Monday, November 20, 2017 09:40

Archive for October, 2011

ANKOU AWAITS – LEBOR GABALA ERENN (Black Metal Underground)

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Lebor Gabala Erenn’ proves that you don’t have to be a virtuoso musician to produce compelling music. In Black Metal, it’s all about capturing the right vibe. As long as you compose and execute an album that sounds dark and foreboding, then technical wizardry isn’t even an afterthought. Thomas – the lone soul performing on Ankou Awaits’ debut full-length – is probably an average musician at best (if I can say such a thing about a multi-instrumentalist!) but he knows how to use his talents to maximum effect and the result is a breath-taking piece of genuinely underground BM.

At times it sounds haphazard; there are moments along the way where I was waiting for the whole thing to simply fall apart at the seams; but ‘Lebor Gabala Erenn’ stays the distance and emerges triumphant, a fist in the face, a sword to the throat, a defiant accomplishment that has almost literally come from nowhere. No shiny production in sight, we instead get an organic-sounding album that resembles an underwater or cave-imprisoned Inquisition, swirling dissonance and devil-may-care nastiness seeping from the speakers.

I really like the sound. It’s evil and base and basic and perfect on so many levels. Black Metal was always supposed to belong to the minority and this is music that fits in with that kind of ethos. The poetic lyrics (courtesy of Jessica) enhance the product and the end result is ten tracks of underground, grim, thoughtful, raw, uncomplicated one-man Black Metal with nary a dribble of corpsepaint in sight.

Evilometer: 555/666

WOODS OF INFINITY – FORLAT (Obscure Abhorrence Productions)

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

If Woods of Infinity serves any meaningful purpose any more, then I am at a loss to identify it. Sometimes when you listen to a really bad album, you just have to ask yourself a very obvious question: what was the point of that? Which is how I’m feeling after exposing myself to ‘Förlåt’ – one of the most pointless, irrelevant and downright annoying things I’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing.

You know that joke band in The Muppet Show? It sounds like them – only worse. One of the centrepieces of the album, the cover of ‘Walking In The Air’ is excruciatingly nauseating (who needs such infantile sarcasm?) and the feeling of utter cringe-worthiness lingers throughout the rest of the CD. Terrible music, dreadful vocals and a total lack of focus or inspiration culminate in the worst release by far from a band that’s long since passed its Best Before date.

Really, there’s no point beating about the bush or pulling any punches: this is shockingly bad and Woods Of Infinity should be ashamed of themselves for churning out such a ridiculous release. This has absolutely nothing to do with proper Black Metal and is downright annoying in every conceivable manner.

I know some might suggest that I just don’t get Woods Of Infinity, that perhaps their juvenile sense of fun and gay abandon goes over my head and that the joke is ultimately on me but, honestly, why would anyone want to get nonsense like this?

Evilometer: 000/666

TAAKE – NOREGS VAAPEN (Dark Essence Records)

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

First off, let’s not concern ourselves too much with the guest appearances. Is it really that important in terms of the actual music? Nope. Suffice to say some of the early forebears of Black Metal have seen fit to pay homage to Taake (AKA Hoest) by contributing to the Norwegian’s fifth full-length, ‘Noregs Vaapen’, and the fact that these seminal individuals are prepared to make such a gesture speaks volumes for the niche that second-wave sensation Taake has carved for itself during a rather extraordinary 16-year career to date.

Taake religiously releases an album every three years and each full-length from its glowing canon is absolutely mandatory, the latest being no exception. Opener ‘Fra vadested til vaandesmed’ sets the tone – an excellent chunk of raw yet melodic BM majesty and ‘Orkan’ is even more melodic, cleaner, more accessible, but still contains a harsh and heavy edge, ripping and roaring, flipping and soaring. A great start to the album and there’s no let-up on the oftentimes mid-tempo ‘Nordbundet’, which transforms into a bouncing headbanger before disappearing from earshot, leaving a lasting impression.

There’s nothing grand, spectacular or flash about Taake (apart from perhaps the crazy and commendable banjo solo in ‘Myr’); he just does the simplest things very, very well and delivers solid, by-the-numbers Black Metal that’s impossible to ignore and even harder to dislike. The artwork, imagery and presentation are all as impressive as the music (which is flawlessly produced), culminating in an overall package that will take a lot of topping. Ten-minute closer ‘Dei vil alltid klaga og kyta’ is especially captivating in an almost-The-Ruins-Of-Beverast-style-doomy-BM way.

Residing somewhere between the underground and the Black Metal mainstream (now there’s a concept!), Taake is a law unto itself and one of the most intriguing Norwegian exports of the past two decades. I heartily recommend ‘Noregs Vaapen’ – and every other album released by Hoest and his ever-changing horde of accomplices.

Evilometer: 555/666

FUNERAL FORNICATION – PANDEMIC TRANSGRESSION (Hypnotic Dirge Records)

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

A very interesting CD, this one. Funeral Fornication is the vehicle of expression of a Canadian blackheart called Vultyrous, who’s been flying this banner since 2003. His art has diversified and changed considerably over the years and the current sound is ambient / depressive Black Metal, with an epic feel and a forlorn sense of grandeur. Sometimes it gets a little too pompous but by and large this is a worthwhile listen.

I like the tortured, distorted vocals (when in use), which fit in perfectly with the sometimes carnival-esque atmosphere to create a genuine sense of menace. A nice variety of instruments is brought to the table and all are performed competently, indeed with flair, as FF trawls through a gamut of emotions and manages to conjure a slab of ambient Black Metal that’s mostly neither tedious nor bland.

Regular readers of this website will know that my preference is for grim, raw BM. This certainly isn’t that. And there are some very dodgy clean vocals to be found along the way (for which I’ve deducted points, of course) but all in all it’s a good enough effort. While ‘Pandemic Transgression’ is by no means the best album you’re going to hear this year, I can imagine a lot of people really appreciating the soundscapes located on what is – with all due credit – an ambitious and fairly accomplished piece of work, even if not quite my preferred cup of sorrow.

Evilometer: 333/666

NUMINOUS – NUMINOUS LP (Northern Heritage)

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Signed to Northern Heritage, the true home of underground Finnish Black Metal, Numinous is one of those mysterious, faceless, nameless (personnel-wise) entities that make this subgenre a joy to behold. The members remain anonymous and it’s hardly a publicity stunt as only an idiot could accuse such an unknown band of seeking attention. All of this adds greatly to the mystique and aura of occultism surrounding Numinous … and the music ain’t half bad either!

Words I would use to describe Numinous are dark, evil, obscure, swirling, dissonant, menacing, nasty, evil, suffocating – I’m sure you get the picture. Even though it’s a fairly short album, ‘Numinous’ is nonetheless wholesome and fulfilling, packed with black pleasure and seeming to last way longer than it’s officially-listed 31 minutes.

This probably falls somewhere into the orthodox BM category, coming across like a more underground version of Deathspell Omega, although better in lots of ways. It’s hard to beat something that’s genuinely obscure and the fact that it’s available on record adds to the appeal greatly (Having said that, if you don’t have a vinyl player, I would still recommend buying this on CD).

I tried reading the lyrics while listening but couldn’t quite follow. It’s one of those. Reminds me of when I first started to listen to Death Metal and Black Metal, when extreme music was genuinely oblique and inaccessible. All these years later, there’s still no greater thrill than discovering an underground gem, one that is all substance and no hype. Great stuff in every way, this one.

Evilometer: 555/666

ABRUPTUM – POTESTATES APOCALYPSIS (Blooddawn Productions)

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Abruptum’s place in Black Metal folklore is forever immortalised by the fact that they were once signed to Euronymous’ Deathlike Silence Productions. And the late Mayhem guitarist described their music as “the audial essence of pure black evil”. A shining endorsement if ever there was one, but I must say I have my doubts as the hype surrounding this one-man entity (fronted by Marduk six-stringer Evil) by far outweighs the substance.

The problem is that the essence of evil isn’t really worth listening to. Perhaps it is too evil; maybe it’s evil personified – in all the wrong ways… One might as well visit a busy car park or an inner-city building site during rush hour and just stand about listening to the surrounding chaos. This album – with four songs, each representing a horseman of the apocalypse – is all about impenetrable subterranean ambience, a darkness so dark and annoying that it can achieve only one result: a fucking headache.

Maybe I’m just not arty or pretentious enough to appreciate it but when you choose to leave the Black Metal at the door and focus entirely on noise / dark ambience, then your music is pointless. This is a complete waste of disc space.

Evilometer: 000/666

DRAUGEN – AMONG THE LONELY SHADES (Ancestrale Production)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Ten years in the making, Draugen’s debut full-length is a decent attempt at Golden Era Norwegian worship. On ‘Among The Lonely Shades’ (don’t let the uninspired title put you off), we are presented with eight tracks in total, two of which are short instrumentals. In the vein of bands like classic Darkthrone (only not as raw), Burzum (obviously) and early Enslaved / Satyricon / Immortal, Draugen dishes out some competent ancient-sounding Black Metal with more than a hint of melody, which adds to the overall atmosphere without drowning the whole thing in sugar / shit.

Throughout the album, there are some nice sound effects to add to the ambience; you feel like a pariah might, hidden in a cave, being hunted by Christians in the woodlands outside, whilst a thunderstorm rages. Or something… The compositions are top-notch; the execution exemplary; and the production pretty much perfect for this kind of epic-sounding BM.

Don’t think for a minute this is one of these wishy-washy, ultra-melodic albums with overwhelming keys and clean vocals, however (if it was, I would refuse to review it), because there’s no such thing to be found within the notes of ‘Among The Lonely Shades’. It is very melodic, I’ll grant you that, and I normally have a big issue with that … but I find this album to be quite endearing and I’d gladly recommend ‘ATLS’ to anyone who fancies the idea of 50 minutes of melodic BM from France that retains most of its edge.

Evilometer: 333/666