Reverorum Ib Malacht – De Mysteriis Dom Christi

Dark ambient and raw black metal have always held a close relationship in shared attempts to create dark, haunting and visceral music experiences. Euronymous once claimed Abruptum were the ultimate perfection of the black metal sound despite the band being more accurately defined as a venture into the mysterious world of dark ambient. This trend continued onwards over the years as we’ve seen black metal musicians venture into dark ambient projects such as Stallagh or Moëvöt.  Yet despite many years of this alliance, no band has ever formulated as perfect a marriage between black metal and dark ambient to create a chilling, epic masterpiece in the way that Reverorum Ib Malacht has on their 2014 work De Mysteriis Dom Christi.  And- much has their title suggests- they did so by boldly defying everything dark music was known for.
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Portal – Ion

Newer metal bands in the mid-2000s went one of few ways: the competition among users of extreme techniques caused a degree of one-upmanship that obscured the message of the music of “technical” bands, while the desire to get the audience to move caused the compositions of -core bands to be infiltrated by danceable open-note rhythms, and those left outside these groups grew more and more abstract in execution as if to rebel against conventional songwriting.  The issue here is that all three avenues, despite the latter being the most declarative, require an aesthetic sleight-of-hand to mask the lack of authoritative message in composition while the music is steered with the effects on the listener in mind rather than coming from the innate desire of a composer to communicate.  Portal, along with Ulcerate and Deathspell Omega, ushered in a style of metal that is entirely rooted in audience manipulation through a reliance on discordance that borders on desperation.  A challenge in viewing bands like this objectively is that it is difficult to fully understand whether the intent is holistically realized or if the sound and execution is the result of having no spirit of communication beyond purely aesthetic virtues.  Perhaps the evolution in sound was the understanding that metal did need to progress, and although there were surely undiscovered ways to do so, an analysis of all prior compositions reveal that metal was comprised of a multitude of expressions utilizing the same symbols: songs needed intros, various types of phrases that build tension, bridges, climaxes, and resolutions, and the catalog of conventional music that we have is constructed of various shufflings of these elements.  So, although a new act could in theory have a unique approach to music, they were essentially draping a new skin on a tired skeleton.  Metal, and music in general, had to go somewhere and it had to be led by someone that had a clear vision of something to communicate. And most importantly, it had to be done so without a reliance on the tropes that human nature has formulated with respect to the idea of song; ultimately, it needed to cripple it from within.

Is Portal the band to breach these waters, or are the efforts of the band a reflection of a lack of having anything to say intrinsically while still being able to coast on a formulaic command of discordant textures where fully realized phrases once guided the listener through a narrative journey?

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Thorns – Thorns

Anyone hoping for a classic or revitalizing take on the black metal genre should take note of the path taken by the acknowledged co-creator of its infamous guitar style: Snorre “Blackthorn” Ruch.  On the debut album of his creation Thorns (delayed almost a decade by his misfortune presence at the scene of Euronymous’s murder), he finds himself aided by some of the genre’s most renowned musicians who, through their own bands, shared a similar direction themselves.   Although a careful listen reveals that Thorns S/T was able to surpass above mentioned bands on many levels, it is also immediately obvious that it is indeed part of the unfortunate route into industrial/electronics taken by many in the “extreme metal” genre during the early 2000s.  Much like their countrymen in Emperor, Enslaved, and Arcturus, Thorns found themselves on a strange journey that an old issue of Terrorizer magazine accurately described as “The Weirding of Norway.”
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SHAARIMOTH Temple of the Adversarial Fire

Well crafted and nicely produced, Temple of the Adversarial Fire by Shaarimoth , appears to be a nice mixture of 90s black metal fun.  This is more in the epic vein, rather than underground sounding.  Lets face it: the first two songs are great.  There is a nice mixture of riffs and beats, with short phrasing.  It is a bit heavy on vocals. They can get tiring at points.  Bands I hear as influences here include Emperor, Morbid Angel, early My Dying Bride, and Bal Saggoth. Making my way through the album, song 3 leads with annoying vocals (minus 1 star), over a slower heavier riff.  In song 4, am waiting for the album to get its mojo back. It does, with a European blast beat that has a sick lower grinded guitar counterpart. A fun, evil Samael style rock riff emerges from that. Some of the vocals still are iffy, but the guitar playing is growing on me. Why is the album so choppy though?

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Mournful Congregation: The Incubus of Karma

Australian funeral doom Mournful Congregation return with their latest offering after a four year hiatus.  Initially demonstrating a style in the vein of overly melancholic eurodoom bands, this four piece have slowly shedded the lugubrious sound of their former works in exchange for a more pensive and maximalist vision. Developing the ideas from their last full length The Book of Kings, Mournful Congregation create musically literate and complex songs that dance on the line between being nostalgic 70s rock and accessible funeral doom.

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Mayhem Grand Declaration of War

A common theme you hear in critiquing music is the need to separate the art from the artist for the most objective analysis possible.  This all sounds good on paper, but we are all human, and the flaws that imbues in us make our understanding of all concepts skewed by perspective.  The metal path is one of social outcast and self-discovery through a grasp of the larger whole, and as such we are left with the purest essence of form and function, but still we allow our humanness to cloud our judgments inevitably.  We won’t give the time of day to a record made by some stretch-lobed lumbersexual even if he might have accidentally produced the next necessary evolution in metal, and we like it that way.  We have been proven right long enough by lousy records and “evolutions” of our favorite artists but although we may have erected a necessary safeguard for quality control, we need to analyze if it is constructed of statements and proofs of inherent positive musical traits or our own hubris instead.
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Susperia- The Lyricist

Susperia claim to be a Norwegian black metal that now plays melodic thrash metal.  Most of the members of this band have been involved with some fairly big projects as session players.  As a band they have spent the last 18 years playing some fairly standard commercial metal in the hope of actually breaking out in the way of Dimmu Borgir and Nightwish. But as either metal or a pop album, The Lyricist fails miserably.
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Another Take on Ritual Chamber – Obscurations (2016)

I have no way of knowing if anyone will read this letter. It joins the others which have been hidden in the knot-hole of the ancient tree on top of the mountain that locals simply call “the big one,” to which I make a daily pilgrimage. My life has become oriented around what I can only describe as a portal to the future.

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Mayhem – Wolf’s Lair Abyss (1997)

Wolf’s Lair Abyss was the first new proposition by the remaining Mayhem line up after De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and all the personal drama and loss that it signified.  Needless to say, the pressure upon the band on the musical level- especially of music as a dark art, as Euronymous would have it- was quite high.  Expectations after an Immortal album of far and wide reach were not at all encouraging.  The remainder of the band had to find a way in which they could work from the solid basis of the past towards a unique development that did not come off as an insult or a betrayal to all that had been accomplished.  The solution found by the band here was almost perfect, but it ultimately was only a transition whose eventual development would show if the full potential for growth would be adeptly exploited.  Still, there is much to be said about the unique identity of this brief but memorable foray into chaos.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Incineration of 2017 Metal

2017 was a shit waste of a year when it came to metal music.  Yet with a whole generation of useless neckbeard millennials frantically trying to pursue a career in metal journalism via a desperate pursuit of vindication from that $40,000 of communications-degree student loan debt we have hundreds of “best metal albums” lists every year.  Because there are thousands of metal releases each year hundreds of shitty musicians and journalists are somehow convinced that their opinion matters and that people care about their lists, we now have list after list with totally different picks because no one can possibly sit through a listen of thousand releases ever year.  Where the commonality lies is that all of the number one picks are fecal matter on toilet tissue, usually not metal and certainly not even worth listening to.

Let’s cremate the foul miasma of 2017 with a funeral pyre of epic proportions: a sadistic metal review carbonization of #1 picks from the fakest of the fake metal news outlets…
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