Torchure – Beyond the Veil re-issue

torchure-beyond_the_veilVic Records re-issues the first album of German death metal band Torchure, whose style of heavy metal infused thunderous death metal saw favorable comparison to early Therion, Morgoth and Miasma.

Formed in 1985, Torchure recorded three demo tapes and two full-length albums which were released on legendary German metal label 1MF. These albums, out of print for two decades, have been aggressively sought by collectors but nearly impossible to find.

Beyond the Veil re-issue contains two re-mastered unreleased tracks as bonus, new liner notes, rare pictures and the original album in its entirety without remaster. You can order it online from Vic Records for € 9,99 and thankfully it is not a digipak.

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Funeral Circle – Funeral Circle

funeral_circle-funeral_circleI remember when I first realized that it doesn’t matter if a band clones its style. I was listening to the first General Surgery and thinking that, while it was basically a Carcass clone, it was also good. Pathologist followed that.

Funeral Circle is an unabashed and faithful Candlemass clone that manages to extend this style in a new direction through the band’s personality, which is slightly less purely dark than Candlemass’s. As a result, we end up with a doom metal band that puts more of an emphasis on epic atmosphere than purely doom atmosphere.

While this release does not have the fully formed personality that Candlemass did, it creates a middle of the room entry point to epic doom. Melodies sometimes borrow from alternative rock, folk and country; riffs are brought from the past with a sensibility derived from power metal, just slowed down. Sometimes, as in power metal, we hear a melodic sense similar to that of religious music.


Funeral Circle as a result is an enjoyable venture into creativity where atmosphere is the goal instead of crushing riffs or catchy choruses. This makes for a listening experience that like ambient music, hopes to store itself in the background and color consciousness, not abruptly direct it.

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Eternal Solstice – The Wish is Father to the Thought

eternal_solstice-the_wish_is_father_to_the_thoughtMany in the metal community view genre names as special keys to secret clubs. The opposite is true: genre names are descriptions that help us explain how bands compose and thus, who will enjoy them.

The Wish is Father to the Thought shows us what is on the surface a death metal band, but which musically is mostly a speed metal band. Further, their choruses tend toward a doom metal pace and mood, which makes the speed/death portions more accessible.

Like other speed/death hybrids Kreator and Destruction, Eternal Solstice use mostly chromatic riffing with lots of muted-strum “chugging” to create a tension and energy. The verses of most of these songs incorporate variants of riffs that Exodus or Anthrax might have used if they were more vicious, like a version of Meshuggah with less technicality and more knowledge of everyday life.

Eternal Solstice creates highly energetic speed metal with occasional death metal riffs, but basically, this band comes to us straight out of the 1980s. Death vocals add a gruff intensity and the lengthy choruses prevent the percussive riffs from being overwhelming, but the real appeal here is in the speed thrills.

The Wish is Father to the Thought was originally released in 1994 and is now re-issued so that a new generation of fans can appreciate this Dutch band at their most intense.

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Ad Hominem – Slaves of God to the Gallows

ad_hominem-slaves_of_god_to_the_gallowsIf you can imagine an industrial band using metal riffs, but instead of relying on the Godflesh style of machine-like industrial restores in itself the older EBM style, you have a decent idea of what Slaves of God to the Gallows is like.

Ad Hominem make easily listened to industrial pop with metal riffs peeking out from beneath the sequenced keyboards, drums and samples, including vocals howling out distorted tempests of chorus. It is more repetitive than metal, and not atmospheric at all; like a pop song, it directs your attention at its focal point and then forces the dots to connect.

As a result, this is somewhat inarticulate compared to metal, despite being able to understand the vocals which I admit is a new experience. Imagine Nine Inch Nails but with more of ceremonial vibe to the keyboards, much as they’re used on a Rotting Christ album, and you have Slaves of the God to the Gallows.

While I’m not the world’s biggest industrial fan simply because it is closer to the repetitive trope function of rock and pop music, this is enjoyable material that hides its intensely repetitive nature as best it can. You may find yourself humming these songs as you go through life, wondering where your brain came up with such viral grooves.

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Strangelight – 9 Days

strangelight-9_daysThe spin on this one is that it was recorded in nine days, so they gave it the mentally catchy title. Sounds very indie rock, no? That’s exactly what this is. Strangelight sounds like a more technical cross between Mudhoney and Sonic Youth.

In fact, I’m baffled as to how this made it into a metal distribution list. It’s indie rock. There’s not even appreciably more distortion. It’s nicely done, with reasonable guitar melodies and vocal support, but it’s highly repetitive.

9 Days also illustrates another problem with indie rock which is that all of it expresses a single mood, which is a kind of depression mixed with wistfulness. I guess it seems profound to Tori Amos fans, but to me it just sounds like people who haven’t yet learned to approach life like they’re alive.

Strangelight do have some interesting influences. In particular, there seems to be an affinity for both British electro-pop and the stream of guitar bands from the 1970s that predated the hard rock and metal explosion. Nothing here is bad, just not particularly relevant.

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Azure Emote – The Gravity of Impermanence

azure_emote-the_gravity_of_impermanenceAlthough there’s a very noodly and “progressive” surface to Azure Emote, what lies beneath the skin is a mixture of speed metal and alternative rock. That gets layered in metal riffs, jazzy guitars, industrial-style vocals and complex percussion.

The Gravity of Impermanence despite having a cool-sounding name delivers almost nothing of what we want from progressive metal, which is puzzles. Games. Brain witchcraft. Interesting twists and turns that make us look forward to another day of being alive, again.

Instead, Azure Emote deliver relatively consistent surges of volume in vocals and drums, and “unpredictability” that’s so predictable it’s like watching a dancer so bad she lunges in exactly the wrong direction at the wrong time. As if sensing this is paltry, the band experiments with extensive vocal weirdness and frequent build-up/break-down types structures.

Perhaps looking for some underground cred, Azure Emote throw in every third riff as something vaguely death metallish in the Nocturnus-Obliveon spectrum of technical riffs. However, without the context to support it, it becomes random instead of interesting.

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Interview: Markus Stock of Empyrium

markus_stock-empyrium

The mysterious entity known as Empyrium has attracted its share of attention over the years by upholding the strongest nature-mystic tradition in metal, and dark ambient into which it migrated.

Like other nature mystics in metal, Empyrium expand the metal lexicon with lush dark organic soundscapes and dynamics that more represent the whims of nature than the mechanical sounds of city or ideology.

Into the Pantheon shows Empyrium in a live setting, both with a concert DVD and a documentary film made about the band and this event. Eagerly awaited by fans who remain loyal to this publicity-shy act, Into the Pantheon delivers a subtle but powerful live experience.

We were fortunate to be able to catch up with Markus Stock of Empyrium for a quick interview.

Interview with Markus Stock of Empyrium

Interview with Markus Stock of Empyrium

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Funerus – Reduced to Sludge

funerus-reduced_to_sludgeComing from the tradition of thunderous American death metal that incorporates doom passages, Funerus write European-style melodies through their songs and as a result create an architecture of moods that gives us song a distinct presence.

Reduced to Sludge uses rolling rhythm riffs, upset by longer fretboard-walking riffs that set up a more complex rhythmic expectation, and then as these riffs repeat modifies them to bring out a melody. Often this is a simple riff that, like a rebuttal, speaks back to the verse-chorus arrangement and expands its two and three notes into a whole melodic phrase.

Funerus shows its influences strongly from all over the map. The easy ones to pick out are Asphyx, Cianide and Entombed, and it’s foolish to expect this band to avoid some influence from Incantation from which its guitarist is loaned. Its faster riffs are simpler and evoke more of a NYDM feel, while its phrasal riffs sound more like the Incantation-Revenant-Profanatica-Demoncy spectrum of cavernous occult doom-death.

While Reduced to Slude demonstrates a range of powerful death metal riff archetypes, its vocals emerge straight from the early days of death metal, sounding both gruff and breathless without being fully guttural while also avoiding the rasp of black metal. These guide the onslaught of riffs when intense, and as it slows the textures meld, creating a sonic veil from which the listener gradually emerges.

Although Funerus stays with a classic death metal sound and thus does not offer a quirky or unexpected aesthetic, the result is that Funerus stays true to its roots and has a voice it is comfortable with. The result is an album of shorter songs that feel like longer songs, and despite being rudimentary and using similar techniques, avoid boredom by staying true to their essential mission of creating a dark and thunderous mood.

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Why I am a douchebag elitist

black_metal_in_quotesSince metal is caught within the regime of popular entertainment, it speaks the language of socialization exclusively. Thus, if you have an unpopular opinion, it’s because you’re mean or a douchebag. Thus it is that people frequently refer to people who have standards as “douchebag elitists.”

Listening to a release by what I’ll call a respectable band, I was reminded of the reasons for my douchebag elitism. This CD is after all mostly right. It has all the right elements, knows the conventions of the genre, and has a number of sentiment and somewhat obvious but effective riffs. Should be good, right?

Except that it’s not good enough. It’s close, but not the same. Where Graveland — its primary influence — had a unique personality and a clear direction, this respectable band is derived from Graveland and Darkthrone and that basis is audible. The basis for Graveland was reality itself; the basis for the respectable band is music.

As a result, it misses on what black metal was. Even more importantly, it misses out on a standard of quality that lets blackmetal be of that level. When we are elitist, and admit only the bands which have a distinct and amazing perspective on the world, we see the genre as it is: the product of independent minds with purpose.

When we let that purpose fall, and allow those who simply want to partake of that vision to be part of the genre, standards plummet. Those bands are imitating from outside and trying to reproduce what was, but in doing so, they’re losing the most essential part of it, which is its motivation as a whole.

For a band to be black metal, it needs to discover the motivating ideas that made black metal what it was. Then, it must have its own take on those ideas, and in addition to that, do what everyone can do these days, which is play well and have good production.

It’s interesting how few people are actually required to make a genre. Graveland is immortal; while Woodtemple sounds good at a distance, and I know from the word of close friends that the person behind it is a good fellow, it would be an adulteration and sacrifice of what black metal is to endorse this album.

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