Apocrophex – Æternalis

Taking the spooky-sounding word ‘apocrypha’ and giving it a little tweak, the New Jersey duo of Justin Buell and Pete Colucci became known as Apocrophex in early 2013 and released their initial recording, the Wheels Within Wheels EP (Manicidic) in 2014. Their full-length debut Suspended From the Cosmic Altaar (Manicidic) followed in 2015, and the pair recently recruited French session drummer Kévin Paradis (Benighted, ex-Svart Crown) to work on their new, independently released, album, Æternalis. Continue reading

Lotus Thief – Rervm

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The act of tagging a ‘post’ prefix onto an act which operates uninhibited by the confines of a single genre has become a label for both the fiercely exciting and the odiously pretentious.

Inspired by a 1st Century poem by a mysterious writer Lucretius, which “grazed the ideas of the universality of energy, atomism and rational thought over superstition and free love” apparently.

Rervm (Svart Records) could we have fallen into the pretentious category if it wasn’t for the beguiling nature of the material on offer. Drummer Otrebor also applies his trade in Black Metal act Botanist, but the scope here is much wider, encompassing Space Rock, ambient textures and the majestic and eerie vocals of co-conspirator Bezaelith.

The resulting six tracks weave a rich tapestry of ethereal beauty using Black Metal as the template to explore far more vast and expansive territories. The ambitious nature of such a bold enterprise could have seen the duo fall flat on their faces, yet listening to ‘Dicere Credas’ and ‘Mortalis’ there is rarely a lull in proceedings.

Fully comprehending the multifaceted concept of this grandiose collection is not essential to taking pleasure from the songs herein as these deeply emotive compositions are supported by an outstanding vocal performance which lures you into its vespertine grasp.

Miseras’ bedrock of visceral blastbeats seems an odd foundation on which to build cinematic ethereal textures, yet somehow the duo manage to make this make complete sense. Fashioning a rich tapestry of subtle melodies and haunting ambience, this album dares tread a ground where few heavy bands dare inhabit. “Oh wretched minds, oh blinded hearts” croons Bezaelith. This seductive chanteuse possesses an eerie ability to conjure transcendent beauty in a manner few, save Jex Thoth, are able to muster.

Lush arrangements are gracefully realised eloquently and make for stimulating listening with or without the highbrow concept behind it. The hypnotic voice of Bezaelith works wonders, conjuring many emotions on this esoteric journey into the beyond.

 

What could have been a grandiloquent and somewhat pompous affair, Rervm surpasses expectations with a truly mesmerising set of charismatic material full of soul and charm.

8/10

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ROSS BAKER

Wolvhammer – Clawing Into Black Sun

wolvhammer-clawing album cover

 

It’s not often you find a black metal album you can dance to, but Wolvhammer seem to have produced a sound that does just that. Mixing up doses of black metal with rock sensibilities their music is both dissonant and hooky, meandering into post-metal territories on occasion. The different genres are blended seamlessly, forming an entity where each style is equal and nothing dominates the other.

 

Following on from 2011’s sophomore album, The Obsidian Plains, Clawing into Black Sun (both Profound Lore) may not be a change in style, but it is certainly a completely different beast. It lacks some of the raw aggression that was present in The Obsidian Plains, opting for a more refined approach to the style. The music centers much more heavily around the riffs, downplaying some of the heavy black metal influence from the previous release. The biggest difference however can be found in the vocals, losing some of the raw and harrowing edge.

 

While ‘Death Division’ and ‘The Desanctification’ drip with hatred, ‘Silver Key’ and title track ‘Clawing into Black Sun’ strip back the bleakness, replacing it with more groove-based riffing. Coming in at almost nine minutes long, it is the longest song and really stands out an album underpinned by a melodic edge where many of the tracks charge between rage and refinement. ‘A Light That Doesn’t Yield’ is a dark introspective; its’ melodies poignant and captivating backed by slow-moving harmonies underneath.

Wolvhammer have once again crafted an eloquent and addictive album evolving out the sound of previous work. While it lacks the sheer torment that Obsidian Plains encapsulated, for those that like their black metal polished, buffed and refined, this makes an essential addition to the record collection.

Wolvhammer band photos

8.0/10.0

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CAITLIN SMITH

 

Waxen – Agios Holokauston

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Lo-fi Black Metal is not a genre often associated with especially accomplished playing. Apologists for the style will often talk about how “atmosphere” or “emotion” is more important than technicality, and many artists embrace the DIY values of Punk (if not always the politics) to show that the power to create art is not just in the hands of the skilled or educated. The idea of a one-man bedroom BM project created by Godless Rising and (live) Darkane shredder Toby Knapp, then is an intriguing one – and for once, the end result is pretty much exactly what you’d expect.

 

Knapp makes no attempt to disguise the fact that Agios Holokauston (Moribund) is all about the guitars, and gives a performance that utterly transcends what this sub-genre is usually capable of. At times melodic, grandiose, savage and mournful, Knapp’s playing leads us through a well-crafted and dynamic selection of songs. Catchier than one might expect from lo-fi Black Metal, but none of the aggression or power is sacrificed, and Knapp demonstrates well just how engaging this music can be with a touch more skill behind it.

 

If the strength of Agios Holokauston is the guitar performance, then the weakness is… well, everything else. The programmed drums, in fairness, are perfectly adequate and rather less clicky than is normally the case. However, they are by nature quite characterless, and certainly flat next to the guitar heroics. The vocals, too, fall far short of what’s required; emotionless, monotone shrieking so thoroughly processed that they might as well be electronic noises that fail to add any character or feeling to the songs. This is especially apparent when Waxen explore more contemplative material on ‘Hollow Eyes’, and Knapp is still buzzing away like a robot wasp with no sense of rhythm.

 

An appealing and eminently listenable album, then, but any pleasure you take from listening will inevitably be off-set by the disappointment of imagining how good Agios Holokauston could have been if Knapp had found himself some friends who were as proficient and expressive on drums and vocals as he is on guitar.

 

7.0/10

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RICHIE H-R

 

Goatwhore – Constricting Rage of the Merciless

Goatwhore album cover 2014

 

Goatwhore conjures a musical sound to mind the minute read their name or say it aloud. You know what it stands for, before the words roll off of your tongue. Few modern bands have the grit and the greatness to remain consistently heavy in the face of rising popularity. They are in many ways the Motörhead of their musical generation: without compromise and weakness…. a band that can do no wrong for fans across all of metals fiefdoms and cliques. Certainly there are no Goatwhore haters, only people unaware of them, yet. Maintaining the balance of their message and the quality of their songcraft is the likely secret to their success, beyond some sacred pact with dark forces. Every album is different from the last, yet they never went soft or sold out like some others have. On Constricting Rage of the Merciless (Metal Blade), their sixth album in their 16-year career, Goatwhore rolls up their spiked-sleeves and smashes you in the mouth once again. And you will love it!

 

Where 2012’s Blood for the Master was a little more nuanced and throwback focused, Constricting Rage of the Merciless kicks you with jackbooted foot and maintains the savagery all the way through. The new album has more than a pointed step towards their blackened death metal history, but also carries with it the continued evolution of the sound of recent releases. Opening track ‘Poisonous Existence in Reawakening’ will crush your ear holes with extreme prejudice. Unrelenting blastbeats, deathly sick riffs and the masterful vocals of Rev. L. Ben Falgoust III will make you smile, unless you are dead. In typical fashion for this act, most of the tracks are tight, average under four-minutes each, and have zero B.S. about them. The majestically brutal ‘Unraveling Paradise’ has no less than four different riffs in the song, all of them amazing. Sammy Duet doesn’t rely as much on thrashy pedaling this time around, coming up with some inventive licks and whirling motifs, all that would shame some of the best tech death bands by the way.

 

As was the case on the last album, drummer Zack Simmons demolishes expectations and his kit on every song, inspiring much headbanging and fist-banging. If you have seen the band live, you know Zack is a machine who plays equally well on wax. Tracks such as ‘Baring Teeth for Revolt’ and ‘Reanimated Sacrifice’ are a drum fanatics wet dream. ‘Reanimated…’ as on several tracks herein, sees Rev. Ben switch up his style and make use of different parts of his register vocally. Impressive stuff. Also chipping in with a great chopping riff and a slick, short solo is Duet once again, who continues to enthrall listeners year after year.

 

The bleak and harsh ‘Heaven’s Crumbling Walls of Pity’ flexes the bands black metal muscles again, with a little extra something grim on top. It’s almost like a proggy black metal song you might expect from Ihsahn’s solo work. The ending stanzas are full of cool chords and grooving beats. ‘Cold Earth In Dying Flesh’ is another in a litany of standout, mid-album cuts. It has an eerie intro to set the mood. Not unlike a horror movie soundtrack theme, this slow to simmer beast machine of a song is a great change of pace. Falgoust again just bellows with some of the best vocals he’s ever done. It’s also the longest track on the album; not an epic in length, but with high quality grooves more associated with their other swampy NOLA brethren. When it finally launches into breakneck death thrash territory mid-song, it takes the track to another level without losing the story.

 

‘FBS’ was first played live on the Behemoth tour this spring and is a typical, circle-pit inducing song if there is one on this album. Full of rawness, with two more sweet solos from Sammy. It’s almost punk without being punk, or punk without too much crust. ‘Nocturnal Conjuration of the Accursed’ continues the trend of heady lyrics, and heavy on the evil sounds that is the bands trademark. There is even a little classic metal fun of galloping riffs and thematic soloing. ‘Schadenfreude’ is another gruesome masterpiece. Black metal, death metal and thrash all come together, but in a sensible way you could almost call it American Blackened Thrash. As a style, this would be a worthy counterpart to the Death `n Roll of Scandinavian bands, but much, much more brutal. ‘Schadenfreude’ is also a lyrical masterpiece, with the title defined as enjoying the suffering of others, in this case those whom most deserve it. The album closes with the fitting ‘Externalize this Hidden Savagery’ and sums up the entire album’s intent quite well before its final notes ring out.

 

Goatwhore has made an album nearly worthy of the best work of their career, even though it’s on the short side at under 40 minutes. I doubt you will find a more righteously hostile, fun, and well made album from another heavy band in 2014.

 

goatwhore band

 

9.0/10

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KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES

 

 

Aurvandil – Thrones

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Founded back in 2006, Aurvandil have released only demos, splits and an EP between 2007-2010. The first steps into the full-lengths were done with Yearning, in 2011, and now I declare Aurvandil are a serious confirmation within the atmospheric black metal sub-genre because of the brand new Thrones (Eisenwald). Including four magical hymns of Iron and Ice to cleanse the Earth of false designs, Thrones is able to take our body and soul into the gelid northern landscapes in order to reach the hyperborean purity.

The using of melodic and slow acoustic guitars in the album kick off with ‘For Whom Burnest Thou’ is like a ritualistic moment which is preparing us for this immaculate journey that will transcend us onto glacial rivers and misty mountains. These two environments I just described are personified by heavy and long hypnotic guitar riffs that are beautifully transfigured as cold breezes running in our veins. However, that’s not the only work done with guitars as we have some melodic lead passages that can be seen as black/post metal performances, like in ‘The Harvest Of Betrayal’ or ‘Ingen Lindring’.

Summon The Storms’ may be seen as the epic peak with its almost twenty minutes running time where all Aurvandil characteristics and aesthetics are blended. It’s genial and certainly created through hard work.

The frozen and harsh vocals are heard all along the album; sometimes a little far, but I interpreted this feature as being in an ample landscape. The lyrics include what best defines this kind of music: ancient values and the eagerness to fight a rotting modern world.

I dare to say I haven’t heard such good straight atmospheric black metal album since the day I bought Walknut’s Graveforests And Their Shadows. Thrones is marvelous, iconic, intriguing and devoted to the cause. It’s a must-have for the past-seeking devotees and for those who have embraced the majestic atmospheric black metal movement.

9.0/10

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DIOGO FERREIRA