The most interesting bands are not the ones that come out of the box ready made to ingest. The best shift like a sea at storm, creating and destroying, adding and taking back what it wants. Downfall of Gaia too has continued to adapt and improve, pushing themselves and everything else outward with every release. After a few years absence, the band has returned again with their new album, once again aiming high as they can. Continue reading
Seven days into 2019 and I had my first of many shows for the year. The “Two Paths” Tour with Ensiferum, Septicflesh, and Arsis. When this tour got announced, I immediately got excited, as Arsis is always a good time and I just saw them a few months prior on the Bloodletting Tour back in October. Septicflesh has always been one of those bands that I love but never actively think about, but they are always a band that I could sit and listen to for hours. Ensiferum is just an all around good time. That being said, this tour is also a bit of a mixed bag of styles, Arsis is a band that used to regularly tour with the likes of Cattle Decapitation, Dying Fetus, and Misery Index. So seeing them on a tour bill with Greek Symphonic Death Metal (Septicflesh) and Finnish Folk Metal (Ensiferum), I knew this was going to be an interesting and worthwhile show… so let’s jump right into this bad Larry! Continue reading
Finnish folk metallers Korpiklaani are readying their new album, Kulkija due out on September 7th via Nuclear Blast Records. The band just announced a long-anticipated return to the USA, with support form Arkona on all dates. To get you pumped for the new album, watch another album teaser trailer below. Continue reading
In the arena of folk and pagan influenced metal, which is often (and at times unfairly) thought of as pure silliness, drinking and near cartoonish portrayals, Dutch Folk Metallers Heidevolk have always been a consistently decent outfit, but one that has never reached the mainstream dabblings of a Turisas. Perhaps this is, in part, due to their more balanced take on the genre which sits between the fun-loving, grandiose approach, thoroughbred Heavy Metal grit and a more intelligent, nuanced side; Heidevolk is a name yet to progress beyond the most ardent of Folk Metal fan-bases only. Continue reading
Folk metal leaders of Finland, Korpiklaani have released a new lyric video for their track ‘FC Lahti’ supporting their favorite soccer team. You can see it below: Continue reading
It seems to be somewhat overlooked just how impressive Swedish death metallers Amon Amarth have grown in terms of status and position, especially for an extreme act. Somewhat under the radar for many for the early days of their career, out of nowhere 2008’s Twilight Of The Thunder God(Metal Blade) took the world by storm (pun intended) with some catchy, but still thunderous (ahem) death metal offerings. Further albums since have also seen high praise and more of the same sonically, culminating in a signing to a major label in Sony for European releases (still Metal Blade for North America). This is a death metal band we are talking about, this is huge news.
As a result of major label signing you could be forgiven for thinking the band may water down, but instead Jomsviking(Metal Blade/Sony) is in some ways, the band’s boldest album to date. Unsurprisingly Jomsviking goes down the Viking route again, but for the first time in the band’s career, this has a full conceptual narrative; that of a young man joining the elite Jomsviking after being separated from the love of his life, a befittingly tragic tale which invokes the ferocity of both its historical context, and of Amon Amarth’s music.
Musically the band have never been ones to deviate massively from their formula other than some examples of fine tuning or refining, and much is the same here. A mantra which did no harm for the likes of Motorhead and AC/DC and has certainly not done so for Amon Amarth. Thus, Jomsviking doesn’t throw any new surprises our way, other than some of the band’s finest and most instant songs to date. The white hot fury of ‘First Kill’ proves a suitably morbid and striking opener, whilst ‘Raise Your Horns’ is surely the most archetypal anthem the band has written thus far. Vocalist Johann Hegg may not have the most diverse of vocals but he pulls off individuality of differing characters with ease, whilst the addition of the legendary Doro Pesch on ‘A Dream That Cannot Be’ adds an extra dimension that could bolster the band further if explored further.
Amon Amarth are never going to make a Jazz fusion record or hugely surprise us; but what they do offer however is continuous refinement and subtle evolution, and Jomsviking is further evidence that Amon Amarth are still a huge and creative entity. The boldness of an in depth and intricate storyline intertwined with some of their strongest and catchiest songs to date, and you have perhaps the best album of their career.
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Finland’s Ensiferum are one of the worlds leading “pagan metal” flag-wavers, if there can even be such a thing. The band released the criminally underrated One Man Army (Metal Blade) album last year, easily one of the finest moments in their career. Oddly though they don’t seem to have same recognition as some of their peers in the battle metal sub-genre. No matter, the music and the fans are what counts to this outfit, and it is proven by the many sold-out tour dates. Playing to a full room tonight in the band plays the hits, both old and new. The throng of fans approves. They are joined on this tour by the talented Metsatoll from Estonia, who also seem to be more obscure than thy deserve. On this night at Rainbow Warehouse in Birmingham Luke Denham of Luke Denham Photography caught all the action for Ghost Cult Magazine.
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Although emotive, the dark harshness of Vattnet Viskar’s sound seemed a strange choice to accompany the heavier, more melodic Pallbearer on last winter’s US tour. Look deeper, however, into the very British blackness of Settler (Century Media), the New Hampshire quartet’s second album, and the melancholy shines through.
Brutal stickwork permeates the tremolo riffs of ‘Colony’ until a wholly unexpected mid-point breakdown of slow, deliberate Shoegaze, reappearing at the track’s coda, marks the band out as a different breed. ‘Yearn’ begins with a portentous yet evocative passage, building with delicate synth effects into vocalist Nicholas Thornbury’s colossal yet almost whispered, dry bark; a more Doom-laden pace seeing lead shimmerings emerge only in a Post-style underpin. It’s a savage track, yet pregnant with emotion: the layered, twisting chicanes sending the sound into the more inventive horror of Inter Arma’s Blackened spin-off Bastard Sapling, rather than that of the band’s core which is heavily influenced by Winterfylleth, Fen et al. ‘Impact’, for example, evokes images of rolling, furze-heavy hills in winter, as is expected from that UK Pagan contingent: yet a Viking element adds punch to this truly moving track.
This is an album giving true meaning to the ‘Atmospheric Black Metal’ tag: expertly blending the hostile, hissing tundra with chest-swelling passion and, in doing so, creating a living monster. Seamus Menihane’s pounding, resonant tubs return as the direction for the aptly named ‘Glory’, more sadness wrought from that lead guitar as an initial Trad metal rhythm gives way to dual Post wails, crushing riffs returning at the height of the ensuing explosion, an emphysemic roar coating the whole in a wonderful disease. The brutalised, throbbing heartbreak of both the title track and ‘Heirs’, meanwhile, where those expressions of angst remain constantly on the right side of Metalcore to emit sincere feeling, are supreme examples of the band’s organic versatility and heart of fire.
Closer ‘Coldwar’ melds elements of Black, Melancholia, Post-metal and Rock in a swelling, distraught yet euphoric finale. A refreshing, ambitious effort whilst remaining faithful to the dark core, Settler shows Vattnet Viskar to the stage of serious contenders.
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With many bands out in the world of metal today playing full albums on a live setting, it was only a matter of time for Tales from the Thousand Lakes (Relapse) to be played by death metal legends, Amorphis. We were lucky enough to speak to drummer, Jan Rechberger, at Maryland Deathfest this year to understand why is now the right time.
“Well we had the idea because of the anniversary, it was pretty clear to us to play the whole album because it is considered a classic in the scene. It seemed like a good idea to play it in between the process of writing a new album. We’ve been playing a few shows, 1 tour through Germany and Switzerland along with a lot of festivals this summer, like here in Maryland. It’s been going really nice, only a few shows yet, maybe 12 or so but so far it’s been real good. Meeting a lot of nice people and getting good feedback from the audience, it’s been a blast.”
Prior to the classic Tales record, Amorphis was known for a more traditional death metal sound but then they revolutionized death metal by evolving the sound to one of the pioneering folk metal sounds popular today. Jan reminded us that musical directions just kind of happen naturally.
“It’s a long process basically. We were basically metal heads at the time before Tales and just listening to metal really. After that we started listening to progressive music like progressive music in general and getting into bands like Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull, and all those classic bands and we had a keyboard player so that probably changed the game a whole lot. It just started to happen when we jammed out playing our influences and coming up with a unique package. Like most things in music, these things happen accidentally at the end of the day. So it’s really a mix of our influences through the years and it’s a never ending journey really with more to come.”
Kalevala is a Finnish national epic poem of which Tales is heavily based upon. During the writing process of Tales, Kalevala strongly resonated within their creative minds. Over two decades later, is this story still as meaningful to them as it was back then?
“It does, but it’s something we learn in school as kids. It’s a huge thing in Finland, it’s like a national treasure in a way. And back then no metal band used it. Some Finish jazz bands did but it was mostly instrumental anyways and a lot of Finish composers used it as an influence. It’s been a major influence for artists in Finland. A lot of nice stories and unique stuff. I guess it was right after recording Karelian (Editor’s Note: The Karelin Isthmus- for Relapse Records) that I had the idea of maybe using Kalevala on maybe the next album and we did! We’ve been using it on new material too since Eclipse is basically based on Kalevala stories and characters. The new one and Circle are not straight from Kalevala but influenced strongly by it in some ways. I find it to be an original thing for us and feels natural for us to use as it’s something we already have. There were times where we didn’t use Kalevala in our music as we had other lyrical influences at the time on different subjects. I find it fits in our music well.”
Nowadays, folk and pagan metal as some call it is quite popular in the metal world and flourishing quite well. Many of these bands have cited Amorphis as a major influence to their sound and it is clearly heard in their own work. We were wondering if this comes off to Jan as a band “ripping off” the Amorphis sound and got a response after a few seconds of laughter that shows what kind of legacy they have created.
“Sometimes, but I do not see it as a rip off but more of a compliment. Like if I were to do hip hop or some other kind of music and some hip hop guy sampled my music I would be honored! Mainly because we were influenced by a lot of other bands. So if some younger bands take influences from us, I see that we actually created something that matters somehow. But yes, as you said, there’s been some bands like Ensiferum and bands like them that are friends with us in the first place and how we are a big influence on them. There’s lots of bands that remind me of our older stuff, but I find it to be cool. So I encourage the younger bands to keep doing what they like.”
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.