BURZUM – Belus CD
Last year while reading about Varg Vikernes’ release from prison I noticed one of his future goals was to be left alone and just spend time with his family. So when I first heard about this coming release I was surprised. Well so much for being left alone, especially if the title your latest release refers to “the white god”. Belus is the name for an ancient European solar deity of light and innocence, although each culture had another name for the same type of deity. According to Varg this release is about the myths of Belus, his death and journey through that realm as well as his return. For some reason I see this as art imitating life as in Varg playing the part of Belus the deity. In some people’s minds Varg is loved or hated with an almost religious fervor much like a deity would get. His incarceration could be looked upon as death and a journey. Now with this release we see the rebirth of Varg and BURZUM.
In 2008 when I reviewed the BURZUM Anthology put out by Candlelight Records I said the two most important songs on that disc were “Jesus Tod” and “Det Som En Gang Var”. For anyone wanting to get into BURZUM they had to get passed those two cuts since they represented both extremes of Varg’s ambient Black Metal style. They’re also from his two best releases, Filosofern from 1996 and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss from 1994. One could argue that Varg did create the Ambient Black Metal genre which so many others have been influenced by or just flat out copied over the years. I never cared for anything afterwards up until now. I’m saying this because personally I am a fan and not just another clown trying to get their two cents worth of an opinion in on what could be one of the more important releases of 2010. So if you’ve never cared for his work before then go away because you won’t like this one at all.
Not only is Belus a great release as well as a return to the Ambient Black Metal style of past, but I have to say this is Varg’s best work to date. For all those people who over the years have used Varg as a punching bag for jokes and scoffed at the idea of a new BURZUM release actually being good, it’s time for you to eat shit and die. Yes I know that’s not likely to happen but atleast Belus will always be a slap in the face to people who still haven’t grown up yet. I’ve been listening to this for over a week now absorbing every song into my psyche as if my life depended on it. This release washes away the sins of his prison bound Casio keyboard recordings and I consider it to be a true follow-up to 1996’s Filosofern.
Belus is musically a return to the ferocious past of Black Metal’s Second Wave but with a more mature and determined composer at the helm. The distorted riffs are in the same style of the past as is the monotone drumming but there’s some underlying majesty to it all which overcomes what could be mediocrity. After the short intro, the cut “Belus Doed” thunders forward with a riff reminiscent of “Jesus Tod”. Actually there are alot of riffs on here that could be looked upon as re-workings of the past but that’s ok. With BURZUM you expect something there which is familiar and that’s what a true fan wants and appreciates. If there is anything of a major change then that would be Varg’s vocal style. The days of his harpy like shrieking are long gone. On Belus he still adds some harsh qualities to his performance but along with that there’s clean spoken wording over-laid like on “Kaimadalthas Nedstigning” or “Glemselens Elv”.
Speaking of which, “Glemselens Elv” is also the longest cut out of the official eight on here coming in at just over eleven minutes. In the past the one criticism which did hold some truth to it was that some BURZUM songs were just too long and led into boring repetitive riffing. I’d say 90% of this does not fall into that category. The lone holdout would be the final cut, “Belus Tilbakekomst” but then again it is the conclusion of the release. Two standout cuts are the short Thrash like number “Sverddans” and my favorite cut on here “Keliohesten”. The latter opens with an epic sounding riff that simply suspends there, as if watching an approaching storm cross over a valley but then after a minute it kicks into gear like being overwhelmed by the onslaught of nature’s fury.
Even though there are atleast a dozen other individuals within Black Metal’s history who have lived or still live in infamy, Varg Vikernes will always be looked upon as the worst of the bunch. As always I don’t look too closely into what someone’s political/social beliefs are unless it’s staring you right in the face. I base my opinions on the music most of the time. It’s only once in a great while that I’ll comment on an artist’s beliefs if it is part of the music being played. In this case it is not. Secondly as I stated in an opinion piece last year about Varg’s release from prison and the repercussions of it. I wasn’t there in Oslo, Norway in August of 1993 and most likely neither were you. But there are plenty of individuals who were and are still around today in the music scene. They have chosen to remain silent on the issue of Varg Vikernes for their own personal reasons. I respect their decision on the issue. Who I don’t respect are those individuals who were not there or are not old enough to have been into the music back then but still choose to have a worthless opinion on the subject especially in Forums. Move the fuck on!
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
MANEGARM – Nattvasen CD
In their version of Norse mythology MANEGARM is a wolf that lives off the blood of dying humans. During Ragnarok the wolf hunts down the moon and swallows it whole. Sweden’s MANEGARM has been sailing the Pagan Folk Metal oceans for close to fifteen years now which is almost as long as the genre has officially existed. Being on Displeased Records for so long then jumping to Black Lodge Records never really put them in a place of recognition amongst their peers. Honestly here in the states if you’re not on the Paganfest tour then most Pagan Folk Metal fans tend to not know ya. Although their music is pretty incredible especially 2007’s Vargstenen CD. Now that they’re on Regain Records things will obviously change as far as their notoriety is concerned. Musically speaking MANEGARM play a darker Folk Metal style then what genre fans are sometimes used to. On Nattvasen, nobody is happily running through the snowy woods, dancing with elves or getting drunk with the boys. Melodic Death with flourishes of Black Metal is the main musical style with the Folk melodies sewn in. There are also plenty of Black & Roll galloping rhythms which are what makes me a fan. Sometimes I’d even consider this Viking Thrash. MANEGARM tosses in flute, cello and violin for the Folk instruments but the rest is pure fuckin Metal. Another thing I like about MANEGARM is that their songs are sung in their native language which to me is always cool because it adds to the authenticity. When I say they play a darker Folk Metal style I’m not kidding. This whole release is themed around the night and things that run around during it. Making the effort to understand everything is what makes MANEGARM an intriguing band to listen to. This release definitely makes alot of other bands in this genre seem poppy.
TROLL – Neo Satanic Supremacy CD
I tend to write off modern day bands who emulate DIMMU BORGIR, especially since they have a new release coming out this year, but what do you do with one with an ex-member? Singer/guitarist Nagash (aka: Stian Arnesen) used to play bass in DIMMU BORGIR as well as the KOVENANT years ago but at the time he also had this solo/side project called TROLL. His first EP Trollstorm over Nidingjuv from 1995 on Head not Found records was pretty damm good True Norwegian Black Metal release. A year later he released a full length, Drep de Kristne, which translates into “Kill the Christians”. According to his bio that release got him into hot water with the Norwegian government but I don’t understand why since the title is so “subtle”. Anyway Nagash put TROLL on the shelf for a while and devoted more time to DIMMU BORGIR, during their black salad days, until he quit them. In 2000 he resurrected TROLL from obscurity only to put out two more releases which were more in the vein of Industrial/Experimental than the earlier Black Metal works. Failing to gain any traction from the change in sound, Nagash once again called it quits.
So now TROLL is back with a new release which promises to be a return to the blackened days of old. Well sounding exactly like mid era DIMMU BORGIR is what you get with Neo Satanic Supremacy which is a far cry from his first EP. I can also see how this is being pushed to a certain Symphonic Black Metal crowd with the tagline “features former member of DIMMU BORGIR”. There are plenty of tried and true Symphonic genre elements on here like the typical church organ like keyboards over-powering everything. That should be expected of course but atleast they’re not there to showcase the chick in the band who the singer is fucking, like some US Symphonic Black Metal bands. The melodies soar out with plenty of fast guitar riffage and pounding drums. Vocals are raspy of course. Ok the bottom line is yeah this is a recipe for how to make a mid-90’s era Symphonic Black Metal album just like DIMMU BORGIR. On that note TROLL do a fantastic job if you are still into this style of Black Metal.
HULDREFOLK – Morbide Elite CD
Iron Age Records
There are so many reasons why I like Extreme Metal. One reason for example is how so many bands go back into the past and base their music on historic events. This Flemish band’s second release is a concept album based around the black plague of the fourteenth century. Yes HULDREFOLK are Black Metal and who better to illustrate through music the wholesale death of millions. Morbide Elite opens with the death bells ringing and some light organ tune age to set the mood. What a fuckin miserable existence that must’ve been. You have to bring out your dead family members before they become a rat feast. From there the band keeps things essentially in the middle ages of the Black Metal musical realm. Think IMMORTAL or ENTHONED at their most filthy raw early beginnings. HULDREFOLK add some variety in song structures mixing speedy vile riffs and death blow drumming at some points. Other times they know how to spread the melodies out giving things a haunting like vibe. You could say they’re stressing the signs of those times. The bile and spittle tinged lyrics are sung in Flemish which really pushes the disgust level up a notch. Language is such an important catalyst on here because it gives the low-fi vocals and sound quality a pass. Although if this was clean sounding with added keyboard interludes I’d probably be vomiting Black Death myself. If their aim was to keep things miserable they’ve done it.
NO REMORSE NO RETREAT – Warbringer CD
Iron Age Records
This is the second full length from the mystery band NO REMORSE NO RETREAT. Yes they are a mystery since there’s no Internet info on em and their MySpace page has very little info as well as no photos or an actual home address. It states they’re from England Wales United States so either they were drunk when putting in the info or they’re lying. I’m guessing they’re English since Iron Age Records is an English label and most likely a bunch of skinheads/punks from another band who don’t want their identities exposed. The only thing I had to go on was that their debut release, To Glory We Ride, is pure fuckin English Oi/Punk Rock n Roll. It kind of reminds me of late 80’s ANGELIC UPSTARTS.
With that supposition we come to their latest, Warbringer, which at first I thought was some killer stuff worthy of running out my back yard and screaming “Death to False Metal” at the top of my lungs. Look when you open a release with a cut like “Will of Iron”, which is the chorus by the way, and then run into a structured song you’ve gotta go holy shit that’s fuckin cool. On this release, NO REMORSE NO RETREAT has moved onto a more Hardcore meets NWOBHM/Thrash direction. If any band could fly the flag of Battle Metal it’s this one with cuts like the afore mentioned opener as well as “We March”, “Fight or Die” and of course “Heroes Never Die”. The only cut on here that deviates from the template is the closer, “When Tomorrow Comes” where they get all Doom on us. Although that’s to be expected since it once again fits the pattern of what a skinhead/Punk band would do. All in all this is a fantastic release for any Punk or Metalhead.
SATAN’S HOST – Power Purity Perfection 999 CD
SATAN’S HOST came to town a few years ago but I missed em because it was a weeknight show. I wasn’t the only one either because I heard there were less than fifty people at the club which normally holds three hundred. Yeah they won’t be coming back unless it’s a four band weekend package tour sponsored by Moribund Records. I can dream can’t I? Anyways I gave their last release, 2007’s Great American Scapegoat 666, a decent review. Some people thought that was even a bit much but I still say it was an underrated release. Power Purity Perfection 999 is actually better in many ways and I’m glad to see they’re progressing. The music is still Blackened Death Thrash but the songs are more varied in terms of style. Haunting melodies, violent guitar and drum assaults, acoustic driven passages, flaming goatheads, swarms of locust, alright I’m kidding about the locust. There’s plenty of Luciferian thought thrown into their lyrics. Not only is it a good listen, but you also get an education of all things dark. Vocalist L.C.F. Elixir is very good at mixing death growls and harsh rasps into a performance worthy of note. Guitarist Patrick Evil packs in plenty of tasty leads that’ll have ya air guitar-ing along. The band originally played Classic Metal back in the 80s with Evil being the sole remaining member from back in those days. So his playing style tends to be clean sounding laser beams instead of technical over-ecstasy or raw meat.
BROWN JENKINS – Death Obsession CD
I called their 2008 release “Angel Eyes” a late night listening type of Black Metal release. Basically it’s a style that’s ambient, lite on vocals but heavy in instrumentation in order to kick back and relax. This two piece act from Texas probably doesn’t want you to relax while listening to their craft. Be that as it may I find Death Obsession in the same vein as its predecessor as well as being an incredible release. So far I’ve had it playing in the background while reading W.B. Yeats late at night. It’s also perfect in the morning while getting ready for work, after I hear the fuckin weather report on the radio of course. Yeah that doesn’t sound like you atypical things to do while listening to Black Metal. Then again most of the things people say are total bullshit and this ain’t your typical (choose one: DARKTHRONE, DIMMU BORGIR or XASTHUR) wannabe type band.
BROWN JENKINS’ sound/style can best be described as transcendental negativity. On Death Obsession the songs have this melodic drone type of texture that bounces around with every quick tempo change. For those of you who call Ambient Black Metal sleep inducing then you would be missing out on something exciting, which you can add to that all important gene you’ve been without since birth. For me this type of ambient chaos is relaxing but then again I consider thunderstorms comforting especially at night. The sounds wash over you most of the time as if you’re in some hypnotic trance. Once you’re feeling good in your happy place the tempo change rips you out of it. Imagine sitting down on a nice comfortable looking sofa. After a while you’re so relaxed that you decide to lay down on it only to find that there’s a knife imbedded in one of the cushions and you’ve just been stabbed.
Death Obsession is actually a posthumous release since mainman UA (aka: Umesh Amtey – guitars, vocals and drums) has called an end to BROWN JENKINS and has plans to start on another project, the ASH EATERS. The true reason is unknown to me but I’ll guess that with this release, UA has taken BROWN JENKINS to its furthest progressive level. Guitar rhythms are layered upon one another like waves of sound which rolls across you, sometimes with a simple flow and at other times like crashing against the rocks. It’s a great way to make an exit.