ALBUM REVIEW: Schammasch – Hearts of No Light

Never judge a book by its cover, kids. It’s a good lesson. Listen to your mother more often, you’ll learn something. I only bring up this time-worn adage because I was too quick and judged Schammasch‘s latest Hearts of No Light (Prosthetic Records) based on the merits of album title and art. What? I saw it and therefore immediately assumed it was another self-important Black Metal release that would ultimately sound like it was recorded in an old washing machine filled with loose gravel, nails and an uncomfortable badger. Continue reading

Mork – Eremittens Mal

I’ll be honest I really wanted to start the review with a Mork calling Ghost Cult gag. I mean REALLY wanted to, had it planned out and everything. The problem being is that Eremittens Mal (Peaceville) is such a damn good album it kind of felt wrong to pluck that low hanging fruit. Mork is a Norwegian one-man black metal band and a damn good one at that. Continue reading

How Do You Scream? An Interview With Katie Gallagher

Photo by Petteri Lamula

New York Fashion Week is a semi-annual series of events when international fashion collections are shown to buyers, the press and the general public. Coming on September 8th, designer Katie Gallagher will be presenting her seventeenth collection entitled Rain. Unlike any other designer out there, her clothes will be shown to a backing soundtrack that features the likes of The Cure, Burzum, Xasthur, and Hesperius Draco, and this is nothing new. In previous years, she’s presented collections to numerous goth and metal artists songs, and it makes for quite the unique experience. As you’ll read in my interview below, that’s exactly what she wants. Continue reading

PIG, Mortiis, Seraph Sin: Live At The Ruby Lounge, Manchester

First up were Glasgow based Seraph Sin who it must be said were bloody good. A slightly hesitant start but they very quickly broke into their stride. The crowd this evening were kind of small but they didn’t half bounce. Seraphs Sin’s sound is weighted a little bit more towards the metal side than industrial and the mix works well, with a gritty guitar sound and some meaty thrash riffs in the mix they were greeted with a good crowd response.  Continue reading

Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben het Goed II

There is art in being able to give reverence to the founding, cultural milestones of a creative scene in a manner that still maintains a progressive bent and that is also in keeping with developing a wholly separate artistic entity. For while Wiegedood walk a left hand path Continue reading

Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short

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In an age where all the mystique has vanished from the extreme music scene, Drudkh’s uncompromising no live shows/interviews/promo pictures/music videos approach is to be cherished, for it is the music they produce that is the only thing that matters. Of course the flipside to this is that the band are open to unsavoury accusations from those who seek to project their own agendas; despite no association with extremist ideology, Drudkh have been branded a far-right band primarily due to their lyrical references to nationalist Ukrainian poets.

While the four members may still draw inspiration from the glories and failings of their country’s past, it’s likely that the present is currently a far more pressing concern. The conflict in Ukraine shows no sign of abating, and with death and destruction a daily concern, it’s a wonder that they have been able to record a new album. But we should be thankful they have, for tenth full-length release A Furrow Cut Short (all Drudkh releases are Season of Mist) is one of their finest efforts to date.

The first thing one notices after pressing play is just how much passion Drudkh have captured here. The dry post-rock flavours of 2010’s Handful of Stars and the somewhat formulaic approach of 2012’s Eternal Turn of the Wheel have been consigned to the dustbin, with a much-needed injection of self-belief and renewed vigour the order of the day. Opening track ‘Cursed Sons’ follows the traditional Drudkh pattern of rapid, windswept riffing, energised percussion and sorrowful melodies, but is just that much more alive and urgent than on recent efforts, with vocalist Thurios in particular sounding mightily pissed off. The second part of the track slows down towards the end before racing off into an utterly triumphant finish complete with a fantastic guitar melody.

The influence Drudkh have had on current UK darlings Winterfylleth is evident in the magnificent driving riffs and subtle soaring keyboards of ‘To the Epoch of Unbowed Poets’, a stirring call-to-arms that harks back to the glory days of 2004’s Autumn Aurora, conjuring images of soldiers marching to war under a glaring sunset. Elsewhere, ‘Embers’ slows the pace slightly for a thoroughly melodic and more introspective six-odd minutes before the aggression returns with a vengeance on the first part of eighteen minute two-part epic ‘Dishonour’, with part two giving off a strong Burzum feel with its gloomy refrains and vicious, snarled vocals.

This is still main man Roman Saenko’s baby of course. As the main songwriter and guitarist, the man appears to be a bottomless well of creativity, and his guitar playing is capable of evoking emotion like few others. Well versed in black metal lore yet resolute in his vision, Saenko is a true artist who has made a fiercely private band from Eastern Europe into one of the most respected and revered acts in the annals of underground music. The music he and his comrades have captured on A Furrow Cut Short may not quite hit the heights of 2006’s magnificent Blood in Our Wells but it has come pretty damn close. Like all great Drudkh releases, this is an album that reveals more with every listen, a rousing yell of defiance backed by a passionate beating heart.

 

9.0/10

Drudkh community page on Facebook

 

JAMES CONWAY

Keep of Kalessin – Epistemology

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With the departure of long-time vocalist and fan favourite Thebon in 2013 as well as the inevitable backlash from the trve kvlt brigade after flirtations with that most Satanic of institutions Eurovision; the future was not looking bright for Keep of Kalessin. The gap was widening since previous album Reptilian in 2010 and many thought the band had blown it, a depressing development after their successful rebirth in 2003. However, founding member Obsidian Claw refused to admit defeat and after assuming vocal duties has released sixth full-length Epistemology (both Indie Recordings) along with seasoned veterans Vyl and Wizziac along for the ride. It’s a decision that looks set to pay off for the trio, for they have recorded one absolute belter of an album.

For those who would rather cut off their own nuts then listen to another turgid Darkthrone rip-off with an artificially engineered ‘raw’ production job or who refuse to accept that only one-man losers who have never got past copy-and-paste Burzum worship have a monopoly on black metal, Keep of Kalessin are the band for you. Firmly rooted in the melodic side of the genre, although crucially leaving the dual-lead guitars to the Dissection fan boys, the band knows how to pen relatively straightforward compositions that deftly merge brutality and bombast. In short, they are the band that Dimmu Borgir should have become after Death Cult Armageddon (Nuclear Blast). Factor in a high quality, widescreen production job that makes the bass-drum sound like a jack hammer and gives the wailing leads a truly grandiose feel, and you have all the ingredients for a stone-cold classic.

With pretty much all tracks, from the soaring clean vocals and brutal guitar lines of nine-minute opener ‘The Spiritual Relief’ to the choppy melo-death workout of the closing title, following the same expertly written path of pomp and bludgeon, Epistemology may appall traditionalists but will delight those who like to look to the stars as well as into the pits of hell. Thanks for sticking around, guys.

 

8.0/10

Keep of Kalessin on Facebook

 

JAMES CONWAY

 

Sammath – Godless Arrogance

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Let’s get it on the table – Godless Arrogance (Hammerheart) is well played and excellently produced with a good energy. Frontman J. Kruitwagen unleashes powerful, feral howls, and Koos Bos shines with a 36 minute holocaust from behind the kit. This is a decent black metal release with very obvious Gorgoroth and Immortal reference points.

However, for all its competency, like so many faceless corpse-painted albums before it, Godless Arrogance is pointless. It has no personality, no individuality and serves no real purpose. Not every album should, or can be boundary pushing, but sticking rigidly to a style and formula that has been stuck rigidly to for nigh on twenty years by countless others leaves them in the middle of an unspectacular and very large pack.

Black Metal is intrinsically a scene of contradiction – claiming rebellion and anarchy while entrenched in blatant retrospection and reverence to a select few hallowed reference points. But these days it’s a blunted rebellion, stunted by a refusal to move beyond a formula that was first laid down 25 years ago by Bathory and then refined and defined by Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem, Emperor et al.

Staring out the window wistfully, a half-grin plays on the lips as fond memories tickle the brain of a time when black metal was exciting and boasted creativity and diversity, when acts mutated and pushed boundaries. Sadly Godless Arrogance, for all its’ sonic strength and no matter how well played it is, lacks any desire to be anything other than just another black metal album. If they were alone in their Gorgoroth/Immortal worship, then I might think more kindly, but it’s over 20 years since Pure Holocaust (Osmose) and 19 since Antichrist (Malicious). The repetition of sound and style by Sammath and others is well beyond boring now.

 

5.0/10

Sammath on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY