Khors – Cold

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Khors is a Ukrainian black metal band formed in 2004. Coming from the same general scene as Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum, Khors’ brand of black metal is made by mostly simple riffs and long, simple and slow melodies.  These are all very typical of the Slavic black metal sound. Accessible to the novice listener of black metal, Khors offers an experience that lies closer to what purists would consider closer to black metal than most mainstream acts rising the flag of the genre despite the real nature of their music

Cold consists mostly of simple guitar strumming outlining singable melodies with constant rock-like drums that use the double bass intermittently. The music relies on heavy repetition with very little changes. This is compensated by the tightening and releasing the drums provide through the simple effect of using and not using double bass drums. Particularly understated keyboards provide the spacious backdrop in which ghastly vocals carefully make sparing apparitions.

Production in this reissue of the album is stellar, outshining that of releases by countrymen Nokturnal Mortum. The rock-oriented sensibilities of this Ukranian black metal could tick off purist fans of the more extreme expressions of black metal, but Cold remains a black metal album at its center. Content-wise representing little more than a mouthful for the experienced listener, this is a perfect release for those starting out with the genre. Strongly recommended as an authentic gateway album.

On Obscura and metal albums as song collections

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Arising from modern popular music, underground metal has retained many vestigial traits that several artists have consciously tried to erase and that some observers have started to question as detrimental to the effective expression of the genre. As the title of this article reveals, the case in point is the matter of albums as song collections. A good example of this becoming a hindrance to the message of the music is Gorguts’ Obscura.

Clocking in at one hour, Obscura consists of twelve songs, a little over the typical ten tracks of metal albums since the mid 1970s. The number ten has traditionally been associated with wholeness or completeness. In the most mainstream heavy metal circles it is considered only right to fill that exact number. No more, no less. A lot of death and black metal albums have veered slightly away from this rule and tend close their albums with eight or twelve tracks. Grindcore degenerates have never let numbers stand in their way and have completely given the finger to this rule as Repulsion, Napalm Death and Blood have shown us with their two-digit track lists.

The reason why more original and progressive-minded artists pay no attention to these unofficial guidelines is because whatever the artist has to say in an album should not be restricted by too many tracks. Even worse than being limited by the number of tracks is having to fill up tracks in order to reach the required number. This is precisely how we get the albums with “filler” tracks. Tracks nobody cares for but which make the album more “meaty” for those who care about such things.

More important than the adherence to a particular number of songs or tracks in an album is the fact that most bands produce precisely that: individual tracks bundled up in collections. This is Gorguts’ worse enemy even on their classic of classics. Every one of the songs up to the sixth track, Clouded, expresses a very distinct message in its method. After that, we basically get more of the same. The songs aren’t bad at all, but they do not add anything more to the album except extra minutes and more good songs whose essence is not any different from the ones before them. It’s basically thesaurus recitation.

Some propose that metal needs to look beyond the number, both as a rule and as a kind of indulgence. Just because that you have more songs does not mean you have to put them in the album. Just because you have more riffs does not mean they need a song to contain them. It is suggested that the album format in underground metal be exchanged for the classical opus format, where we have movements belonging to a coherent whole work, in which saying the same thing again and again is unnecessary and highly discouraged but in which consistency in style and voice is required to a healthy but not over-restrictive degree. Metal is not young anymore, the time to consciously take the step to the next level has come.

Terra – Untitled

terraAdvertised as a black metal release, Terra contains each and every one of the traits people might identify the genre with. The raspy vocals eclipsed by the distortion of the guitars, the dominating use of tremolo or simple strumming on the guitars and the steady and smoothly changing pace of the songs, and even a folk melody or two.

A few tell-tale signs tell us this is more in the vein of post-rock with progressive pretension. The inclination towards plain major-scale melodies can be considered superficial, but more often than not does separate black metal from the foreigners who are only borrowing its tools. The alien scent is most offensive in the blatant filler of Dj-groove sections which almost bring to mind Periphery’s Matt Halpern.

The importance of dissecting Terra lies in the relevance of knowing how to separate black metal’s “atmospheric” tendencies versus post-metal and the lesser (most) ambient music whose sole point is to “create atmosphere”. Black metal creates atmosphere and that atmosphere becomes a tool to what it is saying. Terra’s music is atmosphere.

Music is not about pointing out different elements.

Music, a work of music, is about integrating all the elements.

If you are able to say “this is a very rhythmical part/this is a very emotional part/this is a very technical part/this is a very atmospheric part”, you are not making music.  You are, maybe, only producing some (could be also very interesting and very beautiful) sounds.

— Daniel Barenboim

Exhumation – Opus Death (2015)

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When receiving descriptions of new releases from labels, one can read all sort of outrageous and preposterous claims on par with “the beginning of a new era in metal”, “unprecedented innovation”, “I’m tougher than Vladimir Putin” or “We went to Afghanistan to bring democracy to the people”. It wasn’t all that surprising, then, to read the first introductory line and find that young Indonesian band Exhumation was being hailed as a classic. I rolled my eyes at this and proceeded to get my face punched.

Exhumation plays a violent proto-black metal in the vein of Sarcófago and an aftertaste of Blasphemy. I will stress that they play in the vein of those bands. But they escape the clone-curse and give the listener a familiar but altogether new and original experience. As underground metal styles death and black have moved well past the initial stages of formation and definition, most bands have turned to simple rehashing or attempts at innovation. Unfortunately innovation is often perceived superficially. We should talk about progress and not innovation, which is often confused with novelty. I would not hesitate to call this album true progress. Albeit a conservative, cautious progress in this particular style.

Opus Death, a silly title which made me seriously doubt the album at first, is Exhumation’s second album. Exhumation understand the language and are proficient users of the same, knowing how to formulate their own statements. Not only are they original in what they say, but they also learn from the classics by avoiding their errors and carefully expanding where there is potential to expand. Ideas and the riffs they span let the listener become familiar with them as is required in the black metal tradition, but they do not overstay their visit nor overstep their roles. Transition riffs are adequately unstable and work effectively with drum patterns to create the gasping effect so that the listener can breath before the music goes on, unrelenting.

Both highly chromatic, Slayeresque solos as well the simple, rough and tonal melodies make an appearance in the record without sounding disparate in any way. The balance of taste and style always carefully preserved. Much can be said of the placing of the solos which is always optimal and contributing to the emotional upheaval they cause within the emotional predictability of this kind of music.

Another feature of this album that should not be overlooked or underestimated is the use of piano and guitar interludes right at the middle and at the end of the album, respectively.  It is hard not to draw a parallel with Blessed are the Sick, but I am willing to venture and say that as to their contribution to the album as a whole, they are much more powerful and relevant in Opus Death. Both beautiful in their minimalist rendition of the harmonic skeleton behind the ripping black metal of the band, they contrast the slaughtering slashes of the rest of the album and serve as inverted climaxes.

Trying to praise this as uncompromising is an insult to Exhumation. Rather, the mature and sensible compromises Exhumation incurs in are what account for the steady and sure steps of their music. It might be too soon to call it a classic, but it sure feels like one. Far from naive or wanting in any technical respect, Opus Death shows us that even though traditional and true underground metal may be difficult to carry on whilst being original, it is not impossible, but we need to look beyond juvenile feelings of rebellion to do so. Metal is not young anymore, act accordingly.

 

Demoncy – Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion)

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Demoncy originally recorded Empire of the Fallen Angel in 2003 and a dozen years later has re-recorded and re-issued these compositions as Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion). Having thought for years that the original release deserved a second look, it was great to see it ride again.

Recorded solely by Demoncy creator Ixithra without the benefit of a band as happened on the original, this new edition includes four new compositions which will be of a style familiar to listeners of Enthroned is the Night: more melodic than the classic Joined in Darkness, but still furious in intensity. The re-created older tracks feature better vocals and better production, giving the guitars greater power and fitting songs together more tightly. Empire of the Fallen Angel came out when “depressive black metal” was first a trend, and represents a response to that in the form of black metal that is often doomy: slow, morbid, and atmospheric. While the traditional powerhouse Demoncy riffing that sounds like all the savagery of Incantation and Profanatica undergirded with melody is present, much of this release also resembles the mood-oriented immersive pieces of bands like Black Funeral or even Ras Algethi. This album was always a more sensible method of expressing that sensation in black metal than the “depressive” variant, which amounted to essentially Burzum ripoffs that never changed riff, and now with more powerful production it reveals its strength. A listener might also note pervasive influences from Gorgoroth throughout this material.

Much of the album also uses faster material of the type seen on Enthroned is the Night: fast angular riffing that preserves melodic affinity between internal phrases, keeping a sense of mystery and ongoing discovery vital in the music. The new vocals have all of the whispering abrasive sound that made Joined in Darkness sound like a communication from dark gods hidden underneath the earth, but with the intensified production both float above and complement the guitars. While this album is not as intensely violent and confrontational as Joined in Darkness, nor as death metal influenced and energetic as Enthroned is the Night, it captures both the esoteric fury of American black metal like Black Funeral and the melodic intensity of European acts, all within its own voice. This classic not only rides again, but does so with a new life of its own.

Tracklist:
1. Invocation To Satan
2. Risen From The Ancient Ruins
3. Scion Of The Dark
4. Eternal Black Dominion
5. Sepulchral Whispers
6. My Kingdom Enshrouded In Necromantical Fog
7. The Enchanted Woods Of Forgotten Lore
8. The Obsidian Age Of Ice
9. Night Song (Apocalyptic Dawn)
10. Empire Of The Fallen Angel
11. Shadows Of The Moon (The Winter Solstice)
12. Warmarch Of The Black Hordes
13. The Ode To Eternal Darkness

Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion) will see release on June 29, 2015 via Forever Plagued Records.

Sorcier des Glaces at work on North

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French Canadian black metal band Sorcies des Glaces announced that the band is heading into the studio this summer to finish the recording of North, its upcoming LP. The band also released the cover image above.

Known for its flowing black metal in the style of old Immortal and Graveland, but an idiosyncratic twist of its own, Sorcier des Glaces graced a number of the “best of 2014″ lists floating around the internet including our own. Hopes are high for the new material.

Profile: Death Curse Productions (Germany)

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Death Curse Productions represents the new wave of smaller underground labels who are targeting niches within the mainstreamed post-underground instead of trying to drop out from the methods used by normals to exchange music. Despite offering some unconventional formats, Death Curse Productions keeps its offerings accessible to the world at large, as if daring them to look underneath the mantle of normalcy and discover the twisted, weird and alienated…

When did Death Curse Productions (DCP) get started, who started it, and what was your intent?

Death Curse Productions was founded in the year 2013 A.B. by two individuals who felt the urge to uphold the traditions of Black Metal.

The main intent behind the label’s activities was, is and always will be to create strictly limited pieces of music we approve to be worth the attention. DCP’s work concentrates on the production of quality releases in every way, be it musical, spiritual, visual or concerning design in general.

Mainly it’s quality above quantity, as nowadays the so called Black Metal ‘scene’ is all about putting out shitty releases of shitty sideprojects on a daily basis.

What type of music do you cover, and what do you do? Will this expand in the future?

We don’t determine an exact style as long as the music or the band matches our philosophy. In this case the essence of our philosophy is the glorification of death itself.

We canalize the music onto analogue media to preserve them against extinction. For now the focus is on tapes but that shall not set a restriction for what we do in the future.

In other words expansion is something we highly strive for.

Do you think underground metal is still relevant in the days of post-metal, indie-metal, jazz-metal and modern metal?

Today, in a time where those genres reached their peak of popularity, they managed to take the original values from the metal music itself and turn them into something completely depraved. The music was originally intended to be violent, raw, sinister and dangerous, instead people went forth and created something clean, peaceful and enjoyable, only in order to attract a tasteless mass of lambs and accumulate money.

Concerning the underground, especially Black Metal is declared to be dead by a lot of people, yet there’s a black flame still being kept burning by a small amount of certain individuals, who preserve the underground from being swallowed by trends and who put all their passion and devotion into creating music following the old path.

What are your favorite bands in the underground metal genres?

This is not a question we want to answer, as opinion-making is for the weak-minded, whose taste is defined by trends.

Of course there are undeniable classics everyone should be aware of, as well as some so-called newcomers who stand out in a way, they contrast from the common stuff.

If people are interested in what DCP does, where do they go for more information and/or how do they contact you?

Whoever is seriously interested in DCP, should contact us by mail.

For any updates visit the blogspot page or facebook.

Death Curse Productions 2014 releases:

DCP001 – KILL (Swe) “Inverted Funeral” tape

Yet to be released in 2015:

DCP002 – BALMOG (Esp) “Testimony Of The Abominable” tape
DCP003 – BALMOG (Esp) “Svmma Fide” tape
DCP004 – ILLUM ADORA (Ger) “Demo MMXV” tape
DCP005 – ACRIMONIOUS (Gre) “Purulence” tape

Absurd Asgardsrei: possibly the worst re-issue in metal

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In 1998, a few black metal musicians — many of whom faced legal troubles in their home countries — came together to make a recording. The result, Asgardsrei, captured black metal in transition: its epic past, its roots in punk merged with Oi, and its tackling of unpopular subject matter, in this case out-of-the-closet NSBM.

This form of music differed NSBMTM that was to follow which meant exclusively Drudkh-style droning sugar-substitute melodies and battle-related titles with neo-Romantic lyrics:


Alone I wander
Wastelands of the soul
Among the corpses and ash
A single flower rises
Kill the Jews with fire

Absurd back in the day combined a poetic style that might be called “immaturism,” a wide-ranging complaint with the modern world, and yes, some rather violent ideas. It defied categorization. Their debut album, Facta Loquuntur, sounded at times like ultra-simplistic punk with lyrics from a child’s point of view, pointing out not policy failures or physical breakdown in Western society, but its completely backward spirit and denial of all existential importance. Always on the edge of black metal, Absurd both increased the discernible Oi/RAC influence and put together more black metal style riffing, creating a hybrid that kept both voices without allowing the extremes of either to take over.

Fast-forward to 2012. Absurd — now with none of the 1999 members — re-issues Asgardsrei in a new form. As it is arguably the most musically interesting album from Absurd, combining the raw forest metal (this is the band that wrote “Green Heart” after all) with greater proficiency and alertness, it could be a big seller for this band. Unfortunately, they decided to under guise of a re-master actually alter this album. First they turned up the guitars and turned down keyboards, background sounds, etc. They replaced the subtle intro with patriotic bluster and industrial percussion. Then they either modified or added drums to give the album a constant kick-happy Oi beat. Finally, they modified vocals to sound more like the recent Oi/metal hybrid the band has been putting out. The result crushed all subtlety and made this album very much the exact thing this band in its original form would have recoiled at.

Thuringian plain, deep dark forest
Evil dwells on there in the woods
Snowcovered hills, cold winds blowing
Romantic place, is it understood ?!

Evil in the forest in Germany’s Green Heart !

Hateful savages, strong black minds
Out of the forest, kill the human kind
Burn the settlements and grow the woods
Until this romantic place is understood !

Another day, another novelty band from media

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What is a novelty band? A band chosen for anything other than its music. Common topics include bands with: women, female singers, minorities, retarded people, gay people, transsexuals, unusual instruments, drug use, JPOP girls and children. Record companies love novelty bands because the media fawns all over them, then the hipsters do, and it sells hype quickly and bypasses the normal metal fans, who are critical of quality instead of being driven by novelty.

The latest novelty comes to us from Vice Magazine who want us to read about Al-Namrood from Saudi Arabia. While it is true that this band may be risking their lives to perform, it seems like they face roughly the same amount of struggle that bands behind the Iron Curtain did back in the 1980s, which means they can circumnavigate authorities to exist, record an album, shoot a video, and be feautured in American media with their faces in the video and not get killed.

As with all novelty stories, this will be short-lived. There have been many tales of heavy metal bands from the Middle East and after the media blitz, these bands have gone nowhere. The quality test is what matters. If you cannot pass the quality test, you are SOL. Al-Namrood will be the latest to fail the quality test because their output is only nominally black metal, not aesthetically distinctive and indeed a bit awkward, and finally, the songwriting is not that memorable at least by metal standards.

“Bat Al Tha ar Nar Muheja” consists of fast melodic riffing in the style of Satyricon Nemesis Divina with a Middle Eastern influence on the choices of scales used. The vocals, on the other hand, sound like something from more recent Absurd albums. The song seems put together in the style favored by Behemoth, where riffs relate marginally to each other and the main point is to follow the vocals and rhythms to a big break and a melodic interlude, after which point the band returns to blasting fast single-picked riffs. While it is not terrible, it is also not exceptional.

Infernus – Grinding Christian Flesh (2015)

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Late model black metal features many of these entries: as much borrowed from the days of speed metal as black metal, keeping a constant “jazzercise” style constant tempo and intensity, and while there are some sweet riffs, they are marooned in a sea of throwaway budget riffs and patterns from 1987 Exodus clones. Infernus has great rasping vocals but essentially, doom their album with highly predictable note progressions in the riffs and a constant, incessant droning style of composition. Many heavy metal touches pervade this album, suggesting that like early Gehennah and Nifelheim, this is heavy metal dressing up as black metal and equalizing all of its riffs to the same speed to hide their hard rock, speed metal and heavy metal origins. While the fans of the band will defend it on the basis of irony or some nostalgia, the result is musical tedium because of a failure to come to point. This is like watching the 5,000 slides of the vacation your neighbor just took, except that now the slides are old riffs and old tropes.