So it’s not really a Helliday list anymore now, is it? But to be honest this was actually written just a few days before the festivities began as were the others… Yes, there’s more to come and heaps more in January which will see me cleaning out my HD and getting rid of all the promos. Not to mention all the requests. The New Year is already getting off to a good start and it’s not even January yet. This is also one of those rare moments when a split “towers over everything else.” Vassafor and Sinistrous Diabolus scored a 10/10 which is inductive to how fucking amazing that atmospheric doom/death split actually is. I couldn’t make my mind up on who gave the better performance, but it’s an absolute must have. Wrong also did an amazing job of depressive black metal that doesn’t feature a whine, as Russia’s Zgard showed us that folk-influenced symphonic black metal in the traditional style is not dead yet. Plenty of good releases here.
Vassafor/Sinistrous Diabolus – Split EP (2014) – This split EP features two cuts from Vassafor and just one from Sinistrous Diabolus. But both cuts are quite long and add up to the length of two separate EP releases, so that’s saying something.
Since Vassafor pride themselves on tradition, I’ll have to turn my speakers up as I listen to their mountainous mix of doom, atmosphere and death metal which comes across as completely vile in the harshest notion of the word. Demonic utterances appear from beneath the thundering bass melodies, which seem to have much to owe Cathedral and most certainly, Candlemass. There’s also just a little Slayer and Morbid Angel influence here as well which showcases an act that is thoroughly vested in the style of its influences. But that’s not to say that the atmospheric pressure doesn’t bring out something new here, as that seems to be the case. A truly promising act, no matter how you toss it.
As for Sinistrous Diabolus, their brand of atmospheric death/doom is much like Vassafor, except a little more theatrical and rather more menacing. It’s rather difficult to say as to which act I like the best, because both prove a profound presence on a split that fans of atmospheric doom/death absolutely must go out and purchase for their collection. You must get this record if you’re into atmospheric death/doom of a ritualistic and threatening atmosphere. There’s absolutely no questioning the decision. If this record doesn’t appeal to your tastes, given they must embrace the vengeful darkness; you’ll find this listen essential.
(3 Tracks, 45:00)
Wrong – Pessimistic Outcomes (2014) – Wrong offer a memorable slab of black metal, but they also offer something a little more. There’s obviously an experimental flavor in the songwriting as well as the vocal approaches which can go from an alligator growl to something that sounds almost like a sort of stone golem trilling. Yet there are all sorts of bizarre uses of the throat on this record and they all help to accentuate the experience and make the whole thing come off a little more evil. There’s also a definite funerary sadness in the music, but it’s got enough grit to rise a step above some of the guys in this genre that sound like they’re whining worse than Fred Durst. Despite the depressive tone of the record, it still manages to kick in sections and offers a frosty performance that you’ll be glad to have picked up during this rather dark and cold time of the year. There’s no better time for black metal than right now and this record will certainly speak to those of you who have it especially rough during the Hellidays. Hope that Satan Claws puts a copy of this one in your stocking, along with some coal which will make the whole experience much better when you pull it out. This is truly the sound of insanity, despair and pessimism as the name inclines. The album’s final cut, “I Thought I’d Woken 9:38” seems to be great example of that replete with the maniacal laugher of a madman who cannot believe the current state of the world around him. I definitely feel those sentiments.
(5 Tracks, 46:00)
Vardan – Enjoy Of Deep Sadness (2014) – For a more traditional approach in the realms of funeral or depressive black metal, we have Enjoy Of Deep Sadness which shows the one man act getting better by the year. The sound of the record still manages to capture a raw, yet dreary performance with tear jerking melodies and ultimately harsh scowls. It sounds very much in the nature of the old school, but is not so under produced that you can barely make it out. Vardan’s melodies have always been their strongest point and this record shows them just as potent as ever. This record is the sort of thing that makes you feel as though you have lost your lover or a best friend and it’s definitely not for the weak at heart or suicidal. It definitely sounds as if the man is expressing the loss of one’s will, but in a more melodic tone that feels at times like the ending credits of a terribly sad film. If you’re in the mood to brood and mourn, than Vardan’s latest effort will certainly please the darkness within you.
(3 Tracks, 36:00)
Axegressor – Last (2014) – Axegressor plays thrash metal, as is immediately apparent from the very beginning. But is there anything that makes these guys stand out or literally “tower above the rest?” Well to be honest, the band plays thrash with a more modernized edge that should appeal to those in the new school just as well as the old. Though I don’t like the frontman’s vocal approach in some of the songs, I do like them in others which comes off a little odd to me. As far as structure and muscularity are concerned however, these guys are doing a terrific job musically and it’s great to hear a thrash release where not ever single song carries the same tempo and mannerisms. It won’t cement as your favorite thrash release of the year, but it’s definitely a solid attempt that is worthy of multiple listens. Slowly Finland begins to dominate thrash in the way that it has with death metal, one small band at a time.
(9 Tracks, 37:00)
Zgard – Contemplation (2014) – This Ukrainian black metal act seems to mix a familiar atmosphere of rough and raw tremolo riffs with slight symphonics that help to remind me of early symphonic black metal. Yet they also incorporate a folk-oriented clean vocal approach that helps to decorate each of the album’s lengthy epics. Flute playing accompanies “Through The Forest 8:21” while a short interlude of frosty wind appears on “Incarnation Memory 9:26” as the peaceful sound of ice-bound keyboards comprise the instrumental “Silence 5:54.” Compositionally, Zgard reminds me of early Dimmu Borgir and Emperor, but with an injection of Ukrainian folk music that helps to differentiate it from other acts in the genre. There’s no mistaking the potent performance here and I’m quite sure that fans of traditional symphonic black metal that is entirely free of new school gimmicks will enjoy this trek through the cold Ukrainian wilderness. You may need to drink a little bit to help you warm up.
(7 Tracks, 64:00)
Trepaneringsritualen & Sutekh Hexen – One Hundred Year Storm (2014) – The combination of these two atmosphere acts has culminated into something dark, electrical and quite gloomy. A horrendous shouting can be heard on the piece, which ultimately comes off like a soundtrack to the apocalypse, the world in a state of nuclear fallout and ruin. This record sounds as if the damned are screaming, those left to die on a completely ruined and useless world which will shove them off like tiny parasites and in time return to its future glory. But for now the clouds cover all as the electronic data whizzes about the guy and the fleshlings die with the remnants of their technologically enhanced world. Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
(2 Tracks, 53:00)
Boris The Blade – The Human Hive (2014) – Deathcore anyone? No? Well, you’re getting it anyway with this rather boring exercise in technical deathcore called Boris The Blade. If you want to know what a record that sounds like every metal modernism of the last couple of years sounds like, then this is definitely the kind of disc you’ll be interested in. It sounds just as bland and devoid of anything unique as you’d expect, even though a handful of promising sections do occur in the guitar playing. There are a few tracks that tinge on the death metal side of things and I’ll applaud them for that, but there are far better bands out there doing this kind of stuff right now and I’d rather listen to them. And as far as the piano influence goes (you’ll hear it spattered about a few tracks) I’d rather listen to the new Ghoulchapel for that kind of atmosphere perfected. The band barely ever change tempo from song to song however, which makes it just one big old slab of wood to me. Boris’s blade is quite dull, so perhaps they need to sharpen it up a bit more before recording another release… unless you want more of this.
(10 Tracks, 34:00)
Devangelic – Resurrection Denied (2014) – This Roman death metal act is made up of members of Putridity, Vulvectomy and Coprophiliac and is apparently inspired by Disgorge, Gorgasm and Condemned. That sounds nice and all, but where’s the beef? Seriously! This record sounds like it was recorded in a small cardboard box somewhere in the Vatican. I like the fact that it’s truly as brutal as it claims to be and the machine-gun drum aesthetics certainly get to bashing whenever utilized, but there’s almost not even a hint of real guitar on the record. It’s all been drowned out by the drums. I mean, you’ll hear bits and pieces here and there, but it’s definitely one of those records that could work with just a fuzz box, drums and a vocal mic. Brutal death metal has never been my cup of tea and one of the main reasons for that many of the bands choose to drown out the guitar in the drum work, which makes me question the decision to have a guitarist in the first place. That being said, if you like the sound of over the top pulverizing drums with a nearly gurgled vocal approach, then you’ll find something to like here. It’s definitely not my favorite kind of metal, but I won’t knock you if you can get into it. To each their own.
(9 Tracks, 31:00)
Orange Goblin – Healing Through Fire (2014 Reissue) – This reissue of the band’s 2007 release sounds just as you might expect, as it’s got all the blues and groove that the band is known for. Though it sounds a little more raw compared to their newest release Back From The Abyss, I’d be a fool to tell you that there wasn’t plenty to chew on. Fans of stoner metal, or what I would really like to call Metal and Blues (M&B?) will certainly find plenty of trippy atmospheres to explore whilst getting as high as humanly possible and drinking a great deal as well. With a lyrical content filled with everything from literature to life experience, Orange Goblin definitely show themselves as much more than a regular old stoner band. But they weren’t there just yet and Back From The Abyss is far stronger in my opinion. Two live cuts adorn the disc as bonuses to the reissue and they show a proper performance to close the piece. “They Come Back 4:46” is definitely one of the album’s highest points however, whether it be the live or studio version. That’s really the only cut that I remember from it. But that’s still no reason not to give this blast from the slightly distant past a re-listen.
(11 Tracks, 53:00)
Morbo – Addiction To Musical Dissection (2014) – Finally, we have Morbo which is a straight-up death metal act. They’re a little raw, but they have that kind of unmistakable traditional death metal sound that you’ll notice immediately. It does sound like a bunch of guys playing a room somewhere, but it sounds like they’re doing a really fucking great job playing in that room. It’s hard to describe. It’s definitely a DIY effort, but it doesn’t sound like a computer had all the fun. These guys definitely don’t beat around the bushes with a memorable sadistic growl/scowl style, ravaging leads and standard death metal drumming. It’s not the best record you’ll ever hear, but it’s definitely got some promise and I’ve taken notice. The songs are structured rather well, which makes for a listen that reminds me of some of the best bands in the genre (AKA the early death metal acts) and I’m quite sure that Morbo will find some major fans. It might have started in one room, but there’s no doubt in my mind that these guys are a studio quality act that I wouldn’t mind hearing more from. Let’s face it, this is the sound of real, unprocessed death metal and the fans are going to take notice. Maybe a few effects were used here and there, but it definitely still retains the sound of a bunch of guys jamming out and leaving their mark on a truly classic sound. Addiction To Musical Dissection shows a noteworthy act that is well worth keeping your eyes on. Give it a listen.
(8 Tracks, 31:00)