Condemner – Omens of Perdition (2015)

Condemner - Omens of Perdition - cover

Article by David Rosales

Published as an EP last year, Omens of Perdition is a minimalist death metal act that could easily draw comparisons with Desecresy. They share the spacious (and spacey-vortexy) approach to an Incantation like style through the sound of the Finns. When we go into particulars, however, the differences make it clear that resemblances are mostly a matter of general sound preferences, not methodology.

While Desecresy as most perfectly materialized in Stoic Death gives us a Finnish death metal that depends on high-note, short melodies as hooks with laid-back riffs for support, meat and almost harmonic accompaniment, Condemner goes through no such hoops, cutting to the chase, delivering an unrefined but naturally compelling train of dark thoughts. Riffs in Omens of Perdition are essentially melodies with few notes that constitute the bare-bone themes of the music, with nothing else but a bass unison and soft-punch, minimalist blast-beating drums.

These drums are played lightly but insistently, providing for emphasis on dynamics and accent in an application somewhat reminiscent of Paul Ledney’s style on Dethrone the Son of God by Havohej without the occasional flair. Rather than complement each other, the instrumentation in this music forms a total unison, even the percussion. Intensity varies evenly, changes affect all instruments towards the same side of the spectrum. When arriving at the slowest and vastest, the music may even exhibit silences on the drums, while huge guitar power chords roar as the drums only mark accents, reminding one of certain parts of Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet.

Songs alternate thematic riffs that run over mirroring, enhancing drums, with scantly-clad doomy statements covered by a mantle of skeletal power chords. To the detriment of this otherwise quite satisfying music, what effaces the identity of individual songs (and of the release and band itself) is the complete lack of obvious climaxes. We can also take this as both the strength and willing limitation of Condemner, which presents a clear, solid monolithic picture. This steadiness may allow the author to draw an abstract parallel with J.S. Bach’s fugal writing for the keyboard or chorales.

While there doesn’t seem to be any particular goal in Condemner Omens of Perdition, the straight-forward treatment is accompanied by an inconspicuously dexterous development of themes. This in itself is more than could be wished as a saving grace. It becomes both a protection of higher music from the pop-hook addicts and a mystical gateway which opens up through direct intuitional experience to he who is listening.

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Witchblood – Hail to Lyderhorn(2014)

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Article by David Rosales

Witchblood is a black metal band that falls on the darkest corner of the folky side of the fence. While not specifically minimalist, Hail to Lyderhorn is a very simple and straightforward music that leans completely on the guitars for content and texture. This album may get repetitive or even a little thin at times but its saving grace is its coherent diversity of textures and techniques. The scant but effective use of keyboards is laudable, being effective as it is magnetic.

The guitars function as one only voice most of the time, with a trusty bass for a spinal chord. The meanness of this portion of the instrumentation places great stress over the role of percussion. The drums have now to fill up spaces and act like the second rock in the bolas of an Argentinian gaucho. To Witchblood’s merit, this is accomplished more than satisfactorily, with drums that compliment or mirror the metal strings, rising to the occasion as required.

Comments will be made about the quality of the vocal performance, which is neither deep, rich nor very powerful. Despite this, the overall result of the music in Hail to Lyderhorn does not seem affected negatively noticeably because of this. In part this is because, as with the instrumentation, the vocalizations were performed well within the boundaries of their limits, allowing them to perform effectively, and therefore avoiding the possible blunders of overextension. We may also want to point out that the textures for guitar riffs and their chosen registers stay clear of the space in which the voice moves. When the guitar’s approach changes (for example, arpeggiating chords into higher notes), the vocal approach also changes, sometimes to a haunting witch chant.

Released in 2014, Witchblood Hail to Lyderhorn is a deserving release that might have escaped the radar of most fans who would otherwise have derived much value from it. While it’s no classic or game changer, this album is nonetheless a low-key example of shrewd amateur efficiency and spirit.

Editor’s note: “Hail to Lyderhorn” was briefly covered in our best of 2014.

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Imperial Age – Warrior Race (2016)

IMPERIAL-AGE_Warrior-Race_Artwork2016_final (artwork by Jan Yrlund)

Article by David Rosales

Power metal releases are, admittedly, not the the first thing this site’s audience mainly come here for, but every once in a while we grace your eyes with the occasional appraisal of very rare honorable mentions of this superficial genre. More often than not, power metal is vain and empty, and although musically competent, also musically laughable. By its very nature, it has a higher incidence of worthless products, but that could be said of almost any mainstream genre when compared to underground ones. Contrary to your expectations, Imperial Age will receive praises here today. A cursory glance at Warrior Race might leave the impression that there is nothing new, nothing different in here that could set it apart from the bulk of contemporary power metal releases. It does not even pretend to have the progressive inclinations that some of its most ambitious competitors boast of. Structure-wise, it is as predictable as the most rigid sing-along pop acts. The tone is typically flamboyant and aristocratically haughty as becomes a European power metal ensemble.
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Enslaved and Wardruna members collaborate in Skjuggsjá

Metal flavored post-rock (modern Enslaved) and ambient folk oriented music (Wardruna) are both established things. I am not so sure the fusion of such in Skjuggsjá, a side project album featuring Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik, is as common. Skjuggsjá does seem to feature all the pretension inherent in either, and was apparently written and first performed for the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Norwegian constitution of 1814. This studio recording will release on March 11th; the released single does not seem to emphasis the potential metal instrumentation of such a project, although scattered live clips suggest some effort towards this end on other tracks.

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Mortuary (FRA) – Nothingless Than Nothingness (2016)

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Not to be confused with the Mortuary on the Dark Legions Archives from Mexico, this Mortuary started as a contemporary of the great Massacra, although they didn’t get a studio album out until 1996. Nothingless than Nothingness is separated from even that by 20 years, so the usual rhetoric about evolving or dramatically changing bands applies, but this band’s early material may very well have been inspired on some level by Massacra’s works; at the very least, Final Holocaust and similar was pushing Mortuary towards velocity and intricacy of individual riffs over minimal backing.

To get it out of the way – Nothingless than Nothingness has very little to do with that style, and instead takes cues from pre-Slaughter of the Soul melodic death metal; while less obvious about their melodic influences than most, material on here reminds me of… well… Thy Black Destiny, of all albums. Sacramentum’s 1999 effort may have seemingly little to do with this recording, but its similar use of monophonic melody, variety of texture, hints of contemporary black metal instrumentation, and gradual gestures towards a more rock-oriented form of songwriting (such as frequent breakdowns and vocal emphasis) make for an eerie similarity, if far from an exact one. This is backed up by a band that is technically accomplished in the pedestrian variety that I’ve long since come to expect from modern death metal. One thing that did stand out, however, the vocalist, who showcases his proficiency in adding dimensions to the songs by varying up his rhythm and the textures of his growls; the way he interacts with the drummer, in fact, is probably the strongest point of this album and something other death metal bands could learn from.

Nothingless than Nothingness arguably ends up ahead of the pack for at least having one superlative element worthy of study. Unfortunately, the compositions are afflicted by a few of the problems endemic to modern metal music. First of all, most of these tracks showcase haphazard breakdowns that enter abruptly and contribute little to the ideas of the song. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that Mortuary uses extended sections of blast beats to good effect, so hearing the band dwell on their weaknesses is disheartening. The other problem is that even though many of the individual sections are musically interesting, they’re arranged in a fashion that is attention-deflecting at best and essentially random at worst. If Mortuary put more effort into making coherent arrangements, they’d be a serious force to be reckoned with, but the lack of organization is such an enormous blow to an otherwise promising and well done album.

Mortuary’s latest album will release officially on January 18th, for those who are still interested.

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Blliigghhtted – Kosmoskampf (2015)

blliigghhtted_-_kosmoskampf

It taunted me with its existence – for nearly half a month, working on DMU meant being privvy to our eventual stream of the upcoming Kosmoskampf. Blliigghhtted is for all purposes another star in the Merdümgiriz constellation (read: label), most notably sharing several members with the AxCx flavored Viranesir. As a result of this, there are some musical similarities, but at least going by the the lyrical content, Blliigghhtted is oriented a bit more towards the occult end of the shock rock spectrum, possibly making it easier for laypeople to digest. It’s still an especially challenging listen. While Kosmoskampf is marketed as a sort of black metal, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had instead been sold as some sort of extreme post-punk recording. Overlap and common ancestors aside, Blliigghhtted’s lengthy, dissonant songs make for easier comparisons to an act like Swans. It just so happens to be the complete antithesis of what I look for in music!

At this point, the reviewer took a break to wallow in his own unfamiliarity with the subgenres on display.

Kosmoskampf is a complete mess, but as far as I can tell, it’s an intentional mess. I remember seeing the term “critic-proof” somewhere while doing my perfunctory research for this review, and to put it bluntly, it’s the perfect description. Each of the songs is a 10-11 minute cesspit of whatever technique thrown together without much in the way of coherent organization. The constantly shifting tempos and repeated periods of pure dissonance don’t exactly tie things together, although the instrumentation stays fairly consistent. So far, I’ve been able to dredge up the occasional guitar phrase reminiscent of a melodic black metal recording, the occasional moaned vocals drenched in reverb, and so forth; in general there are some musical elements I can latch onto, and I can say with some confidence that the album isn’t complete noise. Beyond that, all bets are off. Performing such music must be interesting on a ritual level, but outside perhaps a live experience, a great deal of potential energy (or at least concert debauchery) goes missing.

Despite my attempts not to, I find Kosmoskampf‘s efforts endearing, perhaps influenced as I am by the performers’ antics outside the album. I still would not be surprised if few shared my admittedly nebulous opinions.

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Myrkur frontwoman receiving death threats

Myrkur promo pic

It doesn’t take much time to notice that we’re not big fans of Myrkur’s music, to the point that I tend to drop a link to my review of the act’s full length debut when something displeases me in modern black metal and its descendants. Other parts of the internet are rather more vitriolic in recent times; a few days ago, Myrkur’s Facebook page disabled private messages in response to a torrent of death threats. Amalie Bruun promptly followed this up by claiming the problem was American in origin.

myrkur drama

In a more hyperbolic world, the internet would explode. In ours, it still triggered many of Myrkur’s fans and critics alike; even now, metal enthusiasts worldwide are trying to score social points by writing editorials about how sending death threats is bad (m’kay), and near-battles are almost fought over an issue that probably shouldn’t have been publicized in the first place. You don’t want people making threats against you to feel like they’ve accomplished something of value, have you? The more cynical part of me thinks all this is going to do is build up further buzz, attention, and record sales for Myrkur, as if her upcoming tour alongside Behemoth wasn’t enough of an opportunity. Still, responding to Myrkurphobia with xenophobia is not the answer we’re looking for here at DMU.

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Upcoming tours: Behemoth

Behemoth-Myrkur-tour-2016

Behemoth is still promoting their last album (The Satanist), despite rumors of the next. To this end, the band is going on a lengthy “Blasfemia Amerika” tour where they play the album in its entirety. There are two major legs to this tour – the European portion that is described on Behemoth’s CSS transform heavy official website, and a second part in the United States that is just making its way to major news sites as we speak. Neither supporting lineup is particularly interesting – in Europe they’ll be supported by Abbath, Entombed AD, and Inquisition, while the USA will have to deal with Myrkur. For those who absolutely need this in their lives, the following dates have been announced in the USA:

Apr. 21 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of the Living Arts
Apr. 22 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
Apr. 23 – Boston, MA – Royale
Apr. 25 – Montreal, QC – Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre
Apr. 26 – Toronto, ON – The Phoenix Concert Theater
Apr. 27 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall
Apr. 29 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
Apr. 30 – Minneapolis, MN – Mill City Nights
May 1 – Lawrence, KS – The Granada Theater
May 3 – Denver, CO – The Gothic Theatre
May 4 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex
May 6 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
May 7 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory

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Upcoming Tours: Ghost

ghostposter

One of our targets is coming to the United States. Ghost has repeatedly made their way into our Sadistic Metal Reviews for Meliora alone, but their retro rock/metal sound and vaguely clerical aesthetic has won them a lot of fans. Thusly, they’re making their way to the United States. This tour loosely coincides with the upcoming Grammy Awards in February, giving the band many an opportunity to further boost their commercial success. While it’s not necessarily to our fans’ interest, maybe someone could visit a concert and give us a writeup? I’m sure it’d make for interesting reading; we’ve had success with the concept in the past.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature – Cauldron – In Ruin (2016)

cauldroninruincd

This is, without any subtlety, an exceedingly middle of the road work of traditional heavy metal. It’s not particularly ‘heavy’, containing little more than a set of rudimentary melodic rock riffs played at a middling pace overlaid with an exceedingly generic frontman. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the ‘glam’ metal (read: harder radio rock) of the ’80s, although Cauldron’s visual aesthetic is closer to a generic metalhead look. Nothing is particularly offensive here – the vocals are a bit lamer than average for reasons that are hard to quantify, but otherwise this is a vaguely competent albeit unremarkable recording that I am already forgetting as I write this album. You, on the other hand, are probably wondering why I would choose to cover something that’s so devoid of positive or negative qualities. It turns out that listening to this sort of recording places a few important ideas in my head.

By now, our readers should be familiar with how quickly our species as a whole forgets about the… lower tier of media works that are quickly forgotten once something more novel comes along. A sufficient amount of effort and/or financial wizardry can distort this phenomenon, occasionally resulting in an artist who refuses to leave the public eye due to radio payola, or personal misconduct, or whatever reason. Cauldron, to my understanding, is not thusly blessed, although they and associates presumably have enough business resources to create some buzz for a while. Maybe they’ll become one of those “moderately successful” metal bands I talked about earlier that can live comfortably, if not glamorously off their money. I highly doubt, however, that a band this generic is going to make any serious impact on most listeners, though and will probably fade quickly whenever they call it quits. There are two important corollaries here – the metal fanbase Cauldron has to fight for will turn over with time, and similarly so will the metal bands competing for mindshare. There’s definitely a lesson to be learned here about the state of the metal world, although you can also make a case that it’s better studied through either a more notorious band, an objectively worse one, or some combination of the two.

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