Over the years I have slowly come around to liking more black metal projects, but none do more justice than those that focus on the atmosphere that brings you on a journey. British Columbia’s own Liminal Shroud does just this on their second full-length, All Virtues Ablaze(Willowtip Records). In just under forty minutes (across only four tracks), this album will be sure to be part of many conversations towards the end of the year.Continue reading →
Featuring members of Wayfarer and Blood Incantation, Stormkeep plays Melodic Black Metal with a particularly epic flair. Their first full-length album, Tales of Othertime (Van Records), reflects great deal of influence from such groups as Dissection, Emperor, and Old Man’s Child. The production is claustrophobically atmospheric without getting too raw, the guitar sweeps are flamboyantly choppy, the vocals put in the expected rasps with the occasional cleans shining through, and the keyboards reinforce the theatrical aura without completely dominating the proceedings.
The songwriting also plays a fun game of contrasts with the six tracks consisting of four lengthy runs supplemented by a couple Dungeon Synth instrumentals. ‘The Citadel’ is a particularly striking example of the latter at work, putting in the sort of medieval swells and lonely trickles that would do Summoning proud, while ‘A Journey Through Storms’ makes for the most triumphant showing of the more orthodox Black Metal excursions. The album is very of its influences but with Stormkeep executing these tropes with such sincere fervor, the enthusiasm is contagious.
8 / 10
Wraith – Undo The Chains
Indiana’s Wraith has always been an enjoyable addition to the post-Midnight/Toxic Holocaust school of Blackened Thrash bands riding a gritty formula that is often simple but hard to truly screw up. Their third album, Undo The Chains (Redefining Darkness Records), shakes up the formula with some extra dynamics. Though still featuring a familiar mix of grimy riffs and filthy vocals, the band plays around with tempos more than before.
This is most apparent with the slow grind of the midway highlight ‘Time Wins’ though other tracks like ‘Gatemaster’ and ‘Cloaked In Black’ put in more mid-tempo chugs. Of course, there’s still plenty of fast hearty Thrash to go around and they even snuck a bit of Punk into ‘Born To Die’ and ‘Disgusting.’ Wraith albums always make fun listening for fans of the genre, but Undo The Chains is easily their best rounded effort.
8 / 10
Morgul Blade – Fell Sorcery Abounds
Morgul Blade’s first full-length is driven by a sound best described as Blackened Heavy Metal. The guitar leads and riffing patterns are driven by a dark Mercyful Fate-esque overcast with some tinges of Power Metal-inspired triumph while the vocals are in a near constant tug-o-war between baritone bellows and legible screeches. The production maintains a distant yet coherently grandiose haze all the while and there’s even a couple dedicated spots for some Synth layers to shine.
With these varying elements in a state of integrating and pulling apart, this would raise concerns that Fell Sorcery Abounds (No Remorse Records) is an incohesive listen. While ‘The Morgul Blade’ and ‘A Last Waltz of Gevaudan’ open on the album’s grimmest notes, things soon settle into an ominously anthemic air that comes through the most strongly on ‘In The Grip Of The Dark Lord,’ the Grim Reaper-esque ‘Sons Of The Night,’ and ‘The Five Will Ride at Dawn.’ I must admit the album might’ve benefitted from a consistently more upbeat pace, but this is a fun listen that lays down a neat template to develop even further.
8 / 10
The Night Eternal – Moonlit Cross
Coming off their 2019 self-titled EP, The Night Eternal’s first full-length does a lot to conjure the memory of In Solitude. Their Gothic tendencies are somewhat understated in comparison, but the combination of yelping baritone vocals and dark Mercyful Fate-inspired guitar acrobatics results in a similar blend of Doomy Traditional Metal. The first half is solid enough with ‘Son Of Sin’ putting in a particularly nifty Maiden-esque series of gallops.
The second half is where Moonlit Cross (Van Records) really picks up; ‘Shadow’s Servants’ is an enjoyable mid-tempo rocker and the rhythms on ‘Prison Of Flesh’ boast some forward momentum along with some extra conviction in the vocals that carries over nicely into ‘Closeness In Suspension’ and the closing title track. A rearranged track order might’ve made for an even more cohesive listen, but this is ultimately a fun niche effort.
8 / 10
Tower – Shock To The System
It’s been five years since TOWER released their self-titled debut, but their second album picks up where its predecessor left off. Shock To The System (Cruz Del Sur Music) continues to straddle the line between Hard Rock and Classic Metal with gritty rhythms, flailing twin guitars, and unhinged vocals ala Savage Master and Solicitor.
There’s been some solid developments in the songwriting as tracks like ‘Prince of Darkness,’ ‘Lay Down The Law’ and ‘In Dreams’ benefit from more fleshed out structures while ‘On The Line’ and the closing ‘Powder Key’ make for some hard-hitting rough and tumble Speed Metal. It’s a simple but effective execution that should sit well with old school Heavy Metal fans.
Colorado’s The Flight of Sleipnir has maintained a consistent but eclectic sound for nearly fifteen years, mixing Doom and Atmospheric Black Metal with elements of Folk and Prog Rock in a way that should sit well with fans of Agalloch. Their seventh album mostly adheres to this genre blend and boasts the fuller production that was last seen on 2017’s Skadi. However, Eventide (Eisenwald) manages to tweak the formula as those Blackened elements seem to be upfront than before.
Formed in 2016, Devon’s Cistvaen are building a solid reputation for themselves within the UK extreme metal scene. Taking their name (literally translating to “stone chest”) from a type of ancient burial chamber often found in the South West of England, the five-piece’s brand of doomy atmospheric black metal suits them down to the ground.
Minneapolis is not a frigid northern waste year-round, but it’s a good stand-in for Scandinavia on a frosty winter day. The music that comes from there often conjures the heartless sounds of the birthplace of Black Metal. While also being home to the funky sex god Prince (RIP), the region has notably given us many great modern USBM bands to hand our hats on. The greatest may very well be False, as the sextet continues to hone their sound to perfection. I won’t event front, I have been a huge fan for some time and while they are “emerging” to mainstream ears, I have been down since the beginning, with several EP’s and splits most prized among my collection. So of course, I was amped for the release of Portent (Gilead Media), their new full-length album, so I got ready to dive in hard. Continue reading →
When you think of thriving underground metal scenes, Italy may not be the first place that springs to mind; but it is one that is criminally overlooked and that in recent years has become a hotspot for creativity bubbling under the surface. One of the most important players in this scene is the ever-reliably great Avantgarde Music, who have championed and showcased plenty of great Italian acts (as well as from other locales) such as Selvans, Progenie Terrestre Pura and the subject of this review Enisum. Continue reading →
Right from the offset, Black Metal has always been a genre that has championed the more esoteric aspects of art. Whether that being in the challenging music itself, or in its purveyor’s presentation, it is also a style of music has always thrived in mystique and continues to do so to this day. Shrouded in mystery with an almost hidden identity, Swiss solo musician Asknt has been (partly or wholly) responsible for a number of varied projects over the years, most recently with the full-length debut of DSKNT, PhSPHR Entropy (Sentient Ruin Laboratories).Continue reading →
In recent years there has been a boom within the Black Metal scene of bands embracing a more melodic, often delicate and ambient side to the genre. Where bands such as the likes of Alcest and Agalloch (although vastly different, they share some ground in Black Metal’s evolution in recent times) adopted more ambiance and earthy atmospheres were surprising and evolutionary, nowadays such acts are much more commonplace, and thus the cream of the crop becomes harder to stand out. Continue reading →
There isn’t much in terms of smoke and mirrors when it comes to Void Ritual’s debut LP, Heretical Wisdom (Tridroid Records). It’s a straightforward black metal album through and through. And that’s a great thing. In a subgenre where it’s far too easy to coast on cliché and spectacle, a little earnest effort goes a long fucking way.Continue reading →