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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vérzivatar - Transcendent Infection



Engulfed By The Void's Twin.

Vérzivatar is a black metal band from Hungry. Having been formed by the band's main musician, Elzeril, back in 2005 using session drummers on his recordings. In this band, you won't find a lot of unique characteristics, but you will find that what Elzeril is doing musically is just a little bit left of center sounding.
Since Elzeril is the main composer and song-writer, on record he plays guitar, bass, and vocals, and, like said above, gets session drummers to play on his recordings; on this one former Marblebog drummer, Hoarfrost. The music on here is very much built around making atmospheres as dark as possible. As such the performance on here could be considered lackluster in a way.
This is a fairly short album, being just under 35 minutes in length. Only six tracks make up this album, and every one is a bit different from the next, so all six tracks don't just blend together in a swirl of atmosphere and tremolo picking. All the songs on here could be considered, standard black metal type tracks, you'll either have a fast one or a mid-paced song. One could also see this record as divided into 2 separate parts, the first 3 songs being more standard atmospheric black metal, and the second 3 songs exhibiting more of a shoegaze, almost early Lifelover or Hypothermia influence.
The production on this album is also fairly standard for this type of black metal, raw. I'll give it to you that it isn't as raw as some of the early Darkthrone records, but it could still be put into that raw black metal genre no problem. Even as the tracks progress into the more shoegazey songs, the production still fits.
One thing that stood out from the first song, Smothery Movelessness, onward was the presence the bass had within the mix. You'll find that while the guitars are fairly simply played to evoke a dark mood, the bass keeps in the background, but the rumble occasionally moves on top of the guitars into the very front of the sound. This could potentially break the mood for some listeners, but it keeps things a little different from how most bands within this sub-genre of black metal do it.
Elzeril's vocals are also a little different, from those that I've heard at least, from your average black metal screamer. His style may seem similar to that of the many suicidal/depressive black metal artists, but he ranges his a bit more than those musicians do. You'll find that, yes, there are those DBM frenzied screams on some tracks, Lascivious Suffering Ecstasy, but that some more speaking type of scream emerges as well, Blood Covered Sky.
One highlight on this album is the longest track, Decadent March of Purity. This track starts off in a usual slower black metal song and tries to attain as much atmosphere as possible, but the middle is what really made this track. This middle section goes into a more alternative rock type of groove where the guitar and bass just sync up really well; one could relate this section to another band coming out in recent years, Lifelover. Another plus is that this is the only track that features a "solo," per say.
Overall, this is not a bad record, but it's not going to win any awards for sure. Impressive bass work and the creation of dark atmospheres are enough to keep an average fan of this style listening through it's whole cycle. If you're a fan of raw, atmospheric black metal with a little bit of a shoegaze influence, than I would recommend you check this out.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Blood Covered Sky, Decadent March of Purity, Blissful Extinction

Kathaarsys - Intuition



The Closest Thing to Al Di Meola Playing Black Metal.

Kathaarsys is a progressive black metal band from Spain. Over their relatively short existence so far, Kathaarsys has shifted from one killer sound into this newer one. Both old and new fans will be thrown for a look with this album.
Kathaarsys has had a pretty interesting career so far. In the beginning, they had a very Opeth-esque sound on their first two albums, while their third record, "Anonymous Ballad," began to embrace elements of Atheist and Enslaved into their sound. This new record, as the title said above, could most likely be compared to Cynic.
This record's sound is probably the least metal they've ever done; and that's not to say that this record is not metal at all, it still has it's fair share of heavy and aggressive sounding technical death/black metal, listen to Consciencia, Duda-Apatia-Duda-Depresion. This record's sound is much more rooted within jazz and jazz fusion as opposed to metal. Aggressive songs tend to be short and more like a quick burst technical playing.
This record also flows very well, with every track leading into the next, but not with silly interludes that seem to forcefully meld the tracks together. This record's songs seem to move like a classical or jazz/prog epic, moving into each track like they were written together. This also explains the length of some tracks, while some are just under 2 minutes, others are over 5.
Guitar playing is definitely less aggressive overall, demonstrating more subtlety and technicality throughout. The clean parts are very fluid and demonstrate a major jazz influence, while the metal parts sound dirty and tight at the same time. The overall guitar sound is much more clean than distorted. The vocals are also clean when compared to the reduced amount of screams and growls throughout. Some may turn this into a deal breaker when considering the band's past work was more of the latter. Spoken parts are even utilized during some parts.
The bass is another point that really impresses. As in all jazz music, the bass is a very large part of the sound, and it has just as big a part in Kathaarsys' sound. Fluid bass-lines the meld the whole thing together, taking this album to another level, but also keeping it very grounded.
Throughout the entire piece, the jazz sections seem to have a better vibe than the technical metal parts do. Production might be the explanation to this, where, as previously stated, the heavy parts have a more muddy sound. But even the heavy parts never seem to quite fill the hole that was left by the jazz parts.
This was a surprising record to hear, even if you don't know about the band's past work, it still might surprise you. You cannot simply hear 1 track or song and expect that that is how the entire record will sound, since this record seems to flow together like a single piece. This record is definitely one of the most interesting record I've heard this year and this review doesn't even begin to justify this record's sound.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Sõjaruun - Talv EP



In A Land Far, Far Away.

Sõjaruun are a pagan/black metal band from Estonia. They are a three piece band that perform a slightly off kilter style of pagan black metal. Stealing elements from modern bands like Deathspell Omega or Shining, not so much musically, but just the vibe seems to have a sort of kin in spirits.
3 of the 4 tracks on this EP are over 6 minutes long. These songs each have their own personalities and their own sound, in a way, experimenting within a similar black metal format with other styles. While this may entice others, this is just an EP, and is only a taster to what may occur on their next album.
The first track, Kui Kõlab Sõjasarve Hüüd!, is a black metal song that moves through areas of thrash and clean guitars, reminiscent of Shining style. The track never really seems to hit that black metal pace, remaining at a fairly standard mid-tempo, for this style, throughout the song's course. The use of synth to get a sampled horn section or even an accordion during certain parts of the song keeps things interesting without overusing them.
The second track, Surmkülmast Mullast, is more of a traditional sounding black metal song. This track features fast guitars tremolo picking, speedy drums with fills, and a rumbling bass in the background. The vocals are also more traditionally aggressive snarls. This track also goes through a bit of an acoustic break, but this one is faster and doesn't really slow the track down much.
Jäine Haud is the third track and is a bit more of a progressive track, starting off with a clean guitar playing folk melodies. Once the heavy riff starts, it is more groovy than other tracks, but still very much black metal. This track is a bit simpler sounding than the previous two, yet moves through just as much ground as the first track did.
The final and title-track, Talv, is the shortest song on this EP. This track is definitely the most progressive on here, using clean tones and acoustic parts for about half of the track; being the slowest track but featuring some impressive bass work behind the guitars. This is the track that really captures the entire feeling, not style, of this record.
Overall, this is a surprising EP, that I didn't expect much from in terms of how the music would be. Bringing elements away from your typical pagan/black metal band and performing them well. Maybe not for those who expected this to be a fairly straightforward affair, but if you like a bit of experimentation within a more traditional rooted black metal, this is for you.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Jäine Haud, Talv

Barren Earth - Curse of The Red River



My Word It's Cold Up There.

Barren Earth is a Finnish super-group featuring members of Moonsorrow, Swallow The Sun, Kreator, and Amorphis. On this, their debut full-length, they exhibit elements of all those bands as well as influences from bands of today and of the 70s. You won't find any cheery or ripping songs on this, but you will find some of the best song-writing within this genre that has come out in a long time.
As you can judge from their respective groups, except for Kreator, you will find some more mid-tempo to slower tempo songs on this album, opposing to fast. Every track will also feature song structures that encapsulate both progressive and melodic together. Citing bands like Opeth, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and Dan Swanö as an influence into their own blend of melodic death metal.
The only song on this album to have been released before this album's drop was Our Twilight on the "Our Twilight EP." Being the only track to have been showcased before this album's release, besides the 3 other tracks on that EP, it gave the listener a taste of what the band would sound like, and many a comparison to Opeth were made. The band released that EP with tracks that they stated were not as great as those on the album but wanted to release them anyway on their own.
Musically, guitarists Sami Yli-Sirniö and Janne Perttilä both have very clean sounding parts, but retain the heaviness of their metal background, but feature a bit more inclination towards Amorphis. They also keep a very melodic sound without losing any of the darkness and atmosphere. For any fan who's wondering if there will be chugging throughout this record, like your modern day melo-death band, there is very little, so the metalcore comparisons can go right out the window. Guitar solos are also fluent throughout the entire record.
Kasper Mårtenson's keyboard parts have a rather large part within this band, not only adding atmosphere; keys help to give that 70s influence as well. The use of flutes within the title-track, Curse of The Red River, or the piano within Flicker, drive that prog-rock sensibility home. Rather than just staying within the background like most keyboards do in these sort of bands, the keys in Barren Earth are quite high up, not high enough to become annoying, but high enough to be heard constantly. Key solos are also used within a few songs as well, like in The Leer or Our Twilight.
Mikko Kotamäki's vocals are also quite a big part in the band's sound. His low and gruff sounding growls and soft, harmonized cleans have a huge impact on the band's overall sound. He also performs quite a bit of different vocal melodies throughout the album, from more subtle melodies within acoustic sections or the lead chorus parts; he succeeds within them both.
Overall, this is a good debut full-length record and one of the most entertaining records to come out within the melodic death metal tag in some time. Fans of all of the member's respective bands will find this just as great as people who have only heard the EP. While this is not a mind-blowing record, it is a great one none the less. Worth any metal head's time.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Our Twilight, Forlorn Waves, The Leer, The Ritual of Dawn, Deserted Morrows

Cathedral - The Guessing Game



Jesus Would Give The Thumbs Up.

Cathedral is a psychedelic doom/sludge rock band from the UK. Having released such classic doom metal/rock albums in their career such as "Forest of Equilibrium" and "The Ethereal Mirror." This new album expands upon the influence of 60s and 70s progressive and psychedelic music's on the band's more traditional sound.
"The Guessing Game" is a double-album that encompasses the sound that Cathedral has fooled around with and experimented in throughout their career. An overall sound is both present and elusive within these albums; taking elements from classic doom/heavy metal, 70's prog-rock, 60's psychedelia, and even elements of blues and jazz make their way into the mix. If a fist in the face is what you're looking for, you better search elsewhere, cause that is not what you'll find here. The production on this record is also very fitting, the whole thing flows together, even though some tracks feel more modern and others more retro sounding, they never sound worse or better, production wise, than each other.
After the trippy-sludge intro track, Immaculate Misconception, the band kicks straight into a song that sounds like it came from the mid 70s era of prog-rock. Funeral of Dreams, despite it's name, perfectly fits that early heavy metal mixed with psychedelic rock fusion that Lee Dorrian has been perfecting for all these years. This track comes from a world where members of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and King Crimson all jammed together. The instrumental title-track, The Guessing Game, sounds like a page taken straight out of Genesis' book.
As much as the music is eclectic sounding, Dorrian's vocals are also able to change themselves up from song to song. Within a song like Death of An Anarchist, you'll find some rough sounding, punk-like singing that changes to a whisper type of singing during it's chorus; while the first track to be released, Edwige's Eyes, has a more traditional slower, rough spoken vocals that Dorrian has used for years.
The album title is one of the most fitting I've heard in a while, as it actually describes the music perfectly; every song will have you wondering what the next will sound like. For some, this may turn you off if you were looking for your standard doom metal record with slow tempos and dramatic vocals, as this is most certainly not that. As mentioned many times, and just to reiterate again, this album moves from a classic Black Sabbath styled doom sound to acoustic blues songs to trippy punk from song to song without missing a step.
Despite this album's length, around 85 minutes, it rarely gets boring or grating on your nerves. Shifts from style to style, or speed to speed, help to diversify the album immensely improves it's captivating abilities on a listener. The addition of extra instruments besides vocals, guitars, drums, and bass also make these songs more interesting; the use of keys and synthesizers, listen to The Running Man for an ideal picture of this, as well as extra percussion, the usual flutes, and an auto harp allow more to pick out within these songs. More listens will reveal more textured sounds on each song.
No song has ever helped to sum up the sound of Cathedral, within one song, as much as the final track on this album has, Journey Into Jade. This track is not only a piece of blues-doom-rock, Dorrian's lyrics are an oral history of the band, directly and not bull shit metaphors. This track also questions if there will ever be another Cathedral album ever again, lets hope there is, but this track ends the album on a high note. The only downside to this track is that the actual track is only about 6:30 and it drags on for 3 more minutes of silence before you hear Dorrian talking again.
Overall, this is another strong record in a line of strong albums by Cathedral. While some songs may become a little boring at times, it's mainly due to the simpler parts coming in after more intricate sections and becoming a little less tantalizing to the ear. Still a great record and worth checking out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Funeral of Dreams, Painting In The Dark, Death of An Anarchist, Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine, The Casket Chasers, Journey Into Jade

Monday, March 29, 2010

Twilight - Monument to Time End



Home Just Isn't What It Used to Be.

Twilight is a black metal super-group that formed back in 2004 by numerous members of pioneering US black metal musicians. Their debut record that was released in 2005, was said to be the only thing to ever be released under this name, but it is now proven that that statement was false. Twilight reformed back in 2009 with new members and recorded this new album.
The founding members of this band included Wrest (Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice) on drums, guitar, bass, synth, and e-bow, Hidolf (Draugar) on vocals, Azentrius (Nachtmystium) on guitar, bass, and vocals, Imperial (March Into The Sea, N.I.L.) on vocals and bass, and Malefic (Xasthur) on guitar, synth, and vocals. This group created a self-title record that was an essential piece of American black metal. This group, as stated above, was only meant to create one album, as such, Malefic and Hidolf left the band soon after that album's release.
This new group includes older members, Wrest, Azentrius, and Imperial all performing their instruments the same as before, but include new members, Stavros Giannopolous (The Atlas Moth) on guitar, Aaron Turner (Isis, House of Low Culture) on guitar and vocals, and Sanford Parker (Buried At Sea, Minsk) on guitars and keys. This new group, judging from their respective bands, has definitely influenced the sound of this record greatly. No longer are the pure, bleak sounding black metal of the self-titled debut record.
The sound found on this record reflects the coming together of the post-metal background of these newer artists, with the black metal sound that this band was founded on. As such, this album is the hybrid of black metal, post-metal, sludge metal, industrial music, and dark ambient, bastardized together. These influences can be heard within even the first minutes of the opening track, The Cryptic Ascension, which has the sound of black metal for sure, but builds slower like the post influences that have been infused into this band. Unlike the last record, this record also manages to mellow itself out once in a while, see the middle passage of Fall Behind Eternity, into cleaner sounding guitar passages.
While industrial elements hover throughout the sound of the first couple of tracks, it is not until 8000 Years that they really start to come out, and tracks like Red Fields and Negative Signal Omega, are very much an embodiment of industrial music. That is not to say that on these specific tracks that metal is not present, the change is not that drastic, as it seems to meld the two together. This industrialized sound is probably not what many of you think it is, it really has to be heard to be understood.
While major stylistic changes are not shy about being up front for the entire record, the band still hasn't forgotten their roots as an atmospheric/true US black metal band. Decaying Observer and Convulsions In Wells of Fever express both the rapidity and atmospheric textures that the debut record did, but with sections that still surprise as well. Take these tracks for what they are, more experimental than their debut sounding brethren, but still some of the more primal sounding songs on this record.
Another noticeable change throughout the record is in the vocals. No more are the shrieks and whales of Malefic and Hidolf present within the band's sound, they have been replaced with screams, more akin to that of black metal's regular vocal style. This can be taken as the newer influences allowing more "accessibility" to become clear; but considering that the former vocalists are not even in the band anymore, it would be hard to find a vocalist who resembles their horrified shrieks without sounding corny. The inclusion of clean vocals is also another surprising departure from their debut record, while not done in the same terrible way that metalcore has made it, they can be looked at as similar to what Isis has been doing with theirs.
One track that sticks out among the rest is The Catastrophe Exhibition. This track features acoustic introduction before moving into some odd, almost progressive sounding tapping riffs. The atmosphere on this track carries along with the rest of the record, but this track seems to meld more progressive and almost post-rock influences into an atmospheric black metal setting to great effect.
Overall, this was a surprisingly good and exciting sounding record. This album might not appease the underground fanatics who looked forward to the second coming of the pure blackness that was found on the debut record, but it is sure to attract fans of experimental metal for sure. This record surprised me with how different it sounded to it's predecessor, if you've heard that record you'll know what I mean, if you haven't, I suggest you take a listen to that as well as to this one.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: The Cryptic Ascension, Fall Behind Eternity, 8000 Years, The Catastrophe Exhibition

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mouth of The Architect - The Violence Beneath EP



Nothing Says I Love You Like A Kiss Does.

Mouth of The Architect is a post-metal/sludge metal band from Ohio. Taking cues from sludge heroes Neurosis and Isis, these guys have put out 3 full-length albums before this years new EP. This new record doesn't really explore any new territory, but expands upon those previous records in all areas.
The first track, and the title-track, The Violence Beneath, is a heavy and brooding sludge metal song. While this track starts fairly standard sounding, a cool melodic riff comes in at about 2:30 and just leads into some cool sounding guitar harmonies and melodies. This song brings to mind not only Neurosis, but even a bit of Mastodon; more so in how the song seems to progress and a few of the riffs.
The second track, Buried Hopes, is much more of a progressive song; being over 10 minutes may not seem all that long compared to some of the band's older works, but it's the longest track on this EP. This track uses both clean vocals and acoustic guitars, moving into ambient passages within it's background, slowly growing larger and larger sounding. The song moves into heavier territory after a few minutes and, even though the sound is very full, every instrument can be clearly heard. This track probably has more angular riffs when compared to the song that preceded it.
The third track, Restore, is a live recording and is also the shortest song on this EP. This track really lets the band's instrumentation breathe a lot more, giving it a bit more of an open and raw sound. The more post-metal side of the band seems to have a bit more presence in this live setting, allowing mellow and ambient passages to echo out and reverberate.
The final track, In Your Eyes, is a cover song of a Peter Gabriel hit. While this may not be entirely clear upon listening to it, people who know the lyrics will recognize it. Besides being a cover, it offers a different sort of interpretation of a ballad; this is probably the slowest song on here, and also is very compact sounding as well.
Overall, this is a nice EP and a cool gateway into what the band's next record might sound like. While not completely different from their past work, it works if you can take it for what it is. Even if you're not completely into sludge or post-metal, this would be a great place to start, due to it's shortness, but maybe not the most produced sound, if that's what you're looking for.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: The Violence Beneath, Restore

Against The Plagues - Decoding The Mainframe



And Moses said, "On The Final Day, The First Born Son Shall Die."

Against The Plagues is a symphonic black metal band from Illinois. "Decoding The Mainframe" is a remixed and remastered version of their 2007 self-released album, "The Archtecture of Oppression." This album has also been rearranged, the songs have, into a new order to allow for better flow.
As just stated above, this album has been remixed and mastered, so it is not really a "new" album. The thing that benefits this from being your average album tune-up is that this remix was performed by the legend Dan Swanö, whose production is always warm and full sounding. This allows this band's sound to be a bit more roomy sounding, I mean like they're playing in an arena vibe, not a practice space; that kind of room.
Riffs range from more symphonic black metal to more traditional sound thrash riffs, hear Order of Decay's beginning. There is even some elements of technical death metal within this album, The Key to Ourselves. This breathe some diversity into an otherwise pretty average album, not breaking any new ground, but doing what they do decently.
Though being a symphonic black metal band, ATP use the symphonic element differently than Dimmu Borgir does; plus the synthe's used to make the symphonic parts are not up front. These symphonic elements are used more for textures and atmosphere. A person could clearly still hear those synthe parts, but you could just as easily listen to the vocals or the guitars over it.
The guitars on this album are much more technical than most bands within the genre perform the style. Plenty of melodic and simplistic parts are included, but you'll find just as many parts that a prog band might have as well. While no twisting and turning song structure as included, plenty of the riffs themselves are worthy of praise, like in the opener War Against The Plagues.
Vocally, this band may not have the most versatile of singers, but he can do quite a lot with what he's given. From the more death metal grunts on War Against The Plagues to the throaty speaking on Renegade Manifesto, he does make himself known. When he does break out into a black metal scream part, you could easily draw comparisons between him and Dimmu vocalist, Shagrath. For the most part, I believe that the main vocalist does the screams and throat singing, while the guitarist does the growls, since there are so few of them.
Overall, there isn't really a whole lot on this record you couldn't find from another band within the same genre; but if you're a big fan of the genre though, feel free to check this out. The production does help this album to make slightly more tolerable and entertaining. Chances are that this remix will not win them over any new fans, but for collectors who like to have the same album, one that sounds better anyway, than this would be good for them.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: War Against The Plagues, Beyond The Past of Pain, Order of Decay, Force From Within

Soreption - Deterioration of Minds



Bigger Than The Average Bear.

Soreption is a technical death metal band from Sweden. On this, their debut record, they are following up their critically acclaimed EP, "Illuminate The Excessive." Taking their ques from the hyped tech bands of today, they are tech-death's newest heroes.
As just mentioned, Soreption's sound is still being developed and influences are still heard throughout. Whether it's Meshuggah or Cryptopsy, the old one, they manage to meld them together into tight, intricate song structures that are also tightly executed. But influences of more brutal death manage to sneak in through some of the breakdowns in these songs as well, think Deeds of Flesh style.
But just because these guys are a brutal tech-death metal band doesn't mean they don't have their flaws. Fredrik Söderberg's vocals have a major deathcore sound, think Whitechapel or Impending Doom, but without the highs. Some of the breakdowns are also a bit reminiscent of this style, like in the opener, Suppressing The Mute. But, the fact that these guys can play their instruments well and craft melodic solos makes it difficult to place that tag on them.
Guitarist Anton Svedin, is a truly great player of this style, and seems to have studied up on all accounts of modern sounding death metal, whether it so happens to be deathcore or melodic death or brutal death, this guy has major chops. His solos are great and sound very clean in comparison to his metal style, this is another thing you could chock up to a Meshuggah influence; and while not as odd sounding as Fredrik Thordendals, they have a similar sound.
Drummer Tony Westermark is also very skilled in his craft. He usually sticks to a regular death metal double-bass drumming with some more stop-start patterns, but he occasionally throws in some cool fills or small things. On Breeding Exile, he does a little cymbal pattern once, that is just awesome sounding.
Bassist Rikard Persson is also a skilled player. His playing is in the background for a lot of the time but does come out for some cool parts, listen to A Wolf Among Men. While it's definitely not as prominent as Cryptopsy, it features, once again, a similar tone as well as some similar playing.
A standout track is ...To Dim The Aching due to it's seemingly standard sound, the band manage to fit in quite a lot. This track features multiple solos as well as some great bass work. While nothing else really is mind blowing, it does not fail to impress.
The final track, March of The Tyrants, is also very impressive. This is the only track that slows down and mellows out, in it's middle section, it moves into an acoustic section, then into a symphonic interlude before moving back into a breakdown. This is definitely the standout track on the album.
Overall, this record won't be a benchmark in any way for modern metal, it does accomplish a decent job at writing some great songs within it's genre. Fans of tech-death or even deathcore will find this record a great addition to their collection, unless they hate guitar solos. One of the best and most concise tech-death record to come out this year.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Breeding Exile, ...To Dim The Aching, Deterioration of Minds, March of The Tyrants

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Foreshadowing - Oionos



Why So Glum, Chum?

The Foreshadowing is a gothic/doom metal band from Italy. "Oionos" is their second album and seems to favor more of a doom style rather than their previous gothic outputs. While vocalist Marco Benevento shows a growth in performance and style of his own.
The Foreshadowing's last album, and debut, "Days of Nothing" kind of had the flipped style of this album around, favoring more gothic sounds to doom. But from opener, The Dawning, onwards, this album keeps slow-paced drums and heavy riffs a constant, rarely moving into even old-school death metal speeds. Moving from mid-paced and slow-mo pacing with a dark atmosphere lingering around the whole thing and gothic, Dracula-esque, vocals soaring above it all.
This record also flows much better than its predecessor did. Moving from song to song, not so much as a single track or some sort of interlude section to link tracks together, but more in the approach that every song seems to be arranged extremely well, or placed into a perfect arrangement that makes this record all the better. While this doesn't really hurt the record, it doesn't really help it as much as a person might think, but it still makes it a much better listen. The fact that every song is very concise and does not drag on for too long is also another plus.
The guitars are perfect for the style being portrait on this album, slow and melodic. Every song has it's own little melody that makes this album a little different from your average doom album. The guitars also utilize both clean tones and heavier metal tones, listen to Chant of Widows for a demonstration, which separates it from those bands that have only the darker metal sound. The guitars bring elements of "Discouraged Ones"-era Katatonia the most, but also brings to mind Opeth's earlier records, November's Doom, and Godsend.
As previously mentioned, vocalist Marco Benevento's vocals have shown vast improvements in comparison to the debut record from The Foreshadowing. While his vocals on the debut were good, when in comparison to his vocals on this album, those shown on the first record seem like an attempt at trying to be much more of a traditional kind of melodic singer. His presence on "Oionos" is much more theatrical, reminiscent in performance, not in style, of Garm's on Arcturus' "La Masquerade Infernale." His vocals retain a much more baritone sound, and like mentioned before, Dracula-esque sounding, which may sound bad on paper, or typed, but actually fit the music perfectly, listen to tracks like Lost Humanity or Outsiders.
The keys on the album help to create the perfect mood for each song, providing greatly needed atmospheres. But like most doom bands, and gothic to an extent, piano is frequently used as well, most notably on Survivors Sleep, but the textures of each song is what the keys do the best. Providing a much needed gloom to the melodic guitars.
Russians, the second to last track, is a Sting cover from the 80s. Being a power-ballad back then, it is much more of a typical melodic doom song, but features a great little keyboard melody. It is perhaps the weakest track on the album, but by no means a bad track.
Overall, this record is extremely enjoyable and definitely worth any one's time. This may not be a top record or one that is recognized all that much in the press, but you should give it the credit that it is due, being much better than anticipated. This is definitely up there, if not in the top spot for the best doom metal, or gothic metal, album of the year.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Deftones - Diamond Eyes



It All Looks Clear Down Below.

Deftones is an alternative metal band from California; having been around since the early 90's and consistently releasing albums of high quality. Every album the Deftones have crafted has had it's own unique sound and performance style and this album is no different. With bass player Chi in the hospital, fill-in bassist Sergio Vega is the performer on this album.
This album reflects a shift back to the sound of "White Pony"/"Deftones" -era Deftones. Combining atmospheric and shoegaze elements with heavy and groovy riffs, along with Chino's trademark vocals. This album reflects both aggression and experimentalism that were present in the band's mid period albums.
While the keys and atmospheric are not as up-front as they were on "White Pony," or even "Saturday Night Wrist" they have a lot of presence within creating a mood within a song. Whether it's the dark shimmering sounds added to You've Seen The Butcher or the traditional kind of background atmospheric added to the single, Rocket Skates, the keys have a lot to do with making the songs what they are. When looking back at the Deftones' career, you realize how much the keyboards have become a part of their signature sound.
Stephen's guitar playing is more varied on this album than on the previous, "Saturday Night Wrist," album and enhances the diversity of this record. His playing ranges from the heavy chugs of the title track and Royal to the more melodic and clean sounding Beauty School. His use of an 8-string guitar adds to the overall difference in the vibe of the heavy parts on this record, giving it that extra low-end that the Deftones have always utilized within their sound.
Chino's vocals on this album are also just as diverse as the guitars and keys. He has gone back to his raw and emotional screams that were heard on album like "Around The Fur," while still maintaining his softer and more melodic singing voice. But he also adds some really cool new melodies into these more eerie songs that he hasn't made anything like before. On a side note, it is worthy of mentioning that Chino did not play guitar on this album, returning to only vocals and letting Stephen perform the guitars alone again.
Heavier tracks like CMND/CTRL and Rocket Skates definitely showcase a return to an older and more aggressive side of the band while tracks like Sextape and 976-EVIL are much more experimental and ambient sounding, lying more within a soundscape that a riff. The record is diverse enough to make any metal or experimental fan happy, without specifically favoring one over another. One thing that this record does do differently, due to the 8-string, is that it seems to favor the low-end and bass-heavy sound over more more cleaner tones, even though those do appear quite frequently, they are not as utilized as often as before.
Songs on this album are also much more concise than previous ones. A single song never wanders on for too long, getting to the point fairly quickly and then moves onto the next. You could call this album more song based than the previous ones, which had a more album flow.
Overall, this record is very well crafted and performed. While you may not be a fan of the Deftones due to their past in the nu-metal scene and association with Korn, but you should still be willing to hear the more experimental side of this band that has cited both Meshuggah and The Cure as influences. Not the greatest record of their career, but one of the better ones put out recently.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Diamond Eyes, CMND/CTRL, You've Seen The Butecher, Beauty School, Rocket Skates, Sextape

Sadist - Season In Silence



It's A Little Chilly Outside.

Sadist is a progressive death metal band from Italy. "Season In Silence" is their sixth record and another progression in their style; while not a complete shift like "Lego" was and will not alienate their fan base as much. But those familiar with this band's previous works, will find this one just as enjoyable.
As with all Sadist records, this one included, the band have very capable technical and progressive musicians at their disposal. Every player on this album is up there and can write great songs. Every instrument can be heard perfectly and no one seems to be fighting over who should be the loudest, as they all come out at one point or another. But probably the only thing that holds this band back from being noticed by a lot of people is vocalist, Trevor.
While Trevor does have his moments, his screams and grunts don't really fit the band's progressive side. Most of the band's best parts and sections do not feature him; but that's all opinion. Only when the band have their more aggressive, and go more tech-death, do his parts really seem to jell with them.
Guitarist/keyboardist Tommy is always performing melodic prog riffs that are up to the standards for all prog-metal, but with a little bit of a less aggressive edge. This being said, his overall playing style does make way for some more thrash based parts, not really a lot of death metal. His keyboard parts range from keyboard solos to classical piano parts, like in The Abyss, on the title-track, Season In Silence, to sear atmospheric backing to the rest of the band's more jazz section, like in Orgon.
Bassist Andy, has quite a roll in this band; always being heard within a track. While he plays in the background during some of the heavier songs, he excels most when the keys usually come in and he goes more jazz-like in his playing. While other tracks feature some more funk and prog playing, he helps to make this band what it is, like in Frozen Hands or Bloody Cold Winter. His playing could bring to mind the sort of style you might recall from Cynic's "Focus" record, but not quite as technical or as jazzy as that.
This record is fairly short, only about 46 minutes long; but over the course of this short time, the band manage to showcase a lot of technical prowess. They cover a lot of ground within their relatively short songs. The structures of these songs also provide a lot of diversity, very few songs stick within a standard formula.
Overall, this record is actually fairly decent to listen to. While not mind blowing or excitingly new or original, this is impressive and demonstrates great playing. If you're a fan of more technical and progressive playing with death metal vocals, this is for you.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Season In Silence, The Attic and The World of Emotions, Ogron, Night Owl, The Abyss, Frozen Hands

Solution .45 - For Aeons Past



Future Look Into The Past.

Solution .45 is a progressive melodic death metal band from Sweden. Featuring members of multiple different death metal bands and projects throughout Europe, this band creates melodic, catchy death metal with a lot to find inside. While unique, they will be compared to, and do demonstrate similar style, Scar Symmetry.
Probably the one member most known and recognized within the band would be vocalist Christian Älvestam, who most notably was the first vocalist in Scar Symmetry, as well as bands like Miseration, Unmoored, and many others. Guitarists include Jani Stefanovic, from Miseration and Essence of Sorrow, and Tom Gardiner, from Hateform; bass is provided by Anders Edlund, of Angel Blake, and drums by Rolf Pilve, of Miseration and Essence of Sorrow. Previous member Mikko Härkin, of Sonata Arctica, provided keys on the album, but left shortly after, and is regarded there as a session member on the album.
While Älvestam does provide vocals for the album, he only wrote one song lyrically, Lethean Tears. Guest lyricist on the album is Dark Tranquillity's own Mikael Stanne; who also provided guest vocals on tracks Bladed Vaults and On Embered Fields Adust. Like his work in his own band, the lyrics are spectacular, but feature a bit of a twist, since this is not his band.
The overall sound of this band, and this album, is melodic and heavy. With guitars focused on groovy riffs and melodic soloing, and the drums usually being quite standard tech-death drumming. The occasional mellow/power-ballad songs, like Lethean Tears and Into Shadow, brings out the cleaner tones that don't really surface in the heavier tracks.
While not being a Scar Symmetry clone, you can definitely hear similarities between the two, mostly in Älvestam's vocals. This album could most likely be looked at from the perspective that if Älvestam had stayed in Scar Symmetry, this could have been the logical follow up to "Holographic Universe." This album features a lot of his clean voice, as well as his trade-mark growls, but has the same sort of vibe from that album.
As always, Älvestam's vocals are what a listener will most likely be first drawn to when listening to this album. His trade-mark style is perfectly demonstrated on every track with little to no flaws to be heard. Being the main guy to develop and perform the vocals on the album, these melodies he shows border on complete bubble-gum pop catchiness, which could turn some people off, but this only enhances this record's staying power. The only thing that could work against his incredibly powerful voice would be the hints on auto-tune used on a few tracks, which seems unnecessary.
The final track, and probably this record's finest moments, lie within Clandestinity Now. Being more progressive than anything Älvestam's former band ever did, in contains a mind-blowing chorus as well as precise and exact musicianship and guitar work. Being almost 17 minutes long, this track moves through tech-death, melodic metal, ambient sections, and more progressive metal without difficulty shown. Encompassing everything that this album has to offer to a listener and more, if you only hear one track, make it this one.
Overall, this is an incredibly catchy and exciting album. Any fan of Scar Symmetry will find this in league with Älvestam's work in the band. This is definitely worth listening to this year; and while it may not be your album of the year, you'll find something stuck in your head from this album. Check this out.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Monday, March 22, 2010

Classic Series Update II

Just to clear up for anyone that thinks this, a score of 10 - classic, does not mean that that album is perfect, it means that I believe that this album is unique enough to stand the test of time and eventually become a classic in it's own right. Just to rectify any confusion.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones



A Hammer Onto It's Tomb.

Triptykon is the incarnation/super-group under the control of Celtic Frost's front-man, Thomas "Warrior" Gabriel Fischer. As he has stated in the past, Triptykon is what the next Celtic Frost record would have sounded like, if he had not quit the band back in 2008. This is one of the most anticipated metal record for 2010, it is up to you whether it is worthy or not.
This is a super-group of sorts, as just stated above; this group features people hand picked by Thomas to accompany him in making this project a reality. As Thomas plays guitar and lead vocals, lead guitars are performed by V. Santura from Dark Fortress, who played with Celtic Frost during their reunion, bass is by one of Thomas' close friends Vanja Slajh, and drums are performed by Fear My Thoughts drummer Norman Lonhard, who was suggested to Thomas by his manager. These four create one of the heaviest sounding records in recent years.
The overall sound on this record could be described as oppressive. This record would be best categorized within the doom genre, but features all the elements that Thomas has help to found over his career, including death and black metal. But the heaviness of the record has more in common with the last Celtic Frost record, "Monotheist," more than anything else in his past; though Thomas did say that Triptykon would sound as close to that as possible.
The guitars simply hammer down upon the listener as the bass and drums create a wider spectrum of sound. Thomas' vocals are rough and throaty sounding, but are perfect for the mood that this album creates. As the record has many ups and downs, through melodic and atmospheric risings to declining storms of heaviness.
Most of this record focuses on heavy and doomy riffs, that build on top of each other into monolithic sounding metal pieces; this basically describes the opening and closing track, Goetia and The Prolonging, respectively, both being over 10 minutes in length. Some of the shorter tracks like A Thousand Lies and the last minute of Descendant features more of a blackened thrash sound to it, but those are just some of the few faster pieces. One thing that must be said, is that the overall vibe of this record is dark, but clear; every instrument can be heard.
Even though this record is very much metal, you have the inclusion of some more electronics. In the latter half of the album, especially on My Pain. This track in particular utilizes dark ambient music with female vocals that perfectly sets the mood for the final track.
The final track, The Prolonging, combines everything on this album together into a dark and solid riffs. Moving from doom into thrash into sludge and everywhere else seamlessly and fluidly. This track lives up to it's almost 20 minute length.
Overall, this is an extremely powerful and ruthless sounding record filled with hate and mercilessness, but also beauty and tranquility. Fans of extreme music will find this record irresistible, and it may take a while to get into, but it is worth it. This is one of the year's best records.
Overall Score: 10 - Classic
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Ondskapt - Arisen From The Ashes



If Black Metal Was Satanic, This Is What It Would Sound Like.

Ondskapt is a black metal band from Sweden. They are a band that keep BM more traditional and raw sounding, like the early 90's BM bands. This is their third record, and the first to not feature founding member Wredhe, on guitar and vocals.
Ondskapt's musical roots lie within old Mayhem, old Emperor, Gorgoroth, and other early BM bands. There is nothing on this new record you probably haven't heard from Ondskapt in the past, but the vocals are a little more focused on Acerbus, rather than him and Wredhe together. The music is also a bit less extreme sounding, and a bit more like the classic BM bands. More cavernous than consistent hammering.
Ondskapt is a band that are one of the more well known BM bands that reference orthodox satanism within their lyrics. This, and the fact that Kvarforth, of Shining, had played guitar with these guys back in 2005 has created a bit of a buzz within the underground scene. These two factors have made Ondskapt a bit more well known than most bands that reference Satan worship these days.
As previously mentioned, Acerbus is providing all the vocals on this album; and his style is a bit more like an average BM vocalist. He has his moments of being cool and standing out, but his overall performance is not as unique as Wredhe's was. His range is also not as impressive when compared to other vocalist within the genre, but he is still a solid screamer. He does put out a rather good effort on tracks like Killing The Human Mind or the title-track, Arisen From The Ashes.
Astute Sceptre is a track that is quite impressive on this album. It contains a bit of a technical edge that the other songs do not have; the riffs seem to move between more mid-paced black metal and technical/melodic death metal. The chorus riff in this track is especially catchy.
Overall, this record is a worthy listen. Whether you're a casual listener of old-school black metal or not, this record has some parts that you'll find pretty worthy. While not as unique as many might have thought this record should have been, it does contain some of the best sounding classic BM to come out this year.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Ominous Worship of The Divine, Astute Sceptre, Impaled By The Fundaments of Our Time, Arisen From The Ashes

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pensées Nocturnes - Grotesque



Into The Obscurity Within Solitude.

Pensées Nocturnes is a progressive black metal project under the supervision of French musician, Vaerohn. While many may suspect that this is just another project that is either like Enslaved's prog-rock/black metal hybrid, Mirrorthrone's symphonic classical black metal, or Amesoeur's shoegaze post-black, they are all incorrect assumptions. Vaerohn creates a style that is unlike that of any other black metal band or project out in the scene today.
Vaerohn utilizes elements of all of the bands mentioned above, but not in a regular fashion. Yes, he has very progressive song structures, yes, he uses symphonic and orchestral music mixes with metal, and yes, he has some of the more depressive elements of black metal, but he does all of this music differently than any of those bands do. I could see more comradely in a band like Mr. Bungle then another black metal band out today, unless it's like Sigh.
The intro track, Vulgum Pecus, is instrumental and the second shortest track on the album, but features odd symphonic orchestration, while a crowd in the background gets louder and louder. Much like the way Sigh has been utilizing classical orchestration within their newer albums, is how this sounds. It also gives off a vibe of being inside a large arena or coliseum, but quickly changes once Paria starts up.
Paria is immediately odd sounding, moving from the classical elements of the opener into fast and blazing black metal with high-pitched moaning. This track continues to move between black metal, avant-garde classical, jazz-fusion, and prog-rock seamlessly, hence the Mr. Bungle reference. The track moves back into a jazzy classical piece after a roller-coaster ride through the avant-garde.
The entirety of this album is almost too odd and avant-garde to be placed within the prog genre, but somehow the balance never derails into silliness or absurdity. Everything on here seems thought out and placed there for a reason. Nothing ever becomes boring and every instrument has it's purpose and is heard at one point or another in the song. The vocals on this album are ranged oddly; while most are high screeches and moans, there is the occasional, more operatic singing placed within a track, most notably within Rahu.
Each track brings something different to the table, with nothing sounding rehashed or re-used. Odd melodies and scoring techniques are introduced that bring something new to the song, whether it's an odd, carnival-like polka melody within Monosis, or more post-rock inclinations within Eros. This blows every other progressive black metal album in recent years out of the water in terms of both compositional structure and performance.
Trying to place a label on this band is the same as trying to place a label on Mr. Bungle. You could write out a long list of genres this goes within, including: avant-garde, progressive metal, black metal, ambient/atmospheric black metal, neoclassical, etc.; the list goes on. Whatever you call it, it takes a few listens to get into this record without your mind drifting away into a strange place.
Overall, this is one of the oddest records to come out this year and is definitely worth checking out. Experimental freaks to dire purists will still find this record hard to penetrate; best listened to when you have nothing to do but focus directly on this. Not for everyone, but those who find this worthwhile will have a field-day trying to hear everything within.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Rahu, Monosis, Hel, Thokk

Vasaeleth - Crypt Born and Tethered to Ruin



Somewhere Between Dead and Buried.

Vasaeleth is a death metal band from Texas and Georgia. Both members, as it looks, come from a different part of the country, so it's more of a collaboration more than a real band. Unlike a lot of the more recent death metal albums, or bands, to come out, these guys stick to the old-school sound of death metal.
The two members of this band are O.A., who plays guitar, bass, keys, and vocals, and Antinom who plays drums. Antinom comes from a few other black metal bands from Texas, most notably Dagon, but never really broke out. The combination of these two musicians gives this record a rather unique take on death metal.
The overall sound of Vasaeleth is different from newer bands like Whitechapel or Job For A Cowboy, who both have more produced and polished sounds; the sound on this record is much more raw and atmospheric, similar to Autopsy. Another band doing a similar thing, but not the same, as Vasaeleth is the band Portal from Australia. They both make use of raw death metal with a lot of atmosphere and ambiance. Plus, they are both on the same label, Profound Lore Records.
The songs on this record are also fairly short, most being under 4 minutes. Within the short time they give each track, they show a lot more than a lot of other bands who span a song close to 6 or 7 minutes. These songs are just very straight sounding and have a lot of aggression; this is pure and raw death metal.
The drums in this band are also not as triggered as a lot extreme metal band's are, they are very raw, again, and sound like a real person playing them. You can hear in the opening track on the record, Wrathful Deities, that tempos actually slow down around the middle of the song. The fills that Antinom plays are also very simplistic when compared to other death metal bands, in general.
O.A.'s guitar playing is also very raw sounding. He is also not very flashy or shows off, he sticks toward more of a groove, never really going into a solo. The riffs are also never super-technical or blazing fast, though fast sections do come out. His bass playing is never exceptional, and never really comes out a whole lot, but is most noticeable in the song Gateway to The Cemetery of Being. O.A.'s vocal style is also very different compared to most newer bands; featuring a lower range, that has a lot more in common with brutal death metal.
Though this band is very much a straight-forward death metal, they do mix in some other styles to keep things interesting. Much like, who I would assume are these guy's heroes, Autopsy and Incantation, they mix in some grind and doom parts. Slower and more sludgy riffs are in nearly every song, and they usually lead into a grinding part as well.
Overall, this record is actually very well crafted and goes back to the basics of death metal. For fans of the more old-school, raw, and unpolished death metal of the 90's, this is a must. Profound Lore has put out another stellar record.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Figures of Chained Spirits, Curse Seeping Through Flesh, Spirit of Noxious Miasmas, Crypt Born and Tethered to Ruin

Black Sun Aeon - Routa



Into The Snow and Tundra.

Black Sun Aeon is a melodic death/doom metal band from Finland. They could be considered something of a super-group featuring Tuomas Saukkonen from bands such as Before The Dawn, Dawn of Solace, etc. on studio growls, guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums, and Mikko Heikkilä, from Sinamore, on clean vocals and guitars. They create something of a unique take on the genre, mixing in some of their other band's more gothic metal style in with BSA.
When Black Sun Aeon performs live, Tuomas performs drums and growls, Mikko performs cleans and guitars, while session member Mynni plays guitar and back-up growls. When playing live, some of the obvious studio qualities of this band are taken away due to only 3 member performing live. So the music is much more stripped down, obviously.
This album is actually a double album. Part one, Talviaamu/Wintermorning, is the first 7 songs on the album, while part two, Talviyö/Winternight, is the last 7 songs. While the first album is very much a melodic death/doom album, the second one focuses on elements of black metal. These two also contrast on the overall vibe of each album, while the first is sombre anyway, it also has those melodies that are easy to get into; the second album is much more aggressive and harder edged where clean vocals are not as prominent.
The more aggressive side of the band may turn off some fans, but melodic riffs are always within these songs that are incredibly catchy. Songs like Cold and River both feature opposite sides of musical spectrum for this band, but both are very melodic sounding. Songs on this album are also very structured within a similar pattern, and no song really tops 8 minutes.
As previously mentioned, this album is not just death/doom, there are other elements mixed within it to make it a little different from other bands doing similar styles. The title-track, Routa, features some black metal riffs, which is really the only track on the first album to do that. Female vocalist Janica Lönn guests on the album providing most of the vocals for the track Dead Sun Aeon, which is one of the more straight-forward melodic doom metal tracks on the album.
Overall, this is a nice album depending on what you like in your metal, stick to the first disk if you like really melodic catchy choruses, listen to the second if you like more blackened doom. While there are plenty of stronger records than this one, it is a nice record that has plenty of replay power. If you like melodic death/doom, check this one out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Frozen, Wreath of Ice, Cold, Funeral of World, River, Wanderer, Silence

Negură Bunget - Măiestrit



Re-Carved In Stone.

Negură Bunget is a progressive/atmospheric black metal band from Romania. "Măiestrit" could be considered a new album, but is really just a re-interpretation of the band's first album, "Măiastru Sfetnic." This is also the very last recording of the three founding members of the band recording together. So this is a special record to say the least.
As was just stated, this is the last recording where founding members Hupogrammos Disciple's, Sol Faur, and Negru all jammed and recorded together. The three had a disagreement about the band and Hupogrammos and Sol Faur left the band and created a new project called Dordeduh, while Negru formed a new line-up for this band. This new line-up is not featured on this record, but on the new one the comes out later this year.
This record, as stated as well, is a re-interpretation of the band's first full-length album. It features updated production, as well as more modern progressive influences that have moved more and more into the band's sound. These products help to make up a sound that seems to meld newer records with the originating piece of music that this record is based on, seamlessly.
Most of these songs are long epics, but never seems long or boring sounding in the least. The use of black metal as a backdrop to odd, noise and folk instruments with elements of jazz and progressive rock melded together within a single piece of music. Within a song like În-Zvîcnirea Apusului, you get the basic black metal riffs, but you hear elements of jazzy guitar solos, odd folk whistles, and even a cool rhythmic bass part. But elements of the original symphonic black metal that pervaded the original recording are still present, in a song like A-Vînt în Abis.
The entire record has a sense of meditation and tranquility, even throughout the aggressive black metal tremolo picking sections. The elements of dark ambient, folk, and even symphonic music all add very rich atmospheres to the record, whether it's through more keyboard orchestration samples, or folk instruments being played along side the black metal, they both give the record a very orchestral and lush sound. This does, in case anyone was wondering this, differ from the way a band like Dimmu Borgir does orchestral music with their black metal, Dimmu uses actual orchestras as a kind of enhancing product on their black metal, Negură Bunget uses them together with their music, seemingly as one fluid product.
Negură Bunget has a lot going for them in their sound; from more old-school black metal riffs that seem to come from bands like Mayhem and Bathory, to more prog rock stuff. These prog influences takes different shapes in different songs, while and song like Plecaciunea Mortii has a very score-like vibe to it, which could, in some sense, be from a band like Genesis or King Crimson in terms of compositional structure, the opener Vremea Locului Sortit has an almost Frank Zappa quality to it. These two sides seem to support each other, both the very complex and structured songs, but also the quirkiness. Another thing that these qualities allow the music to do is for every instrument to be heard, from the bass to the keys to the flutes, they can all be heard without trying to heard them, and that can also be attributed to the more prog influences.
The final two tracks on the record are acoustic versions of A-Vînt în Abis and Plecaciunea Mortii. These acoustic versions of the songs bring a much darker vibe to these songs, adding that element of ambient/dark ambient textures to them. The instrumentation is very cool sounding, moving from one section into another flawlessly, as the folk melodies are sewn throughout, without becoming overpowering. While the vocals are more whispered and chanted rather than sung. Acoustic also doesn't mean that the entire thing is done with just acoustic guitars, vocals, and atmospheric keys; pianos, flutes, drums, bass, and even electric guitars are used.
Overall, this is an excellent record, and a definite for anyone that likes exploitative music. This is would be a great record if you're just getting into this band, or if you're a long time fan, one that people should hear before they completely write off black metal. While it's not the best album of the year, it is a great one for sure.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Vremea Locului Sortit, În-Zvîcnirea Apusului, Plecaciunea Mortii, A-Vînt în Abis (Acoustic)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Apostle of Solitude - Last Sunrise



Moving Back to The Basics.

Apostle of Solitude is a doom metal band from Indiana. This band continues in the footsteps of bands like Black Sabbath, Candlemass, and Pentagram, with fairly straightforward doom metal. Nothing out of the ordinary is put on this record to make it sound like anything more than what it is.
This band is nothing it's influences haven't done before, but this record showcases a mastery for the style. From the sludgy and slow riffs to the dramatic blues-rock vocals, these guys are here to play doom and don't show off any flashy quick stuff. While remaining heavy and drudging, these guys still manage to fit in plenty of melody within their songs. One could say that this band is the next Reverend Bizarre, in their presentation of simplistic doom.
Vocals on this album range from dramatic speaking styled to more bluesy and soulful kind of crooning. These two styles really support each other, one never really treads on another within a single song. While vocals are never the main focus on every song, they add the right emotional tie to these slow and brooding tracks.
Songs on this record range from just under 2 and a half minutes to 9 minutes. These different lengths showcase the different styles that the band has taken influence from, while the shortest song, Other Voices, is very influenced by sludge and even a little bit of crust punk, it is still very melodic sounding with soulful guitar solos pervading throughout. While the longest song, Letting Go of The Wheel, follows directly after that one, is very much in the vein by Black Sabbath; but also brings in some more psychedelic guitar tones into the mix.
The longer songs are much more entertaining on this album. The shorter songs are much catchier, in a manner of speaking, but the longer tracks just bring the doom home and let it breathe. Some of the shorter tracks have a more punk vibe to them and, although they are still good, they don't have the same vibe that those longer doom epics have.
The track December Drives Me to Tears is very sombre and melancholic, even for doom, and is very much the ballad of the album. This track brings to mind a bit of Type O Negative, in the performance of the song, and how emotional the vocals sound in it. The track makes use of both extremely heavy guitars as well as a more subtle piano within itself.
This is an overall good doom metal record with a lot to like. Fans of more old-school doom and heavy metal will all find great things within this package. Whether it's the speedy punk parts or heavy sludge, this bands pulls them both off extremely well.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Acknowledging The Demon, Letting Go of The Wheel, Hunter Sick Rapture, December Drives Me to Tears, Coldest Love

Raintime - Psychromatic



A Dangerous Mind With Playful Thoughts.

Raintime is a power metal/melodic death metal band from Italy. This is their third album and demonstrates an even more modern sound than previous records had. Utilizing more melodic metal and electronic music in their sound while most of the heavier aspects of their sound are not as present.
The heavier and more death metal part of their sound has become smaller and less present, with melody taking an even greater place in their sound than before. Choruses seem to be what this record focuses on for the most part, as a lot of a song's defining moments are present during the chorus. This makes Raintime's sound much more mainstream sounding than their previous records and can be considered a bit of a sell out tactic, but they still maintain that power metal sound, so you have to look at it from both sides.
Unlike a lot of the band's piers, electronica seems to have a bigger part in Raintime's sound than other power metal bands. Songs like Turned Up and Down, which features an electronica hook in it's chorus, and Nothing But A Mistake, are both dominated by the keyboard for the most part. This entire record features a sound that is dominated just as much by guitar riffs and synthe parts, kind of mixing very dancy parts with heavy guitar riffs.
But this is not to say that the entire record is entirely focused on melodic synthe parts, like previously stated, guitar riffs are still present and are very important in Raintime's sound. Songs like Fire Ants and Beaten Roads are both driven by more thrash guitar riffs than keyboard samples. This is much more of the old school sound of the band's sound, and at some points even moves into death metal.
This album has it's fair share of ballads or softer songs. Tracks like I Want to Remember and Shift are more more melodic and soft compared to some of the other tracks, but allows the record to be a little more diverse sounding. On these songs in particular, the vocals are the highlight, where singer Claudio Coassin deliverers powerful and emotional singing patterns.
Claudio's cleans dominate this record for most of the album, with growls rarely showing up in songs. This is similar to the band's overall style, but allows the growls to be used when they are more essential to the sound, rather then most bands who use dueling vocal styles. Growls can actually be said to represent actual anger or rage in Claudio's vocals rather then him just screaming for an entire song, and then singing for the chorus, it's broken up much more than that.
Prog metal seems to enter the sound of this record near it's end. Songs like Buried In You and Walk-On Actor are all still very melodic, but feature some more modern prog influence like Symphony X or Dream Theater. Everything kind of comes together during Walk-On Actor, the final song, which mixes the melodic power metal, electronica synthe patterns, progressive song structures, and even some more extreme metal moments.
Overall, this is a fairly entertaining record, with most of the better songs being closer to the record's end. Fans of really melodic metal with a little bit of mainstream leanings could definitely find some cool songs on this record. While it's nothing special when comparing it to some of the other bands within both genres, power metal and melodic death, they have an interesting mix of those sounds with electronica, and that in itself deserves mention.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Fire Ants, Nothing But A Mistake, Fake Idols, Beaten Roads, Buried In You, Walk-On Actor

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dreams of Dying Stars - Interludium V: Buried In The Void



Slow Motion Walk In Time.

This is the most recent release Stijn has released in the Interludium series, and possibly the final one as well; this is also his second to be released under the DoDS name. Like the first one that came out under this name, this record contains synthe based soundscapes that seem to evoke meditative conditions. No guitars, bass, vocals, or percussion were used in the making of this record.
This record differs from the previous Interludium album released under this name because, believe it or not, this record has more then one note played an hour. Although the changes in notes is not all that frequent, they do change, at somewhat random times, but does make this record a bit more listenable. The intended purpose to make it more tolerable actually works, and still maintains the contemplative state that draws the listener in.
Another thing that makes this record differ from the previous ones is that it doesn't have that darkness that the others had in them. This record, which is probably the most textured of Interludium records, is also the bleakest sounding and most monotone in terms of sound. Nothing ever comes in or makes you feel uncomfortable like other records did. Additional texturing comes in around the 30 minute mark and but never really moves things into a different realm.
Overall, this is actually about the same if you liked some of the very monotonous Interludium records. If you were a fan of those, you'll probably dig this as well, nothing new though. This is hopefully the last record that Stijn will release in this series of atmospheric drone epics.
Overall Score: 1.5
Highlights: There Is Only One Song

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Organium - Interludium IV: Levitation



The Tranquil Noise That Slayed The Beast.

The fourth release in the Interludium series, released under the Organium name. Though Organium had supposedly been disbanded, Stijn felt that this record fit it's style too well, and he decided to put it out there under the name anyway. This record is, once again, very meditative in nature, prepare for a droning, but thought provoking, listen.
This record, as previously mentioned, was released under this name due to it's similarity in style with the Organium debut. The style of the aforementioned record was one that was described to be black metal without guitar or vocals. This was done through the use of organs and keyboards playing everything along with some occasional percussion. This record follows suit.
Not only does this record also differ from the more atmospheric drone of the previous records, and don't think that means that this one is not atmospheric or drone, it is, but it also feature 2 tracks instead of just 1 long one. But both of these tracks are still long; the first being close to 45 minutes, the second is almost 15. This breaks down some of the self-induced boredom a listener will receive.
The overall sound of this record is much more tolerable then the last two under the Interludium name. This record focuses much more on the organ for all manner of drone and atmospheric effects, and unlike the second Interludium record, which contained one, long droning note for an hour, this album features multiple keys being pressed, granted it is only once in a while, but it does serve to enhance the listen. This album proves to be much easier to listen to fully, then the last few.
These two tracks also provide a much calmer experience than others, remains very angelic and peaceful most of the time. While the ringing of the organ does keep things in that manner, the occasional droning feedback only serves to enhance the listen, rather then bring it down. While this won't put you into a trance as others did, it will captivate the imagination of the listener more so than the others.
The second track, Amber, actually has a sound that differs from the opener. This track features short melodic melodies that are not minutes apart from each other, but sequenced into almost catchy lead melodies. The entirety of the track is very tranquil and induces a very euphoric feeling when listening to it.
Overall, this record is a step up, and is actually worth hearing. Take a chance and go out on a limb to check this one out. May not be right for you, but you'll experience some of the better stuff that he's come out in this series.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Amber

Fall of The Grey-Winged One - Interludium III: Inritus



Echoes That Go Deep, Deep Down.

The third installment in the Interludium series is this album under the FoTGWO moniker. This album differs from the previous two, but still continues in the same vain as them. Expect more meditative music from this.
This album, right from the get go, has proven to be much more enjoyable than the previous one. The sound of this record is still very drone and atmosphere based that doesn't change or prove to excite you, unless you're a hardcore minimalist drone fan. The sound gradually builds up towards a steady fuzz that slowly moves into the front of the sound and covers everything else.
The thing that makes this record one of the most interesting drone records I've heard, is how the guitar is played, cleanly. I'm not even sure that what's being played the whole time is a guitar, because it sounds like a piano at some points. But an echo/delay pedal is definitely used to draw out each note into a vast sound of drone. But this can wear thin on any person, as the pattern played never really changes, drone music tends to not do that, but the gradual guitar patten just gets old.
The use of keys is also present throughout the track. Though it could also be uses as a piano, it is used more for distant atmospheric texturing. Like all of Stijn's more ambient works, faint traces of the pressing down of keys can be heard in the background of the drone. Phazers also move into the sound to accompany the drone.
Overall, this record is only mildly entertaining at best. Once again, fans of drone will probably find this record enticing, but maybe not even that. This record begins to teeter on boring after about 10 minutes, not Stijn's best work by far.
Overall Score: 1.5
Highlights: There Is Only One Song

Dreams of Dying Stars - Interludium II: Aeon E



Droning Sounds Echo Forever.

This is the second release from the Interludium series that Stijn van Cauter has released. This is the first in the series to be placed under the Dreams of Dying Stars name, and it reflects the style of the band's older work. This is one song that is best to listen to in the dark, just a warning.
This album differs from the last album released in this series due not only to stylistic differences, but also due to the fact that this is much darker sounding. This is not some drone metal piece like the previous album's work, though that was more ambient soundscapes, this album is more focused in the droning ambient realm. The form of this album is a single ringing note that goes on and on throughout the cycle of an hour.
As the track progresses, it gradually becomes more and more trance inducing. As stated, this is best for listening to in the dark, this allows you to mearly take in the drones and enter a very meditative state. It can either be used this way, or for more contemplative reasons, being thought inducing.
The production of this track suits it well, being somewhat lo-fi, not that you can really tell all that much with what's going on. As there is only one note being played continually, you'll hear small blips and fuzz within the droning of the sound. Feedback also starts to come out once in a while, but never makes it to become a disturbance in any way to the trace.
Monotonous or minimalistic, both apply here. The performance, of sorts, can be looked at from both sides and both are correct. The entire structure is somewhat structureless and never changes into a different key or time signature, as such, is minimal at its least. Monotonous is all a point of view that a person can take whether they can endure the hour of noise.
Overall, this is a straightforward record that doesn't have a lot going on. Fans of drone music will find this to be a welcome addition to their collection. A lot of people can probably ignore this release and go for DoDS other work unless they're a die-hard-collector.
Overall Score: 1.5
Highlights: There's Only One Song