The early nineties was an exciting experimental and developmental time for the genre of Folk Metal. The German outfit SuidAkrA took on this evolving style and meshed it up with Black Metal on their debut album, Lupine Essence that was released in 1997. They were able to uniquely harmonize the two genres and create a memorable and meaningful record that is still considered with reverence in the Black/Folk/Celtic Metal scenes. Now the band is re-releasing their early work with original member Arkadius Antonik remastering each track himself. With new artwork, bonus tracks, and its first release on vinyl, these multi-genre metal veterans are getting a chance to properly present their initial material. Continue reading
Over 35 years ago, Fates Warning was one of the main trailblazers and influencers in the Progressive Metal movement. With so much history, there has been a lot of lineup changes throughout the years, but the band has always been known for its exploration and expansion of the scene. Even today this East Coast act is still examining their special sound. Earlier this month FW released their newest full-length album, Long Day Good Night (Metal Blade Records). These boys went big and completed 13 songs to celebrate their 13th full-length release. The group took their time to dig deep into their assorted inclinations to expose the wealth they found there.
Over thirty years ago, England’s own Carcass came to the scene and shared their glorification of grind and gore. The unhinged and manic sound they conjured found an audience and quickly gained popularity, along with their contemporaries Napalm Death and Godflesh. The surge of the extreme had its time in the sun, but after their 10 year hiatus, Carcass came back in a slightly different mood. In 2013, the group took their well-known viciousness and molded it in with more melody on their sixth full-length, Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast). They married Grindcore and Melodic Death Metal on that record which got a lot of attention and reminded everyone why these guys are such an original act. After seven years, the band is back again with their EP, Despicable (Nuclear Blast). In just four songs, Carcass takes their significant union of sounds and exemplifies them with new levels of pandemonium. Continue reading
Viking Metal started out by combining the epic energy of Black Metal with the mystical grace of Folk music. Enslaved is a band at the pinnacle of this heavy, Nordic sound. Starting out as teenagers, this Norweigian act has successively enhanced the Scandinavian metal scene for nearly thirty years. Their beginnings were more in the realm of the extreme, but over time Enslaved has not been afraid to dip into other genres like Prog Rock and Jazz. It’s encouraging to witness their ability to be undaunted by their explorations while still being true to their Viking roots. Their new fifteenth full-length album, Utgard (Nuclear Blast) verifies their astute ambition of experimentmentation and expression.
Formed nearly a quarter of a century ago, Twisted Tower Dire is one of those bands that never made it big, but has always been likable and consistent in their music. This Virginia-based act has been rather quiet since their last release, Mark It Dark (Cruz del Sur Music) in 2011, but now they’re back with a much-anticipated new record. Their sixth full-length album, Wars In The Unknown (No Remorse Records), boasts about how this quartet can still accomplish solid and entertaining Heavy Metal. Continue reading
Having started off like so many Swedish death metal bands by worshipping at the putrid altar of Entombed on debut album The Horror (Pulverised), Arvika upstarts Tribulation clearly weren’t content to merely rehash the work of the elders, as demonstrated by sophomore record The Formulas of Death (Invictus), a lengthy concept piece that won them many admirers despite not straying too far from established templates. All that has changed now with third effort The Children of the Night (Century Media), which save for snarled vocals and horror themed lyrics, is a classic heavy metal record, far more interested in melody and catchy songs than aggression and violence.
Aided by a lo-fi, vintage production which isn’t a million miles away from the kind of vibe Opeth have been cultivating on their past two albums, the music on The Children of the Night rarely gets above mid-paced; those who came here expecting blastbeats and tremolo picking will be sorely disappointed. Instead we get some fantastic guitar interplay between Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hulten that dart and weave amidst each other like a pair of bats dancing at twilight.
A lot of influence appears to have been taken from both Watain’s Lawless Darkness (Century Media), and last year’s final In Solitude record Sister (Metal Blade), especially on the vaguely groovy gothisms of ‘In the Dreams of the Dead’, while the sinister melodies and big stomping riffs of ‘Winds’ is like Iron Maiden if Steve Harris was forced to watch repeated showings of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.
There’s also a strong yet subtle Sisters of Mercy feel to the album, noticeably on the achingly hip ‘The Motherhood of God’ with its irresistibly danceable rhythms and morose, melodic verses. The songwriting throughout the record is full of surprises, from the catchy chugging riffs of opener ‘Strange Gateways Beckon’ to the mysterious doomy refrains of closing track ‘The Motherhood of God.’ One gripe is that the record is ten minutes too long and where instrumentals should be used to build atmosphere, the two tracks here go nowhere and should have been culled. That said, The Children of the Night is a brave record from an exceedingly talented set of musicians who are just that more subtle when it comes to what style of darkness works best.
Rock and Shock 2014 in Worcester, Massachusetts was arguably the best yet. Previously, R&S never had a great pre-party show that ever caught my eye. This year however, they put all the previous year’s pre-parties to rest. The sold out Worcester Palladium crowd was greeted to underrated opening band, Jess and the Ancient Ones, which set the scene of an occult ritual. This was only a prelude to the pre-party as the night concluded with an amazing show from the legendary, King Diamond. Having it been almost a decade since the King’s previous show in the area, the anticipation for his set to begin was almost unbearable. Before we get to The King, I believe Jess and the Ancient Ones deserve quite a good amount of praise.
Not ever listening to a single note that JATAO have recorded, I was very interested in what was so special about this band that King Diamond himself handpicked for his North American Tour. A fellow fan in the cramped pit filled me in that this band had a similar vibe to that of Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats as well as Ghost B.C. and other similar occult/psychedelic rock bands. His description was very accurate and only after half of the set was I finding myself in love with this band. The 70’s rock vibe mixed with Jess’s amazing vocals and her dance moves on stage really set the mood for what this night was all about. My personal favorite track was the 12-minute epic entitled ‘Sulfur Giants’ in the middle of the set. Not knocking any of the other tracks played (‘Prayer for Death and Fire’, ‘Astral Sabbat’, and ‘Casteneda’ to name a few) but this song gave me the same “Wow” factor as Blood Ceremony’s ‘Oliver Haddo’ does. Unfortunately we only got 6 tracks from Jess and The Ancient Ones, but it was a willing sacrifice for what was to come.
As soon as the crew on stage started setting up, a giant black tarp fell down from the ceiling and blocked our view. So as if the anticipation was bad enough, it just got worse. However, the long wait finally ended, the tarp fell, and slowly but surely each member of the band made their way up the staircase behind the drum kit. Finally, King Diamond, made his way up the same staircase, holding his cross-shaped microphone, made out of human bones, in the air. Then the evil ritual began as the first note of ‘The Candle’ was struck. Upside down crosses, a giant pentagram, and a creepy iron caste fence between the band and the crowd, made the atmosphere complete as the fans attempted to hit King’s falsettos (and failed miserably mostly). Fan favorites such as ‘Sleepless Nights’, ‘Eye of the Witch’, ‘The Family Ghost’, and ‘Welcome Home’ (complete with Gramma!) got the Palladium’s volume to ear deafening levels. Of course what would a King Diamond show be without a couple of tracks from Mercyful Fate? Well we got two tracks which made me more than happy. In fact, the entire floor started moving the instant the ever familiar riff to ‘Evil’ started and did not calm down until after ‘Come to the Sabbath’ ended. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when Gramma made another appearance during ‘Tea’ with, yes you guessed it, some tea in a tea kettle for King! It is without a doubt that the downside to this evening for all was after the 14 songs had been played and the night came to an end.
Overall, this night will be one of my favorite shows this year, let alone ever. King Diamond’s vocals were beyond what I expected out of the man who has been doing this for over 30 years and is a survivor from a triple bypass surgery. As equally as astounding is how great Jess and the Ancient ones ended up being. Sure some fans wanted Ghost or 3 Inches of Blood, but JATAO certainly made a statement on this night opening up for such a legendary name. I can only hope that when this new King Diamond album comes out (whenever that is) that I get the privilege of seeing him tour once more. If you were foolish enough to not attend or simply did not live close enough to a stop on this tour, then you best hope for a second chance.
WORDS: TIM LEDIN