As of typing this, it is now 12:49 AM. I stayed up a bit longer than usual, just to make sure that this one would go out tomorrow. It didn’t take all that long to finish, but I have been working on things both for The Grim Tower and New Noise Magazine (which has some of my exclusive reviews, so check often!). Some of these you will see soon, others may be a while from now. But I’m not about to reveal all my surprises. And yes, that’s a review for the new Novembers Doom album, which just happens to be this week’s spotlight. I’ve got some great things coming up, so keep checking back for new updates!
Novembers Doom – Bled White (2014 SPOTLIGHT) – The highly anticipated follow up to 2011’s Aphotic has finally arrived with Bled White. But what’s interesting about the album is that it’s a natural progression from the lighter approach of that previous disc. Comparable in ways to The Pale Haunt Departure, the album contains a number of clean vocal passages stuffed in between furious bouts of death metal, as shown on the disc’s punishing opener and title track. For those who might have thought Aphotic a bit too light, Bled White certainly punches up the heaviness by about a hundredfold as thundering guitars accentuate Paul Kuhr’s already pungent growls, whilst the drums are laid on as thick as ten pounds of iron stuffed into a hubcap burger. Seriously, folks – this album is thick and it’s that thickness which makes the dark emotion behind the record come off so menacingly. Each album seemed to be a portrait of his life and feelings at the time, and this one certainly sees him at yet another turbulent era. Atmosphere actually comes into play at certain parts of the record, as “Just Breathe 7:49” works to bring us more of the clean/heaviness of the previous album, showing that Paul’s clean vocals are even better than they were on earlier records. Perhaps it’s the glossy recording, but the lines just seem to deliver with a much stronger sense of passion, which is only heightened by impressively clean leads and solos. Yes, there are certainly a few solos thrown about on the disc and each and every one used on the record is indeed memorable. Obviously, the band really put a lot of time and effort into this recording and it shows. “Unrest 5:25” actually throws some progressive ingredients into the Novembers Doom pot, working quite well in all actuality. The band actually seems bulletproof at this point, as each moment of experimentation doesn’t serve to become a misstep. These guys really believe that Bled White may very well be their best album and that’s saying quite a bit considering their previous output. But I really can’t deny the powerful clean lines on “The Memory Room” coupled with such beautiful and melancholic melodies, working alongside sharp doom riffs and thick vocal gravel. There’s no doubt that Bled White is an album birthed out of experience and seems to be the band at their most mature.
Oddly enough, there’s just one track on the disc that I feel is slightly out of place and that would be “The Brave Pawn 3:57.” It’s heavy as hell, but much shorter than the rest of the songs on the disc as it kills the somber mood in favor of one quick bout of the traditional death metal approach attempted on 2009’s Into Night’s Requiem Infernal (which you can get for free with a purchase of their book, The Wayfaring Chronicles). I think it would have worked better on there, so hearing it here just doesn’t work for me. Especially when the last couple of tracks are extremely melodic and emotionally potent in the vein of the band’s previous record. “The Grand Circle 6:48” still has its moments of pummeling death metal mayhem, as does atmospheric album closer “The Silent Dark 9:28” near the very end. I would certainly be correct to say that the band have balanced the death metal and clean portions of the record exquisitely, culminating in an experience that is nothing less than memorable. If I could say anything more about this album, it would definitely have to be yet another highlight in “Animus” which comes off as one of the band’s best moments since The Pale Haunt Departure. There is no doubt in my mind that Bled White showcases Novembers Doom at their very best and it’s a shining moment in the band’s history. Without a doubt, Novembers Doom has made one of the best albums of 2014 with this absolute masterpiece of a record. There’s just no stopping these guys and their horde of doom, gloom and fragile emotional matter. This is the sound of pain that is genuine, not the sort of emo whining or whatever people do now when they’re upset over losing a girlfriend. Bled White is truly the sound of human struggle and frustration. Embrace the sorrow.
Highlights: Bled White, Heartfelt, Just Breathe, Unrest, The Memory Room, Animus (11 Tracks, 68:00)
Scourge – Hate Metal (2014) – These Brazilian death metallers took me by surprise when I got a hold of this album and like a great many releases, I thought it was just some regular old death metal band. As a matter of fact, the album’s first track “Intro – Sentenced To Die 5:37” sounded pretty haphazard and disjointed. But then when I got to “The Bread That God Crushed 6:30” (That one must go out to you, BreadGod) the listening experience suddenly became interesting. With atmospheres, latter-era Death technical progressive riffs and vocal barrage backed with thick grooves, I grew even more interested in this band. And it continued, as “Angels Of Wrath 4:26” came in with machine-gun percussion, more technical riff melodies and almost a Nile or Suffocation like atmosphere. I don’t know who the fuck these guys are, but they’ve crafted a winner in ten minutes of material. But the album is much longer than that, as “Orgy In Paradise 3:52” manages to quantify this greatness even further. That damn guitar solo is doing funny things to my brain, and I like every slight tinge of endorphin rush that I feel from this record thus far. According to the label, these guys sound like a child of Sarcofago, Sextrash and Holocausto. Though I’m only familiar with the first (iconic) act on that list, I certainly just stopped typing this review to get in a quick bout of air guitar without even realizing it. And I guess that’s one way to tell whether or not a bad is good. If you’re stopping a review for a few seconds, just to pretend that you’re strumming up and down the neck of an invisible guitar, then something akin to gold is certainly found within this sea of darkness, muck and shiny steel. “The Ancient Ritual Of Death 4:47” powers in much the same way as the others have, but this formula seems so devastating that it’s in no way boring. However, acoustics come into play when “My Hate, My Dreams, My Revenge” starts up as some rather sweet clean leads also serve as meat for the track. And yeah, there are no clean vocals to be found. This guy growls during the acoustics and I love every damn bit of it. Because you just don’t hear that anymore. Some musicians think, “Oh, these are clean melodies so I can’t growl.” But when you do and it comes off as right as it does on this track, (which goes back and forth between a spiraling onslaught and a beautiful acoustic) then you know you’re doing something right. And then they top all of it off with an extremely memorable solo. Keep in mind that I just got done reviewing the new Arch Enemy album and have gotten more than a plateful of Michael Amott’s solos, but this one still managed to make my ears perk up and take notice after all that action. The band finish up the album with the title track (3:51) which serves as a great anthem and closer for the piece. Once again, we’re treated to some absolutely incredible leads and if these guys break up or disband before the world can hear this, then metal has lost a very memorable act in Scourge. The intro might not have done anything for me, but the rest of the album delivered in spades… diamonds and clubs. Highly recommended.
Highlights: The Bread That God Crushed, My Hate My Dreams My Revenge (8 Tracks, 37:00)
Ringworm – Season Of The Witch (2014) – I can’t tell you how much I love this album cover. You’d think that maybe Ringworm tried to fuse their hardcore with black metal, and it even sounds that way at the very beginning of “Dawn Of Decay.” But that’s not the case. Nevertheless, I don’t think a mix between hardcore, black and death metal could ever get me interested in this guy’s vocals. He’s got a very typical hardcore approach, but it just sounds a bit funny with the band as metalized as they are here. There’s definitely thrash riffs and some death metal grooves being played on here in places, along with some drum battering and of course, breakdowns. But this man is so fucking one-dimensional that I can’t get around the record for his vocals. And they’re so damn high in the mix that I don’t really get anything but his vocals. Just him and that’s really it. The bass seems kind of pushed to back and the drums don’t do a whole hell of a lot when they don’t have to. They try to do the whole Pro-Pain thing by mixing in a boat-load of metal elements, but where Pro-Pain’s frontman actually sounds like he’s going to beat your fucking ass, this guy just seems like he’s going to whine and crawl away somewhere. It doesn’t really matter what the band does, because every vocal line comes off the exact fucking same. You know? I’m just going to have to face facts and submit to this one. I just can’t go through with listening to this one again. No matter how good some of the leads are, and how much the backing band try to provide some sort of substance, this shrieking little man in the foreground ruins everything for me. It’s just not something that I feel I could ever get into. But if you liked their last couple of albums, then I’m sure you’ll love the increased heaviness of this one. I can’t call the album a complete wash however, because there’s some effort being shown from the backing band (as I noted earlier) and some sections of this seemingly “one big song” come off interesting. But all in all, this witch might need to be burned at the stake. It’s a pass from me, folks.
Rotengeist – Start To Exterminate (2014) – This Polish three-piece create thrash metal similar to Voivod, Slayer, Sodom and Sepultura. This is their sophomore release and it sounds quite intriguing thus far. The vocals are rough and hungry, the guitars blaze with the persona of Slayer and Sodom, and the bass riffs definitely crunch on Sepultura. Yet the band does unleash a bit of prog, which was no doubt influenced by Voivod. The album begins with Muslim chants, followed by fierce thrash riffs and the sound of George Bush. (You do know that there’s a possibility the Jeb Bush will run in the 2016 election, right? And I say no fucking way to those elite bastards!) The band get down to business with “End Point Blank 3:08” which certainly sees Slayer riffs fused with prog, making for a much different and more layered style of thrash then we normally get. I have to give them credit for at least trying to bulk up their thrash a little with several intriguing song structures, where riffs actually build onto other riffs and solos fly about while (when they’re supposed to, this is far from the “solo all over the place” sort of thrash album) fitting tightly, like interlocking pieces in a musical jigsaw puzzle. I don’t think Piotr Winiarski is the greatest thrash vocalist I’ve ever heard, but when he’s playing riffs like that, the vocal matter of this record is completely moot. Instead, I’m intrigued by so many different atmospheres that my head is spinning. Literally, spinning.
“Rise Of The Machines 3:39” actually saw the band at their overall thrashiest, not edging towards thick grooves towards later in the piece. But Rotengeist have the uncanny ability to make a song that’s not even four minutes sound twice its length due to their multi-textured soundscapes, which in turn produce mind tricks. These guys are truly great musicians, but it might be hard to get them recognized throughout the world due to the vocal approach, which may not work for some. But Piotr really puts himself into the vocal work and I think if people listen to the music for the music and not just the damn vocals, they’ll find a strong and curious thrash record in Start To Exterminate. I never really understood what was up with “Death Came With A Milkmaid 4:33” but the band played it so well that it didn’t even matter what the lyrics were about. If you’re willing to give it chance, you might be in for a surprise. I think these guys have a lot of potential and this album proves it.
Sammath – Godless Arrogance (2014) – This fifth full length from Sammath shows a definite raw and icy approach, but it might just be a little too monotonous for me – at least for the most part. The first track “Shot In Mass 4:06” definitely had melodic tremolos, scathing vocals and more blasts than I can handle in a solid week, but that’s also where I think the fault lied. There’s just too much of that same atmosphere which does nothing more than appease black metal purists/kvltists that will definitely be all up in arms for this record. “Fear Upon Them 6:14” offered about the same thing until the drums finally decided to switch up patterns and do something a bit different. The leaflet claims that you can hear the instruments quite audibly, yet I’m still having a hard time hearing some of the riffs on the album. But it’s definitely right about cranking up the volume, because I can barely hear it otherwise.
A little bit of black/thrash pops up into “Godless 3:51” which goes back to the band’s eighties thrash metal influences, but it’s a bit much to have to wade through before I got to that part of the track. It sounds like the frontman is holding his tongue on some sections of “Thrive In Arrogance 3:53” but the melodies and atmosphere are certainly chilling. “The World Must Burn 3:23” erupts into a seething mound of hatred, with “The Filth And Remnants Of Man 5:38” continuing the frosty fear as it manages to highlight a few strong sections, as each track does do every now and again. There’s even a part where nothing more than a doomy drone utters forth, bringing in a nice moment of disturbing dread before the bashing begins again. “Death 4:13” however, has one of the best drumming sections I’ve heard on this record, showing that the skinsman really does want to do more than fucking blast through the entire disc. For a disc where percussion plays such a large role, this track sees that role played at its strongest. The last track is “Nineteen Corpses Hang In The Mist 5:24” which manages to throw more thrash into the black metal, making a fitting end to the record. I think that Godless Arrogance blasts more than it should, but I’m sure there are those who will think otherwise. If it appeals to you, pick it up. But I don’t think I’m ready for another dip in the ice with these gentlemen. I’m headed to the hot tub.
Wolves Like Us – Black Soul Choir (2014) – Wolves Like Us are not the core-influenced three word band that you might think they are, as they’ve actually got quite a hold on alternative rock. Trust me, if you’re not yet hearing an edited cut of “I Don’t Need To Be Forgiven 5:04” on your local radio station, then something is clearly wrong with your local radio station. Though the album began with the dirty prog approach of “Three Poisons 4:04”, these guys obviously want to play it cool and go for a more marketable approach in the alternative rock scene. They’re a bit comparable to Mastodon, but have much more in common with catchy pop rock, as “When Will We Ever Sleep 3:58” and “Your Word Is Law 3:39” show instantly. But I daresay that the latter track has quite a bit in common with The Deftones, so I’m certainly enjoying it. Wolves are an alternative rock/metal band with shoegaze melodies and a certain commercial vibe, but I like it. The band’s frontman has a mature approach to the vocals which seem to sync closely with many of the nineties and late 2000 rock acts that I grew up to while listening to the radio (and leaving it on all night sometimes). All in all, I have to say that’s it a good album for what it is and shows a band with some promise. At least they’re not trying so hard to stick to one style and if it appears that way at a glance, you can at least note that they’re trying brief experiments with said style through each song. But “Lovescared 3:12” just isn’t my thing, as well as “When Will We Ever Sleep 3:58” so not everything on this disc completely works. There’s also an unnecessary track called “Under 1:11” which you can just skip entirely. The band does attempt a lengthy closing piece, coupled with some psychedelics and a feeling of doom which at least ends the record on a good note. Wolves Like Us aren’t for everyone, but they’re at least not the three-word-core band that you expected. If you like alternative rock, then they’re definitely worth a grab. It’s much better than the shit that plays on my local rock station.
Highlights: Three Poisons, When Will I Be Forgiven, Your Word Is Law, Thanatos Wins Again (11 Tracks, 41:00)
Thy Flesh – Thymiama Manaan (2014) – This three piece Grecian black metal act made up of drummer Athen, guitarist and vocalist The Cloven Hoof and bassist Haemophilius (she’s absolutely gorgeous) have released their first record, which is quite a change from the death/thrash nature of the demo material. This version of the band sees them dwelling in the same realms as other esoteric black metal acts like Rotting Christ, Secrets Of The Moon and Deathspell Omega. The title track (5:22) had some interesting things going on with it as far as atmosphere and tribal drumming, but other than the normal slew of fierce tremolos, furious blasts and scathing vocals, there’s not much on follow up “Final Nights 5:22” to keep my attention. “Rape Magic 6:20” doesn’t really derive from the norm much either, even though they try to add some slight bits of atmospheric melody into the mix. “Blood Song 5:15” comes out of the park with blasts, but I really hear little else. It’s furious enough, but I’m not hearing anything at all special from these guys. There’s really nothing here that sets them apart from anyone else. “Temple Of Absinth 6:45” manages to pull out some classic dirges from the muck, making a noticeable presence that actually manages to show these guys doing something more than the same old approach to black metal. Even though tremolos and blasts are still used a bit, this one manages to separate itself from the pack. “Silver Tongue Devil 7:21” brings forth more of the same approach, but I really love the lead melodies on this one. “Externally Unbound 1:53” manages to provoke the strongest feeling on the disc however, as it paints a fearsome scene with unfriendly piano and ghastly whispers amidst other sound effects.
Alright, guys. You’ve proven that you can write basic black metal. But what I did just notice, is that you can also create atmospheres. That piano section did more to raise the hair on the back of my neck than 95% of this album did. And that’s because it sounded authentically evil. If there was any possible way that these guys could combine the horrifying piano structures and atmospheric elements into the black metal that they’re already performing quite well on, then we might have a worthy act in Thy Flesh. With Greece being a musical hotbed for originality since the days of SepticFlesh and Rotting Christ, along with newcomers Aenaon and Nethescerial; it seems as good a time as any for another Greek-based act to start showing us the classical prowess that the country has been known for, hopefully bringing us a frightening feast of black metal and foreboding classical structures. One can only hope.
Highlights: Thymiama Mannan, Temple Of Absinth, Extremity Unbound (7 Tracks, 37:00)
Kaoskult – Secret Serpent (2014) – Made up of former members of Taran, In The Depth Of Night and Supreme Lord, Kaoskult write “destructive dark metal” which to me sounds like black metal tremolos with a thicker version of vocal that sits somewhere in between black and death metal. The album begins with “Invocation – Manifest 4:34” which pits sharp drums blasts, lotsa tremolos and the same vocal approach that I’ve just described. So it’s basically a form of black metal. “Eternal Threat 6:10” follows the same formula, but with some thrash elements pumped in, which make things a bit more enjoyable than the previous effort. “The New Aeon 5:46” adds a couple of post-black melodies into the mix, differing up things even further. As the vocals take on a couple of whispers, the occult nature of the material slowly becomes apparent. There are also a few instances that make the melodies appear faint, distant and mysterious. This actually works quite well for me and I’m beginning to consider Kaoskult an interesting act. Clean vocals actually come in at one point, as the song rolls into groove. That also works for me and manages to put a handle on all the blasts for a bit. I understand that black metal and blast beats are necessary, but I champion drummers who show more than they can do more than pound the kick drums, as this guy manages to do. Just hearing him use more skill than is required for blasts, does much to perk up the album for me. Electronics are featured on “The Virus Of Discord 4:20” as well as more use of clean vocal. It seems that the band try to change their style with each song that appears on the disc and that’s an approach that I can stand beside. Songs really shouldn’t sound the same, even if kept in the same style and that’s what these guys are really trying hard to do. The title track (6:43) comes next, as it welcomes a slower moment in which to throw in some rather entertaining riff melodies. “(Primal) Chaos 5:42” comes in next, bringing a modernized black metal style out of this odd concoction, albeit it delivers with worthy venom regardless. The band decide to toy around with progressive structures this time around, as they corrupt tremolos and make black tears fall from kvltists everywhere in the process. The disc ends with “Words Of Power 6:25” which ends the disc off on another slightly more modernized sensation of black metal. It works much better for me than the first couple, of tracks – I’ll say that much.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Kaoskult. But after hearing the record and absorbing its many different layers, I think it’s safe to assume that there’s some definite promise to be found here. I think it’s the kind of album that you need to listen to more than once to feel its full effect. I think at first you’ll consider it more a 7, but after listening to the disc another time and really soaking in the dark atmospheres, you’ll be apt to give it more of a solid score. While I think the band still have some ground to cover and I’m only hearing glimpses of what they really can do, I’m quite sure that the band’s next release will feature even more textural patterns and experimentations that will solidify Kaoskult as a band to watch. Definitely give the whole thing a listen, track by track. You have to hear the evolution throughout the piece in order to really understand what the band did on this album. I’m looking forward to hearing more in the future.
Highlights: The New Aeon, The Virus Of Discord, (Primal) Chaos (7 Tracks, 39:42)
Raus!/Perunwit – Split EP (2014) – This is an odd split from an industrial band by the name of Raus! and a legendary “dark barbarian ambient” band by the name of Perunwit, who are also the oldest Pagan band in Poland. Raus! is a side project of Shadow from the band Black Altar, who has created a blend of industrial black metal in the vein of Mysticum and Iperyt (who we reviewed a while back) with a guest appearance by Shocker from Iperyt. I might also mention that while both of these gentlemen (Shadow and Aro) are in Raus!, Aro is the sole member of Perunwit.
The first song on the Raus! side of the split is a rather bombastic intro, ‘Spirit Ov Victory 4:17″ that doesn’t really sound anything like black metal, but it is worthy of a film score. After such an exaggerated intro, “Raus 3:27” finally begins with a militaristic style of riff and drum patterns, complete with a fierce rasp that occasionally lets on to show that he has some rocks in his throat. “Ich Bin Got 4:48” goes right into samples and drum marches, as the guitars slowly warm up to feature more prominence amongst the veritable death marches that bellow forth. “Genocidum Atrox 4:35” utilizes electronics coupled with faint post black riffs and whispers to communicate a rather interesting experiment. I don’t think it’s completely fleshed out yet, but it’s definitely interesting. The last song on the piece is the heavily industrialized soundscape of “Go And Die With Honour 3:27” which sounds like a veritable march of the machines.
The Perunwit side of things is much different, as you might expect. It also begins with an intro entitled “Within The Chant Of Raven Choirs 3:59” of which I can hear crows (or are those ravens?) cawing amidst the sounds of a large drum being hit and some tingling chimes. It slowly builds atmosphere, but seems a tad too long for me. “Berserkir 4:24” tingles a bit more, as a sword unsheathes and another bell is hit amongst the sounds of tribal drumming and some Gregorian chants as well as some almost mantric noises. It’s quite different, I’ll tell you that! Then what sounds like it could have come right from feudal Japan comes bustling forth? Where’s the movie trailer? I could have sworn I heard this in a movie trailer. These sounds move right back into the chants, as it rolls through a couple of loops until the end. Quite memorable though. I rather liked it. “Blood, Honour And Sword Live? 3:46” comes next, bringing the same Samurai nature to them, making this an odd sort of Pagan music. It sounds like it belongs in the far east, and that’s fine with me. Most people already know that I’m quite a fan of the land of the rising sun. “Retra 3:31” sounds like a temple. I don’t know why, but it sounds like I just walked into a ritual temple and it makes me want to dance. I’ll be honest, there’s something about the drumming and atmospheres in this music that seems to unlock odd subconscious sectors of my mind. The same effects can be achieved through the soundscapes of Dead Can Dance and Arcana. “Sunwheel 3:06” ends our journey with even more worldly atmospheres, which all seem to add a wholly mystical vibe to the work.
In the end, you get two different types of atmospheres on the record, one achieving far greater successes than the other. But if you like industrial landscapes and some black metal too, then you’ll love the Raus! side of the record. But if you’re like me and you zone out to the music of mystic lands and foreign cultures, then you’ll love the work done by Perunwit. Either way, it’s a wonderful disc and I would highly recommend those of an open mind to check it out.
Whip – Digitus Impudicus (2014) – These blackened crusters (which sounds like black thrash with punk influence to me) some off right out the gate with “Sickling 4:41” as what sounds like three different vocal approaches are being used on the record. There’s a guy who scowls, a guy who grunts and some guy who just uses a rough-edged sort of thrash vocal. I also caught a solo, but it was so fast that I nearly missed it. “Demon Rum 3:31” continues with punk riffs, scathing vocals and that same sense of thrash. I have a feeling that I know where this is headed. But even so, the band do it with a sense of unbridled rage and a definite “don’t give a fuck” attitude. Hey, there’s a nice little riff experiment placed right in the middle of this one. That’s interesting. “Razor-fucked 4:21” comes in to bring some well needed atmosphere, and a slew of doom riffs as well. After which, it plays with black metal and punk. As I went through each of the songs, I began to notice that these guys definitely enjoy mixing hard-edged punk with black metal and increase the insanity level up to a thousand percent on such tracks like “Family Massacre 1:20” and “Death And Fear 2:29” which almost reminds me of The Crown, but sped-up to an ridiculous degree. To tell you the truth, putting something on like this after a day of work, or listening to it while enacting genocidal rage upon all of your employees is probably the best way to enjoy this record. Of course, I don’t recommend the latter action. I will say that punk has never sounded so fucking volatile, so you might want to get your hands on this. It’s sure to keep your neighbors pissed for weeks. Turn your stereo up to full volume around 3 AM for maximum efficiency. You want to make sure that everyone can hear it though, right?