Metal and Black'n'Roll
at it's forefront and the female vocals will either irritate or seduce the listener into it's uniquely different atmosphere! One thing no-one can say about this album is that it isn't interesting, because EVERY song on this album is different and specific with it's own individual separating characteristics and identity! A new Era has dawned for the band in their sonic Evolution/Revolution and all I can say is I can't wait to see this band take this album out on the road and Tour the HELL out of it... THAT will win over new fans for the band and the album for sure! ONLY FOR THE OPEN MINDED, this album will either Rock your socks off with it's immediate head-bang-ability or drive you away in irritation, I don't think SEMARGL will mind either way!

That being said, my personal favouite trax are the ones that take on a more direct METAL approach such as; "Credo Sacrifice", "Credo Possess", "Credo Bellictum Satanas", "Credo Satania" and "Credo Dead To This World" from Iscariah with it's definite DEAD TO THIS WORLD style Black/Thrash attack! The album scores high on creativity from beginning to end!

Reviewed by Damien Bentley - 10/10

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

SWALLOW THE SUN - NEW MOON Review


SWALLOW THE SUN - NEW MOON
Full-length, Spinefarm Records, November 4th, 2009

As seems to be the case with fellow tour mates, KATATONIA and their new album, a lot of people seem similarly confused by the new STS album! Having spoken with STS personally after their recent terrific Kraków gig, I asked them what sort of reactions they have had so far and they had mentioned that point to me in our conversations at the gig. It seems to be a bit of a mixed bag affair as far as reactions go, regardless, the music is rock solid and heavy from beginning to end but still contains the beauty of their trademark sound!

For one thing, It's far more Extreme than the previous 3 albums and the EP, but it's different sounding too... a lot of fans are apparently lost over the difference in direction on this one. When you listen to "THE MORNING NEVER CAME", "GHOSTS OF LOSS" & "HOPE" back to back, it's quite evident that that sadness in the music has taken on a different image and sound, Mikko's BM vox are more evident on the new album, mixed in with the Death Metal vox while the Clean ones have diminished in use, especially in comparison to "HOPE", which had by far the most clean vocal elements or parts to it as a whole!

The addition of Kai Huhto to the band seems to have really pushed their sonic boundaries to exciting new levels. In conversation with him, he mentioned that the band had encouraged him to push a little harder with some of the more Extreme Metal elements he has brought to the table, having played in ROTTEN SOUND and WINTERSUN, it comes as no surprise to me whatsoever and can only be a good thing for the band. Pasi Pasanen had a different drum style but the bands creativity has benefited from a new solid element with the addition of Huhto's creativity to the mix!

Mikko has also enhanced his vocal elements on the album as mentioned earlier, as well as being STS's vocalist he is none other than the vocalist in Finnish Symphonic BM band ALGHAZANTH... who also have a new album due soon! With ai upping the ante in the drum department, mikko seems to have reached new extreme vocal highs on the album as well.

The rest of the band work well together in creating a new upgraded atmosphere that is still STS to the bone but doesn't stagnate or tread water in old waters... the ship has left the harbor and is out to sea on a new journey... "NEW MOON" will surely win over new fans who have never heard of the band before based on the strength of this new album and their current tremendous European tour with KATATONIA, who incidentally make the best touring counterparts for STS as both bands sounds work well together in attracting a similar audience but winning over fans to their own individual trademark sounds along the way as well!

The new album comes with tremendous artwork in a light sepia eggshell yellow colour and a woodblock print style with a marvelous booklet and an illustration on each page with full lyrics additionally provided.

Reviewed by Damien Bentley  -  8/10

Monday, April 5, 2010

Interview With Nev



1.You seem to be quite a busy guy lately.What has been keeping you occupied?

Busy my good sir would be an understatement. As far as art goes , lots of stuff still in the camp. Cardiac Arrest Shirt, Gravehill shirt, Beyond Hell cover, a few logos, Think Again cover. I’m sure there’s more but my brains is fried right now! Ha!

2.Lets start off with your love of art. When did you start drawing? When did you realize you were gonna make something out of it??

Well I’m sure every artist says they have been drawing since they were little kids. I know when I started drawing and noticing “holy shit how did my hands do this?”, was in 5th grade. A few of my friends and I would draw Mortal Kombat characters killing each other haha! As soon as I got into junior high school I started taking art classes and really wanted to do art for bands. I was always the kid in the back of the class doodling. Teachers would try and catch me not paying attention but as listening.

3.Have you always drawn horror/gore stuff or would you say your ability far outreaches this style of art??

Well I’ve always been of fan of gore, horror, sci-fi stuff. But I leaned more toward like crazy mutants and cartoony stuff. I didnt really start focus on the gore till middle of high school. Well I can’t say that really. I’m sure I have plenty of sketch books from my junior high days in the basement with gore, boobs, sex, and alien bondage!!!

4.What was you introduction to extreme music.Do you feel like it was a natural vehicle for your talents?

The first metal record I ever heard was Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. Still, one of my favorite records of all time. My old man played it for me in his 93 firebird haha!! I was blown away. I would say that I got into the heavier stuff later that same year. Cannibal Corpse was the first death metal band I ever heard and the rest is chaos and history. I think music does inspire me quite a bit, especially death metal old and new. It’s one of the view art forms that’s pretty much un-supervised so you can create as you wish. Yes you do have the parent advisory sticker but who the fuck pays attention to that.



5.What is your prefered method when doing art,pencil,photoshop,paint?Do you usually stick with the same thing or do you expieriment with other ways of creation?

I do a pretty good mixture of both, computer and traditional hand stuff. I don’t really have a preferred method. I think it really depends on the band I do the art for. Some bands I think need that gritty, dirty, “sketchy” feel. Others I think need a more cleaner approach to their design. I don’t do much experimenting when I do a piece. However, I do learn a lot from each piece I do and apply it to the next.

6.I know you recently found out you are having another child.Congrats to you!!How do you balance your passions and family equally?


Thanks man!!! Um well to put it blunty..i don’t balance it very well at all. I pretty much live at my desk. Which does indeed suck at times. That’s why you have to love what you do because you will have to sacrifice something for it. During the summer months though I plan on cutting my work load to spend time with my ever growing family. I have a kick ass wife who does understand my love for the art and music, but even sometimes I get buried in a piece or just so tuned in to it, she has to pull me back out to reality! Haha!

7.Has your art been able to help you generate extra income,or does this really not interest you.Is this more of a passion then a job to you?


Well as I first started out a few years ago i did shit for free. Like free free. Not even for merch. It did open up a lot of doors for me for sure. But as my family grows and as money gets tighter I have started to charge. Its still not much but its enough. I started up a label that ive been pouring money into. That money comes from my freelance work. I’m slowly starting to make more and more where I can divide up my freelance income to bills and the label.

8.What artist really got you into wanting to do album art,logos etc?

Arthur Adams, Kevin Eastman, Peter Larid, All the artist that did the Garbage Pail Kid cards!!! Sam Kieth, Wayne D Barlowe. Those are the non-music artist! I would have to flat out say the man that got me wanting to do this was the one, the only, Vince Locke. Hopefully, one day I can meet the man and shake his hand.

9.What if you can,name you 5 favorite album covers ever!!

Arrrrggg only 5?!?!?! Hahaha! Cannibal Corpse-Eaten Back to Life. Nihilist-Collection. Autopsy-Mental Funeral. Deceased-Luck of the Corpse. Cradle of Filth-Cruelty and the Beast (sorry naked chicks in blood are awesome). There is a shit ton more, but those I consider my favorite.



10.I know you are also in the band Kaiju and you just released your first album.How is that going and what has been the response so far??

Nevermo….I mean Kaiju is doing great! A lot of people really like the songs on our page and a few have coughed up the bones to snag a disc(THANK YOU ALL). Joel and I are very happy with the way the disc turned out. Joel is an INCREDIBLE musician! We have (hopefully) a few splits coming up with some killer bands. SO we are going to keep on writing and recording. Maybe a label will pick us up for our next full length! Probably not ha!

11.Do you do the band just for fun,or is this something that you have big plans for?

Well I always wanted to hear a band that did songs about giant monsters. Everything else is done, zombies, gore, porn, violence, robots, relationships etc….. Oh I’d say a year maybe a little bit more ago, I got in contact with the drummer of Decrepitaph. I asked him if he would like to help out with the band. He was all for it even had a song he thought would work great! I started doing lyrics and working on vocals, but it never came to be. I was really busy with art and family life and he had many projects in the works at that point. So I put the beast in the grave.

Fast forward to a few months ago and I got in touch with Joel from the killer band Monument of Bones. Told him what I had in mind he thought it was a great idea. And he just started puking out these killer songs. And after all that work here we are with our first full length. “Big Plans” might be a stretch. We have some splits planned that we would like to see on vinyl, and we most likely will do another full length if a label picks us up. But no world tours with Nevermore or Ace of Base are planned. So all in all, its for fun.

12.You also are the founder of sheperd of rot records.When/how did you conceive this idea and how are things going with it so far?

Shepherd of Rot started around the same time as Kaiju did. I wanted to work with bands that I really dug a lot. I wanted to release their album or ep and bring it to the masses. Basically, I wanted to release bands that I listened to. Not that fit in a niche or had 8million plays. And I think I’ve done that. As of right now the label is doing….well its doing. Its pretty shitty out there now. The economy blows. Lots of people trade, which is fine and awesome! But the $ is coming in fast enough for labels (SOR included) to keep churning out the releases. I was never in this for the money, but I also didn’t start this to set money on fire . Godspit’s “We are Godspit” is the next release on SOR. A fucking ridiculous band that worships motorhead. Check them out please!!!! After that, the label will go into the crypt for an undetermined amount of time to regain some the money I put into it. I’m not dying, I’m not going bankrupt. I’ll still be promoting/trading/selling all of the SOR releases. SOR is just going into a deep slumber for a while to focus on my art and family.

13.What are your future plans for the label?Are you in this for the longhaul?It has to be tough nowadays with the current economic setting.

Haha guess I answered that already. It is hard. Really hard. Shipping is stupid expensive. Lots of bands are pricks. Lots of labels are pricks. There are still a few great people out there that are willing to help you out. And I have no problem returning the favor! The metal business isn’t really for metal fans. It seems now a days everybody is in a band or has a label. Which is fine, but I think I enjoyed being a fan more.

14.You are obviously a very busy dude.How do you make time for normal life,if you have one.Is there anything you enjoy outside of art and metal?

Normal?!?! Haha whats that? My life consists of living on the damn computer at my full time job. Come home, eat, play with my kid and dog. Put the kid to bed, grab my wife’s tits for a bit, go to work on band art, then sleep. Before I became an “adult” I would go to local shows a lot. Going to local show is great! A fun time is always had even if all the bands suck except for one. I highly suggest supporting your local metal bands, because you never know what could happen. I used to watch horror movies, scifi flicks, monster movies. I used to breed reptiles for a while too. I did saltwater fish for a while too. I’m kind of an animal nerd.



15.What if you can think,is your proudest accomplishment from the the standpoint of being an artist.What is your hands down favorite piece of work?

Damn another tough question haha! One of the first full layouts I did was for the hardcore band Hammer Bros. That was one of my proudest moments. Actually doing something I had dream of doing for years. That was a great feeling. I guess doing art for bands is like screwing women. The first one is fucking awesome, the rest are great too. Some not so much, but still better than jerking off into a fleshlight.

16.If you could do art and layout for one band,who would it be?

Cannibal Corpse or Danzig. If I ever got to do art for either of those two, I would retire.

17.What do you have in the works.What art and bands are you working with currently?What can we expect next from Nev?

Well I got the Cardiac Arrest shirt just about done. Gravehill shirt is coming to a close. Beyond Hell cover still working on. I’m finishing up the back tray for the upcoming album from Scaremaker. Theres lots of logos in there too.

18.Ok last question,5 favorite albums of all time...GO!!!!!!!!

Arggggg!!! Another killer question!!!

Cannibal Corpse-The Wretched Spawn
Black Sabbath-Paranoid
Cardiac Arrest-Cadaverous Presence
Danzig-Danzig
Deceased-Luck of the Corpse

I can listen to those disc for the rest of my life and not get tired of them.



19.Ok thats it man.Thanks for taking the time to do this,i appreciate it alot.Any final thoughts.Tell the readers how they can find you and get in touch!!!


Hey thank you man!!! Keep up the great work!! I really enjoy what you are doing!!
Support your local metal. And FUCK Godzilla 1998.
Anyone can get a hold of me at the following:

www.myspace.com/nevfuck
www.myspace.com/shepherdofrotrecords
www.myspace.com/kaijumetal

thanks again!!!!

Cheers
Nev
Shepherd of Rot Records
www.myspace.com/nevfuck
www.myspace.com/shepherdofrotrecords
www.myspace.com/kaijumetal

Interviewed by B.S.O.G.

Friday, April 2, 2010

KATATONIA - "NIGHT IS THE NEW DAY" Review


KATATONIA - "NIGHT IS THE NEW DAY"
Full-length, Peaceville Records, November 2nd, 2009

This album blew me away! Wow! I never thought I'd say "I LOVE KATATONIA", but I do now... they were just a band I could never seem to get into before, but this album really changed my mind, it's beautifully dark and I highly recommend this album to any fan of OPETH, IHSAHN, EMPEROR, SWALLOW THE SUN, DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE and perhaps even elements of PORCUPINE TREE can be heard in some parts, actually, fans of newer SHINING might even enjoy this album as well! (When I last spoke to Kvarforth, I asked him what he'd been listening to lately and if I remember correctly, i think he said quite a bit of KATATONIA.) I can't stop listening to it, over and over again! Tremendous stuff, and the most shocking thing is I NEVER liked KATATONIA before !!!

I love SWALLOW THE SUN as well and I definitely see similar elements in the music on this album and the music of SWALLOW THE SUN, very complementary bands for a live gig for sure! A lot of it reminds me of Mikael Akerfeldt's clean vocals in OPETH as well, and as a huge fan of IHSAHN's solo work, perhaps I have him to thank for opening my mind up to this style of music more... along with my continued fascination for SWALLOW THE SUN. I think even DEVIN TOWNSEND fans will find something to revell in here as well!

Great band, great album... and again, I never ever though I'd ever say that! Thoroughly enjoyable, darkly beautiful music with terrific clean vocals... Jonas Renkse has a truly affecting voice! You should feel the hair on the back of your neck standing up listening to this album, every song is tremendous. Some might say depressing, others will agree with me and say it's beautiful... lush production and guitar work that accentuates the vocals in every sense of the word, even the drumming enhances the mood of the music. It could be THEE most vocally centered KATATONIA album yet infact! Listen and enjoy!

Reviewed by Damien Bentley  -  10/10

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Enthroned (Bel) - Pentagrammaton Review


ENTHRONED – "PENTAGRAMMATON" (2010)
Full-length, Regain Records, March 22nd, 2010

ENTHRONED (from Belgium) deliver a blasphemous, blackened storm of shredding guitars, scouring gravel throated screams and blasting beats that fire like a barrage of bullets on a battle field and are on target like a programmed and launched warhead.

Their sinister brand of Black Metal is powered by a diabolical aura that is truly their own as the group issues a scathing, hate-filled attack on it´s intended 'captive' target audience.

“Pentagrammaton” is a good example of exactly what a BM band should be, in every context of BM's original concept... once you open your ears to this pulverising album, you are guaranteed to re-discover TRUE Black Metal all over again ! Especially if your convictions have begun to wain over the seriousness of the genre in recent years with the rise in popularity of the Symphonic BM bands.

If you have never heard of ENTHRONED before and you are an avid, addicted BM listener and consider yourself an Extreme Metal afficiando, ENTHRONED are one of the first True Black Metal bands to ever come out of Belgium. Presenting their brand new album to this pathetic planet, what we have here is an absolute treat , a must have for ALL fans of the early Satanic Black Metal bands like Bathory, Blasphemy and early Sodom.

The CD comes in a special slipcase and features a terrific booklet with suitably eerie art work and photography that suits the albums sonic barrage perfectly! Live on Tour during 2010, ENTHRONED are set to wreak havoc across the planet like a scourge across a monks flagellated raw back. IF you don't buy the album, you shall do pennance... this is true Black Metal in it's purest form.

Raw to the bone, unrelenting, empassioned, uncompromising HELL fueled BM the way it is supposed to sound! Originally I thought ENTHRONED might have seen better days or begun to fade away, after Sabathan left the band, but it's actiually proven to be a huge plus. Gone are the squaking "Donald Duck" BM vox of previous albums, now replaced by the far more acerbic, raw and convincing screams of vocalist, Nornagest confidently at the helm!

This is the album I had always hoped ENTHRONED would release, I knew they had it in them and they have finally proven they could really strip things down and get ugly again, like a parking lot brawl in "Fight Club", the gloves are definitely off for this fight !!!

In many ways, this has to be the biggest surprise of the year out of all the new releases that have come out thus far for 2010! At just under 42mins, the album is the perfect length for repeat listens, in fact I am always surprised when the album suddenly seems to come to an end so soon... only to realize, I've been listening to it for the 6th time today without realizing when it ends because I've become so enraptured by ENTHRONED in their captivating, gripping and enthralling new incarnation! This is the REBIRTH OF ENTHRONED !!!

Reviewed by Damien Bentley  -  10/10