Funny, before writing this review I had just finished a very interesting conversation about Swedish bands with someone as passionate as I am for Swedish music and we concluded that there must be something about being born in Scandinavia that automatically increases your chances of being good at making music. Spelljammer proves this point with their latest effort Abyssal Trip (RidingEasy Records). An equally catchy, beautiful, heavy, and dark album that brings a scenario that can be only compared as being a collection of BlackSabbath’s darkest, twisted tracks but heavier and more melodic. And it’s impossible not talking about Black Sabbath when talking about a Stoner/Doom Metal band, but this Swedish trio can easily be in the same conversation.
Viking Metal started out by combining the epic energy of Black Metal with the mystical grace of Folk music. Enslaved is a band at the pinnacle of this heavy, Nordic sound. Starting out as teenagers, this Norweigian act has successively enhanced the Scandinavian metal scene for nearly thirty years. Their beginnings were more in the realm of the extreme, but over time Enslaved has not been afraid to dip into other genres like Prog Rock and Jazz. It’s encouraging to witness their ability to be undaunted by their explorations while still being true to their Viking roots. Their new fifteenth full-length album, Utgard (Nuclear Blast) verifies their astute ambition of experimentmentation and expression.
Mental health is a topic that many artists have engaged in recent times, from different perspectives and outlines, but when put into music, as an audience, we can be able to identify ourselves with it even more; it’s like having a soundtrack to your pain. This is exactly what Leprous brings with their new album Pitfalls (Inside Out Music). Keep in mind though, if you are a fan of the band and you’re looking for Heavy Progressive music, you should open your mind a bit, because the majority of this album is not heavy. Now, the fact that this is not a heavy album should not mislead you since this is probably one of the best-written albums of the year. There are tracks like ‘I Lose Hope’ and ‘By My Throne’ that are even danceable tracks (think House music and stuff in that vein) but there are tracks like ‘Foreigner’ and ‘The Sky is Red’ that have some riffing that characterize the heavy side of the band. Continue reading
A cold nocturnal Scandinavian wind blows; icy tendrils stabbing southwards, searching, seeking for blackened hearts to infect. The hosts wait, apprehensive, yet welcoming, ideas already pregnant. The frost-bitten hunter swirls at first, before plunging its whole intent deep into the waiting prey. Saarbrücken, Germany, nominally a thriving, modern economic centre, is now the scene for the cultivation of a different type of essence, for that which grows inside it is not the spirit of commerce, but The Spirit of melodic blackened metal.Continue reading
Swedish death metal veterans Unleashed are 25 years into their career. Dawn of the Nine (Nuclear Blast), the group’s 12th album, is a quality 45 minute slab of brutal yet enjoyable old school death metal. Generally seen as one of the earliest extreme metal bands to delve into the world of Norse mythology, Dawn of the Nine sees Unleashed continue with tales of longboats, Midgard and Thor, picking up the story where 2012’s Odalheim (also Nuclear Blast)left off. There may be no shortage of other bands doing this sort of thing nowadays, but Unleashed still stand out in terms of quality.
The band – led by vocalist/bassist Johnny Hedlund and joined by Tomas Olsson & Fredrik Folkare on guitars and Anders Schultz on drums – might be long in the tooth but have crafted an album that still sounds fresh without compromising on their sound. From the opening salvo of ‘A New Day Will Rise’, the relentless shred of ‘Defenders of Midgard’ to the screaming lead single ‘Where is Your God Now?’, Dawn of the Nine is chock full of demonic bellowing , blast beats, chainsaw riffs and endless solos. It’s more heavy thrash than grinding, and you know you’re in 90s old school death metal territory, but is catchy and accessible at the same time.
Hedlund’s hellish vocals manage to somehow be guttural yet completely understandable – meaning the dense story isn’t lost behind incomprehensible grunts. There’s plenty of melodic riffing and addictively intricate solos – fans of Amon Amarth will find a lot to appreciate in the likes of ‘Where Churches Once Burned’ or ‘They Came to Die.” It’s not all blast beats however as Unleashed can varies the tempo without compromising on the heaviness; ‘Bolt Thrower’ is slow yet relentlessly brutal march, while the title track crushes at a snail’s pace before enjoying some Black Sabbath-style galloping.
‘Dawn of the Nine’ is massively heavy, surprisingly melodic, and a perfect update of classic 90s death metal. Despite being a dozen albums and a quarter decade into their career, Unleashed have still managed to concoct a quality album that’s unrelenting yet engaging and enjoyable. Fetch the mead.
Having suffered the ignominy of being asked to leave modern metal behemoths Trivium mid-tour, drummer Nick Augusto has wasted little time in pulling together a new project with old school friend Christopher Cussell, Corrosion, who within 12 months of forming, and despite the logistical difference of living in different continents (vocalist/bassist Tommy Hjelm and second guitarist Martin Rygge, both formerly of Intense, being based in Norway), have released their debut EP.
Yet, as the phrase goes, “marry in haste, repent at leisure”, and Augusto’s gusto may be a mis-step, as rushing out a debut release before developing a cohesive style and sound is a sure fire way to put people off and to bury your band. You only get one chance to create a first impression, and all that.
For while Corrosion (Mas Kina) may only be 3 songs, it’s a mess; hopping from Scandinavian based extremity, to ‘core, to chug, to groove, to Tech Metal, but forgetting to bring the songs with them. If it hasn’t been made clear, this is swimming in a different pool to Trivium, and possessing a progressive Thrash bent, but with the jarring juxtaposing sections and Hjelm’s vocals falling short of the standards you’d expect, slipping off key and losing bite in some of his barks, this trans-Atlantic proposition needs to head back to the drawing board and put some hard yards in, not just in terms of working out a style and what they’re trying to do, but also in how to bring their myriad ideas together while raising the overall standard of their output.
If you have had any interest in the metal underground over the last 20 years or so then there’s a fair chance that you will have encountered the dark, bewildering and occasionally baffling art of Solefald.
World Metal; Kosmopolis Sud (Indie), the latest album from the Scandanavian provocateurs, is as wilfully perverse as it is artistically diverse and challenging. World Metal is an all too simplistic title for a record that covers and extraordinary palette of aural colours from thrash metal that would not go amiss on a Sepultura album through Al Jourgensen inspired electronica and nursery rhyme folk.
It really is all here. And more.
In some camps, this is supposedly representative of some kind of avant-garde genius. Not in this camp, I’m afraid. I bow to no man in my admiration for bands and artists who push the artistic and creative envelope but there is a significant difference between good and bad art and I’m afraid that World Metal is bad art. Lots of people are going to tell you that its density is somehow representative of a deeper intellectual exercise and that the impenetrability of the music is somehow evidence of artistic freedom- artists doing what they please etc etc. This is poppycock of the highest order.
The entire essence of art is that it connects: on an emotional, spiritual and human level. Wilful self-indulgence is not evidence of a higher artistic intelligence; it is evidence of hubris. And there is much hubris on World Metal. I think we need to call this out now: being diverse and idiosyncratic isn’t, in and of itself, good enough. There isn’t anything particularly big or clever at throwing everything including the musical kitchen sink at things. By contrast, it is self-regarding and, ultimately, very boring.
I’m reminded of the now infamous conversation between Harrison Ford who complained about the quality of the script for Star Wars, and George Lucas: “George, you can type this shit but you can’t say it” said the laconic actor to his director. This was, of course, the same Star Wars that went on to change movie history and get an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.
My point? I might have got this one wrong. I don’t think I have though. Clearly for some, World Metal will be seen as quite the masterpiece, full of ideas and inspiration. Not for me though. I’ll defend to my dying breath Solefald’s right to make whatever record they want, just don’t expect me to listen to it.