Vaiya – Remnant Light

The two most overused words in the Black Metal lexicon: “cold” and “atmospheric”, but it is these two words that rather fittingly describe Vaiya‘s Remnant Light (Nordvis/Bindrune), a 2017 re-release of a three-year-old album self-produced by Vaiya mastermind Rob Allen. And if you didn’t know that Vaiya is a one-man project from the decidedly un-cold and un-atmospheric Melbourne, Australia, you would be forgiven for thinking this album was born in some Scandinavian forest. Continue reading

Paradise Lost – Symphony For The Lost

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Set against a stunning and wholly appropriate backdrop of the genuine Ancient Roman Amphitheatre of Philippopolis in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Symphony For The Lost (Century Media), a double CD and DVD package, is a culmination of a seed germinated and cultivated over a decade before being actualized in a unique and special moment for a band that has made a genuine and lasting impact on European metal and beyond, as Halifax’ finest, Paradise Lost, achieve a long-held ambition of performing with a full orchestra (the Plovdiv Philharmonic) and the Rodna Pesen choir.

Split into two halves, the first set is the band performing a selection of tracks specifically chosen due to their natural allegiance to classical music – accompanied by the full orchestra and choir – beautifully scored by Levon Manukyan, known for classically reworking Marilyn Manson and Judas Priest along with collaborating with Tarja Turunen.

While Paradise Lost’s music does lend itself to the swells, crescendos and additional trimmings expertly and subtly applied by Manukyan, containing a lot of space, it is particularly pleasing how compatible the partners in this marriage are. While Metallica’s S&M (Vertigo) was a spotted affair, the eight tracks of collaboration here are perfect bedfellows, with ‘Victim of the Past’ from The Plague Within (Century Media) in particular enriched  by the additional melodies and strings that dance over the intro and weave into the tapestry of the song.

‘Tragic Idol’ is a classy opener, and throughout Nick Holmes is in good voice while Gregor Mackintosh’s distinctive melancholic leads intertwine with the strains and descants flowering around him, before we are treated to a jaw-dropping, mesmeric rendition of ‘Joys of Emptiness’; the iconic (sic) track truly resplendent in darkest majesty. The doom-grandeur of ‘Gothic’ is the natural conclusion to a special first half of the show.

The one nagging disappointment is that, as with exposure to any good thing, the desire is, naturally, to want more, and the second half of the set, performed sans embellishments,  leaves you wishing that they had the same orchestral touches and enhancements, particularly as the backing tracks splice in synths, strings and female vocals. It’s a minor quibble, as the band polish off the latter nine tracks with style and panache.

Deliberately eschewing the option of being too dramatic or cinematic with the shooting, the direction is an understated warts-and-all that suits the band, as does Holmes dry self-deprecating between song wit. The overall release is truly completed by the brilliant Bulgarian crowd, as you can feel their love for PL, and their gratitude at witnessing something special, in their honest appreciation and participation.

Paradise Lost is one of Britain’s greatest, most distinctive and influential bands. Symphony For The Lost is a fitting addition to their career and a well-deserved achievement.

 

8.5/10

 

STEVE TOVEY

Graveworm – Ascending Hate

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With Ascending Hate (AFM) the Italian Symphonic Black Metal band Graveworm presents their ninth studio album – a beastie that has been three and a half years in the making, but well worth the wait!

One of my favourite elements on this album is the piano which is overlaid on the music, for instance in ‘Downfall of Heaven’ or ‘Rise Again’; the contradiction between the black metal and the more sensitive piano really adds depth to the compositions. Another contradiction that really made me happy was that between the music and the lyrics in songs like ‘Blood Torture Death’ as never before have lyrics like those been sung of such a cheerful melody.

The opening track, ‘The Death Heritage’, is one of the highlights on this album, and sets the bar really high. It has a nice acoustic intro on classical guitar, which is then penetrated by heavy, electric distorted guitar before the metal ensues, with blast-beats and grunts, and you can really appreciate the skills that went into the composition. The guitars add melodies that support the growls, and the synth-heavy breaks are also very tasteful and mysterious.

‘To The Empire of Madness’ has very good drumming, and a lovely acoustic break which is interspersed with more metal. The guitar riffs are once again excellent and the grunts, like the rest of the song, are very dynamic, meaning that it holds the attention from start to finish. The acoustic outro is one of the many points on the album where you really get to admire the skill and tastefulness of guitarists Eric Righi and Stefan Unterpertinger.

‘Stillborn’ features yet more incredible instrumentation from all musicians, with a slower pace but is very intense. ‘Liars to the Lions’, on the other hand, is very fast, but it also contains those intense melancholic sections that Graveworm excels at, while despite the clear and polished sound, ‘Sons of Lies’ has a lovely gritty atmosphere. The switch that Stefano Fiori makes between his low and high grunts is one of the reasons I really enjoyed this track.

The closing number of the album is ‘Nocturnal Hymns Part II’. The first Nocturnal Hymns featured on the 1999 As Angels Reach the Beauty album (Serenades), and this new version uses the old motifs to create a more modern and heavy song. It is once again very dynamic, and the guitar riffs halfway through really build a lot of tension. I think this is a very strong finish to what is a very strong album, and it is great to have older work reprised this way.

 

8.0/10

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LORRAINE LYSEN

An Autumn For Crippled Children – The Long Goodbye

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An Autumn For Crippled Children have a very credible reputation, one of almost unreserved critical acclaim gained over the four albums that precede The Long Goodbye (Wicker Man), four albums that have established the Dutch post-black metal band as able to combine prolificacy and class in rare measure, and a band whose raison d’etre is in the beautifully dark and melancholic.

And release seven (in six years, for they have also produced two EPs)  will continue that reputation, and starts by snapping the head of the listener to attention with a deformed upbeat Death Rock opening trio that fuse goth-punk, black metal jangle and profound Cascadian melodies. Like a permeating disease, the white noise of distortion sits like an ethereal fog atop the bleak atmospheric music playing beneath its influence, as the dance beneath slows from the Death Rock four-step of the first three songs to a statuesque stall of reflection which subdues the mood.

Whether that is the right play or not depends on whether you’re prepared to accept The Long Goodbye for what it is, rather than what you thought it was going to do, or indeed what you wanted it to do. After the unexpected and pleasing opening, the expected combination of black metal shuffle and despondent atmospheres takes over from ‘When Night Leaves Again’.

Taking it for how it plays out, The Long Goodbye proceeds to unveil post-Black Metal dejection, with songs like ‘Endless Skies’ that segue from gentle mood pieces into evocative and epic movements, before recalling some of the simple touches that impressed from the outset towards the tail, with ‘Gleam’ an expansive story splashed with flickers of Americana that explodes , contradictorily, into an uplifting yet sad beauty in the manner of a Deafheaven.

As mentioned at the outset, An Autumn For Crippled Children have a strong reputation that they’ve cultivated and maintained at every step of their existence. The Long Goodbye will only serve to enhance that standing, with the exploration of death rock, alongside their usual despondency and delicate post-Black metal, adding a welcome vibrancy and impetus.

 

8.0/10

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STEVE TOVEY