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Archive for April, 2011

ETERNA PENUMBRA – NUESTRA VACIA EXISTENCIA (Egg Of Nihilism)

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Egg Of Nihilism is the label that introduced me to the excellent black/doom brotherhood Defuntos, so I purchased this cassette (for less than a fiver, including postage!) with real confidence. This miniscule label, entrenched deep in the underground, has a proven track record for unleashing high-quality Iberian darkness and they have hit the nail on the head once more with ‘Nuestra Vacía Existencia’, the tidy debut full-length from Madrid trio Eterna Penumbra.

For a tape, the sound is very good and the packaging is much more adequate than I’d expected at such a reasonable price. I’ve bought cassettes before that turned out to be a total waste of money, but this one certainly doesn’t fall into that category. Opener ‘Un Viaje Hacia El Abismo’ sets the tone for an unapologetically corrosive ride through harsh Black Metal terrain with nary a thought given to restraint or gift-wrapping. There’s nothing quaint or pleasant about this album and I knew long before the second track – ‘Nuestra Vacía Existencia’ – had finished blasting through my speakers that this was not a journey for the meek.

Having said that, Eterna Penumbra are neither boring nor monotonous. Amid the repetitive, oh-so-familiar chords, notes and tones that we’ve heard a thousand times before there are also more-than-cursory attempts to create a uniquely menacing, disturbing mood – such as towards the latter stages of the title track – and these make a difference. Still, what we have here is standard Black Metal as opposed to ambient or atmospheric fare and – in this instance – standard Black Metal works just fine for me.

It’s obscure, it’s underground, it’s genuine and it’s worthy of investigation. But this cassette is also limited to just 300 copies, so you’d be best advised to act quickly if you want to acquire a piece of action so far removed from the mainstream that it almost doesn’t exist. Nice to know that there’s more to Spain than diving, cheating footballers.

Evilometer: 555/666

FELL VOICES – UNTITLED LP (Gilead Media)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Out of sunny California emerges one of the most obscure-sounding Black Metal bands you are ever going to clap ears upon. This album is titled ‘untitled’ and has been unleashed on vinyl by Gilead Media – not a label you’d normally associate with BM, which makes the pure quality of the record all the more remarkable. ‘untitled’ comprises two lengthy tracks, each clocking in close to the 20-minute mark and both stunningly eclectic.

To be blunt, this is such an awesome LP that it puts most Black Metal labels to shame. Fell Voices sound like a rawer, more lo-fi, deeper-in-the-woods, darker-than-a gypsy-soul version of the rather-excellent Wolves In The Throne Room. Now, I love WITTR, but I always felt they ruined their sound by including female vocals in some passages, so I’m glad to report that we have none of that here. The result is a purer, more distilled and more organic slab of darkness, creeping out of the undergrowth, wrapping its tendrils around you and sucking you into the woodland void.

This album is perfect in every way. Each bit of distortion, the crackles and hisses, the drone and the feedback, every note and every beat and every breath in the vocal delivery – it has all been put in precisely the right place, resulting in a rumbling, rolling behemoth of harsh yet ambient Black Metal majesty. The vocals are so far in the background that I almost suspect the singer was in a different room (or building); the overall effect of the music is so distorted and ‘barely there’ sometimes that the producer was either a genius or simply didn’t exist. If there’s a better produced raw Black Metal album than this available, I’d love to hear it.

Proceedings rarely move above mid-pace. They don’t have to. The feel of the album is more sinister, menacing and genuinely dark than an avalanche of speed. It’s all about dynamic, balance and finding the right counterpoints. Fell Voices are masters of their art. This is the kind of shit you can’t practise or fake. You’ve either got it or you don’t. Fell Voices possess it in spades and this 180g record – which comes complete with a pin, patch and poster for all you nerds out there – is an utterly compelling volume of work, pieced together by master craftsmen.

Evilometer: 666/666

BLOOD REVOLT – INDOCTRINE (Profound Lore Records)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

I bought this album because of the involvement of one Alan Averill from Primordial on vocal duties. Considering how terrible the last couple of Primordial LPs have been, I really should have known better. In a nutshell, this release is a total waste of space and I seriously regret parting with a percentage of my wage just to say I own it.

There’s a lot to be said for listening to a few tracks from an album online – even one song, perhaps – before committing yourself, because it would save unnecessary anguish and frustration in the long run. As a traditionalist, I prefer to just take a leap of faith on some purchases – a bad error in judgement when it comes to Blood Revolt. If I’d heard even twenty seconds of this rubbish in advance, I’d have passed.

The signs were so misleading, though. Renowned singer from an Irish (ex-)Black Metal band; two members of Revenge; released on Profound Lore Records – Jesus, I thought this was a safe bet. Alas, the disparate parts don’t blend together at all and, to my ears, ‘Indoctrine’ is a complete, God-awful, irritating mess. Totally unlistenable. It’s probably as bad an album as I’ve heard in the past twelve months. Vocals that fluctuate between Dead Kennedys and Queensryche  do not work with this style of progressive Death Metal music, so the end result made for one of the most unenjoyable 40-or-so minutes of my life.

What gets me is this: why release a recording that’s not a ‘proper’ album? When members of different bands get together seemingly for the craic, why not just make the music available to interested parties for free? It’s an insult to people to throw together a release like this and then charge money for it. I’m not wasting my breath any more on it.

Evilometer: 000/666

SVIKT – I ELENDIGHETENS SELSKAP (World Terror Committee)

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Stellar Norwegian Black Metal of the highest calibre courtesy of Blut & Eisen / World Terror Committee. The debut album from Svikt presents eight wonderful BM workouts, averaging a grand six minutes’ duration apiece, dished up with a level of confidence, competence and conviction that befits Norway’s reputation as the true home of Black Metal. Svikt is a band with no hype and there was fuck all of a fanfare around the release of ‘I Elendighetens Selskap’ a couple of months hitherto, but who needs publicity or media saturation when your output is as captivating as this?

I Elendighetens Selskap’ ticks all the boxes. It basically possesses all the ingredients that a great Black Metal album make. It’s raw and harsh (but with a very clear production); it’s visceral; the vocals are cold and grim; there are multiple changes in pace and mood; and there is a touch of melody and atmosphere in the songs that ensures things never become monotonous. The balance is perfect, rendering ‘I Elendighetens Selskap’ an album I’d gladly place in my collection alongside Nartvind, Urgehal, Horna, Kadotus or Hinsidig. I’m not necessarily saying Svikt sound exactly like any of these, but they are certainly similar in attitude.

I Elendighetens Selskap’ isn’t an album that rewrites the rulebook or tries to be different (instead sticking religiously to a tried and trusted blueprint); it’s just a superb example of how intoxicating good old traditional Black Metal can be when it comes from the darkest of hearts. I’m hoping it gets a vinyl release soon because this is one collection of hymns that would fit the black wax format perfectly. All in all, an excellent slab of Black Metal with more than enough to keep even the most discerning listener engaged for countless listens. I know I’ll certainly be revisiting this one over and over again.

Evilometer: 555/666

DARK FURY – SALIGIA (Lower Silesian Stronghold)

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Within the space of 33 minutes, Dark Fury make their feelings on all things Catholic well and truly known. These seven songs stand proud as an all-out attack on organised religion, tearing into priests and Christian ethics like nails ripping through the flesh of ‘the chosen one’. Lyrically, the Poles rant with venom about the greed, hypocrisy, perversity and corruption of the church as they see it. All very entertaining stuff and hard to argue with the general sentiments expressed. Somehow it seems all the more potent coming from the same country that gave the world Pope John Paul II…

Musically, it’s pretty sandard Slavonic Black Metal, leaning towards the early 90s, executed at mid-to-high pace, but with some slower passages, such as on the excellent third track ‘Luxuria’, which also contains the sounds of weeping, defiled victims of the church’s wicked ways. While there’s nothing particularly original about either the sound or the themes to be found on here, ‘Salagia’ is nonetheless a really enjoyable listen, enhanced greatly by the aforementioned cries of the repressed or the mock laughter evident towards the end of the ensuing song, ‘Invidia’. These little touches – sound effects or samples – break up the monotony just enough to elevate the album above the norm.

The CD’s gambit – ‘Superbia’ – sets the tone brilliantly for a well-composed ride, with thundering drums, shrill guitars and some nice varied vocals. While a lot of anti-Christian artists tend to go over the top with the explicit nature of their message, I found Dark Fury’s approach to be more thoughtful but no less restrained, emphasising the greed of the priests (who come back again and again looking for more of our money) and the stupidity of the masses (who believe that giving money to the church can buy them a ticket into heaven). As it says on the inlay: “While listening to this album, mock the hypocrisy of all christians, both the priests and the faithful.” Enough said.

Evilometer: 444/666

SALE FREUX – SUBTERRANEUS (Selbstmord Kommando Produktionen)

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Subterraneus’ is one of the most impressive underground Black Metal albums I’ve heard in years. I’ve been hard-pressed for cash recently – you may have read how Ireland has been society-raped by errant bankers, greedy property developers and corrupt politicians? – so I decided to start buying some cassettes. As you do. The benefits of purchasing albums on tape are twofold: they are cheaper; and it opens up more windows of opportunity in terms of discovering what lies in the true depth of the underground. That’s where I found Sale Freux and ‘Subterraneus’ – an album so genuinely steeped in underground magnificence that it makes me almost glad to be broke. Everything about this cassette is fantastic.

Sale Freux is a one-man entity, from France, the lone creator being Dunkel, who eschews all things modern in favour of a lo-fi, fuzzy sound that seems to have been recorded in some dark nocturnal woodlands with ravens flying overhead (and joining in every now and again). The songs vary in length from two-minute opener ‘Rampant Dans Les Marais Amers…’ to the epic twelve-minute final track ‘Rats Des Champs (Rural Black Metal)’, with a noticeable predilection for longer tunes as the album progresses. (There are only three songs on Side B and they clock in at over 30 minutes between them.)

However, regardless of whether he’s spewing out a standard-length track or weaving a more-epic one, Dunkel is a master of pace and atmosphere, composing and executing all his work magnificently. We are served an abundance of acoustic and ambient interludes, which bolster the overall package, complementing the fiercer passages perfectly. The production is no more than adequate, which adds greatly to the appeal; this most certainly is not Dimmu Borgir or Satyricon! I could easily imagine ‘Subterraneus’ being recorded in Norway in 1992 and, to be honest, it’s probably as good as anything that was. I’m not sure if there’s a CD version of this in the pipeline, but it’s so good it seems unlikely to disappear into obscurity. Then again, stranger things have happened in this upside-down world.

In short, this is one of the best ‘new’ Black Metal albums you’re likely to clap your ears upon these days. It’s not easy to put my finger on exactly why it’s so great … I think it’s largely due to the authentic manner in which the album as a whole personifies the true essence of UGBM. From start to finish, it’s an exhilarating, breath-taking ride. It’s got that same raw and endearing vibe as early Leviathan, Striborg, Ildjarn, Burzum or Sacrificia Mortuorum but doesn’t sound quite like any of these. In most regards, ‘Subterraneus’ exists in a league of its own.

There are only 100 copies of this. I strongly recommend you to hunt it down.

Evilometer: 666/666

HRIZG – ANTHEMS TO DECREPITUDE (Moribund Records)

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Here’s one that’ll take you back in time. ‘Anthems To Decrepitude’ reminds me of the days when Black Metal was just a glint in Euronymous’ eye. When I listen to it, I can almost detect a faint scent of charred timber in the air, can nearly warm my frozen bones in the glow of embers as civilization and conformity are razed to the ground; it could easily have been recorded in Scandinavia a score of years past. But it actually hails from Spain, the eponymous Hrizg being a self-proclaimed orc who is indebted for his sound to the forbearers of our beloved scene.

There’s nothing modern or avant-garde about these tracks. The music is about as progressive as a caveman’s club, thankfully. Essentially, what we have is a straightforward Black Metal CD, executed and presented the way it should be, with no airs and graces, no pretentiousness and no gimmicks. ‘Anthems… ’ is mid-paced for the most part, with just the right mix of blackness and atmosphere (kind of like old Graveland) to hook even the most cynical listener. The sense of forlorn majesty at work on songs like ‘Ab Aeterno’ and ‘Opposite To Light’ is worth the price of admission alone.

In keeping with its adherence to celebrating times of yore, the album does threaten to unravel at times, with the production barely holding it together, but this is not a problem, merely adding to the charm. I’m amazed to note that Hrizg recorded his second full-length three years ago – it’s been lying in the vault until now. But it’s a worthy addition to the Moribund canon that won’t bring you anywhere new, instead ushering you along familiar territory, where some of BM’s greats walked before.

Impossible to go wrong with this one.

Evilometer: 444/666

THOTH – ZAMGLENIE (Lower Silesian Stronghold)

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

We all know (and love?) Graveland, but Thoth – a depressive Black Metal triumvirate including one Rob Darken amongst its ranks – remains relatively unknown. The debut full-length ‘From The Abyss Of Dungeons Of Darkness’ was superb and this follow-up is equally captivating. Personally, I fell out of love with Darken’s main vehicle as he pursued increasingly more epic, bombastic terrain; but I am a sucker for Graveland’s earlier work, all of which I own on vinyl and treasure deeply.

Zamglenie’ contains the same kind of innocence. It’s carefree, naïve, infectious black art imbued with a passion and honesty that’s hard to come by these days. Granted, it’s repetitive and I daresay it’s pretty simplistic, too … but damn if these songs aren’t as effective as a Nemanja Vidić tackle on the edge of the box. No frills, no nonsense, no standing on ceremony; just 35 minutes of unapologetic darkly-atmospheric Black Metal that resides somewhere between classic Infernum, Leviathan and ‘The Eerie Cold’-era Shining.

The vocals on this release are extraordinary: pained, rasped howls and shrieks, laced with agony and spewed forth from a world wracked with pain. There’s little or no variation – just a barrage of pained gasps that resonate with authenticity. Varying shades of black, if you like. Isn’t this how BM ‘singing’ was meant to be before a sickening proliferation of clean vocals and choirs hijacked the subgenre, threatening to ruin it? Unsettling and discomforting, the bombardment of rasps on ‘Zanglenie’ comes as a right breath of dank air. And it’s most welcome.

If you’re looking for something palatable, accessible and easily digested, I suggest you take your search elsewhere. Thoth’s Black Metal is not for the faint of heart. These guys – who double up in bands like Selbstmord, Ohtar, Dark Fury, and (of course) Veles and Lord Wind – play the game by their own rules, making no concessions and adhering strictly to an ummistakably traditional black template. As suggested earlier, the album does tend to cover the same ground throughout its duration but monotony is never a danger when the music – and, more importantly, the mood – is this impressive.

Evilometer: 555/666

BLOOD OF KINGU – SUN IN THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION LP (Back On Black)

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Ambient apéritif ‘Herald Of The Aeon Of Darkness’ ushers the album in with nary a sign of the chaos to follow; ‘Those That Wander Amidst The Stars’ and ‘Cyclopean Temples Of The Old Ones’ are pummelling exercises in harsh, face-splitting Black Metal designed to blow your head off with an avalanche of power, pace and all-out violence. I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I don’t remember Blood of Kingu’s stellar debut full-length ‘De Occulta Philosophia’ being quite this intense.

The second and third cuts on this LP are stunningly potent, proving the Hate Forest offshoot to be masterful exponents of both ferocity and atmosphere. The final tune on Side A, the ten-minute epic ‘Incantation Of He Who Sleeps’ maintains the very high standards, arriving with a more mid-paced attack, showcasing some superb growling, rasping Death Metal style vocals, all coming through crystal clear thanks to the excellent production. Otherworldly squeals and hollers in the background help create a thick texture, adding extra layers, culminating in a balanced and rounded finished product.

There’s not  a lot of let-up this record, which remains predominantly aggressive, but when BOK do feel fit to take their hooves off the gas – such as in the closing seconds of Track #4 – the ambient interludes add vastly to the overall canvas, not unlike a BM version of Nile perhaps. ‘Guardians Of Gateways To Outer Void’ is like a faster, more chaotic version of Clandestine Blaze, leaving dust and debris in its wake akin to the random violence of acts like Brutal Truth in days of yore. It’s that extreme.

The band’s trademark shamanic leanings are plastered all over the crushing ‘Ceremonies To Awake Thy Ageless Hate’ and tribal percussion-led instrumental ‘Morbid Black Dreams Bringing Madness’ before an exceptional rendition of the Beherit song ‘The Gate Of Nanna’ – delivered in inimitable Blood Of Kingu style – rounds the journey off on a glorious high. This is a fantastic record and the awesome artwork – magnified in 12×12 format – renders the gatefold LP version utterly essential.

Evilometer: 666/666

BLUT AUS NORD – 777 – SECT(S) (Debemur Morti Productions)

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

When one of your favourite bands of all time hooks up with your favourite label, it’s time to start pinching yourself. Yet this is exactly what transpired last year when DMP and BAN joined forces, culminating provisionally in the intriguing vinyl-only ‘What Once Was … Liber I’ EP and followed now with the monstrous eighth full-length album, ‘777 – Sect(s)’.

Apparently, this is the opening shot in a trilogy of new Blut Aus Nord offerings. I must concede I’m not too bothered by such notions – concept, trilogy, sidestep, blah blah blah, who cares? All that matters is the music and it must be said that this one compares more than favourably with anything else from Vindsval’s impressive canon of work.

First off, the presentation is excellent – nothing less than we’ve come to expect from this French label. Secondly, the production on this release is spot-on, allowing every discordant note and chord to glide effortlessly through the speakers, resulting in an organic, live feel that so much of today’s Black Metal lacks. Not normally the kind of thing I comment on but, hell, kudos to the producer because ‘777 – Sect(s)’ sounds sublime.

The music itself is prime, unmistakable Blut Aus Nord. As soon as you hear it, you know straight away who it is. Nobody else sounds anything like this – how many BM acts can we genuinely say that about? As corrosive and chaotic as we’ve come to expect from these masters of urban malediction, ‘777 – Sect(s)’ is replete with the familiar sounds of alienation associated with BM’s most trailblazing entity.

But there’s a perfect balance at play. The non-aggressive parts are more pronounced than hitherto, resulting in a magical listen that offers harshness and disturbing, haunting eeriness in equal measure. All the songs are superb but a special mention for the ultra-majestic ‘Epitome 04’ – possibly the greatest Blut Aus Nord song yet. I’m almost ashamed to admit it but I had forgotten just how fantastic this band was. ‘777 – Sect(s)’ showcases an astonishing Black Metal act at the absolute zenith of its powers, churning out the type of unique, inimitable and downright incredible music that makes life worth living. Essential in every respect.

Evilometer: 666/666

SIGNUM: KARG – CHORE AUS DEM SCHLUND DER ZEIT (Fog Of The Apocalypse)

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Chöre Aus Dem Schlund Der Zeit’ is a decent debut album from German entity Signum: Karg. Comprising four tracks of straightforward Black Metal with no frills, it’s one of those releases that brings you back to the early days of the subgenre with corrupt music that chronicles the disintegration of the human race. It’s harsh and gritty and it’s also fairly conservative. In other words, there’s nothing groundbreaking taking place here. So depending on your perspective, you’ll either love this or hate it.

The problem with trying to market a band like Signum: Karg is that there are countless other acts out there these days doing the same thing. Does this mean they are mundane and irrelevant? Not necessarily. ‘Chöre Aus Dem Schlund Der Zeit’ constitutes a worthwhile release in its own right and will appeal to BM fanatics who just can’t get enough misanthropy into their 24/7 routine.

The music is accessible and well-produced. The more I listen to this, the less inclined I am to dismiss it. Opener ‘Orkanes Stille’ grew on me like an ivy rash and the mostly high tempo, twelve-minute epic ‘Gräbermoor’ is a tune that would put many seasoned bands to shame. It thrashes about like intoxicated eels at an Ann Summers party, ripping through the speakers, bludgeoning all within reach and leaving the listener breathless. But Signum: Karg incorporate some mood and tempo changes into their work too, the variety adding to the re-visit value. ‘Steinerne Erhabenheit’ and ‘Flammenhymne’ are equally impressive workouts, the first-mentioned the best song on the album, reminding me somewhat of the (al)mighty Obtained Enslavement.

All in all, this is a pretty easy review to write. Signum: Karg are doing nothing new but they are covering familiar ground in a competent and credible – if unspectacular – manner. Not an essential release by any means so ultimately it comes down to how much you love BM. The question you must ask yourself is this: have you room in your life for another quality German Black Metal band. I can’t make that decision for you…

Evilometer: 444/666