Monday, November 20, 2017 09:41

Archive for March, 2012

GGUW – GEGEN GRAVITATION UND WILLENSFREIHEIT EP (self-released)

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

While I’m normally not mad gone on reviewing EPs, I’m quite happy to make an exception for ‘Gegen Gravitation und Willensfreiheit’, the debut release from mysterious German outfit GGUW. The (obvious) downside of this record – which is limited to a mere 321 hand-numbered copies – is that it’s only 13 minutes long, comprising three untitled sharp blasts of raw, primeval Black Metal. Not much for a 12″!

The upside is that the distorted, insane, harsh, haunting, dissonant black noise on this disc is of the exceptional variety, more than whetting the appetite for any full-length or future endeavours that may surface from GGUW. The vocals are of the high-pitched, screeched-from-the-bowels-of-hell variety, complementing perfectly the barrage of black chaos conjured by the shredding strings and crushing drum sounds.

Gegen Gravitation und Willensfreiheit’ impressed me greatly. It’s just a real pity there’s so little of it. Still, it’s a welcome and effective calling card that hints at future greatness. Or does it? Tragically, the band’s guitarist Wolfrano reportedly took his own life at the beginning of this month, so I’m not sure how much this undoubtedly-substantial loss is going to fuck up the band’s future plans. Perhaps, they will soldier on in his honour but, for now, the only guarantee you have of owning one of GGUW’s releases is to get your hands on this – the one and only recording from the original line-up.

Evilometer: 555/666

NATTFOG – MUSTAN AURINGON RIITTI (Hammer of Hate)

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Every now and then an album comes along that is just undeniably brilliant. An album that is so easy to recommend that the task of writing reviews appears almost redundant (and actually becomes quite difficult…). I honestly can’t see how any Black Metal advocate could fail to appreciate Nattfog’s sublime debut full-length, ‘Mustan Auringon Riitti’. Surely this one is going to be universally hailed as a masterpiece of occult Finnish decadence?

Finland is on fire right now when it comes to dark musical output. I’d go so far as to assert that the Finnish scene is leading the way worldwide – except, of course, ‘scenes’ don’t really exist, per se. Nattfog executes excellent early-nineties style Scandinavian / Slavonic BM with a sort of pagan / heathen vibe but this is strictly Black Metal as opposed to Pagan Metal. The songs are both raw and melodic; production is nice and thin, unobtrusive, allowing the spells to come through naturally, like we are listening to a horde of hermits performing some Shamanic ritual live in the woods.

Everything about ‘Mustan Auringon Riitti’ sounds and feels ridiculously natural, which in turn lends an ancient air to the album. The ambience and texture are stunning. You know, at the end of the day, this is essentially just standard Black Metal that’s been done thousands of times before … yet … somehow it captures something extra. A magical, indefinable x factor that elevates the album and the band above most of their contemporaries and renders them exceptional.

The entire album kills but eerie instrumentals ‘Kosmisen Usvan Ympäröimänä’ and ‘Kaksitoista Askelta Luvattuun Valtakuntaan’ are particularly special. It’s like what Burzum might sound like if Burzum didn’t suck.  I have no problem in recommending this even if I’m having difficulty pinpointing what exactly it is that makes Nattfog’s debut so great. Ultimately, it’s probably simple: I love Black Metal and Nattfog effortlessly churns out no-frills Black Metal with tremendous reserves of passion and emotion. Which I love. Obviously.

Evilometer: 666/666

ANKOU AWAITS – CROG BUIDHE (The Path Less Traveled Records)

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Ankou Awaits’ debut  full-length ‘Lebor Gabala Erenn’ reached me like a foul stench of fetid air and – a mere six months hitherto – this follow-up confirms that the husband-and-wife team from Illinois has no intention of leaving behind the strangely-comforting nether regions of the metal underground any time soon. And why would they when they can create a rumbling racket as compelling as ‘Crog Buidhe’?

Lo-fi and organic, obstinately inaccessible yet oh-so-rewarding for those who get there, this is the antidote to the polished, pristine produce fucking up our beloved subgenres (Black and Death Metal) today. If that’s not reason enough to hail ‘Crog Buidhe’ for the welcome detour it constitutes, then I don’t know what is…

It’s difficult to describe or pigeonhole Ankou Awaits. The sound conjured is unique to my ears and I would be so bold to suggest that there’s more death than black at work. I’m getting echoes of ‘Blessed Are The Sick’-era Morbid Angel, early Incantation and Immolation yet I’m at a loss to think of a single Black Metal horde referenced during these seven ancient odes. Considering that BM is built on adherence to same-sounding structures, I find this almost bizarre.

Beneath a controlled maelstrom of chugging riffs and hammering drums, there are real songs complete with intelligent, meaningful lyrics and a concept that’s obviously deeply meaningful to the deliverers. Through it all, I’m struck by the authenticity, the sincerity and the genuine honesty inherent in ‘Crog Buidhe’. I’m not going to lie – this is hard work at times and not always coherent – but ultimately it’s a major triumph and I’m left with a feeling of utter respect for the artists who have conceived something so pure, raw and uncompromised.

Evilometer: 555/666

INTROVERSION – LIDLOS EP (self-released)

Monday, March 19th, 2012

I really enjoyed Introversion’s 2011 demo ‘Müde’, so I was grateful when the band kindly posted me a copy of this new self-released cassette EP, which clocks in at around 27 minutes and is limited to just 15 units. I didn’t so much appreciate the fact that a complimentary razor blade was included inside the packaging. At best I find this childish and nasty. Self-defeating, too. I mean, where would the Swiss outfit be if the 15 recipients of the tape all cut themselves to ribbons?

If that’s genuinely their aim (I do have a sense of humour, by the way, but this went beyond a joke), it’s very sad indeed. Without pontificating, I think self-harm is a plague on society and condoning or celebrating it is irresponsible and thoughtless. I would encourage people to try to find some meaning in their lives, to tap into the energy of the universe in an effort to overcome their hardships, to face their demons rather than surrender to them. A pinch of salt will not suffice here; I need a bucketful.

Anyway, I’ve always been partial to a bit of depressive Black Metal here and there – Silencer, Hypothermia, Trist and a lot of the bands on Self-Mutilation Records. This style of music can be something special when performed properly and I suppose in fairness it’s impossible to separate the message from the music – it’s all part of a thoroughly negative, despondent whole. It’s only art, though, not a fucking lifestyle choice.

Introversion’s expressions of inner torment and anguish are deeply disturbing. This EP represents a soundtrack to pain, loss, hopelessness and indifference, nay hate. They hate their lives; they hate the world. From these negative feelings they have carved two addictive, intoxicating odes to despair and one sombre, heart-breaking instrumental. With an excellent sound (production-wise), ‘Lidlos’ is excellent depressive music, even if I do find myself wondering sometimes where the boundaries of Black Metal begin and end.

Evilometer: 444/666

SECRETS OF THE MOON – SEVEN BELLS (Lupus Lounge)

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Sadly, Secrets of the Moon’s best days appear to be behind them. ‘Seven Bells’ kicks off encouragingly enough with the rather impressive title track but has bottomed out pitifully and harmlessly by the time the really embarrassing seventh and final song ‘The Three Beggars’ seeps through the speakers. The musicianship is flawless, of course, but SOTM have just become so safe, so inoffensive, so flaccid and tame that it’s nigh on impossible to enjoy them or take them seriously.

Whereas ‘Stronghold Of The Inviolables’ and ‘Carved In Stigmata Wounds’ represented ground-breaking offerings from the Germans, they seem to have settled into a creative rut, now happy to recreate a polished, clean, crisp sound that is in many ways the antithesis of what Black Metal should be. Whereas those two albums demonstrated some nice ambient touches, a vital component of SOTM’s sound, this latest is merely graced with random bell chimes scattered here and there, leaving me feeling short-changed. Those who enjoy extremely well-produced metal that is in no way raw, ugly, esoteric or corrupt should find something worthy here. I’m going to pass and say no more.

Evilometer: 222/666

DØDSENGEL – IMPERATOR (Terratur Possessions / Barghest)

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

It’s a great honour for this website to exclusively reveal that Dødsengel are about to release an astonishing new double album entitled ‘Imperator’. Comprising a staggering 22 songs stretched out over two-and-a-half hours, this has to be one of the best surprises I’ve ever had. My love of this band is no secret but I feel foolish now for criticising them for releasing a mere EP last time out – little did I know that something as substantial as the utterly incredible ‘Imperator’ was in the works!

From the opening strains of ‘XXV’ it is clear that this double-helping represents the inimitable Norwegians at their magnificent best – easily on a par with this – and the journey is a true joy to behold as we are escorted through astonishing works of Black Metal madness such as ‘Sun On Earth’, ‘Σειρῆνες’ ‘No Beginning, No End’, ‘Momentum: On The Devil And Death’ and the captivating, mesmeric ‘Holy Metamorphosis’ – an unhallowed anthem that showcases the immense dynamic and class of Dødsengel, who remain compelling no matter what pace they play at.

And that’s just a quarter of the album! There is no let-up as an avalanche of ugly, beautiful, harsh, melodic, eerie, mellow, intense, multifaceted art gushes forth like so much blood from an open vein.

I’m not overly keen on the female vocals that accompany Kark’s on ‘Apoph-Ra’ (and again later in the album) but even I must admit that they do fit the bizarre, twisted, swirling chords extremely well. It would be churlish of me to slam a moment that’s more Jarboe than WITTR, especially considering the sheer depth and magnitude of this release, which needs to be consumed and appreciated as a whole. Within the overall context of the music, ‘Apoph-Ra’ remains essential and vital. Indeed, there is no dud track to be found anywhere here – although I do prefer some to others.

As the album continues to reveal itself, exposing a myriad of faces and personæ, visiting multiple moods and mindsets, ebbing and flowing like a schizophrenic behemoth, from the orchestra brilliance of ‘Pneuma’ to the dark chaos of the raven-like ‘Hymn To Pan’, the insanity of ‘Upon The Beast She Rideth’ and the psychological pandemonium of ‘The Supreme Ritual’, it is all-too-apparent that we are in the company of greatness.

In terms of scope, vision and ambition, ‘Imperator’ possesses all the ingredients required to become one of the great Black Metal releases. Dødsengel have outdone themselves here. Hopefully this double album will receive the credit and attention it richly deserves. If not, it will still bring copious amounts of satisfaction to those lucky enough to stumble upon it. Mark this one down on your Things To Do list immediately.

Evilometer: 666/666

AMNIS NIHILI – CHRISTOLOGICAL ESCALATION EP (Avantgarde Music)

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Normally, I don’t bother with EPs. But these aren’t normal times. And ‘Christological Escalation’ certainly isn’t your everyday release. I couldn’t let this one pass by without conveying my appreciation for a band of immense potential… Judging by the quality of these four tracks, the forthcoming debut full-length from this Greek horde will be mandatory.

Athens is aflame, burning to the ground amid some of the cruellest austerity measures in modern times. It’s a fucking joke what Europe’s big cats are inflicting upon the unfortunate Greeks. However, in times of oppression, art normally flourishes in the affected region and that certainly seems to be the case with Amnis Nihili.

The crushing title track opens proceedings in considerable style. Halfway through, it becomes apparent that there’s more to Amnis Nihili than your ordinary Black Metal band. They have a real understanding of ambience, a flair for dynamic, an appreciation of pace changes and atmospheric passages. The minimal use of samples is perfect. Some weird instrumentation on here as well. All in all, the music is downright amazing.

It continues in the same vein on all four tunes and – all too soon – after just 16 minutes – the CD ends. That’s why I generally don’t buy – or review – EPs. Too short. But on ‘Christological Escalation’ Amnis Nihili display something truly exceptional, which I believe marks them out as an entity to keep a close eye on. This is great music and there’s a 10” vinyl version, too, which would be even better to own than the CD. Think I may seek it out.

Evilometer: 555/666

DRUDKH – ETERNAL TURN OF THE WHEEL (Season of Mist)

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Hard to believe this is already Drudkh’s ninth full-length. While for some the law of diminishing returns seems to have kicked in regarding the Ukrainians, I personally have always found their releases to be rather excellent. And ‘Eternal Turn Of The Wheel’ ranks right up there alongside the finest efforts of their illustrious recording career.

The blurb / gossip / bullshit circulating before this album landed suggested that we were going to be treated to a back-to-basics album – something more along the lines of ‘Autumn Aurora’ than ‘Handful of Stars’. Whatever. I’m always dubious about such assertions because it isn’t possible for a band to eschew its evolution and natural progression. How can you roll back the clock to 2003 and de-volve?

To me, this is just Drudkh, pure and simple. Obviously, it sounds a lot like most of their other releases – but not exactly the same as any of them (hmmm…). Another solid (if somewhat short) full-length from a band that’s received an undue backlash recently. Drudkh remain as fresh and relevant as they’ve ever been and if you’re waiting for them to come up with something new and different then you are a fool.

If you’re already a fan, you’ll love this. If not, don’t listen to the snobs … this is as good a place to start as any. Great emotional, epic, frozen Black Metal with a distinctly Ukrainian feeling. Superb.

Evilometer: 555/666