Immediately from the first note, this release captures attention. It begins with a focused and powerful assault that is refreshing in its youthful vigor. Unsubtle, it shamelessly bashes ahead with simple yet engaging song structures that are well suited for live performance.
Compositionally an intersection of punk and metal, Sons of Southern Darkness features the linear powerchord riffs of punk combined with transitional single-string motifs reminiscent of speed metal. Songs are short three or four minute affairs, typically verse-chorus with new riffs materializing in the second half in order to provide differentiation. Vocals are low pitched shouts; in their best moments primordial battle cries fully materialized, however at times sound a bit strained and evoke the “angry man in a phone booth” mentality. Drums are present without being overbearing; the drummer is adept at knowing when to follow the guitars and when to differentiate, providing an added layer of nuance.
Aesthetically, this a release that straddles decades. Its core is from the 80s and 90s, however from its production and overall consistency it is decidedly a modern release. This allows the band to avoid entropy by being yet another “retro” tribute band and move their form in a unique fashion, providing an intriguing foundation for those interested in seeing the current generation strive for the art of the old without wallowing in nostalgia. However, those that compare it to its progenitors will probably find it lacking.
Motörhead is like a kaleidoscope. Anytime you look in, you get a different vision, but it’s still clearly made of Motörhead, even if turned around a bit. The band is both distinctive and consistent in its unique style.
Aftershock is like any other Motörhead except that the kaleidoscope is particularly vibrant and more rounded and orderly than most visions. Clearly someone at the band or label had in mind a partner to 1991’s 1916, which for many marks the band at its most listenable.
Why is 1916 so lauded? Each song used its own techniques, rhythms and structures that were not shared wholesale with other songs. Songs were finished, showing a craftsman’s touch to a normally hasty art. Variety of pace and emotion broke up the record. The killer loud production didn’t hurt either.
Following along those lines, Aftershock is a bluesy hard-rock version of Motörhead with aggressive, catchy songs that at times resemble Motley Crue playing Motörhead. However, the album excels in quality control. All riffs are necessary, and while repeated a great deal, there is no unnecessary repetition and best of all, no unordered songs that sort of rambled off into the horizon.
It doesn’t have the pop appeal of 1916 which was a passionate and somewhat melancholy album that attracted people to its intensity, but even more, how easily grasped the songs were. They are not quite as distinctive on this album and fade more into the backdrop of what Motörhead has been doing for the past two decades. However, they’re also good summaries of the Motörhead sound from a slightly newer perspective.
One other thing of great interest is how guitar-based this album is. In rock-based music, the guitar is where most of the musical depth goes, since it’s hard to do it with vocals or drums. Here, the guitar leads the songs more than the bass or drums, which creates a surging feel and a constant background of energy. The solos and fills from the guitar flesh out the pattern and give depth to what otherwise might be too hard-charging to be anything but linear.
The point of Aftershock is to be a Motörhead album and to make a slightly updated and more powerful vision of what’s in the kaleidoscope. It succeeds brilliantly and while it isn’t as immediately distinctive as 1916, it adds a greater field of detail and appeals to the same audience, albeit more with pop form than pop sensibilities. Underneath all of that of course is the same raging engine that brought us this band in its glory days, amped up and ready to strike, with no thoughts of mercy at all.
Long known as the adroit-fingered riffman for punk-black metal band Darkthrone, Nocturno Culto was once seen as a dark, mysterious and threatening figure but has adopted a more open public persona over the last decade.
As part of this, he is launching a re-vamped heavy metal style band named Gift of Gods which will be entirely his music separate from Darkthrone. The music sounds like Celtic Frost’s Cold Lake given a speed metal treatment and with the more complex riff transitions of earlier Celtic Frost.
Texan mythological occult heavy metal band Absu, who began life as a death metal band and ventured into NWOBHM-tinged black metal before arriving at their current hybrid of Mercyful Fate and modern progressive metal, have extended their North American tour dates through the end of the year.
If you have been aching to see these highly technically skilled musicians live and live in the eastern half of the United States, look toward these dates to tell you when to cancel all prior engagements and head to the club.
Much as we all admire the ex-Emperor axeslinger, he’s fallen into the pit of what happens to musicians once they’ve blasted out their most vital creative material: they become masters of interesting details, but this means that they fit into the dominant paradigm. In this case, Ihsahn is basically progressive indie rock with a tendency to launch off on flights of fancy that sometimes involve metally riffs. But for the most part, he’s playing with the same pieces and riding in the same channel that everyone else has been cruising for the last 70 years. This doesn’t showcase the legendary creativity that propels this artist toward his best work, and also doesn’t make for great listening, since it’s a collection of mixed moods that never really pick up a direction anywhere but into themselves.
Falkenbach – Asa
Folk metal isn’t a genre; it’s an approach to any number of genres. Falkenbach is heavy metal with some black metal influences but is approached in a “folk” way that resembles jaunty pirate and epic Viking songs from Hollywood movies, thus continuing metal’s infatuation with the soundtrack. The music isn’t bad, but cycles verse-chorus and develops very marginally so there’s not much of a vertiginous sense of revelation. Further, either this dude has a sinus infection or they autotuned these vocals, which is somewhat repellent if your music is naturalistic. Thus this gets filed in the pile of stuff I’d like to like, but can’t have faith in, and find aesthetically irritating.
Beastmilk – Climax
When we run out of ideas, we run to the past. So it is with Beastmilk, who resurrect 1980s indie rock with a slightly more intense guitar focus, like R.E.M. crossed with Dave Mathews and grafted into Journey. This isn’t bad, but not so exceptional we must cover it on a death metal site.
Inferno – Omniabsence Filled by His Greatness
Strongly reminiscent of early Dark Funeral with lower tuning, Inferno provide charging black metal with strong concluding themes and high energy. None of these riffs will really strike you as all that unusual, but they knit together well into songs. To flesh things out, Inferno use fills of sweeps or lead picking between the rushing power chord riffs. This release really doesn’t have enough character to distinguish itself for the ages, but is more refreshingly clear about what it likes than most of the kvltists or hybrid-bands that wander through our review stack these days.
Blizaro – Strange Doorways
Sometimes we confuse having a lot of material with having something epic. This 2CD is a fusion of doom metal in the style of Confessor/Candlemass and a lot of random 70s influences from Hawkwind to Yes. These guys like to jam, and this music seems like someone recorded jams for a year, patched ’em up so they stuck together as songs, and worked them into an epic format. They’d do better to distill this to an EP of their best thoughts.
Polluted Inheritance – Betrayed
When Polluted Inheritance play death metal, they create a type of very familiar and nocturnal music that feels like moving through a darkened battlefield. This is broken up by speed metal riffs and lead-ups which sometimes have Pantera-style roundabout vocals circling the end of each phrase, causing a sense of this battlefield being broken up by machinery. In addition, Polluted Inheritance like to drop in sporadic progressive riffing or extremely noodly guitar, often accompanying some of the speed metal riffs. Reminiscent in many ways of later Adramelech, the band thus “comes into its own” less frequently that it would if some hard stylistic decisions were made and individual members had less freedom to indulge musicianship for musicianship’s sake. It is gratifying however to find a release that actually wants to be metal, and can execute moments of insight in riff form that evoke the best moments of classic death metal.
Boal – Infinite Deprivation
Although from the deathgrind genre, this album represents an attempt to use old school approaches to melody and riff with the “modern technical metal” style of static or harmony-based (sweep) riffs. These riffs are designed to contrast each other toward resolution in the old school way, but ultimately are too linear and rhythmic to develop enough phrase. However, the deathgrind portion of Infinite Deprivation is a breath of fresh air, incorporating groove in a subversive and unnerving way and building up to honest culminations. Obviously it’s too much to ask this band to go all old-school but they’re the closest thing to interesting in deathgrind.
Root – Viginti Quinque Annis In Scaena
This album sounds like Venom covering Cream. It’s basically hard rock and the generation before it, sped up with more precise playing and some hefty fellow bellowing over the top. While none of it is is particularly badly executed, it also sounds dated, like a flashback into the late 1960s which is being resurrected for purposes of nostalgia. The homebrew nature of this band would be appealing if the songs stretched beyond an emulation of that past state in time, but although heavily influenced by the Hellhammer-Bathory first wave of black metal, this music remains in part of that cluster of material that belongs to a time before the underground.
Circle – Incarnation
This seems like “sludge metal,” which is really just slow metalcore, with throw in influences from indie and black metal. Mostly disorganized, it fails from inability to make a point, although there are no other deficits. Like most music in this style, which seems to be people who want doom metal with aggressive open intervals instead of minor key ones, the modus operandi of the listener is to experience drone and forget where he is in the piece, then notice periodic interesting bits before descending again into a rumble of confusion.
Toxic Holocaust – Chemistry of Consciousness
The whole of the human condition is revealed by this album: it is well-executed on the surface, but its independent spirit is bound up in pleasing others with what they already know, in order to get power. As a result, it is a fun listen until you start thinking about hearing it a dozen times. It’s more instrumentally competent than your average retro-thrash band, but strays mostly into speed metal territory, mix and matching riffs from 1980s speed metal bands so that verse and chorus riffs each resemble well-known types but they don’t appear together as in the original song. Most of these songs are repetitive verse-chorus with a break to provide contrast before the reprise. Oddly, the vocals are whispered and distorted like a black metal band but using the rhythms of a late 1980s band like Sodom or Kreator. This is well-executed but I wouldn’t want to hear it again, especially as I heard all of these ideas the first time around — back in the 1980s.
What do musicians do when the drive to create has vanished?
When the label is clamoring for something new, does the band bow down and fulfill the request, or do they uphold standards? Black metal in particular has struggled with these questions for over a decade, with a myriad of responses. Some have chosen to retreat completely, seeking refuge in the wild.
Some have become exasperated with the genre, turning to electronic music before returning in glory. Others have waged war on modernity, risking well-being in pursuit of these goals. However, the greatest number have bowed to the wishes of the crowd and released a product that was quickly forgotten, which is where Satyricon’s self-titled album falls.
Embodying all that is lazy and lethargic, Satyricon is an excellent example of modern black metal ethos. Black metal only on the surface, the album is musically a hard rock/heavy metal album designed for max promotional appeal. Simple riffs with obvious sequencing, simple implementation, and solid production produce a well-shaped package that undoubtedly will allow the band to increase its commercial influence.
Sounding like a tribute to Fallen-era Burzum‘s minor-chord noodling but lacking even what little sense of spirit that album possessed, the band chucks in references to pop and blues cliches as if the label funded a study aimed at producing the most cookie-cutter album conceivable, then shared the results to the band…and let’s not delve into the collaboration with Sivert Høyem.
There is nothing here for readers of this site to enjoy, except for the more morbid members among us. This album goes nowhere. It has nothing to impart. And perhaps most damning, it’s not even terrible. It is simply a non-entity.
From the way this album was promoted, a reader would anticipate an underground metal onslaught. However, outside of growly vocals that are just a shade removed from Motorhead, there’s nothing underground here. This is good old fashioned mid-paced speed metal in the early style that Onslaught and Exodus pioneered.
On Nykta, you’ll find choruses so infectious that the CDC is already tracking them. To offset that, you will find trudging riffs in the style of slower speed metal, with some nods to the catchier moments of heavy metal crossovers like Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol. There’s some decent guitar work experimenting on top of it, but the basis of this music is a steady procession of thoughtful primitive power-chorded riffs.
Luckily, Zemial know when to vary this up and so despite the heavy emphasis on hookish choruses, there is riff variation and transitional material that calls to mind the heavy rock bands of the mid-1970s like Deep Purple. On top of that shredding is tasteful and melodic, accenting what is otherwise a constant droning saw of guitar.
There are nods to the German speed metal scene as well, especially in percussion and its tendency to keep a pulsing beat with somewhat awkward tempo transitions that magically work once the momentum of the next riff picks up. Oddly the growly vocals, being semi-whispered and half-spoken, act more like a tour guide on a trance tour through hell than functioning like traditional vocals.
While this style may deserve a trigger warning for people who dislike repetition, Zemial acquit themselves well by knowing when to break the trope with abrupt transitions or melodic extensions of the riff idea. The result is simultaneously a new mapping of the past and a gentle tribute that keeps an ancient culture alive.
This lengthy exploration of heavy metal classics collects the highlights of interviews with bands about classic albums and assembles them into a single Q&A session. In doing so, the writers of Decibel have assembled a formidable amount of information and answered many of the hanging questions about these metal epics.
Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces covers twenty-five band/album pairings and, while not all will be enjoyed by everyone, the wizardry of its selection is that just about everyone can find at least a dozen that will interest them. It brings the classics to life in a new form.
Nocturno Culto, who forms one-half of the nefarious duo known as Darkthrone, has a long history of side projects. Among other contributions, he worked out the intricate riffcraft behind Satyricon’s Nemesis Divina, making it a favorite in that band’s catalog.
Now he has embarked on a new side project which is a pure traditional heavy metal band called Gift of Gods. Gift of Gods will release its debut mini-album Receive on Peaceville Records on November 5, 2013.
Commented Nocturno Culto, “Finally, the mini-album is done. Gift Of Gods has been a great ride for me. I don’t want this to end now, so I will most likely work on new material. Thanks to my partner in crime, K.A. Hubred, we got to rehearse during the last two years. What to expect? I have no idea how to describe this, but it’s metal for sure.”
Receive was performed and recorded by Culto and Hubred at Culto’s home studio, and mixed and mastered by Jack Control at Enormous Door, who recently worked with Nocturno on Darkthrone’s The Underground Resistance.
So far the only reports tell us this will be traditional heavy metal with a wide range of influences and that it will lead toward the melodic side of things. This EP/mini-album will be a half-hour of material including a cover of “Looking For an Answer” originally by obscure Swedish 80s band Universe.
Dark Funeral, the Swedish black metal band started by Necrophobic guitarist David Parland (whose untimely demise this year shocked the metal world), has a long and storied career. The band is now re-releasing its earlier works with the usual remaster and rare tracks treatment.
The important album to look forward, however, is In the Sign…. This one, which features the guitar work and composition of Parland, shows melodic Swedish black metal at its raging best. With the energy of Belial, and the general aesthetic of a simplified Dissection, early Dark Funeral is a more heavy metal take on black metal that often resembles tremolo-picked version of Ride the Lightning.
In the Sign… as re-issued will be almost twice as long, with the original self-titled MCD/EP combined with four Bathory covers to produce an approximation of an eight-song album. These titles will be released in Europe on September 9 and in North America on November 12 via Century Media Records.
In The Sign… (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as CD, LP (plus poster), digital download**
1. Open The Gates (4:36)
2. Shadows Over Transylvania (4:22)
3. My Dark Desires (3:52)
4. In The Sign Of The Horns (3:43)
5. Equimanthorn (BATHORY cover) (3:21)
6. Call From The Grave (BATHORY cover) (4:34)
7. Open The Gates (live 2003) (3:54)
8. Shadows Over Transylvania (live 2003) (3:16)
9. My Dark Desires (live 2003) (3:48)
NOTE: tracks 1-4 are taken from the self-titled MCD (1994), tracks 6-7 are taken from ‘In Conspiracy With Satan’ BATHORY-tribute sampler
The Secrets Of The Black Arts (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as 2CD, Gatefold 2LP (plus poster), digital download**
1. The Dark Age Has Arrived (00:18)
2. The Secrets Of The Black Arts (03:40)
3. My Dark Desires (03:46)
4. The Dawn No More Rises (03:58)
5. When Angels Forever Die (04:06)
6. The Fire Eternal (03:54)
7. Satan’s Mayhem (04:52)
8. Shadows Over Transylvania (03:41)
9. Bloodfrozen (04:20)
10. Satanic Blood (VON cover) (02:12)
11. Dark Are The Paths To Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal) (05:56)
1. Shadows Over Transylvania (Unisound version (03:39)
2. The Dawn No More Rises (Unisound version) (03:40)
3. The Secrets Of The Black Arts (Unisound version) (03:26)
4. Satan’s Mayhem (Unisound Version) (04:48)
5. Bloodfrozen (Unisound Version) (03:36)
6. My Dark Desires (Unisound Version) (03:21)
7. Dark Are The Paths To Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal) (Unisound Version) (05:39)
8. The Fire Eternal (Unisound Version) (03:38)
Vobiscum Satanas (re-issue+bonus) track-listing **available as CD, LP, digital download**
1. Ravenna Strigoi Mortii (04:26)
2. Enriched By Evil (04:40)
3. Thy Legions Come (04:11)
4. Evil Prevail (04:28)
5. Slava Satan (03:56)
6. The Black Winged Horde (04:37)
7. Vobiscum Satanas (05:00)
8. Ineffable King Of Darkness (03:38)
9. Enriched By Evil (live 1998) (04:43)
10. Thy Legions Come (live 1998) (04:14)
11. Vobiscum Satanas (live 1998) (05:00)
12. Ineffable King Of Darkness (live 1998) (03:28)