Serpent Ascending – The Enigma Unsettled (2011)

serpent_ascending_-_the_enigma_unsettled

Showing up on the metal radar somewhere between the third Therion album and the single release that Winterwolf put out, The Enigma Unsettled combines Scandinavian death metal with the more nuanced paces of doom metal and the subtler harmonies of instrumentally adept heavy metal. The result creates an atmosphere like a more listener-friendly version of Darkthrone Goatlord, building rhythmic intensity that it discharges through the unraveling of several threads of melody into a final statement of clarity and purpose. Guitars vary between death metal styled tremolo riffing and heavy metal style percussive offbeat riffs, creating a tension like a feral beast racing over land and through water, but these integrate similar rhythmic purpose and avoid the disintegration of song into component parts. Vocals take the hoarse and chanted approach, sounding like the calls of a demonic entity through a wall of distortion; these are probably the immediately recognizable weakest link. Inventive song structures, familiar riffs in new styles, and a tendency to have all parts of the song relate to each other and through multiple layers at the same time make this a well-sought listening experience for underground metal fans.

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The Best Metal of 2011

I’ve just completed reading the 2011 “best of” lists from a number of popular websites. The results are predictably dismal. Are these people incompetent or just deaf?
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Cianide – Gods of Death (2011)

We who still love metal walk a fine line between the sold out nu-hardcore stylings of metalcore, and the tendency to hop on the bandwagon of the old school too much; the previous Cianide, Hell’s Rebirth, walked too far on the old school side — when a band loses direction, they imitate successful techniques and patterns from the past without knowing what those patterns evoked in the listeners.

Despite pretending the contrary is true, Cianide is intensely emotional music. It brings on the spirit of doom and fate from old Celtic Frost, the fire-blooded desire to seize life by the throat and live the hell out of it of Motörhead, and from ancient death metal and doom metal a contemplative inner sense, a wondering where we fit in this big picture.

Hell’s Rebirth skipped the emotion for the equivalent of lots of songs about being in a death metal. Gods of Death, despite the less-than-promising self-referential title, is a quality mature effort from these veterans. It is not a concept album but a collection of songs that somewhat self-consciously attempt greater internal variation than previous albums, evenly mixing the “Metal Never Bends” style of bounding, energetic death metal of the type early Master did well, and the brooding drone of Hellhammer and the doom-death style it influenced. The songs are still simple; the solos still squiggles of graffiti on walls of unyielding tone.

If anything, this album reverts to the hardcore roots of death metal and eschews the “nu-hardcore” post-1980s prog-punk and pop-punk styles that are so popular in metal now. In both style and substance, Gods of Death is an affirmation of the past and a recognition that style alone did not define it; the spirit and the soul of the artist made 1990s death metal what it was, and they not only live on but move forward on this chunk of oxidizing steel.

-Brett Stevens-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUxpsvOtlEE&feature=fvst

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