Minneapolis is not a frigid northern waste year-round, but it’s a good stand-in for Scandinavia on a frosty winter day. The music that comes from there often conjures the heartless sounds of the birthplace of Black Metal. While also being home to the funky sex god Prince (RIP), the region has notably given us many great modern USBM bands to hand our hats on. The greatest may very well be False, as the sextet continues to hone their sound to perfection. I won’t event front, I have been a huge fan for some time and while they are “emerging” to mainstream ears, I have been down since the beginning, with several EP’s and splits most prized among my collection. So of course, I was amped for the release of Portent (Gilead Media), their new full-length album, so I got ready to dive in hard. Continue reading
In a short space of time, Belgian Black Metallers Wiegedood have proven to be somewhat of a special entity, and a name that has begun to creep into a wider audience (not to mention a name that your scribe has found difficult to remember how to spell for about the same length of time). Featuring members of, and having association with, the likes of Amenra and Oathbreaker, their brand of Black Metal similarly revels in moody tropes and being both explorative and emotive. It is interesting, then, that latest album and the final part of their trio of releases, De Doden Hebben Het Goed III (Century Media) follows suit fairly firmly, but does up the ante in places. Continue reading
Part five of the Ghost Cult Album of the Year countdown for 2015.
One staff team. Over 550 albums covered by Ghost Cult over the last twelve months. One epic race to be crowned Album of the Year.
Read on to dive deep into the Ghost Cult Top 10…
10. My Dying Bride – ‘Feel The Misery’ (Peaceville)
“When the history of doom metal is written, English miserabilists My Dying Bride will have their own chapter; preferably written in gothic script by a quill. After twenty-five years in the game, their long march towards the sinister continues and Feel the Misery has to rank among their best works.”
9. Cattle Decapitation – ‘The Anthropocene Exctinction’ (Metal Blade)
“The grind influences which the band are largely known for are present here, but combine with a number of other reference points and styles in a way that transforms them quite beyond the ordinary. The base-line style throughout is a crunchy, Grind-touched Death Metal that’s as comfortable with punishing grooves and sinister melodies as it is with blasting, but they expand their palette further with quasi-“industrial” effects, atmospheric passages and creepily-effective clean vocal sections.”
8. Paradise Lost – ‘The Plague Within’ (Century Media)
“Not a descent into the darkest bowels of harrowing Death-Doom, then, but expecting it to be would be rather silly. What The Plague Within offers is a sincere, heartfelt amalgam of older influences and current songwriting from a band who have always had the courage to follow their own muse where it leads them, even if it seems to lead them back.”
7. Faith No More – ‘Sol Invictus’ (Reclamation/Ipecac)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – May “The band picks up basically where they left off with 1997’s Album of The Year. After all; resurrection may be for those who got it wrong the first time, but the same cannot be said of Faith No More whose return is a welcome and worthy one. Let’s hope it lasts as long as it can.”
6. Iron Maiden – ‘The Book Of Souls’ (Parlophone/Sanctuary/BMG)
“For a band with such a celebrated history, it is a joy and delight to confirm that The Book Of Souls stands resolute as one of the best things the band has produced. Ever. An album that works on a number of levels – the strength of the songwriting, the collective and individual musicianship, the range and power of the entire album are all deeply impressive. The Book of Souls is the collective endeavour of a band still resolutely in love with music and still gracious and humble enough to want to share that with its audience. Happy and glorious, from epic start to bombastic end.”
5. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – October “Thank goodness for Clutch. Clutch aren’t like most bands. Wait: Clutch are not like any other band. Now into their 20-something year of making smart, intelligent rock music, Psychic Warfare sees Neil Fallon and co in the rudest possible health, invigorating and invigorated, creatively refreshed and simply staggering and swaggering. Clutch are a band of sublime brilliance and Psychic Warfare might just be the album you’ve waited all year for. Long may they reign supreme.”
4. Napalm Death – ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’ (Century Media)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – February “That the band still emits a burning intensity, railing against injustice and The Establishment, is reassuring and adds the crucial element of gravity to what is, in essence, a joyous and energising sound. Angry machine gun rattle, powerful skewing punk, flexibility in pace, a hefty boot, veering grind… I bloody love the nose-breaking, careering chaos of it all”
3. Enslaved – ‘In Times’ (Nuclear Blast)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – March “In Times is a record of staggering, jaw-dropping brilliance. In Times distils the essence of Enslaved in brilliant, grandiose fashion but, like all great albums, suggests new, as yet uncharted opportunities. To use sporting parlance, suggesting that the band are at the top of their game is to truly misunderstand what’s going on here. Enslaved are not just at the top of their game; they are in the process of trying to change the game being played.”
2. Lamb of God – ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’ (Nuclear Blast)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – August “About halfway through Sturm Und Drang, vocalist Randy Blythe screams: “How the FUCK did you think this would end?!” It’s both a question and a statement of defiance, summing up five years that have been nothing less than challenging for this band. That they have returned and delivered an album this ferocious, this energised, this brilliant, is utterly remarkable and testimony to a sense of collective tenacity and drive that can only be admired. All Heavy Metal records should sound this good.”
While the fall progresses forward and nature around us slowly dies leading up to another New England winter, nothing seems as appropriate as that of a doom metal show. The Brighton Music Hall was once again the site of another memorable show, this time consisting of Sea of Bones, Lord Almighty, Black Cobra, and YOB. The show was so heavy that I was able to go next door for a slice of pizza and know when a band was sound checking and then playing just from how hard the walls were vibrating. The only downside to such a low-end rich show is the drive home when all I wanted to do was go to sleep from the therapeutic doom riffs felt all night.
Sea of Bones kicked off the night to which I can only say was jaw dropping. Previously, I had never heard anything by the group, but was pleasantly surprised with how heavy they got. A nice mix of doom, drone, sludge, and dashes of Neurosis as well as Author & Punisher all came to mind while experiencing Sea of Bones for the first time. I will certainly be catching Sea of Bones the next time I can.
Local heroes, Lord Almighty, came on next and showcased as much of their full-length début album, Paths, as they could in their relatively short set. The progressive black metal outfit certainly made new fans this evening from all the doom fans in-house for YOB and Sea of Bones as well as the fans who like it a bit faster such as Black Cobra. Boston, once again, can be proud knowing that the city keeps pumping out some seriously fun and interesting heavy metal bands.
Similar to Sea of Bones, I had never given Black Cobra the time of day, but had heard their name in passing. Regardless of my ignorance to this band, I quickly became a fan of their up tempo doom riffs and pounding drumming. Also, the sound that is generated out of just these two musicians was truly amazing. From down the street you would anticipate that the band playing had five or six guys with multiple guitarists, let alone one guitarist/vocalist and a drummer. Also adding into the instant fan spell that was placed on me, I found Black Cobra to be quite similar to a long time favorite of mine in High on Fire.
Just when I thought the night could not get any better, out came the guys from YOB to absolutely crush my soul. This having been my third time seeing the Oregon doom threesome this year, I had a good feel of what to expect on the set list. Staple opener, ‘Ball of Molten Lead’ got all heads banging together. ‘In Our Blood’ and ‘Marrow’ were also in the rotation as per the usual off of their latest (and maybe greatest), Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot). Some may call it a little much, but I could honestly see YOB live again between now and February 2016 even if that makes it four times in a calendar year. There is just something else that YOB delivers that no other doom bands seem to have. Regardless, another amazing night for heavy music in the Brighton/Allston area which could not make me any happier!
WORDS BY TIM LEDIN
Exams. Phone calls with my Mum. Sitting in the waiting room at the Doctors. The middle section of The Two Towers (the book). Near Death Revelations (Agonia), third album of Polish black metal act Blaze of Perdition. And the Jeopardy answer is “Things that feel like they go on for a very fucking long time, Alex”. “Congratulations, you’re right!”
OK, so maybe being flippant with an album that has clearly had a lot of work poured into it (and an album that is very well produced and crafted) is harsher than a Dave Hunt vocal, but as lengthy song bleeds into similar sounding lengthy song, it begins to do your head in. When people say the same thing over and over, getting louder each time, you don’t listen more intently, or pay more attention, you become desensitized, and when you check the running order, expecting it to be approaching the end and you’re only halfway through and there’s still another 25 minutes (plus) to go, you know this isn’t an album that will be scooping up Album of the Year accreditations.
2011’s The Hierophant (Pagan Records) positioned Blaze of Perdition as an act who were prepared to challenge the established order of things, Near Death Revelations and its less-theatrical Carach Angrenisms is a regression despite the bludgeon, headbanging stabs and aggression worked into its progressive angles; ‘Cold Morning Fears’, for example, flails and smashes from the outset, like a frost-bitten Formulas Fatal To The Flesh (Earache) Morbid Angel halted in their tracks before making a Grand Declaration of War (Necropolis).
It does have to be said that Blaze of Perdition are a very proficient band, who deal in progressive, discordant bastardized (once was) black metal with a gritty quasi mechanized metallic bent, almost as if they are the realization (and extension) of what Gehenna were trying to do with Admiron Black (Moonfog). Credit is also due to their refusal to be destroyed by adversity, following the death of bassist Ikaroz and the severe injuries suffered by vocalist Sonnellion and drummer Vizun. However, Near Death Revelations is a (seemingly endless) repetition of the same new, same new; bashing your head against the same brick wall again and again until you become numbed to the sonic overload.
At this point, what do you really have to say about Sigh? After being approached in 1990 by Euronymous to be the only Japanese band on his Deathlike Silences Productions label, they proceeded to spend twenty five years releasing experimental, varied, frequently genuinely eccentric albums that have now spelled out their name almost three times. With the exception of 2005’s Gallows Gallery (Candlelight) – which they’ve since admitted wasn’t really recorded with banned WWII sonic weaponry – “Black Metal” in some form has always been part of their sound, but the exact style has often changed wildly between albums.
This time around, the guiding theme seems to be a combination of rawness, progressiveness and symphonic majesty that calls to mind Venom playing Yes songs with Bal-Sagoth’s keyboardist, and works an awful lot better than you might be expecting from that description. The core of the album is a raw, savage but rocking “Black” Metal built on simple catchy riffs and Mirai’s always recognisable acid rasp, but one of the things that makes Sigh so successful is that they don’t simply litter their Metal core with extraneous garnish as so many of their “experimental” peers are content to do. Electronics, progressive and symphonic arrangements and even Pop song-writing is woven meaningfully into the tracks, creating an album which is both sinisterly understated and gloriously savage. In the context of their previous albums, the best comparison would be the band from Scorn Defeat (DSP) playing the songs from Gallows Gallery, but once again they have created something new.
I suspect that this review is largely unnecessary – by this point most listeners have already decided whether Sigh are any of their business or not, and if they are you’ll be listening to this album whatever I say. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid them until now, however, Graveward (Candlelight) is a strong, distinctive album with its own character and some genuinely excellent songwriting and works well as both an introduction to one of the most genuinely interesting metal bands of the last twenty years and an album in its own right.
Most bands go through different periods of stagnation and productivity, however there are few that can boast such extreme fluctuations in releases as French based Blut Aus Nord. For a career that began with an almost well-paced output, recent years have seen a flurry of work unleashed. For many bands this can see a slip in the quality or consistency of their records, however Blut Aus Nord defy this trend, being one of the few bands that manage to astound with every album, consistently defying expectations. While every album may be different and offer a new musical direction, there’s no denying that they all have a distinct sound that only main man Vindsval can achieve. Their latest offering is no exception.
Saturnian Poetry (Debemur Morti) comes in as the third album in the Memoria Vetusta series, following on from Fathers of the Icy Age (Impure Creations) in 1996 and more recently Dialogue with the Stars (Candlelight) in 2009 and quickly proves the most relatable of the series, and of Vindsval’s work as of late, particularly when compared to his 777 series or even his most recent split with P.H.O.B.O.S., Triunity (Debemur Morti), and is one of the best-defined and most enjoyable albums the band has released to date. Many of their previous releases have tended towards the avant-garde, alienating the listener with dissonant harmonies and awkward time changes, however Saturnian Poetry takes a step back from this constant push towards new ground. Some may view this as regression, falling back into the vast realms of relatable music, but the album still carries the distinct Blut Aus Nord sound without feeling like they have traded in any of their principals, or turned to a more mainstream position.
Vast ethereal landscapes captured in layers of distortion, erratic drumming and harrowed screams throw us into a desolate but majestic landscape. There is truly only one way to describe this album: cold. Despite its tendency towards grand melodic lines, Saturnian Poetry avoids large symphonic instrumentals, instead making the guitars the main feature of the music with majestic chord progressions backed by occasional synth or vocal lines. It does however contain Vindsval’s usual tendency towards progressive structuring, rapidly twisting through varying soundscapes as each song unfolds. There is also a marked improvement in production quality, and with such an intensive mix of instrumentation lines, this allows the subtler touches to shine through.
This release also marks the entrance of drummer Thorns, whose vast collection of previous work includes Frostmoon Eclipse, Deathrow and Acherontas. While previous albums have featured talented collaborations with artists or programming by Vindsval, Thorns seems to gel naturally with the music in a way that the others haven’t managed in the past. His tendency towards unusual patterns, breaks and crashes seem a natural part of the music, and often prove some of the most compelling performances on Saturnian Poetry.
Opening on a soft electronic intro with ‘prelude’, it’s a deceptively calm start before the ravages of ‘Paien’ kick in and the sound of the album truly unfolds. Both ‘Paien’ and ‘Tellus Mater’ set a vast, majestic tone that carries through, allowing for soaring vocal lines and large but chaotic guitar parts. There are few moments on the album that really steps back to allow the listener to rest, save for the intro and sections of ‘Forhist,’ whose mid-tempo riffs are often interspersed with manic fills across the drum kit. While the album fits together best as a whole rather than being taken by its individual parts, it’s ‘Henosis’ that provides the stand out moments. Opening on the albums more majestic sound, it intersperses hints of Blut Aus Nord’s more dissonant tendencies halfway through the track, an effective and welcome nod to previous work while simultaneously embracing the new style.
‘Metaphor of the Moon’ and ‘Clarissima Mundi Lumina’ take this another step further when closing the album with a subtle shift in sound. Low growls and stabs of awkward uneasy guitar cutting through, these tracks are significantly darker than the others – each track is a descent toward the closing darkness and demands the listeners full attention if they ever hope to draw the best out of this album.
Saturnian Poetry sees Vindsval provide some of his most compelling music to date and further cements Blut Aus Nord as one of the most exciting black metal acts in the scene today.
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