Kataxu – Roots Thunder (2000)

kataxu - roots thunder

Article by Anton Rudrick.

Consciously transcendental, voluntarily anachronistic, causing despondent exasperation among the pretentious and the untermensch. Kataxu blends the phantasmagorical reveries of dungeon synth with brief, unidentifiable nods to the nordic triune of atmospheric evil black metal. Kataxu Roots Thunder escapes morphing into ‘flowing black metal‘, layers majestically, layers in hiding, layers hiding, forms and shapes…

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Ghoulgotha – To Starve the Cross (2016)

ghoulgotha - to starve the cross

Article by Corey M.

To Starve the Cross sounds like the result of having chopped up a dozen good death metal songs and pasted the bits back together in such a way to eliminate any sense of continuity. Ghoulgotha is obviously made up of experienced and skilled players including the drummer of Ascended Dead and the guitarist from Father Befouled and Decrepitaph (among several other projects).

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Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness Full Dynamic Range Edition

Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness cover

Morbid Angel recorded what was supposed to be their debut album in 1986. Compositionally excellent and novel, Abominations of Desolation was a Manhattan project of death metal as a truly musically distinct sub-genre. However, band leader Trey Azagthoth and then producer Dave Vincent were unhappy with the recording. Azagthoth quickly fired drummer/vocalist Browning and bassist John Ortega, and shelved the album, which Ortega later released as a bootleg. Vincent and Azagthoth had a point though: Browning’s drumming was shaky and he sounded like a wimp. His drumming lacked power, never making use of blast beats while his vocals could have come out of a whiny fourteen-year-old.

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Morte Macabre – Symphonic Holocaust (1998)

morte macabre - symphonic holocaust

Article by Johan P continuing Death Metal Underground’s progressive rock coverage.

Morte Macabre is a collaboration between members of the Swedish prog revivalist groups Landberk and Anekdoten, who joined forces to create progressive rock that is equal parts beautiful and disturbing. Their only album – Symphonic Holocaust – is a real treat for those who enjoy creepy music in general, especially 1970s Italian horror movie soundtracks. It is a tribute to the darker side of 70s progressive rock, with reference to Italian groups and composers like Celeste, Goblin, Museo Rosenbach, Fabio Frizzi and Riz Ortolani. An explicit Red-era King Crimson influence permeates the album as well.

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Dark Fury – This Story Happened Before (2016)

Dark Fury - This Story Happened Before - front cover

Dark Fury present a mid-paced black metal work of catchy lead melodies atop generic power chord metal riffing. These leads are never jaw-dropping or profoundly clever but mostly effective in the context of the songs. This Story Happened Before‘s problem is that many of the best leads send out a sense of déjà entendu and are only occasionally progressed to fitting melodic conclusions; Dark Fury rely too much on highly-structured rock song formats with bridges and breaks almost making the album a riff salad. Many of the rhythm riffs are the sort of filler power chord chugs used by death metal bands and the few war metal bands that actually care to occasionally have metal riffs such as Diocletian. Dark Fury too often use this as a songwriting crutch.

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Master’s Hammer – Ritual (1991)

Master's Hammer - Ritual

Ritual is the pinnacle of the Central European black metal style characterized by continuing the riffing tradition of traditional heavy metal and strict adherence to speed metal song structure; Hellhammer, Mercyful Fate, Slayer, and even Megadeth influences are easily heard along with Bartók’s folkishness and Chopin’s romanticism. While their compatriots Root presaged the Hellenic scene, Master’s Hammer’s operatic use of the mellotron inspired the divergent atmosphere Emperor employed on In the Nightside Eclipse.

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Blood Incantation – Starspawn (2016)

blood incantation star spawn

Article by Lance Viggiano.

Blood Incantation give birth to a star which rapidly dissipates its vibrant material into a pale dwarf by exhausting concise songwriting early in its lifecycle to leave only the raw core of extended jam sessions which cause the dead to be grateful for their passing. Each proper song begins with a clear objective but rapidly loses focus through descents into ill-fitting random pastiches of mosh riffs, doom, beer horn ready chug or atmospheric atonal ambience. By and large, the latter half of these songs are used to adroitly drift in the vacuum of purpose wherein it makes its residence. Unlike Altars of Madness which similarly abuses the listener by stretching the limits of tolerance towards virtuosity, this group lacks the voracious songwriting that is necessary to avoid wandering by achieving focus to force the captive into loving punishing bouts of self-indulgence.

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Sorcier des Glaces – Snowland MMXII

snowland mmxii

Artistically bankrupt metal bands typically rerecord their early material after milking the revenue streams dry through reissues, remasters, anniversary tours, and boxed sets. While the original recordings typically aren’t pristine productions, all charm is lost in the sample-replaced, quantized, digitally-reamped, and phase-butchered retreads shat out by an obsessive tinkerer’s digital audio workstation. All enthusiasm in the performances is butchered by years of alcohol abuse and aging journeyman musicians collecting just another paycheck, e.g. Sodom’s The Final Sign of Evil, Manowar’s Battle Hymns MMXI, and Bolt Thrower’s “World Eater ‘94”. Snowland MMXII is one of the few exceptions to this rule of rehash.

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Nokturnal Mortum & Graveland – The Spirit Never Dies (2016)

graveland & nokturnal mortum

Article by David Rosales.

Splits are usually revealing for reasons the bands do not intend. By allowing their music to be placed alongside that of another band in a way that listening to them one after the other is not only encouraged but, in metal culture, almost mandatory, they make comparisons and judgements based on performance differences inevitable. The aim might be to publish a few tracks more efficiently and getting the music to more people since people who know one of the two bands will listen to the other band out of curiosity. The more zealous metal fans, however, are bound to make harsher judgements of anything that is placed too close to the band they follow.

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