Monday, February 29, 2016

Black Metal History Month- Abysmal Hymn's Top 10 Depressive Suicidal Black Metal Albums

Leap day makes this the last day of Black Metal History Month. It is sad that is has to end, even though after 29 days of black metal all blast beats were beginning to sound the same to me. So to ease your sadness I am posting the Top 10 Depressive Suicidal Black Metal albums. Of all time...I can't speak to that  since all time has not come to an end yet, but I can say these are albums that I have listened to a lot and I find have the qualities I want out of the sub-genre, which is my favorite black metal sub-genre. It's low on the corpse paint and high on emotion.

10- Nocturnal Depression - Near to the Stars I was hopeful when I came across the new one by France's Nocturnal Depression.  France normally makes some pretty quality metal. This band has been around for ten years and this album is it's 6th full length. Two of the three members of this project preformed live with Make a Change Kill Yourself.. which is high pedigree when it comes to this sub genre.The production is why it's at the bottom of the heap. This album is a very dynamic addition to the genre and it hits all the marks you need from this sort of thing.


9-Woods of Desolation - "Torn Beyond Reason"

 Australia was once killing it when it came to depressive metal. This is not our first time with these guys as I reviewed there last album "As the Stars" , but in looking back in anger at some older depressive suicidal releases, this one is often thought of as the band at their peak. The screams paved the way for similar patterns that Deafheaven would later follow.


8-Wedard"Wo die Ewigkeit die Zeit berührt"

 This might come closer to being a post-rock album, if it was not for the weird vocals that sounds like they were recorded from beneath a sheet of ice while the screams of agony bubbled up, as the singer drowned.Has sounds of nature to back up this theory. The clean guitar tone is center stage and they do not go to blast beats as their default mode. They do pick up the pace as the album progresses and this is sometimes done with double bass and almost punkish beats.


7-Xasthur - Portal of Sorrow"

 The final album by this project, which might paint frowns on some as it's not the first album of the most overlooked album, but it is more fully realized and sounds better production wise than the bulk of the Xasthur catalogue which goes a long way in my book because it means you care about the songs. It's more like listening to a symphonic work that plays of themes rather than an album of songs, but the sound captured here are pretty incredible.


6-Weakling -"Dead As Dreams"

 A band out of San Francisco that is one American black metal band that really got it  right in a big way. Dispirit is really the only active metal band of note that bears former members though one of these guys have also played with the Fucking Champs.They are one of the most straight up metal bands on this list but I believe they still earn their spot here by the mood this album captures.


 5-Coldworld - "Melancholie"

 This album came out in 2008 and has the thundering momentum you want from more traditional black metal coupled with more atmospheric elements like clean vocals and odd little electronic flourishes. The guitar might fly with a metallic buzz when they are going full blast, but when the songs break down into the more melodic sections the tone is pretty chilling. Vocally you can hear where this influenced Deafheaven's singer, who name drops this band often. Though the vocals here are more varied than what Deafheaven does sometimes going into more of a croak.

4-Lifelover- "Sjukdom"

 The final album by a band that didn't play by the traditional black metal rules and sometimes made me wonder if they were black metal at all. However they still earned their place to be thought of as legends when it comes to this genre and this album is next to perfect with a wide dynamic range.


3- An Autumn For Crippled Children- "Everything"

 These guys are now off in some other dark post-rock thing, this album still had post- rock elements but was more firmly rooted in this genre they beat out Lifelover on the basis that I still listen to the album more than Lifelover and it really has stood up to the test of time even if that test has so far only

 been five years


2-Totalselfhatred - "Apocalypse In Your Heart" -

 It was hard to pick between this one and their first album. This 2011 album might not be as depressive, it is one of the heaviest on here and also sounds but it sounds better  than the self titled. The guitar playing rules pretty hard on this one, so hard until It's hard to argue against these guys, I wish they would put out another album.


1-Shining: "the Eerie Cold"

 There last two albums don't even seem like they are from the same band since they began getting into death and roll, still one of my favorite bands ever and the guitar playing on this album is the only soulful shred that can stand up to Totalselfhatred when it comes to this genre. These guys won out because I think this album just defines the genre better.



Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Body & Full of Hell "One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache"

The Body just loves doing these albums with other artists. This one is more experimental and interesting than the collaboration with Kreig. The annoying squawked vocals from the Body are still present. The first song is more noise than music though there is a little metal tossed in. The second song is less metal, but more coherent in it's incoherence. The electronic elements are more center stage to the point of making this album sound like a re-mix. There is more of an industrial feel to their cover of Leonard Cohen's " The Butcher". It like the following descends more into clunking and pounding noise.Perhaps if it wasn't for the annoying vocal that the Body contributes I would think of it as a more organic version of what Author & Punisher does. It almost goes with out saying that this is a cover in the loosest sense of the term as it has nothing in common with the original version. It is more inspired by perhaps, but even there its hard to hear any Leon Cohen in this craziness, so maybe the joke is they are butchering the Butcher.

"Himmel Und Holle" sounds like they are throwing there instruments down a spiral staircase, but the industrial beating they give on "Bottled Um" is more to my liking as it might drone on the one riff, but it has more musical merit. They swell this one into a fairly expansive sound. You can hear more of Full of Hell on the raging "the Little Death". A lot here is contingent on what you expect from song writing and music in general. I think the album's strength lies in the places where they touch upon the place that has come about in the past few years where sludge and industrial meet. More often than not these songs drone on the one theme, adding intensity or sonic abrasion to it rather than composing a song that goes some where.  I'll give this one  a 5.5, if you love the Body and have a higher threshold for their tormented chicken noises then you can round it up a point. I think Full of Hell holds back a little here in order to play nice with others.

This is being released March 26th on Neurot Recordings

Friday, February 26, 2016

Moonsorrow : " Jumalten Aika"

It's been five years since the Finnish overlords of pagan metal left us with "Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa". The album opens with folk instruments creating a ritualistic aura.After a  minute and a half of this they storm into the kinda of  larger than life metal you have come to expect from them. The black metal side of what they do is toned down on this album.They have more in common the more epic side of folk metal. Holding true to their mission statement this does have a commanding viking feel, without inspiring you to go into a jig with your drinking horn. They wait is in some part due to the ambitious production value this album was crafted with.  The drums have enough thunder to make Thor jealous. Production wise this might be their biggest drum sound yet. This drummer might have always been a monster, but this albums really shines a spotlight on the fact.

 They have found the right balance of melody and muscle. More clean vocals abound, most are handled in a choral manner. There is something about one of the riffs leading into the verse reminds me of Deep Purple . The harsh vocal has more snarl to it than I remember from their previous work. The tone to this song starts off triumphantly brighter by a few degrees with the double bass really propelling it.As dynamic as the previous two albums it ebbs and flows in a similar manner. There might be more of the clean vocals chiming in from the background. Guitar wise to say they have achieved a fuller sound would be an understatement. The layers are well woven around one another.

"Suden Tunti" might find them slowing down, but they also get more aggressive. At seven minutes this song is a return to a more stripped down straight up metal sound, even with some of the folk elements that crop up between some of the punches. The gang chanting almost inspired a dwarven circle pit, unless you make successful savings throw against enchanted moshing. This is one of the album's most powerful songs. Speaking of savings throws, often the length of these guys songs has made them a band to use as back ground music for D&D nights, rather than something that got heavy rotation on my iPod. However I think these guys are one of the few bands that really make every minute count. Except for the sound effects that ends the album, few seconds are  wasted on droning or indulgent noise. Their indulgences as pretentious as they might seem to someone not really into this kind of epic pagan metal, are well played and take me away to icy battlegrounds.

"Mimisbrunn" does really take viking metal to a lushly orchestrated extreme. This soaring fifteen minute piece is the most melodic song on the album. In places it feels like the intensity is being compromised by beauty and then they hit you with a smack of blast beats. The double bass that sweeps in gives the needed aggression. This album might take them another step closer to progressive metal in the constantly expanding arrangements. They are relentless in hitting you with riffs that are as catchy as they are majestic. The clean guitar guitar passages allow the bass to come from out of the layers of drums it sometimes finds itself buried under. One thing these guys have going for them here is the fantasy element many bands of this ilk take on gives you the feeling their are bards telling a story they are detached from. Moonsorrow might be telling a story, but they dig into their souls and  spill a great deal of  emotion into the music.

They return to another stripped down metal riff to open "Ihmisen Aika" , but this is short lived as it builds back up into well... what this band does best. The bass is more present in the mix on this song as well. There are less thematic shifts in the first five minutes, but they come by way of a melodic break down that explodes into a much heavier section that finds it's way into something resembling black metal. There is a very symphonic lushness to song's third act that is well layered with textures of guitar and vocals. I'll round this up to a 9.5. They achieve perfection when they don't turn things into an opera. The more grandiose moments, are just not something I see putting into as  heavy of a rotation as I once did, unless it snows an here in the states the chances or March snow are slimming down. This might be the perfect album if massive viking symphonies are what you listen to on a regular. For what this is they are the best at what they do, surpassing Enslaved and Borknagar on the epic scale, though those two bands have a some what different and more mainstream take on what they do.

Savage Master : 'With Whips & Chains"

I was in the mood for some just straight up heavy metal and this does deliver it in the most galloping old school fashion you can think of. It's more thrash than power metal. The vocals might be a sticking point for some as they are exclaimed rather than sung to point of not giving much dynamic variation between the chorus and verse. Metal infused Fifty Shades of head banging that is "Whips and Chains" becomes the first song that proves what they are capable of. Their singer tries her hardest ,she just doesn't naturally posess the kind of power metal pipes need to pull this off. The hint of rasp on her vocsal chords gives her the personality to seell this where she reaches beyond her range. 'Vengence of SteeL" does remind me of the kind of thrash I liked growing up that flirted with the classic metal, yet had a heavier chug than what Judas Preist was dishing out until "Painkiller".  Their chug is familar and frequently hold enough weight to be convincing. "Looking For a Sacrafice" is fatihful to the sound at the time, but in 2016 it sounds rather middle of the road almost  more like hard rock than metal. They gang vocals help accentuate this point.

Midway into the album it gets as heavy on the filler as it does the metal. "Satan's Crown" is pretty bland, while i approve of band's singing about Satan it seems "Burned at the Stake" comes to close to the previous song. The riff are catchier and over all it's a tighter song. "Black Hooves" has plenty of old Iron Maiden to it and even some Thin Lizzy in how the guitar harmonies work and almost more rock n roll swagger before the gang vocals chime in. In some ways this band is a more rough edged version of Huntress, though they swear by Bitch. As you can the band has a Mentor's thing going on visually and vocalist Stacey Savage has plenty of press shots dressed in dominatrix leather with her band in chains, which would be a reversal of what the Mentors used to do, but hey it's 2016. They return to that place where rock and metal used to metal in the early 80's "Ready to Sin" which closes the album out. Her falsetto screams come across like Vince Neil so could use a little work. Lyrical when they are not singing about Satan or horses galloping they are filling out the Fet Life profile and are into..." boots to the back of the neck" giving/ receiving with a side of 666.

I bet these kids are a lot of fun live, that energy is conveyed well on this album. If you want some retro metal, from the days when black metal was a Venom song and odes to Satan did not always have a blast beat behind it, then this is the album you have been waiting for.I'll round this one up to a 7. It's a fun album, very straight forward too the point of not being dark enough for me personally, but meat and potatoes denim wearing metal heads who missed out on this sort of thing in its first wave will dig it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Death Index : "s/t"

This one just popped up in my in box with little buzz around it. Carson Cox got his start playing in hard core punk bands before starting Merchandise. It is weird hearing his  croon over the more pounding pieces. It makes more sense on "Dream Machine" which has more swagger and finds them meeting at that cross roads in the 80s that I am such a big fan of where punk got darker and more melodic. "The Meal" finds this throbbing down an even darker sonic alley. It's not smoothed out like Merchandise, and has feedback squealing off the edges. When they throw themselves into a more boisterous punk on the short blast of "Furio Controllo" it  has more in common with more the Stooges that say Negative Approach. The punk spasms come from unexpected places. They jump out at you from places it might make more sense for a chorus to come from.

Carson works with the music on " Little N Pretty" allowing the vocals to carry all the melodic weight and in creating this jagged post-punk feel , while the guitar stick to very straight forward style of punk playing. The first song where they wander out into left field for experimentation is " Lost Bodies". The effected vocals would not be out of place on an industrial album from the 80s. Considering the more radio rock direction Merchandise went on "After the End". "We've A Got Number" feels very honest even with the rambunctious attitude that explodes from it. The over driven thump of bass drags the gritty brooding of  "JFK" out into the daylight.  It's droning lumber has an almost Swans feel. "Patto Con Dio" hits hard  with out relying on aggression. Cox's vocal has enough room to move the melodies around. The final two minutes of this one they let boil on noise.

I'll give this one a 9, though I think it will continue to grow on me"Lost Bodies" has some cool sounds , but it is the only song I don't feel like I will need to have with me when I am on the go. Overall there hasn't been a punk album dark enough to do much for me in sometime so it's good to hear something fresh from an old familar voice.

Black Metal History Month -Skaphe : "2"

Progressive black metal album that doesn't want to be Deathspell Omega. It's progressive in its chaos. Aevangelist is a better reference point for the blackness being explored here. the opening track  does more to test the boundaries of dynamics than the second which doesn't really grab me until it breaks down three minutes in. There is a very cavernous sound to this recording , but tonally things do not suffer because of it. The vocals are tormented death metal roars that sound like some one is losing there mind. While the patterns these growls are unleashed in are some what random  it's effective in the first few songs, by the third song I am ready for something a little different. The chaos begins to come across more like noise jamming and less like songs at this point.These jams are well played. The sonic density being tested here is impressive. The guitars sound like they are swarms of bees buzzing up from hell. Jagged, angular and abrasive would be the right words to sum the guitar playing up with. At least it refuses to conform to the tremolo picked riffs most black metal bands conform to.

The bass that opens the fourth song helps to change things up and provide the dynamics this album begins to need at that juncture. Slowing down the ominous darkness and cleaner vocal tone sets the stage for a more moaned vocal rasp that gives these guys more of a dsbm feel. The production is very occult death metal as well. When it does build into the blast beat section there is an eeire melody played against it to balance it out. When the fifth song descends into the more abstract collision of disjointed ambiance they hit a thing of beauty and then slap you back awake with a screaming blast. The vocals don't have much purpose here but to add to the chaos. It ends with a song that dies down into a more melodic and atmospheric section without compromising the dark and intense nature of this album.

I'll give this album an 8. It's a solid effort and an improvement in the atmosphere this project proves it self capable of constructing. At times there is a more uniform nature to their sound, but overall they keep things varied enough to elements like the haphazard vocal approach are swept aside with the storm of chaos that lures you into it's darkness.

Black Metal History Month - Looking Back in Anger at Xasthur 's "Portal of Sorrow"

Continuing to look back at some classic depressive suicidal black metal albums and see if they are as good as I remember them being, which will culminate in our top 10 depressive suicidal black metal albums list. The final album by this project, which might paint frowns on some as it's not the first album of the most overlooked album, but it is more fully realized and sounds better production wise than the bulk of the Xasthur catalogue which goes a long way in my book because it means you care about the songs. That is not to say the tinny bed room sound is not present as it surfaces on the second song "Broken Glass Christening" . The dark angular sonic night mare many of these songs create is displayed even when they revert to the bed room sound. Sometimes this takes a more abstract feel blending into the shadows like the soundtrack from a David Lynch movie is an exorcism suddenly took place.

"Stream of Subconsciousness" almost has a shoe gaze quality. It is not the first time The lines between what was heralded as black gaze and dsbm became hazy. It is so atmospheric until feels more like an interlude than an actual song. I love Swans like feel that hangs in the guitar to "Karma/Death" . The vocals keep at their static squawk. In my mind the disjointed quality to how the instruments are arranged could really only work in this project. What lends credence to this belief is the fact I haven't heard anyone else to it an achieve similar results. "Horizon of Plastic Caskets" and "Mesmerized By Misery" bleed out into one another and while they create a chilling atmosphere, seem more like movements rather  than standing on their won feet as songs. "This Abyss Holds the Mirror" finds the gurgle of lower growls and the dirge like plod giving this one more of a funereal doom feel. "Mourning Tomorrow" is another atmospheric interlude that carries a hypnotizing floating drone. This is solidified by the steadier beat to "Miscarriage of the soul"

"Obeyers of their own deaths' feels like it submerses you under a spectral sea. The riffs are defined and fit the black metal mold. This is not to say this projects sound is compromised. It does black metal it's own way even here. The twisted romantic nature of this album is in full ghostly force on "Released From This Earth". The wail of female vocals continue to drift which gives a uniform feel to some of the songs. These vocals belong to Marissa Nadler who we have covered here in the past. The "Darkest Light" starts off as a a pretty powerful piece of atmospheric black metal before it ebbs down into a lighter shade of gray and ends with the final song that is more of an outro. I'll  round this  this album album up to a 9.5. It's more like listening to a symphonic work that plays of themes rather than an album of songs, but the sound captured here are pretty incredible.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Black Metal History Month - LVTHN : "Eradication of Nescience"

While we celebrate black metal this month it is very evident that some things need to change. The genre is beginning to get a little lazy. This happens with any genre who doesn't build upon it's foundation. Grunge and hair metal both saw this complacency give way to new sounds to do away with them. The became parodies of themselves. Now with Ridley Scott announced to direct the Lords of Chaos movie, it could serve as the "Singles" of black metal. The opening chords of the first song from the Belgium "occult" cvltists debut album the promise of dark atmosphere and then the blast beats blow everything out of the water. A few degrees of tonal difference give this a different sonic texture. In the second song there is a Deathspell Omega like dissonance lurking under the chaos of the chords flying at you , but not really much less to set this sound ahead of the pack. The fury of this flurry continues to consume you in it's swarm, but the finer points of song writing neglected. The mid range rasp of the vocals varies little from song to song. "Ecstatic Liberation" rushes ahead with it's march into battle and begins grating on me.

Once we are racing away with "Ascension into the Palace of the Dark Gods" it almost becomes a senseless blur until things break down at the four minute mark. This change is just chord rung out over minimal drums , but helps build the sonic tension from there. So when the blasts come back they are more deserved. I'm not anti-blast beat, I think they have been proven very effective in the past, but re-creating what has already been done speaks for it's self. I want to hear blast beats used in new creative ways. The drumming is more impressive in "My Indignation" that follows. It even leads into a more epic metal chord progression before defaulting back to the safety of the familiar. "Radiant Wolf" starts off with some impressive drumming , but descends into the blasting muck that all too often plagues this album and drains the personality from it. At the four minute mark the songs strives to redeem itself breaking down tonally and dialing back the intensity. The vocals drop into a lower almost spoken growl.

"Uncreation's Dance " doesn't get my attention until the songs final few minutes when it slows down into a more undulating throb. To their credit the vocals almost create more of a hook here. This is not saying black metal needs to have pop hooks, but memorable vocals help make memorable songs. The title track starts off in a more melodic direction and then paints itself with the same shade of black the rest of this album is slathered in. I'll give this album a 6, if you can't figure out why then go back and re- read this review.Just released this week on Fallen Empire.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Black Metal History Month : Goetic Equivalent

This is the 25th installment in our Black Metal History Month series, so I am way ahead of the game when it comes to hitting the goal of 28th for the month. Meaning there is no shortage of black metal out there. There is a shortage of good names since Goetic Equivalent is one dumb name. It's even weirder that a Greek band named themselves that, but oh well. The vocals are croaky, but not a total Immortal rip off, though I am sure they are an influence.The bass player is way up in the mix which gives a different dimension to their sound than the buried bass and in your face tremolo picked guitar and blast beats most bands stick to. They self identify as cthonic cerebral black metal. This must be short for we are not totally rock kids who want to be Darkthrone. There is an angular yet melodic vibe to their music. Songs like "Emptiness" do pay it safe and stick close to the more pounding style of black metal.

It makes sense their would be a slightly heady air to "Psychonaut". The dissonance here is fairly melodic and the pulse of the riff gives the song plenty of room to breathe. It also allows you to hear how talented the drummer is. This locks in a commanding groove that should inspire plenty of head banging even though this is thinking man's black metal with resorting to becoming a full blown prog band. At the other end of the spectrum they touch on the more punk side of black metal for "Illuminatory index" . They do not abandon some of the more sonic chords they let ring out. They play more to their strengths on "Patient Shore". The drums have room to rip and the thundering sinew of their riff is tight as a nuns ass hole. Oddly for a black metal band it's when they go into the blast beat that things lose a little of the power . "Paradise Anew" reverts back to the tug of war into a more primitive straight forward pounding. The bass works well even beneath this , but over all the song wanders too closely to ground I have heard them cover.

"R Candy" has one hooky melodic riff in it that the song returns to that i like, but other than that follows a similar sonic formula. They iron things out with a sense of renewed purpose on "Chapel". This does cost them some of their heavier edge, but the album did need to broaden it's sense of dynamics. It drones on a similar pattern for the bulk of the song. The vocals haven't really added much to the album so the fact none seem to surface on this song really doesn't phase me, though not sure this song stands on its own as a instrumental . Overall there are some good ideas and interesting sounds that stray from the run of the mill blast beat you to death black metal, to the point of making you wonder if this is indeed black metal. I'll give this album a 7, it saw digital release a few years back and is finally seeing a proper release on April 1st.

Virgin Flower : "Absence of Essence"

When I hear something is dark wave meets industrial might hopes are raised. That is the kind of thing we live for here. The truth of what this project from Jacksonville is however is far from  that description. The slowed synth murk with distorted vocals opens the album has more in common with the Butthole Surfers than dark wave. "Forever Animal" is a dense swamp of noise before the "chorus" comes, which the chanted title of the song. "Right Way Home" returns to more a Butthole Surfer's vibe , but I suppose if these guys are in their 20s it is likely it's coming from more of a Pop 1280 place. There is a more oppressive crunch to 'Give Me Fire" that comes to close to industrial, it's just very brief and is over before  it has a chance to turn into an actual song. "Sculpture" is similar in the fact it's under two minutes and doesn't really get to evolve. This is something the entire album struggles with. It feels like a collection of good ideas that if they are allowed to grow and progress into more dynamic passages might be good songs.

Really the first thing after "Right Way Home" that is really a real song is "Bad Things" that closes the album. At over six minutes it starts off as noise before morphing into a droning synth riff with the vocals muttering over it like a cyborg Tom Waits. Not really the vocal approach of a dark wave or industrial band. This has more in common with noise rock of the 90s , even the Melvins if the guitars were replaced with cheap synths. I'll give this one a 5.5. I like the dark and depraved trailer park vibe this gives off. If this was given the time to be perfected then this could be something. I understand part of the underground indie noise punk demographic this sort of thing has an audience for might find writing actual songs to be a bit pretense. This is music and even bands like Kraftwerk and Devo took the time to write songs and didn't rush to put out something on the Internet so they could say they were on a label when they went out to shows on the weekends. Of course social media did not exist and Bandcamp was a gleam in a programmer eye, so you had to got through a label that weeded stuff like this out and told them to come back when it is finished since they would have to invest in pressing it. Dead Tank will do this on a limited basis, sure this will get a hundred copies pressed, its more of a demo than an actual album.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Black Metal History Month - Destroyer 666 : "Wildfire"

It's clear that early Slayer is engraved in this band's dna. I can hear a little Venom in the vocals, but right from the first falsetto scream it's showing you no mercy. The lash out with the chemical warfare of their riffs. They keep up the speed for "Live and Burn". The vocals are well placed. It's a forceful thrash narrative, snarled more than they are screamed or sung. They production on this one puts the guitars way up front. Nothing here is really new under the sun. The is a pretty powerful riff driving "Hounds at Ya Back". The almost punk rock approach to the gang vocals on the chorus works in a more Motorhead than what they opened the album with. They get a little darker with melodic guitar that bring "Hymn to Dionysus" alive. This one throbs rather than having to race off into the night recklessly thrashing.

There is no shortage on thrash n roll on the title track that attacks with punk infused energy. This also takes them a step backwards into something much more simplistic. It's littered with several guitar solos Kerry King would be proud of.  "White Line Fever" is an ode to what I imagine is cocaine. It rips along the line of a more amped up Venom. An actual sung vocal shows up on this one. "Die You Fucking Pig" is another more straight forward thrash and roller, I prefer when this band shows more depth and digs a little darker on songs like "Tamam Shud". This one features actual singing, via a powerful baritone croon that works well with the melodic textures of the guitar.

Where nothing is new under the sun particularly when you are pulling from this era of first wave black metal, but they do touch on places where where I can really here who they are as a band. For some this might be too polished of an album if you prefer the earlier rawer sound of war like black metal that winks the most violently at thrash. I do think this production value aids the songs and keeps them from sounding like a cluster fuck. I'll give this one an 8.5 and see how it sits with me, the darker moments I really dig, the more straight forward songs I see getting fast forwarded on a regular.comes out next week on Season of Mist.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Black Metal History Month- Witchhunt : "Void Hymns"

In black metal history month we have looks at  where the genre is going , but now lets consider where that is taking us. The answer to that lies in something this band from Canada is doing . I know when I hear Canada brought up my first thought  is some kind of folk- like cascadian  black metal, not this raw and ragged explosion that goes off on this ep. Black metal's influence is now sprinkled over bands of all genres and with an album like this it is almost impossible to untangle all the layers  of the varied sub-genres of metal that have been pounded into this songs. This cauldron is stirred in a manner fans of Hexis and Nails will appreciate without being a direct rip off of either of those bands.  The opening song of this Canadian blackened crust band's new ep had pretty much everything I need from this kind of extreme metal. The cool thing about these guys is all the annoying punk elements I do not like when it comes to crust have been replaced by black metal bursts. They also have the textured sonic layers more often found in black metal.

The main punk element is their composition, which keeps these songs under the three minute mark. The first hint of punk I hear is on the third song "Misery" that stomps right into a more hard core like punch. This son also lacks some of the depth the first two possess. At the mid way point it  rips into a thrashier sludge like riff. The album's longest song is the two minute and fifty five second " Vile". This finds black metal colliding with a more spastic grind core feel. This one morphs from a groove that reminds me a little of Bloodlet to a steamrolling chug. The title track that serves as the last song is really just a outro of noise  making the only complaint the need for more. I'll give this one a 9.5 as it will make the trip over to my iPod, since I could use something dark, dirty and full of fury with half of the calories being blasted into it.


Black Metal History Month - Looking Back in Anger at Woods of Desolation: " Torn Beyond Reason'

Australia was once killing it when it came to depressive metal. This is not our first time with these guys as I reviewed there last album "As the Stars" , but in looking back in anger at some older depressive suicidal releases, this one is often thought of as the band at their peak. These guys have a very sonic tone that races off right out of the gate. While clean singing gets a lot of flack from the modern metal community , but it is the saving grace of the second song, as it helps offer a guide post to set it aside from the title track that opens this album. These guys are great at what they do and the drummer gets props for not relying on blast beats. The clean vocals are executed in a manner much like Agalloch. They keep things brisk and not unlike other Australian bands of this ilk are not afraid to let the drummer just run with it. By the fourth song I found myself getting a little lost and some of this has to do with the pacing and how they let this album runaway. This almost creates one massive wall of sound they songs are all slapped against. They are wise to start slowing things down on the"Inevitable End" to draw some clearer lines between the songs.

"November" finds them touching the shoe gaze heavens way before Deafheaven. The acoustic guitar strum leading into the big build really helps to put the song on its own two feet. The albums best song " Somehow " closes the album. The Agalloch like clean vocals lead into the song. They are somber where the chord structure is brighter. The screams paved the way for similar patterns that Deafheaven would later follow. This ends with a emotive sonic sweet spot that the band hits.I'll round this one up to  a 9 since that is what their last album got and I think this one is comparable.

Black Metal History Month: Looking Back in Anger -Lifelover: "Sjukdom"

These guys are legends in this genre. I haven't listened to this album in a minute , but wore it out when i first discovered these guys. When it comes to the emotional element of this music that might not be as mean or heavy, but they are perhaps the most expressive. 'Led By Misfortune" finds them locked into a heavier chug, with the drums playing a more punk like role. Vocally there is a harsher tone to the anguish. The riffs sound more like Life of Agony than black metal to me on this one. There is a slower almost ballad like mood to "Expandera" , as the piano tinkles over the mid tempo double kick and the vocals have a more somber spoken quality. They are not afraid to experiment with the guitar tone sometimes going for a more indie rock clean tone.

They effectively convey a psychotic break trhoug there music on " Homicidal Tendencies" before locking into an empowered chug. There is more of a weird punk thing going on with "Resignation" which takes me back to the 90s when metal bands where blending weird rock elements in an attempt to find their place in the changing climate.  "Doften Av Tomhet" finds them indulging in more of the spoken musings. Towards the song's midway point they find themselves locked into a very Celts Frost flavored riff.  Then there are songs like "Totus Anctus" that finds the band hitting both their heaviest moments and their most atmospheric. If it wasn't for the gargled vocals and the kick of the double bass, they would hit a more straight up rock tone on "Horans Hora". The vocals reach an almost death metal gurgle on this one. They have a knack for darkening even those moments up.

"Bitterlijuv Kakofoni" takes a trippy turn, bordering on goth.  The guitar tone is very Marilyn Manson. They get much heavier on the less introspective "Becksvart Frustration". Riff wise like the other songs its pretty straight forward. Vocally it is a lower growl that casts more of a shadow on the song. They drop into a lower more death metal key that makes it much heavier. Nedvaknande" is more rock n roll until they slow the riff down and pound into. Another song with a spoken narrative than an attempt to sing. "Instrumental Asylum" is the only real fast forward classic on here, as it just doesn't do anything interesting enough to justify being an instrumental and begs for some real singing over it.

They drop down to the strum of "Utdrag" that has almost lounge lizard jazz drumming under it.  The album closes with the heaviest song 'Karma" , but  at first it doesn't really black metal as it carries more of a nu-metal stomp, until the blast beat shows up for a second.I'll round this one up to a 10. Years later it was interesting to listen to with a set of fresh ears and discover this album is not as black metal as everyone made it out to be when it came out. Still there is no denying the mood it creates and is regarded as one of the best depressive black metal albums. It is a very dynamic album and shows that sometimes less is in fact more .

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Black Metal History Month- the Wakedead Gathering : "Fuscus,Strings of the Black Lyre"

This blackened death metal band stands out right from the first song. While a concept album with a strong horror theme, the atmosphere plays to that element, yet there are things like the strum of guitar that is placed between some of the first song's catchier riffs that elevate this above your average blast fest. You will be as surprised as I was to learn this is a one man band. The guitar playing is albums strong suit, but the drumming gets the job done and has an impressive double bass required of this sort of thing. The bassist steps out of the shadows to bring his distorted rumble into the fray to open the groove laden chug of "Deepwoods Nonesuch" to life. This is more on the death metal side of what they do. But it is dark enough to appeal to fans of black metal.  There is also something about the dirty grit they take on here here  that has an almost black n roll feel in a few places, however this is devoid of any of the punk influence that normally comes with that sort of thing. When the vocals go into the higher gasped rasp they also feel more like black metal. The first two songs are very well constructed and it's not just a bunch of riffs thrown together to make a song.

The tremolo picked guitar  of "Amnioticysts" starts off in a much more black metal direction, before the denser death metal feel over takes it.The lower gurgle of the vocals digs and even deeper grave here. There are hints of the days where death metal spawned from thrash in a few of the grooves on this song. It doesn't impress me as much as the first two songs. Things slow down to more of a doomy pace for "Lungwort". The verse finds a groove building into something more typically death metal. It's not derivative of any one band from the Tampa death metal scene of the 90s, but there are moments that bring to mind the likes of Deicide and Incantation. The entire album is very dark, this songs digs down into a more cavernous belch of the abyss. There is more of a steam rolling stomp to "the Harrowed Column". It also latches onto a Slayer like groove thanks to the ride cymbal.

The closing song "An Ancient Tradition" impressed me more the first time I heard it than when I went back to give this one another listen. It was not as doomy on the second listen, perhaps I knew the change however slight was coming. It's not the album's best moment, and kind of middle of the road for this project, but better than most of the metal that appears in my in-box.I'll round this album up to an 8, since it brings a darker shade to this flavor of blackened death metal.

Black Metal History Month- Looking Back in Anger - Austere - "To Lay Like Old Ashes"

This album sounds better than most of their peers production wise. The vocals sounds like they are caterwauling for no apparent reason. The guitar and drums are left to carry the song and they do a pretty good job of it. The guitar tones hit what we now call black gaze and Deafheaven is currently seducing hipsters with, even though these guys were doing it before them. The vocals eventually prove to be this albums fatal flaw making it hard to decipher which song is which. At one point they ebb down and blast back with a more vicious blast beat than many band's of this sub genre muster. The drumming pulls ahead of the pack, before the midway point of this album making it clear the saying is true and a band is only as good as their drummer. While the more extreme the metal gets the better the drummer needs to be there are some depressive projects that rely more of slower drones so the drummer are more capable of slacking than the guy sitting on the throne for this session. Clean vocals soar in really separate these guys from other bands of this ilk. I'm guessing they are handled by the drummer Tim Yatras, who is a multi instrumentalist and sings in some other projects.

 The title track continues to carrying a sweeping grandeur. I like the electronic beat that comes in midway into the title track and creates a broader range of dynamics for this to soar back up into. The clean vocals return , this time they are more focused and layered giving it more of an Ulver like sound. They are well sung and work for me. Things ebb back down to a more mid paced melodic vibe on "Just For a Moment". The clean vocals are the first to come in on this one and have more of a Myspace era Emo feel to them. The drumming that follows this section steers them away from just reverting back to the blast so he gets major props for that. The sprawling drone of  "Coma 2" closes out this album. It lingers on a droning guitar part for the bulk of the song not really going any where. For twenty minutes that is a bit excessive . This is really the only mis-step aside from the annoying screamed vocals, but when it rules it rules hard to make up for this and I'll round it up to a 9.

Black Metal History Month - Voidcraeft : "Ἕβελ"

This German black metal project starts with a blast and winds their way through a maze of angular dissonance. The blast beats keep things at static drone most of the time with a few riff baring their teeth to lash out with a more metallic aggression."A Time To Die" has some jerking stops that help it from becoming a blur. There are a few melodies hidden within the guitar that are handled in an almost Liturgy like manner.There is a few degrees more melody in " I Wound and I Heal". The lower growled vocals and a few of the sharper sonic punches are the only thing that make " Devastation and Desolation" stand apart from the first three songs. Things grow darker on the slower throb of "Drunkenness and Sorcery". It doesn't take long for the obligatory blast beats to speed things up. In the final few minutes of this song some darkly melodic moments breathe new life into things.

"I am Nothing" builds off of some of the more melodic themes established in the previous song. The vocal begin to get a little grating at this point in the album as they continue to stay in the coarse mid range rasp. They are more of a a growl than a scream, making them less emotive. "On the Bones of the Dead" refuels the dense drone and drags you into the colorless world of sound . This is mean enough for even the most hardcore black metal fans, but what do you want from music? This question is asked once I begin to feel my attention slipping away at this point in the album.  Are there rubbery riffs that lurch in unexpected ways? Sure but all roads lead back to a more predictable blast taking the sense of adventure the more math infused progressive paths they promise to take you down. The album closes out with "the Amen" . This is powered by an even faster blast. This song was left to play as I did other work and when I stopped to check how long this song had been playing the album had looped around to the first and I never stopped to think, well this is a new song, which speaks to the uniformity of the sound on this album. Creative and possessing it's own sound this project doesn't directly pull from any one influence and has woven together a collection of dark sonic delights, however these tend to run together and many of the songs sound the same , so it really depends on how much diversity you need with in one album. Dynamics are very important to me , but I'll acknowledge the talent put into this so I'll give this album a 6.5.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Black Metal History Month- Black Priest of Satan : "Element of Destruction"

This duo's name might not be the most original, but it does give them a lot to live up to. They act as priests opening the album in a more ritualistic manner, before vomiting up a grime coated churn. Not slow enough to be doom, but far from reaching the speed typically associated with black metal, they still work in some of the staples like tremolo picked guitar. The drums keep things steady, rather than blasting. This creates a more musical climate. This German band is  raw enough to keep most fans of black metal happy. Even some chanted clean singing enters the fray. They cover a lot of ground on the first song and raised the bar to a height the second song falls short of .  It's more aggressive, but not as focused of a song. When it speed up things sound a little clunky around the edges.

There is a death metal like attack to "Blazing Fires in the Night".  Two and a half minutes into this the song breaks down for the band to lock into a steadier march into the darkness. The dramatic layered vocals are weird, but effective in that you can't put your finger on a band with a similar sound. Some times they do remind me of a moodier version of Mortuary Drape, though they are rougher around the edges. Dynamically this album has a lot going for it. The atmospherics they employ before "Unheard Prayer" help break things up as they drag themselves into a more cryptic doom heavy riff. Lyrically this is the first song that strays from the occult undertones to call out Jehovah, which I'm fine with as they seem pretty sincere. Once they reach the five minute mark this one begins to lose it's steam. This song also changes the course of the album as 'Ritual of 3 Candles" also follows a more doomy path. This song however is more air tight in it's construction. The synths that eventually come in add a lot to the song before it descends into ringing distortion.

The final song "Guided By Two Moons". This song is very dense. It's not until two minutes in that they begin to gain control over it.The guitar holds a static tremolo picked line in this that gives it more of a black metal feel.I'll give this one an 8.5 and see how it sits with me. If you are just looking for blast beats then this album is not for you. But if you like the more classic early black metal than it is worth a listen or two.

Black Metal History Month - Lesion : " Ep II"

This band from Denmark pounds into their crusty brand of black n roll rumble with a commanding bark. Their sound owes more to the early days of black metal than it does anything post- Darkthrone. The songs are quick punk tinged bursts of burliness. "Submission" finds the bands punk roots coming center stage and stomping on your ears in a very straight forward fashion. By the time they launch into "Own the Night" the sonic monochrome of their sound has begun to wear on me. The chant of the chorus  reminds me of Ministry's "Burning Inside" The songs begin to run together, the hyper speed of a more feral version of Motorhead courses through the veins of "Noose". The  chorus  might have a shouted accent of the song's title,  it still  doesn't distinguish it self much from the rest of the song or any other of these songs. "Exsanguination" has a little more groove to it's stomp. At this point in the album the vocals which started off carrying a punch, now become tiresome as it's the same bark song after song. This one does have more of a hook than some of the others.

It's easier to make out the lyrics to "Ligature Marks" , but musically this song fall in line with the others. The albums longest song clocks in at only two minute and forty seven seconds when it closes out the album. They do not use the time to expand upon anything that has not already been touched on, which is pretty much the same four chords. Their over all sound is cool. In fact it got my hopes up on the first song as I wanted to hear where else they could take this sound and the answer proved not that far. This album is a must for punk rockers who only dabble in metal, but what you hear on the first song is what you get for the entire album. They are very dependable at pulling this off, it's just not the range of dynamics I need from music. I'll round this one down to a six. It's blackened punk rock if we are going to really be honest here, but they do manage to darken the venting of their anger in a way that might not beg for corpse paint , but it does make a convincing argument to tag themselves as black metal.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Black Metal History Month - Ecferus : "Pangaea"

Released by I Void Hanger Records for Black Metal History Month , this one-man band that will fool most people into thinking this has to be four separate musicians playing this . Alp who plays every instrument and did so in a very organic manner. It doesn't hurt that  The album was mixed by Colin Masterson. The guitars have a lot of clarity. The rasped vocals are mainly mid ranged, though there are some monstrous lower growls that take more of a background role. It might make you sick that this guy plays drums as well as he does and can still play guitar. There is a more Deathspell Omega like dissonance to "Fragmented Body". It is angular and less straight forward than the opener. It's not until at creepy riff midway into this one that it really grabs my attention and form more of an identity of it's own.The drumming and bass line latch onto a sinewy groove that is progressive for black metal. Some times the vocals seem like an after thought, but that is the only weakness aside from relying on blast beats.

"Pangea" is a concept album, the narrative doesn't make itself obvious until the krautrock horror movie soundtrack interlude. "Reciprocity of Disrepair" that follows is a blast fest.  The riff over this speeding beast, is textured and has a chilly dissonance to the melody it weaves. When the blast beat gives wave to double bass it seems to gain power and momentum while retaining it's black metal sensibilities. Some shredding solos sweep in over this one. It's the weird riff that comes at the five minute mark that stands out in this song.  A lesson in compositional chaos, the song moves well and has some power to its punches.  The acoustic intro to "Storms Continue On" helps break up the album and you on a darker ride. The layered growls take on a more Emperor like rasp. The more melodic edge this song has also furthers the Emperor comparisons.

 Overall this dude is talented, where this album will rank with you really depends upon how original you need your black metal to be. If you are looking for something that sounds nothing like any band you have ever heard before then this won't rank high with you, even though it is not directly derivative of any one band, it's more the gnawing sense this sound is familiar. I'll give it a 7.5 for the lack of new ground being broken here, This might still grow on me, but I generally get more play out of black metal bands with a more dynamic and melodic focus, where in many ways this is more straight ahead ,despite creating an effective atmosphere and being excellently executed. This will appeal to fans of black metal who want something more progressive than Darkthrone, but not ready to commit to Emperor. I'll keep an ear out for where this guy goes in the future.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Black Metal History Month- The Top 10 Black Metal Love Songs

For a genre driven by hate and forged from the ashes of burned churches, black metal is very passionate , though the concept of love is best expressed in it's basest form. So we have a collection of corpse painted "lust songs". With themes ranging from prostitution, S&M, succubi, dark goddesses to just good ole nun raping. So love is a relative concept and this is being called the top ten black metal love songs, because it has a stronger google force to it than the top ten black metal perverse hymns of lust and carnal vices. Before you get your bullet belts twisted, this list will pull from a few different sub-genres black n roll, blackened death metal and the first wave of old school black metal.

 10- Bathory - "Bestial Lust" from "the Return"


9- Venom - "Red Light Fever" from "Welcome to Hell"


8- Dark Funeral - "My Latex Queen" from "Angelus Exuro pro Eternus"


 7- Belphegor - "Justine: Soaked in Blood" from "Bondage Goat Zombie"


6- Carpathian Forest - "Sadomasochistic" from- "Black Shining Leather"


 5- Gorgoroth- " When Love Rages Wild In My Heart" - from "Incipit Satan"


 4-Darkthrone - "Graveyard Slut" from " the Cult is Alive"


3-Dimmu Borgir- "A Succubus In Rapture" from - "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant"


 2- Dissection - "Maha Kali" from - "Reinkaos"


 1- Mercyful Fate - "Nuns Have No Fun"


Friday, February 12, 2016

Iggy Pop : " Post Pop Depression "

He is the last man standing from a by gone era of Punk. For me losing Iggy would be a bigger blow than Lemmy. I got a ton of play out of both the Stooges and Motorhead in the 8th grade, but started listening to Iggy first and as this album shows, Pop still has it in him while the last Motorhead album, saw Lemmy already waning. Iggy sounds better than he has in sometime. I'm sure Homme's sense of production, doesn't hurt. The first song sounds like you would expect from Iggy Pop, playing with Queens of the Stoneage. While I disliked Queens of the Stoneage's last album, this coupling has injected new life into Pop. His croon is more careful and Josh's backing vocals work well with his voice. Iggy sounds almost as good as he did on "Blah Blah Blah".

"Gardenia" has a new wave pogo to it's groove. The slink of " American Valhalla" is well carried in it's bass line, but as a song it wanders around like it's too high in some of the bridges. This trait has also characterized some of the most recent QOTSA albums. The Arctic Monkey's drummer Matt Helder's taps more than really lays into his kit, which might be appropriate for the songs in their current state, but I can't help but think "In the Lobby: might have more punch if he hit harder.The star of the album is bassist Dean Fertita, from Queens and Dead Weather, who is a groove monster. "Sunday" doesn't have a groove that is focused as the previous songs and sounds like they gliding along on some Stones influenced indie rock. Pop's lyrics are back in their clever form here. You can still hear Bowie's influence on him, as this barrows from the "Scary Monsters" album.

Pop comes closer to the mic with the stripped down " Vulture" . This album finds Pop closer to what I expected out of hims though there is  darker and more textured instrumentation that reminds me of Wovenhand. There is a more Led Zeppelin like strut to the opening of "German Days" that drops down into something almost gothy with Pop is crooning in his lower register.The angular guitar works well in the middle of the song and it has some of the album's best riffs. They relax into lounge lizard disco on 'Chocolate Drops". This is not the first sound you expect to hear on an Iggy album, but it works so I have complaints. He has touched on so many genres throughout his career nothing should be a surprise at this point. Not as soulful as something from "Young Americans" , but this would not have worked on a Stooges album.

There is also some soul to the vocal harmonies  that open "Paraguay" which closes the album out. Then it morphs into the verses that much more straight forward. Then the song returns to a heavier version of the melody the song began with as Pop narrates over this . There could be a little more pay off from this build and over all the album could stand to rock out a little more. However it exceeded my expectations by far and sees Pop returning to back to almost a more new wave sound, which considering "Raw Power" isn't being re-created anytime soon, works for me and I'll give it a 9 and see how the more indie rock elements grow on me.

Black Metal History Month- Look Back in Anger -Weakling's " Dead as Dreams"

We are taking a look back at on of the more under rated classics of black metal . A band out of San Francisco that is one American black metal band that really got it  right in a big way. Dispirit is really the only active metal band of note that bears former members though one of these guys have also played with the Fucking Champs.  it's hard to hear if it's performance or production with the drums at times, but the band hits you with so much emotion and sound at once the sometimes uneven mix is mostly forgiven. It could be argued that this band is not in the depressive suicidal sub-genre. I don't think it was intended to be when it was recorded, but the emotional out put is very honest. It's obvious these guys are a influence on Deafheaven.   The slowed section at the six and a half minute mark hits the sweet part when black metal meets doom in a very powerful and organic way with the screams over it ruling very hard.The vocals remain the most tortured aspect of their sound on the epic twenty minute title track. From the opening three minutes of melodic pondering to the powerful Dissection like chug that follows a cloak of atmosphere is draped over the band even at their most furious. At the twelve minute mark it drops down into synths and then this roller coaster through a nightmarish hell scape rockets into something more traditionally black metal. There is always a melodic sense to what they do, no matter how dense things keep getting.

Normally I don't like sprawling songs that break twelve minutes , but these guys make every minute count and don't bore with droning on the same stagnant tremolo picked riff for ever. The vocals have a crazed squawk to them and embody what I like about the screamed vocal approach of most dsbm bands. These guys have more in common with Totalselfhatred than other bands in that sub genre, as rocking out is the priority and they are not just moping around. They do endow their songs with more emotional depth than your average black metal band. On 'This Entire Fucking Battlefield" I can hear Emperor influence in the guitar squeals. The riffs are swirled together into a ever darkening murk by the midway point of this one. It gets as dense as death metal as the chug slows before going into a clean guitar break. They rage harder on "No One May Be Called..." This is another twelve minute song that is driven by a more straight forward metal riff. The gallop is sharp as razors. The vocals scream and gurgle with the same passionate insanity as they songs before it. At the five minute mark this is broken by by the thick rumble of bass. The guitar creeps in behind it like a build up to an Immortal song. They hang on this for longer than your average metal band would let this kind of dissonant tension build.

Things comes to a close with the dismal " Disasters in the Sun". It blasts off into what we hear every day in modern black metal but this album came out 16 years ago , putting these kids well ahead of their time. There is a slight break, but on this one they stay at a blur relative to what you expect from black metal. In the final few minutes it breaks down into some abrasive atmosphere, one of the few places where you can see why they named themselves after a Swans song. I'll round this one up to a 9.5, it's a classic despite not being perfect and worth checking out if you think Deafheaven invented this shit.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Black Metal History Month - Nekrasov : "Negative Temple"

Noise has a place in black metal. Atmospheric dissonance can be an effective tool in any musical arsenal, but as the saying goes when your only tool is a hammer all your problems look like nails. The title track is nothing blackened what so every and the sound of a street sweeper cleaning up after then apocalypse. There is a lot of radiation crackling, but not much in the way of actual music. I waited around for some music, but none showed up. That changes on the second song that is an industrial like blast beat, with distortion scraped loudly over the notes until it swallows it whole. It eventually becomes hard to tell where the noise ends and the music begins. The more black metal part of the song is allowed to surface and it is the rawer more punk like form of the genre. In the final minutes there is more of a hint that this might have been an actual song, but the feedback buzz coating everything, makes me not really care as much as I should. "Purity of Oblivion" is also more of a black metal affair, but rather than going for a raw lo-fi sound which is the by-product of using a more primitive style of recording it sounds like the noise was added to make this sound worse on purpose. Sure it's fast and maybe with all of this stripped down to just the instruments and voice it still might be something, but something tells me the smoke and mirrors are here for a reason.

"The Tears of Joy..." is a dark meditative piece of ambiance that buzzes to life just before the mid way point. The sheer noise of "You are Not Bliss , You are Not  Free" contains zero nutritional value for those hungering for new music , since it is performance art put to record , not  an actual song. "Clarity and Non vision" is a blast fest that is not as mired down in radiated noise. The vocals sound like a demon screaming into a baby monitor as loud as it can do distort it. Their is an unbridled chaos, that might hold more merit than the sheer novelty, but it's mixed in such a way that makes it hard to decipher and this song is one of the more conventionally presented.  While it's not the only thing on this album marked as a song , which is actually just an expansive interlude of noise, "Hanging of the Shaman" which closes things down, has the least amount of actual musical value and it a mass of sound effects for no real reason or purpose. There is a pitch shifted voice screaming, but screaming with out a song to scream over is jut screaming.

I'll round this down to a 3.5. Maybe there is a black metal project buried in here some where. I would not say it's buried treasure, but the rank sonic stench of a fart masked with cheap cologne .  Though the stream of it was playing in a loop , I thought it was just turning into a much longer piece than imagined , because static drenched noise sounds the same. Sure if you are a fan of noise and only like a side of black metal with it, then round it up a point or two. This isn't my thing though it has elements of that would be if handled differently.

Black Metal History Month - Askumite : "Rubber Room"

Damian Master is highly regarded and a talented guy, but often his music is hit or miss with me. I do make it a point to check out whatever he does , because when he hits it really resonates with me. Aksumite is less of a solo project than A Pregnant Light. It's his four full length with this project, which proves to have a rawer old school black metal feel and when I say old school that take it all the way back to Celtic Frost / Mercyful Fate style metal on "Double Mask". The opener has a thick gnarly bass tone that hits more like Motorhead so to punk tinged black n Roll. The punk thing even haunts "Double Mask" with a more Samhain like current running through it. While it is raw and some what lo-fi in it's production, the sound works for what is going on here. Even when they kick into the more cross over punk style of black metal that finds the vocals sounding more like a spooky version of the Cro-mags, it is dark thanks to the cavernous production.

Even with the lack of blast beats there is a black metal feel to the murky droning "A Void, Love" . the vocals are a lower death metal growl, even though the music is more melodic and almost post-hardcore shoe gaze. The middle section finds things getting much darker as the song drifts into a floating abyss. The blast beats surface and are disappointingly sloppy, which mars and otherwise perfect song. "Animal Magnetism" is more of a punk song. The vocals take on a more ragged Black Flag shout. This song is under two minutes and no one is doubting its punk credentials. "The Bitch Jewel" is more metal, but the punk influence isn't far behind the other wise convincing thrash chug. The might be the most metal album Master's has released. Sure if is punk enough around the edges to add some irony to the more horn throwing moments, but the darkness feels serious to me. When this is given more deliberation on "Pale Pink Crocodile" , which is one of the albums strongest songs despite the odd lyrics and clunky blast beats. I'll go ahead and round this up to a 9. The emotional oppressive atmosphere feels real, even if there are no occult connections to this music and this is just some hipster punk metal ironic metal albums. It sounds good there is enough of the more classic metal sounds coupled with the too cool for school cross overs into punk. Here Masters hits the bulk of the time and while I have paid more attention to A Pregnant Light than this project, I now see the error in my ways. Eve i you are the kind who won't settle for anything less than a blaze in your northern sky, this album is still legit enought in it's little black heat to be troo for you.


Black Metal History Month- Nadra : " Allir vegir til glötunar"

Here is a another argument against the more politically correct notion that geographically all black metal is created equally, as this is another band out of the Northern European region that kills it due to the ice running through their veins. The coldness resonates differently than most black metal , but it is there.  This Icelandic black metal bands comes out of the gate blasting with a feral snarl. There is a punk like  sneer to some of the undertones. Sure they are spastic, but the flailing is pretty heart felt and convincing. There is a more majestic metal feel to "Sal". The guitar are raw, but well layered. This album has an interesting production quality that should please the grimmest among us, but is still easy to listen to and doesn't impede the melodic qualities. This album is not fucking around. They do hit the brakes on the third song which is a sprawling fourteen minutes and wallow in a slower more miserable existent that owes more to depressive black metal than the rawer savagery they hit you with at first. The vocals wretchedly spew forth, sometimes dipping into a lower growl. They vary the intensity of their blast beats not always throwing themselves into them with such reckless abandon.

They go into an even faster pace on "Sar" that will have your head spinning. They do hit some punches against a sonically heavy wall the sharply blinding guitars construct. They have you at the rapid tempo they seem to like lashing out with until they break things down to an acoustic guitar and chanting for a minute then the whirlwind stirs things back up again. If it wasn't for the attention to detail with little things like they breakdown, they might have lost me in some of this chaos. The guitar solo at the five minute mark is pretty impressive and was just what the song needed to give another layer. The riff that follows it sings with more melody almost a folk metal quality.I'll round this one up to an 8.5. At times the speed gives their sound a uniform feel, it's the flourishes sprinkled in that make this stand out more than the feral spirit that attacks your ears.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Black Metal History Month- Cirith Gorgor :"Visions of Exalted Lucifer"

Named after the "Haunted Pass" these guys are reppin' the north side of Mordor. Out of the Netherlands, these guys came from the late 90s black metal scene, so it should not be a surprise that their 6th full length is very polished . On the opener they blast ahead with a very spacious sound that throws a lot at you at once. There is an ambiance to the chaos that hits like a storm. When it comes to a band like this I want to hear what sets them apart from the hundreds of others bands doing this sort of thing. It's not until "Of Black Dimensions" that this emerges. They slow down and the chants recite more of an incantation rather than scream. Sure they don't hold onto this kind of restraint for long when they return to full throttle mode on "...And Demonic Wisdom". Though this song is not as cluttered and the vocal take on a croaked tone.

By the time we get to "Wille Zur Macht" it is not a question of if these guys are any good or cvlt enough, it's what else can you give me ? The blasting blitz of this song tells me while they have shown me earlier in the album they are capable of summoning other tones and moods, they would rather just play it safe and blast beat off. They are good at this style of black metal. But is this style of black metal any good? They respond with "Rite of Purification" which takes a more melodic turn, which is just what this album needed. I am not saying every black metal band needs to be Watain, I do think it's more of a challenge to be insanely heavy and still hold melody and dynamics high on your to do list when it comes to song writing these days. For black metal to thrive as a genre this is what needs to happen or it will be blast beaten to death and people will look back on it like hair metal is seen now. Does this band sometimes tread closely to the Watain/ Dissection sound when they do get more melodic...yes. This could go all the way back to Bathory, but it's  not reaching very far to think a band notices someone like Watain is selling tons more albums and tweak things a little. Though it's a small touch the sample that ends "Rite..." is enough attention to detail to push there sound a few degrees apart from the herd.

They go for a big fast ending when they close the album with " Into the Nameless Void". Some times the vocals find a cadence over the riffs that gives more of a hook. As a rule however the song tends to fall in line with the other obligatory expectations of the genre. For a genre based in non-conformity this band and many others play it too safe. Things do slow down at the three minute mark and go deeper into a more melodic darkness.  This works for me, but when you think of all the time invested into doing what has been done, when they could have tried making something more musical, it leaves me a little flat. Granted it touches back into Watain land, but at least that is different than re-hashing a church that has already been burned down. I'll round this down to a 7.5, I think I've already touched on what makes this album work and what is not as effective, but if you are hungry for new black metal this is well done for what it is.

Prong : " X No Absolutes"

Yep, Prong was playing this kind of groove metal at the same time  Pantera...came riding out as the Cowboys from hell, which served as a turning point for metal .  On the opener of the band's new album they are just playing along with their own bandwagon that is much further down a road whose time has come. Tommy Victor is the only member from the  "Beg to Differ" line-up. "Sense of Ease" doesn't really find the band playing to the strengths of their signature sound and instead racing off into the kind of thrash they turned the tables on in 1990. "Without Words" holds a tighter groove that comes closer to making you snap your fingers and your neck with a very Killing Joke influenced chorus. "Cut and Dry" lives up to its name in providing a description of the brand of groove metal they engage in on this one. Some of the difference between this album and what happened 26 years ago is the production. Mark Dodson who produced "State of Euphoria" and " How Will I Laugh Tomorrow", was a forward thinking producer at the time. Here the band has more of you typical mall metal production which is the equivalent of if "Beg to Differ" was produced by Alex Perialas instead.

The more tighter staccato chug of "No Absolutes" finds the band playing closer to their strengths despite the more obvious hook of the chorus. The rest of the band get the job done with former Winds of Plague drummer behind the kick and ex- Stone Sour bassist holding down the bottom end. They dip into almost pop punk on the more melodic "Do Nothing". Victor's voice has grown stronger over the years and he is not just limited to the bark. His singing voice gets the job done, his range is not jaw dropping as he carries a modest tune. They beef things back up for "Belief System" that finds the band back in more classic territory. The guitar solo in this one shows Victor's playing has also improved after serving as Danzig's side man. They get into more of a proto-Nu Metal on "Soul Sickness", but Victor gets the job done where bands like Fear Factory got bogged down in redundancy. Then in turn they fall prey to similar glue sniffing doldrums on " In Spite of Hinderances' which thrashes about with no clear sense of target for it's de-manufactured aggression.

The bass line that opens "Ice Runs Through My Veins" could have taken the song in more of a post-punk direction, instead in stomps around typical post- Head Banger's Ball rock music. The Killing Joke influence is still there , but run through a filter of Linkin Park. The pop punk undertones are still haunting the song as well to make this more obvious. Then it's back to the late 80's for the thrash riff of "Worth Pursuing" as Victor's vocals coast over it much like Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke. They close out the album with the almost poppy "With Dignity" that brings Linkin Park to mind again. The hip-hop undertone are not there, but the guitar feels a little dialed back to bring the vocals up to a more radio friendly mix. Not sure this is the wisest direction to move in making the lyrics a little ironic. Listening to this album did make me go back and listen to "Beg to Differ" again and I'm sure I'll also give "Prove You Wrong" another spin, maybe even try out "Cleansing " which is where I parted ways with the band as I was well into death metal at that point and they just did not seem heavy anymore. This album starts off strong, the Linkin Park moments are far and few between, but the fact they exist made me round this one down to an 8, which is still better than just decent and if you are a fan of 90's groove metal then you will want to round this up.