Great Albums You’ve Never Heard Of… Probably

Great Albums You’ve Never Heard Of… Probably is bringing up some fine releases, which are either from new artists or albums that never caught on the way they should have.

Kallomäki & Nest Live + Kallomäki – Roka Ukri (2018) album review

If I had to name one band to go see live at the moment it would be the folk metal /  traditional / pagan / ritual music group, Kallomäki. They released their first album Roka Ukri earlier 2018. It is a good album but Kallomäki is very much a live band. I captured them live the third time in October 21, 2018 at Bar Rock Bear, Vantaa.

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29.9.18 in Kansanperinneilta, Porvoo

Acoustic_electric_Jouhikko_by_Charlie_Bynum,_Silver_Spoon_Music,_NL,_2014_2014-07-10_10-46The biggest difference between Kallomäki and all other metal bands is that they have no guitars. Guitars have been replaced by jouhikko, a three stringed bowed-lyre (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jouhikko).

Musically Kallomäki is pretty much folk metal, but as a live band they are very ritualistic. Most members of Kallomäki are very experienced metal musicians from multitude of projects, it is still damn surprising how convincing their take in folk metal is. This no kids light-hearted folk here. It is filled with interplay between brutal and beautiful parts. There’s a vast amount of historical mana channeled in the music.

The album Roka Ukri is fairly straight-forward, but in a live setting the tracks have considerable alterations. The title track Ukrijuhla and Kalmankehto are close resemblance of their live sound. Both very hypnotic tracks.

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For example the end of Ukrijuhla has a short snippet of a live track chant “se sielusi vie ja mielesi murtaa, rakkaasi raiskaa ja lapsesi surmaa”. This has been extended as a long shamanistic track, a fan recorded version can be found from youtube.

The stage-presence is also very dramatic! Non-album shamanistic chant “Herramme roka, tämä lapsi ota” saw a female singer being “sacrified”, after which she seemed to be reborn as a white hooded smaller figure, as the vocal duties were changed to her. So what happened to the blood from the sacrifice? It was collected in a wooden cup and painted to foreheads of audience! Sinister figure moved quietly in the audience and stopped before everyone to paint their forehead, if they allowed. I even glimpsed a bartender running away laughing from this figure :D.

Roka Ukri album review

Roka Ukri (2018) is dark folk metal with a lot of traditional music influences paired with some catchiness and surprising amount of brutality. Kallomäki_-_roka_ugriKunnes Katoan and Suruton Saattaja balance beautifully between pretty parts and very harsh musicianship. Great interplay between clean male and female vocals and growling. Ikiaikaisille is a power ballad. Previously mentoned Ukrijuhla and Kalmankehto are very atmospheric and quite brutal ritualistic tracks, my favourites of the album at the moment.

Most of the rest of the album is more on the harsh side, some being more straightforward (Jouhien Herra, Nahkavitsa, Kuoleman Renki), some even doomy (Ajastaika, Halla). Among these these tracks are the most stale ones too. Jouhien Herra is an unfortunate single-track. Lukewarm, soft and too simple a-b-a-b-c track. Does not represent the album’s dark, historical, smoky log house (savupirtti, is there an English translation to it?) atmosphere as a single track well.

Kuoleman Renki is tastefully grim about death ruling the lands but tastes like a filler lament, not bad though. Halla goes by leaving no memory of its presence except that it’s slow and heavy. The spoken-word vocals are so melodramatic it unfortunately reminds of humor band Suamenleijona and Roudasta Rospuuttoon sketch by Studio Julmahuvi. Very harsh black metal screeching. It is not an epic final track.

Lyrics draw notable influence from Finnish pagan past, there’s a lot of old feel in the Finnish phrasing and the lyrics are very mythical with a lot of supernatural subjects that revolve around beliefs, day-to-day life, agriculture and especially hardships of life.

Kallomäki’s lyrical content and themes come from an age before christianity was dominant as a religion. An age where the difference between supernatural and natural didn’t yet exist in the minds of ordinary folk as the knowledge of science was in it’s infancy. Sometimes the lyrics cross the borders of cliche content but in general they bring a ton of magical mana (väki) to the music, it’s like a glimpse from a long gone era.

8½/10

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Nest

Kallomäki has been gigging with Nest a lot. Nest is a two man Neofolk/ambient project that’s based on the use of Finnish traditional instrument kantele. They have released not less than one of the best Finnish ambient albums of all time Trail of the Unwary (2007). The previous album Woodsmoke (2003) is more straight-forward and song based and also very much recommended.

In live setting Nest is just a man and kantele. It is a very relaxing experience, solid Nest melodies and improvising on them a lot. Here’s a fan captured version of Summer storm (Original track is from 2003, Woodsmoke): https://www.facebook.com/nestfinland/videos/320633115391873/

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Ancestors – Suspended in Reflections & King Goat – Debt of Aeons – Dazzling Double Doom Quickie

Ancestors – Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors-Suspended-in-Reflections-coverIt is not Ancestor, the Pre-Kalmah band but a plural Ancestors, an US doom band. Suspended in Reflections must be the prettiest album of the year. While it’s definitely not very extreme, it is unquestionably a doom record. Dazzlingly melodic and spacey, quite upbeat but still sadly solemn.

Ancestors song-writing department realized the godly chorus of Gone and repeat it thematically perfectly in the next track Through a Window. The Warm Glow is a perfect title to describe the sensation of the last track, this time there’s also some attitude in the vocals. One could ask, is this pop doom metal (yeah I just made up that genre), have they gone too far with the softness? However it may be to some, Suspended in Reflections is palpably damn well performed. It pulls some of my strings remarkably.

If only the lyrics where somewhere to be found or bought. Bands, add the digital booklets in Bandcamp and tell the customers please. Thanks. I will buy. A lot.

9/10

King Goat – Debt of Aeons

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It took a whole of 2 seconds for me to get the first goosebumps. Rapture‘s psychedelic jam is irresistible. King Goat is not supremely original but the riffs are always good and sometimes excellent. Compositions are not boring, the vocalist has a slightly mean and really well-sung output, reminds a bit Primordial’s Nemtheanga. Musically there’s something similar to The Wounded Kings.

King Goat is at their best when they slow down and let things mildly psychedelicate themselves and the riffs grow and alter from original setups. Alterations between heavier and quieter sections are nearly always excellent and delightfully common. The album breathes a lot. If only the melodic centerpiece of the title track Debt of Aeons had lasted longer. Still, it builds a mighty tension to the rest of the track. A very worthy title track

King Goat has had a good start in building themselves a solid discography, Debt of Aeons is their 2nd album, marginally better than Conduit (2016) (8/10 in my 2016 top list).

P.S. Conduit is a prime example on how to build a good album entity, 41 minutes with 26 minutes of solid leftover songs as bonus tracks. Instead of jamming them into 41 minute solid entity, making it too long, they were releases separately. Musicians, take note.

8/10

The Eternal – Waiting For The Endless Dawn

The-Eternal_Waiting-for-the-Endless-Dawn-500x500The Doom is back! The Eternal’s debut The Sombre Light of Isolation (2004) clearly hailed to old doom greats but after the debut The Eternal gradually decreased doom influences and brought in more gothic metal and atmospheric rock. I’ve been checking the albums in-between 2004 and 2018 with interest but they’ve always seemed to be too light and straight-forward to stay in my listening cycle for long. The Eternal haven’t been afraid of taking a side-step or two in every album, the sounds in their discography are really quite varied. Mostly well produced and composed albums.

Waiting for the Endless Dawn (2018) finally brings back a lot of those old doom influences. Gone are the 4 minute tracks, instead 5/7 tracks clock over 10 minutes! What a change. The music is still far from brutal extremities, there’s plenty of gothic metal and atmospheric rock traits but with a lot of slow developing song-structures, brooding atmosphere, symphonic backgrounds and proper heavy riffs. Vocalist/mastermind Mark Kelson’s voice is a big part of the gothic feel. If Waiting for the Endless Dawn was an all growled record, the effect would be much doomier. Mark Kelson does have brilliant cleans and the occasional growling makes both vocal styles have more of an impact.

The Wound is the longest and lightest track. But also the track that made an impact the fastest. Especially the beginning reminds a lot of Pink Floyd gone melancholic atmospheric rock, slow but sweet. The Wound gradually develops into a melodic metal track with a multitude of different elements, actually quite hard to put into a single genre! My personal favourite is the mildly progressive rhythmic part around 13 minutes. If you’ve read any of my reviews you must have noticed that I’m a sucker for those rhythmic progressive parts. A real solid and fluent composition overall.

On some negative aspects

There’s a huge emotional load in choruses, sometimes they feel quite melodramatic; catchy but slightly annoying choruses of Rise from Agony and Don’t Believe Anymore (Icehouse cover) suffer from this trait. One repeat of the annoying pop hum/singalong “Don’t believe anymoh-hoh-hoo” would have been enough, thanks. It’s a shame because Don’t Believe Anymore has many of the strongest melodic themes in the album. A very ambient and minimal, subtly Pink Floydish intro and a bunch of good guitar harmonies and leads. It is loyal to the original Icehouse version (1984, Sidewalk). Very memorable composition by this Aussie band. In Lilac Dust has a memorable melodic theme too, but for no apparent reason I don’t like it.

The album is 74 minutes long which makes it a bit of a pain to listen in one go aka TOO-FUCKING-LONG. However, all the tracks seem to be justified of their length, I can understand the dilemma of cutting something out from the release. Because of that challenge, a 52 minute Like Music To Your Ears bootleg playlist of the album was released with the review! The tracks are balanced differently by cutting out two least impressive 10 minuters. See the end of the post for full album and the Like Music To Your Ears bootleg in Spotify.

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Positiveness

Waiting for the Endless Dawn is very rich in different elements without sounding forced. There must be a shitload of tracks in each of the songs. It brings a really dynamic overwhelming feel to the record, but the pieces also stick together naturally. Superb sounds.

A Cold Day to Face My Failure and I Lie in Wait are welcome darker doomy tracks. I Lie in Wait is in death-doomer in disguise with a soft-as-shit-gothic-rock-chorus I actually like (wow). Both have just excellent finales. A Cold Day to Face My Failure‘s lovely emotional finale has probably the best melodic theme of The Eternal’s career. I Lie in Wait on the other hand turns in a funeral doom tempo and then picks up double-bass, violins and a bit of black metallish rasp too. Ah, how dramatic! Ah, how symphonic! Perfectly placed cliche lyrics in the best chorus of the album, I Lie in Wait is a stunning entity with a very tangible emotional load.

I waited 14 years for The Eternal to embrace their doom roots and release this album… It is such a monster that I can imagine a year from now it can easily have grown to be better. Recommended for anyone with a soft spot for melancholic, slow and well-sung music.

8/10

The album in Spotify:

Like Music To Your Ears version (Rise From Agony is a bonus track):

Bandcamp: https://theeternal.bandcamp.com/album/waiting-for-the-endless-dawn

P.S. I love that their second single The Wound has a radio edit version of this 20 minute track. Radio edit has a ton of potential to play in your local radio channel as the track has been cut to a measly 10:37 :D. It still doesn’t beat Reverend Bizarre’s single Slave of Satan in 2005 though, it clocked 20:59.

Damien Storm – Horror on St. Lime’s Hill

DAMIEN+STORM+DSI cannot recall when I came over Damien Storm but it was probably a list of the funniest, weirdest or worst metal acts. Damien Storm falls in all of those categories but for the right reasons. Hell, it could have even been Phil Anselmo’s Housecore records because they have Damien Storm in their roster. It’s such an unlikely companionship it’s logical, really.

Horror On St. Lime’s Hill was released in 2000 and the first time I could listen it in its entirety was because it was released in Spotify a couple years ago. I thought that his earlier album Ghost Town (1993) must be a non-existing joke, but ALAS it is in Spotify too.

One might wonder how come I would put artists existence into question. Well, you must have seen the artists promo picture on the top of the review. If you still aren’t convinced scroll on.

This video is about a six foot raven (also shot on a 2 inch potato):

This guy is no joke when it comes to riffs, the main butter of Raven in the Courtyard is actually a damn fine riff. Then come the guitar leads…. Jeez, the guitar leads are literally all over the place. I keep getting laughing fits when listening them in Raven in the Courtyard and Entity in the Forest. They just skip all that guitar scale bullshit and go to directions you wouldn’t expect, hilariously.

horror on st. limes hillVocals… WHO SINGS LIKE THIS AND WHY DID I START TO ENJOY IT AFTER A COUPLE OF LISTENS!?

Did I say Damien Storm is no joke when it comes to riffs? I lied (orated with an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice). Entity in the Forest has some outrageous stop-and-go riffing coupled with cheap drum machine. And of course fancy lets-play-some-notes-at-random guitar leads. I love it.

Horror on St. Lime’s Hill is a very listenable entity (in the forest), though it gets a bit repetitive in an album scale. Damien Storm has his funny trademark feats but his tracks, tempos and riffs have a bit of variation. There’s always some questionable arrangements and/or musicianship going.

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Untraditionally the last part of the album is stronger, Raven in the Courtyard is a great speedy rocker. Dr. Vulcan’s Laboratory Experiment is a longer hard-hitting epic track with truly solid riffing and a chorus I can not forget. Ever. Some proper chainsaw guitars too! Zekey Zombie starts with some jungle casio sounds that logically lead to an ominous zombie chants and pitch-shifted “deep” vocals. Vampire Stalks the East Wing is filled with juicy leads. Chamber of Torture is a solid compact Damien Storm track with a fine main riff. Yes I mean it, it is good.

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Cylindrical Presence utilizes a lot of stop-and-go-riffing being a bit of weaker version of Entity in the Forest but at least there’s a silly, very cheap irish melody. The title track is a bit too long for its own good. Badtyme Story proves that Mr. Storm can sing, but for unknown reasons, he does not want to use his properish voice in his music. Fair enough.

Some of the “scary” ambient tracks (Basement Tales, Dungeon of Horrors) are a bit of a bore cause there’s too much of them, but in total they are actually pretty well made, classic b-movoe quality.

With some proper skip button use I enjoy the album way more than I should.

8/10

Aether Realm – Tarot

a4166387068_10-500x500After getting goosebumpy by the original sounding intro of the starting track of Tarot (2017), The Fool, the multitude of Finnish metal influences really caught me off guard! A lot of melodeath, Wintersun’s epic song-writing, combining clean, heroic and very Jari Mäenpää-style raspy vocals. Power metal elements and blastbeating with bright melodic backline are straight out of Wintersun’s repertoire too. Insomnium style very melancholic guitar melodylines pop up ever so often. There’s a huge folk metal backbone that could, logically after two such clear influences, be based on Ensiferum, but just as well to some other influental 2000s folk metal band. Then! All the sudden The Emperor is a pure Kalmah track! Have these guys from North Carolina listened to anything else except Finnish metal!?

And why would the Finnish metal influences be negative?

Lo! They are using these influences with a lot of class, Tarot is a really really solid album. The four above mentioned Finnish bands are huge influence on my metal background so it’s no wonder that I’m keen on placing them on Tarot. Upon further listens it is clear that Tarot is not a copycat but an original album and a great mesh. And fair enough, there’s technical death metal riffing, power metal (Tarot), flashy pure rock solo (The Tower), black metal intro and a flamenco break (The Devil), midi intro (The Sun, the Moon, the Star), melancholic acoustic material (Temperance)… I cannot place the backbone of the album anywhere else than on good old Finnish melodic death metal but it does not make the album any lesser.

On actual negatives and melodies

How many times have I stressed that an album that clocks 73 minutes is TOO … FUCKING … LONG. Sure enough, Strength is a filler track and The Chariot not much of my liking. Notable weaknesses are the very cheesy and unoriginal folk metal melodies in Strength‘s verse and chorus and The Chariot‘s chorus. The American groove metal vibe and attitude lyrics of The Chariot are not to my personal preferences either. However Strength does have a pre-verse that does some good old goosebumps and The Chariot a c-part that grooves like a moose. This package would be tighter without them even though these tracks are ok and especially The Chariot may interest a lot of fans. Better to have more material than too little i guess.

Mostly Aether Realm use their melodic patterns, if not originally, but well enough for me to enjoy them. It is not a melodic symphonic extravaganza like the fellow US band Wilderun, through which I found them. Aether Realm’s melodies are often folk but stellar enough to not slip into joyful major keys. The melodies have been used with good harmony. Symphonic sections and melancholic melodies, keep the folkish melodies fresh. An occasional less melodic riff-storm like The Devil is a very welcome addition.

I am very picky about folk metal melodies, I got tired of Ensiferum’sand Korpiklaani’s hip folk metal in about 2004.

Few more notable tracks…

Tarot does have major charm. Especially The Fool, hard-hitting and rhythmic Death (Only For The Weak in the beginning riff, anyone?) and the 19 minute opus, The Sun, the Moon, the Star which has some serious epicness going on. The Sun, the Moon, the Star is really hard to dissect into bits but it flows smoothly as hell from choir hits to electronic sounds, symphonic melodeath riffing with folk cleans to power metal riffing followed by straight to your face melodic guitar frenzy and black metallish blastbeating. Then a piano interlude! And this was just a 3 minute part in the middle of it!

Even the drinking song King of Cups does not fall into an unoriginal drinking song pothole but is genuinely a good track with mean vocal delivery, some killer fucking guitar work and lovely weird ass solo.

8½/10

Lauren Bousfield – Fire Songs – Music Quickies of sorts

a4189338573_10Nero’s Day At Disneyland’s breakcore/gamemusic mesh developed into more artistic and feminine, even electronic indie-pop flirting Lauren Bousfield. BUT the 2017 EP Fire Songs takes a step back towards Nero’s sprained breakcore instrumental music, the electronic indie-pop is largely gone. Is IDM (intelligent dance music) the correct term? What a douche genre name that is by the way. 19 minutes long Fire Songs EP seems like easily the best Lauren Bousfield release. It is a quick starter too, I was really digging it immediately on the first listen. There’s way too little love for EP’s in the world…

Little Half Dead Fire Exits Hi and Piles of Black Dresses… are A-fucking class melody spectaculars with heaviness on beats too. Little Half Dead Fire Exists Hi is almost a melancholic piece, remember the time you got badly burned and were forced to crowdfund your medical bill? Those were the days…

No One3 and CirlGocks (with Omiinindustries, collaboration?) are a step into more atmospheric electro. Girlcocks, i mean Cirlgocks, even does rave beats. The beginning of the album is a strange deja vu “I know this melody from somewhere on her releases, is it a remix?”. Creative continuity of sorts, I dig that. It’s kinda fresh to hear familiar parts in a new context after a long pause from Lauren Bousfield’s music. Here I am on the 4th listen of Fire Songs, 3rd in a row and the album developed into really fucking good. The glitching is gradually getting more pronounced on Lauren’s releases, there’s really a lot of that and it works wonderfully.

Personal crisis often makes musicians give the best out of themselves and it seems this fire certainly did that with Lauren Bousfield. Can we get more good musicians burnt up a bit? Anyone? Please? I’ll pay for the gas.

Best of all, Fire Songs is on Fire Sales! The release is pay what you want in bandcamp! Free download if you so wish:
https://laurenbousfieldanyev3r.bandcamp.com/album/fire-songs

Xenoverse – The Fall: Part I

a1427198727_10Progressive rock/metal “newcomer” Xenoverse seems to have been in the cusp of releasing their debut album since 2015. After a lot of polishing, a few gigs and apparently nearly finishing a 2nd full-length too, their debut The Fall: Part I has finally been released. Xenoverse is full of seasoned musicians but it’s clearly the brainchild of the vocalist/keyboardist Arttu Juntunen.

The music tiptoes on the edge of progressive rock and progressive metal, there’s plenty of virtuosity in instrumentation but also catchiness in choruses. The keyboards play a major role in the compositions, but guitars and drums are both well mixed too. Refreshingly bass also peeks out from behind the guitar riffs and is used as a driving instrument. Behind Enemy Lines is a good example of a track where the bass is constantly present.

There’s not much heavy guitar walls to be found but dynamic interplay between the instruments. The album sounds to be done with live performances in mind, for example the guitar solo of Behind Enemy Lines has no backing guitar, just the bass beating about. This reflects their live setup with just one guitarist. It actually works very well and doesn’t sound gutless, but groovy.

The Torturer is nearly death metal with industrial in keyboards, very far from the other tracks. The “hit” track that is also arguably the best, One Can Rule The Sky, is from the other edge of the pallette; a rocker and a melodic extravaganza! It does not feel like a 7 minute track at all. Disintegration is among the heaviest tracks with lovely hypnotic repetition and space rock whirrs and buzzes after a solid progressive rock beginning.

The album could probably do without The Torturer even though I enjoy the Scorngrain-like industrial keyboards. The mellow finisher Aria’s Premonition is quite boring especially as the album has a lot of mellowness. Perhaps the concept of the album cannot do without it. There’s no denying that the mellow tracks Solitary Confinement and Is This The End are solid, and when the distortion guitars kick in after 4 minutes of Solitary Confinement it sounds frigging fresh. How about the majestic symphonic elements then? Violins, Trombone, Cello, French horn, Viola, Majestic keyboard pad sounds; I admit, I’m a sucker for most things epic.

All in all The Fall: Part I is a complete solid progressive rock/metal album with fine attention to detail. A very impressive debut.

8/10

I also did a live review of their gig a few years ago.

Buy & listen to the album in bandcamp:
https://xenoverse.bandcamp.com/