ALBUM REVIEW: Darkwoods My Betrothed – Angel Of Carnage Unleashed


One of the more fascinating projects to be revived during everyone’s pandemic-induced free time, Darkwoods My Betrothed has returned with their first album since 1998’s Witch-Hunts. Angel of Carnage Unleashed (Napalm Records) sustains their old style for the most part, showing off a variant of Viking Black Metal with hearty Symphonic flourishes. Of course, it’s always interesting to see how time will toy with a preexisting formula, especially one that has gone undisturbed for twenty-three years.

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Dimmu Borgir – Eonian


A genre born of anger and extremity, Black Metal has always burned with a glorious and uniquely singular spirit. However, with such savage independence at its core, conflict and contradiction have never been too far away. As commonplace amongst its ranks as bizarre names and unintelligible band logos, bitter (and often silly) arguments have raged for decades about which individuals, acts, or sub-genres, are the most – and of course the least – worthy to fly its blackened flag. Continue reading


Carach Angren – Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten


Back with another ghost story to tell in their own brand of symphonic black metal, Carach Angren has dropped one of their best in Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten (Season of Mist). Forty-two minutes of orchestral accompaniment paired with eerie lyrics is all it takes for an enjoyable, yet creepy album to make its mark. While some parts come off as a little cheesy at times (which I personally enjoy for the most part in the genre), other parts in the album really pick up the intensity and left a lasting impression after only a few sprints through.Continue reading


Dimmu Borgir – Forces Of The Northern Night DVD set


Top hats off to Dimmu Borgir. While it has been five years almost to the day between the recording of the second of these sets (2012’s Wacken performance where they were joined by almost 100 musicians) the release of the Forces Of The Northern Night (Nuclear Blast) double DVD set is a perfect way to close a simply huge cycle celebrating the monumental Abrahadabra album Continue reading


Slagmaur – Thill Smitts Terror


I am no leading authority on Black Metal. As I stated in my review for Woe’s outstanding new album, Hope Attrition (Vendetta), I do enjoy many of the legendary Norwegian bands, but these days on the topic of Black Metal I tend to focus on the North American scene. And maybe it’s because of that Woe review that I was assigned Slagmaur’s latest, Thill Smitts Terror (Osmose).Continue reading


Saille – Gnosis


Stirring from a creeping lilt into a frictional sprawl, Symphonic Black Metal artisans Saille usher in their fourth album, Gnosis. Its predecessor, Eldritch (both Aural/code666) made great strides to establish this cerebral aggressor as an act of pedigree and violence; a burgeoning reputation that this darker, more ferocious offspring will serve only to further.Continue reading


Images At Twilight – Kings


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The first thing that strikes you about Images At Twilight is how much they sound like fellow Norwegian Black Metallers Dimmu Borgir. But Dimmu when they were younger, hungrier and an altogether different, far scarier proposition than they are these days.

Formed in 2011 by vocalist Andre Aaslie, the band’s début Kings (Indie Recordings) is an ambitious album, full of speed, aggression, and orchestral atmospherics. When things move fast, they move really fast but there are usually moments of perfectly timed, much-needed respite just around the corner. While it might be all very well and good for some Black Metal acts to play unrelentingly fast, a band like Images At Twilight need those little interludes to let the music breathe, even if most of the time they merely serve as a platform from which to launch their next ferocious sonic attack.

There are times, however, when things don’t balance quite as evenly as they could. Some songs suffer from sounding a little too busy in parts, the keyboards becoming a little too intrusive during some of the quieter moments. This doesn’t happen too often though, and is a pretty minor quibble in an otherwise very well thought out and put together album. The orchestral sections give the record a very cinematic atmosphere, most notably on the instrumental ‘Created To Destroy’ which could very easily have been lifted from the soundtrack to one of the Lord of the Rings movies, and fifteen minute epic ‘Kaizanbar’ where the band manage to showcase every facet of their sound perfectly, without it ever feeling tiresome or cluttered.

The production sounds great, stark and bare when necessary, like it could have been produced in the early-mid nineties, but also rich and clear enough to enable the symphonic elements to sit alongside the vicious guitars and hyperspeed blastbeats without sounding cheap or hollow.

Although Images At Twilight may not be the most innovative band on the scene, they have still managed to create an album which will not only appeal to those who miss the halcyon days of early Dimmu Borgir and Bal Sagoth but to those more contemporary minded Black Metal fans who prefer a stronger production and slightly more progressive elements to their music.

 

8.0/10

GARY ALCOCK

 


Lychgate – An Antidote For The Glass Pill


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“Uncanny Valley” is a phrase originally coined in the field of aesthetics to describe the feeling of revulsion caused by things which look and move almost but not exactly like natural beings, but has since been used to describe anything which familiar but different enough to be unsettling, creepy and… well… uncanny. The easiest way to describe Lychgate’s second album would be a combination of Symphonic Black Metal and Funeral Doom, but though that’s technically true fans of those two genres are likely to be a little creeped out by Lychgate’s approach to both.

One of the most audible ways in which Lychgate stand out is their use of keys, especially the near-omnipresent Church Organ. Nothing new itself, of course, but rather than simply garnishing riffs or creating “atmospheric” space-filler, Lychgate frequently use their organ (tee hee) as a lead instrument, creating a genuinely unsettling sense of otherness in those used to more conventional Metal songwriting. The production lends further weight to this impression, the guitars taking on a cold, clipped feeling that times calls to mind old Castlevania soundtracks.

Both of these things would be irrelevant, of course, without the song-writing to back them up, and Lychgate continue to buck both Black Metal and Doom orthodoxy with broken, nightmarish compositions that draw as much from Prog and psychedelia as from any Metal sub-genre. Greg Chandler (also of Esoteric) uses his distinctively damaged-sounding vocals to lend further emotional weight to an alternately bombastic and ghostly selection of songs.

This is Black Metal for people who like the idea of Black Metal more than the reality. Doom for people who want to go beyond stolen Sabbath riffs and feedback. Prog Metal for people who wish the term didn’t have anything to do with Opeth. Simultaneously familiar and genuinely unusual, An Antidote For The Glass Pill (Blood Music) is likely to be one of the most interesting and distinctive releases in three over-saturated genres this year.

 

8.0/10

RICHIE HR


Graveworm – Ascending Hate


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With Ascending Hate (AFM) the Italian Symphonic Black Metal band Graveworm presents their ninth studio album – a beastie that has been three and a half years in the making, but well worth the wait!

One of my favourite elements on this album is the piano which is overlaid on the music, for instance in ‘Downfall of Heaven’ or ‘Rise Again’; the contradiction between the black metal and the more sensitive piano really adds depth to the compositions. Another contradiction that really made me happy was that between the music and the lyrics in songs like ‘Blood Torture Death’ as never before have lyrics like those been sung of such a cheerful melody.

The opening track, ‘The Death Heritage’, is one of the highlights on this album, and sets the bar really high. It has a nice acoustic intro on classical guitar, which is then penetrated by heavy, electric distorted guitar before the metal ensues, with blast-beats and grunts, and you can really appreciate the skills that went into the composition. The guitars add melodies that support the growls, and the synth-heavy breaks are also very tasteful and mysterious.

‘To The Empire of Madness’ has very good drumming, and a lovely acoustic break which is interspersed with more metal. The guitar riffs are once again excellent and the grunts, like the rest of the song, are very dynamic, meaning that it holds the attention from start to finish. The acoustic outro is one of the many points on the album where you really get to admire the skill and tastefulness of guitarists Eric Righi and Stefan Unterpertinger.

‘Stillborn’ features yet more incredible instrumentation from all musicians, with a slower pace but is very intense. ‘Liars to the Lions’, on the other hand, is very fast, but it also contains those intense melancholic sections that Graveworm excels at, while despite the clear and polished sound, ‘Sons of Lies’ has a lovely gritty atmosphere. The switch that Stefano Fiori makes between his low and high grunts is one of the reasons I really enjoyed this track.

The closing number of the album is ‘Nocturnal Hymns Part II’. The first Nocturnal Hymns featured on the 1999 As Angels Reach the Beauty album (Serenades), and this new version uses the old motifs to create a more modern and heavy song. It is once again very dynamic, and the guitar riffs halfway through really build a lot of tension. I think this is a very strong finish to what is a very strong album, and it is great to have older work reprised this way.

 

8.0/10

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LORRAINE LYSEN


Carach Angren – This Is No Fairytale


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Fortune favours the brave, and Carach Angren are forging something of a name for themselves by putting effort into the narratives of their albums, and looking to create something that at least pokes a toe outside the rigid walled box labelled “Black Metal”. A concept album that unfurls telling a story of two children caught up in a chilling horror (no spoilers here, if you want to find out the full extent of a tale that makes King Diamond’s tales seem like bedtime stories you will need to find out the hard – and heavy – way), This Is No Fairytale (Season of Mist) is the Dutch orators most compelling release to date.

Eschewing the usual black metal practice of ripping off thirty year old albums (praise be the dark lord!), Carach Angren are trying something different, with reference points of Abrahadabra (Nuclear Blast) and Grand Declaration of War (Necropolis), This Is No Fairytale takes the blood-curdling scream of black metal, and mixes it in the cauldron with a caustic steampunked Nachtmystium, darkened Imaginaerium (Nuclear Blast) symphonics and a liberal dose of Tim Burton.

While the resultant “whole” unfortunately doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts, there are some very good parts here. The Dutch trio’s fourth album is an ambitious and enjoyable album, though at times it does allow certain tracks to outstay their welcome (‘Two Flies Flew Into A Black Sugar Cobweb’) and perhaps lacks a certain je ne sais quoi in the hook department.

This isn’t to put This Is No Fairytale down, because “when you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either” (Leo Burnett) and this stomping, frictional theatrical album conjures twisted Burton-esque images, especially during interlude ‘Dreaming of a Nightmare in Eden’. Carach Angren are at least looking to carve their own niche, and they aren’t too far from pulling the twisted nails of faith together to make their own maddened masterpiece.

Patience be thy virtue, Carach Angren.

7.0/10

Carach Angren on Facebook

STEVE TOVEY