EP REVIEW – Astaroth Incarnate – Ascendance

It used to be easy, doing the devil’s good work. A pentagram here or there, maybe an inverted cross on the forehead, and audiences would cower at your brimstone-summoning bravura. But the competition for our evil-seeking dollar and download has grown to unspeakable proportions. Just ask Sam Astaroth, vocalist for Toronto-based death metal gurus Astaroth Incarnate about the demands of wickedness in 2019. A Mephisto-summoning moniker doesn’t go far enough, even housed in a thorny, nigh-unreadable font. Add a few bullet-belted warlocks crawling from the backwoods with pointy guitars, not to mention Sam’s own demon warpaint. Yet, these hellacious Canadians are still restless and wild. Continue reading

Infera Bruo – Cerement

Black metal with a clean, crisp production and actual melody isn’t going to work for everyone. To some, it’s just not “cult” enough if it doesn’t sound like it was recorded at the bottom of a well, but Infera Bruo are three records into their career now and they’re still able to sound vibrant and full of ethereal evil. The emphasis, as ever with Infera Bruo, is on the balance of dark ambience with hints of malice scattered throughout. However, while Cerement (Prosthetic) is more to-the-point than previous releases, it lacks the memorable flair of both of its predecessors. Continue reading

Délétère – De Horae Leprae

Québécois Black Metallers Délétère have often had an air of mystique and the outrageous in their cannon, and the overriding narrative of latest album De Horae Leprae (Sepulchral Productions) is arguably more conceptual, with it being devoted to “Teredinis, a simple leper whose calling it is to become a prophet of Centipedes, as well as an incarnation of the Plague.” With such a vivid and eccentric conceptual idea behind it, its surprising to note that De Horae Leprae is a comparatively simplistic listen, albeit one with plenty of wealth. Continue reading

Scumpulse – Rotten

Full disclosure here, something about Scumpulse piqued my interest enough to pick this one out of the myriad of potential albums to assault my ears with for review, but at the time, I wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe it was that I expected fun, ugly grindcore (which this isn’t)? Maybe it’s that I trust the source that it came from? Or just maybe it’s because the UK is a hotbed of talented, abrasive, creative intent bubbling and broiling just below the surface of everyone’s conscious right now and I didn’t want to miss out on the next thrilling, grimy rendition? Continue reading

Shores of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow

2017 is shaping up to be quite a year for heavy music as Shores of Null are back with their sophomore release, Black Drapes For Tomorrow (Candlelight). Track by track, I found a similar theme across the entire record. While I can headbang through each song, there is also this overwhelming sadness that comes out from the riffs and the vocals. This is truly an emotionally polarizing experience which deserves everyone’s time of day. Continue reading

Locrian – Infinite Dissolution

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Reaction to Chicago trio Locrian has often been mixed: their melody-infused, Black-edged expression offending as many purists as it delights fans of obsidian innovation. Latest album Infinite Dissolution (Relapse) initially continues that progressive sound with opener ‘Arc of Extinction’ possessing the kind of introductory swell perfected by the likes of Yes and Pink Floyd. The blackened horror soon emerges, however: Terence Hannum’s rasps exploding against the sudden quickening of pace, André Foisy’s Post-black leads “bipping” furiously over a hissing cacophony à la fellow US dark experimentalists Liturgy.

The ensuing ‘Dark Shales’ begins with melancholic twangs, ethereal airs coating muffled tub-thumping, and some emotive soloing from Foisy. Here it becomes clear that Locrian has evolved from its nebulous indecision into a talented outfit, determined to parade all of their influences. ‘…Shales’ truly evokes grey, wash-battered stone beaches yet marries them to an odyssey through space, delicately yet with latent power. The first of the ‘KXL’ trilogy, meanwhile, incorporates industrial sampling into its mournful yet spiky melodies before squalling, ominous feedback reintroduces the band’s edge: a bitterness which infuses the spacier, grandiose parts of the second movement’s eerie, orchestral keys.

Symphonics play a subtle yet important role in Infinite Dissolution’s character. Lush Moogs, at times cosmic, at others Numan-esque, quell the van Eeckhout-style vocal agonies of ‘The Future of Death’. The swelling atmospherics of album centrepiece ‘An Index of Air’ ascend to frostbitten roars and a frenetic gallop, soulful harmonies climaxing the epitome of superior quality, inventive, melodic Black metal.

There are imperfections – it takes time for the pulsing rush of ‘The Great Dying’ to kick in but the heart is eventually piqued; the over-gentle rhythms and electronica of ‘Heavy Water’, meanwhile, are enlivened by the odd venture into harsher territory and more cold, “post” guitar. The main issue here is that the band still fall between two huge stools: still too soft and whimsical for pure Black hearts; whilst possessing too many harsh interludes for fans of melodious Rock.

Infinite Dissolution, however, is arguably the band’s strongest to date: a stirring, inventive work that will undoubtedly win Locrian much admiration.

 

7.0/10

 

PAUL QUINN

Nekrogoblikon – Heavy Meta

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Nekrogoblikon aren’t doing this for critical acclaim, or good reviews, and as such, probably don’t give a Stench (sic – self released) what people think of their merits, or otherwise, instead doing this to have fun, stand out from a maddening crowd, and provide a platform for Goblin related buffoonery all to the backing track of some uptempo meloblack. If you’re looking for something progressive, epic, developed or overtly serious Heavy Meta (released on the band’s own Mystery Box label) probably isn’t for you. Swim in the shark-and-troll infested seas of Alestorm and Finntroll and you may have come to the right place, my fiends.

Crawling out of the underground cave where they undoubtedly concoct their foul brews, Scorpion, in his best Abbath croak, spits out “Babies, children, women and men, Get ready to implode on the count of ten. One… Two… TEN!” and we’re off into their stompy, earwormy world of melodic black metal and opener ‘The End of Infinity’. As the album progresses, keys dance and enhance over contagious songs, as the guitars chug and spray, hitting into Children of Bodom and more so (early) In Flames territory (for the choruses, Scorpion is reminiscent of Anders Friden) as accusations of a lack of technical proficiency that have blighted previous releases are well and truly laid to rest.

With both clawed feet firmly grasping onto the mid-90’s carnival world of the post-second wave – bands like Old Man’s Child, Borknagar, Arcturus and their ilk – this is catchy, theatrical and not a million miles from Dimmu Borgir’s more theatrical mid-paced moments, not afraid to open out into Gothic baroque tech metal territory (yep) on pairing ‘Snax & Violence’ and ‘Atlantis’, or just invoke a full on filthy party on the Andrew W.K. endorsed ‘Let’s Get Fucked’.

With elements of huumpa, Viking, classic, black, thrash and melodeath metal, Nekrogoblikon have a fair arsenal to bite, scratch and claw at your ankles and demand your attention. Ensuring each track is both memorable, likable and distinct from its predecessor, this is an enjoyable romp through a critter infested world that shows us just how these ‘gobli(ko)ns (black and) roll.

 

7.0/10

Nekrogoblikon on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY

Macabre Omen – Gods of War – At War

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Light the torches and raise the cries as pagan black metal band Macabre Omen return after 10 years with their follow-up to their debut studio album, 2005’s The Ancient Returns (Obscure Abhorrence). Coupled with the ominous cover, the name Macabre Omen brings up visions of cheesy melody lines splattered with lashings of awkwardly placed black metal. This is not a band that should be judged by their cover however, and while they may only be on their second album with just a handful of splits filling the gaps, the band have had a solid twenty years since conception to perfect their craft.

It’s a call to banners as ‘I See, the Sea’ opens the album with rousing calls reminiscent of ancient armies making their way into battle. Gods of War – At War (Ván Records) certainly has a touch of the epic about it, even as the melodic folk-inspired lines give way to more aggressive blasting under scream by vocalist Alexandros. While the opening track remained distinctly melodic, the album takes much darker turns, particularly on the title track where the black metal is dialled up. ‘Man of 300 Voices’ takes a different tone however; an acoustic opening to the track barely seems out of place, particularly as more traditional instruments make an appearance before moving into epic vocal lines that dominate the song.

Pagan black metal can be a hard genre to master, but Macabre Omen have managed to produce a sound that plants itself somewhere between the more Bathory and Graveland. Despite maintaining a consistent sound throughout, Gods of War – At War has successfully walked the line creating an album that has enough variety between tracks, but still maintains an identifiable sound that brings the piece together. While it may not be breaking any ground artistically, it certainly would hold its ground on soundtrack heading into battle.

 

7.0/10

Macabre Omen on Facebook

 

CAITLIN SMITH

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

 

Thulcandra – Ascension Lost

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Anyone that has ventured into the Thulcandra back catalogue has probably noticed this German black metal band seem to exist as a living shrine to one of the former giants of the genre. Although their Dissection worship has decreased with every release, recent album Ascension Lost (Napalm) has not truly shaken off the homage to the band, with veins of Reinkaos (Black Horizon) rippling throughout.

Despite being inspired by such revered material, Ascension Lost leaves very little impression. Lacking any distinct identity or style of its own, the material passes by you with only vague echo of a few musical moments really standing out at the end. Ascension Lost falls into the trap of becoming black metal by numbers, filling in all the tremolos and blasts in all the right places to make a black metal track, but it lacks the atmosphere that is so crucial to the genre. It’s hard to deny the bands technical proficiency in both playing and song writing, but the music is devoid of personality. Being the side project of Obscura’s Steffen Kummerer, it is hardly surprising that technicality has taken preference that leaves the record lacking.

Fans of the band will already know what to expect from the album. The songs follow a similar style to their previous work and this album is no departure from this. Ascension Lost remains enjoyable boasting impressive riffs and drumming, but is also distinctly unmemorable. As the title suggests, Thulcandra haven’t ascended to any level of brilliance with this record and until they break from their Dissection homage, are unlikely to any time soon.

 

4.0/10

Thulcandra on Facebook

 

CAITLIN SMITH