Monday, May 29, 2017 07:45

Archive for February, 2012

LUNAR AURORA – HOAGASCHT (Cold Dimensions)

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Five years have passed since Lunar Aurora produced one of the greatest Black Metal albums of all time – the criminally under-rated ‘Andacht’. I think the band split up shortly after that one was released and I feared I’d never hear from the brilliant Germans again. Then, out of the blue, I heard that ‘Hoagascht’ was imminent. Naturally, my expectations were high. Unsurprisingly, they have been met. The ninth album from this inimitable Bavarian horde is exceptional.

Whyrhd and Aran have sculpted a full-length that effortlessly confirms LA’s status as one of the great Black Metal forces. Okay, it may not be quite as essential as its predecessor but ‘Hoagascht’ is still a spellbinding, mesmeric slab of occult Black Metal, with a freezing, forlorn atmosphere and enough genuinely spooky atmospherics to remind me why I fell in love with the subgenre in the first place. ‘Hoagascht’ epitomises what Black Metal is all about – eerie, majestic, despondent, epic, uplifting, emotional and so, so alien and otherworldly.

The first listen threw me somewhat, especially the ambient start to the opening track, ‘Im Gartn’, but the more I digest the album as a whole the more I appreciate its undeniable grandeur. ‘Nachteule’ and the frostbitten ‘Sterna’ will send shivers down your spine and through your soul, primitive, hypnotic, and ‘Beachgliachda’ is a pagan, shamanic invocation that puts Blood of the Black Owl to shame.

Håbergoaß’ is a desperate, almost triumphant mantra that does justice to the Upper Bavarian dialect used throughout, again demonstrating a remarkable understanding of dynamic, though it must be said Lunar Aurora are leaning more towards melodic than raw Black Metal  on the fifth track (and, indeed, much of the album), But they do it so well…

During the course of ‘Wedaleichtn’, ominous chimes remind me that the sands of time are running low. Twin terrors ‘Geisterwoid’ and ‘Reng’ see out proceedings in typically grim fashion, perfect companion pieces for the sparse, abject artwork that accompanies this pretty amazing album. It’s fair to say that Lunar Aurora have evolved considerably since falling silent five years ago. The subtle change in direction makes their return all the more triumphant.

Evilmoeter: 666/666

SEKTEMTUM – AUT CAESAR, AUT NIHIL (Osmose Productions)

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Sektemtum is the new band of Meyhna’ch, who you may know from his work with Gestapo 666, the magnificent Hell Militia and – most notably – the now-defunct Mütiilation. A real dignitary of the French Black Metal scene, for sure, joined on this recording by three shadowy figures called Six, James Prick and PLCD. Debut album ‘Aut Caesar, Aut Nihil’ is obviously going to attract plenty of attention from those interested in the main man’s considerable library of work and I think it’s fair to say it won’t disappoint too many of you.

Ten tracks dispersed over 47-odd minutes, kicking off with the title track and pummelling (apart from serene instrumental ‘218’) the listener into submission with huge riffs and some ghastly, guttural Death Metal-like vocals, proving once more that the difference between BM and DM isn’t always as apparent or pronounced as one might believe. Of course, Sektemtum is a Black Metal band – and I’m not trying to insinuate otherwise – but I think fans of Death Metal (or even grindcore) will also find plenty here to enjoy.

The mood that comes across me when listening to this is of an axe sinking into a skull, or sailors lost at sea, surrendering to choppy waters, overcome by the elements but dragged by some spectral figure into another realm just before gasping their final breath. Just general unpleasantness, I suppose… In a way, there’s nothing spectacular or ground-breaking going on; yet at the same time the songs are strangely addictive and do appear to possess that special something that elevates music above the (boring, inadequate) norm.

Not a classic by any means, but still a fairly potent brew heading your way. If you want to try a BM version of Converge or Cephalic Carnage, look no further. And the sick vocals are nothing short of extraordinary.

Evilometer: 555/666

REVERORUM IB MALACHT – URKAOS 2LP + CD (The Ajna Offensive)

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

I don’t think it’s possible to go any deeper into the underground than this. ‘Urkaos’ is the definitive work of Swedish duo Karl Hieronymus Emil Lundin and Karl Axel Mikael Mårtensson, who wield a multitude of instruments – including harpsichord, accordion, bells, boneflute, cellos and cithers (as well as all the usual suspects) – to conjure some of the eeriest, most ethereal Black Metal you’ll ever encounter.

A sprawling work of incredible depth, vision and discipline, the album has been unleashed in glorious double vinyl format boasting all the original artwork, a cool DIY booklet (black and white, stapled together) and a CD copy of the music, all done with the assistance of The Ajna Offensive but retaining the feel of an independent release. It’s a beautiful product to have and to hold; and also to listen to.

Truthfully, though, the listening experience can be demanding at times as the production is murky and lo-fi, with about as much polish as you’d find on a tramp’s vomit-encrusted slipper. It can be difficult to get your ears beyond the dull sound but, if you persevere, you will discover a band that has all the charm and originality of Urfaust, approaching Black Metal from some leftfield terrain and producing something both interesting and challenging.

I’ve had this album for two months now and still haven’t managed to get my head around it. Did I mention that it lasts for almost 80 minutes? Reverorum Ib Malacht seem to be obsessed by Latin scripts, religious content and such like (mostly delivering their sermons by means of Gregorian chant). But I certainly wouldn’t compare this in any way to Deathspell Omega or any other orthodox BM band I’m familiar with.

Even if it isn’t always brilliant, ‘Urkaos’ is just different on so many levels that it stands out from the pack. Approaching dark ambient at times, the darkness prevails throughout and the Swedes never come close to exiting the nether realms of the deepest, deepest underground. Thus, I’d categorise this as one of the least-commercial records you are ever likely to hear, rendering it a compulsive – if pricey – acquisition.

Evilometer: 666/666

INFERIUS TORMENT – CEREMONY OF GODSLAYING (World Terror Committee)

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Inferius Torment. Wonder what that means. How can one be tormented inferiusly, with or withoutout an o? I digress; forgive me. ‘Ceremony Of Godslaying’ is the second full-length from this strangely-monikered Russian troop, who emit some impressive form of searing, scorching Black Metal mayhem intent on crushing the skull and testicles of yon Christ fella. Jesus and his minions come in for a lot of abuse in the metal world and they aren’t spared any ill wishes here as track titles like ‘Diablocal Perversity’ (sic) and ‘Funeral Of Christian God’ suggest.

Amid the maelstrom of hatred and violence, there is to be found some ethnic instrumentation but sneeze and you’ll miss it. In short, this is an aggressive, focussed attack, virtually unrelenting, taking no prisoners – a beefy fist in the liver of God, a rallying cry to like-minded, dark forces. The pace might slow down at times but the claustrophobic, crushing sense of doom continues to pervade throughout.

A nice choral passage comprises the aforementioned ‘Funeral…’ but this soon makes way for a further barrage of invective on the closing track, ‘Unbaptized Flames’, driven by the demented drumming of (ex-?)Belphegor member Torturer. The prominent battery is very much the pulse, but the guitar also cuts like barb wire. Vocals are caustic and bitter in the best tradition of Black Metal. As with a lot of BM, I’m not honestly sure if there’s any bass involved or not. I’m guessing it’s lurking in there somewhere, drowned in the chaos.

Ceremony Of Godslaying’ is a strong album. Mostly punishing and primitive, it is elevated above the norm by what I would consider mandatory hints of melody and deviation. By the second minute of the opener, ‘Agnus Dei’, I knew Inferius Torment weren’t afraid to mix things up slightly and this propensity to vary their onslaught pays dividends for the next 35 minutes. (Short album.)

Evilometer: 555/666

NEFARIOUS – THE UNIVERSAL WRATH (Cold Dimensions)

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

With a trio of exciting new releases on the way, this label is pretty hot right now. Hungarian horde Nefarious plays chilling Black Metal in the old style with a generous sprinkling of keys adding to the atmosphere (without fucking it up). Their debut album delivers seven enjoyable tracks over the course of 41 minutes and clearly marks Nefarious out as a band to keep an eye on – despite the band members’ dubious connections with this shit.

I think the penultimate song on ‘The Universal Wrath’ best sums up Nefarious: ‘The King Of Slaves’ is an epic eight-minute workout with lots of mood changes and enormous scope, executed with superb vision. The protagonists manage to keep things interesting throughout; the music never gets boring; quality control is perfectly exercised with not a loose or unnecessary note included anywhere on the album.

Despite being ambient and trippy at times, there remains a truly nasty streak to proceedings – particularly those evil, gnarling vocals – and Nefarious manages skilfully to unlock the balance between pleasant and horrible, an art lost on many of their peers. With ‘The Universal Wrath’, Cold Dimensions has plucked a band from the obscurity of the underground and given their music the coverage and treatment it deserves.

If you like the idea of cold, epic Black Metal that’s big on atmosphere yet nonetheless relatively menacing, nodding reverently to the early days of Immortal and Emperor and Nocturnal Art output but still ploughing its own unique, frosty path, you could do a lot worse than acquiring this.

Evilometer: 444/666

NASTROND – TOTESLAUT LP (Galgenstrang Productions)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

There’s an all-too-apparent dearth of quality new releases coming out these days. Perhaps it’s just a lull in hostilities or maybe Black Metal has died an indignant death. Time will tell. Anyhow, in the meantime, while I’m waiting for something meaningful to appear, I decided to check out this vinyl reissue of Nåstrond’s 1995 debut and I’m glad I did because ‘Toteslaut’ is certainly a timeless, deathly classic.

The label – an imprint of Funeral Industries as far as I can glean – has done a fantastic job with the record, which looks and feels great in an understated way, complete with the essential original artwork and a well-worn vibe. Prior to acquiring this (together with ‘Age Of Fire’ on vinyl, also re-issued by Galgenstrang), I was more familiar with Nåstrond’s more recent work on Debemur Morti than I was with their legendary back catalogue. My loss, because this is mandatory stuff.

The record comprises unbelievably good, unhallowed old school Black Metal with an ancient sound, wonderful execution, tremendous vocals and the whole thing laced with just enough esoteric moments to render it unique and magical – such as the majestic ‘Jai Ma Kali’ or the surprisingly short and sweet closing title track. All in all, this is an adequately-powerful and resilient port to tide you over until the storm resumes. That’s assuming it ever will, of course.

Evilometer: 555/666

COMMENT: Are records and CDs becoming prohibitively expensive?

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Can anybody really afford to buy records and CDs any more? I’m not sure I can. It has become an extremely expensive hobby and the soaring cost of vinyl in particular – not helped by rising postage charges – is a real threat to the very existence of the subgenre. Of course, postage costs are beyond the control of labels but this is small comfort to cash-strapped music lovers who are trying to cope with the financial limitations imposed on them by the global recession. And, it must be said, labels are guilty of nurturing high prices through a culture of (snobbery?) exclusivity, limited editions, die-hard editions etc.

I’ll give you an example of what’s going on: I’m interested in purchasing the new Aptorian Demon record, the latest Lunar Aurora record and the brand new Taake 2LP. The cheapest quote I’ve been able to get so far for all three is €87 – that’s working out at €29 per record. Almost €25 for postage and Paypal fees. Can we honestly be expected to pay this? I know I can’t afford to. I’ll have to go without (and, thus, there will probably be no reviews of these interesting releases on this site).

I’m sure a lot of you have had similar experiences. Underground music should not cost so much. What’s with the elite costs? I mean, I’m not purchasing a pair of Converse here. Surely it shouldn’t cost any more than €50 tops for three records, including delivery. Labels have a part to play in making it possible to support the music.

I don’t know what the solution is but, clearly, there is a danger that true fans are going to be marginalised by the alarming price of admission. With bills to be paid and lives to be lived, little wonder so many are forced to turn to illegal downloads.

MYSTAGOG – …OF OLD (Neverheard Distro)

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

This album is perfectly-titled as it summons the feeling of ancient Black Metal in a manner that is guaranteed to pique your interest. Composed and performed by Hungarian duo Grave and Angmar, ‘…of Old’ sounds like it has been transported through time and place, from some Scandinavian forest in the early ‘90s to my freezing fucker of a living room. For once, the fact that my home is cold seems beneficial; suits the music, sir.

There’s nothing spectacular, complex or ground-breaking going on here – and why should there be? When you’re delivering old school, grim BM, then it’s all about feel and vibe and there’s no doubting the dark spirit permeating this exceptional work. The production is barely better than demo quality and that adds to the whole authenticity of the recording, giving it an ancient aura that most modern music sadly lacks.

Mystagog have a lot going for them. Their Black Metal is rough and ready; it’s simple and catchy, it bounces along like a bloodied head being kicked down a dark street. It’s ugly and raw, lo-fi and scary. This is how BM was always supposed to be – straightforward, necro and nauseating with no wankery guitar solos. If you fancy rolling back the years and indulging in some black nostalgia, reminiscing about a time when the smell of burning pews filled the northern skies, then this would be an ideal soundtrack to such romantic musings.

Evilometer: 555/666