Monday, April 24, 2017 03:30

Archive for April, 2012

CHAO – SPIRITUS SANKTI EP (Terratur Possessions)

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

This EP showcases three excellent offerings of orthodox Black Metal from the Icelandic capital. The fact that it appears on Terratur almost guarantees high quality straight away and, naturally, ‘Spiritus Sankti’ does not disappoint. It comes on a beautiful pro cassette, with high-quality cover and a top-notch sound, which more than does justice to the rather superb songs included.

The downside is that we only get 20 minutes of Chao’s fresh and exhilarating black blasts before it ends all too abruptly. But, in fairness, this is an EP … and it’s fairly-priced too. As far as I can recall, it only cost me around a fiver including postage from Norway. So no real qualms there.

If you enjoy bands like Deathspell Omega, Ondskapt, Funeral Mist and Ofermod, then you should appreciate the work of Chao. Not only does ‘Spiritus Sankti’ hint at great things to come from this impressive new force but it is also a substantial and significant opening gambit in its own right. I’m sure Chao’s debut full-length is going to be something very special indeed but, for now, this EP is most definitely worth acquiring, possessing and cherishing.

Evilometer: 555/666

DROWNING THE LIGHT – DROWNED (Obscure Abhorrence Productions)

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Upon first listen, I was disappointed by the bad sound that dogs this album. So much so that I was initially tempted to write a negative-ish review. That would have been an injustice. Drowning The Light has benefited from a much cleaner production on more-recent releases and I suppose I had become accustomed to the more-polished, easier-digested incarnation of the Aussie act. But this is just as good in its own way, if not better.

You have to bear in mind that ‘Drowned’ is an excavation of DTL’s self-released, debut album from eight years ago. As such, it marks a landmark moment in time. Certain allowances have to be made. If it was reworked or remastered, that simply wouldn’t cut it. You have to take the rough with the smooth. So what we have here is an even rawer, more lo-fi collection of tunes than usual, almost of demo quality.

The sound is kind of muddied and the mix is pretty much all over the place. But, at the end of the day, it’s underground Black Metal we’re talking about and I’m sure Azgorh put this together on a shoestring. Beneath the murky haze, there’s some very imaginative, inventive and inspirational BM to be found, depressive in a way – but not in a bad way. If you’re already a fan of the ‘band’ or if you appreciate kinda-shitty-sounding Black Metal, you will hardly regret acquiring ‘Drowned’.

If you’re not on familiar terms with DTL yet (as you should be), perhaps it would be more prudent to check out ‘To The End Of Time’ or ‘An Alignment Of Dead Stars’ first.

Evilometer: 444/666

DEMONCY – ENTHRONED IS THE NIGHT (Forever Plagued Records)

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Been listening to this album around the clock for the past month or so now and, well, it’s obviously extremely good stuff. Comprising eight slabs of deathly underground Black Metal and three excellent eerie instrumentals spaced out over 41 minutes, ‘Enthroned Is The Night’ is perhaps Demoncy’s finest hour, though purists who invariably look at the past through rose-tinted spectacles will of course tell you that nothing comes close to the classic ‘Joined In Darkness’. Personally, I think there’s a valid argument to be put forward for both albums.

On his fourth full-length, Ixithra (for it is he and he is it) recaptures all the magic of old to deliver a smörgåsbord (albeit with little variety apart from the interludes) of dark decayed sounds which measures up favourably to most BM bands new and old. Perfectly produced in a non-obtrusive way and delightfully ancient- and necrotic-sounding, the spectral tone of ‘Enthroned Is The Night’ renders it an instant classic and when you hear an album this good you do have to wonder why Demoncy isn’t regarded in the same overly-favourable light as some other US (and Scandinavian, let’s call a spade a digging device…) acts who quite truthfully couldn’t lace its boots.

I was going to wait and review the LP version of ‘EITN’ as this is clearly a release that deserve the vinyl stage but I’ve heard it could be 2013 before that surfaces – no point sitting on my thumbs that long… The record will be superb but the CD – a nice slipcase edition with lyrics included – is neat in its own right and can be picked up for a mere pittance if you know where to look.

Demoncy is back.

Evilometer: 555/666

GALLOWS THRONE – SCOURGE OF BEDLAM (self-released)

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Interesting debut here from an unknown entity out of Texas / Arizona in the States. (Wonder how that works.) I have little other info about Gallows Throne except that ‘Scourge Of Bedlam’ comprises six songs and lasts a mere 29 minutes. Short album but it’s a decent effort, in fairness. I’ve heard much, much worse.

GT go for a sort of ambient / atmospheric Black Metal with some post- leanings and fierce howls and very impressive musicianship. It’s a very catchy sound they’re cultivating, but the album certainly strays more into the melodic bracket than my preferred raw realm. Put it this way: ‘Scourge Of Bedlam’ isn’t one you’ll throw into the stereo if you want to vent some rage at the world…

The closing strains of Track #2, ‘Celebration Of Endings’, for example, are über-melodic. Same with the fourth one, ‘Tendrils Wrought’. I can’t find any fault with this except that it’s short and not exactly my own personal preferred chalice of poison. But if you want to bite your teeth into some accessible, atmospheric BM with accomplished performances and a fairly funky, user-friendly vibe, then ‘Scourge Of Bedlam’ shouldn’t disappoint. My palate longs for something else, though.

Evilometer: 333/666

DOLENTIA – SOB A EGIDE DAS SOMBRAS LP (Discipline / Versets Noirs)

Monday, April 16th, 2012

It rained all day. Again. Fuck Ireland anyway. Luckily, I had ‘Sob a Égide das Sombras’ to listen to. It reflects my disposition perfectly. I’m feeling negative, dull. Outside, it’s dreary, like always. Inside, it’s even drearier. But the debut full-length from Portuguese troupe Dolentia is a wonderful companion in these dark and uneventful times, as the rain hops off the gable and drenches my castle, soaking my life and drowning my mood.

Two of the first three songs are spectacular, emotional instrumentals that reek of pride and passion. In between, there’s the sumptuous, teeming ‘O Reerguer de Medos Antigos’, summoning the spirit of Lusitanian ancestors and filling the listener with a deep sense of nostalgia. Throughout the album, the raw yet melodic Black Metal on offer is of a distinctly epic variety that marks Dolentia out as a special force in modern extreme music.

The vocals are distressed and embittered, the guitars wobbly and dynamic, vibrating, almost humming their tunes of sombreness. The drums are like thigh bones banging off a coffin lid. Well, sort of. Underground Black Metal of the highest calibre from the depths of the Portuguese past, instilled with steel, individuality and purpose, ‘Sob a Égide das Sombras’ is an unremitting tour de force that has been wonderfully presented in vinyl format by two labels from polar ends of the Atlantic.

Black Metal doesn’t really get any better than this.

Evilometer: 666/666

NAPALM DEATH – UTILITARIAN 2LP (Century Media)

Monday, April 9th, 2012

It’s almost like the last 25 years didn’t happen at all. A full quarter of a century after Napalm Death first reached the ears of an impressionable, angry young man finding his feet in a dull and hostile housing estate in Monaghan, they are blowing me away all over again with their fourteenth studio full-length. Astonishingly, ‘Utilitarian’ is easily on a par with anything these legendary grindcore innovators have produced during the course of a stellar career. How the fuck do they do it?

Instrumental ‘Circumspect’ kicks proceedings off in a rather understated, serene-by-ND-standards sort of way before ‘Errors In The Signals’ and the jazz-infused ‘Everyday Pox’ quite literally send the speakers cowering. The anger is still there, the rage and the invective all evident as they were way back in the day. And, crucially, the uncanny song-writing prowess that has always separated Napalm Death from their peers (not that they truly have any) remains intact, too, which means catchy, instantly-accessible socially-conscious Death Metal (for that is what it is) of the very highest calibre.

The Wolf I Feed’ brings Side A to a close in thrilling fashion, with incredible trademark screeches and squeals and some Fear Factory-style harmonies that add greatly to the variety on offer. Throughout the 16 tracks on offer over three-quarters-of-an-hour, there exists an incredible amount of variety within that monotonous-to-the-unwary-ear template that Barney, Shane, Mitch and Danny have honed over the years / decades.

At the end of the day,  this is a Black Metal site first and foremost so I’m not going to go into this one in great detail (not that I ever do with any other albums, either, ahem)  but DM has always been a big part of my life and it is only fair to give credit where credit’s due: ‘Utilitarian’ is immense and it proves that middle-aged commentators can mix it up with anyone. Perhaps we are as young as the anger we feel? The injustices of the world will never go away and these are what fuel Napalm Death; so, they are ageless, really.

I sincerely don’t expect to find a better album anywhere this year. And the double-vinyl format does the recording huge justice.

Evilometer: 666/666

NEBRUS – FROM THE BLACK ASHES (Schattenkult Produktionen)

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Schattenkult Produktionen is the new name of Selbstmord Kommando Produktionen, a German label I’ll admit to having a soft spot for. ‘From The Black Ashes’ represents their first pro-CD release – seven tracks of evil, old school, deathly, ghastly, Black Metal from Tuscany, Italy. One of the novelty factors of this album is that the vocals are performed by a witch known as Noctuaria. Hate to admit it almost, but they are really good!

Add Nebrus to the tiny number of decent BM bands with female vocalists, then…

Ultimately, it matters not what the sex, race or political leanings of a singer are as long as said singer is good at what they do. In Black Metal, the vocals have to be dark and menacing, gruff or shadowy, mysterious, enigmatic, with a harshness. Nebrus ticks most of the boxes and mercifully there are hardly any clean vocals to be heard on the seven tracks comprising this interesting full-length.

The label blurb claims that Nebrus brings us back to the early ‘nineties and this is spot-on. ‘From The Black Ashes’ sounds like it could have been recorded in a cave in Helvete, in a forest in Hellas or in abyssic solitude on the outskirts of civilisation. Nice ancient feel to the compositions and a very adequate exhibition of some tried and trusted formulae.

There’s nothing particularly special about this album and that’s what makes it so great in an ironic sort of way. Who wants special music when you can have a blast of good honest, old-fashioned blackness laced with those irrepressible feelings of death and decay?

Evilometer: 555/666

APTORIAN DEMON – LIBERTUS LP (Kyrck Productions / Apocalyptic Empire Records)

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Aptorian Demon’s debut album is phenomenal. I got the CD and record versions (purchased from World Terror Committee, in case you’re interested) and it really comes into its own on record. Purple and silver marble edition, limited to 200, looking and sounding fantastic. Christ, there’s even a poster included. Not sure why these posters are thrown in with records so frequently, actually. They just get left inside the sleeve for all eternity – might as well not be there at all… But, I digress.

There are six songs on this album spread out over 43 glorious minutes and it’s without doubt one of the most sumptuous Black Metal journeys you are going to take this year – or any other. Even though ‘Libertus’ is their opening gambit, I would straight away elevate Aptorian Demon to the same league as stellar artists like The Ruins Of Beverast and Dødsengel in that their music is all-too-apparently special and inspired, keeping the black flame burning, ensuring that things stay fresh and dark yet delightfully tasty and tantalising.

Three of the songs – ‘Amir Al-Mu`minin’, ‘Var Ære Er Troskap’ and ‘Ordets Makt’ – are sort of conventionally-lengthed while ‘Ignitus’, ‘Imprison’ and the stunning 13-minute title track fall into the epic category. Throughout, AD’s pacing is immaculate, their understanding of dynamic uncanny. Their ability to make the more melodic / atmospheric passages as essential as the aggression and insanity that laces their work is truly impressive. The result is a dark masterpiece. An exhibit of evil, foul music that defies parameters and pigeon-holing but is still black to the core.

I could probably write an essay about this album if I had the motivation to do so. But I don’t. There’s (just a little bit) more to life than sitting here by the keyboard talking to an audience that might not even be there. So, I’ll conclude by stating categorically that ‘Libertus’ is one of the most essential Black Metal albums ever released. If anyone’s listening.

Evilometer: 666/666

BURZUM – UMSKIPTAR (Byelobog Productions)

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

I’d be the first to admit that ‘Fallen’ provoked a pretty hysterical reaction from me. It was an album of real extremes – some superb parts and some terrible passages – and those lows totally destroyed it. By comparison, ‘Umskiptar’ is neither here nor there, content just to plod along in no man’s land and ultimately going nowhere in particular. Sort of coma-inducing.

This time around, the music is so tame that it’s hard to even get angry. Burzum these days is so passive, so inoffensive, so sedentary and unadventurous that I struggle to see the point in Varg continuing to release new material. Of course, the masses will lap it up again (wait, I do see the point in him churning out his pompous tunes) and there’ll hardly be a word spoken or written about how far Burzum has fallen since those heady days of yore when there was true essence to his music – a flame, an intensity, a darkness.

On ‘Umskiptar’, the bearded one just goes lethargically through the motions. He’s reinventing himself as some sort of folk hero but the truth is that this music is boring and pointless. Slow- to mid-paced and lacking any edge or steel, it’s all oh-so-pleasant on the ear and at the same time as relevant to the Black Metal scene as Bon Iver is.

Distinguished past or no, this is simply not Black Metal any more. I’m not sure what it is, to be honest. Just mediocre meanderings; uninspired elevator / supermarket music that’ll be hailed as inspirational. If you played this to your grandmother, chances are she’d like it. That can’t be right, can it?

Evilometer: 111/666

MGLA – WITH HEARTS TOWARD NONE LP (Northern Heritage)

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

While the quality quotient was consistently high, I found that previous Mgla releases were always very short – and therefore ultimately unfulfilling – affairs. The new album isn’t exactly an epic, either, but there’s a bit more meat contained on the collective skeletons of these seven tunes than what I’ve become accustomed to … so I’ve no hesitation is declaring ‘With Hearts Toward None’ to be the Poles’ most complete offering yet.

The record is professionally manufactured and packaged, with all the song lyrics printed on the back of the outer sleeve / cover. I took time to read along whilst listening and found the lyrics to be refreshingly intelligent and thoughtful, particularly enjoying ‘II’ (yep, the song titles are a simple Roman numeral listing I-VII, as is now the Mgla trademark).

The music is mid-paced, emotive Black Metal that’s impossible to dislike. Loads of atmosphere on here, then, and the tracks are beautifully-composed and excellently-delivered. Vocals are close to perfect, without going over the top. In fact, I would say they are somewhat understated for a raw-ish BM release but then again I’m not sure how raw ‘WHTN’ is. It’s of the underground, that’s for certain, but it’s pretty polished and crafty stuff at the same time – which should appeal to all.

All in all, not much of the inspirational variety to say about this record except that it is well worth splashing out on.

Evilometer: 666/666