Soulfly has announced their new album, Ritual, due out this fall, via their label, Nuclear Blast. Produced by Josh Wilbur. (Lamb Of God, Megadeth, Gojira) who also worked with Max Cavalera on the Killer Be Killed release. Watch fan-filmed footage of a new song, ‘Summoning’. perform live, last month in Europe. Continue reading
So, there you were, thinking that Eastern European Black Metal is just a load of one-man bedroom acts who own too many Burzum and Summoning albums, love to stand in the snow in animal furs and think that it’s their national prerogative to play a flute, regardless of skill. Well, you’d be right to an extent. For while Drudkh and Negura Bunget have made a name for themselves by actually branching out from their microscopic scenes and making good use of traditional instrumentation, you will always get acts like Zgard who are content to sticking to what they know. Thankfully, they happen to know a fair old bit, which is why Contemplation (Svarga) may well surprise you.
This sixty-two minute odyssey into Ukrainian forests may be one that listeners have taken before accompanied by the two big name artists mentioned above, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of pretty sights to be seen along the way as the aptly named ‘Through the Forest’ proves with its rushing tremolo guitars, soaring melodies, mystical keyboards and subtle choral vocals. There’s echoes of revered artists such as Kroda reverberating through the trees and you soon get the impression that mainman Yaromisl has plenty more to show you, which he does with the crowd pleasing jig-along that pops up during ‘Highlands’ and the quirky polka mischief that opens ‘Incarnation Memory.’
It wouldn’t be an Eastern European BM album without an instrumental piece however and we get just that with the haunting and thoughtful ‘Silence’, which knocks the socks off the latest effort from Herr Vikernes. Not forgetting of course the frequent wind and rain sound effects to remind you just how cold it is behind the old iron curtain and you have everything you need and nothing you wouldn’t expect. Clichéd? Perhaps, but it’s a cliché with plenty of mileage left in it and while the forest is still this beautiful, it’s one that’s worth taking a stroll into.
Chances are, by now, you’ll already have an opinion on Summoning, one way or another. They’ve been around long enough and have a dedicated enough fan base that someone will have recommended them to you. They also seem to be a divisive lot, with reviews and comments ranging from epic platitudes to straight-up dislike. Chances are Old Morning’s Dawn (Napalm Records) won’t change your opinion, falling into the “second verse, same as the first”, or “seventh album, same as the first, fourth, sixth…” category.
Unlike marmite (I’m definitely in the hate camp), Old Morning’s Dawn kinda leaves me on the fence. Or at least leaning against it, but on the negative side. At times, it stirs, evoking the atmosphere of Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings soundtrack (ish). At times it disappears into stultifying background dreariness. The ever contentious keyboard-played drums at times provide a sparse appropriate background, at others sound cheap, digital and out of place, and the constant mix of an organic aim with (what must be intentionally) inorganic sounds does grate, many of the keyboard tones evoking the cheap Casio bent of Burzum’s Daudri Baldrs failure.
But then there’s a ‘Caradhas’ with triumphant synths parping in the foreground while riffless guitar noise drifts in and out behind them; a Dune-esque leitmotif dances in around the 3rd minute mark, melodies seguing well with the guitars. Or an ‘Earthshrine’, which does bring the album nicely to a close, and builds from a sparse piano intro into a cleverly understated male voice choir and proud brass instruments.
But therein lays the problem, too. For ‘Earthshrine’ is, like the majority of its counterparts, nine minutes long. And the bookending peaks sandwich five minute long tedious valleys of meandering parps and swathes, and that is the theme of much of the album.
It isn’t an atmospheric work, it is 66 minutes of intermittent swells amongst a tide of dreary, and the much of the album passes by in the background time after time, with a lack of drum beat or identifiable song, as most of the offerings here are interchangeable. Indeed, most of the parts of each offering are too. Devin Townsend once declared Life Is All Dynamics. Old Morning’s Dawn is sorely lacking in life, all or dynamics.