Strange choice to listen to and review on a beautiful spring day here in Scotland, but there you go. This IS the ultimate Death/Doom album, one of the most horrific, ungodly records you will ever hear, and partnered with acts like Burning Witch and Portal could be the horrible, twisted sound of the end of the world. The actual end of the world, where everyone is dead and the tectonic plates all groan and wretch upon each other as they are destroyed.
‘Into Darkness’ came out in 1990, and there had been nothing quite like it then, as there still is now. Yes, we have doom and we have death metal, and we’ve had some delightful mixes of those ideas to create some pretty nihilistic stuff but NOTHING can approach the vibe you get here. It’s suffocating, it is endless, it is seriously miserable. But it is a stunning achievement to create something over 20 years ago and it still be regarded as unparalleled. Perhaps it’s because it was their only release, who knows, but the material is classic nonetheless. Album opener ‘Oppression/Freedom’ is the blueprint for any death/doom band that has ever existed, and thats only an instrumental. This continues throughout the album, with a couple of changes of pace breaking up the slog (the Frostian ‘Servants of the Warsmen’ or the mid paced thud of ‘Eternal Frost’ do move away from a deathly crawl). But the appeal here is the slooooooow pace and depressive atmosphere.
Few albums have ever created such a feeling of dread and apocalyptic decay as ‘Into Darkness’ does. It’s like watching a crumbling city swathed in snow, filth and decay lying frozen and all life extinguished. Pretty bleak listening in the springtime, but its a steady reminder of the other side of our death/rebirth life cycle. Essential if you appreciate the darker side of life
In the great void of metal, bands try and fail to come up with an original name that truly encompasses their sound, attitude and lyrical slant. Panzerbastard nail this coming out of the gate, combining two of probably the best words to use in a metal band name. It works especially well with their rabid, Motorhead/Discharge/Venom racket.
‘Centurion’ is a quality EP; short and sweet, with two great new tracks and two Celtic Frost covers (‘the Usurper’, ‘I Won’t Dance). The original material is solid, d-beat and crustpunk coming together to kick your ass up and down the room. The title track offers something different than their previous work, slowing the pace and creating an almost Frostian atmosphere. ‘Lifewaster’ is a more straightforward grimy, fast thrust of d-beat.
The two Celtic Frost covers provide the other highlights of this EP. ‘The Usurper’ is given a great deal of respect, and it lurches and crashes its way through the stereo, while ‘I Won’t Dance’ is faithfully reproduced as well. After the doom of the title track, these covers fit in perfectly with the overall style of the EP, and if Panzerbastard were to continue in this direction, they’d be capable of writing some great d-beat/doom (ha, just created yet another new genre).
If Discharge covering Celtic Frost is your cup of tea, get a copy of this EP, as Panzerbastard have created something rather tasty here. Crusty, thrashy goodness!
When you hear the album title, coupled with the news that Judas Priest are retiring this year, you have to worry about Iron Maiden’s future. So far, there appears to be no concrete evidence that this will indeed be Maiden;s final album, but if it is then they’ll have gone out on a high. ‘The Final Frontier’ takes them on a far more progressive journey than they’ve been on in many a year, and its a refreshing change.
Maiden are one of these bands that metalheads can rely on. Like Motorhead and AC/DC, you know what you’re getting with an Iron Maiden album. Although perhaps not this time, as the trademark gallop and catchy choruses are reigned in to a greater extent than previous efforts, and the band have taken time to write some really epic prog metal songs. A natural follow up to its progressive predecessor, ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, ‘The Final Frontier’ challenges all preconceptions of Iron Maiden’s style. The opening title track leads of with about 4 minutes of strange, spaceshipy noises with Bruce Dickinson in the background before it starts proper. It’s a decent opener, not as instantly classic as most Maiden lead-off singles are but then again its better than ‘Wildest Dreams’. ‘El Dorado’ follows with a more traditional Maiden guitar sound, galloping riffs surrounding a memorable chorus and arguably one of the better, ‘accessible’ tracks the band have written in many years. ‘The Alchemist’ is another Maiden galloper, catchy and traditional.
From there, the band veer off into slightly more uncharted territory. Epic prog is now the order of the day, with most tracks over 7 and a half minutes. In fact this is the longest album they’ve ever written, including titanic closer ‘When the Wild Wind Blows’. They all follow a similar pattern with acoustic, soft intros building up into the main songs. Yet, with such talented guitarists, Maiden unplugged is always something special. It’s also incredibly refreshing to see a band, thirty years after their debut and proclaimed rightly as legends, willing to mess with their sound, write albums and songs that they want to, rather than what is expected. Highlights are the less traditional Maiden tracks, such as ‘Starblind’ and ‘Isle of Avalon’, while ‘El Dorado’ is a serious grower. I wasn’t sure of it the first time I heard it, yet it’s now one of my favoured Maiden tracks outside the classics from ‘Edward the Great’.
‘The Final Frontier’ is a staggering achievement. In a day of watered down imitations, bands who are content to release album after album of the same thing and bands who are happy to rest on the laurels of previous achievements, it’s so satisfying to see pioneers of the genre mix things up so successfully. Iron Maiden have written one of the most ambitious works of their career, each listen providing you with new things to notice. The gauntlet is thrown down, and there are no challengers to Maiden’s supremacy as titans of heavy metal.
‘Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde’ is a strange beast. A one-man French black metal project has an implied sound and style, i.e Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega. Alcest is neither, having much more in common with My Bloody Valentine and Burzum than their Gallic peers. ‘Souvenirs…’ is the debut album from Neige, the one man behind Alcest.
‘Souvenirs…’ provides an oddly outward view of the black metal landscape; it reaches upward with hope and light, rather than dark introversion. That alone should make it worth a listen, but the combination of hypnotic Burzum riffing and the fuzzy majesty of My Bloody Valentine create a strange beast that is beautiful to behold. Post rock meshes with blackened shoegaze (a term I had never come across before this album) to create six pieces of hopeful music, each with their own distinct identity. Ethereal vocals, seemingly devoid of lyrical content flow over each song, and weave within shimmering walls of guitars. It isn’t quite the ‘wall of sound’ approach, but there is a sense of size and scale. Vast sections of ebb and flow, coupled with crescendo-ing climaxes leave you with just a trace of Isis or Red Sparowes, but with less weight.
Multi-instrumentalist Neige combines his guitar lines well, clean guitar over acoustic working particularly effectively in ‘Ciel Errant’, and the prevalence of acoustic guitar during the majority of the record suits the style perfectly. The vocals are clean, clear and mesh in well, never taking attention away from the music yet never sparse enough to be ignored. Alcest is a project based on dreams that Neige had when he was younger, and you can believe that ‘Souvenirs…’ would provide a more than adequate soundtrack for a place of eternal happiness and bliss.
Happy black metal is not something you experience everyday, if ever. Alcest isn’t really metal, although Neige’s black metal past shows through Burzumic tremelo guitar drenched in fuzzy tones. One for the shoegazer in all of us, ‘Souvenirs d’un autre monde’ is simply stunning; proof that black metal can throw up beauty and light, as well as the darkness we all love.
Mithras are a strange beast. Their metal-archives listing list them as brutal death metal with an experimental edge, whereas ‘Behind the Shadows Lie Madness’ is further away from brutal and more toward experimental. They possess similar ideas of progression as Cynic or Atheist, keeping an ethereal, otherworldly vibe a constant behind riffs and blastbeats.
Their particular brand of progressive death metal is not your expected slow pace, drenched in odd effects, but a fast paced, brutal affair. In fact, the album is a welcome blast from most progressive death, which can have a tendency to disappear under its own weight. Mithras are clearly influenced by Morbid Angel; the atmospheric solos and ambient sections recall ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’ or ‘Domination’. But they’re no mere copycats; the material here is top notch, well written and immersive. That is what really sets it apart from many bands who do this kind of thing, they have the songs to back up the ability and ideas. I’d not heard any of their stuff before this, but have read reviews saying that some of their previous work had a tendency to wander aimlessly. ‘Behind the Shadows…’ doesn’t. It’s a thick, streamlined piece of progressive death metal, punctuated by instrumental segues that only enhance the overall product.
‘To Fall from the Heavens’ is a tremendous opener proper, after the swaying instrumental. The vocals are reminiscent of Vader, while spiralling solos lead into a spacey bridge section that adapts well to the apocalyptic warp of the front cover. ‘Under the Three Spheres’ is probably the most accessible track here, but its melody is nothing short of beautiful, a weaving atonal guitar line draws all the attention of the listener. ‘In Black Holes of Oblivion’ returns to the brutal, interspersed with another wildly original solo. Guitarist Leon Macey coaxes some amazing guitar melodies from his axe, and after a song or two it becomes instantly recognisable as him.
It may be back in 2007 when this was released, but thats no reason not to seek it out if you enjoy music like this. Mithras have created something rather unique here, and its a shame if that isn’t valued. ‘Behind the Shadows Lie Madness’ is my first record of the new year, and it’s going to be hard to top!
Take three immensely talented musicians, put them in a turbine and shake them up for a while, then tell them to play the first thing that comes into their head. Voila, you have Behold… The Arctopus. ‘Skullgrid’ is a complete headfuck of an album, its technical fret wizardry terrifying in its complexity. Thank God its instrumental, because I couldn’t concentrate on anything else with such fret mangling going on.
Behold…the Arctopus are metal on the Dillinger Escape Plan/Botch/Psyopus edge of reality, an amalgamation of black/death/math/prog/jazz/anything else really that drips with melody and confusion in equal amounts. Spiralling counterpoint tech death abounds in the titanic ‘Transient Exuberance’, while the title track takes three completely different musical lines and coalesces them into an overload of technical prowess. Progressive is a poor word for what Behold…the Arctopus are trying to do here; this is metal for the space age, where Infinity is calculated via King Crimson-esque prog and demented jazzy breaks. ‘Some Mist’ provides the album’s highlight however, with loose, fusion basslines competing with jazz inspired drumming and chaotic guitar solos to create one inspired, original whole.
If you enjoy metal on the very edge of the spectrum, thrusting out into strange new worlds where Psyopus or early Dillinger thrive, ‘Skullgrid’ is the album for you. Or if you need something to fuck your music teacher up, look no further!
(with regards to the picture, normally I put the album cover, but this is the guitar/bass hybrid Colin Marston plays on this album. It has twelve strings, usually played by tapping and can handle bass and guitar at the same time. Madness)
Being a huge Nevermore fan, I have looked forward to this album since it was announced. It’s difficult to imagine how Nevermore will be able to top ‘This Godless Endeavour’; an album of such awesome technical prowess and unrivalled quality, and yet Nevermore have managed to meet those expectations. ‘The Obsidian Conspiracy’ will leave fans of Nevermore fully satisfied that their last album was merely the beginning.
The album opens with ‘The Termination Proclamation’, an opener in the style of ‘Born’ or ‘Narcosynthesis’, rife with twisting Jeff Loomis riffs and those otherworldly herald-of-destruction vocals from Warrel Dane. It is instantly recognisable Nevermore fare; thick, labyrinthian riffs layered with a great drumming performance from Van Williams. ‘And the Maiden Spoke’ is another Jeff Loomis tour-de-force, his ever progressive riffs and solos matching with Dane’s tales of the titluar maiden. Dane’s lyrics are another highlight of the album; insightful and thought-provoking as ever, he is without a doubt one the best lyricists in metal today. The best example is ‘Emptiness Obstructed’, where heÂ laments “So the river ends in this calamity we call heaven, is this perfection, are we spinning into the grey again, and transforming into the insane…”. ‘The Blue Marble and the New Soul’ opens with haunting acoustic guitar and piano, a ballad along the lines of ‘Sentient 6′ with spiralling guitar solos and mournful vocals, and the slower tempo ‘The Day You Built the Wall’ refines and builds upon a chugging riff before wrapping it in a wonderfully melodic solo. ‘The Obsidian Conspiracy’ contains fewer full force thrash songs than ‘This Godless Endeavor’, but the complexity of arrangement has certainly increased, and it is probably the band’s most technical impressive album thus far. The solo work of both Warrel and Jeff have clearly made an impact here; the virtuoso Loomis from his solo album meets with Warrel’s more melancholic side.
It’s difficult to pull a specific song or moment from ‘The Obsidian Conspiracy’ as a definite highlight; this is a package of consummate quality and ability unrivalled in the progressive metal world. Nevermore have made it more difficult this time for their fans, with more complex arrangements and extra strings to their bow (there is nothing much in their back catalogue like ‘The Blue Marble and the New Soul’). Mix that in with the riff fests of ‘The Termination Proclamation’ and the stunning title track and you have the next step in Nevermore’s unfaltering march to the top of the prog metal mountain. Opeth and Dream Theater watch out, they’re coming for you…
In preparation for the new Abscess album, ‘Dawn of Inhumanity’, I picked myself up a copy of the last one, 2007’s ‘Horrorhammer’. Part of me is a big fan of this kind of death metal, because it represents what death metal was really about when it first arrived; thick sludgy riffing, raw production and a commitment to old school values. Unfortunately many bands have jumped on the ‘old skool’ death metal band wagon of late, but with Abscess’ pedigree including members of primeval death legends Autopsy and Death, they are simply a cut above the rest.
‘Horrorhammer’ is a triumph of raw, dark, tar-thick death metal, doing almost nothing original but feeling all the more welcome for it. Too many bands try to experiment with their sound and end up ruining what little appeal they had. Not so with Abscess. They know what they want to play, and they play it, no bullshit. A raw, almost punkish death metal vibe runs through all of these tracks, from the doom of ‘When Witches Burn’ to the proto-thrash of ‘Hellhole’.
They may not be reinventing the wheel, and sometimes the similarities between songs can be grating, but as an overall album, there is little to complain about. Abscess play old school death metal the way it was supposed to be; evil, simple and supremely dark. Opener ‘Drink the Filth’ is a rager, pulling out a tearing, wailing solo within the first 30 seconds of gurgling vocals and rampaging death riffing.The songs are generally short, most under 3 minutes long and the longer tracks, like ‘Beneath a Blood Red Sun’ or ‘Poison Messiah’ have some great, slow atmospheric points.
If you like your death metal raw, punky and atmospheric like the old days, there are few better albums by modern bands than ‘Horrorhammer’. It’s rather satisfying to hear old school death metal still played by proper legends of the scene who were present at the birth of the genre, and have it pulled off well. It’s not as original as it used to be, but there’s nothing wrong with such an excellent homage. Try and buy!
Dazhbog isn’t the kind of band that I usually listen to. My music intake is pretty much 90% metal at least, with the occasional foray into rock, electronic music and pop/rap from my youth. But Dazhbog are a completely different proposition, mixing sweet synth lines, natural noises and piano lines. It’s a really odd experience for me, but admittedly quite refreshing.
Opening track ‘The Dawn Bloomed In Your Eyes’ sets the tone nicely. You’re guided through a soft, hazy mix of melodious piano lines, synths accenting the peaceful nature of the material, with hints of birdsong fluttering in the background. It is rather similar to, say, an intro or interlude of some symphonic goth metal album, say Nightwish or Within Temptation, but without pomposity nor complexity. This is a feeling that repeats itself throughout the album; it is purely and simply an ambient folk album, written to amplify and revere Mother Earth and all her treasures.
With natural sounds present in every song, the album becomes like one of those sleep aid tapes; it lulls you into a dreamy state, allowing you to absorb and appreciate the music. It’s good relazing music when you require nothing complicated, heavy nor thought provoking, just a desire to sink blissfully into benign rest. It can become rather overbearing after a while however, with enough subtle changes between each track to tell them apart, but yet not quite enough to inspire repeated listens. It is almost certainly too airy and light for most metalhead, but I can see people who are into bands like Zero 7 or Air to maybe get a kick out of it.
With such a heavy focus on metal in my musical tastes, there isn’t much room for an artist like Dazhbog. Yes, ‘Sunset: Legacy of Solitude and Love’ is indeed a nice, well played and relaxing album, full of moments to release tension alongside and it would no doubt be favoured highly amongst people who enjoy this sort of thing. However it is an album deserving of a time and place, and unless fully receptive to its charms, most listeners may find it a tad repetitive and dull.
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Betnatnash play harsh, unforgiving symphonic black metal with large helpings of dissonance. They’re Mexican, and have opened for Dimmu Borgir there but that gives only a small hint of their sound.
After a suitably melodramatic intro, first track proper ‘Black Cyclone’ kicks in with some raging riffing and minor key keyboards lines. It’s an odd track, its 8 minute length mixing a huge array of influences together. We have thick industrial keyboard lines, tremolo black metal riffing and acoustic laden interludes almost, which sound quite pagan/folk metal esque. It is clear Benatnash aren’t here to make it easy for any of us to get them, and this theme continues into ‘Red Storm of Yr’.
Unfortunately, it’s a mix that doesn’t always work effectively. Certainly parts of ‘Red Storm of Yr’ sound chaotic, and not in the usual black metal style. The symphonic element isn’t necessarily overplayed, but it comes off as messy with almost jazz like disregard for timing. If executed well, this would be pretty impressive stuff, but for me it doesn’t work well. The songs are also, on average, too long for their own good. A more rigorous cutting of tracks are really in order for future works, as I did find myself skipping onto the next track too often. ‘Benatnash’ does offer something of a warped carnival atmosphere behind the rasping, which is pretty cool but it is unfortunately one of only a few highlights for me.
Benatnash have some interesting elements, and certainly a more original take on the black metal genre than many bands who resort to basic riff and screech mentality. ‘War Prophecies’ is solid enough, but solid doesn’t really cut it anymore. We want inspiring in our metal these days, and Benatnash simply fall flat. Too much mix and match, not enough quality.