Death Metal

Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him

vallenfyreforthosecdOldschool Death metal from Gregor Mackintosh (founding member of Paradise Lost), Hamish Hamilton Glencross (ex-My Dying Bride 2000-2014, Ex-Solstice) and Waltteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost, Abhorrence & bunch of others).

Not surprisingly the slower doomier parts are the most memorable bits. And boy are they macabre enough! Vallenfyre has two sides really, the slow tracks and oldschool death metal, both are performed with a very crusty guitar sound.

The video track An Apathetic Grave hits the right notes instantly, with the catchy guitar leads on the chorus, joined by powerful raspy vocals far removed from the seeming apathy of the track title. The Merciless Tide took more time to fruition as the best track of the album with its slow, ominous guitar leads that weave throughout the whole track. How much more doom than this can you be:
In a second
The life I knew
Existed no more
The cold hands
I could no longer warm

Third doom track (11th on the record), Cursed From The Womb feels like the lyrical centerpiece. It took even more time to grow than The Merciless Tide with an undertone a notch more ominous too. The tempo is the slowest with plenty of air between the hits. Lovely use of repetition and heavy beat invites for serious…slow…headbanging.

The only killer death metal track of the album is Soldier of Christ. Juicy guitar leads keep popping up and finally lead to the outro which is probably the most striking individual moment of the album. Powerful articulation and slow riff create a macabre image:
Abused by the protectors
Baptised in the filth of mankind
Behind the glorious curtain
Maggots feast
On the blood divine

I admit it, I am too much of a sucker for Vallenfyre’s slow and methodical sound. Their 2014 album Splinters is very similar in really fine slow tracks (Bereft, Scabs, Splinters). On Splinters the band really found the lovely crunchy, crusty guitar sound that they utilise so well on Fear Those Who Fear Him. The sound of the album is quite perfect for this kind of music altogether. Really powerful, far from crystal clear, yet not muddy at all. Piercing, rumbling and ferocious.

Oldschool death metal usually bores me, but when you sprinkle killer doom tracks in the midst it is very tolerable indeed. Unfortunately I cannot say many of the tracks besides the mentioned rouse notable interest. Classical gig-starter Messiah and really fast and aggressive circle-pit / track Nihilist perhaps most so (simple enough for a good sing-along too “Nihilist, Nihilist, Nihilist – Nihilist, Nihilist, Nihilist”!).

It is such joy to behold how well the drummer W. Väyrynen adapts between slow and fast tracks. It is quite natural when you think of his previous history though. Vallenfyre has a fair bit of old Paradise Lost in the slow tracks and the faster ones do remind of Abhorrence (oldschool death) and Rytmihäiriö (thrash / death / hardcore punk).

Fear Those Who Fear Him is going to be found in many “best albums of 2017” lists. For people with more liking to oldschool death metal than me, you can easily add half a grade more.

8+/10

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Lykathea Aflame – Elvenefris

coverQuoting my thoughts some years ago while inspecting a random recommendation from Metal-archives. “What the hell, I’ve never heard of Lykathea Aflame and their album (Elvenefris) has a 96/100 rating with almost 20 reviews :O! This must be some fine progressive death metal”.

Nope. Instead Lykathea Aflame must be the most overrated band no one’s ever heard of. Did that make sense? No? Good, neither does most of the Elvenefris. Don’t get me wrong, it has plenty of great musicianship and heavy-duty barrage, I can understand why some people like it. But mainly, it’s a huge mishmash.

Many riffs on Elvenefris sound to be played at random, halting another riff, spiritual melody, section, or whatnot suddenly. These halts are almost always paired with brutally fast drumming. After that there’s four different random riffs and two melodies until they return to the main theme. Many of these placeholder riffs are sure nimble, but sound uninspired and, well, dumb. Some might point out: “isn’t that what proper progressive music sounds at first?” Yes, yes it does sound like that at first, but not after ~10 listens and a couple of years.

Actually, forget my musings and the rest of the review. Go rather read the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of Lord_genghis review from Metal-archives, after finishing the review I found out he put everything I meant to say down a lot better than I could: http://www.metal-archives.com/reviews/Lykathea_Aflame/Elvenefris/7208/lord_ghengis/89436.

2884_logoIt does not help that growled vocals are just ok. They are supposed to remind of Lord Worm of Cryptopsy but to me Lord Worm has variety, craziness and ability to really engage into it when Ptoe of Lykathea Aflame just grunts away. Clean vocals are at best tolerable, spoken word sounds about as good as recording them yourself.

The beginning of the first track, Land Where Sympathy Is Air is a good example of what’s wrong. Technical riffing with quite typical but rather strong western “ethnic” melody, sudden riff change, continuation. At about 50 seconds it turns to a cut and paste mishmash constantly visited by the same annoyingly jumpy riff that first appeared at 22 seconds. These kind of technical short riff bursts that scale to higher notes, and on highest peak repeat from the start are present on Elvenefris all the time. Judging by the good ratings Elvenefris has gotten,  it seems it appeals certain people. But the appalling 1.38 casio bagpipe melodies cannot be excused, and it’s not the only occurence.

Sadness and Strength has the strongest individual moment, with the best melody of the album leading to a fine, albeit a bit comical, outro. The leading melody resembles some ethnic pipe instrument(?) and sounds a tad like something children’s music band like the Finnish Fröbelin Palikat might write for their more serious tracks. Before that there’s some tight playing and a really, really bad starting riff. A Step Closer has nearly none of the annoying elements and An Old Man and a Child has more memorable than frustrating bits. But there’s nothing that really makes me want to tune them in again.

The crown jewel of the album is the 11 minute b-movie cinematic outro Walking in the Garden of Ma’at with fucking birds chirping all over the place ALL-THE-TIME. It would be atmospheric if the sounds didn’t remind me too much of Intel four-eighty-six processors.

4/10

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

Rudra – Brahmavidya: Immortal I – Singapore

296609Rudra is a veteran band from Singapore. They’ve produced 7 albums since 1992 which all have gotten plenty of good critical acclaim but somehow managed to elude my radar so far.

Every eccentric band is supposed to have their own genre and so do Rudra. They call themselves Vedic metal which comes from their incorporation of Sanskrit Vedic literature, philosophy and ancient mantras (shlokas) to blackened death metal basis. They also encompass traditional Carnatic music to their compositions. These obscure elements are ultimately what keeps their ship afloat as they add plenty of interesting elements.

Brahmavidya: Immortal I is their 6th effort, while having plenty of innovative moments its also plagued by mediocreness.

The reason why I’ve given a lot of spins to the record is that the biggest kicks are served right in the beginning. Now, therefore is an enlightening starter with smoothly growing tension and interesting sections. The mantras are also really strong here and add element unlike anything I expected. Guitar leads wander in almost Arabic fashion, reminding of Myrath.

The next track Illusory Enlightement is the best of the album, with its magical chanting chorus.

Almost every track has some fascinating elements and individual melodies. However the lack of constant tension, great riffs and melodies and the unsuspensefulness of the vocals becomes evident as the album progresses. Some of the foreign elements like the mantra chorus of Incredulous Void are peculiar as it sounds like some of Finnish children’s wordplays (Appilan pappilan apupapin papupata pankolla kiehuu ja kuohuu. Pappilan paksuposki piski pisti paksun papukeiton poskeensa.). Whether its a good thing or not depends on the mindset of the listener.

Brahmavidya: Immortal I is an eccentric kettle left to boil while the fuse burns out. In the end its just lukewarm but while its hot, the early consumables will for sure give some satiety to the fans of bands such as Melechesh or Myrath.

7/10

Genocide Shrines – Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil (Scriptures Of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder) – Sri Lanka

505952If you are still reading after the whopping album title I can only take it that you feel some kind of enthrallment. I’ll be first to admit I jumped straight in it without any googling but pretty soon it became apparent that small search might provide some understanding of the albums thematics. Taken that I can only understand ~4.5 of the 8 words in the album title (Imperial, Scriptures, Of, Reversed, ***murder)…

When the distorted voice clip in the sixth track Hurl Burning Spears To Exhume The Raavanic Throne Of Sivvhela Retaliation violently commands RAAVAN at the very latest one should realize Genocide Shrines are onto something special.

“Ravana” is the the primary antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana, where he is depicted as the king of Lanka [1]. “The life of Ravana, one of the most powerful beings ever to roam the universe, if Hindu legends are to be believed, had unfolded in the small island Sri Lanka, where he ruled with mighty power over gods, humans and demons.”

And what a name Hurl Burning Spears To Exhume The Raavanic Throne Of Sivvhela Retaliation is to sum up the experience. Genocide Shrines is a brutal death metal band with such a wall of sound it’s not immediately clear what they stand for. On further listens it becomes apparent that while the western influences are there, they aren’t of influx. The rhythmic heritage has seemingly taken a lot from local surroundings, savage tempos and violent atmospheres remind of the rich and violent history of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan civil war, which left 80 000-100 000 dead in 25 years, ended just 7 years ago and there are still accounts that the minority and losing side of the civil war, Tamils may be tortured by the officials.

Rich chants and percussions of an unknown lore further thrust the experience away from Yankee and European colleagues. The outro Pillar 3 (Triumphing Of The Three Worlds) sounds like it could be a street recording of a Sri Lankan shaman.

The brutal basement sounds are reminiscent of good old days where classic metal records were recorded with suspicious equipment, delivering billowing muddy soundmass instead of the crystal clear liquid of nowdays. There’s undoubtedly its place for crystal clear production, but so is for sound that could have been recorded in torture chambers.

In an interview with the vice [2], the frontman Chathuranga Fonseka (a.k.a. Tridenterrorcult) states: “I had made a few important changes to my daily living with the intention of raavanic devotion to delve completely with murderous attentiveness and focus on the ascent. Traditions were continued as it has been done in the past during recording sessions. Mr. Obliterator from Serpents Athirst frequented these rituals to assist BlasphemousWarGoat with various elements.”. The interview makes clear to state that this band pours out some serious devotion on their album processes, encompassing a lot of their ancient mythologue. Just read the amazingly mystic track titles. If you understand what the hell they are referencing to and aren’t a native Sri Lankan, I salute you. This big unknown is part of the charm.

Black metal-esque guitars and rumbling drum-patterns of Subterranean Katacomb, Termination Temple (Henotheistic Primal Demiurge) among many others demonstrate the musicality of the group. My favourite moment is probably the primal ritualistic riff of Ethnoheretical Padmavyuha Consecration which effortlessly slithers into a ~40 bpm downstroke bruising. Militant Thrishul (Eradiction Puja) and Aerialdishamanic Bonethrone Omega both have a mildly melodic riff to present further variation.

Nearly all the tracks have some slower material, usually violent sludging, which makes it clear that Genocide Shrines is not leaning just to walls of sound and constant high tempos in delivering their mostly oppressive message.

But I never found out what is a reversed dharmurder.

9-/10

Bandcamp:
https://vaultofdriedbones.bandcamp.com/album/manipura-imperial-deathevokovil-scriptures-of-reversed-puraana-dharmurder

References:
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravana
[2] http://noisey.vice.com/blog/genocide-shrines-interview-2015

Weeping Birth – Anosognosic Industry of the I

Weeping Birth must be one of the best hidden gems of Brutal and Technical Death Metal. This project of Metal monster mind Vladimir Cochet released its first album in 2003 but robbed the bank with their second effort in 2008. “Anosognosic Industry Of the I” destroys, chills and occasionally even puts in a beautiful melody. Mainly destroys.

Seventy-plus minutes of monster riffs and huge tempos is, as a thought, very hard to digest but somehow “Anosognosic Industry of the I” is made fluid. For times when the listener may feel sated of crunching riffs, the occasional melodic bits are the perfect relief. These moments are for example the crazy guitar solo of “Hurle à la Mort”, “Orgasmic Fetid Breath”‘s ominous guitar lead turning into a melodically outbursting chorus, or the beautiful track “Shadowless”. Most memorable melodics are, you guessed it, topped over crunching high-speed riffs. The album does have dynamics but it is truly itself only when the gas pedal is stuck down.

The clean vocals and the over done, bit dull-sounding drum machine aren’t at par with the rest of the release but they are nonetheless only minor inconveniences as especially the drums are very well-programmed. The only clearly weak track is “Detestable Birth Tapestries With Snakes Embroidered”, which verse riff is simply just off, making an otherwise strong track rather annoying. With deep self-examination one might also come to note that “Love, Death’s Betrothed” is perhaps too technical for its own good, putting in massive disruptions after each other. On early listens it can be mindblowing in a WTF-fashion, but later on the surprise wears off.

The album is a surprisingly flawless piece, having almost no weak moments. “Anosognosic Industry Of the I” excels at constant variation, wonderful riffs and well-timed dynamics to give the listener a breather now and then. The top moments include for example the frantic and devious last two minutes of “I Was” and the evil break of “Der Tanz der Toten” with French vocals seemingly ready to gnaw the skin off your bones. But most of all “Shadowless”, an almost Classical composition, which seems to consist of a continuous bridge slowly leading towards the inevitable orgasmic peak.

Prepare to get bewildered, amazed and confused. “Anosognosic Industry Of the I” brings in a similar shock factor as Havoc Unit’s album “h.IV+”  – for me these two are the best Extreme Metal albums of the 2000s.

Overall Score: 9+

The review was originally released in Metal-observer: http://www.metal-observer.com/articles.php?lid=1&sid=1&id=18866