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Archive for May, 2011

AH CILIZ – REAWAKENING ANCIENT SORROW

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Ah Ciliz piqued my attention for two reasons: a) it involves W. from the rather excellent Grimlair as a session musician on the first two tracks and b) it emerges on one of the most exciting underground Black Metal labels operating anywhere in the universe right now – Selbstmord Kommando Produktionen. From the get-go, this album – which comes in a DVD case and is limited to just one hundred very affordable units – had the potential to be something quite special; I’m glad to say ‘Reawakening Ancient Sorrow’ hasn’t disappointed.

After ambient four-minute opener ‘1533, The Fall of Tawantinsuyo’ disperses, ‘Oceans From My Veins’ pours through the speakers, awash with pain and melancholy, eight minutes of depressive, deeply anguished BM, executed in the lo-fi minimal style of early Hypothermia, flooding the senses, crushing the spirit with its sombre, morose intent, suffocating the listener in a blanket of inconsolable despair. The electrics are turned way down and what we are left with is almost acoustic, but not quite. The vocals are piercing, haunting, coruscating. Doom and gloom all the way, my friends.

Comatose’ is beautiful, atmospheric yet crushing, reminding me of a more subdued Drowning The Light perhaps, while ‘Fragil Serviente’ is as delicate, submissive and vulnerable as the title suggests, coming across like a Black Metal version of Cult of Luna. Fans of everything from Woods Of Desolation to Sigur Ros should find something here to enjoy. The dynamic in play right across the hour’s duration of this album (including two bonus tracks) is a joy to behold, the timing is perfect, the mood capturing a perfect balance between utter dejection and supreme rapture – two emotions that are of course parallel, separated by the thin lines of sanity and nothing else.

The fifth track, ‘Creators Of Time (Mayan Resurrection)’ could possibly be the highlight of a stellar collection, fluctuating between highs and lows, covering many moods, working on the subconscious mind in a manner that most music can’t come close to. But there’s no let-up: ‘Ancient Mayan Sorcery’ is both hypnotic and aggressive, surprisingly violent in light of its passive opening, exploding like a torrent of rage, demonstrating that this hitherto unheralded American is a gifted individual blessing the underground with his presence.

Suffice to say, ‘Reawakening Ancient Sorrow’ is all killer, no filler (even though the bonus tracks are rougher and rawer than their predecessors, lending them a more spectral aura). There are many peaks to be experienced on this CD, but no troughs. If you want some depressive, ambient Black Metal that is more likely to blow your socks off than turn you gay, then this is one you need to hear.

Evilometer: 555/666

CRIPTA OCULTA – RIOS QUE CORRERAM… RIOS QUE SECARUM (A.M.F.)

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I’m really (pleasantly) surprised that Cripta Oculta’s third full-length is only available on tape. On the strength of ‘Sangue do Novo Amanhecer’ and ‘Ecos dos Dólmens Esquecidos’, I assumed the Portuguese nationalistic black-folk parasites would be in big demand. Perhaps they are; maybe they are deliberately keeping it underground. If so, that’s quite cool and commendable. Either way, this is a mandatory acquisition and one that certainly won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

You see, A.M.F. label chief Alex doesn’t accept cash for any of his releases. Instead, he deals in trades only. The good old-fashioned barter is hard to beat in these times of economic woe (not that I ever liked spending money to begin with). So I tapped Alex up for five tapes and they duly arrived from Bulgaria in tip-top shape. ‘Rios Que Correram… Rios Que Secaram’ is arguably the pick of them – an exceptional slab of Lusitanian pride, spread out over 41 enchanting minutes. It’s truly excellent stuff.

After the brief and enjoyable intro, we essentially have four superb ten-minute anthems. ‘Acendam Se… Oh Chamas Da Serpente’ sets the scene with some fierce aggression tempered by subtle instrumentation, a true demonstration of Cripta Oculta’s esoteric leanings. The music is proud, pagan-y BM, with a very ropey production, offering a rawness to proceedings and ensuring a genuine underground vibe.

Ferro Forjado Com Sangue’ is about blood, I’m sure, and it’s bloody brilliant – hypnotic, repetitive, ambitious, adventurous, amalgamating raw Black Metal with nature’s mysticism in a manner that reminds me of the glory days of Slavonic BM. An atmosphere of grandeur and pride pervades every note and it’s clear that Cripta Oculta respect the sacrifices of their ancestors and are up for the battle themselves if the call to arms should be issued forth.

There is so much atmosphere, passion and emotion in ‘Um Julgamento De Fogo’ that it will bring tears to your eyes and a smile to your lips. And the title track itself is nothing short of magnificent, a slow-to-mid-paced voyage into the very vein of aggressive Folk Black Metal’s essence. Granted, it can sound a little bit corny at times but in this instance I don’t care. I just love this release.

Evilometer: 555/666

INTHYFLESH – CLAUSTROPHOBIA (Nykta)

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Two minutes into exquisite opener ‘Da Nossa Carne’, I suspected that ‘Claustrophobia’ – the third full-length from Portuguese duo InThyFlesh – was going to be very special indeed. Some 54 minutes later, my hunch was confirmed to be correct: this is a spectacular slab of supreme Black Metal that succeeds on so many levels that I barely know where to start.

While the previous album ‘Lechery Maledictions And Grieving Adjures To The Concerns Of Flesh’ was decent, I was not prepared for the perfection of this release. The strength of ‘Claustrophobia’ lies in the simplest of factors; InThyFlesh have essentially done all the basic things right and the result is mind-blowingly brilliant.

All the instruments are (de)tuned to perfection, the performances are commendable; the compositions ideal; the production clear and crisp. This all results in nine stunning BM anthems imbued with emotion, pathos and more feeling than a colony of torture chambers. The second track ‘Abismo Interior’ soars through the speakers with intent, a sumptuous pure Black Metal masterpiece, with plaintiff guitars and desperate vocals, the screeches picking at the flesh, the music itself tattooing itself upon the exposed subconscious.

Devaneios De Rejeição’ is even better, an evocation of ancient hurt escorting us on a transcendental journey to the darkest of places / times. Harrowing and majestic, this is Black Metal the way it was imagined by the scene’s forefathers, delivered with a style, panache and verve that would put modern-day Darkthrone to shame. Though the content is overwhelmingly negative, the album succeeds in making a wholly positive impression. It’s that good.

I’ve listened to ‘Claustrophobia’ ten or twelve times already and it doesn’t lose any of its appeal with repeated listening. The ten-minute ‘Hasteado Ao Infortúnio’ remains compulsory, addictive and essential, meandering with tempo and mood changes, fluctuating through realms of hate and disgust, tormented vocals to the fore, ripping at the soul, the traditional BM music tempered by ambient parts acting as a perfect companion. This is the most ambitious song on the album and it works magnificently.

Other songs worth a particular mention are the epic, anthemic lament ‘Perdição No Vício d’Austeridade – definitely the strongest track on the album – and the stunningly sorrowful ‘Alvoroço De Antecipação’, both of which would be worthy of their place of any landmark Black Metal album. All in all, ‘Claustrophobia’ delivers some of the most incredible, raw, emotional BM you’re going to hear this – or any other – year. Utterly mandatory.

Evilometer: 666/666

PESTE NOIRE – L’ORDURE A L’ETAT PUR (La Mesnie Herlequin)

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

The good thing about French weirdos Peste Noire is that you never know what to expect from them. This is because they are certifiably insane. The bad thing about Peste Noire is their new album, ‘L’Ordure à l’état Pur’, which stole away an hour of my life that I’ll never be able to recover. To be frank, this is rubbish.

Most of Peste Noire’s previous releases are reasonably good; some of them are superb – including their previous (2009) full-length, ‘Ballade Cuntre Lo Anemi Francor’. So I was quite taken aback by how pathetic their new offering is. The band has migrated onto what I assume to be their own label and this has given them the freedom of Gay Paris to do whatever they want. Unfortunately, it appears that they want to be arseholes.

The music on here is so unapologetically French that it makes my blood boil. It’s like some sort of elaborate joke. Personally, I don’t think Black Metal is a medium that should be used to channel either jokes or light-hearted, pomposity such as the drivel to be heard hereon. If you can imagine Finntroll without the trolls, but instead with croissants and frogs legs and traditional French costumes and cheese – so much fucking cheese – then you have an idea of the sort of atrocities being committed in the name of nationalistic Black Metal on this heinous release.

To call this Black Metal is a step too far; ‘L’Ordure à l’état Pur’ is so ludicrous it doesn’t deserve a pigeonhole of any kind. I would advise you not to even consider buying this unless you are a) French b) writing a thesis on crap music or c) retarded.

Evilometer: 111/666

DØDSENGEL – DØDSENGEL EP (Terratur Possessions / Ván Records / Barghest)

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

The music on this release is superb but the value for money quotient is minimal. As Dødsengel is arguably the most essential Black Metal band in the universe right now, there was never any doubting how good these songs would be. They are – true to form – absolutely superb. But, seriously, what is the point of mini-albums?

I’ve never quite been able to get my head around the concept of releasing MCDs and MLPs – this is available in both formats – and the only conclusion I can draw is that they are a quick cash-grab. There has to be an economic reason behind these decisions. In fairness, at 28+ minutes, ‘Dødsengel’ is far from the worst offender. But it’s still only half an album and it’s not half price.

I assume that most people, like me, can’t nip into their nearest corner store and buy Black Metal CDs or records. Therefore, we are restricted to purchasing via mail order. Thus, mini-albums are prohibitively expensive – you still pay the same postage and packaging charge as for a full-length and the actual selling price is only a couple of Euro less, so overall we’re talking about a bad return on the listener’s investment. In these global recessionary times, this is unacceptable.

The music on ‘Dødsengel’ is magnificent and easily surpasses most other current releases in terms of quality if not quantity. Comparable to the stellar material on the band’s exceptional sophomore LP ‘Mirium Occultum’, these four songs are harsh, menacing, disturbing, eerie, epic and altogether inebriating examples of prime BM excellence, but I really think fans deserve to be presented with a full album’s worth of material rather than a succession of EPs. This is the band’s fourth EP in a year and I’ve purchased them all but it’s a fucking expensive hobby. The guts of twenty quid for four songs? Seriously, give me a break!

Great and all as Dødsengel is, the novelty factor of collecting a flurry of expensive underground releases soon wears off. I think they should stop messing around and release proper albums – a format that  would do justice to the Norwegians’ brilliance.

[Unfortunately, the absolute maximum rating I can give this is 333. Mini-albums are a joke and labels (there are three involved here for some reason) should stop releasing them.]

Evilometer: 333/666

HATE FOREST – TEMPLE FOREST LP (Funeral Industries)

Monday, May 16th, 2011

This one is a bit of an abomination, to be blunt. ‘Temple Forest‘ is the vinyl version of the Ukrainians’ 2007 demo and the track-listing has been elongated by the addition of one bonus tune – a demo version of the wonderful ‘With Fire And Iron‘ – but it’s all a waste of time otherwise. While ‘With Fire And Iron‘ provides a welcome reminder of just how magnificent Hate Forest were, it’s more than a tad frustrating when there’s no actual Black Metal in evidence ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE RECORD.

Bonus track aside, this is just a collection of ambient pieces played on a keyboard. While these may work fine as intros or outros on a proper Black Metal album – or serve as superb interludes – they are wholly redundant without the Black Metal serving as a counterpart or accompaniment. Which leads me to wonder ‘what is the point in this release?’ I’ve always been a big fan of Hate Forest but I’ve learned a harsh lesson here: never buy anything from a band that’s ceased to exist.

With Fire And Iron‘ is utterly stupendous, but the remaining 88.5% or so of ‘Temple Forest‘ is a complete waste of time and money. Eight intros and one genuinely stunning underground Black Metal composition does not make for good value in my book. This kind of wishy-washy ambience might be alright for listening along to if I was sitting in a window in Amsterdam with a bong in my mouth … but alas I’m not.

Evilometer: 111/666

FUNERARY BELL – THE COVEN (Undercover Records)

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Funerary Bell tick all the boxes. The Finns have an air of mystique about them, with members operating under monikers like Templar of the Seven Suns, Invoker of the Shadows and Caller of the Sepulchral Doom and the liner notes revealing that their debut full-length was recorded ‘somewhere in Finland during April 2010’. Sparing with the information then, in true Black Metal tradition… They also perform their songs in English, but their grasp of the language leaves something to the imagination. For some benign reason, I always find poor English to be a real plus point in underground BM.

My previous exposure to the band came via their split LP with Blood Red Fog, a record that contained interesting tracks from both hordes, so I approached this one with more than a hint of excited anticipation. I am not disappointed by the result: ‘The Coven’ is an adequate slab of grim Black Metal that stays true to the traditions of the subgenre but also ventures – albeit only fleetingly – into obscure, occult realms. I suppose the lack of genuinely esoteric parts was a slight let-down, but in general these 40 minutes constitute a superb debut full-length.

Third track ‘Cainian Confessions II’ was the first to really grab my attention, introducing a menacing creepiness to proceedings, veering between slow-to-mid-pace crawl and more punk-infused speedy parts – a good showcase of Funerary Bell in full flow. The abrupt end makes way for the rather mysterious ‘Circle Within Circle’, which begins calmly, like a sombre deathmarch, and evolves into a simple death / thrash amalgam. Clearly, the Finns are not going to break any speed records with their delivery. For the most part, the songs are slower than the village idiot, but the restraint is to be admired rather than admonished. A song like ‘Conjuration Of Thy Majesty’ simply wouldn’t work at any other tempo.

The music is simple throughout and the vocals are quite basic too, fluctuating between a croak and a DM growl rather than a BM rasp, so ‘The Coven’ shouldn’t really work. But the overall result is a sum total that’s greater than the individual parts; the area where Funerary Bell really succeed is that they don’t try to be something they’re not. In the end, their debut is unspectacular and far from groundbreaking. It’ll probably be quickly forgotten. But it’s still a creditable and worthy piece of slow-paced Black Metal that’s deserving of respect, recognition and acclaim.

Evilometer: 444/666

PRIMORDIAL – REDEMPTION AT THE PURITAN’S HAND (Metal Blade)

Monday, May 9th, 2011

True to form, the sixth full-length from Irish folk / pagan metal band Primordial is also their worst. Indeed, for the purposes of this website, it’s utterly redundant as this isn’t a Black Metal album. ‘Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand’ is so laboured, so irrelevant, so boring and so pompous that it’s hard to believe this is the same entity that released the magnificent ‘Imrama’, ‘A Journey’s End’ and ‘Spirit The Earth Aflame’ triumvirate during a golden five-year spell towards the end of the millennium.

Since then, Primordial have moved further and further away from their blackened roots and, frankly, they are no longer worthy of being called a Black Metal band (not that they probably wish to be, either, in all fairness. In fact, judging by the big sound they have developed on recent releases, rippling with majestic grandeur, I’m sure they have ‘moved on’).

Problem is, for someone who loves the rawness, murk and energy of Black Metal but cannot abide epic, emotive heavy / pagan metal tunes with fist-pumping melodies and chest-swelling, soaring vocals, Primordial have morphed into a parody of their former selves. Granted, there is a maturity about the lyrics and a sense of pathos (albeit an irritating one)  seeping through the eight tracks, but so what? Primordial are as relevant to blackmetalreviews.com as Radiohead or Dropkick Murphys or Clannad. Given the style of music they’re producing nowadays, the fact that I can’t stand ‘Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand’ seems almost beside the point.

How ironic that as they continue to celebrate the glorious past of their celtic ancestors and fellow countrymen, Primordial have moved so far away from their own stellar roots. The groundswell of approval and acclaim that accompanies each new Primordial release mystifies me; I suppose it’s the reward for stepping closer to the metal mainstream (I mean, Metal Blade?). Give this a miss and check out the rather excellent Srodek album ‘Förfall’ or anything by Fell Voices instead.

Evilometer: 000/666

FUNEREAL MOON – EVIL NIGHT OF HERESY (Guttural Records)

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Not too many Black Metal acts (d)evolve to the same extent as Mexico city fraternity Funereal Moon, who have moved metaphorical miles away from their patented ambient sound of classic albums like ‘Beneath The Cursed Light Of A Spectral Moon’ and ‘Satan’s Beauty Obscenity’ towards something altogether rawer, grimmer and more bare-knuckle. Last year’s ‘Rites Of Black Putrefaction’ offered the first indication of the change that was to come and on this, their sixth full-length (not to mention a slew of compilations and splits), Darvula and Impure Ehiyeh complete the metamorphosis into a stripped-down, balls-to-the-wall Black Metal band.

Equal parts early Black Metal and old school Death Metal, ‘Evil Night Of Heresy’ almost completely eschews the ambient tones that were once Funereal Moon’s signature, concentrating instead on the new trademark lo-fi, rumbling, somewhat punkish blackness that symbolises Funereal Moon Mark II.

Opener ‘Misa Negra’ is a short intro embellished with the sounds of Hellish torment and agonised torture leaving little to the imagination. With tracks like ‘Unholy Goat Of The Necro Abyss’ and ‘Exhume The Corpse Of Their Fake Savior’ blasted out in less than three minutes each, we’re in Von and/or Funeral Goat territory. ‘Excremento De Demonios’ serenades Satan himself and ‘Make Them Die Slowly’ owes more to Abscess than it does to anything European. Indeed, it’s important not to understate the DM influence on this album; it’s so prevalent that I’d go so far as to suggest that Funereal Moon is now a Death Metal band…

Overall, the sound on here is of dirty, filthy Black / Death Metal, spewed forth without a care in the world. Subtle as a brick and pummelling along like Necromessiah on speed, Funereal Moon have found a niche for themselves producing crusty, ugly black noise that could have been recorded in a basement on a four-track using the cheapest, most primitive and undependable instruments (and probably was). The guitar solo that breaks up ‘Black Noise Apokalypse’, for example, is about as sophisticated as a wart but its lack of pretentiousness makes it all the more alluring. Outro ‘After The Ceremony’ is the audio equilavent of collapsing sanity, but it lasts for just a minute. Far be it from FM to labour the point!

Listening to the album as a whole, I at first wondered was it a collection of old demo tracks excavated from the vaults but, no, turns out this is a brand-new work, recorded in 2010. Credit, therefore, to the artists for accomplishing an incredible retro vibe. Truth to tell, ‘Evil Night Of Heresy’ probably contains some of the most simplistic, no-frills Black Metal to be released thus far in 2011 but its lack of complication and endearing sense of honest endeavour sets it apart from the pack. Thoroughly enjoyable stuff from a band that rarely disappoints and has found its stride on this decidedly chaotic, unsubtle CD.

Evilometer: 555/666

INTROVERSION – MUDE (Selbstmord Kommando Produktionen)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Müde’ contains three lengthy depressive Black Metal lamentations (averaging around ten minutes) and a calming, melodic three-minute closer, ‘Lacrimae Desperationis’. I know a lot of people don’t care much for depressive BM (and I can appreciate why) but I have a soft spot for it and I really like this cassette. All in all, it’s pretty standard fare – on a par with what you’d get from a Self Mutilation Services release, for example – but very well composed, arranged and delivered. The production is excellent, too, so the tape has a professional CD sound to it (assuming you own a decent stereo). The label has loaded the music onto a nice red tape and wrapped it all up in a tasty lay-out, so no complaints in the quality control department.

The first song ‘Nirgends’ sets the tone and it’s clear straight away where exactly we’re going. Bands like All Of The Cold, Happy Days and Deep-pression spring immediately to mind, with perhaps a hint of Hypothermia and Trist. The singer sounds like he has decided to cut his throat with that shiny new razor blade, rather than his wrist, and the sense of suffering and anguish being emitted from the music is too stark to be fake. Of course, this subgenre of the subgenre always risks venturing into surreal, OTT terrain but generally Introversion manages to maintain an acceptably sincere and convincing face.

Zerbrechende Rosen’ is slower than its predecessor, more laboured, more tormented, coming across like a really sick version of early Anathema – sad, sorrowful and without hope but also raw and relevant. The wonderful ‘Impuls??’ boasts some nice piano parts that call to mind Shining, still with touches of early Anathema ran through a depressive blender. By the time the album / demo is finished, you should feel pacified (and satisfied that your money has been well spent).

In a nutshell, ‘Müde’ is an entertaining excursion into typical depressive Black Metal territory. It’s not offering anything particularly new, but the compositional skills and musicianship are top notch, making for an enjoyable release (in so far as this bleak style of music can ever be termed enjoyable). The songs – mostly mid- to slower-paced, melodic and atmospheric Black Metal – manage to sound calming and disturbing at the same time and there’s every reason to suspect that Introversion can build on this sonic delight and develop on future releases. I suppose at the end of the day, you either like depressive BM or you don’t. If you do appreciate it, then this is one of the most solid demos I’ve heard recently. If not, have a nice day.

Evilometer: 444/666