As promised, here is the second half of Week 130. Allen – Lande takes the top spot, with Ancient VVisdom, Abysmal Dawn and newcomers Circle Of Indifference following behind. The only real stinker here was Anaal Nathrakh unfortunately, who apparently missed the boat entirely with this one. I’m also highlighting a smaller project by the name of Mare Cognitum that you should give a listen. Next week is the December Shortlist, as well as some more Helliday lists if I have time.
Allen – Lande – The Great Divide (2014 Spotlight) – An interesting band created to show the talents of Jorn Lande (Jorn) and Russell Allen (Adrenaline Mob, Symphony X, Star One) this record really sets the melodic metal world on fire. With Ring Of Fire drummer Jami Huovinen on the skins and Timo Tolkki (Timo Tolkki’s Avalon, Ring Of Fire) playing some tasty licks, there’s nothing on The Great Divide other than pure metallic majesty. The Great Divide was just one of those records that I heard early on and knew that I had to cover. It’s the kind of record that makes me want to continue to do this kind of work, and it’s the very reason that The Grim Tower even exists at all. With Jorn’s Dio-esque approach found in “Lady Of Winter 5:06”, the album’s title cut (6:42) and its massive closer “Bittersweet 4:40” you could buy the record just on account of his mesmerizing vocal work. But on the other side is Russell Allen, who just released one of the best damn hard rock albums that I heard all year in Men Of Honor (fuck what MA says) and it’s apparent that he’s shown no signs of slowing down. Years have passed, but he still sounds just as good as he did on The Odyssey and this record proves it. What more do I really need to say? Do I need to talk about how Tolkki kicks it into full gear on the solo efforts? Or the fact that Jorn blew my face off with the best nod to Dio worship that I’ve heard since the man himself first bellowed out Mob Rules? I mean, if you’re looking for a genuine heavy metal performance, then I really don’t think you can possibly go wrong with this one. It’s a record that had me exclaiming “damn!” several times during the duration of the listen, due to having been seriously knocked on my ass by such an amazing display of power, vigor and unhinged energy. This is what metal is truly about and by all means; let’s not lose it in all the noise.
(10 Tracks, 52:00)
Ancient VVisdom – Sacrificial (2014) – What can I say about Ancient VVisdom that you don’t already know? Just as we expected from them, they’ve delivered another dark-tinged rock album; managing to blow away the competition and sing about Satan in the process. The last album Deathlike may have been focused on the grim topic of our final journey, but Sacrificial sounds like a Satanic praise and worship album. Songs like “Blood Offering 3:50” and “Devil’s Work 3:14” further cement this, showing off Nathan’s glass-like clean approach while the rest of the band channel Type O Negative and mid-era Tiamat to some extent. The core of the record is just like the last, where a strong chorus really sells the experience and in this case, it’s quite true. It’s almost encroaching on Ghost territory, but that’s certainly not a bad thing in my eyes. It shows that Ancient VVisdom is not just another wannabe gothic rock band. These guys manage to make something so dark, so devious and so evil… sound beautiful. This kind of makes you question your perception of these subjects. Are we merely being played by some unholy trickster living at the bottom of a fetid pit, or is there something about the left hand path that we’ve yet to grasp. Most people have both a right and left hand, and not surprisingly; most of us are quite adept with the use of both of them, like typing on this laptop for example. So if we’ve got both the left and the right hand, then surely the left hand path is just as important as the right hand, if not more so. I would type much fewer words with just the left hand or the right, so in essence, I need them both. If you haven’t been using your darker left hand lately; then perhaps it’s time to experience a little bit of the devil’s work here in Sacrifice.
(10 Tracks, 35:00)
Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum (2014) – So here’s the problem with Desideratum. It leaves something to be desired; which is exactly the meaning of the album’s title in a strange bout of irony. Basically the record seems to piece a mix of fierce black metal riffs, mixed in with thrash and electronics; but the piece as a whole is rather bland. Even the prominent clean vocals seem a little repetitive at times, which turns me off the whole experience. Desideratum has the “it all sounds like one song” syndrome and those djent riffs don’t help matters much. It just seems like they phoned it in and that’s the honest truth. The latter half of the album gets a little better, but I think they used too many of the same damn riffs in an attempt to dig back into the black metal that they traversed in In The Constellation Of The Black Widow. But that record was great in itself and there’s no real reason to go back into that territory. This record is just as forgettable as Passion which leads me to believe that these guys screw up with every other album. For instance, In The Constellation Of The Black Widow was fantastic, but Passion was boring. Vanitas I thought was a mind-boggler, while this new album is… well, you know. So what the hell can the band possibly do to fix this? Well, these guys would have to tool around with some fort of the occult sciences, correct? So if they could get in touch with an alternate version of the band that makes a good album with every odd numbered disc instead of every even numbered one, then they could probably round out to a masterful album every time. Or they could just find a version of the band from another dimensional timeline that makes a good record every time and channel them. It shouldn’t mess up the space-time continuum too awful much I would think and
it would provide a much better outcome in the long run. Well, one thing is for sure; the 2016 album will definitely be one of the record books, while the 2018 release (assuming that we’re all still here by then) will be another blunder. There’s really nothing we can do about it, it seems to be the will of the old ones and their rule is absolute. So just skip it and wait until the next one, because Desideratum is easily one of the more disappointing releases that you’ll hear this year and chances are that you won’t be remembering it during the next one either.
(11 Tracks, 47:00)
Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith (2014) – This third release from California based one man melodic black metal project Mare Cognitum definitely grabbed my attention, but would it be placed into the post-black category due to all the shoegaze riffs? Personally, I think shoegaze melodies are quite beautiful and it still sort of boggles my mind as to how they even got into black metal to begin with (although Alcest and Krallice do come to mind) though I’ll say that the mixture of drum blasts, scowling vocal utterances and bright melodies on the record certainly made it a candidate for review. But there’s something else utilized on Phobos Monolith that you might not expect, and that’s the use of doom melodies and throaty growls which seem to come from the darker sections of the universe. Even the Blut Aus Nord style folk tremolos find a place here, but this record isn’t even going to touch the greatness of Saturnian Poetry, so do not be mistaken. However, the one man band does manage to offer a killer performance that sounds like the rupturing of a supernova and captures the melodies of space into one fast-paced and slightly melancholy listen that you’ll be sure to enjoy for years to come… or at least until the next one. If you already picked up Saturnian Poetry, then consider Phobos Monolith an after dinner mint, if you will. That’s IF you can stop listening to Saturnian Poetry. I had to limit myself from playing that after rolling through it three times and not even realizing it. But this isn’t about Blut Aus Nord, even though I’m sure Jacob Buczarski is probably quite flattered with the comparisons. But he should be, because this record is truly stellar and it’s much stronger than other records of its type that you will hear this year. Krallice wish that they still sounded this good.
(4 Tracks, 49:00)
Abysmal Dawn – Obsolescence (2014) – California’s Abysmal Dawn are back with their fourth release, which seems lyrically to be centered on social commentary as opposed to some of their other lyrics which apparently have focused on sci-fi and the occult, even though there are still some sci-fi leanings here and there. These guys look like they hit the gym quite often and constantly consume large amounts of protein in addition to bro-ing it up on Call Of Duty, but the music here is still amazingly fucking potent. So regardless of the fact that these four gentlemen could bench press me well above their heads, (and I work in the stock room where heavy lifting is a major part of what we do) the thickly-layered sound contained on Obsolescence seems like it’s coming from musicians who are truly skilled and know what the fuck they’re doing. Many of the tracks here contain the same atmosphere, but they don’t feel like retreads as Charles Elliot (Bereft) and Andy Nelson (Isolation In Infamy) manage to mix chunky riffs along with technicality, groove and even some black metal influence. It’s this mixture that makes Charles’ vocals really come off with a vengeance, which makes the whole experience worthwhile as a whole. It’s still laced with a heaping helping of nails and wood dust, seeming like a meal for a real man. In all honesty, Obsolescence sounds like real man’s metal and if the sweat on your brow doesn’t cumulate enough to fill buckets, then you probably won’t understand it. The album’s intricate solo efforts manage to pepper the meaty hunk (served with a flagon of ale) just well enough that it brings out even more of the flavor which already full of plenty of heavily calculated herbs and spices. But now I’m comparing the album to steak, which is oddly enough is a rather strong comparison. I really don’t feel that any fans of death metal will have a problem with this steak, but I’m quite aware that some people like theirs to be raw, medium and well-done. In that respect, I would certainly consider this metallic monolith to be that of medium-rare, which offers just enough blood and meat to satisfy nearly half of the demonic death metal hordes. Yet with all this being said, the most interesting thing that I found about this album was its bonus closer, a cover of Dissection’s “Night’s Blood 7:22” of which we ALL should be familiar with. As Dissection really pushed the boundaries between black metal and death metal, it’s awesome to hear the song revitalized in such a fashion that not only celebrates the legacy of Jon Nodtveidt, but also shows off the full range of talent that Abysmal Dawn possess. It won’t be everyone’s bag, but it definitely shocked me in a very compelling fashion. Without question, this is the best song on the album. I like to think of it as the frosted dessert that you get if you still have enough room left over after consuming your Abysmal Dawn Obsteaklescence at the death metal steakhouse… which makes me wonder if there is one. Well, if there is, then I feel a dish should be served in honor of this titanic piece of meaty of metal. Definitely get your hands on this one and leave the fork and knife on the table. You have to really bite into this one!
(10 Tracks, 43:00)
Circle Of Indifference – Shadows Of Light (2014) – Sometimes I don’t mind throwing a bone to smaller bands, especially when they’re doing a great job as with this release. Circle Of Indifference is essentially a one man melodic death metal project that utilizes several session musicians and vocalists from across the globe. Swedish mastermind Dagfinn Ovstrud is responsible for all of the drum programming, bass and keyboards featured on the disc; while Brandon Leigh Polaris (Voidspawn) recorded all of the vocal work from his home in Belgium. It’s comparable to the same process that we use in crafting Torii albums and it’s very efficient for musicians these days. Additionally, Tyler Teeple provides the leads from his home in Canada and Aybars Altay provided the cover artwork and remixed one of the album’s tracks to follow near the end. Finally, Nikki Money provided vocals on “Darkness 5:05” from her home in the US. Now as for how it all stacks up, the result is surprisingly potent. Shadows Of Light is actually a strong debut effort and it shows the musicians playing well with each other despite their geographical differences, which truly shows that we all have something in common when it comes to making this kind of music, despite how far away we might be from each other. Tyler’s leads definitely make their mark on the release as Dagfinn’s bass crunches certainly add the right amount of groove to the mix, which makes most of the solos truly pop out. Tyler Teeple’s lead and solo work make up most of the high points on the record and there’s no doubt in my mind that he is an astounding fucking guitarist, as the album truly showcases. Shadows Of Light is truly brackish, as it fills with angrily pounding drums to back Brandon’s ravenous vocal elements and even some clean lines as featured on “Walk With Me 4:16” which additionally has a killer set of melodic leads and an amazing chorus that I’m actually kind of jealous of. The album stays in its own element, but definitely adds something extra to each of the songs, whether that be more of a groove metal approach or something more akin to brutal death, or even electronics, atmosphere or the use of female vocals. It’s definitely an experimental release and offers something that I like to hear every now and again as a breath of fresh air. When you listen to as many albums as I have on a daily basis, it becomes increasingly easier to tell exactly who is going to stand out and Circle Of Indifference was once again; one of those discs that I knew I had to review. There’s just as much Scar Symmetry (minus the clean vocals) as there is Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, Soilwork and the others from that gamut. Additionally, you’ll also hear some Sybreed influence “Evil 6:42” which you could also lump in with The Project Hate. Shadows Of Light is truly a mixed bag with loads of promise and it proves the power of international file sharing in lieu of recording. The fact that one man can record his guitars, while another can record his bass and drums, while another can record his vocals and it can all be mixed together in the most professional manner possible truly shows the amazing might of technology. We’ve destroyed the entire idea of recording together in a studio, which I think makes it a bit easier and more focused; not to mention a bit more relaxing (even though it can still be quite taxing, the scars on my vocal chords can tell you that) than being all cramped together as in the early days. Fans of melodic death metal will definitely want to get their hands on this exquisite release, which probably got buried in the sea of other metal albums (as is usually the case). I wouldn’t be recommending it if I wasn’t so much a fan of melodic death metal, but many of you know that that is indeed not the case as it is definitely one of my personal favorite heavy metal subgenres. It may not be as solo-riffic and melodic as some of the Touhou laden versions of the genre, but it’s really close and it captures the Swedish sound just as we’d expect to hear it. It’s much better than what some of the heavy hitters have already put out this year, so definitely give it a purchase and a spin.
(13 Tracks, 59:00)