So, this album is called A Somber Preclusion of Being (Independent), huh? Cool, I’ll give this Vacant Eyes band a try. They’re from Massachusetts too? Great, I like supporting artists from my neck of the woods. What’s the worst that can happen? About seventy-five minutes have gone by and I think I may need a nap. The brain can only take so much. Continue reading
Did you daydream as a kid? Just stare off into nothing and let your imagination run wild? I did. A lot of my early childhood was spent amazed at what my mind could cook up with if I had a lack of books or toys, and before my soul was captured by music. Laying on my back in the grass, seeing shapes in the clouds or constellations at night, that was pure happiness as a kid. I never really stopped chasing that vibe as an adult, because I still drift off and let my brainwaves go crazy. Expect nowadays my field is my headphones and a turntable, and the clouds my mind is chasing down are inside of my eyelids, and not the sky. If you are looking for the ultimate “drop out, tune in, and turn on” soundtrack for 2020, it is definitely going to be Elder’s new opus, Omens (Armageddon Shop/Stickman Records). Continue reading
It just was never meant to be. These aren’t just the rantings of a polluted mind, but my sincere consensus after giving Worshipper‘s sophomore effort Light in the Wire (Tee Pee Records) a few spins. ‘Coming Through’ gets things started and feeling like we’re entering a Baroness type soundscape and I with weed pen in hand await with bated breath. Continue reading
The 1980s was a truly golden age for rock music. As a lot of the successful bands from 1970 transitioned to new era of music competing with heavier styles of rock, New Wave, Punk, Post-Punk and Pop music, many acts had to step up their game to stay alive. While some adapted to new sounds to stay a float and reach for ears and hits, others fell by the wayside. One band that managed to changed while keeping true to what made them great was Van Halen. As proved by their definitive work on 1984 (Warner Bros.), released thirty-five years ago on January 9th, 1984, the album would not only mark the final chapter (at the time) for the David Lee Roth led period of the group, but set a new bench mark for them at the same time.
“Unfortunately Roope and us, we went our separate ways” sighs Children of Bodom master of ceremonies, synths, spells and sonic illusions Janne Wirman as he contemplates the first change in the Finnish symphonic speed metal monsters line-up in over ten years and the departure of axeman Roope Latvala. “I think it matters to the fans too, to not have too many line-up changes” he states, clearly aware of the effect a change of personnel can have on a fan base and their loyalty to certain periods of a bands’ career. “There hasn’t been too many line-up changes ever, and we are a family and need to keep it that way. It was unfortunate what happened with Roope, and one of our strengths had always been that we keep a constant line up.”
Ninth album I Worship Chaos comes riding out of a blizzard on the back of 2013’s Halo Of Blood (both Nuclear Blast), a much vaunted firestorm of a return to form after the disappointments of their previous two releases Blooddrunk and Relentless Reckless Forever (Spinefarm). Darker in places, nonetheless …Chaos covers everything you’d want and expect from a Bodom release. “I think that sums it up. It’s a bit darker, but also catchier and more straightforward” Wirman agrees.
Changing the dynamic at this stage of the game, with a decade long stability broken against the backdrop of a band back on an upward curve, could have been a setback, but the timing of the change wasn’t one that adversely affected the Scandinavians. “(Roope leaving) was right around the end of the writing process, and fortunately the album had been written with two guitars as per normal.” It’s not unknown for one guitarist to record the majority of the part in other bands – indeed, James Hetfield and Scott Ian are known to record everything bar the solos in their not-insignificant bands – and Bodom had a ready-made replacement in mainman Alexi Laiho.
“It was not a problem – it meant Alexi played all the guitars in the studio, which was really not a problem for him because he can play both parts. It sounds crazy, but it wasn’t that different,” confirms Wirman. Seeing as the remaining four Children have been together since 1997, it’s no surprise that the change of second guitarist hasn’t derailed them in the slightest. And in terms of maintaining that family feel, Roope’s replacement was someone well known to the band. Or, at the very least, to the keyboard player.
“My brother, Antti, stepped in to help us with the live shows, because right after studio, we went on tour straight away.” confirms Wirman. “Luckily he had free time to join us for the summer and he is a great guitar player. I always felt he was one of the best ones in Finland, but he never landed a proper band. I’m so glad we’ve found someone within the family we all knew really well and it’s been a lot of fun. He’ll tour with us until the end of the year and then we are going to announce a new member for the band early next year.”
When we spoke about having to respect that which makes Children of Bodom distinctive, one of those elements is Wirman’s own role in the band. From the outset, the band has utilized keys as a lead instrument, and not just for ambience or to pad out a sound. Keys were treated with suspicion by some of the Guardians of Kvlt in the mid-90’s, but they’ve always been at the forefront of the Bodom sound.
“The keyboards are very crucial part of our trademark sound, especially with the early stuff. Then, the keyboards were really in your face and that helped set us apart and gave us a unique sound. Over the years we’ve experimented with things, sometimes we’ve had complaints that there are not enough keyboards on certain albums. I’m happy where we are at now with the sound; the new album sounds how it should sound keyboard-wise”. Including a sparring match between Wirman and Laiho. “That whole song, ‘All Or Nothing’, is pretty non-CoB-ish! But we decided it’s our ninth album, we can do what the fuck we want, so we put some weird-ass jam in there!”
Yet, playing keys in 2015 is a different beast to Wirman’s early days with the band. “It was very different when we started. We are so fucking old that our first 3 albums were recorded on tape, on DAT, and that was a huge pain in the ass!” he laughs. “You couldn’t do any of the quick fixes. With hard drive recording you can just hit undo if you fuck up something. Back then, you really had to know how to play, you had to practice whole passages and really, really nail them. I’m glad we’re that old we had to use the tape machines, because I would definitely be lesser of a musician if I didn’t have to do it that way.”
“I’m going to be producing a pop singers album”, Wirman continues, divulging that after recording the Bodom album at his own studio he is exploring his opportunities as a producer. “Then I’m recording an album for my brother’s new band. I love to do the studio and I’m hoping to do more work with that.
“But as much as love studio work, and I hope to do more of it when I have free time, for me the live, touring side of Children of Bodom is my main thing. We release albums to go back on tour. When the crowd is going mad, and you’re part of that, that’s the best thing!”
And as Wirman prepares for that rush of touring once again, what will the legacy of I Worship Chaos be? To those outside the band Halo Of Blood is hailed as the comeback album… What of its successor? “Maybe it’s an external feel, as it wasn’t quite like that for us. Though we keep hearing it; a lot of people are saying that Halo…was a comeback and this is a continuation. So, it must be true!” he laughs, with a modest tone in his voice.
“There is always pressure at this point in our career. You want to keep it fresh but not alienating all your fans, and have to keep all the key elements in there too. Judging by the feedback and the reviews, we have succeeded with this new album.”
WORDS BY STEVE TOVEY
While folk metal may revel in being the life and soul of the party, its slightly more bookish cousin pagan metal is more likely to be found attempting to educate listeners about cultural heritage and ancient lore than waving a plastic sword around and extolling the virtues of wenches and mead. German septet Finsterforst (Dark Forest) may wear war paint but apart from that they’re gimmick free and are more interested in taking the listener on a journey of discovery via the medium of epic-length songs, full-blooded metal passion and a hearty sense of ambition.
With a crystal-clear production that allows every instrument to breathe and an impressively nuanced approach to songwriting, fourth full-length Mach Dich Frei (Napalm) which translates as ‘set yourself free’, carries on the epic and stirring tradition begun on debut release Weltenkraft (World Chaos Production) back in 2007. Influenced by the likes of Moonsorrow and Falkenbach, the band offer a variety of styles over the course of eight lengthy tracks, from the mid-paced stomp of ‘Zeit für Hass’ to the more hook-driven refrains of the title track, all the while ensuring that while grandiose may be the order of the day, things never get out of hand.
Traditional instrumentation plays a big part in the record with the braying horns of keyboardist Sebastian Scherrer in particular lending proceedings a cinematic feel. The guttural Teutonic lyrics of vocalist Oliver Berlin may soar over the heads of many listeners but his delivery is full of passion and grit, while the dual guitar attack switches tempos with ease, no better demonstrated on twenty-three minute closing track ‘Finsterforst’ which features everything from classy melodic interplay to snarling black metal whilst remaining exciting and authentic throughout.
Although a seventy-three minute album will be far too long for many listeners, the sheer quality of songwriting on Mach Dich Frei is enough to warrant many repeated spins and the band deserve every success in reward for their efforts to inform and entertain.
Following up from their demo Season of Sacrifice earlier in the year, Amidst the Trees (Forever Plagued) is the debut album from Finnish two-piece Taatsi. Taking their name from a sacrificial stone located in northern Finland, everything about the band image conveys a connection to nature and ancient spirituality, retreating from humanity and returning to the earth. It is apt then that they describe themselves as ‘Nature Mystical Black Metal,’ with each track fitting firmly within atmospheric black metal.
At just 30 minutes long, the album cycles through keyboard melodies backed by mid-paced guitar harmonies and topped off with distant screeches from vocalist A. When done well, atmospheric black metal can transport the listener to cold and distant lands, carving out vast mental landscapes of forests and mountainous peaks. Taatsi however have failed to inspire, lending more to directionless meandering lacking any real sense of progression.
While the keyboards go some way to creating mystery, from opening track ‘Malign Ghost of the Wood’ to closing track ‘Hunts in the Night’s Mind,’ they dominate the sound, forming a constant barrage of noise.It doesn’t take long for the sound to become tiring and repetitive, lacking in any real inspiration or new ideas throughout with only slight changes of style in tracks like ‘Gateways of the North’.
Amidst the Trees has nothing new or inspiring about it. The constant inoffensive and repetitive nature of the album leaves it languishing and ultimately, although the album plays at earthly spirits and ancient wisdom, it fails to really inspire or capture any depth of the imagination.
Tatsi is too kvlt for Facebook