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

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.

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.

Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

NEIGE ET NOIRCEUR – “La Seigneurie des Loups” Review

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.

Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

FORTERESSE – “Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines” Review

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.

Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

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

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.

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.

Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

JOHNNY LÖKKE – “Promises and Lies” Review

, 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.

Reviewed by: Matt Coughlin