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Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus – Synkka Tuuli

April 18, 2014 –

Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus - Synkka Tuuli

This is a release showcasing a band in stylistic conflict: on one level are the structural regimentation of black metal and consequent song arrangements which must be followed for the sake of coherence; and on the second level is a tendency towards minimalist neo-classical composition. The divergence of instrumentation on this album makes that divide quite apparent, and confronts the listener with the question of consistency.

Tremolo-picked strumming make up the black metal sections of the album, with a focus towards melody without dulling the raw edge of the sound. The band executes this competently, but not in a novel or as-yet-unheard manner. It does not excite, but neither does it degrade.

Where they strive upwards are in the other parts of the album, which may best be described as similar to the ambient/neo-classical style first explicated through black metal by Burzum, along with the additional development of more studied composition. These are brief pieces, created by grounding a moving arppeggiation with a melodic progression, whether induced by a second instrument providing tonal contrast or alternating between single-notes and chords. This is obviously where the band’s talent lies and this is reflected in the level of these compositions, which comes through even though they are briefly introduced and never fully concluded, which is the general bane of the album.

As a collected whole it does not provide enough value to be of lasting contemplation; but as a compendium of potential points to develop in the future, Synkaa Tuuli is worth considering. If the band is able to parse its future and develop itself in a stringent manner, it will have found a unique take on the genre worth exploring.

Thou Shell of Death – Sepulchral Silence

April 14, 2014 –

thou_shell_of_death-sepulchral_silence

Underground metal musicians have always intensely observed ambient, no-classical, and avant-garde genres. Recognizing the same desire to merge the ideals of classical composition with modern technology and popular song structure, some merge these strands in their own metal-based music.

Debut album from Estonian band Thou Shell of Death, Sepulchral Silence drives itself with the keyboard through a duality of background arpeggios, alongside simple single-tone sequences which generate the main melody of each track. Tempi fit between the plodding pace offered by orchestral doom bands and more upbeat neo-medieval black metal, staying within the realm of death/doom metal that preserves the structure of that genre without incorporating melodic variation. Harmonically logical, the band is more learned in its composition than the typical death/doom band, though more in the sense of ambient or pop music than classical music; as guitar chords and vocals follow the same line as established by the keyboard, rendering them mostly as accompaniment devices.

This produces a result that is easy to comprehend and appreciate, but misses the full weight that a more varied and diverse album would have produced. Tracks are difficult to individually distinguish and due to its melodic uniformity, Sepulchral Silence is well suited for background music perhaps while writing a work of fiction, but for listening for its own sake it does not evoke any lasting sensation beyond a mild but indistinct appreciation.

Pilgrim – II: Void Worship

April 5, 2014 –

pilgrim-ii_void_worship

After metal spent decades expanding its boundaries farther than may be wise, some individuals decided to adopt the inverse of this mentality. Instead of diluting the genre, go back to its roots – and construct songs within an existing framework, rather than trying to do both simultaneously. It is here that heavy-metal/doom “retrovival” band Pilgrim enters the spotlight.

Their latest release, II: Void Worship, features a version of heavy metal which retains the melodic qualities of that genre, along with the rawer rhythmic structures of proto-doom and doom metal. Likely deriving inspiration from bands such as Mercyful Fate, Pentagram, Candlemass, and Cathedral, songs consist of the prototypical verse-chorus structure characteristic of music partly derived from rock. The songs never reach the nihilistic emptiness of death-metal derived doom, but still are heavier than the standard retroactive 80s fare. Indeed, the band occasionally incorporates minor chord strumming which brings to the foreground the confluence of influences present upon more melodic black metal bands. It’s in moments such as these in which the return to the past falters a bit, and the reasoning for doing so isn’t made clear. With the vocals providing a prominent grounding for the melodies, when it is utilized songs drive forward with appropriate vigor.

Nothing on here is novel, or has yet been unheard, and one should expect this before diving inwards towards this release, or the modern branch of the movement it arises from. However, those who are in search of quality metal that upholds a sense of internal quality control will find some songs to appreciate on this release. As this band is still in its early stages, it will be worth waiting to see if they can preserve their link to their influences while making their individuality more distinct.

Nidhogg reveals details of Ildjarn and Hate Forest Those Once Mighty Fallen split

March 29, 2014 –

hate_forest-ildjarn-those_once_mighty_fallen

Last year, we reviewed Ildjarn’s contribution to the Those Once Mighty Fallen split. In it, we speculated that Ildjarn perhaps was uninvolved in composing that music, due to its distinct difference with the rest of his discography.

This perception turned out to be well-founded, as former collaborator NiDHOGG recently revealed the original demo tape via his Youtube page, composed by him in 1994:

iLDjARN has confirmed to me that there’s been a mix-up in regards to the source-material for the split. The songs are my original compositions in their entirety, though uncredited. Old tapes have been floating around . There is no quarrell between me and iLDjARN regarding this, it’s a matter between him and OSMOSE.

The preliminary synth-basses here represent parts of what was later to be recorded as guitar and bass. The songs are 6 of intentionally 12, in random order, with original lyrics drawn from and tracking Voluspå, the ancient Norse tale of Ragnarok.

In the order they were recorded, with original titles, on my ca. ’94 sketch-tape:

1. Balders skjebne
2. Syner
3. Fimbulsvintr
4. Garm gjøy
5. Det siste slage
6. Fra øst en elv

Additionally, NiDHOGG released another demo recording stemming from around the same time period. Similar in diverse ways to the more standard black metal material found on the split and the more feral material composed later; it is an intriguing glimpse back into the relevant years of black metal, even in a nascent form.

Oppression – Sociopathie & Glorie

March 25, 2014 –

oppression-sociopathie_glorie

Punk music, in all of its myriad strains, was an integral foundation of black metal. The sense of strong alienation coupled with a conflicted youthful exuberance towards the future was shared between both genres, in addition to technical specificities. As black metal burned through its trajectory and splintered into its various initiatory parts, it became clear that a punk foundation to the genre would be a logical ground for renewal.

It’s here that we find French-Canadian band Oppression. Merging Oi!-style punk with some enhancements from black metal, tracks are short (2-3 minute) affairs. Melodies are catchy, yet wistful lines grounded in simple guitar and bass riffs, with vocal alternating between manic shrieks and an idiosyncratic, youthful attempt at melodic singing. Using the more linear style composition of punk, as opposed to the riff-stacking song construction used by much of black metal, each song contributes a sense of motion that builds the album up over successive tracks. Production values are what one would expect for this style of music; clear enough to make out each instrument, but raw enough to preserve low-budget ethos.

This is a release that is not attempting to invent a new genre, but rather one which seeks to renew genres that had collapsed under their own entropy. This is a solid debut, which bodes well for the band as they refine their craft into the future. The strange aesthetics may be off-putting to some, but if those can be sublimated into the spirit of this album, a refreshingly honest work will open itself for enjoyment.

Darkthrone announces release of Black, Death and Beyond anthology

March 22, 2014 –

darkthrone-black_death_and_beyond

Former black metal, now heavy metal band Darkthrone have announced the upcoming release of a triptych analog release via Peaceville, featuring a retrospective from each stage of the band’s career. Entitled Black, Death, and Beyond, the tracklist is as follows:

Death:

Side 1:

1. Snowfall
2. Sunrise over Locus Mortis
3. Soulside Journey
4. Neptune Towers
5. Nor the Silent Whispers

Side 2:

1. Iconoclasm Sweeps Cappadocia (NRK version)
2. Sadomasochistic Rites
3. In his Lovely Kingdom
4. Black Daimon
5. Paragon Belial

Black:

Side 1:

1. In the Shadow of the Horns
2. Inn I De Dype Skogers Favn
3. Under a Funeral Moon
4. I en Hall Med Flesk og Mjod

Side 2:

1. The Hordes of Nebulah
2. The Claws of Time
3. Fucked Up & Ready to Die
4. Hate is the Law
5. The Cult of Goliath

Beyond:

Side 1:

1. Graveyard Slut
2. Forebyggende Krig
3. These Shores are Damned
4. Pervertor of the 7 Gates
5. Wisdom of the Dead

Side 2:

1. The Winds they called the Dungeon Shaker
2. Grizzly Trade
3. Those Treasures Will Never Befall You
4. Stylized Corpse
5. The Ones You Left Behind

Additionally, the release will be accompanied by a book detailing the history of the band’s career, with input from Fenriz, Nocturno Culto, and former bassist Dag Nilsen, in addition to archival photos and commentary from associated artists and conspirators.

On choosing which tracks to be included on the release, Fenriz described his method, which he calls the “Fenrizolator”:

I never quit my day job; one of the reasons being that I can listen to music on headphones there all the time. To the extent that I rarely listen to music at home anymore, and if I do it’s like I can’t hear it PROPERLY. At work with headphones is where the details reveal themselves and also which songs I can and can’t use in compilations or dj’ing appear quite clearly.

Every time I get/buy a cassette or vinyl I have to transfer them to wav files via a computer programme, then I write a little note to accompany the final burnt disc. But the note first swings by my workplace where I can rate the various songs with a clever underlining-system called THE FENRIZOLATOR. And so passes the days.

He went on to state that following his system, Hans Siste Vinter was the band’s worst track, and The Cult is Alive received the highest score.

Mayhem announces details of Esoteric Warfare

March 20, 2014 –

mayhem-esoteric_warfare

Former black metal, now modern metal band Mayhem have announced further details about their upcoming album via Season of Mist. Entitled Esoteric Warfare, the track list can be viewed below:

  1. Watcher
  2. Psywar
  3. Trinity
  4. Pandaemon
  5. Mylab
  6. Six Seconds
  7. Throne of Time
  8. Corpse of Care
  9. Posthuman
  10. Aion Suntalia

The album is set to be released on May 23, with a US release date on May 27. It will be available for pre-order next Wednesday, March 26.

Additionally, the band has planned a European tour to support the album’s release, with two festival dates currently scheduled later in the year:

  • 14 May 14 Hamburg (DE) Markthalle
  • 16 May 14 Bochum (DE) Matrix
  • 17 May 14 Köln (DE) Essigfabrik
  • 18 May 14 Eindhoven (NL) Effenaar
  • 20 May 14 Bruxelles (BE) AB
  • 21 May 14 London (GB) Electric Ballroom
  • 22 May 14 Paris (FR) Le Divan du Monde
  • 23 May 14 Winterthur (CH) Gaswerk
  • 24 May 14 Milan (IT) Factory
  • 26 May 14 Bratislava (SK) Randal
  • 27 May 14 München (DE) Backstage Club
  • 28 May 14 Berlin (DE) C-Club
  • 29 May 14 Warsaw (PL) Proxima
  • 30 May 14 Plzen (CZ) Metalfest Open Air Festival
  • 31 May 14 København (DK) Pumpehuset
  • 28 Jun 14 Lausanne (CH) Les Docks (Inferno Festival)
  • 08 Aug 14 Øya (NO) Tøyenparken (Øya Festival)

The album’s first single, entitled Psywar is scheduled for release on April 26. It contains of an alternate mastering of the titular track (our review can be found here), in addition to a track entitled “From Beyond the Event Horizon”, taken from the scrapped 2012 Budapest Sessions.

Twilight – III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb

March 18, 2014 –

twilight-iii_beneath_tridents_tomb

Commercial black metal. Oh dear.

Advertising agencies would like us to believe that Twilight is a “black metal supergroup”; but looking at the list of musicians involved, there isn’t much to do with black metal, let alone a noteworthy record within that genre. If there was a desire to be accurate, the band would be billed as “a group of musicians without much in common, to whom we rented a studio and told them to make something that we could promote”. It’s here the band succeeds…but not anywhere else.

The only thing (fit for print) in my mind while listening to this was: “How long does it take for something experimental to become established and lethargic?” Really, there is nothing new on this album. Noise rock was done in the 80s, stoner rock spawned as well, caveman moshcore flourished in the 90s, and linear, monotonous, American “black metal” has insulted eardrums for over a decade. We all know what these genres sound like. Mashing them together and adding constipated vocals does not constitute a new art form. It is not experimental or new. Nor is it worth releasing.

The most disheartening aspect of this release is that most of the musicians involved are talented to above-average degrees. Unfortunately, none of it comes through on this release. They (and us) would be better served heightening their unique take on their own art form, instead of limply moving to this unremarkable, bland middle-ground…but that doesn’t pay the bills.

Teitanblood – Death

March 17, 2014 –

teitanblood-death

After black metal collapsed, fans went looking for the next great genre to fill the void. Unfortunately, the only “new” developments post-1996 have been of retrogression. Whether combining metal with vapidity (“post-black metal”), commercialism ((Watain, Satyricon)), or frequently both; fans were left without any direction to look to. After reviewing the situation, some honest people realized that “progression” was a sham and the solution was to take metal back to its earlier underground roots in death and speed metal.

Enter Teitanblood.

First, it must be mentioned that this band has a great many features pulling it ahead of 98% of contemporary death and black metal bands. Most importantly, the band is actually metal. It is not pop, grunge, or Japanese videogame music masked with metal aesthetics. Second, the music is competently organized in a manner which facilitates quick understanding of what the band is trying to achieve. Tracks are chaotic bursts of energy which merge the frenetic, kinetic mayhem of black metal with the lucidity of structure offered by death metal. Stream of consciousness motion stays grounded by the relatively consistent vocals, which serve as an anchor between the listener and the assault.

However, this type of composition is not without its pitfalls: due to its nature, songs end up sounding relatively uniform. This is not unheard of in the realm of death metal; however, the band seems to be discomfited by this and thus inserts disruptive moments which share more in common with modern black metal than is comfortable. These consist of slower, “ritualistic” meditations, which in reality is merely minor chord noodling over constipated rantings. Presumably this is supposed to compensate the direct audial rampage offered by the higher-energy sections with a darker mood, but it ends up sounding like a gimmick.

For Teitanblood to progress, it needs to learn how to unify these tendencies into a coherent presentation. If it achieves this, it will deserve all the praise heaped upon it now, but genuinely – as of now, the universal praise of this band reveals the general starvation of the underground metal community for quality releases.

Mayhem – “Psywar”

February 22, 2014 –

mayhem-psywar

Norwegian black metal band Mayhem have released the first side of their upcoming single, entitled “Psywar.” At 3.5 minutes it shows the band continuing their foray into modern extreme metal aesthetics.

The track starts out with palm-muted tremolo picking, which shares more with simplistic death metal than the band’s history of black metal. The verse begins with shouted vocals, with the guitar riff beginning to incorporate modern black metal’s ambiguous arpeggiated aesthetics; which then over-take the track in a short breakdown section, consisting of needling treble notes and “profound” whispered vocals. The track then goes back into action with rather standard modern black metal minor chord strumming, before a short homage back to basic death metal which concludes the track. In short, formulaic and predictable, though it is put together well and probably will garner the band financial reward.

Mayhem was noteworthy for its foundational role in shaping the Norwegian black metal scene. Although a few other bands may have had a more prodigious output, the role provided by the band in organizing the metal scene and the strength of its De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album cemented the band’s legendary status.

For those who are intrigued by what’s presented on this single, but wish to hear the band in its former higher state, visit our Mayhem review archive here.