Saturday, July 22, 2017 04:36

Archive for September, 2011

AVE MARIA – CHAPTER I (Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions)

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

The band name is a real curveball, which in a twisted sort of way is ideal because Ave Maria certainly isn’t your conventional Black Metal act. Reference points are difficult to think of; they remind me a bit of Slagmaur, somewhat of Arcturus (but not much); a little like that French band fronted by Jack D Ripper (Morgul, I think); also maybe a restrained version of Dodheimsgard. Not the kind of album I’d normally purchase but, I have to admit, surprisingly enjoyable, all the same.

It comes in a nice digipack with lyrics etc. included so you can read just how messed up these guys are. The artwork is probably the most atypical BM you’ll see, with nary a trace of the usual darkness. Just weird: a cat on the back and a whatever on the front. All the songs are either mid-paced or slightly on the faster side of mid-paced and there’s not a great deal of variation to my ear (not that variation is necessarily a plus) – strange, psychedelic Black Metal with a fairly clean sound / production and an almost Death Metal feel to the vocals at times.

This is good but I have some reservations. Ultimately, I think the album falls a little short of delivering on the band’s undoubted potential. It starts off really impressively but never grows and in the end becomes tedious and – surprisingly – predictable. These Germans are oddballs, no doubt about it, but I believe their music could be much, much odd-er than this. A reasonable effort that could have mainstream appeal but along the way, it all becomes too safe for the underground fanatics.

Evilometer: 333/666

UNDOR / RIDE FOR REVENGE – Split LP (Bestial Burst)

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Bearing in mind the almost prohibitive limitation of this vinyl-only release, I think it’s safe to assume that the bands and label don’t really care whether you purchase it or not. Nor do I. But I’d recommend it strongly, all the same. This is great underground Back Metal. With a twist. The sort of release that a BM fanatic couldn’t possibly regret owning…

I wasn’t familiar with the German / Hungarian act Undor previously but I’ll be keeping an eye out for them in future (though rumour has it that they may have disbanded already). Their contribution is ‘Sanguis Sacer’, a lengthy, sprawling slab of mid-tempo blackness that crawls along and infects your mind like a germ. Dark and sort of depressive and of interminable length (I wasn’t going to clock it), it’s a superb offering that highlights Undor as one to watch. That was a true bonus because it was for the inimitable RFR that I purchased this record:

Ride For Revenge also spews out a big long fucker, their anthem a contorted, uncooperative, non-standard Black Metal tune, an epic distortion that has to be consumed as a whole, Upon first listen, I thought the drone and noise at the start – which goes on for quite some time – was completely unnecessary and nigh-on-ridiculous. However, when consumed as part of the whole, it works wonderfully well. Treated as one complicated piece, ‘Ridiculed by Ladies of the Moon’ is something very special indeed, drenched in reverb and bass-heavy in a way that RFR has mastered.

In terms of vocals, it’s that bizarre existing-on-the-outskirts-of-civilisation snarl, almost animalistic. Subhuman. A feral rasp that’s reminiscent of Blood of the Black Owl, only weirder. This is the kind of Black Metal you’d find in the gutter along with the corpses of whores and politicians; absolutely superb.

Evilometer: 666/666

ALTAR OF PLAGUES – MAMMAL 2LP (Back On Black)

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

It’s hard not to be tribal. As an Irishman, I always find myself looking out for good bands from my own country. Thus far, without much success, it must be said. Primordial were okay around the time of ‘Imrana’ and ‘A Journey’s End’ and even ‘Spirit The Earth Aflame’ but they are rubbish now; Mourning Beloveth have recorded some great doom but consistency is a problem for them; but I’m glad Altar of Plagues have come along.

White Tomb’ was immense and the new album ‘Mammal’ is equally extraordinary. It really comes into its own on this 2 X 180g white vinyl edition, with one lengthy song on each side and the whole thing housed within a beautiful gatefold cover. This is the sort of music that was made for record, in my opinion, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

I’ll admit that AOP do push the boundaries somewhat in terms of whether or not it’s Black Metal, but I’m willing to give them the much-coveted gerrobbo stamp of approval. It’s not your usual, run-of-the-mill BM by any means but it’s not dubious avant-garde, either. Reminds me of a blackened version of Isis, sort of. Excellently produced and wonderfully conceived, they shift between a range of moods and emotions, similar to L’Acephale.

The sound is huge and suffocating; drums rolling; vocals screaming and roaring, drowning guitars melodic mostly but also full of pathos and grief and anguish. The beautiful, overwhelming ‘Neptune Is Dead’ is very much the cream of the crop but ‘All Life Converges To Some Centre’ runs it close and ‘When The Sun Drowns In The Ocean’ is ancient and eerie and mysterious in a way that most bands can’t fathom yet alone realise. Despite my genuine misgivings about all things plastichead (who answered a recent correspondence from this website in a wholly flippant, dismissive and condescending manner), this is an excellent vinyl release.

Evilometer: 555/666

ARCHGOAT – THE LIGHT-DEVOURING DARKNESS PLP (Debemur Morti Productions)

Friday, September 16th, 2011

The kids of today. They want all their music piled onto a sleek hard drive, primed for mass consumption. They don’t want to buy CDs. Most of them probably don’t know what a record is. Little fuckers. The underground is under serious threat because of the genesis of the digital era. Music has been depersonalised, stripped of its soul, condensed into a worthless dot. All in the name of progress. I’m not sure what the solution is but I believe labels like Debemur Morti carry at least some form of antidote; quality vinyl means a lot.

Some of the greatest joy in my otherwise embarrassingly-sheltered and unspectacular existence has been derived from the purchase / theft of records. I grew up in a town on the border and used to hunt in both territories. If a record wasn’t nailed down I generally found a way to get it out of the shop. I remember once optimistically placing an order from a distro by mail. I had no money, so I put my order note in an envelope along with my address and tore the envelope so that it might look like the cash had been stolen. The records arrived. Result. Why am I admitting to this?

You see, I come from a time and place when records were like black magic. They still are to me. They can be to you, too… DMP have, on this release, lovingly recreated the second Archgoat full-length in a glorious picture disc format. Unlike most picture discs, this one includes a cover to house it in and the whole thing looks incredible. And the music is brilliant as well. So not only do you get to hear a fantastic album; you get to own something special.

Label guru Void just keeps producing the goods in the quality department and my sincere hope is that in the battle that’s raging for the hearts and minds of a spoiled and lost generation quality will eventually prevail over quantity. This is simply awesome.

Evilometer: 666/666

BATTLE DAGORATH – ANCIENT WRAITH (Cold Dimensions)

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

I was really intrigued when this Californian horde surfaced on Cold Dimensions, an essentially German Black Metal label in every sense. The partnership took me quite by surprise. Though I was familiar with Battle Dagorath’s debut album, ‘Eternal Throne’, here was a marriage I would never have seen coming. It’s a fantastic union, however, as BG fit in snugly alongside the other bands on the Cold Dimensions roster – most notably the incredible Lunar Aurora (who have a new album scheduled for release this winter, oh joy of joys).

After a suitably frozen intro, Battle Dagorath proceeds to emit an astonishingly grim chill through the twelve-minute ‘Empire Of Imperial Shadows’ – a perfect execution of cold, underground BM, with an atmosphere of solitude and icy shards and snowstorms so far removed from the band’s sunny origins. For the next hour and more, we are taken on a rapturous ride through some of the most arctic, ice-blasted, freezing Black Metal to emerge in 2011.

The vocals are as fucked-up as Striborg; the drums sounds like an axe smashing off the top of a frozen lake; the guitars akin to frosty hands being flayed on a sharp cheese cutter in a cave in Alaska. Listening along, you will genuinely feel a chill go down your spin; you’ll find yourself drawing back the curtains to see is it snowing outside.

Ambient Black Metal doesn’t get much better than this. It’s a thrilling album, let down only by the last track, which I think is more filler than thriller – essentially a 20-minute wall of noise. But don’t let that put you off. ‘Ancient Wraith’ is one of those hidden gems we need to find and treasure.

Evilometer: 555/666

BARGHEST – BARGHEST LP (Gilead Media)

Friday, September 9th, 2011

One of the first things I always wonder when I discover a new Black Metal band is where they come from. So, let’s get that one out of the way first: Barghest crawls out of Baton Rouge in the southern US state of Louisiana. A region I’d normally associate with sludge but there’s nothing remotely sludge-y about this self-titled debut album; to the contrary, it’s corrosive and grating and downright ugly. This is fantastic.

Listening along, bobbing my head and flexing my brain, I come to realise that this defies categorisation or pigeon-holing. It doesn’t sound particularly like USBM; it could just as easily be Swedish or German. But it sounds not European either. A very unique sound, then, and a very enjoyable one, too. The music is extremely violent and the vocals are as harsh as you will hear this side of Hell; yet it’s soothing to the soul. This is the sort of release that should restore your faith in Black Metal. The fact that it’s unleashed in glorious 12” format as opposed to a gaudy, cheap CD adds massively to the overall appeal.

We get six songs in total, broken up by a short instrumental at the end of Side A. There’s a lovely carefree vibe to the guitars, but every note is deliberate and concise. There’s a fair bit of speed and bedlam at play but it all holds together perfectly, like a monolith, untouchable and defiant. I wouldn’t say this is quite in the same league as Ash Borer or Fell Voices, but ‘Barghest’ is an exceptional slab of work nonetheless.

Evilometer: 555/666

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM – CELESTIAL LINEAGE (Southern Lord Recordings)

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Yet again they insist on including the dreaded female vocals. Indeed, less than a minute into the fourth WITTR album the horrendous warbling of the fairer sex begins and immediately I feel like throwing myself from a tall building. ‘Cept I’m not on one. I will never for the life of me understand why a band so close to perfection continually fucks their sound up with cheesy, sickening-sweet Evanescence-style rubbish like this. CaThis sounds more like The Gathering than Darkthrone. Call me sexist if you like, but sorry this style of female vocals has no place on Black Metal albums. Wait, don’t call me sexist; it’s a statement of fact. Clean vocals and gothic, female vocals ruin music.

I’ve endured it on successive Wolves In The Throne Room releases now, always believing it was a phase they were going through, a fad, an oversight, a blip …  something they would rectify as they matured and realised what proper Black Metal is. But now I give up. Consistently, this potentially-great band spoils its work with the ridiculous inclusion of totally-out-of-place, spoil-the-fuck-out-of-everything feminine vocals. And I don’t know why the girls are not listed as permanent members cos they’re always there, wrecking things, a constant shadow looming large.

So ‘Thuja Magus Imperium’ is a write-off, as is the fifth track ‘Woodland Cathedral’. ‘Permanent Changes in Consciousness’ and ‘Rainbow Illness’ are nice ambient interludes, which leaves just ‘Subterranean Initiation’, ‘Astral Blood’ and the closing epic ‘Prayer of Transformation’ as proper BM tunes that show how great WITTR could be. Just three good songs, hmmm…

In short, this album is a real disappointment. I always considered them to be a great BM band with some shortcomings; but the penny has dropped, alas. Wolves In the Throne Room are predominantly shite, with traces of genius amid the horrendous, unbearable operatic, children’s TV grandeur. No true Black Metal fan should touch this.

Evilometer: 111/666

INQUISITOR – THE QUANTUM THEORY OF ID (Forgotten Path)

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Avant-garde Black Metal? What is that anyway? I’m not sure. And I don’t want to know. The concept makes me feel ill and I’ve yet to encounter a so-called avant-garde Black Metal band that doesn’t sound like shite. It should just be called ‘not Black Metal’. If you want coffee, then don’t order fucking avant-garde coffee. No point looking at an avant-garde television; get a real one.  If you want Black Metal, then buy a Black Metal record. Nothing else will suffice. There’s no halfway house. How can there be?

In the case of Inquisitor, their form of non-BM sounds to me like technical Death Metal, with crazy piano parts and cerebral lyrics and a thrashing classic Death Metal sound. Definitely more like Gorgots or Cryptopsy than Mayhem or Burzum. I’m not sure why this isn’t marketed as Death. Maybe Black Metal is an attitude, not a sound. Perhaps the moon is really a chunk of cheese hanging from the rooftop of my leafy suburban home. Who knows?

As Death Metal goes, this is pretty okay-ish, I suppose. Not great but good. I had predispositioned myself to despise this once I saw that word but I’ve heard worse, in fairness. It’s competently played and well written and quite ambitious in scope. A lot of people will like this, I’m sure. Especially fans of bands like Behemoth and Vader. In a nutshell, it’s an adequate slab of Lithuanian black death without the black.

Evilometer: 222/666

VARGANOCTE – ALS DIE NACHT ANBRACH (Thor’s Hammer Productions)

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Here’s one for the underground Black Metal maniacs out there! This cassette was unleashed earlier this year and it looks and sounds superb. Everything about it reeks of nastiness. And class. This is how BM should be. When I chance upon a release like this, it reminds me how stagnant the scene has become in parts. Nice Xerox-style cover; black-and-white; pro-tape; great music – what more could you want?

German demon Isegrimh of Pest Wolf is the sole entity behind ‘Als Die Nacht Anbrach’ and his sound is totally entrenched in the underground. Cold, atmospheric, evil Black Metal is the order of the day and my only complaint is that the album is a little short at just under half an hour, the title track and ten-minute terror ‘Vom Dahinscheiden Einer Ruhelosen Seele’ being the only two cuts of substantial substance, demonstrating emphatically the kind of brilliance Varganocte can conjure.

That’s not to say I have a problem with the intro, outro or interlude cos everything on here hits the mark and it’s all part of a complete package, I understand that. For me, this is majestic, ancient, otherworldly Black Metal the way it was originally supposed to be.

Listening along, I can picture a horse-drawn carriage travelling along purposefully beneath a pale moonlight through some lost forest that straddles a deep black river, somewhere in eastern Europe perhaps, its cargo one of pure, undiluted evil, the wheels buckling from the absolute malevolence of the coffin-encased ‘soul’ contained within, time of the essence as the delivery must be made before sunrise, stillness all around as the consignment tears towards some creepy castle.

But I’m fucked up.

Evilometer: 555/666