Dödsrit – Spirit Crusher

I’m looking at Spirit Crusher (Prosthetic) the latest release from Sweden’s Dödsrit and I’m getting a feeling. Not super familiar with the band but judging by the font and the presence of umlauts we know extreme music is on the way, particularly of the Black Metal persuasion. And these song lengths certainly suggest experimentation and a non-commercial nature. Dödsrit is a one-man project isn’t it?

Those one man acts always have the most to say. Continue reading

Infera Bruo – Cerement

Black metal with a clean, crisp production and actual melody isn’t going to work for everyone. To some, it’s just not “cult” enough if it doesn’t sound like it was recorded at the bottom of a well, but Infera Bruo are three records into their career now and they’re still able to sound vibrant and full of ethereal evil. The emphasis, as ever with Infera Bruo, is on the balance of dark ambience with hints of malice scattered throughout. However, while Cerement (Prosthetic) is more to-the-point than previous releases, it lacks the memorable flair of both of its predecessors. Continue reading

Ghost Bath – Starmourner

There’s no point starting anywhere else. If you can’t get past the vocals, this is not the album for you. And stating that is not just about addressing the elephant, or rather addressing the yelps of the goat being castrated in the room, it’s worth highlighting as it is achingly and obviously Ghost Bath’s “thing”. They don’t have vocals (or lyrics, even) in a traditional sense. They have the anguished yelps and howls of frontman Nameless. And if you can’t deal with that, no amount of all-consuming ambient meanderings, lush Cascadian post-blackened swathes, progressive indulgences or melodic expositions that occur under, over and around the wails is going to make this an album you can get on with. Continue reading

A Forest of Stars – Beware The Sword You Cannot See

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Given Britain’s tendency to produce eccentrics, the emergence of Leeds troupe A Forest of Stars in 2007 may have caused a few heads to turn, but their glorious weirdness, even in a scene as narrow and regimented as black metal, has always worked to their advantage. Existing in their own interpretation of Victorian England where decadence, occult magick and narcotic experimentation reigned supreme, the septet’s three previous albums were all well received, with plaudits given for their enthralling storytelling and atmosphere as well as explorations into psychedelic territory and pastoral folk amid the crushing black metal dynamics. Further accolades look set to follow, for fourth effort Beware the Sword You Cannot See (Lupus Lounge/Prophecy) is an unabashed masterpiece.

With a concept heavily focused on death and rebirth, this is the album that shows A Forest of Stars transcending the rigid parameters of their earthly shackles and soaring off into the unknown with aplomb. The thunderous tremolo picking and double-bass assault evident on tracks such as ‘A Blaze of Hammers’ leaves the listener in no doubt that the band aren’t going to do an Opeth on us, but it’s the surging progressive flourishes and sense of ambition that makes this such a special listening experience, as demonstrated by the ascending chords and lush female vocals courtesy of violinist Kathryne Queen of the Ghosts on the magnificent album opener ‘Drawing Down the Rain.’ Speaking of ambition, the six part odyssey that is ‘Pawn on the Universal Chessboard’ which comprises the latter half of the album is mind-boggling in scope, ranging from spacy Tangerine Dream style synths on ‘Mindslide’, masterful dark prog on ‘Have You Got a Light, Boy?’ to pummelling black metal orthodoxy on ‘Lowly Worm.’

Special mention must go to vocalist Mr Curse for a truly astonishing performance where he shrieks, yelps and dips heavily into theatrical spoken word delivery to tell the story of the album, producing some fantastic lyrics (“Fuck you and the worms you rode in on!”) and acting as demonic ringleader to this spectacular carnival of unearthly delights. It may be too early to call A Forest of Stars the British answer to Enslaved but if they keep on producing records as excellent as this then their status will be in no doubt.

Early contender for one of the albums of the year.

 

9.0/10

 

JAMES CONWAY

Marduk – Frontschwein

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One of the longest serving and reliable bands in black metal, Marduk are a Swedish institution, a machine that just won’t quit. While they may rarely top the bill at festivals and even their most well acclaimed albums will get scant mention in any ‘best of’ list, their bloody single-mindedness and raging intensity has acted as a blueprint for the second wave of BM, and now an entire generation  after they formed, still show no signs of slowing down. Thirteenth full-length release Frontschwein (Century Media) offers few surprises and takes no prisoners.

Named after the grunts of the armed forces during the two world wars who were first over the top and destined to die either in a hail of bullets or shamefully as a deserter, Frontschwein continues Marduk’s obsession with death and armed conflict, long ago discarding the cheesy supernatural themes of early releases. The opening title track begins proceedings in a firestorm of tremolo picking and light speed blasting all competing for attention with the grotesque croaks of frontman Mortuus. Next track ‘The Blond Beast’ employs a catchy, mid-paced riff with just a tinge of post-punk to horrify the purists before normal order is restored on the scorching ‘Afrika.’

The most obvious comparison to previous albums that springs to mind whilst listening to Frontschwein is 1999’s classic Panzer Division Marduk (Osmose), a record of similar aggressive and militaristic traits. Like that hateful half hour, Frontschwein is straightforward, exhilarating black metal utterly devoid of gimmicks, although the occasional change of pace such as on the eerie, marching riffs of ‘Wartheland’ and the mournful dirge of ‘Nebelwerfer’ ensures that proceedings don’t stagnate. However, it’s the raging triumphalism of the eight minute plus ‘Doomsday Elite’ that shows Marduk at the peak of their powers with Morgan’s searing guitar licks threatening to scorch all and sundry.

Just as we are constantly reminded that war is hell and must never be forgotten, Marduk’s veteran status demands respect and their continued quality output proves that they still have plenty more gas in the tank.

 

7.5/10

Marduk on Facebook

 

JAMES CONWAY