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Archive for January, 2013

BLACK ALTAR / VARATHRON / THORNSPAWN – SPLIT LP (Floga Records / Hell’s Fire Records)

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The actual title of this three-way split album is ‘Emissaries Of The Darkened Call – Three Nails In The Coffin Of Humanity’ but it would have been extremely untidy-looking if I’d tried to cram that mouthful into the headline space above. I’ve called it ‘Split LP’ for convenience sake only. Except the more I explain it, the less convenient it becomes…

Criminally-underrated Polish one-man band Black Altar gets us up and running with an Intro and three typically-excellent consignments of misanthropic Black Metal, the highlight of which is the stylish and unforgiving ‘Deep Cut Into The Open Wound Of Mankind’. All Shadow’s contributions on here are superb, though, and the album is arguably worth acquiring for these alone (Note: this record is far from expensive).

Varathron is a band I’ve tended to avoid as I’m not a massive fan of the Greeks’ über-melodic, Iron Maiden-y strain of BM. However, I must confess that their songs on this split are quite impressive, especially ‘Arawn’s Reign’, which closes Side A.

To Varathron also falls the honour of delivering the first two cuts on Side B, including a surprisingly-decent Black Sabbath cover, and satanic US trio Thornspawn play ferrymen for the return leg of the journey with four short, sharp jabs to the face. Nothing complicated about Thornspawn’s take on good old-fashioned, NWN-style, bestial blasphemy.

All in all, three distinct bands on exhibit here and each coughs up some worthwhile material to constitute a very successful and commendable collaboration, with gatefold jacket, liner notes and full lyrics all chipped in as part of the pact.

Evilometer: 555/666

GRIFTESKYMFNING – DEMO 08 LP (Ancient Records / Afgrundsvisioner)

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Another collaborative effort from two labels that have really stolen my attention in recent months, ‘Demo 08’ manages to exceed expectations. I didn’t know before purchasing this record that there were no vocals on it (at least, if there are any, I can’t hear them!) and – if truth be told – that knowledge would probably have resulted in me giving it a miss. I mean, who wants arty-farty instrumentals?

However, my ignorance has been rewarded as Grifteskymfning – a band whose name I will never be able to spell – delivers a superb collection of five subtle, warped, repetitive tunes on this album (it’s underground music we are dealing with so don’t let the word Demo put you off).

In many respects, the music is reminiscent of Blut Aus Nord, except more low key and understated, perhaps a little rougher around the edges (with a measure of Hypothermia and Urfaust and fucking Hawkwind thrown into the mix. Maybe). It’s hard to say whether the inclusion of trademark shrill Black Metal vocals fluctuating in the background would have enhanced the songs – my gut instinct says they would – but as it is, ‘Demo 08’ is a great, trippy slab of instrumental dark art that’s well worth checking out.

Move quickly, though – for some reason these labels restrict their releases to frustratingly small limitations (a mere 250 units of this one, I believe, and already sold out at source, but still available in some distros).

Evilometer: 555/666

AZAZEL – JESUS PERVERSIONS (Werewolf Records)

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Having enjoyed Azazel’s contribution to the split with Goatmoon, I was always going to check out their debut album – which appears almost 20 years after the formation of the band. Nothing is done conventionally in Finland, it would appear. And why should it be? Anyway, the album is a success.

Azazel’s Black Metal is very much of the blasphemous variety (‘Rotting Nazarene’, ‘Raping The Virgin Mary’, ‘Satan’s Little Cunts’, anybody?) and the image on the inside of the inlay leaves nothing to the imagination. This album could easily have been recorded in the early ‘90s. It has a decrepit, analogue sound and reminds me of a time when the glorious stench of burning pews filled the air of Northern Europe.

If you enjoyed raw, dirty, rough and ready BM back in those seminal days, then chances are you will also like Azazel. ‘Jesus Perversions’ would almost make you believe that the last two decades were just a dream.

Evilometer: 444/666

HETROERTZEN – EXALTATION OF WISDOM LP (Lamech Records)

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

It’s over two years since this masterpiece was released on vinyl but ‘Exaltation Of Wisdom’ is still available if you know where to look and is an album that every Black Metal fan should probably have in his / her collection. Simply put, herein you will find an intriguing ritual that constitutes some of the most incredible underground music crafted in the last decade or so.

I initially purchased the stunning digi CD version due to the high cost of shipping the record from Sweden; then I belatedly opted to add the vinyl edition to my collection when I spotted it in the Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions webstore for just €19 plus postage (which worked out at €6 per record if I purchased two). Thus, the glory was mine for just €25 including P&P.

Sweden-based Chileans Hetroertzen emit a fantastic strain of Luciferian Black Metal … esoteric, gnostic, magical. This is occult BM of the highest possible variety and the inclusion of a really cool 28-page book(let) called ‘Book of the Dragon’s Art’ – which contains all lyrics as well as directions on locating the key that unlocks the tree of life – adds to the mystique of the music.

Obviously, I don’t believe there’s any spiritual enlightenment to be had but the accompanying literature serves to contextualise the album and lends it an otherworldly, supernatural dimension, which always works well with underground music. The included extras make ‘Exaltation Of Wisdom‘ more dramatic, more lofty, more theatrical. Plus, the music is fucking tremendous and that’s all that matters really.

Evilometer: 666/666

ANATOMIA – DECAYING IN OBSCURITY 2LP (Nuclear War Now)

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Perhaps I should change the name of my blog to DeathMetalReviews.com or set up a new one because there seems to be at least as much great Death Metal as Black Metal emerging these days. ‘Decaying In Obscurity’ isn’t a brand new album per se (whatever that means) but I’ve only just got around to listening to it properly and it has blown me away.

The Japanese duo deliver ten stunning exhibits of slow, crushing DM that reminds me of bands like Coffins, Abscess etc. (etc. meaning I’m too lazy to think of more) and never relinquishes its grip on the listener’s throat during the course of a marvellous 51-minute onslaught.

In many ways, this is the most effective brand of metal music – suffocating, nauseating, brooding yet also comforting, enchanting and life-affirming. It has a real sense of nostalgia about it. The double vinyl format is excellent and more than does justice to an incredible volume of work from a relatively-unknown but simply stunning band. Check this out or forever live a life of regret.

Evilometer: 666/666

VENEROR – PERCUSSIMUS FOEDUS CUM MORTE LP (New Era Productions)

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Veneror certainly couldn’t be accused of pushing the metaphorical boat out. On debut album ‘Percussimus Foedus Cum Morte’, the Italian trio churn out seven consignments (plus intro) of straight-forward, fast-paced, repetitive, simplistic, no-frills Black Metal. Nothing arty-farty going on; nothing complicated.

While their approach is commendable and the result is largely enjoyable, it is also unremarkable. Veneror are clearly die-hards and they stick to their guns in gung-ho fashion, never compromising, thrashing out song after song of shrill, swirling darkness dealing with witchcraft, sorcery, covens and the like.

Dubious song titles and lyrics are commonplace in Black Metal so those add charm to proceedings and I can’t fault these guys in any way for effort – or in terms of integrity, which they obviously possess in abundance. The record also looks good and the packaging, artwork etc. are all top notch.

Unfortunately, however, I’m finding the repetitiveness (of both music and lyrics) to be more monotonous than hypnotic. My conclusion is that ‘Percussimus Foedus Cum Morte’ is a good album but not a brilliant one by any means.

Evilometer: 333/666

ANTEDILUVIAN – THROUGH THE CERVIX OF HAWAAH 2LP (Iron Bonehead Productions)

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Iron Bonehead’s version of Antediluvian’s debut album has to be the best of all. The German label released the European vinyl edition and the rather stunning  ‘Through The Cervix Of Hawaah’ is here contained within a huge heavy-duty gatefold cover, with sumptuous 12” booklet included. It’s pricey, admittedly, but in this case I’d suggest that the money is well spent.

Musically, the album boasts immense swathes of guttural, lo-fi, bestial Death Metal with the merest hint of Black, like a darker, more convoluted Incantation. ‘Through The Cervix Of Hawaah’ is akin to an aural tsunami: ominous, foreboding, rumbling with fierce intent and devastating power. Its inaccessibility makes it all the more compelling, but there are occasional lighter textural touches to break up the often overwhelming onslaught.

The only downside is that the album is too short to justify a double vinyl, which leads to a lot of getting up and down from the sofa as well as the unsatisfactory compromise of a Side D containing etching only – one of my personal pet hates. This minor quibble aside, this was a fantastic investment. I’ve often heard Antediluvian mentioned in the same breath as Portal. For me there’s no comparison between the two: the Canadians are vastly superior.

Evilometer: 555/666

THE AGONISING WAIT FOR VINYL EDITIONS

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

You may be wondering why I haven’t yet reviewed interesting new releases from Ash Borer, Baptism, Serpent Noir, Ofermod and  Svartidauði, to name just a handful. The answer is simple: I’m waiting for the vinyl editions of these albums to become available. Hopefully they will start to appear sooner rather than later.

DEFUNTOS – VIDAS VAZIAS… ALMAS PERDIDAS LP (Bubonic Productions)

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Vidas Vazias… Almas Perdidas…’ is the sixth full-length from Portuguese siblings Defuntos, who have been enchanting me with their odes to death and bereavement since 2006. I’ve bought every Defuntos release to date and they are almost invariably brilliant, with just the occasional wobble. This latest album is presented in vinyl format by Bubonic, limited to 200 units, each of which is dedicated to the owner (take that, you speculating Discogs-using leeches!).

It’s nice having my name written on the fold-over, decidedly-underground paper cover. This adds something extra to the relationship between owner and record. As ever, the artwork is creepy and disturbing, complementing the music perfectly. All the lyrics are included (but this is of little benefit to me as I don’t know any Portuguese – I even had to Google-translate the album title: ‘Empty Lives… Lost Souls…’). Still, cool to have them.

Music-wise, this is not Defuntos’ best album. Though proceedings start encouragingly with a haunting intro and majestic, mournful opening track proper, I found it gradually became laboured and monotonous compared to their previous full-lengths. By comparison, ‘Vidas Vazias… Almas Perdidas…’ seems to plod along and there’s little or no variation. Does this expose a limitation in what Defuntos are trying to do? Then again, I suspect the overwhelming dullness is deliberate and that the band has set out to create their most morbid and depressing work to date. If so, they have succeeded. This is very dreary, very depressing, very downbeat.

All in all, this is another triumph for Defuntos’ unique strain of drum-and-bass, doom-infused Black Metal, even if it falls somewhat short of the quality to be found on this, this or this.

Evilometer:444/666