Black metal

Music Quickies – Paradox, Deathspell Omega, Wilderun, Barren Earth

Paradox – Pangea (2016)

573798These old thrash raptors are on the chase (2nd track Raptor, Jurassic Park)! In their manhunt (5th track Manhunt, Rambo) for the second best thrash album of 2016 with Blaakyum’s Line of Fear. Which one comes 2nd then?  I really cannot say but both are really positive surprises.

However, 6th track Cheat & Pretend is an offshot, and by 9th and 10th tracks, Alien Godz (Prometheus) and El Muerte, the biggest joy is gone. 59 minutes is too much for a thrash album, these three tracks could have easily been left out. The younger cosmic-rogues, Vektor still hold the cataclysm force (1st track Apophis, Stargate).

Solid album nevertheless, I had no idea speed metal heritage could still sound fresh!


Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones (2016)
deathspellomegaarvosteludeathspell-omega-the-synarchy-of-molten-bones-e1475279012978Quote is from their last.fm wall. Free form jazz is a pretty good explanation why I have a hard time appreciating some of Deathspell Omega’s latest efforts. I feel they do hit right notes but I much prefer when they actually try to compose a song instead of section1->section2->section3->section4->section5->section6->section7->section8->section9->section10->section11->section12->section13…

Over random sections there’s vocals that do not really correlate with the music except in a sense that they are quite crazy too. On the other hand, how could you vocalize over this? I guess it’s as good an effort as any.

On Paracletus there were songs that had a more approachable structure and hooks. Quite a few of those hooks were memorable and the album is a solid entity. But Drought and Synarcy are just a mess.

Deathspell Omega is definitely experimental which is why I’d hope that they would realize not to run the damn clean guitar sound above everything on all of these three records. Perhaps Synarchy needs more time to fruition. 4 listens within a month merely crosses my irritation threshold.


Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of The Earth (2015)

492322Simply the best album to come out in 2015, I have yet to find it’s equal from 2016 either.

Try it if you do not hate any of the following:
metal
symphonic
folk (dibbly-dabbly beerfolk excluded)
clean vocals
guitars
cinematic music



Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers (2015)
onlonelytowersp19com8m781mjt11t431p1i4to4m4The title track On Lonely Towers is the centerpiece of Barren Earth’s 2015 album and welcomes them back into form after the disappointingly tame The Devil’s Resolve (2012).

On Lonely Towers is somewhere between their first album Curse of the Red River (2010) and The Devil’s Resolve on heaviness scale. It’s not a deathdoom-donkey or blastbeat-beaver but occasionally uses both of these tricks to its advantage. Unlike some sections of The Devil’s Resolve it does not sound like Opeth’s Heritage. Unlike some sections of the Curse of the Red not a Swallow The Sun copy either.

Especially welcoming is the great vocal performance by the Faroe Island native Jón Aldará (Hamfero). That is not to say the previous vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow The Sun) didn’t do a good job on previous albums, but the more powerful voice of Aldará is a really welcome change.

On Lonely Towers, is a true gem of a track and none other ecplises it. The crooked and deliciously sung Shapeless Derelict and Chaos, The Songs Within, are also A class progressive metal. Frozen Processions and Howl are good examples of melodies and progressive twists that make some people deem Barren Earth “Amopeth”.

AlNamrood – Diaji Al Joor – Saudi Arabia

525517Too many bands from the more exotic metal countries try to sound like their western counterparts. While it is interesting to find a band from Saudi Arabia that sounds like it could be a mediocre German thrash metal band, it doesn’t add much to the experience besides novelty value. Luckily AlNamrood is not one of those bands.

AlNamrood is usually titled a black metal band, but they are far from the traditional sort. In fact, often it feels like the tracks are based purely on Arabic elements with distortion guitar and metal elements added on top. It is really refreshing not being able to know who to compare them to or even what genre they are. They could even be described as constantly overpeaked heavy metal band with basis on Arabic instrumentation.

The beginning of the record got my hopes up immediately as I’m a sucker for all things unexpected in my metal. The raw Egyptian-like intro Dhaleen, turns into stylishly minimalistic tremolo instrumentation with wind instruments and “aaaaaa”-chanting.

All the more the surprise when the vocalist Humbaba stats barking away with his monotone and quite unique vocal style in the second track Zamjara Alat. At 2.05 Al-Namrood tunes in a better melody I’d ever expect this obscure band to be able to deliver. It’s a c-part after the first verse straight from the boiling desert, accompanied by beautiful backgrounds. Already during the second track it is clear that this is not a normal metal experience but a lot more thrilling one.

The drumming first felt like a bit flat drum machine but because it is nicely overpeaked it invokes more raw power than in most cases. The sound really grew on me and on further listens the unpolished sounds stopped bothering.

On first listens it was also easy to disregard some unharmonic passages as amateuristic. Like Hawas Wa Thuar which is an particularly odd piece, with melodies that seem out of tune. Only later it started to feel like this atonalism (?) must come from Arabic music heritage. AlNamrood uses melodies that are straight out of European scales. Especially the said Hawas Wa Thuar succeeds in invoking a real diabolical feel with tastily unharmonic melodic patterns. Where as Hayat Al Khezea is a ritualistic piece where the monotonic vocals heighten the atmosphere and the majestic and eerie end speech sounds to discurse some serious, sacred or esoteric issues with conviction.

Actually I cannot think much that I dislike. If I have to start picking, the melodic folk metal influences, the backbone of most of Ejhaph, is not much of my liking. Ya Le Taasatekum is a bit mediocre but on the other hand conceives of a more rapid pace than its counterparts. It also really excels in varied and intense vocals and an outro with rumbling drums, very much a counterpart to the cover image. It’s not really mediocre after all, I gotta take that back. And even Ejhaph has mightily interesting percussions and eerie guitars in its last two minutes.

All in all, all tracks have something unique to offer, every track differentiates from the crowd. Like massive Adghan with double bass landslides and bright acoustic instrumentation or Ana Al Tughian’s mystic woodwinds and rhythmics.

Diaji Al Joor is a grower, after putting it aside for a while the true excess of unique elements and exceptional atmosphere kept growing. It took about 3 months to process into 9 /10 level.

Bandcamp: https://shaytanproductions.bandcamp.com/album/diaji-al-joor

Music quickies – Vektor, Current 93, Katatonia, Devin Townsend Project, Behemoth

vektor-terminal_redux Vektor – Terminal Redux (2016)
Vektor’s hyped 2016 release is astronomically progressive metal. Vektor was the best modern thrash metal band for years, it is about time for them to get recognition. For an album that sates me midway, it is astoningly good but it would be more enjoyable shorter. It’s really not a better album than their previous efforts but still ridiculously good and full of everything tasty.
9/10
Listen: Mountains Above The Sun + Ultimate Artificer

0Current 93 Calling For Vanished Faces Calling for Vanished Faces (I: Funeral Music for
Us All) and (II: Love, Sleep And Dreams) (1999)

David Tibet’s overtheateritical aesthetics drove this Sol Invictus fanboy mad for half a decade. “Maybe, I might finally appreciate something of theirs?” I thought. I: Funeral Music for Us All starts as an oddities collection I cannot recommend less but picks up on Coal Black Smith, staggers to its most annoying pieces and picks up decently at Hourglass (For Diana) soon to turn into 1 hour 30 minutes of pure neofolk bliss. Probably my favourite release on which I completely skip 1/3 of it.
I 7/10
II 10-/10
Listen: The whole second side, except the 4 ending tracks, is blissful.

570160Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts (2016)
Some outerworldly charm with heartbreaking atmosphere. Drags time to time yet still wrenches heartstrings every minute. Passer‘s descending scale should be obnoxious yet it is genuinely alluring. How on earth did they make it work.
Listen: Decima & Residual for angsting in a dark room, Passer for prog.
Grade upcoming

 

devintownsendprojecttranscendencecdDevin Townsend Project – Transcendence (2016)
Middle aged Devin is zen and re uses his components but those lures still amount some catch. Not bad, but I may have heard too much “c-grade progressive metal” (quoting their own making of documentary) to fully appreciate this kind of polished sound anymore. Danger lurks somewhere else. Here’s hoping the next album goes permanently Higher.

The second album is simply too much as can be noticed from the lack of recognition it has gotten. The (demo) titles are a very Devin Townsendish joke, the stuff is nearly as polised as the first. Love the commercial suicide though, it could have well been released it as a lone piece.
Listen: Higher
7ish/10

395440Behemoth – The Satanist (2014)
If you can think of a more epic way to start a track than in the title track of The Satanist please let me know. The track does not carry the weight of its beginning but the album does. The wall-of-sound production, mildly reminiscent of Emperor, gives it weight unlike many releases.

Incorporating a massive and satisfying finale that only runs through the last minute of Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel requires so much finesse. O Father O Satan O Sun! towers above the rest of the release with another finale, this time based on a monster riff and oration like an esoteric sermon. Here’s hoping The Satanist won’t be the last of Behemoth like Nergal hinted in the past.
Listen: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel & O Father O Satan O Sun!
Grade upcoming

Downfall of Nur – Umbras de Barbagia – Argentina

DownfallOfNur-UmbrasDeBarbagia-CoverDownfall of Nur is a one man black metal project headed by Antonio Sanna. He is originally from Sardinia, Italy but moved to Argentina at 11 years of age. Umbras de Barbagia was released in 2015 with Antonio being just 19 years of age. It is incredible how a 19 year old Argentinian musician could make an atmospheric black metal album so mature this early in his career.

Actually Umbras de Barbagia is not strictly a one man black metal album as vocals were made by another Argentinian metal musician Dany Tee (In Element, Aether, Seelenmord), who also played a big part in production.

The killer track is placed right in the beginning, Golden Age starts with magnificent melancholic instrumentation containing acoustic guitar, woodwind instrument and soon, bagpipe!? In fact these non-metal instruments are not just any instruments, but traditional Sardinian instruments Launeddas and Quenacho flute. Both are woodwind instruments and Launeddas has a similar sound to bagpipe. It consists of three pipes where one serves as a drone and two others function with the melody.

launeddas2b022bcerdec3b1a

Launeddas

With a whopping 17 minute length Golden Age takes a while to develop into metal terrains but does it with a bang. Oldschool blastbeating with depressive black metal screeching. For a young artist like Downfall of Nur it is astonishing how well the album is balanced. Both metal and calmer parts have a lot of dynamic and the quality of a recording is really high.

The tracks vary stylishly between black metal, melodic and folk bits however there’s a lot of repetition which sometimes works as a disadvantage. All main tracks are over, or nearly 10 minutes long. Long songs work well in developing atmosphere but every track becomes a tad boring at some point. Most notably the 2 minute outro of Ashes leading to 2 minute intro of the title track where in neither almost nothing happens.

The bread and butter of the album is solid as heck though. From the magnificent interlude of Ashes to brilliant finales of Golden Number and Downfall of Nur which all encompass Launeddas and Quenacho brilliantly. Downfall of Nur travels somewhere near the grounds of Agalloch and Ghost Bath, but has significantly more airy melancholic folk passages. They’ve also picked elements from oldschool black metal with funeral doom seasoning. Atmospheric black metal is such a wide genre that these elements are not anything abnormal but the way they’ve been meshed together makes Umbras de Barbagia an enticingly abnormal effort.

8/10

References:
http://www.nocleansinging.com/2015/11/18/an-ncs-interview-downfall-of-nur-antonio-sanna/

Numen – Basque Black Metal

Like Catalonia, Basque Country has stated its interest in independence from Spain. I do not know whether Numen is one of those who wows for independence or not but a big attractor in their uniqueness is the Basque language, Euskera.

They could be described as oldschool black metal with folk influences and folks, THIS is how folk influences should be used. With the likes of Moonsorrow and Primordial Numen integrates folk to their sound without unnecessary hobbit-like dibbling and dabbling ’round the tree with beer cogs in hand. Folk is just one of the elements, not constant flute frenzy. Numen should even appeal to Black metal purists as their sound really takes a bow to oldschool black.

numen-logo

The idea of Black metal from Basque country isn’t that far fetched for me. Pretty much my first touch to black metal was Numen. Which still to this date is among my favourite Black metal artists. I found Numen through long-defunct Audiogalaxy in about 2002(?). In Audiogalaxy groups it was normal for people to send tracks to everyone in that group. Numen is one of the many class acts I discovered that way.

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Their first EP Haize Sorginduen Intziriak (2000) (Screams of bewitched winds) never went to my regular listening cycle, except Ehitzari Beltza which was an instant favourite. I’m still not sure what it means, or how the hell it is pronounced what really stood out for me was the obscure sounding language. Not even mentioning the sound of a thunderbolt in the end and odd laughing at 3:04 both of which are such a cliche but then were awesome. Still, unlike some of my favourites from that time, the song is still decent and the harsh but beautiful language fits the mood perfectly.

495646300-galdutako-itxaropenaren-eresia-coverThe album that kicked off the Numen fever was their first full length Galdutako Itxaropenaren Eresia (2001) (Chant of the Lost Hope). It is still a strong effort with some really unique instrumentals. My personal favourites are Iheslaria which is both beautiful and brutal at the same time and the overly melodic Ama Lurra.

After Galdutako, Numen set the standard even higher with a good EP …Jarrai Beza 29785Kondairak (2003) and what many think is their best work, full-length Basoaren Semeak (2004). The most interesting piece of …Jarrai is Mari (Su Ta Gar Cover), it embraces the melodic aspects of Numen, being a cover of a heavy metal band. It is also an intriguing piece of history as Su Ta Gar is one of the most known Basque metal bands and also controversial. They’ve been around since the end of 1980s and released multiple albums.

45657Basoaren Semeak is a thick, haunting but natural sounding record which has obviously been influenced by a lot of Norwegian black metal greats. Its sounds are a huge step up from Galdutako… and the band developed in both song-writing and instrumental proficiency.

 

Their latest album is a self-titled album from 2007. Its sounds are not 174819as aggressive as Basoaren Semeak and the songs are longer and more complicated. There is a distinctive increase of epic, almost cinematic qualities, like the melancholic brilliance in the finale of Gauaren Irrifarre Izkutua which turns from standard but charmingly crooked black metal to a wonderful mixture of depressive black and clean acoustic guitar.

It is a pity that Numen has not released anything since as their discography is packed with quality. They seem to be still active as they have played gigs now and then.

It is also impressing that I can still spell stuff like Galdutako Itxaropenaren Eresia correctly!

You can find all their releases from bandcamp: http://numenblackmetal.bandcamp.com/

2018 edit, 2007 s/t album is now in Spotify:

 

 

Zuriaake – Afterimage of Autumn (葬尸湖 – 弈秋) – China

afterimage20of20autumnZuriaake’s (romanized from 葬尸湖, roughly translated Sepulture Corpse Lake) first album Afterimage of Autumn was released in 2007. It has some exceptional qualities, for this Chinese Black metal band is not mimicing Norwegian Black Metal sound but taken excepts from Chinese culture to their metal mixture. Their Black metal focuses on entwining natural atmospherics, ambience with very overdriven guitars and depressive black metal vibe.

山神 / God Of Scotch Mist starts the album with delicate and lovely instrumentation that turns into a lot of punch and sets a suitable depressingly heavy undertone but also introduces a lot of worthy melody work. Zuriaake creates a lot of shamanistic ritual feel in their tracks and God of Scotch Mist is probably the finest piece. In the mid-part of the record the songs turn slower and oftentimes you could argue it is ambient with distortion guitars. But guitar-tremolos, occasional blastbeats and vocals reminiscent of depressive black metal prove that the band is not here just to float around.

In the albums most stunning moment the chorus of 歸兮 / Return Journey Zuriaake seamlessly adds a traditional sounding Chinese tremolo melody to a slow doomy basis. Tell me this is not (un)divine. Unfortunately I could not pick the name of this guitar like string instrument as the booklet is all in Chinese (except track titles).

The album is an extremely well flowing entity but it could have more highlights. One of them is the title tracks somber pace and wind-instrument and piano melodies. It has a feel so close to nature it’s incredible especially considering that the piano and woodwind sounds aren’t perfect. On the other hand the next song 暮林 / Forest Of Twilight is very similar in nature but does not seem to go anywhere. 荒山 / Desolated Mountain then seems to consist of two songs, first near-shoegazing with bloodthirsty shrieks all the sudden turning into a solid mid-paced black metal track only to end ambiently again.

The use of delicate abnormal black metal flavours adds so much essence to this release. Even though the release is sometimes so shoegazing it’s on the verge of boring, the atmosphere and unique Asian black metal elements redeem a lot of it. It is also a grower that gets better with time and does not reveal its secrets easy.

40f56887ba3dAlso kudos to their label Pest Productions who not only sent the double LP I ordered in a beautiful packet but also included 2 cd’s as extras! Split with Yn Gizarm – 悲赋之秋 / 司命楼兰 (Autumn of Sad Ode / Siming of Loulan) and Winter Mirage Ep. Both stellar releases, at its best Yn Gizarm can be downright stunning. The vinyl version also includes Winter Mirage EP and a couple of remastered tracks from the split.

I am starting to sound like a marketing person, but I can’t stress enough that if you feel that you’ve heard it all when it comes to Black metal, China has an answer you.

8/10

Zuriaake on Metal-Archives

Afterimage of Autumn in Bandcamp

Gu-Yan (2015 album) in Bandcamp

Empty – Etica Profana Negativa – Spain

Bleak and atmospheric depressive black metal with careful attention to detail.

Etica Profana Negativa is the fourth album by Spanish black metal band Empty. They’ve developed album-by-album and Etica Profana Negativa continues that flow. It reaches out to catch gloomy atmospheres and does it well. Considerably more midtempo and thoughtful than its predessor The House Of Funerary Hymns. It creates more magic from the somber parts than vicious blastbeating. Many a time I have been impressed by a track only to be impressed by a different track on the next listen.

The record does contain quite a few uninspiring and clumsy moments but it is easy to forgive as they do not ruin the overall feel. In best tracks, Terrifying Lucidity of The Wakefulness, A Funeral Song To Be Sung and The Tree of Dying fruit the band really takes care to build the songs up and at times creates true magic, but also often lingers on the edge of their composing skills. This is a metal record that doesn’t lack danger. The only uninspired track is Born Under The Sign of a Moribund Star which isn’t bad just a very average black metal song.

For example the beginning of A Funeral Song To Be Sung, starts with rhythmic drumming, guitar sweeping and a bass lead. Even with over 10 listens I still cannot say if it is a bit clumsy or not. It launches into a brilliant blastbeat which after a second repeat turns to the magnificient albeit too short centerpiece of the track. The track ends with some surpremely tasty and atmospheric rhythmic drumming and guitar leads.

If composing skills can sometimes be put to question same cannot be said of their instrumental proficiency. The band plays tight and woves a real symbiosis. At best each instrument gets a possibility to be in the front in the same section of a track. Especially the session drummer Naemoth does a really fine job with clever fills and effortless versatility. The vocals deserve a mention too as they vary from different kinds of black metal rasp growling to extremely inhuman screeches a la Fleurety (whose EP A Darker Shade Of Evil is widely regarded as containing some of the most inhuman vocals in metal).

The sounds have also taken a step forwards to emphasize the bleak atmosphere of the tracks well with bass standing up in the mix. It is justifiable to expect great things from the next album.

8½/10

MonuMental Progressive Collection I – from Progressive Rock to Black Metal to Breakcore

The first MonuMental Progressive Collection playlist starts with suitably uncommercial Finnish Progressive rock, advances to black metal and finally ends with modern breakcore classics. It’s idea is to progress naturally from genre to genre and also ramp up the quality track-after-track. It is a challenging ride, but when you are in contact with masterpieces, that’s what you bound to get.

1. For someone whose mother tongue is not Finnish the first track Kuha. – Tohtori Krabolan Telekineettinen testilaboratorio (From Telekineettinen Testilaboratorio, 2005) might seem like an odd bit. To be honest it was a slow starter for me as well. But from that Kuha. emerged as the best pure progressive rock band in Finland since Kingston Wall.

2. Dillinger Escape Plan‘s best instrumental, always surprising When Acting as a Wave (From Ire Works, 2007) serves as a small bridge to Chapter I: Introverting Dimensions by The Fall of Troy (From Phantom On The Horizon, 2008).

3. I know what you are thinking here, what is that half-emo band doing on a metal playlist. But that’s the thing, they are only half-emo, the other half is firmly rooted in Progressive rock, and most so on their EP Phantom On The Horizon. Give it a listen and you will see. Thomas Erak’s guitar playing is truly mesmerizing. At some point you may get mixed up and think you are listening to bastard cousin of The Mars Volta instead of an emo band.

4. A Prophet For a Pound of Flesh by Forest of Stars (From A Shadowplay for Yesterdays, 2012) is the first step to metal. On of the many bands who builds their flavour from black metal but has grown a vast amount of tentacles since their first efforts.

5. The Fecal Rebellion is by Mirrorthrone (From Gangrene, 2008) which is one of many Vladimir Cochet’s project. This one man powerhouse has such an amount of talent it is ridiculous. All his projects have only a few albums which I must take as the main reason of the fact that he has only advanced to cult classic status so far. If you mix modern classic music with complex black metal this is something you may get. Plus there’s harpsichord!

Waters of Ain by Watain (From Lawless Darkness, 2010) is a track that leaves me speechless every time. For me, this is the ultimate black metal track, mixing elements of black metal, progressive rock, Celtic frost and heavy metal perfectly. It is everything.

6. The only way to top Waters of Ain is to abandon metal completely with Venetian Snares – Integraation (From My Downfall (Original Soundtrack), 2007). Integraation is from Aaron Funk’s neoclassical releases where he mixes complex electronic beats with classical music elements. Also at best Integraation is actually as heavy as any metal track.

7. Venetian Snares – Miss Balaton (Bonus track) (From Detrimentalist, 2008). I know you aren’t supposed to put two songs of the same artist into a compilation. Whateva I do what I want. In truth I could not exclude Miss Balaton as it is even better than Integraation and fits perfectly after it. I won’t even start describing the goosebumps.

P.S. The playlist originally had Kuha.’s 25 minute Kalifi Myy Mustaa Valoa as a starter but it is not in Spotify.

266576-1449435327You can also find all playlists from playlists.net
http://playlists.net/epic-progressive-collection