It may have taken thirteen years to follow-up their sole release, but with a cast that includes Misery Index, Cattle Decapitation and Scour alumni, the trials of time can be forgiven with Cast The Stone, and new EP release Empyrean Atrophy (Agonia) shows that this band has a lot more worth than simply being a side dabbling for them. Continue reading
I’ll preface this review by informing listeners that there’s nothing wrong with their ears or how their brain processes sound and information; upon first impression, you’re not going to catch-all of the riffs and bits that Origin will throw your way on Unparalleled Universe (Nuclear Blast/Agonia). And that’s totally fine. Origin clearly wanted it to be this way. That or they’ve tapped into the musical sensibilities of a far more advanced alien race. Continue reading
London-based Progressive Black Metal group code wanted to revisit some older material on their Lost Signal (Agonia) EP to see if they could cast it in a new light. This EP is six songs in total, comprising of three from the album Mut (Agonia) and three from their first three records. The band produced and mixed the EP themselves to show rich power melody and dynamics. Continue reading
Swedish post metal outfit The Moth Gatherer have just released their second album, The Earth is the Sky (Agonia) Apparently the band was started to help deal with the loss of loved ones, which is believable given the dark, melancholic nature of the music on offer.
From the opening notes of the excellent ‘Pale Explosions’, here is six tracks of dark, slowly unfolding depression via the medium of crushing riffs. As with any good post-metal record, there’s plenty of light and shade; the vocals swing between sombre melodies and almost Jamey Jasta-like screams, while the riffs juxtapose between clean quiet moments and wall of sound heaviness. It’s long, winding and largely instrumental, with the focus being on the unnerving nature of the music rather than a verse-chorus-verse-solo song structure.
‘Attacus Atlas’ is nine minutes of atmospheric and claustrophobic guitar work. ‘Dylatlov’s Pass’ is a largely ambient interlude that acts as a long respite before the droning noise of ‘The Black Antlers’, while album closer ‘In Awe Before the Rapture’ slowly builds via clean riffs and spoken word passages towards a slow but hypnotic finally.
Post metal is a hard style of music to get right, and despite having some really good moments and starting strong, The Earth is the Sky starts to fade away by the end of the record. It lacks the variety and quality song writing to keep you entertained right to the very end. However, when they’re good, The Moth Gatherer are very good and well worth your time if you’re into this kind of music.
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The amalgamation of black and death metal (often referred to as blackened death) has been successfully utilized by many bands; Dissection and Behemoth perhaps the most distinguished. It’s an unholy union that blends the macabre frostiness of black metal with the tempo and technicality of death metal. Temple of Baal hail from Paris and evoke just that with their latest release, Mysterium (Agonia). Despite being active since 1998 they have only released five full length albums and a handful of splits, one of which being alongside the phenomenal black metal band Sargeist. Momentum really got going in 2003 with the release of Servants of the Beast (Oaken Shield) and from then on the band has become more and more prolific, releasing albums every couple of years.
Their chosen theme of spirituality and religiosity is immediately apparent through the track titles alone, with songs like ‘Lord of Knowledge and Death’, ‘Hosanna’ & ‘Holy Art Thou’ being somewhat of a clue. But fear not, this is no Christian metal atrocity as the band clearly state, “Mysterium can be seen as a collection of meditations and prayers over the mysteries of Faith, directed towards the gods of the left hand path”. This prominent theme is further enforced by ritualistic sections interspersed throughout the record, epitomized in ‘Dictum Ignis’ which is an ideal accompaniment to any satanic ritual.
Aggressive and forceful, ‘Lord of Knowledge and Death’ makes no apologies for its brutal onslaught, a devastating riff interrupts the atmospheric introduction and it’s full on chaos from here on out. The riffs are piercing and well layered for a full, thick sound. Temple of Baal are all about variation, not wanting to stagnate they inject their music with different styles and sounds. ‘Magna Gloria Tua’ begins with a disorientating swirl of noise before unleashing some pummelling death metal, whilst ‘All In Your Name’ employs riffs more akin to the black metal sound. ‘Holy Art Thou’ is bursting with malice; the lyrics “Holy Art Thou!” are growled with utter venom. Exceptional fretwork shines through on the album, and is without a doubt the most memorable component, crushing yet technical and melodic, each riff serves a purpose whilst adding vigour and captivating variation.
Mysterium is a spiritual journey down the left hand path of darkness and iniquity, a remarkable journey that is without doubt unforgettable. Bow down and worship at the Temple of Baal.
Some bands around have names that describe what they are before you have even started listening to the album. Bleak and cold, Hypothermia’s depressive and atmospheric rock music embodies the slow freeze of the condition itself. The album contains a simple mix of introverted, despondent guitar lines that seem to exist outside of conventional timing as they drag their way from beginning to end, driven solely by a mid-paced drum beat.
At 8 and a half minutes long, opener ‘Invokation’ set the tone of the album, introducing the droning chords that runs through virtually the entire record. Each track adds a little extra to the sound, with ‘Svartkonst’ and ‘Regnvals’ introducing vocal and violin lines that murmur beneath the chord lines. The biggest change however comes in with closing track ‘Vy,’ the slightly uplifting harmonies sound positively joyful compared with the previous tracks and prove relief from the monotonously depressive sound.
Svartkonst (Agonia) captures the feel of early Forgotten Tomb’s acoustic tracks, however Hypothermia has crafted sound that relies far more on the subtle layering of parts than most bands. Distorted riffs, string sections and vocal flourishes hide beneath the tide of jangled guitar chords, slowly adding colour to the droning tone that purveys throughout.
With no main focal point, this album could easily be passed up as background music or dismissed as sounding empty and without focus, but this would be a mistake. For those listeners willing to give the album a chance there is a lot of to gain from the sound. Svarkonst will take you on a 35-minute journey though some of the bleakest emotional paths, with only those who can make it through to the end of the album provided with the faintest glimmer of relief.
It’s all been quiet on the front lines recently when it comes to Polish extreme metal band, Infernal War. Forming in 1997, the band took 3 years to produce their first demo, following it on with a small stream of releases leading up to their debut album, 2005’s Terrorfront. For a band that has survived that many years, their releases have always been sporadic with only 2 full-length albums and 2 EPs under their belt since they released their original demo in 2000, but with the quick successive release of their second full length Redesekration (both Agonia) in 2007, it seemed that the band were finally about to start making their mark on the scene.
After Redesekration however the quintet seemed to return to their old pattern of smaller releases, putting out just a handful of tracks across a number of different records, including a split with fellow Polish black metal band Kriegsmaschine. Finally, 2015 sees the return of the band with their third full-length album, Axiom (Agonia).
Where Axiom differs from the previous albums is not a change in sound, but a redefining of the old style into something tight and succinct. Blasting its way though 43 minutes of chaotic drums and staccato riffing, their music takes on a frantic urgent feel, racing through the song as vocalist Herr Warcrimer barks their hateful mantra. While Axiom has its moments, ‘Into Dead Soil’ pausing in the middle for flying guitar solo or the dropping back to half time for sections of ‘Nihil Prayer’, it fails to carve out any kind of lasting impression.
Axiom may have taken on a new level of togetherness in terms of sound but in between the blasting it’s hard to find anything particularly interesting or unique about this band.
Funny old thing, this heavy metal. Back in the day, there was a time when the Swedish Death metal scene could do no wrong – it was the epicentre of some of the most ferocious and infectious records. Perhaps it is the old thing of familiarity breeding contempt rather than content, but not everything of late from the Swedish scene has been dusted in aural gold. Thank heavens (or should I say thank the Satanic depths?) then, for the return of Demonical and this brutal and highly effective four track EP that doesn’t just remind everyone how this sort of thing needs to be done but reaffirms any doubts one might have had that Demonical might have softened in their old age.
Black Flesh Redemption (Agonia) is a death metal EP with a blackened, scabrous heart – filthy, furious and really rather fun. In much the same way that sometimes only something nasty and dirty will satisfy, so this EP arrives, does its stuff and exits, leaving you wanting more. For a band that specialise in dark brutality the production on this release is surprisingly perky and clean. You can hear the, dare I say it, dextrous musicianship allied to the blood curdling vocals that create the visceral thrill that only death metal can bring.
The delicious irony that death metal can be life-affirming is perhaps best extolled on ‘Throne of Perdition’ which grinds and pounds the listener into metaphoric dust. Similarly, anyone who doesn’t get a vicarious thrill from ‘Cursed Liberation’ is probably reading the wrong website.
Look, I know this and you know this: Demonical were never going to be tearing down the architecture of Swedish death metal and pushing the musical envelope. In fairness, this EP has none of those ambitions. However, as an example in how to do death metal and do it very well indeed, you could do much worse than park your ears here for a while.
Being weird used to be so much easier. In the 80’s and early 90’s all you needed to do was throw in a bit of keyboards, some cod-operatic singing and the odd electronic boing noise and you were a maverick genre-bending genius. Unfortunately for the weirdos, there’s nothing like two decades of repetition to normalise even the boldest experiment, and in 2015 being weird is harder than ever.
That was a very round-about way of saying that, although Code seem desperate to be seen as “progressive” or “avant-garde”, there’s very little on Mut (Agonia) that you won’t have heard before. Having now entirely shed their Black Metal origins, the core sound here could best be described as [cough, spit] “post-rock”, though more dynamic and catchy than is generally the case. A strong grasp of theatrics and a tendency towards the carnivalesque often calls to mind a more straight-laced, Rock-steady take on La Masquerade Infernale (Misanthropy) era Arcturus.
Whether or not Mut is truly “experimental” or “weird” is, of course, much less important than whether or not it’s actually any good, but I’ve been putting that off so far because it’s a considerably harder question to answer. Code have a solid grasp of song-writing dynamics, and there are some effectively catchy tracks on here, but they also have a tendency to indulge their “quirky” side to an extent that can become tiresome quickly. They also haven’t quite reconciled their catchy, carnivàle instincts with their new-found “post-rock” contemplative side, which can lead to some rather dull passages stretching between interesting sections.
If this review has leaned towards the negative so far, that’s only part of the story. Mut is a boldly written, tightly performed album with enough of its own identity to bring it out – at least partly – from the long shadows cast by its “avant garde” Black Metal forefathers and the Nerd Kings of post-rock, and there are going to be plenty of people out there who will enjoy it a lot more than I did. Ultimately, however, the overriding impression at this end was that of a band so enamoured with their own strangeness that they don’t quite deliver enough beyond it.
With their last proclamation Carrion Skies (Code666), British band Fen let the Black Metal flood back into their sound, releasing their strongest album to date and ultimately featuring in the Ghost Cult Magazine Top 40 Albums of 2014. In celebration of opening the sluice gates, front man The Watcher revealed the depth of his Black Metal love by unveiling his Top 5 unsung oft overlooked underground treasures
Setherial – Nord (Napalm Records – 1996)
Cold. That’s the one overriding word to sum up this furious blast of mid-nineties Swedish black metal – cold. Freezing, even. Taking its cues fairly heavily from Emperor’s seminal In the Nightside Eclipse (Candlelight) album, Nord strips backs the keyboards whilst simultaneously cranking up the intensity levels considerably. Riff after riff of freezing melody pours forth across thundering percussion, lengthy songs (the opener alone is nearly 12 minutes long) buoyed by relentless twists and turns. An exhilarating, windswept listen and serious contender for black metal’s finest hour.
Diabolical Masquerade – Nightwork (Avantgarde Music – 1998)
Anders Nystrom may be much better known for his “day job” in Katatonia but back in the mid-90s, as the mysterious Blakkheim he released four records of haunting, horror-themed black metal under the banner of Diabolical Masquerade. The pick is undoubtedly the third full-length Nightwork, a peak-laden brace of songs replete with infections fretwork, searing melody and an underlying sense of humour. This isn’t at all to detract from the ‘abandoned mansion’ atmospherics of the album and Nightwork simply oozes a convincing crepuscular ambience in amongst the riffage.
Armagedda – Ond Spiritism (Agonia – 2004)
From pure early Darkthrone worship on their debut to ‘fist-in-the face’ muscular black metal on ‘Only True Believers’ to occult-themed dungeonesque roamings, Sweden’s Armagedda explored a gamut of expressions within their short, three-album career. Swansong ‘Ond Spiritism’ is the peak – a lengthy, sprawling opus with an undeniable cloak of darkness wafting across the whole thing. Graav’s guttural croak spits venom in his native Swedish whilst the guitars and bass swirl like a thick fog. Absorbing and unsettling work from the young Swedes.
Tenebrae in Perpetuum – Antico Misticismo (Debemur Morti – 2006)
Yet another band who are no longer with us, Tenebrae in Perpetuum specialised in a particularly brittle, shrill form of frozen melodic black metal – made particularly surprising by the fact that they were actually Italian! Mainman Atratus’ guitar sound is one of the most distinctive you’ll hear – a treble-heavy, reverb soaked saw that nonetheless manages to convey the band’s excellently-developed sense of melody and song structure. All three of their full-length releases are worth tracking down so consistent is their quality but Antico Misticismo probably edges it thanks to a couple of genuinely spine-tingling moments.
Obsidian Tongue – A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time (Hypnotic Dirge – 2013)
The most recent release on this list and hopefully a band who won’t remain ‘hidden’ for too much longer, this US-based duo ply their trade with a particularly punishing brand of “Post” black metal. Building on the template laid down by the so-called ‘Cascadian’ sound (Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room et al), Brendan Hayter and Greg Murphy lay down a serious challenge on their sophomore effort here. Winding passaged of considered guitar, inventive percussion and a darker atmosphere than many of their peers render them a real one to watch. That they can pull it off live is just the icing on the cake.
The Watcher was speaking to STEVE TOVEY