After seeing Guardians Of The Galaxy, (which I highly recommend by the way) my sinuses started to give me hell, which made me not want to do anything other than to shoot myself and end the pain until about 12:00 this morning. My original goal was to begin these that night and finish them the next day, but since that didn’t happen I decided to start on them about 1:00 PM and here we are at 5:56 PM (minus a few distractions of course, plus rest time) with Week 119.5 finished. There are definitely some promising albums here from bands like Visions Of The Night, Manilla Road, Helmsplitter, Dark Legacy and others, so I would recommend that you check them all out!
Visions Of The Night – Guerillas Within Their Midst (2013 SPOTLIGHT) – This is the third full-length from one man black/death metal act Visions Of The Night. He’s been making music for quite a while and this record seems to be one of his strongest yet. And somehow this dude managed to go to Japan, hence I’ve got all these promo pics from the show (and nothing makes me all rough and tumble like seeing beautiful Japanese girls clad in metal band tees and raising up the horns. Damn you 2D girls, you’ve ruined me!) At any rate, the drums on the record are performed by Todd Hansen from The Berserker as a sort of one-off gig, but they do manage to work well with Wolfsblood’s guitar licks and vocals. He also manages to add some interesting synths into the mix, as well as some Arabic influence in places where it influences the lyrics. Structurally, it’s a pretty strong album with the meat and potatoes of both death and black metal firmly in place, yet never going fully into either genre. That’s a good thing though, as the band could get rather stale and boring if he just decided to stick to one playing field, though I admit that I would like to hear more style branching in the future – just so long as it still resembles the band. Then there’s the weird riffing of “Written In Blood 5:16” which sounds unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. I don’t know if it’s being played out of tune or what, but it certainly sounds different. I mean, I truly believe that Wolfsblood knows what he’s doing and he manages to do some rather awesome things on this disc – he deserves to experiment and I’d like to hear more of it. In my opinion, if your record doesn’t sound like anyone other than yourself, then you’ve done it right. “Breaching The Somme 1:37” is another one that manages to break the mold a bit, as well as that opening title track (4:23) which brings in the Arabic chanting and such, a great backdrop for a war-themed album. There’s also some more of those weird little riffs in “Utilizing Hate As A Motivational Force 3:28” and I’m also hearing a slight buzz on the track as if produced by electronic means. So really, there’s a lot of shit going on in this album and it’s quite promising. Also, Rob Urbinati of Sacrifice lends his vocals to “War Is Our Religion 3:31” so be sure to check out that one. The lyrics on the disc are supposed to revolve around War and the Occult, but I’m not sure if these guys are for the occult or against it. I’m sure they’re not cool with war though. Is anyone? War sucks, period. I will say that I do like the last track here (Invoking The Martial Gods 3:54) as it also has some of that odd riffing/twiddling or whatever he’s doing on the guitar – but the song in general seems to be about invoking all of the fiercer gods in the spectrum. I’ll also add (looking through the eight-page scan I have here) that I really like the image in the background of “War Is Our Religion” which is essentially the whore of Babylon I believe, with a machine gun in her hand sitting on a three-headed dragon that’s standing atop a mound of skulls, while the symbol of Thelema (as displayed on my altar) sits in the dark sky above. I’m going to Google this and see if I can’t get it on my phone as a wallpaper. Rolling back to the album, Visions Of The Night prove that they’ve got enough musically, lyrically and visually to keep me entertained and I hope that others will check out this unconventional death and black metal oddity out for themselves. It’s definitely worth hearing and I recommend it!
(10 Tracks, 38:00)
Melodius Deite – Episode II: Voyage Through The Realm Of Fantasy (2014) – Thailand’s Melodius Deite create a brand of symphonic power metal that includes a bevy of orchestrated and magnificent moments that would not be out of place in a film of video game score. Though the drums are pounded heavily and the guitars provide a bright yet thrashy atmosphere at times, the band really proves their worth in the realms of instrumentation alone. The soundtrack to a fantasy film or role-playing game is one thing that these guys have successfully achieved with this record, not so much different than their Asian brethren further overseas in Dragon Guardian or Galneryus. Though there is a male vocal touch on the record, I feel that the music here speaks much louder than any vocal element. Keyboards mystify in addition with stellar guitar soundscapes, equaling out to a package that makes lengthy tracks like “Civilization 15:57” or the album’s closer “Sailing Around The World 13:01” worth taking the time to listen to. But if you don’t like metal at all, then “The Dawn Of Journey 5:13” should be enough to get your filmscore fix. For now, at least.
(9 Tracks, 75:00)
Manilla Road – Mystification (2014 Re-Released) – Though this recording (originally released in 1987, when I was about two or three years old) from the Kansas heavy metal act had been reissued at least three times prior on all sorts of different vinyl formats, this is the first time that the disc has ever seen a CD release. Shadow Kingdom records also kept the original tracklist and original mix and master for the recording, unlike other versions which feature a re-arranged and remixed/remastered tracklist. So in a roundabout way, this is almost the genuine article. On MA, Manilla Road have dozens of recordings, but this stands as one of their best with a 92% review rating. Judging from the material on my own merit, I can certainly agree that the slightly dark approach to heavy metal taken here features an almost doom-laden nature that comes across well in the music and matches the ghastly album cover. Plus it sounds just as you remember, a bonafide classic. Chances are that you really don’t need me to tell you about this album. So just pick it up before they’re all gone!
(9 Tracks, 43:00)
Maleficent Vigor – Novus Ordo Seclorum (2012) – This is the debut album from the Californian death/black metal act, and it’s also their first release despite being a band for eight years now (originally founded in 2006). Surprisingly though, the disc offers up a slew of menacing riffs, capable drumming and a mix of scowl and growl as the band sail through familiar melodic death metal and black metal territory. Melody seems to play a huge role in the act, as well as the slight elements of groove thrown into the mix, helping the listener to bypass the rough mix in favor of the intriguing performance. Sometimes synths are used on the record like in the album’s ominous intro “Depravity 1:33” and “New World Order 5:12”, which makes me think that we’ve got a band who would really love to have a full orchestra and choir integrated later on in their career. There’s merit here and I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it, but I hope that future releases will bring even more to the table. And hopefully, we won’t have to wait another six years for a new release. Very promising.
(12 Tracks, 54:00)
Khaoz – I, Creator Of Damnation (2014) – Netherlands death metal outfit Khaoz certainly prove themselves as a punishing act, with a battering approach to drumming heavily felt and understood, although sometimes burying the death riffs in its ferocity. Two vocalists are featured here, one of them with a mouth full of sand, and the other sounding like a whiny child. I’m sorry, that’s the best way I can describe it. At first listen, I thought that the whiny baby vocals were going to kill whatever meat and potatoes these guys had in the musical performance, but the drumming and sheer amount of muscle on this disc is so pungent that it has me almost in acceptance of the other vocalist. At least these guys sound like they actually give a shit on the album and prove themselves to be a worthy death metal act among the millions of others out there. To be honest, the sheer mayhem of the thing combined with the two distinct vocal styles makes it feel kind of like grindcore. It has a punk meets brutal death metal vibe that solidifies the act as a gateway drug into the gates of metal hell for those who like the more frantic “heavy punk/crust/whatever you want to call it” style of music. I can’t say that it’ll replace some of your crusty favorites, but it’s worth a shot, right?
(9 Tracks, 35:00)
Helmsplitter – Enraptured By Suffering (2014) – This is the sophomore album from Illinois death/thrash act Helmsplitter, and it’s quite varied as the leaflet describes. Let’s see, “Black Metal, Sludge, Death Metal, Crust Punk, Thrash, Doom Metal and hateful Blues” certainly seems to sum it up, especially on “Burden Of Our Existence 3:32” which isn’t one bit shy about throwing a few blues riffs into an extremity that goes through black metal, groove and several other transformations throughout its nearly four minutes of playing time. I think what really makes this work, is having such a versatile band that can play all of these styles. “Dance Of The Heretic 4:15” even begins on a distorted sort of prog metal, later rolling right into black n’ blues and as it thunders into death metal. Wow! What a trip. I actually had to check and see if they were signed, because it’s a damn shame if no one picked up a band that sounds this fucking good. The vocal element is also precariously punishing here, as Blakk really knows what he’s doing. But he’s been doing death/thrash in his one man death/thrash act, Angelkill since 1990, so I would definitely say that he has more than enough experience in this genre. Once again, another great fucking band from HPGD; so there’s really not much else to say. The overall consensus on the record is an 84%, but those guys must have been more spellbound by some other albums at the time, because this fucker is clearly a 90%. Enraptured By Suffering didn’t hit me at first, but one this second listen I’m truly feeling these guys. When the fuck are they going to play Little Rock? These guys could give fucking Goatwhore a run for their money. Go grab this NOW.
(11 Tracks, 43:00)
Erebus Enthroned – Temple Under Hell (2014) – Australian black metallers Erebus Enthroned love to sing about Satanism and death respectively, and on this sophomore release they manage to do both equal justice. As for the album title, I was having a hard time determining actually what they meant by a temple under hell, as in a temple that literally sits underneath the realm itself, which some say is beneath the earth in its molten core (which I believe is highly impossible, especially due to the fact that every single fucking planet in the solar system and far beyond would have to have its own hell at the molten core, if even there are molten cores in the center of all existing planets). So that would mean that this temple would exist somewhere in the earth’s lower crust, which is constantly spinning all the time; so that even sounds theoretically impossible as the molten core would be the farthest that you could possibly traverse, if you wanted to make the literal journey to the center of the earth. Then I surmised it’s probably a consecration, as in the act of consecrating a temple “under hell” which makes more sense. At any rate, these guys offer up lots of angry tremolo, blast beats that seem nearly endless and familiar riffscapes that we’ve heard many times throughout the history of black metal. Though a bit varied and slightly atmospheric, it doesn’t really stand out that much from other albums in the genre. They’re quite vicious, extremely menacing and would make a priest piss himself and hold up a cross whilst shouting “Away with ye, Satan!” but other than that, there’s really nothing on Temple Under Hell that I haven’t heard already. To be honest, I found that trying to determine how a temple might fit underneath hell was more enjoyable than the record itself. But if you’ve got to have it dark and evil, then these Australian meanies are here for you.
(7 Tracks, 47:00)
Echelon – Vivito! Creato! Moritor! (2014) – The debut effort from this Austrian avant-garde black metal act comes with one of the most elaborate press leaflets that I think I’ve ever read. There’s a lot to this band and the album, which is about the philosophical view of painters towards war, in a nutshell. All of the album’s lyrics are in German as you might expect, but you don’t really need to know the language to be able to appreciate the album. The record itself is quite varied, with some acoustic sections highlighting spoken word vocals, whilst tremolo heavy sections of the record seem to fill with a thick vocal outing that seems a bit too high in the mix for me and almost turns me off of the performance entirely. The drummer manages to do a well enough job providing backbone, but the melodies on the piece are what seem most striking. Some sections of the record offer prog or rock elements, including a few solos here and there to break up the monotony. Folk influence also seems a factor on that playing, but only in the way that it was lifted from Norwegian inspiration. The ideas and conception of the record are good enough, but I think that the band need to work themselves out of the familiar cube that they’ve trapped themselves in on the record. Shoegaze melodies and orchestration help, but they’ll need more to break out of the box. Still worth a listen if you’re looking for a heavily melodic, yet somewhat vicious listen that may manage to intrigue for a little while. I am however curious as to what they’re next outing will unleash and if they’ll really bring in some new faculties to the act after this.
(13 Tracks, 62:00)
Dark Legacy – Ad Extremum Epilogue (2014) – The debut album from this unsigned Swedish symphonic death metal act (they had been previously playing as Rest In Peace from 1996-2005) is drenched in gothic synths from head to toe, as it features deep-throated gravel and the occasional clean backing vocal (they really could have left that out though, to be honest) in addition to some absolutely amazing guitar work, which seems to duet well with the pianos that appear so thickly on the record. Somewhere, someone wants to be buried with this fucking album, it’s just that goddamned majestic and I’m not afraid to say so. In the vein of mid-era Rotting Christ, early Graveworm and Type O Negative, the atmosphere here is perfect for a dark candlelit room in an ancient castle somewhere. I think that Dracula would use this as a sort of dinner music whilst he was courting Medusa, although one might think he would be careful not to stare into her hypnotic gaze. If you’ve got that goth friend who revels in this kind of stuff, or are looking to woo a woman who dresses up like every day is Halloween, then I think you will find this most effective. Of the two band photos I was sent, the one where the band is dressed in the all black garb seems more fitting of this gothic act than the guys dressed up in regular clothes. It sells the mystique of which there certainly is here. But doesn’t that sound a little like the Inspector Gadget theme on “Across The Astral Plane 4:52?” All joking aside, Dark Legacy certainly have their hands thick into the gothic goo of symphonic death metal that tends to lurch into a more musty, damp and cryptic direction. I’m almost expecting a Castlevania soundtrack cover to appear on the album, but in all honesty; this whole thing sounds like ti would fit well in the dark castle of any foul denizen. Be sure to play it with your favorite count or countess tonight.
(12 Tracks, 43:00)
Curimus – Artificial Revolution (2014) – Those of you who were waiting on another album from the Finnish death metal act Adramelech will just have to wait, because ever since the band was put on hold, frontman Marko Silvennoinen has been thrashing it up with these guys in Curimus. They call it death/thrash on MA, but to be honest; I’m hearing a lot of melody and groove elements, so you can’t really nail it down as “death metal” or even “death/thrash.” Take “Free-Standing Nation 4:17” for example. It seems to have more in common with mid-era Soilwork then it does, Grave or Entombed. But much of the album seems to be in this manner, even though Juha-Matti Helmi seems to be throwing in a few useful melodies throughout these pieces, which help the pieces not to stagnate so much. Though the approach of the music is quite punchy and full of melodeath and core elements, it just seems like a band trying to capitalize on something popular. They are doing a much better job on this kind of material than Soilwork has been doing as of late and provide ten tons more bite and thunder, but on the whole it doesn’t really offer anything truly new. I think the world will be glad when Adramelech gets back to making records again, so that Marko and crew can stop exploring their inner Soilwork and Whitechapel. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Aurvandil – Thrones (2013) – Well, from the looks of the finely detailed black and white art pieces that adorn this promo folder, this another one of those vastly atmospheric black metal records. This time it comes from a French act called Aurvandil which is a giant in Norse mythology. The band has been around since 2007 but this is actually their sophomore effort, right on the heels of 2011’s Yearning. The record itself received an 80% on MA, so certainly people felt that it provided a proper showcase of the band’s talent (which includes the frontman and a drummer) and saw a solid effort all around. It’s a bit raw when everything gets rolling though, just after the subtle acoustics. I have never minded raw music, but when it sounds like the band’s enveloped inside of a fog of noise, it sort of kills the experience for me. Maybe I have to listen to it a certain way, but from my speakers I can’t really discern all that much – the bass seems to fade into the drums and only Aurvandil’s guitar really seems to come out into the mix as noticeable. I can hear the tremolo melodies throughout such lengthy pieces as “Summon The Storms 19:31” but that’s really it. There’s even a great deal of amp fuzz that sounds a little out of place, especially when it’s still buzzing over the approaching acoustics. The Bathory influence can be felt within this big wall of noise and tremolo and fog, but I’d sooner take any of the discernible acoustics over the tough to hear black metal sections. Once again, I quite enjoy some raw acts, but when it’s just a bunch of fuzz it reminds me of something I might have recorded on a voice recorder just to capture the performance and display it to a few friends. I wouldn’t want to release that material (trust me, I have material from recordings that sound just as fuzzy if not even more so than this!) to the public. But if you like it, you like it – and I’m not going to judge.
(4 Tracks, 62:00)
Woman Is The Earth – This Place That Contains My Spirit (2012) – Now here’s an example of a raw act that I do like a bit. They also have the atmospheric black metal sort of vibe that Aurvandil embody, but these South Dakotans have something else that really works for me. I think it’s the atmosphere, presence, and ferocity in the vocal element that manage to drive it home, as well as the common American black metal elements of post metal which seems to be creeping up a lot these days, creating what some teem to be “hipster black metal.” Well, let these fuckers tip their fedoras and raise their glasses to their Goddesses, because this is some rather pleasing material. But I think what I like the most here, is the atmospheric closer “Glow Beyond The Ridgeline 16:18” which allows all of the fierce and frantic black metal elements to take a bow, whilst the record fills with a soft and etheric meditation though electronic soundscapes. This is also how they end the record, which allows the listener to sort of “cool off” after the barrage of heavy, yet melodic guitars, thick drumming and the abrasive screams and shouts which compose the brunt of this material. If I were to compare this with Aurvandil, I would say that the acoustic atmospheres there seem to be a more archaic form of the electronic atmospheres explored here. Both seem to embody the same calm and subtle feel, but Woman Is The Earth bring this atmosphere into the modern age. Truth be told, this is actually the band’s older record and they’ve since recorded a new album this year called Depths. I’m not sure how Depths sounds and I don’t have it in my promos, so I can’t really tell you much about it. But if you liked This Place That Contains My Spirit, then I think you’ll also appreciate Depths as well. Or hopefully, anyway.
(4 Tracks, 49:00)