Sarcasm – Esoteric Tales of the Unserene (Chaos, 2019)

One of many promising acts who fell by the wayside in the early 1990, Swedish melodic death/black band Sarcasm made a somewhat unexpected return in 2015 with the long overdue release of their 1994 debut full-length Burial Dimensions. Then in 2017 came their return proper with Within in the Sphere of Ethereal Minds, an aesthetically pleasing marred by haphazard assembly. With Esoteric Tales of the Unserene (2019), Sarcasm return to previously explored territories; maybe in the hope of striking a better equilibrium between the style’s main constituents: black-, death- and heavy metal.

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Angel Witch – Angel of Light (Metal Blade, 2019)

Mighty influential NWOBHM’ers Angel Witch is about to unleash their greatly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s As Above, So Below. The album, entitled Angel of Light, will hit the market on November 1 and will be available in a plethora of formats. Together with countrymen Satan, Angel Witch count as one of few returning old school metal acts who’ve managed to modernize their sound without having it reflect negatively on their past efforts. However, since As Above, So Below consisted primarily of re-recorded material from the golden days, this new effort could be seen as the true testing ground for the band.

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OPHTHALAMIA – A Journey in Darkness (Avantgarde Music, 1994)

While primarily known for his work with black metal/noise-pioneers Abruptum and assorted non-musical activities in the – at least locally – infamous “True Satanist Horde”, it is the strange entity of Ophthalamia that remains as Tony “IT” Särkkä’s (RIP 1972-2017) greatest artistic achievement. Ophthalamia’s debut album A Journey in Darkness stood out in the early 1990s black metal-environment with its anachronistic and all-around peculiar mode of expression. In rough terms, the music can be described as a blend of black-, doom-, and heavy metal with the conceptual and structural trappings of 1970s progressive rock.

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Atlantean Kodex The Course of Empire

Bavarian Heavy metal band Atlantean Kodex return with their third opus The Course of Empire after a long six year wait following the excellent The White Goddess. This band is known for their penchant for the grandiose and is deeply rooted within strong Bathory and early Manowar influences played in the style of Solstice, but this time round the band add influences from Dio while maintaining the bardic tradition at the heart of this band. This record seeks to add a much grander cinematic scope to the music and the band do so with a much more maximalist approach to aesthetics in this sparse style of composition.

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Orcrypt – Dice and Damnation (Self-released demo, 2019)

In wait of their sophomore full-length album, premiere Pure Goblin Black Metal (PGBM) band Orcrypt released this demo recording some time ago. Dice and Damnation retains the sound and vibe displayed on the previous effort Mercenaries of Mordor; a fearless blend of cavernous black- and heavy metal that somehow dodges the obvious trappings of such a composite. But rather than settling into a comfortable template, the band choose to approach the material from a slightly different angle.

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COMPILATION REPORT: Ultra Metal (Monitor, 1990)

Back in the 1980/90s – a time when underground metal wasn’t just a click away – buying compilation albums was a fun and affordable method for discovering new music. As introductions to specific styles or scenes – some of which otherwise remained restricted to the tape trading community – they’re the perfect option. Also, compilations occasionally featured alternate takes or tracks that couldn’t be found on the albums proper. Ultra Metal serve both functions; presenting the then current state of Czechoslovakian underground metal and offering exclusive versions of specific songs.

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Godkiller – The Warlord (Self-released, 1995)

When doing research for the recently published review of Godkiller’s The Rebirth of the Middle Ages I stumbled upon this earlier demo-proposal by the band. Released the year before the EP, The Warlord consists of a short introductory instrumental piece + two lengthier compositions spanning over ten minutes each. Of particular interest in this context is the second track, entitled “Path to the Unholy Frozen Empire”. Those who’ve previously acquainted themselves with The Rebirth of the Middle Ages will recognize the song by music, lyrics and title as the predecessor to the EP’s centerpiece number, although rawer in presentation. This observation is – by all means – anything but spectacular. More interesting is the fact that the demo features the song in elongated form.

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Godkiller – The Rebirth of the Middle Ages (Wounded Love, 1996)

Before morphing into some kind of industrial hybrid act, Monaco’s Godkiller released this charming yet flawed bagatelle of medievalist melodic black metal. Stylistically, it could be described as a loosely knit mélange of early Satyricon, Emperor and Summoning if channeled through the warm, emotive dialect of Mediterranean culture. That much of the material is voiced in a quirky, mannerist voice tells us that this can only be the work of a solitary artist.

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