Ancient myths are the remnants of an age when oral traditions were the main way by which humans preserved and passed on knowledge. This may be the reason why multi-layered symbols and complex relations in stories awkwardly designed to fit differing messages into a form that we may now consider silly. Differing schools of scholarship have developed distinct theories when compiling, reconstructing, and interpreting these messages. Many keep their own “updated” versions which have morphed on their own into the age of the text when the written word defined the transferring and preservation of human knowledge.
Gravestone is an old school death metal band that go back more than a decade but have only been able to crystallize their effort into an album publication until now, despite the material being written for a very long time already. The style approaches the more melodic expression of Mexican (or other Latin American) death metal bands who are more reluctant in the use atonal solos and maintain a controlled dosis of chromatism in their riffing.
Formed of five of seven Jess and the Ancient Ones members including Deathchain/Winterwolf guitarist Thomas Corpse as primary songwriter, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra explores a different side of garage rock which merges the nightclub chanteuse sound of the 1940s with the expansive atmospheric sound of 1970s heavy rock. The result has high emotional intensity, compelling vocals, and much of the darkness that keyboard-assisted bands like The Doors wrought from rock music.
The Exploding Eyes Orchestra launches its debut album, simply titled I, on June 12th via Svart Records. According to Thomas Corpse, the band channels material which was incompatible with the Jess and the Ancient Ones concept. Lengthy recording sessions in Kuopio, Finland during the winters of 2013 and 2014 produced two albums of material, the second half of which will be released as II in 2016, also via Svart Records.
The band prides itself on its “strong, carefully planned compositions” with classic rock influences and strong female vocals. The Exploding Eyes Orchestra has released a first track, “My Father the Wolf,” streaming below. For more information, seek out the band at the The Exploding Eyes Orchestra Facebook page.
Underneath the trappings of an underground death metal band, Toxemia create 1970s-style doom metal, formed mainly of heavy metal elements but incorporating stylistic influences from a variety of darker shades of underground metal, most notably Autopsy Mental Funeral.
In chord progressions, song structure and lead guitar, this album most closely resembles what might happen if old Saint Vitus crossed over with a primitive proto-death metal band like Master, albeit at the slower tempi necessary for doom metal. Each song features a riff loop for verse and chorus with discursive riffs and use of both freeform lead guitar and rhythmic lead guitar overlays to distinguish the song. Clear themes emerge and while tonally there are few surprises, the arrangement of these familiar elements in forms that fit the particular worldview of this band makes these tracks interesting. While the underground metal influence can be seen in tremolo technique and layering of drums and guitars around a tempo change in the death metal style, the essence of Ancient Demon remains in the hard rock/heavy metal roots of the first generation of doom metal bands.
Experienced listeners may find some kinship here with the first Varathron album which also took a theatrical approach to traditional heavy metal and created dark atmospheres which both fulfilled expectations of that genre and distorted them into outsider commentary on the conventions themselves. The use of doom-death technique accelerates this band past most of the bands heading backward in time in the doom metal genre, but its spirit remains in that ideal and its execution is both faithful and inventive.
Flemish black/death metal band released Laguz worldwide on March 31, 2015 on Massacre Records. The album shows the band taking, like other death metal bands transitioning to an epic symphonic style such as Therion, more of a power metal approach.
Properly belonging to the power metal camp that hybridized heavy metal with death metal technique, Ancient Wind plays fast melodic songs with conventional structure in a style influenced by melodic death metal favorites like At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul but also takes its influence from higher-energy bands in that style like Unanimated Ancient God of Evil and Merciless Unbound.
Within that context, this band is highly competent but it is possible to win the battle and lose the war, and unfortunately by managing their technique so carefully Ancient Wind have created the most unfortunate of all metal mis-steps, which is the album of constant intensity. This same disadvantage plagues bands like Perdition Temple and Fallen Christ with an energy that is so incessant it causes the music to fade into the background because of its invariant nature. That being said, there is some quality riffing here although nothing all that surprising, much of which recycles the 1980s era of heavy metal with a focus on Iron Maiden. Bluesy leads with staggered tonal center shifts complete that part of the picture. With all of that considered, it begs the question whether Ancient Wind should keep up the death metal front at all because with more internal tempo changes and a classic Hetfield-style strong male vocal, they could be on the edge of a speed metal revival which not only is a less crowded field than melodic “death metal” — put in quotations because at its heart this is heavy metal or speed metal with death metal technique but not composition — but more accurately represents the inclinations of this band. Liking classic heavy metal has never been a bad thing, but a modern tribute to that style will have to achieve the same distinction that the original had or it fades into the stylistic background much like constant high intensity and similar song structures causes it to flow past like a faucet on “high.”
The Chosen Slain displays many strong attributes including impeccable musicianship through riffs that demand not just precision siting of chords in the technical heavy metal style, but accurate textural strumming in the death metal method. Clearly a lot of effort went into this release. With more tempo changes, song structures that wait to present conclusions until they culminate tension in the music, and a few stylistic adjustments, this could be a really excellent record. As it is now, it faces a difficult struggle differentiating itself in the melodic death metal field despite being better than most contenders. As this band gains more confidence and listens more to their own material, it is likely these changes will come naturally, and an album which strikes the listener as competent but not memorable like The Chosen Slain will give way to something more like its inspiration in Merciless and Unanimated and less like the immensely popular but saccharine and uninspiring drivel that At the Gates put out after giving up on their own art and wanting metal to be a day job instead.
Forever Plagued Records intends to release both of these “this year,” according to an announcement on its email newsletter, but this language does not clarify which year this is since 2014 is nearly done. Most likely, this announcement was intended for early 2015 and reflects a 2015 street date for these albums.
Here is the full statement:
Forever Plagued Records is also very proud to announce DEMONCY will be releasing a new EP this year entitled “Risen From The Ancient Ruins”, it will include three new tracks and one ambiant. As a follow up, another DEMONCY release FPR has planned for this year, namely, the new rendition of “Empire Of The Fallen Angel aka Eternal Black Dominion”. Both releases will feature IXithra’s voice of unclean spirits.
Noted black metal logo designer Christophe Szpajdel is featured in an upcoming exhibit in New Zealand of metal and other illustrators and the logos and embellishments they create.
The exhibit will run simultaneously in Auckland at Nature: Art + Design and in Wellington at The Rogue & Vagabond from September 28 – October 15, 2013, and will feature Szpajdel as well as four New Zealand-based designers.
As underground metal expands its reach and influence, events like Ancient Modernism: An Exhibition of Letter Art and Illustration in Heavy Metal and Beyond will contribute further to understanding the meaning beneath the menacing imagery and sonically terrorizing music.
Mark your virtual calendar for Fri, February 22, 6:05 PM EET (which translates to 10:05 AM Central time here in the States) for a live concert which will be streaming over the internet to your screen.
In particular, this is reportedly the last ever concert of Finland’s Demilich, who despite being legendary and making legendary music, have probably seen their last days since guitarist Antti Boman is happily ensconced in Jess and the Ancient Ones.
Also playing will be Winterwolf, a band that calls to mind the buzzsaw guitar and dark melodies of God Macabre and Amorphis. Most likely the luminaries of the Finnish death metal underground will be there as well.
Coming at you straight out of an alternate version of 1964, Jess and the Ancient Ones sound like a fusion between fifties crooner music and sixties rock, but with a twist: this music is based on occultism, the renewal of souls, and an epic spiritual war splitting heavens and earth.
Vocalist Jess dominates the music with her arched and elegant vocals which possess a strength and sultry timbre not found in many singers past the 1970s. She belts out these songs with a conviction and yet a subtlety which is reminiscent of Abba and Nancy Sinatra.
Guitar work by the three wizard guitarists in this band is subtle and supports the vocal role in defining each song, either through subdued chord strumming that is just offtime enough to induce a dreamlike haze, or lead fills that churn momentum behind the vocals.
When this came on the MP3 shuffle, I was convinced it was 1960s material and had to double-check the name immediately thereafter. The quality of vocal melody and self-assured minimalism and proficiency of the guitars and drumming makes this band seem otherworldly to the musical offerings now, which aren’t as “musical” and definitely aren’t as confident and interesting.
The biography claims that “JATAO draw inspiration from heavy metal and rock groups of the classic era, such as Mercyful Fate, Roky Erickson, Iron Maiden and Abba.” The Roky Erickson and Abba stand out the most. It’s probably a mistake to pitch this to a metal audience, since the type of person who will immediately enjoy this 1950s underworld vibe would be a Misfits or Lou Reed fan, although just about anyone who likes good songwriting and strong performance will get into it if they give it a chance.
These three songs, one of which is a cover of “Long and Lonesome Road” from Dutch band Shocking Blue, just whet the appetite. Look to 2012’s debut album from this band for more of this material, but they seem to be growing into their sound and being unabashedly less metal/rock and more progressive with every release.
1. Astral Sabbat (6:27)
2. Long and Lonesome Road (3:10)
3. More Than Living (14:48)