Well, we’ve still got some 2013 promos here. That’s no problem though as I’m sure that some of you still haven’t heard these albums yet and aren’t fully ready to commit to the new year’s slew of releases. However, some of these albums might have just been marked as a 2013 promo and were not released until 2014. We’ve also got Alcest and SepticFlesh this time around with both 2014 releases. And don’t forget about our spotlight from the German space rockers, Black Space Riders.
My apologies to Immortal Bird from last week. I had no idea that the comment would have been constructed as offensive. But let it be clear that I’m not a squeaky clean reviewer as is well known from my work on the blog. You’re talking about the author of The Will’s Downfall Saga, here. I’m not about to play FCC on my site. It’s just not my style of writing, nor frame of mind. Nevertheless, I do still carry a certain degree of professionalism in my work.
Black Space Riders – D:REI (PR2014 SPOTLIGHT) – Since this one arrived right to my door from Germany, I’ve got to go in depth with this third album from the German space rockers, Black Space Riders. But to tell you the truth, this disc is one that I really have to go in depth with because there is so much unique content to be found within its eighty minute time-frame. Yes, these guys have made an album so bombastically huge that it literally took up every second of time on the disc. The album starts out with a subtle silence, which builds into the stoner rock influenced riffing of “Stare At The Water 7:35.” You can namedrop whoever you want as far as to who influenced these stoner riffs, but the part of this song that really caught my attention was the almost ritualistic chorus portion of the track. It also doesn’t feature the kind of whiskey throated vocal approach that you might expect from this sort of music, with JE’s vocal style quite subtle and different then what we might normally hear on this kind of music. This track is so unique from any other band I’ve heard incorporating this stoner rock style into their music that I was taken aback by it. Now the next song, “Bang Boom War (Outside My Head) 6:43” sounds completely different, reaching into groove/doom and making me think a little of Killing Joke or The Clay People. The vocals are even different, having much more a gruff edge to them. In a way, it sounds like a completely different band. But the fact that it’s not, shows the bands versatility and pleases me greatly. The song has a brief piece of atmosphere, where subtle vocals take a turn into Type O Negative fare and follow up into capable groove riffs. The song changes completely to reflect this new structure and I’m quite fucking impressed. They’ve taken a song that hits heavy with the chorus and have built in into something much more than what most bands would have done with it. This is probably one of my top favorite songs of the year already. “Rising From The Ashes Of Our World 7:52” involves warm riffing and drums that give off a ritualistic atmosphere. Then the sludge influence comes in. A memorable solo piece is also featured amongst the fuzz, which I didn’t expect; but am certainly glad to hear. Then JE really helps to bring the song home as it makes a turn into groove/thrash. The vocal style here is questionable, but the pounding riffs and second solo cannot be denied. This is fucking great.
Before we get to the next song, I’ve got to mention that JE doesn’t do all of the vocals on this album, as SEB and drummer CRIP also share in vocal duties. It’s quite easy to discern each approach (I’m guessing that JE is the subtle vocal approach, while SEB does the sludge/The Clay People style vocal but I’m not sure as to where the drummer is) yet I can’t really tell you what member is responsible for each approach on the album. If you want to see these guys in action, check out the video for “Give Gravitation To The People 4:55” which is definitely one of the odder efforts on the album, as well as our next song. It features a warm, stoner-rock approach but with a filtered vocal that makes these guys sound like they’re performing it from a spacecraft. Also, there’s a Killing Joke vibe here insofar as the riff melodies and drumming goes; but you should notice that vibe apparent on most of the album. It’s a good thing though, as Killing Joke are truly master musicians and I like hearing them influenced every now and again. “Way To Me 3:39” continues with the groove and features a different member on vocals than is normal (I’m guessing this is SEB) and his slightly beer-drenched vocal helps to give more of a traditional stoner rock vibe to the music. Though I like the musical portion of the track, the vocals aren’t so much my thing here. However, the solo works quite well and the melodies are rather bright. “Temper Is Rising 4:42” comes next, with JE and his subtle approach to vocals actually going in line with the opening mechanism of the song. It warms up, definitely bringing back that Killing Joke vibe. “The GOD-Survivor 6:38” punches up the groove a bit more, as both vocalists work well together (JE with his clean and SEB with his dirtier approach) in a song that would do well as a single, due to its catchiness. The second half of the song lightens the atmosphere and adds some middle-eastern melodies which only help to strengthen the song further. These melodies kick up, ending the song on an interesting note as they incorporate electronics and vocal chanting. Nice!
“I See 6:19” seems to bring the mood down just a bit, as it changes the vibe back to the subtlety of the very first track on the album. But unlike the heavier tones that “Stare At The Water” would later take on, this track seems to be content with its light drumming, use of shakers and JE’s subtle vocal approach. I might as well take this time to talk about CRIP’s drumming performance, which I’ve found to this point very respectable. The man isn’t blasting the hell out of his kit, as he instead drums with a subtlety and precision that helps these songs to flow together properly. He’ll kick up the approach when necessary, but on lighter tracks like this, he proves that a simple approach can be just as effective as a machine-gun blast. “Leave 5:14” continues that same drum approach, with middle eastern melodies slightly flowing through the piece as they slightly build into heavier sections. The song seeks to build up atmosphere and with JE’s approach, it works well enough. Then you’ve got SEB on the thicker vocal approach as soon as the track has built up. SLI then begins his solo (and I apologize for not having mentioned him quite so much, but there’s a lot going on the record and it’s tough to talk about everyone here) as the tempo returns right back from whence it came. Something can also be said about the bass riffs here, and SAQ is definitely doing a great job bringing the heat and fuzz to this disc. To be perfectly honest, there’s not one member in Black Space Riders who comes off as subpar to me and each of these gentlemen bring something unique to offer to the album.
The next song is the album’s longest and it is entitled, “Space Angel (Memitim) 10:18.” Starting out with the same notable subtlety, it warms into thicker atmosphere and fade in/fade out vocals. The song glides along atmosphere and dual vocal acrobatics for about the first five minutes, later cooling down to incorporate more of CRIP’s subtle drumming and lighter riffs. SLI breaks in with another solo and it definitely feels at peace here. The song thickens, allowing a great vocal element to punch things up and makes it all worthwhile. Yes, all ten minutes. Especially if you’re utilizing “herbal remedies.” Up next on the disc is “Major Tom Waits 4:57” which is inspired by Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and the whiskey throated Tom Waits. It really does sound like Tom Waits singing over the top of fuzzy riff melodies, taking on a sort of otherworldly quality which will make more sense to you if you’re high. A subtle solo plays, as the bass begins to thunder and the Tom Waits emulation continues. (Or that could really be the great Tom Waits! it’s really tough to tell!) As we’re nearing the end, an indie rock influenced track called “Letter To A Young One 4:18” now takes over with SEB on vocals. This might be the only track on the disc that doesn’t work well for me, despite the fact that I love the heavy eruptions on the piece. It works well enough, and at most; it is something different. The disc ends with “The Everlasting Circle Of Infinity 7:02” which starts with a slow pace and JE’s almost spoken word vocal approach. It’s a song that’s bound to explode, and once it does; you can hear the crunch of doom riffs for miles. JE continues his subtle vocal approach throughout these heavy parts, making me think of Type O Negative again, and that’s a good thing. The track changes gears, as a high pitched scream opens to punchier doom crunch, and it’s at this point where the headbanging starts. Growls actually appear on this track, and they work so well with JE’s clean that it just comes off as fucking unreal. They don’t stay with this full-on sludge for long though; as some progressive tinkering begins and rolls into another one of SLI’s patented solos. And that’s where it is.
In conclusion, D:REI requires a lot of attention from the listener and is consumed of so many different little quirks that you’d really have to give it a few listens in order to soak it all in. It’s not a blazingly fast record and is more concerned with subtlety and thunder. Some parts are ritualistic, while others are electronic and everyone from Type O Negative to Killing Joke to your favorite doom or stoner rock band has been influenced here. Both vocal approaches work well together, including the drummer, who may have put the growls on for the disc’s finale. His approach is also quite memorable on the kit, showing that it takes more than blasts and frantic playing to win the day over. The bottom line is that you must get your hands on D:REI as soon as possible, as I really haven’t heard anything quite like it and would consider it one of my favorite albums of the year, if not ever. While not perfect, some of these songs will remain with me for many years to come. And yeah, I’m putting some of these on my personal playlist. D:REI is definitely recommended.
Highlights: Stare At The Water, Bang Boom War (Outside My Head), Rising From The Ashes Of Our World, Temper Is Rising, The-GOD-Survivor, Leave, Space Angel (Memitim), Major Tom Waits, The Everlasting Circle Of Eternity (13 Tracks, 80:00)
Cult Of Fire – Ascetic Meditation Of Death (Translated) (PR2013) – Most of us associate India with massive call centers for damn near anything electronic that’s fucking up, where people with thick accents answer the phone and the ruder of us holler out “Can’t anyone here speak English?” But the next time you call one of these places because you’re trying to get something activated, or need customer assistance with a vacuum cleaner, keep in mind that just like you; these guys go home and play metal. And not just on the stereo either. I mean, they actually get together and form metal bands like this black metal act, Cult Of Fire. Yes, I said black metal act – and for those of you who’ve still got gunk in your ears, keep in mind that this country has become a veritable hotspot for the most extreme of metal genres recently; birthing such acts like Rudra, Demonic Resurrection and others who are just now coming out of the woodwork and into the limelight of the metal underground. And just like these acts, Cult Of Fire is also impressive. The album stands as fierce and full of fire as the most nihilistic of black metal records, yet also contains certain moments of Hindu spirituality that add an authentic Indian nature to the music as a whole. The deep vocal rasps on the disc come off utterly vicious and the melodies definitely remain frostbitten, yet still maintain a certain degree of prog and beauty not found in other acts. What you don’t understand, is that this album is very much a celebration of Hinduism, and it’s a very deep spiritual recording; yet it is still heavy as fucking hell.
Kali stands at the ready on the album’s cover, looking ready to devour the entire world in plagues, which is what I get from this album from the very beginning. It is not without its share of keyboard sections, nor ferocious drum blasts. This is every bit the kind of black metal record that you really need to go hear as soon as humanly possible. The song titles are in complete Hindi, so I cannot translate them or even give you a description of the lyrics. I can however make out the word “Shiva” several times, and have been told that Shiva and Kali are very closely related, one being the mother of life and the other the mother of destruction in a roundabout way. Kali is Shiva’s consort, and is described as having a very male stance; yet is also considered female. So in essence, the ideal of Kali is a very strong and powerful woman figure resembling that of a man. But history lessons aren’t why you’re here then, are they? Well, of course not. So save yourself anymore of this lecture, and pick up this damned fine album. Cult Of Fire have made a perfect black metal disc, with memorable melodies and song structures that shouldn’t get boring anytime soon. Though I can’t even give you the album’s official title, I simply recommend that you search the internet far and wide for a copy of this amazingly talented black metal act. These guys are ritualistic black metal at it’s very best, and I can feel the energy behind every note and word of this disc. So the next time you’re talking to someone in a call center about your broken electric toothbrush, keep in mind that you just might be talking to guys just like these in Cult Of Fire; who’ve made a truly timeless metal release. I definitely recommend it.
EDIT: My apologies, as the band is actually from the Czech Republic. It’s still a great album though!
(9 Tracks, 47:00)
Sheol (UK) – Sepulchural Ruins Below The Temple (PR2013) – Two man death metal act Sheol (UK) is certainly skilled at writing death metal that comes from the deepest reaches of the foul abyss from which they took their name. From the way that these guys sound, they might actually be playing their music in the deepest reaches of that very underworld, with intro “Spiritual Desiccation 2:20” nothing less than a perfect welcome into a world of despair. Now I’ll admit that I find the growls a bit hard to hear amongst the drum barrages and horror-influenced riffing of “Deluge Of Tehom 4:48” but they still manage to capture an unfriendly vibe whether you can hear the vocals or not. “Perpetual Descent Into She’ol 6:25” might be just a bit too long however; despite its dreadful doom influences. The track just seems to wear out its welcome near the middle. “Katachthomb 3:02” serves as an intriguing interlude, with its almost ritualistic vibe. When I listen to it, I feel that I’m walking into some sort of abyssal temple of which I’ve no business. Then we’ve got the album’s closer, which is the title track (4:20). It sounds very much like the rest of these underworld nightmares, with a thick air of mist surrounding the vocals, more dreadful riffing and drums that manage to bash, or keep up the pace. One of the two. A Slayer solo manages to creep out for just a second, before it builds into more melody and the song ends shortly after that. A Darkthrone cover of “Cromlech 4:36” is included and serves as a nice bonus to the record. They re-envision the classic in their own style, showing off their influences perfectly.
Sheol (UK) is decent enough, but this two man project needs just a little more work and perhaps a louder vocal approach. When I can barely hear the vocalist over all of the other instruments, there’s a bit of a problem. However, the record is full of hot mist and fuzz, and it certainly sounds like it may have been brewed in the depths of Sheol itself. If this sounds like something that you’d be into, then give it a shot; because chances are that it probably is.
Highlights: Spiritual Desiccation, Katachthomb (6 Tracks 25:00)
Alcest – Shelter (PR2014) – Oh, Alcest. We barely knew ye. Rest in peace. But seriously, no one in their right mind ever thought that this would be the next step in the “happy black metal” band’s evolution. But metal is no long applicable to the band at this point, nor the album; which contains really no part of anything even remotely related to the term metal, let alone black metal. The first thing that we notice is the opener “Wings 1:32” which opens right into the shoegaze of “Opale 4:56.” Automatically, the black metal listener would become quite frustrated. “What the living hell is this?” they scream, as they patter about the room in frightened disarray. But that’s what we’ve got here. It’s very much in the vein of the hipster or indie rock category and believe it or not; they can now start playing this kind of music on commercial radio. I’m quite sure that there are tons of hipsters who already have been bopping to this light hearted stuff and thinking it’s right up there with some of those other hipster bands. But I will say that as far as shoegaze goes, this isn’t a bad album. It’s probably also comparable to Celtic Frost’s Cold Lake and Judas Priest’s Nostradamus, and Metallica’s St… Alright, so you know where I’m going with this.
The bottom line is that Alcest have moved into such commercial territory that they’ve literally jumped right on the sellout bus, and I’m sure that this record will do quite well on the pop/rock charts of their native France, as well as here in America and several other countries. Yes, it’s good rock music with lots of great atmospheric moments and a feeling of pacification, but is this what you really wanted from them? At this point, it may no longer matter. Perhaps the economy is also struggling out there in France and the band decided that it’s “now or never” to make enough money to survive and be able to put food on the table. It’s without a doubt certain that the album will pop up on the indie rock charts, which will have black metal fans turning coats and looking for the next new act to follow. Apparently, Neige is already saying “No, I won’t bring back the screams to appease people.” which means basically that he’s going into that “artiste” mode that we’re getting from Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. At this rate, it probably won’t be long before these two collaborate on some sort of 60’s prog-laden indie rock epic. And the metal world mourns. But, at least it’s good if you want to trance out. So there’s that. Just to double check, you will now want to listen to Alcest when you’re not looking for something that’s both beautiful and heavy. Just for something light and beautiful, like Enya, perhaps. And yes, it’s quite comparable. I think I’d rather listen to Anathema when it comes to this kind of music though. It’s also quite funny how this comes at a “cool” 45 minutes. Just like something I’d expect from Coldplay. Best of luck to you, Neige. I just stopped caring about your band.
(8 Tracks, 45:00)
Shrapnel Storm – We Come In Peace… (PR2013) – Shrapnel Storm is a Finnish old school death metal band, about to record their first full length this year and this is a sample of what’s to come from that full-length. The release is just two tracks and less than ten minutes long, but it offers a respectable production level with crunchy guitars, grueling vocals and a great sense of groove. The drumming is also quite strong, able to keep “Detracked 4:46” afloat, while as the promo information spouts, “Deathroller 4:00” does manage to offer a groovier side of the band with some thrashier drumming and few more tricks. The vocal approach is going to be ultimately memorable, and I think that’s what people are going to be attracted to on the full-length as a whole. These guys really aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they’ve got a definite crunch and bite that someone out there’s going to fucking notice. For me, “Deathroller” really brought the score up from a 5 to a 6, because there was definitely something there. You know, potential. And that’s something that I like to notice and reward.
Though not really much at this stage, the band have been playing little demos here and there since 2008 and I hope that they finally do get a full-length out this year as planned. They’re still looking for a label, so if anyone out there likes what they hear, give them a mention. We Come In Peace… is worth checking out for most fans of classic death metal.
(2 Tracks, 8:00)
SepticFlesh – A Fallen Temple (Remastered PR2014) – Septic Flesh’s fourth full-length album continues the gothic metal sound that they began to adapt on their previous album, The Ophidian Wheel with some notable new influences. It’s also one of their most bombastic releases yet. “Brotherhood Of The Fallen Knights 5:12” definitely features Paradise Lost style guitar riffs and Grecian clean vocals, amidst some death growls. Then we’ve got “The Eldest Cosmonaut 6:34” of which a single was made. The song itself features a female vocal to duet, along with some memorable clean lines, of which we all remember the female squeaks. They’re quite ethereal, and sound more vibrant on this remaster. But what really made the song so classic was that it had a sense of structure. “Cosmonaut” was not in a slapdash hurry to get to the chorus; though a brilliant chorus it is when it finally breaks in. The piece has an operatic quality to it most obviously; that can be discerned easily from just a few minutes of exposure. Also keep in mind that this is a nearly seven minute track, which isn’t a choice that you would see for a single these days; as it doesn’t fit terrestrial radio-play lengths. “Marble Smiling Face 4:28” drops the operatic charade, as it drifts back into Paradise Lost influenced soundscapes. Not perfect, but it features a decent solo.
Next we have something completely different, which isn’t even a metal track. It still surprises me that these songs were actually put on the album at all and not instead used for the side project, Chaostar. The track is called “Underworld Act 1 7:49” and is one piece of a four-part opera. Yes, you heard me right. The full opera is about the length of an entire EP and comes in at a full thirty minutes, but it is split into several parts throughout the length of the disc. In this reissue, the entire opera has been added including the third part and finale. These were not featured on the album and only available on the Eldest Cosmonaut EP. The following track is “Temple Of The Lost Race 4:35” which begins progressively heavier and though it leaves room for atmosphere; it comes off as one of the more vicious tracks on the album. This one actually doesn’t have that Paradise Lost influence and reminds me more of their death metal days. Next we’ve got “The Crypt 4:17” which also sees the band bringing back that death metal muscle. I guess after about three more songs in the Paradise Lost style, they got tired of it and decided to put a sense of dread and death back into their music. There are still keyboards used here, they just don’t sound quite as friendly. But neither does the rest of the song. Triumphant horns seem to come from nowhere, as guitar solo peaks through and leads to a slight bit of bashing in which the song ends. “The Setting Of Two Suns 3:50” seems to also take on that death metal aspect; by now assuring me that the band have thrown the Paradise Lost stuff away completely. Which begs the question as to why they began the album with it in the first place? I think one more of these tracks, and I’m set. And that’s when “Erebus 3:19” comes in, with blistering death metal and fierce classical influence, much like what was to follow on latter songs like “Lovecraft’s Death” and “Vampire Out Of Nazareth.” The original album ended with the second part of the opera, “Underworld Act 2 8:53” and if you were lucky, an Eldest Cosmonaut dark mix. This has also been snatched up and remastered for the reissue, with the addition of industrial elements. It’s also much shorter than the original piece. You can tell that the band really respected this piece, being that they made a single, an EP and an alternate mix for it.
Now for the bonus additions: The disc contains a cover of the Paradise Lost classic; “The Last Time 3:35” as previously was featured on Draconian Times. The track itself isn’t the best vocally, sounding like a cheap karaoke cover; but they do manage to play it quite well and I guess that’s better than nothing. Also included is the over ten minute piece that comprises the third part of Underworld, which I didn’t know existed until this reissue came out, as I would’ve never believed that an EP actually held the last two parts of this piece. These both gravitate more towards Chaostar material, so I don’t think that the metal fan will find all that much to like in them. Though I am truly glad to hear the album sound finally complete with this addition. I still have no idea why they couldn’t have just placed this opera on a separate disc in the original pressing. It would have better fit as a bonus; hence it was not necessarily something that worked in the Septic Flesh vein. The album ends with yet another version of “Cosmonaut” but this time it is in the single form, made for terrestrial radio play. This version only clocks in at “4:21” which is actually quite long, even for a single. But it does manage to smash together all of the best portions of the song.
All in all, I have mixed feelings about A Fallen Temple. I didn’t notice this when I was younger, but now I see this album as sort of a rush job and I’ll explain this as best I can. First of all, this album came right after Ophidian Wheel. It was released only a year later, which means that they may have been working on this material around the same time as Ophidian Wheel. Clearly “Brotherhood Of The Fallen Knights”, “Marble Smiling Face” and “Temple Of The Lost Race” could have gone on Ophidian Wheel and we’d be none the wiser. Also Spiros Antoniou was working on early Chaostar compositions as you can see with the Underworld opera. Every single part of the Underworld opera was later placed on the Underworld album, later to come with the Chaostar project; along with several other tracks in this vein. So you’ve got cast off Ophidian Wheel material, early Chaostar work, and then the re-recordings from Temple Of The Lost Race which oddly enough feature a title track that still would’ve worked on their Ophidian Wheel record. I guess that goes to show just how deep the early Paradise Lost influences ran in the band. These guys really fucking loved Paradise Lost. This makes me curious as to what they think of the band’s recent re-recordings of the classics “Gothic” and “Our Savior.” But “The Eldest Cosmonaut” is something else entirely, a track that may have sat on the backburner for some time. Influences show that it might have sat around since Esoptron, yet it still carries influence from the band’s monolithic debut; Mystic Places Of Dawn.
At any rate, I don’t think there’s all that much here to offer from people who haven’t already most of these tracks on the remastered Mystic Places Of Dawn as well as Ophidian Wheel, which in all honesty just should have had “Brotherhood Of The Fallen Knights” and “Marble Smiling Face” added to it as bonus tracks. I mean, other than “The Eldest Cosmonaut”, this album didn’t really need that much attention. It was more of an “in-between” thing, before the band rapidly changed styles with 1999’s Revolution DNA which I had a tough time getting into years ago. I cannot wait to hear that remaster, as I’m sure that it’s going to be a “bold new experience” for me, considering I haven’t heard the material in ages and will literally be rediscovering the work. As such, I will also lay it out for you as I’ve done with this disc. The whole thing to me seems to be the label’s over-excitement with “Cosmonaut” and the fact that they wouldn’t take “no for an answer” when it came to just releasing a small EP. That’s all this track really needed to shine – and just before the band pulled a complete 360. Nevertheless, we have A Fallen Temple and we’re kind of stuck with it to this day. Before the Chaostar material was released, the opera would have been something special. But now that it’s out and available for your purchase; this disc doesn’t really have that much left to offer. If you’ve already gotten a copy of The Eldest Cosmonaut EP, then that’s really all that you need.
(14 Tracks, 76:00)
Tromort – Creacion Profana (PR2013) – Brazilian death metallers Tromort definitely have a bit of a way to go. Though you can hear that they’ve got a lot of force on this album, it still sounds like their best days are hopefully ahead of them. But with a short album that offers just one minute more than the normal thirty minutes of material required for an EP, there’s not much to go on here. The album opens with its longest song “Inocentes En Mis Manos 5:13” where the band tries it’s best to be Suffocation with some bits of prog and a fade-in/fade-out solo, but they never really drive the point home. And what really irks me, is that the song ends with a solo cut off. I’ve always hated these. The “Interludio 1 0:54” piece however, is quite morose and depressing; showing that these guys intend on more than just run of the mill death with bells and whistles. They also try to drop a few breakdowns when they can, and like to play with gallops. So here’s a death metal band who’s also trying to appeal to the core audience. But most of all, they’re worshipping Suffocation. There’s another “Interludio” on here that follows the same idea. The next track on the album features a horrible drop in quality, my guess is that it is actually older material and though it has some decent ideas; it’s nothing that I haven’t heard before. The album pretty much sounds just like it begin, with Suffocation worship and the same sort of brutal/technical drumming and rampant guitar solos as normal. They’ve got the right idea but they aren’t there yet, which Creacion Profana shows. Maybe next time, guys?
Majesty Of Revival – Iron Gods (PR2014) – This seven piece neo-classical power metal act have a lot to live up to. You’ve got seven guys in your band, so you’d better be capable of fucking miracles. I wasn’t expecting top-notch production either, so what I’m offered is definitely enough for me. Immediately, I’m hit with a flurry of neo-classical guitar solos, spooky synths and keyboard solos. And that’s just the first song, “Nameless Guest 6:05.” Though the band has a frontman, they seem to do best when he’s not in the picture as I’m just getting these unforgettable atmospheres. There’s also a growler in the band, which I find as more of an intrigue than anything else. For the most part, you’ll deal with the high-range vocals of the band’s frontman and some backing vocals (probably by about five of the six guys in this band) and I think that captures the first song. To be honest, that track was pretty fucking sweet. I’m quite impressed and first impressions last a long time. Next we’ve got “Internal Grays 6:11” which I’m expecting to have the same sort of vibe. As far as the riffs and drumming goes, I’m really leering my eyes toward Symphony X. Especially those riffs. You can clearly tell that these guys are influenced by Symphony X, especially on this song. Yet again, I can hear some Brainstorm in those riffs. Half of this one is also instrumental, which I like because it allows the band to really show “hey, we’ve got seven dudes in this band, and each of them are actually doing something” which you’ll certainly hear on this album. If they can manage to keep all seven members of the band together for the next one, I’m sure that it’ll be even stronger than this; which is most certainly a strong album.
There’s really no need to roll through each and every track on this album as they all contain much of the same thing: Symphony X/Brainstorm power/thrash with definite nods to classical music, including gothic synths and extravagant guitar and keyboard solos. This band is so amazingly talented at these thick and lengthy keyboard/guitar solos that it’s unreal. Most of Iron Gods is composed of just these instrumental portions, but they help the band to really differentiate themselves. It’s almost like they’re trying to be the neo-classical equivalent of Dragonforce, with over-the-top instrumental portions that seem to go on for hours. I’m certainly impressed by the work that they’ve done here, yet I know that future releases will bring a further strength and possible sense of song differentiation which comes with time. These guys can make one really great fucking song, yet they seem to want to copy that song several more times; not completely worried about tempos or structure as they just play the living hell out of their instruments. It really is a joy to listen to, depending on what you’re into of course; but I’ve no doubt that I would love to see these guys pull this off in a live setting. Which further begs the question… can they really do it live? We all know that Dragonforce can’t, but perhaps Majesty Of Revival can. And that would be a show that I would be willing to see.
A bonus song is included on the disc, entitled “Mad Song 4:13” and it manages to add electronic elements into the mix as well. While nothing truly special, it’s not bad to have on there at the end of the album. If you like your power metal full of thrash and gothic keyboards, as well as literally overflowing with so many instrumental pieces that it’s willing to spill out from the pot; then definitely get your hands on Iron Gods. You’ll be thanking me for this one.
(10 Tracks, 68:00)
Cosmic Infusion – Cosmic Infusion (PR2013) – Another Indian export, Cosmic Infusion aims towards the more symphonic side of the black metal genre, yet I’m hearing Paradise Lost inspired melodies right out of the gate. Though the cover just features a bunch of guys in paint posing around a candle, the album’s music is not as bad as you might have heard from others. At least not in my opinion. The album only contains five tracks, but it does have a great sense of song structure and melody. The vocals are a bit screechy and perhaps the frontman might be a bit of a turn off from the project (he does sound a little like Dani Filth, yet there’s also a growler in the band who kind of sounds like every other growler you’ve ever heard) but I simply cannot deny the majestic synths that this band bring to the table, along with the capable drumming (which of course does unleash blasts) and the lead melodies/solos which serve as musical icing on the cake. The bottom line is that Cosmic Infusion can play, people just won’t care for the frontman all that much. More growl, less scowl would probably work for them. Clean vocals come into the mix around “Burial Of Thy Own 5:49” and they come off quite well. Also, we get the first taste of acoustic work. “Journey 7:02” shows that the band can concoct brilliant instrumental soundscapes, even though I feel again that the frontman’s scowl might be too much for some to handle. “Gothika 6:20” also falls apart around the vocals. I just don’t feel that the vocalist kills this entire album, and no matter how good the rest of the band play here; it’s very difficult to be able to manage a listening session because he is so over the top in his approach. It almost becomes unnecessarily comical, because these vocals just come off as ridiculous. Can we just get the growler on the next album? I mean, there’s too much here musically that gets destroyed because of the sub-par vocal.
The symphonic black/death that Cosmic Infusion does is so good musically, but they just need to find the right vocalist. These guys can play; their frontman just wails too awful much and it’s not something I can really get into. I do recommend that if you do listen to this album, pay attention to the musicality, and not so much the vocals. Cosmic Infusion has so much potential, but I just can’t get into these wails. I don’t even use that kind of approach, because it comes off as silly; which surely “Journey” wouldn’t be about, because it sounds very personal, spiritual, and philosophical. Why make something like that a joke with such vocal cheddar? I cannot tell you how much I want to like this band, but I’m just not going to be able to get into them with that vocal approach.
(5 Tracks, 32:00)
Duncan Evans – Lodestone (PR2013) – Something a bit different for the Tower, but that’s good. I like different. Duncan Evans is a singer/songwriter with a sort of folk album which comes off quite intriguing. I should mention that this isn’t a metal album, which is again okay; because we are not strictly a site for metal reviews, nor will we ever be. There are enough sites like that already and if someone’s got something interesting for me to hear, then I’ll check it out. The record itself is not all that long, but I think it certainly suffices. The disc starts out with “Bird Of Prey 4:24” which begins with a bit of twang and Duncan’s unique vocal style. His accent comes off rather nicely in the music, though I think that “Bird Of Prey 4:24” might be a bit for some to take, due to the vocal approach there. However, it makes for great folk and might even get stuck in your head. “Cindy 4:14” comes on next, a sort of love song with Duncan’s British vocal inflection showing through. It has a bit of a pop nature. “Forever So 4:20” is much deeper song with a female dueting on the track, and it’s got a powerful chorus. “The Old Lies 5:05” comes off quite well, Duncan’s vocal lines hitting it off from the very beginning. “The Curtain Falls Down 6:46” tends to go more with atmosphere; it doesn’t come right out with vocals and instead focuses more on the playing; which comes off rather well and memorable. “The Sailor Boy 7:21” features a little bit of acoustic and electric influence, with a slight bit of melody from the lead to provide atmosphere. This was also done on the previous track, but it more prevalent here. Things get awful morose about this point, if you haven’t offed yourself yet; you’ll find some great pieces around this point. This track in particular is one in particular that I found quite pleasing. I reminded me of Audra, of course I have a fascination with that deep style of vocal. There’s actually a story to be told here, which is missing from modern music. The next song is “Cold World 5:49” which of course by now should have you eliciting a tear or two.
The man’s actually bringing on the sense of what real Goth music was, what that real sense of depression and hopeless was. And it didn’t take any sort of fancy makeup or clothes. But another term for this Goth music would be darkwave, which is definitely what I’m hearing here. It’s very dark folk music with that darkwave vibe and some great choral duets. But I think that “Girl On The Hill 6:25” says it all. If this doesn’t sound like your thing however, keep in mind that Duncan Evans isn’t singing someone’s prewritten lyrics from BMG Music or some site like that where they get most pop lyrics. The man actually wrote these songs himself, and he wrote the music to them himself, and he sang them himself. And that’s what you call talent. And if you don’t call it that, you call it determination. Duncan Evans is definitely determined, and this is by far one of the most depressing discs I’ve heard in a while. But I mean that in a good way.
Highlights: Forever So, The Old Lies, The Sailor Boy, Girl On The Hill (8 Tracks, 44:00)
Finnr’s Cane – A Portrait Painted By The Sun (PR2013) – Finnr’s Cane are an atmospheric doom act that seem to be interested in capturing the sounds of sorrow with their morose riff melodies, lowly drumming and a clean vocal approach that includes a scowl every now and again. The quality of the disc is a bit fuzzy, but it still manages to come off as memorable. “This Old Oak 5:40” starts the album off with a truly grim approach, most of the time shunning vocals for melodic atmosphere; ala with a great bit of graveyard. And I’m definitely hearing November’s Doom influence in the band, especially in the vocals. The man’s got a clean approach that’s a shoo-in for Paul Kuhr. “Gallery Of Sun And Stars 7:19” changes the album’s vibe to that of black metal blasts on the kit, a thick vocal rasp and even some violin play. The vocals seem to fade out a bit (he should’ve checked the mix before he released it) and I feel that I would’ve liked this song better if the vocals had been raised. For all the beauty in these riffs, he really fucked it up when he didn’t check to see if the vocals were properly mixed. When I can’t hear the vocal over the thundering riffs of the latter section of the song, something’s wrong. And fuck, I really could’ve liked this one so much more if a little more care had gone into observing that mix. There’s no excuse. You know, being that this is the longest song on the album; it’s got a little acoustic session followed by a death metal portion that sees the growls come into full force. Apparently, the vocalist didn’t record his clean vocals loud enough in the mix in the beginning. Of course, had I done such a thing (and the music here is comparable to my current band) I would have just gone back and re-recorded them. Especially when this is on a label. How did the label not hear this?
The next song on the disc is “A Promise In Bare Branches 5:33” which has more of the Agalloch vibe, eliciting a mellow feeling and a bold beginning with thick riffs and harsh vocal rasps. And lo, that approach continues later in the track. At any rate, the clean vocals didn’t get lost in the mix (because there really weren’t any, just some slight vocalizing) and I’m thankful for that. “Wind In The Wells 3:20” serves as an interlude for the album, it’s largest quality in the flute playing, wind and water effects. Without these, it just sort of sounds like a basic atmosphere piece. The amps are turned back on with “A Great Storm 6:51” which brings the tempo down and pumps up the synths. There’s some questionable keyboard work before the vocal portion, it just doesn’t need to be there. And the vocals seem kind of rushed – they just jump right in. I hate that sort of thing so much and I blame that on the song writing. The riff melodies there weren’t even fit to carry vocal lines really, so he had to sort of jump in there with a line or two. Again, vocals just sort of feel thrown on the track, there’s some more vocalizing, maybe another line of scowls. But he should’ve just left it instrumental. Why do vocals if you’re only going to do like two lines in the song? Sure, it’s easy to remember on the stage – but it just seems kind of ridiculous. Is he saving his throat or something? The next track is “Time Is A Face In The Sky 5:41” which is also full of melody and atmosphere, much in the vein of most of this album. There’s a barely audible spoken vocal portion on the track, don’t even know why it’s there. Why speak, if I can’t hear you over the instruments? It only takes about a few seconds to fix the levels. The last track is “Tao 6:14” which ends the disc with another long instrumental piece. Again, why are there vocals here if you aren’t really going to use them at all?
And that’s the album. Finnr’s Cane is decent enough; but they just seem to be doing the same thing that’s already been done with this kind of music. They’re making another The Mantle style Agalloch album, that’s not as good as The Mantle. Hell, Agalloch even knows that they can’t top The Mantle. But that won’t stop this band from trying. Though the album began promising, it just sort of faded away; leaving me with another dose of riff melodies that I had already heard before and atmospheres that I’m more than familiar with. Even though the vocalist sounded like November’s Doom frontman, Paul Kuhr in his clean approach, the fact that this guy wanted to sing so low that you couldn’t even hear it (remember the joke of singing solo?) or he wanted to do some vocalizing that just didn’t even need to be there. And there’s no excuse for what happened in “A Great Storm.” But I guess I’m harping on this so much because Finnr’s Cane is much like my band, Torii. We have the same style, but I daresay that we kick it up a notch and add things in this atmosphere that other people might not, ala elements of thick brutal death or sludge. These guys are also the kind of band we’d wind up sharing the stage with, but then I’d have to deal with the snarks of the frontman as he had already read my review criticizing his vocal performance and observational ignorance to the album’s mix. But that’s one reason I am wary of the stage, as if some bands found out that the same guy who ran the Tower was also playing on the stage with them, they might try to tar and feather me before the set. Of course, I would still perform being tarred and feathered.
All of this aside, if you really like morose atmospheric metal with slight nods to death and black, check out Finnr’s Cane. They provide chilling atmospheres and some hints of promise here and there, but like I’ve heard on an old commercial: “You’ve got a long way, baby.”
Highlights: This Old Oak, Gallery Of Sun And Stars (7 Tracks, 40:00)
I Shalt Become – Louisiana Voodoo (PR2013) – What begins with an orchestral and foggy opener, seems to remind of the kind of music that Simon or Trevor Belmont might hear while traversing Dracula’s fetid castle, the sounds of the beasties completely intact. Though there is a guitar on this disc, it seems to be more or less just a backing element to the keyboards; which are oddly enough the band’s core element. That’s different, and I like different. Throughout “Total Perspective Vortex 7:10” you’ll hear a slathering of gothic keyboards being laid over the top of rather subtle drums, in addition to the chanting of disembodied spirits. As mentioned, the sounds of Dracula’s denizens are intact throughout the album; as the screams of skeletons seem to decorate the album quite beautifully. Yet there’s certainly a demon on vocals for the title track (“4:45”). But there’s something very wrong with this album, and I think it’s going to find the wrong audience due to its name. Yes, there’s nothing here that even relates to Louisiana or Voodoo on this album. Nothing. This album could’ve been The Disembodied Wails Of Skeletal Souls (No taking that, it’s mine!) or perhaps The Rats In The Walls, which the band liked enough to make it a nearly twenty-minute closer. People who might expect something like Glorior Belli’s Louisiana blues on this record are going to be horribly let down, but people who actually enjoy these gothic atmospheres (and they’re fucking terrific, I might add) well not even think to check out the disc, because they see the words Louisiana Voodoo. Seriously, whose idea was this? And is it too late for a title change? Obviously you don’t have to do all that much to the cover, it’s put on there with a very easy to replace text in Photoshop and it’s got a slight shadow effect. That takes about five minutes of work at the most. You just swap out Louisiana Voodoo for something more fitting of the album’s atmosphere, and there you go. The album cover itself doesn’t even look like it’s got the proper image for the album’s title. Seriously? Who’s idea was this? Feel free to contact me by email, as I would like to address you personally and hear what exactly happened. I am a musician myself as you well know, and I feel that this album’s title is a horrible marketing decision that will deprive the people who really love this kind of music away from it, because sadly; some of us still judge albums by their cover. Also there is not one thing about this album that is related to the state of Louisiana or Voodoo, which I’m thankful for, because I’m glad it’s just not a death/sludge disc which is what my impression was when I first heard it. Nothing wrong with death/sludge, but it’s not this… which is amazing.
Alright, that’s enough bashing the album because of its title. It’s still a very strong disc that is worthy of exploration, giving off the full feeling of walking through ancient ruins at night, or venturing through dark subterranean caverns in which the creatures of the nigh prowl. This album could serve as a soundtrack to certain games in which a feeling like this is better achieved. Tracks like “Braquemaid 3:16” are second to none, offering just the right amount of cryptic fare and giving off the atmosphere of a centuries old mausoleum. But as for that closer I mentioned earlier in my little rant, “The Rats In The Walls 18:59” truly does serve just as strong of an atmosphere as the songs before it and I daresay that Dracula himself would enjoy this music had it been offered to him. It’s got a neoclassical beauty, yet drenched in so much morbidity that it comes off as both incredibly bleak and ravishing. This is the kind of music that you’d associate our website name with, and hell; The Grim Tower would be a perfect title for this album in the first place! I wouldn’t even want any royalties for the name change, just anything to see Louisiana Voodoo removed from the album’s cover and replaced with something more fitting for the music. Never in my life have I been upset about an album title before, but it’s like you’re making an album called These Beautiful Oranges and you’re singing about how great apples are. I just can’t get my head around this to save my life.
But if you’re interested in the most gloomy, dank and gothic of atmospheres as well as under the assumption that thick keyboards outweigh loud guitars on an album; then you’d better hurry up and grab a copy of this I Shalt Become album, which I will not refer to by name anymore, because it only upsets me when I do. The band is beyond amazing, but I hope that maybe someone out there will discover these guys behind the mistaken album title and realize that there are no voodoo, sludge or blues elements to be found here. For this is truly the soundtrack for those things that go bump in the night, and the terrifying realms in which they occupy. Highly recommended and unlike anything you’ll hear this year. I can personally bet you that nothing will come out for the rest of 2014 that will even be remotely like what I’ve heard on this album, and that’s why you need to check this one out for yourself. It’s unreal.
(10 Tracks, 59:00)
Fluisteraars – Dromers (PR2013) – This is a rip of a vinyl LP, but sounds in relatively good quality and feature three man black metal project much in the vein of acts like mid-era Satyricon in the fact that they love their groove riffs and their scowls. By the sounds of “De Doomen 16:29” they also seem to like their melodic atmospheres too, bringing some further structure to a track that I was sure wasn’t going to sit and groove for almost seventeen minutes anyway. As a matter of fact, some more progressive atmospheres seem to take residence on the track; but with some of the groove elements still in place. The song begins to take sorrowful turn in melody; but it feels like a Primordial riff and that’s something I’ve never minded. Now on the other side of the LP we have “Kuddedier 10:40” which really seems to carry on with that Primordial influence, even though these guys are quite a ways from Ireland. The song begins to take up blasting at this point; yet quickly returns to melody in which the scowls seem to set in perfectly. I’m also hearing a little bit of Opeth influence on these riff-melodies, that can’t be denied. I’ve listen to Blackwater Park and Still Life long enough to know that. Later in the song, there’s a lot of whispering in light mist, but that continues into Opeth melody. The Primordial influences seem to close out the piece however and they do it well. “Wortels Van Angs 8:29” is the last track on the LP which sounds very much like the others, despite that it’s the shortest track on the disc. Other than encompassing the same atmosphere, there’s a change in pace towards the end of the track; which begins with a small riff and envelops into the band at its most fierce. At the end of this track, they bring forth a blazing element of traditional black metal, with blast beats and tremolo riffs intact. But it’s only for a short time, as it soon ends the effort completely.
Other than the fact that the band have a very difficult name to spell, let alone pronounce; Fluisteraars have released a very potent effort with Dromers. If you like Primordial and Opeth with a slight dash of Satyricon (only on the first track) and some definite post black elements, then you’ll definitely find something to like here. This is the very definition of a solid black metal effort for 2014. Hopefully, the coming months will bring us even more solid efforts in the genre.
(3 Tracks, 35:00)
Iron Dogs – Free And Wild EP (PR2014) – A two piece heavy metal act with one of the weirdest covers I’ve ever seen, (seriously, check out that picture!) Iron Dogs certainly have the classic sound complete, with a style that goes back to the days of early Sabbath, Priest, Manila Road and several others in that vein. I’m certainly reminded of Slough Feg also, which is a good sign. “Firebird 4:10” has more of a punky vibe, while “Kingdom of Steel 3:44” doubles up on the doom and groove elements. As for the album’s title track (3:09) it continues the punk/classic heavy metal vibe achieved on the record; showing the vocal element starting to crack just a little, however the guitar solos do manage to make up for it. “Adversity 3:02” comes in next, with a slight indie vibe mixing into its folk metal nature. This is very different, very odd. “Evil In The Keep 2:41” sounds like psychobilly just a little, it’s definitely got a continued feeling of punk rock but still manages to incorporate creepy metal riffs. As for the rest of the disc, it carries more or less the same vibe.
If you’re into punk rock and classic heavy metal, then you should find something in the mix of the two genres that Iron Dogs have crafted here. The quality on the disc is a bit raw, but it’s still quite audible and I’m quite sure that there’s an audience for these guys. I’m sure they’ll get better on the next one though, and will consider this more or less a step up from a demo. While not really my thing so much, it’s still worth giving a listen.
Highlights: Kingdom Of Steel (8 Tracks, 28:00)
The Wild Hunt – The Wild Hunt (BR2013) – What I’m assuming is a personal submission (and I apologize for the wait) is a Canadian band by the name of The Wild Hunt who seem to enjoy mixing electronics, death metal vocals and extremely scratchy guitar together. There are just four songs on this disc, and though I appreciate the atmosphere, I have no idea who in their right mind decided to turn the guitar portions on the album so high up on the very first track, “The Wild Hunt 4:15.” The song could be a hell of a lot stronger if the fuzz wasn’t directly hitting you in the damn face. They did manage to fix it on the next track “Draugr 5:17” which features the band at a thundering pace, as a death metal growl and a screech take turns demonstrating the lyrics as the melodies prove rather strong and the drums decent enough. The track later changes into an atmospheric piece, which grows into a new extension of the song as a whole. There’s also a definite electronic vibe throughout all of this. While it’s still a bit fuzzy, I get the idea. The next song is “Voyage To Valhalla 6:29” which takes us on a completely different journey, as light acoustic melodies and slight synths demonstrate a less threatening atmosphere. However, the harsh vocals don’t necessarily work so well here. Odd of me to say that, but that’s what my ears are picking up. But at least the band is experimenting. The song gets progressively heavier, ending with some nice drum work and guitar noodling. This demonstrates the fact that these guys do possess a level of skill, and perhaps with future releases the band will sound much stronger. The album closes with “Hymn Of The North 9:55” which features folk influence on the riffs and the same dual vocal approach that we’ve gotten for most of the album. That vocal approach can be annoying after a while, so they need to kind of mix it up a bit on the next one. There’s a nice little solo that ends the disc out on a strong enough note, showing once again that there’s potential in these guys and they’ll go far if they can just keep on going.
The quality of this release is just above a demo, which is to be expected of a band just starting out. But I can’t say that I hated it or even felt that it was just “alright.” No, there’s something here; but I just can’t put my finger on it right away. There’s a band hungry for new ideas and eager to experiment and show the world that they’ve got something to offer. They’re just not yet at the level where it will be well received and noticed by the masses, which is alright. I am especially looking forward to The Wild Hunt’s next release, as I think it will show even further progression and sense of the band really finding their place. Despite the fact that I really wish they could re-record or remix the guitar track on the band’s namesake song and album opener; I can’t disregard this whole release because of one mistake. There’s just too much potential popping up here for that kind of foolishness. You want my unbiased opinion? Keep fucking playing guys, you’ll only get better with more experience. What you’ve offered me needs work, but it sure as hell isn’t useless. And that’s coming from a fellow musician, so I’m well aware of the whole process.
(4 Tracks, 25:00)