KERASPHORUS – Cloven Hooves at the Holocaust Dawn 12” EP
Nuclear War Now Productions
I really get off on hateful music, seriously I do. In a world that operates like a clown car and places a happy face on everything from politics to toilet paper it’s refreshing to sit back and relax to the sound of something hateful. I’m not talking about one-sided meanness, that’s for losers. I’m talking about the all consuming supersonic hate fuck. I actually listen to this stuff at night when I shut everything down to crash out. Not that the music is sleep inducing but it’s just comforting like a warm glass of milk. The man who fronts KERASPHORUS, Peter Helmkamp, knows all about hateful music and its power to calm those of us who look at humanity and mostly see maggot infested meat. This man’s past endeavors include such favorites as ORDER FROM CHAOS and ANGELCORPSE. His newest project does not let up one bit in fact this session of torture hasn’t even reached its full potential.
Cloven Hooves at the Holocaust Dawn has just four songs but its four cuts of pure unadulterated blackened grind. Guitar, bass, drums and vocals combined to become an audio assault of brutal proportions. The first cut “The Abyssal Sanhedrin” starts out slow as if the holocaustic doom is descending upon the world and then suddenly explodes to rip it to pieces. The blast beats are like a hundred M-60 machine guns firing at once. The guitars and bass are like tanks rolling and crushing bodies to pulp. The best part is that it bleeds into the next cut “Aesoth Paradigm” which continues the relentless assault. What follows is simply more of the same as in punishment. “Disturb the Furthest Stars” is obviously my favorite cut on here out of the four fuckin monsters. It’s the shortest song coming in at just over three minutes but every second is all out war which never lets up for anything. In fact it just gets more intense till the final seconds when everything around you erupts into a fiery explosion with just you and this release left unscaved and there’s still one more song to go which is “Swarm Intelligentsia”.
Cloven Hooves at the Holocaust Dawn is black, death and grind combined to create the ultimate destructive release of carnage upon unsuspecting listeners. How great is it that I’m reviewing this on the night of a full moon, coincidence I don’t think so. Peter Helmkamp on bass and vocals along with J. Read on drums and B. Wolaniuk on guitar have created something that’s pure war metal. Yeah I know a few other bands that have that claim to fame placed upon them. Be that as it may once you listen to this then you’ll see others as armchair generals. I’m going to sleep well tonight.
Monday, May 31, 2010
MYSTERION – The Sacral Chamber CDEP
Karge Welten Kunstverlag
Sometimes I’m asked where do I find all these sick twisted bands from places so far out of the mainstream norm not even the Twilight Zone has an address for em. Well ya know sometimes you’ve gotta look deep inside those dark crevasses like this band from Germany. The Sacral Chamber is their debut release and even though it’s an EP there’s still alot on here to excite even the most jaded of black metal fans. First off this release is separated into three parts each having a short intro then followed by two cuts. The opening “Chapter 1 – The Beginning of the End” starts off with the sound of a thunderstorm breaking overhead and the guitarist enters in by playing a somber passage and then you’re hit by lightening as in the first actual cut “Death in the Circle of Candles”. Right off the bat MYSTERION lets you know that they’re not your typical German black metal army. These guys are looking north to their Scandinavian dark brothers. This chapter ends with “The Cold Mist” which mixes pagan choir choruses over a depressive lead vocal.
“Chapter 2 – Only the Dead Know the Secret” is another somber intro with keyboards laying on a melodic drone for two minutes until MARDUK walks into the room. “The Eye of the Devil” is a pure Panzer Division Marduk knockoff that even sticks within the regulated time limit of those Swede’s previous masterpiece. The vocalist even sounds like Legion which might tick off some people but hey these guys are German so cut em a break. The next cut “Deadly Silent” balances on the brink of Eastern European Post black metal and more of the melodic variety. Do you recognize a pattern here? “Chapter 3 – Walk Though the Open Gates” is short with monster growls and atmospheric keys and then MAYHEM steps through the door on the cuts “Battle with the King of Dead” and “The Truth is now Revealed”. This time the vocalist, Nephilim, hands us a dead on Atilla Csihar imitation while the rest of the performers play their parts well dropping out of character just enough to keep everything from sounding too copycat.
You outside the box nose in the air too kvlt to know your ass from a hole in the ground types might say that MYSTERION sounds like a band caught in the undertow of black metal’s second wave. If certain circumstances were also at hand like if The Sacral Chamber was being pushed by a more mainstream label with full page ads and magazine quotes then I’d agree to a point. But that’s not the case and secondly the way this was crafted together in the chapter’s sequencing shows the minimalist theory is far from true. What I do hear is something I already mentioned. This is a balancing act by a band trying to place as much of itself onto an already worn template. I give em credit for not following along like sheep since the slaughterhouse is already full with bands like that.
SABATON – Coat of Arms CD
Nuclear Blast Records
Swedish power metal that’s obsessed with war, yeah right, when was the last time Sweden declared war on somebody? Whatever the case this band’s brand of warrior themed metal does not contain any battle axes, swords or pole axe weaponry. SABATON are into modern weapons and twentieth century battles especially World War Two. They root for the allies of course. This is their fifth full length so they’ve been at war for some time now. Obviously they’re very good at it, power metal that is. I’m not a huge fan of the genre but I do own some stuff and SABATON’s approach is different then what I’m used to. Joakim Broden’s singing style is not your typical higher pitch, operatic voice (cue Heavy Metal scream) but instead is a deeper “real guy” type of voice. He could front a pub rock/Oi band as well as this. Another difference is that these guys have a more classic 80’s metal sound. “White Death” could’ve been on Headbangers Ball along with the song “Metal Ripper”. The rest feature standard power metal genre fair with heavy keyboard use as a backdrop on the songs. There’s plenty of galloping rhythms to bang your head along to. If anything, Coat of Arms is catchy especially the title track which opens this thing. Power Metal fans, yes all of you in the back row with your fake, dull, flea market bought swords, will like this.
DARKWOR – Foederati CD
When American black metal bands/artists are at their best is when they are not trying to full on copy the past greats from Europe. DARKWOR is one of those bands and although it’s impossible not to be influenced in your sound by someone else from black metal’s waves atleast they’re trying very hard. This is not your typical post black metal which is kinda getting old of late nor is it black floyd or some other black progressive seventies hard rock hybrid. If I were to give a reference point it would be that DARKWOR lean more towards black metal’s late nineties period when bands were starting to break free from the confines of the genre’s orthodoxy. What this CD represents, atleast to me, is a band trying to break away from the modern day orthodoxy within black metal which is in my not so humble opinion the marriage of indie rock and black metal. Yeah I still hate that crap.
Don’t let the atmospheric intro “Dawn of Adrianople” seduce you into thinking this is more of what you’re used to hearing. Once the title cut hits you then you’ll be like “Wow that’s interesting”. Instead of the typical DARK BORGIR you get corpse painted graduates from classical music appreciation class. What’s even better is that you can hear the bass and the drummer knows alot more than a blast beat. “Renaissance Apocalypse” is grinding death circling within a blackened industrial centrifuge. “III” opens with a battle horn (?) and from there it pillages to the point of a doom blast then goes straight blackened thrash. This guy’s vocals (Skullbliterator) vary from the satanic frog to angst ridden punk rocker to this is the last thing I’m going to do in my life so I’ll scream till I vomit blood. Their guitarist (Agnar) is fuckin great as well since he mixes alot of death metal leads along with no holds bar thrash rhythms.
There’s a somber sounding ambient cut which for this release is needed but after three minutes of that we go into territory which has been tread before badly by many USBM bands. “Curse of Atreus” is probably the closest that DARKWOR comes to being symphonic on here but they rape it with a sonic dirge of doom and then commence to grind it to pieces. The background keyboards are much more like scenery then a boring soundscape. The final cut “Desecrating the Remains” is when all reality and extreme metal genres are thrown out the fuckin door. Years ago I once read the term “kitchen sink black metal” used to describe a release. This song is it; better yet this whole release is it.
BLASPHEMOPHAGHER – For Chaos, Obscurity and Desolation LP
Nuclear War Now Productions
Can you imagine what REPULSION would sound like if you added some black metal into their death grind mix? Well after listening to this I don’t have to ponder that question anymore. Actually listening is not the right word to use in the case of this Italian band’s second full length. This release qualifies as an endurance test to see how many songs you can bare before your nervous system shuts down. I obviously have a high tolerance for this kind of audio abuse because I can still function, albeit I am a little sore. Although I do believe anyone with weaker constitutions would be on the floor twitching uncontrollably. Nuclear War Now Productions is not a record label. They’re merchants in sadomasochism with a cadre of bands who make the torture artists of the Spanish Inquisition seem tame in comparison. BLASPHEMOPHAGHER’s brand of blackened death grind is not music, its punishment. If you are still sitting in the kindergarten class of brutal (brootal) death metal extremism, it’s time for you to graduate up to this. That’s if you have the tolerance level of course or a good supply of pain meds.
For Chaos, Obscurity and Desolation starts off with a death doom type of intro which is inviting and then all hell breaks loose ala “Descending into Extermination”. From that point on you are strapped down upon the table for continuous torture. Your deliverers of torment are Atomic Incinerator of Necronuclear Collapse & Plutonium Winds on guitar, R.R. Unholy Bastard & Phosgene Wargus on bass and vocals plus Necrovomiterror on drums. Not only is the music punishing but I’m guessing playing it would be self flagellating as well like in bloodied and blistered hands. The key to their sound is simply loud, fast and angry. The vocals are cavernous and gruff as if being sung from someone with a maul instead of a mouth. The drumming is incredible and I have to wonder how the guy’s kit, especially his snare head, can even take that type of punishment. Not one moment of trigger drums; this is pure old school beating. As far as bass, what fuckin bass? Last but not least the guitar sound is like having your head inside a hornet’s nest with someone slapping it with a stick to stir up the buggers. This is one of the best releases of 2010 if you can survive it.
Monday, May 24, 2010
VASAELETH – Crypt Born and Tethered to Ruin CD
Holding a position somewhere between TEITANBLOOD who I like and PORTAL who drove me insane, stands this US blackened death band. There’s an epidemic going on with bands who sound like they’ve tunneled their way out from the bowels of Hell. Profound Lore seems to find alot of them as well, hmmm? It wouldn’t be the first time it was suggested that the Profound Lore records HQ was situated upon the gates of Hell. Either that or every time a sink hole appears the label sends out a representative to the location to sign up anyone or thing that climbs out from it.
Their latest find, VASAELETH, is a duo consisting of drummer Antinom from the Texas black metal outfit DAGON and Oa who handles everything else and is from parts unknown ala Georgia. Together they create a sound that roars forth from the depths leaving your ears scarred and burned. Except for some keyboards which add a little atmospheric touches to a few cuts this is pure old school death metal left in the fire too long. It’s burned almost beyond recognition with no tech death wizardry to speak of. The lion’s share of metal fans will run screaming from this like it was sulfuric acid, as they should. As for me my hot tub is filled with molten lava so I like it alot.
There are eight cuts on here all of which are volatile and will hold you in a suffocating grip. I really can’t emphasize specific tracks since that would be a disservice. Crypt Born and Tethered to Ruin should be taken as a whole as if a soundtrack to your eventual demise.
ELFFOR – Frostbitten Pain CD
Northern Silence has been reissuing ELFFOR’s early material for a while now, so seeing this as being a self release was a surprise. ELFFOR is the side project of Basque keyboardist Eol who also does time in the bands NUMEN and SUFFERING DOWN. Basically Eol handles the keyboards, vocals and some drum programming while bringing in session musicians to handle everything else. What we have here is brand new material from Eol and if you’re into medieval influenced symphonic black metal than this should be an extreme treat for you. Before I go on it needs to be emphasized that you must remove what prejudices you have towards symphonic black metal prior to an attempt at listening and enjoying this. What most people think of when confronted with modern day symphonic black metal is a bunch of guys (and a girl who plays the keyboards) all decked out for Halloween playing essentially gothic hard rock with some blast beats thrown in. This ain’t it but if you’re a fan of the Norwegian band TARTAROS then this will excite you.
What Eol does musically is bring forth a landscape for the listener to imagine while the music flows through the senses. His use of samples and effects coupled with the various synthesizer sounds gives you the feeling of being in a natural amphitheater out in the forest with Eol as conductor. From that position you can just close your eyes and allow the atmospheric sounds overwhelm you. Frostbitten Pain contains five long songs which makes it more of an experience than a listen. “A Cold Funeral Breeze” has a majestic quality as if you were accompanying a fallen warrior on board the ship to their final resting place. “Instinct Enslavement” opens with some depressive black metal guitar strumming slowly turning towards tremolo picked blasts matching the drumming. The sadness put forth by Eol once his keyboard playing comes in is overwhelmingly haunting even when the pace quickens. Midway through it all slows down to an ambient mood to let one catch up but then the early structure repeats. Female choir vocals give it the added longing.
“Ancestral Spirit” is the longest cut on here and the most gut wrenching. Eol’s death-like scream breaks out from an almost Gregorian keyboard driven melody. As the song progresses his vocals are like that of a tormented spirit. At times they’re harsh whispers and at other times painful shrieks. Best part is when they come in when you least expect it. “Chaos Moon” is close to BURZUM but with vocals that are cries of agony instead of shrieks of anger. The song flows as if one were being carried along on the wind, never ending. By the time the final composition “Icewind” emanates from the speakers you can consider yourself drained but ready for the final deathblow. “Icewind” is very majestic sounding that creates a feeling of standing at the mouth of an ice chasm. The song dwarfs the listener with echoing keyboards and timpani cadence drumming until the acoustic guitar slowly strums the song to a close with Eol’s spoken voice the last we hear before the cold puts you to rest. Excellent!
OV HELL – The Underworld Regime CD
King Ov Hell is just one big fuckin schmuck. At least Gaahl had the decency to bow out gracefully after they both lost the court case to see who (them or Infernus) really owned the band name GORGOROTH. Sure they vowed to keep going under the new name GODSEED but Gaahl played it smart. He saw the writing on the wall and figured he’d leave King swinging in the wind while he would keep some self respect amidst all the foolishness they both perpetrated against Infernus. Maybe in a couple of years Gaahl might pop his melodramatic Satanist head up to do some recording. His work with WARDRUNA last year was decent and another TRELLDOM release wouldn’t hurt. Hey look fans are forgiving after some time has passed, look at Varg for example. But King is just one big fuckin schmuck and this CD proves it.
Prior to the release of The Underworld Regime, King Ov Hell mentioned in interviews that the material for it was written while he was still part of GORGOROTH and GOD SEED. I believe it since this all sounds like rehashed GORGOROTH with parts taken from Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam and to a lesser extent Incipit Satan. This material was written for Gaahl to sing with whoever they could get to play guitars and drums. Obviously that didn’t happen and even if it did fans and critics alike would’ve trashed it as uninspired, average and downright boring. Maybe Gaahl heard the demos and decided to exit stage left? So now instead of that what we have here is essentially King Ov Hell’s solo record with a backing band of star hirelings. Wow, how mainstream rock star is that?
Let’s be honest here, if King decided to just go back to his other band projects like AUDREY HORNE or SAHG no one would slight him for it. Even if he put together a new band with all unknowns performing black metal and started from the ground up he would at least have some self respect and maybe gain some from others. But no he chose the route of a schmuck. He gets Shagrath (DIMMU BORGIR) as vocalist and supposedly lyricist as a replacement for Gaahl. He could have got anyone with talent but with Shagrath he gets name recognition. What’s surprising is that DIMMU BORGIR is supposed to be coming out with a new release this year. Why would he even be bothering with this? And speaking of people who should be spending more time with their established bands we have Frost from 1349 and SATYRICON on drums. Frost had appeared on some past GORGOROTH releases. As far as the guitarists go there’s Ice Dale who King brought in from their working together with AUDREY HORNE and then there’s Teloch whose rap sheet is like a who’s who of Norwegian black metal bands. So basically what we have here is a black metal super group just killing time performing shoddy old material.
If you were to compare this to Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt, Infernus’s rebirth of GORGOROTH release from last year you would probably dropped this in the trash. The real GORGOROTH’s release from last year had this cold sinister atmosphere about it. I thought it was one of the best black metal releases of 2009. But The Underworld Regime is for kids or commercially driven Myspace Metal morons who don’t even know who Infernus is. The only high note is that this will be Indie Recordings’ biggest seller for a little while.
SALVATION 666 - Anima Pestifera CD
Usually something this frosty is better listened to during the winter months in order to enhance the seasonal experience. But it’s May, a balmy 70 degrees and a summer afternoon thunderstorm is brewing outside so it will have to due. Forming in 2005, releasing demos in 2006 and 2007 plus an acclaimed 7”er Sermo Diaboli on Black Devastation records last year; this German black metal duo finally branches out with a full length. Albeit only with a little more than thirty minutes of music Anima Pestifera keeps with the cruel tradition of Satanic German black metal which many people tend to overlook. Just two guys making all this destructive power, A on guitar and M on bass, drums and the evil toad sounding vocals. Musically this stands with one claw toed boot in the world of post black metal and the other firmly planted in a realm that’s melodic but still raw. A perfect example of this marriage from Hell is on the seven plus minute track, “Oderint dum Metuant”. It opens beautifully with a solo guitar melody about half way through and then black metal war consumes the rest of it. All of Anima Pestifera carries some extreme atmospheric elements that are honed to a sharp battle edge.
ANNIHILATOR – Self Titled CD
It’s been twenty one years since this Canadian Thrash legend released their phenomenal debut, Alice in Hell. Even though that release is a staple of any headbanger’s 1980’s Thrash record collection, since then ANNIHILATOR has never really matched it. When the first Thrash era took a dirt nap ANNIHILATOR progressed with the times and changed directions. Obviously that wasn’t pleasing to their original fans and it also didn’t get them any new ones. Add to that they’ve had a revolving door of band membership with founding member Jeff Waters left keeping their flame alive. So now Jeff Waters is back trying to rekindle that Thrash attack with new vocalist Dave Padden (Silent Strain) and some session musicians. If opener “The Trend” is an indication of Waters’ attitude then he’s pissed.
An old Thrash band comes back with a new release and the opening song is an attack on the new Thrash revival. There’s even the line, “Hey man I think they’re having a sale down at Hot Topic lets go”. Waters must not have noticed but there are a few of those Thrash revival bands he’s mad about on his new label’s roster. But still it’s a good song as are many on here. Jeff Waters is still a riff master and his lead work is still impressive as hell. Padden is a decent enough vocalist with perfect chops and screams for this style of metal. Things do get somewhat funky on “28 Seconds”, melodic pop metal on “Nowhere to Go” and the choice of the cover song to close this thing, “Romeo Delight” by VAN HALEN seems out of place. But everything else makes this a worthy comeback to the halls of Thrash.
AKTARUM – Gang of Trolls CD
Within the confines of extreme metal you’re going to find a few bands that push the envelope within their basic genre and become more of a parody then a serious musical act. When Belgium’s NERGEL split up, three ex-members continued their musical careers by creating AKTARUM and troll metal. Yeah there are bands within the pagan folk metal genre that do their far share of songs about trolls; FINTROLL and TROLLFEST are two such bands and I think KORPIKLAANI has a song or two about the little bastards. But those bands are somewhat more diverse as far as lyrical themes. Basically what ALESTORM is to pirates and piracy AKTARUM is to trolls. Has this band been signed to Paganfest Europe yet?
Musically these guys bring nothing new to the table at all. It’s fairly generic folk metal with black metal styled vocals and keyboards overwhelming everything even the guitars. Their song titles are somewhat funny; “Jurassik Troll”, “Rock n Troll”, “March of the Trolls”, “Black Troll”, and ten others although not all having the word troll in their title. Honestly I have no idea what a troll is. I’ve read Lord of the Rings but those were Orcs, right and no relation? Gang of Trolls isn’t a bad release if you like you folk metal humorous.
Monday, May 17, 2010
FINNTROLL – Nifelvind CD
Century Media Records
You’ve gotta feel for those diehard FINNTROLL fans out there in the wilderness, hunting for trolls most likely. I’m guessing that they were holding their breath prior to this release and for good reason. FINNTROLL started out in the late 90s and over the years perfected their brand of Humppa Death Metal/Black Metal to the point where they were receiving plenty of accolades, and then tragedy happens. Their singer Jan “Katla” Jamsen succumbs to vocal chord problems and has to quit the band. (Original guitarist Teemu “Somnium” Raimoranta also dies in 2003) Fortunately they find a replacement on vocals in Tapio Wilska and go on to release what is considered to be their greatest effort, 2004’s Nattfodd. Of course that relationship wears thin after a few years and in 2006 Tapio is fired. Mathias “Vreth” Lillmans takes over the mic and in 2007 the band releases Ur Jordens Djup to mixed reactions.
As far as Ur Jordens Djup was concerned you had diehard fans complaining that the release lacked the balance of Metal and Folk that previous material contained. Others, myself included, liked the Folk-lite and more Death Metal direction the release took. That was three years ago and in the intern the Pagan/Folk/Viking Metal or Battle Metal genre has exploded. What FINNTROLL was doing years ago has now become an excepted sub genre of Metal albeit not without it’s detractors of course. You also have plenty of coattail riding scum who have recently got their Pagan on so to speak and are hanging on for the scraps. If you’re gonna be leaders of the genre then you’ve gotta produce some music that will crush the weak imitating scum and impress the fans of the past.
Nifelvind does that since this Finnish band (but they sing in Swedish, go figure) has returned to their older sound, ala Finnish country/hoedown music meets Thrash at a pickled herring factory. The first thing I noticed was that they’ve added a second keyboardist so now they’re not buried in the mix or used as a boring opener. They’ve returned to be a staple of FINNTROLL’s sound. You could slam dance to “Ett Norrskensdad” or “I Tradens Sang” which takes a step back to their more blackened days. Another change is how much better Mathias “Vreth” Lillmans’ vocals are on this his second release with the band. While there are some moments half way though that remind me of NIGHTWISH meets DIMMU BORGIR as far as the over the top production goes. There are times when FINNTROLL Folks it out like on “Galgasang” or the beginning of “Tiden Utan Tid”. My choice for an opening show cut from this release would be “Mot Skuggornas Varld”, it’s symphonic on a serious level. So bang your head, stomp your feet and get you’re fuckin Humppa on. By the way if you plan on seeing FINNTROLL in concert, leave the plastic Viking helmet at home. You wanna be authentic, wear some fisherman’s outfit or dress like a troll.
MOTORHEAD – The Covers CD
This is a bootleg out of the UK (?) with a bunch of songs that Lemmy & co. have covered over the years. Die hard MOTORHEAD fans probably have heard all of these cuts already. I don’t consider myself a die hard MOTORHEAD fan. Yes they are one of the greatest bands of all time but for me personally I’ve always been a fan of their early stuff with Fast Eddie Clarke on guitar. That was the time when I got into the band and after he left I kinda left as well. I’m not saying that the material which followed wasn’t good. I just have my preferences. Now the die hard fans own everything by MOTORHEAD which includes all the reissues but not many Best of Compilations. To die hard fans just throwing on any MOTORHEAD album is a best of compilation.
Lemmy might be the voice of Rock for the past thirty years but in my not so humble opinion some of these cover tunes were not meant for him to sing. It might of been a great idea on paper to cover OZZY’s “Hellraiser” or “Desire” but I think these versions suck. In all honesty OZZY had a few good releases but the bulk of his post Randy Rhoads era music blows. Some other cover song choices on here which make me go WHY? are MAIDEN’s “The Trooper” and PRIEST’s “Breaking the Law”. The goal of any artist who covers someone else’s classic song is to make it their own, play it on their terms and throw a twist or two in it for effect. It doesn’t work with these two but it does work on METALLICA’s “Whiplash”, the SEX PISTOLS’ “God Save the Queen”, and of course the RAMONES. The worse cut on here by far is their version of “Enter Sandman” but their best cut is “Shoot Em Down”.
No Website Address since it’s a bootleg.
NEGURA BUNGET – Virstele Pamintului CD
Aural Music/Code 666
In the ancient Romanian language the word “negura” means fog and “bunget” means the forest. I have experienced walking through a forest that was layered in fog to the point where I was bumping into trees that’s how thick the shit was. That experience would have been much more intense if I was listening to this band’s brand of atmospheric Black Metal at the time. Then again I would probably be armed with a projectile firing weapon of some type. I should correct myself here since calling this band’s music atmospheric does them a disservice. NEGURA BUNGET have more in common with ENSLAVED’s blackened progressive leanings while still adding plenty of traditional Folk instrumentation to their sound. For some time now NEGURA BUNGET has had a cult status which stems back to their beginnings and their incredible 1996 debut Zimindu-Sa. Nowadays as more connoisseurs of the musical darkness are learning to appreciate the uniqueness of Eastern European Black Metal, bands like NEGURA BUNGET as well as DRUDKH and ROOT are being admired just as their peers in Norway and Sweden once were. Having your releases accessible to the West helps as well. This band’s 2006 release Om had as much impact on the West as the falling of the Iron Curtain.
This new one from NEGURA BUNGET is like stepping outside your door to view a beautiful landscape only to be hit by a harsh wind that doesn’t chill you to your bones; it rips the flesh from them. It starts out with a pleasant Folk intro which leads into harsh Metal reality. This Romanian band’s signature sound is like the ancient winds that howl throughout the valleys of the Carpathian Mountains. The first couple of tracks kinda draw the listener in which is different then past works. Once inside then the long knives come out to cut you to pieces. It’s orchestral with keyboards that drone on as a back drop while the other instruments come in to play their part then leave to be replaced with another. Remember those holes on the sides of your head are not for air they’re for listening. To just drop this into the stereo and go about the house while this plays, even at high volume, is a complete waste. The vocals scream out for your intense concentration whether they’re growled, howled, sung clean or just spoken word recitals. Yeah sure it’s all in Romanian and you wouldn’t understand a line of it, but if you haven’t vomited away your senses than you can understand the passion beyond the words. The music will just take care of the rest.
This is the second release for NEGURA BUNGET in 2010. The other is Maiestrit which is a reworking of their 2000 release Maiastru Sfetnic. That one is definitely a must have release in fact since it’s also the classic band line-up which is involved in the re-recording. While comparing the two, Maiestrit would be the one to get into first before grabbing this one. It’s more of the band’s older sound albeit recorded again. Nowadays Negura aka Gabriel Mafa is the band’s only original member. It’s he who has kept the spirit of this band alive by gathering same minded musicians to continue on. Although I wouldn’t rate Virstele Pamintului as highly as one the band’s previous efforts it still possesses the majesty, the beauty and the essence of Eastern European Black Metal.
BORKNAGAR – Universal CD
I’ll openly admit my bias first hand. I like this band’s first release from 1996; in fact it’ll be in the Scumfeast Metal Essentials someday. But as their recording career progressed over the years so has their sound which originally was Pagan Black Metal but has changed. Pagan Black Metal/Viking Metal aficionados, one of whom I am, hold that first release in high regard. But BORKNAGAR has followed the footsteps of their fellow countrymen, ENSLAVED, in that they’ve gone on to be a Progressive band. I’m not saying this new one blows lobster chucks but much like their Norwegian brethren mentioned, they’ve changed to the point where you either stayed docked along side or you sail out of the harbor. As far as that is concerned, the latter is true for me.
Another thing, there are those in Metal print and on the Interweb who feel it necessary to attack all naysayers of this band’s progression from black to light. Most cite BORKNAGAR’s 2006 release Origin as the point of contention since it was an all acoustic release. I can’t speak for anyone else but for me personally I thought Origin was an incredible release. Anyone who knows this band’s recording history will cite past acoustic explorations. Therefore screw any and all the bozos who think they know something about other’s tastes. With that said I’ve dive into my disagreements for this release. First off Vintersorg, aka; Adreas Hedlund, uses way too much clean vocals on here than previous efforts. Yes in all honesty he is much more versatile then original vocalist Garm and a hundred times better than ICS Vortex (ex DIMMU BORGIR bassist/vocalist). But with all of that said he sounds bored on Universal. Gone is that harsh wanting from the past and on here he’s in competition with the keyboards for up front position.
Musically this release is more atmospheric and Progressive Metal leaning than past efforts. The Black Metal and Folk influences have taken a back seat to something which can only be considered a formula. Dare I say this release is geared more towards the commercially minded music fan? Worse yet it sounds as if the scared of their own shadow post BM crowd is what this release is actually meant for. Either that or we can always turn to fans of mall metal since the earlier mentioned, ICS Vortex, does the vocals on the very last cut “My Domain”. If this thing is packaged in stores with the words “features DIMMU BORGIR backing vocalist” on the cover than I’m right as well as saddened. Guitarist Oystein Garnes Brun started this band in 1995 to be something different from the typical second wave of the Black Metal style and he succeeded for a few releases atleast. Fifteen years later I feel as if he’s fallen in with his Bergan, Norway compatriots into a formula of survival than avant-garde.
CREMATORY – Infinity CD
Once in a while I’ll throw this band’s 2006 release, Klagebilder, on the stereo for my Sunday morning coffee and wake up period. German Gothic is perfect for those times and when I say “Gothic” I’m not talking about Hot Topic/Spencer Gifts Goth chic. CREMATORY has been purveyors of Gothic Metal since 1992. Actually I didn’t know they were still around but then if you regulate the one CD you have by a band to a once in a while Sunday morning listen ya kinda lose touch. Seeing that they’re now on Massacre Records is interesting since the label is home to many bands that are in their “We’re Still Active” career period. Scumfeast Metal feels obligated to review atleast a few Gothic Metal releases just to show that the sub genre is not all about chicks wearing low cut, cleavage exposing prom dresses, trying to be LACUNA COIL clones or full of chicken hawks dressed like Rob Halford during his TWO period.
Infinity is more mainstream sounding then what I’m used to hearing from them. Wow after nineteen fucking years they might now have radio appeal or atleast play a song or two on cable. CREMATORY did have some Gothenburg Melodic Death Metal influence before, but on here with the clean and growled vocals it stands out more. Plus there’s more songs sung in English which I find to be commercially acceptable. They’ve turned into the type of band which you hate but you’ll take your girlfriend to see just to please her, bands like SOILWORK, DARK TRANQUILITY or some other Swedish Melo-Death suppository act. Then there’s the DEPECHE MODE cover, “Black Celebration”, which is a regressive page right out of some well known English Doom Metal acts experiments from the late 90s/early 2000s. It’s the perfect number for your cousin Fred who on Wednesday evenings becomes Cousin Freda all cross dressed out (of the closet) and heads on down to the dance club to relive his/her rave days sans the drugs of course.
There are maybe one or two songs on here that are palatable enough that if you just heard them then you go out and buy this thinking its cool. Then you listen to the whole thing and wonder if the rest of your Teutonic Metal CD catalog has eyes which are staring at you in disgrace. When that KREATOR flyer falls off the wall and bursts into flame then you’ll know.
APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE – Last Sunrise CD
Pass the bong I think I’m Wino or Rod Evans from CAPTAIN BEYOND, whoever floats you off the couch first. Actually this is former GATES OF SLUMBER dude, Chuck Brown, with his band’s sophomore effort. He wasn’t getting enough chances to write and record with his old bandmates so with APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE he gets to spread his wings. I swear I need a beer because he really sounds like Rod Evans, even on the MISFITS covers. Hey remember Rod Evans was DEEP PURPLE’s first singer too. Oh but more on that later and it’s only 10 AM on a Sunday morning, I’m a fuckin Doom-aholic. I’ll probably be drunk by the time this review is written. Doom releases usually take a few hours to review ya know because of all those long songs. I never heard this band’s 2008 debut, Sincerest Misery, but what a great title for a Doom release huh?
The opening cut and title song wasn’t so impressive since it was a simple instro funeral dirge. When the second cut, “Acknowledging the Demon” kicked in then it was time to pop open a beer. Some of you readers might choose another type of substance to ingest. Yeah what a way to recycle old TROUBLE and PENTAGRAM riffs which are actually recycled SABBATH riffs but by this time in the game who gives a shit anymore. You think Jim Bob in the trailer park, who still turns up the volume on his boom box when “Paranoid” is playing on the local FM radio station, cares about Doom Metal? Hell he still thinks Ozzy is in SABBATH and whatever you do don’t tell him there’s a black president.
Actually there’s really only one long slow number on here, “Letting Go of the Wheel”, which is a nine plus minute psych out suitable for breaking out the black lite posters. The rest of this CD is strobe lite. If you don’t have one of those just keep flicking the light switch on the wall until your Al Gore energy saving screw shape light bulb explodes into a fiery ball of mercury and glass particles. By the time the Hazmat crew gets to your place will be the exact time when the big time Rod Evans sounding “Coldest Love” ends and the bonus cuts kick in. Last Sunrise comes in two versions. The North American release on Profound Lore contains bonus covers; “Streetside” by OBSESSED, “Astro Zombies” by the earlier mentioned MISFITS and “Mary and Child” by BORN AGAINST an old New York City Hardcore band I once saw. The European version, out on Eyes Like Snow Records, has them covering THIN LIZZY’s “Emerald” albeit a slightly slower version but still with the duel guitar lick ending. Also there’s another MISFIT cover, “Where Eagles Dare” and finally CELTIC FROST’s “Procreation of the Wicked”. I’ve got all six bonus tracks on my copy, go figure, and a great release to boot despite the lackluster CD cover.
AVSKY – Scorn CD
The word “avsky” means “disgust” in Swedish but there’s nothing disgusting about this CD. Unless you hate Black Metal then this will disgust the living shit out of you. I actually think it’s incredible. At first I thought this was going to be another one man Black Metal project since it’s on Moribund. No offense but you can’t swing a dead goat at Moribund Records headquarters without slapping a dozen corpse painted faces of one man Black Metal bands. But here we have a two piece act who doesn’t mind wearing their DARKTHRONE and CELTIC FROST buttons on their leather vests. Although there’s fewer tremolo picking but more Thrash in the blast beatings. The guitar tone is total Tom G. Warrior style. This is the result of being conceived when their parents were fucking to Morbid Tales. At the end of almost every song there’s a maniacal scream. What’s not to love about that? On second thought this whole thing is full of maniacal screaming that would make Varg Vikernes cry foul. You can hear so many other Metal genre influences on here like Death, Doom and even Grindcore. Since this band knows how to layer it all together it sounds some what fresh instead of your typical mining of the past.
Monday, May 3, 2010
SPERM OF ANTICHRIST – Blight and Darkness cassette
Actually this was originally self released on cassette by the band. But those evil bastards at Hell’s Headbangers (and yes they are evil, very evil, go check out their website) took a shine to these Ohioans and decided to re-release it properly, on a cassette, again. If ever there was something destined to be “for Extreme Metal Fans Only” its cassette releases. (Hello BONE AWL) But don’t worry all of you tape challenged individuals because the label promises more is on the way from SPERM OF ANTICHRIST and that my friends is a good thing. Musically SPERM OF ANTICHRIST wear their SARCOFAGO, BLASPHEMY and Stephen O’Malley influences as badges of blackened honor. The vocals are like brutalized gasps from some dark foreboding place. Yes it’s the voice from the pit. Music wise the guitar and bass (?) trudge along like enormous serpents crushing everything in their wake. The drums pound away as if keeping the cadence on a slave galley.
The four cuts on Blight and Darkness represent the unholy tide which has risen within the underground. A few short years ago you had many US bands emulating the DIMMU sound in order to become famous. Slightly before that it was DARKTHRONE and all things Norwegian. But now the real threat comes from bands like this that’ve gone to the beginning to bring back the primordial blackened ooze for all purist psychos to slurp while the rest of feeble losers can just suck it. Sound-wise this release will disgust the pussy eared, crisp and clean sounding aficionados who slum into the extreme music underground from time to time for a thrill. Fuck them and their hipster ilk. SPERM OF ANTICHRIST have tapped into a vein less traveled for a long damm time. I’m looking forward to see what they come up with next.
XASTHUR – Portal of Sorrow CD
Supposedly this will be the very last release under the XASTHUR name. Poor Malefic aka: Scott Conner, I knew him well. How can I forget those late nights crashing out while Nocturnal Poisoning played on my stereo in the background slowly putting me to sleep. Not that it’s a bad thing of course because Funeral Black Metal is supposed to put your evening to a close. Not even your BURZUM rip-offs could keep my eyes open for long which is strange because for me listening to BURZUM is akin to snorting meth off a hooker’s ass in the morning. Yeah well you, Malefic, will be missed especially by the hipster crowd that in the past few years have jumped on your coattails. Unlike the rest of the Black Metal scene police I don’t blame you for that one. So what if some Alt. Country clown (who I once called a GREEN DAY fag before he became all Alt. Country famous when he tended bar at a place called Sadlack’s Heroes in Raleigh, NC) said he liked you on his blog which resulted in a bunch of Indie Rock Losers all running out to buy your stuff. Hey look on the bright side; you kept Moribund Records in the black, pardon the pun. Then there’s that “limited cassette thing” you had Hydra Head Records put out last year, All Reflections Drained, what a piece of crap that was. Thankfully the CD version had a bonus dink with that AUTOPSY cover.
So here you are with your swansong release, Portal of Sorrow, and it’s aptly titled. Is it just me or does anyone else believe that your last good release was the split with LEVIATHAN six years ago? Seriously this release sucks; it’s boring with the exception being Marissa Nadler’s added choir-like vocals on a few cuts. You can’t fall asleep to something that’s annoying trust me I tried and got out of bed to turn this off. If self-educed destruction was your motivation here then you have triumphed. I can only hope that you’ll get MORD back up and running on full blackened steam, leaving this shit behind you. Since Portal of Sorrow is out on your own label and not easily available to the general public, I’m wondering if you really fuckin cared. Some of the cuts on here sound upbeat as if you’re on meds for your depression. Yeah well we can’t expect another Telepathic with the Deceased even though your material does have a conveyer belt quality to it. We still have your classic stuff which put the US back on the Black Metal map. Yes Malefic you will be missed but not as Black Metal’s whipping boy since your early works are on par with genius. Although with Portal of Sorrow you do deserve a few lashes with a cat o nine tails. You would probably like that.
DARKTHRONE – Circle the Wagons CD
Back in 2008 I sent the review I had written for Dark Thrones and Black Flags to Fenriz. It was a positive review but I never did get a response back. That does happen but anyway at year’s end I sent him an email saying that Dark Thrones and Black Flags was Scumfeast Metal’s favorite Punk/Hardcore release for 2008. To that announcement Fenriz did reply back saying “Well thanks but we consider it Speed Metal”. Oh well what are you gonna do. So this is the third installment of Nocturno Culto and Fenriz’s Punk/Hardcore/Crust period, the first being FOAD in 2007. Since this was written and recorded between 2008 and 2009 I was wondering if some of these songs were throwaways from 2008’s Dark Thrones and Black Flags release. Hey look ya gotta wonder sometimes since these two guys are constantly busy with some project musical or not. Nocturno is the one usually involved with some other musical venture like last year’s SARKE. Fenriz is always busy making mix CDs for Vice Magazine, posting obscure metal band links on his Myspace blog or on the phone with another Black Metal documentary film director. How they find time to fit in writing and recording another great release is a mystery.
Yes Circle the Wagons is a great release just like the previous two. The songs on here hold more to NWOBHM than Fenriz’s beloved Speed Metal aesthetic. You could also toss in alot of 80’s Hardcore/Punk and Thrash to boot. Plenty of new bands are riding this wave of Blackened Punk which many cite DARKTHRONE as starting the tsunami. But where those bands keep the harsh Black Metal styled vocals, DARKTHRONE does not and it works well. Songs like “I Am the Grave of the 80’s” and “I am the Working Class” sound as if some shaved headed, wild eyed, beer gutted misanthrope is behind the mic. (Wow was that self referential or what?) Musically I think anyone into 80’s Metal, with the exception being Hair Metal, will hear a familiar riff or two, not that borrowing riffs from the past is anything new in Extreme Metal. Remember DARKTHRONE doesn’t care about the scene police, music reviewers or self made critics. This one is number fifteen as far as full length releases go for them and they ain’t slowing down. I guess I’ll be emailing Fenriz again in December.
IMMOLATION - Majesty and Decay CD
These guys came through town in February while on tour with NILE and KRISIUN. I knew this was about to come out but not till March so as luck would have it the band had some on hand to sell. They only included one new song in their set that night but who the fuck cares this is IMMOLATION and everything they’ve put out over the years is automatically top shelf Death Metal. Now it’s been three long years since their last one Shadows in the Light which was a crushing affair if there ever was one. So knowing the band’s history of not rehashing past glories and always pushing forward for extreme punishment I came to listening to Majesty and Decay with the delight of a sadist with a fresh victim. I’ve had this sitting next to the stereo since mid February, playing it every once in a while, but atleast twice a week. Now after a few months I’m here to tell ya that this is a pretty damm good release. I’d say it’s infectious and will be sitting out in my “must play” stack for a while. Honestly it hasn’t been moved into the stacks since I got it.
Majesty and Decay has some moments of change from previous efforts performed with the traditional methods of devastation. As a guitarist Bob Vigna simply has nothing to prove since he is considered one of the very best in the Death Metal genre. Now most people would stand on those laurels and be done with it but not Vigna because on here his riffs as well as lead work are masterful to say the least. Guitarist Bill Taylor is no slouch either in both areas. As a team they produce beauty and brutality to the point of infectious astonishment. Add to that Dolan’s bass and voice as well as Steve Shalaty’s punishing drum work and this release is a fuckin masterpiece. Favorite songs let me tell ya something “Divine Code” is one I find myself replaying over and over again. Then there’s “A Token of Malice” which is what IMMOLATION have been doing for the past twenty years. The title cut is a ferocious beast of a cut. “A Glorious Epoch” slows things down a bit but to epic proportions. You listen to it and it’s like walking into a knife lined alley. This whole release is like walking through a gauntlet of pain but once you’ve traversed through you turn around to do it again and again. Is this the best damm Death Metal release of 2010? Well so far its damm close to it. The bar has been set!