God Macabre – The Winterlong re-issued

June 16, 2014 –

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Relapse records slotted the re-release of God Macabre’s 1993 album The Winterlong for June 10, 2014 in the US, June 6 (Germany) and June 9 (UK/World). Situated squarely within the old school Swedish Death Metal camp, this album represents a logical extension of Entombed’s Left Hand Path. Here you will find nothing less than what one would expect of an old school Swedish Death Metal record; foreboding doom, neoclassical melody, ferocity, and nods to the dramatics of heavy metal. Complete with the infamous Sunlight Studio production, The Winterlong remains an enduring study, and will provide neophytes with new source material, remind the veterans of what once was, and thankfully become a readily available source of inspiration for years to come.

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The Heaviest Encyclopedia of Swedish Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Ever! by Janne Stark

December 7, 2013 –

janne_stark-the_heaviest_encyclopedia_of_swedish_hard_rock_and_heavy_metal_ever-smallSince the popularization age of search engines began, some have wondered if this spelled the impending doom of paper encyclopedias. If heavy metal is any indication, traditional methods of distributing information are still enduring.

Newly released tome from Premium Publishing, entitled The Heaviest Encyclopedia of Swedish Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Ever!, compiles information on the Swedish scene from the early 70s through the present day. Written by Janne Stark, the book lists releases from 3600 bands with short biographical information for each, notably a format reference for each album, in addition to a index searchable by both area and name. There is also a section on visual history, featuring album art and unpublished band photos.

Packaged with an accompanying CD, the book weighs in at 8.5 lbs. and 912 pages and can be picked up for $79 via the Premium Publishing webstore or $73 at Amazon. In addition, you can preview the book online.

The book contains a bonus CD of rare or never before issued tracks.

Tracklist:

  1. AMBUSH – Don´t Stop (Let Them Burn)
  2. EDDY MALM BAND – Turn In Down
  3. HELLACOASTER – Mani Jack
  4. ICE AGE – General Alert
  5. MASTER MASSIVE – Time Out Of Mind
  6. MACBETH – Sounds Of A Hurricane
  7. THE HIDDEN – For Gods Ache
  8. VOLTERGEIST – Desperate Highway
  9. PAINKILLAZ – Lost My Religion
  10. ZOOM CLUB – Walking On Stilts
  11. RAWBURT – Psycho Man
  12. MONICA MAZE BAND – Eyes Of The Living
  13. STRAITJACKETS – Stripped To The Bone

Abscession – Death Incarnate

October 15, 2013 –

abscession-death_incarnate-full-sizeIf you approached Slaughter of the Soul with the stylistic outlook of Left Hand Path, you would follow the path that Abscession travel on Death Incarnate. These are short, melodic songs that understand the dramatic nature of successful Swedish death metal.

Easily imitated, Swedish death metal is hard to master. The basics are simple: play d-beat drums under riffs adapted from the vocal melodies of 1970s horror film music and American guitar rock bands, then stack those against faster Black Sabbath-styled chromatic rhythm riffs. Is there really such a void between “Symptom of the Universe” and “Crawl,” or the soundtrack to Carnival of Souls and Clandestine? Not if you listen to them side-by-side.

Thus, by combining Discharge and heavy metal with horror soundtracks, the Swedes invented a new style and kicked it into high-gear with that buzzsaw dimed-Boss distortion. But while qualification in this style is easy, it quickly becomes generic. That is because to take riffs out of context, one must build up a next dramatic context to give them framing, such that the change in riff (and tempo) is symbolically and aesthetically significant to the listener.

Abscession kick off this mini-album (EP) with a lengthy intro that, while funny at a first listen as it reveals death metal obliterating the music of normals, probably isn’t going to be fun past the first couple of listens. After that, it’s into what they do best: buzz-saw rhythm riffs which give way to lengthier melodic riffs which are played in power chords instead of single-string-picked like the first At the Gates.

The result captures much of the mood from Clandestine with big bristly clouds of buzzing distortion cushioning us as a melody emerges from within, like flying through clouds and seeing the moon emerge above. Once we’ve settled into the feel of the fully mature song, Abscession give it a kick or otherwise challenge it with a dramatic transition, which requires guitarwork to wrangle the song back toward its final state of affirming order.

What makes this release stand out is how well-composed the melodies are and how the band is able to arrange riffs in a meaningful manner, even if a simple “meaning” like the sensation of a walk through a dangerous forest at night and a confrontation with mortality as the blade of a foe emerges. Riffcraft is good and focuses on the longer melodies that distinguish the professionals from the “Garage Band” weekend activists in metal at this point, and all musicianship is good, but it is the content and composition of these songs that sets Abscession ahead of the Swe-death pack.

Sadistic Metal Reviews: Retro Metal: Swedish death metal edition

October 11, 2013 –

Sadistic Metal Reviews started sometime in the early 00s in tribute to the reviews of fanzines from earlier eras, in which a single sentence correctly categorized a band as the type of useless filler it was and dispatched it to the cut-out sale bins of history.

The grim fact is that as in nature, in heavy metal there are a few winners, and everyone else fails. This isn’t because they are fated to do so, but because they made the wrong choices. Usually, they have no actual artistic motivation, and so are imitating other successful acts for chicks, beer, prestige, an excuse for being stoned in the basement for a decade, whatever.

A band may have spent years learning its instruments, rehearsed for months, hired a good studio, taken all the right notes and had all the right parts, but something didn’t add up. This band had nothing to say, and so no one should listen.

The guiding principle of Sadistic Metal Reviews is that no amount of surface aesthetic can cover up a lack of conviction, content and motivation within. No one can paint-by-numbers imitate, or its cousin the recombining of known styles, and hope to get anything but a polite nod and “It’s OK, I guess, if you like that kind of thing.”

With this edition, SMR takes on the retro phenomenon. Every seven years like clockwork the great factory of wannabes runs out of “new” (usually basic math, like adding two genres together and getting a mystery) ideas and decides that ripping off the past is the safest path to fame and riches.

Hence these imitators are on the altar of sacrifice, awaiting our Sadistic Metal Writers for today’s edition of SMR, which tackles possibly the worst form of retro ever… the wannabe be 1991 Swedish death metal retro.

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Our writers, from left to right: Daniel Rodriguez, Cory van der Pol, Max Bloodworth and Jon Wild.

repugnant-epitome_of_darknessRepugnant – Epitome of Darkness

Despite being disguised in every “Swedish death metal” cliche known to man, Repugnant appears to be a retro-thrash band that re-purposes early Entombed lyrics for ironic comic book appeal. This vapid gimmickry with a glossy coat betrays the similarity between this band and Ghost, with whom it shares personnel. Why not try the same shallow stunt, but dress it up as old Entombed for extra clueless metal tourist nu-fan dollars?

 

entrails-tales_from_the_morgueEntrails – Raging Death

This album of Carnage riffs played backward between stolen Nihilist d-beats feels like a flowchart experiment in paint-by-numbers Swedish death metal cliches, with added groove so that even lobotomy patients can tap their feet to it. Entrails lay claim to the early Swe-death scene, but even a blatant clone band can be aim for higher than almost passable. If you take away the buzz-saw distortion, these are just old Saxon tunes sped up with more howling.

 

evocation-illusions_of_grandeurEvocation – Illusions of Grandeur

Why do bands constantly recreate Slaughter of the Soul? Perhaps because it’s so easy to do. Evocation make forgettable muzak by giving laundry detergent commercial jingles the mid-90s Swe-death post-Deliverance-style rape treatment. This pop muzak sounds every bit as bittersweet as a sad Blink 182 song but in disguise as mid 90s Scandinavian metal to allow Century Media to market it to metalcore kids on Youtube. More “another day at the office” unremarkable mellow-deaf who are given more legitimacy than the other bands for being around in the early 90s. It’s still butt rock with polka drumming and laryngitis vocals.

 

nominon-monumentombNominon – Monumentomb

What most people got out of Swedish death metal was a certain guitar tone and vocal delivery. Complex riff arrangements, time signatures, melodies? Over their heads. So why burden the little dears with something they can’t understand? Instead, take the same music that bad Exodus clones were making in 1987 and dress it up in a “Sexy Swedish Slut Death Metal” Halloween costume. The only people who fall asleep when listening are the smart ones, and we should probably shoot them anyway.

 

hail_of_bullets-on_divine_windsHail of Bullets – On Divine Winds

Classic death metal is hard. What’s easy? Metalcore, which is any variation of metal where you use hardcore songwriting with metal riffs. Don’t worry about making the riffs make sense, just have the song go from one ludicrous riff to the next as if they were connected. Then have a mosh part. Hail of Bullets is aggressive like old school death metal turned up to ten, but disorganized so you hear mostly noise.

 

kaamos-kaamosKaamos – Kaamos

Remember all those Swedish bands who were almost up there with Entombed, but then dropped out? They dropped out because “not good enough” doesn’t mean you missed good by a hair, but a mile. Kaamos is reconstituted from also-rans in the Swedish scene and it sounds like it. These two chord riffs have zero personality mainly because their creators are obsessed with sounding Swedish. If this band were honest, Samba music would come out of the speakers instead.

 

tribulation-the_horrorTribulation – The Horror

What happens if you dress up Def Leppard in Swedish buzz-saw distortion and death metal tempo? I don’t know, because this isn’t as good as Def Leppard. It is however candy heavy metal with every third riff an AOR melodic transition but put into typical Swe-deth(tm) packaging, including Sunlight Studios (Boss Heavy Metal pedal dimed) production, wacky energetic drumming, and barfing pit bull vocals. But once you look below the surface, it’s a power ballad.

 

bloodbath-the_fathomless_masteryBloodbath – The Fathomless Mastery

Bloodbath is just a bunch of jaded guys from whine rock bands (Katatonia and Opeth) making a parody out of death metal by throwing backwards Dismember riffs into a blender alongside Pantera groove metal riffs. For credibility they add the tremolo riff from Morbid Angel’s “Dawn of the Angry” to be a sufficiently quirky lifestyle product for people who ironically wear Entombed trucker hats and talk wistfully of the early 1990s, when they were four.

 

death_breath-stinking_up_the_nightDeath Breath – Stinking Up the Night

This all-star band with Scott Carlsson (Repulsion) and Nicke Andersson (Entombed) applies the Clandestine model of pairing up horror movie motifs on guitar with d-beats. Using a rhythmic approach that alternates between Repulsion’s high-intensity riding blast and a Motorhead-derived groove, this band is competent but formulaic. It escapes the rancor derived at its genre-mates for being what seems like something closer to an honest effort.

 

morbus_chron-sleepers_in_the_rfitMorbus Chron – Sleepers In The Rift

Morbus Chron suffers from flowchart death metal syndrome: play d-beat punk played on down-tuned guitars like the old school bands, toss in a stolen Sabbath riffs to remind people of the obligatory Autopsy influence, then maybe inject a zany Demilich/Cadaver “wacky sounding” riff to come off as “outside the box” and “original.” It feels like Entombed met up with a focus group who accidentally purchased a bunch of Oxycontin and tried to replicate Autopsy’s Acts of the Unspeakable.

Grave unleashes Morbid Ascent EP

September 17, 2013 –

grave-morbid_ascentToday classic Swedish death metal band Grave releases its comeback EP, Morbid Ascent, featuring four tracks of death metal and a cover of a Satyricon song. The US version of this release is pressed on mustard-yellow vinyl and can be purchased Century Media.

Known for their debut album Into the Grave from the early 1990s, Grave introduced the rudimentary form of the Swedish death metal sound to a new generation who appreciated the raw intensity of their primal music. Joining a small circle of European bands who were as poundingly violent as their American counterparts, Grave became a staple before fading away in the late 1990s.

Morbid Ascent shows the band resurrecting itself in the present era and attempting to adapt its classic sound and improved technical performance to the demands of a new time, following their 2012 release Endless Procession of Souls. If you’re in Europe, you can catch Grave live on October 5 at Zombie Fest II in Oostenede, Belgium.

Side 1:
1. Venial Sin
2. Morbid Ascent
Side 2:
1. Possessed (originally by SATYRICON)
2. Epos (Risen From The Tomb – Remix)
3. Reality Of Life

Terminate – Ascending to Red Heavens

April 16, 2013 –

terminate-ascending_to_red_heavensAny band making music of a vaguely “Swedish style” is going to attract both absurdly high hopes and cynicism, and Terminate fulfills some expectations from each column.

Mixed emotions about Swedish-style death metal appear mainly because the recent “revival” of Swedish death metal is more like an “imitation” of the past using the bad techniques of the now. A lot of bands picked up Boss HM-2 pedals, dimed their amps and switched to flying Vs, then mixed a few classic Carnage, Nihilist and At the Gates riffs into their bog-standard death metal with the design philosophy of a cardboard box.

Terminate may or may not fall into this category, but their rendition of Swedish death metal is more like what happens now than what happened then. Its verse-chorus approach is sparse with riffs and heavy on repetition, and its songwriting is blocky, in that these riffs don’t particularly appear to relate to each other and the need to drop in a note-shifted favorite from Left Hand Path or Like an Ever-Flowing Stream cramps their songwriting. The other struggle this band faces is that their choice of notes, chords and rhythms is what we might call “obvious,” meaning that these will always be common variations of the most basic approach to writing this style of music, and they’re not particularly evocative ones.

As any reader with an IQ over his or her shoe size can guess, the overall style here is “Swedish death metal,” which is now as much TM as the Nordish foods at the front of Ikea. Terminate use the crunchy riffs that gradually create a melodic mood, although here it’s more like a side-step from crunch to melody, and build an architectural sense of the sonic space in which death metal moves. Vocals are equally gruff and guttural, sounding a lot like Carnage or Utumno on a bad day.

Ascending to Red Heavens distinguishes itself because it is not cynical toward its subject matter. The band dives right in and goes for the death metal thrills of thunderous riffs and dark passages culminating in near-nuclear levels of antagonism. Whether this rises above the average is an exercise for the reader, but at least this band, like other Swede-worshippers Disma and Decrepitaph, enjoys its subject matter and tries to be faithful to the idea of it as a whole.

Interview with Revel in Flesh

March 28, 2013 –

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Revel in Flesh brought their high-intensity Swedish style death metal into the light and terrified the meek with onrushing riffs, hints of melody, uptempo choruses and savage vocals attacking from the wings.

Although this band hails from Germany, they are full-on metal maniacs in the style of old school death metal. This makes them a rarity since they’ve avoided both becoming candy-retro and slipping into the “modern death metal trap” which involves intricate songs about nothing.

Instead, Revel in Flesh keep slashing out the vintage-style Swedish death metal and in doing so, keep the metal flame alive. We were lucky to catch guitarist/vocalist Ralf Haubersson for a quick interview.

What do you think made Swedish death metal exceptional?

Hi Brett and DeathMetal.org diehards! I can speak only for myself, but I think the Swedish way of classic Death Metal transmits more emotion and energy. It’s not about the technical path, but the massive saw-like guitar sound gives a killer boost. Raw energy, but also dark intensity. Just take a listen to some of the Sunlight Studio classics from back in the day and you’ll be captured by that special feeling. It’s a special sound and style; it’s a love-it-or-hate-it thing!

You’re a German band making Swedish death metal. Since bands all over the world make Swedish death metal, this leads me to ask: what about this style drew you to it?

Well, to be honest with Manifested Darkness we didn’t have the agenda of sounding as Swedish as possible. The thing we have in common with the classical Swedish output is the use of the HM2 distortion pedal and the five half–tone downtuned guitars. If we might play another “sound” we won’t sit that much in the IKEA category, Ha! Ha! I see REVEL IN FLESH as a band that is truly dedicated to the roots of classic Death Metal. Simply the way we grew up with in the 90s. For example on the new album we’ve done covers of DEATH and AUTOPSY as bonus tracks. Without those two masters of the genre there wouldn’t be any Death Metal in the way we hear and love it today. But about your question: We do not (!!!) deny our roots, but I think we try to add an own sort of charm to REVEL IN FLESH since you do not need another copycat band nowadays.

Your style of death metal is stripped down and more rhythmic than noodly or math-riffy. Do you think this is a newer type of death metal, like new school old school as in on Immolation’s Majesty and Decay, or is this how death metal always has been?

I do NOT (!!!) like this kind of “math–like” feeling in Metal. I think Death Metal has to give you a kick for some serious headbanging. It’s about delivering emotions and energy; not about showing egoistic bullshit on your instruments. I think it’s ok, when songs have some kind of depths and things to discover, but on the other hand –- especially today with a thousand releases a month –- it’s important that you have some first hand catchy moments, that rips into the ears of the maniacs on a first contact.

About taste: My fave IMMOLATION record is and most likely will always be Dawn of Possession; love all aspects of that album –- starting from cover, sound etc. — so I guess you easily figure out my taste in Death Metal, Ha!

What bands do you draw from as influences when making your music? There seem to be three influences: Swedish death metal, melodic heavy metal style death metal, and someting like Motorhead. Is that true? Do you have influences from all three, or is this me projecting?

Speaking honestly you’ve been one of the first writers that mentioned MOTÖRHEAD in an album review of us. I don’t think that we have a sort of “Death ‘n’ roll” style like ENTOMBED had on some of their records; but in the end it doesn’t matter how people categorise our album; it only matters if it’s good or not, but most of all REVEL IN FLESH is under all aspects a Death Metal band; but of course you get influences and inspirations from all kind of stuff; but we don’t think that much about it. We simply do it!!! For example my comrade Maggesson does a lot of songwriting also for his other band DAWN OF DREAMS and throughout the years you acquire your own style in melodies and arrangements; you always hear your own basics in riffing etc. Shorty said we do not have one blueprint of influence, but I think it’s not a secret that we stick to our roots in the classic Death Metal way.

Do you think old school death metal has come back to stay?

Within the Metal genre everything comes and goes and COMES AGAIN!!! Today there’s a lot of hype on the “old school” matter; maybe this will change again sooner or later. Personally I see it like this: Good music is meant to stay forever. For example: I remember being at an age of 14/15 when I got “Like an Ever-Flowing Stream” by DISMEMBER in my hands for the first time. It was like WOW!!! Today I still have that WOW feeling, when I have that album spinning rounds in my stereo –- it’s timeless and I think that also in the years to come there will be a dedicated sort of fanbase to this kind of subgenre of Death Metal, as you might know: Evil never dies!

One-half of Revel in Flesh came from Immortal Rites (now deceased). What did you learn from that experience, and why did you move on?

Well; actually I’m the only REVEL member that has had a backround in IMMORTAL RITES. I played in IMMORTAL RITES from circa 1996 – 2011. We did two longplayers and one demo CD. I formed a lot important impressions in this period like first gigs, first real studio experience, friendship, parties etc. –- throughout the years we’ve played single shows with bands like UNLEASHED, GOD DETHRONED, DISSECTION, DISBELIEF, DESASTER and many more. The band fell apart due lack of time and motivation of the other bandmembers; mostly caused by normal circumstances in life like marriage, children, jobs & career. I’ve continued because I love METAL and I also like the aspect of being creative in that way within that scene. It’s a passion and it prevents me from going berserk in the shit caused in daily life. Musically IMMORTAL RITES had a more melodic and mixed style of Death Metal, but deep in my fan heart I always wanted to a totally pure and classically inspired Death Metal band under all aspects like sound, arrangements, lyrics & artwork. It took me many years, but REVEL IN FLESH is to me the band I always wanted to have; so in some way it’s good to be Metal retard, Ha! Ha!

What does Revel in Flesh have that the other situation did not?

Heart, passion and bloody dedication!!! Writing music with Maggesson is like a real flow; it feels pretty good. There’s not much discussion; we simply let the things flow and see what happens.

How do you create your version of the legendary Swedish style distortion? Did you use any other production techniques in making this album?

As I’ve told you already; we use the classical Boss HM2 distortion pedal like all the Swedish bands do as well. We experiment a lot with the guitar sound at VAULT M. Studios, which is owned by our guitarist. We also got some healthy advices by Dan Swanö (EDGE OF SANITY etc.) as well. He’s our man for that kind of sound. The particular rest of our sound/production will be kept as a secret!!!

What is it that appeals to you about death metal? From a financial, social and political standpoint, you’d be better off making dubstep.

Yeah! Death Metal won’t get you laid, Ha! Ha! Man, we simply love this particular style of Metal with total dedication. 3 members of REVEL IN FLESH are already in the age of 30 +, so this ain’t a youth sin anymore. We listen and support this music with all aspects for many years and YES, it’s most certainly NOT (!!!) about money. Death Metal is financially a minus business under all aspects; if you play this style you simply havwe to like it from the heart!!!

Revel in Flesh has only been active for three years, but has already put out two albums. How do you write and record so quickly?

To outsiders it might look like we have a sort of rush; but it’s not that way. After finishing Deathevokation in January 2012 we’ve had a real flow on songwriting and wrote and recorded 14 tracks within 11 months. Of course it was a lot of work and time consuming stuff, but it felt more like enjoying what we do. Simply a good feeling. We usually write and record directly at VAULT M. Studios, it’s a totally productive way. So far (!) we have not been a conventional rehearsal room writing band; but this may change with the input of the other bandmembers in the future. Time shall tell!!! We simply do what we like to do and don’t think in any sort of competitive or business way.

Please tell us what’s ahead for Revel in Flesh. Will you tour? Human sacrifice? More recordings?

Yeah we will play with MOTÖRHEAD and ask Lemmy about his opinion on your review, Ha! Ha! I’m just kidding…We have several weekend shows within Germany already scheduled and we will do a sort of minitour inside Germany with Swedish PUTERAEON. It’s currently in booking process. Some festivals like DEATH DOOMED THE AGE, NRW DEATHFEST etc. are booked as well. So far we never played outside Germany, maybe this will change with the new album.

There are plans for two split Eps as well in 2013; simply keep yourself updated on REVEL IN FLESH by checking our pages at http://revelinflesh.jimdo.com/.

Thanx Brett for the nice chat and all the support for REVEL IN FLESH on your webtomb. Drink beer & listen to real Metal!!! HAIL THE DEATHCULT!!!

Revel in Flesh – Manifested Darkness

March 19, 2013 –

revel_in_flesh-manifested_darknessRevel in Flesh explores the area previously inhabited by recent Swedish tribute bands such as Entrails, who mix the bludgeoning simple music of Grave or Suffer with the wisps of melody that make recent Swedish death metal offerings both listenable and murderous.

Riffs slam along with a rudimentary intensity that resembles that of battlements carved roughly from ancient rock, but then are contrasted by melodic single-picked leads that add an infectious hook to the relentlessly compelling rhythm. Over this, two vocal tracks play off each other in the style of older Carcass.

Manifested Darkness bypasses imitating first album Entombed for the more ear-catching sounds of the recent Swedish death metal revival, which mix the cudgel-like chromatic riffing of early Swedish death metal with the relaxed song structures and 1970s heavy metal melodic and chorus riffs that bands like Unanimated and Desultory used to great effect.

Having Revel in Flesh discover its own path instead of emulating the past works out well for the band. Like later offerings from Fleshcrawl, little time is spent on complex arrangements that take five minutes to get to the point. Like early Motorhead, these songs are rough and ready and charge right into their groove and then exploit it. As each song reaches conclusion, riffs shift and melody leaves a sense of lingering loneliness and isolation.

On Manifested Darkness, Revel in Flesh upholds the best Motorhead-ish tradition of simple riffs and verse-chorus song structures with transitions to liven the experience. It reminds me of Motorhead’s 1916 crossed with Entombed’s To Ride, Shoot and Speak the Truth.

The soaring melodies and melancholic moods conceal how much roadhouse heavy metal hides within these album. The trademark crunchy “Swedish style” distortion accelerates the classic metal power of thunderous riffs and gives this album a balance between rocking out and musical destructiveness that any heavy metal fan will appreciate.

Lifeless – Godconstruct

March 5, 2013 –

lifeless-godconstructSwedish-style death metal remains one of the high-water points of underground metal. Both brutal and insightful, semi-popular and alienated, it united melody and deconstruction into a single package which made death metal epic and adventurous.

With so much history behind the genre, it’s a hard act to follow, since any future releases will inevitably get compared to classics like Carnage, Therion, At the Gates and Nihilist. Following in the footsteps of countrymen Fleshcrawl, Lifeless are Germans who make Swedish death metal with an ear toward brutality, but inside of it, a melodic heavy metal core.

As you might expect, a prominent feature of the sound is the electric buzz-hum of Sunlight Studios production, including the distortion that takes a death metal pedal racked to the limit and pumps it through a dimed amp to create that fuzzy ultra distortion that brings out the melody in even the crunchiest power chord riffing. In rhythm and riff shape, Lifeless hit like heavyweights Dismember, but in use of guitar harmony and melodic leads, this sounds more like Unanimated’s Ancient God of Evil or even Dissection under the skin.

The result is a pulsating journey through metal of the last three generations but also a sense of supreme normalcy. This band know how to make death metal with a childlike sense of wonder at the world, both a destructive outlook at a broken adult society and a hopeful outlook at the possibilities of an awakening human spirit. Nietzsche would be proud.

Therion – Gothic Kabbalah

October 5, 2010 –
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Being dissatisfied with creating what might be called a pinnacle of death metal in Beyond Sanctorum (an undertaking that for all its immersive grandeur and epic legends never felt entirely comfortable within the genre), Therion mastermind Christofer Johnsson embarked upon a massive crusade in pursuit of an album that successfully integrated a symphonic revelry into a metal foundation. While others, including Mr. Johnsson himself, might disagree, it is the opinion of this reviewer that, having toiled for over fifteen years in this particular effort, Therion finally achieved the full extent of its aim in ‘Gothic Kabbalah’, and album that we not only deem to be the single best record of the past record, but also the most inventive, most ingenious accomplishment to emerge from a band no longer affiliated with the original death metal framework.

Once the listener can eventually penetrate the deeper meanings of Gothic Kabbalah, which can require a great deal of time and concentration due to the sheer immensity of its vision, he is likely to be struck by how purposeful the music seems. Every track sets out an individual lyrical theme (all lyrics written by the studious Thomas Karlsson), and the composition as a whole (not merely the vocals) actually reflects the corresponding theme as it should always do. This is where truly excellent music will unfailingly show its quality: the imaginative vision of the artist, whether the intent be conscious or not, is sublimely displayed in the overall thematic unity of the album, in both conceptual and strictly musical dimensions, as well as in an intricate understanding of precisely what the artist wishes to create, and of course of the tools that he is working with.

In Gothic Kabbalah, we are entranced by a composition that sings and dances fluidly in a notable contrast to the relatively plodding movements that characterize some of the earlier records. A full sense of the album’s strong self-awareness is manifested by an easy alliance between some convincing, eccentric vocals, plenty of nimble solos and delicate melodies, and a deeply visceral performance by a devoted rhythm section; taken as a whole, the instrumentation is perfectly charismatic. This does not altogether give the impression of being a fun, careless endeavour to entertain guests around a campfire; the album does, however, address some perennial subjects with a certain seriousness that graces them with an unmistakable aura of authenticity, all the while doing so with a natural easiness that only reinforces the sense of sincerity.

What makes this, Therion’s ninth album, especially remarkable is not that it approaches arcane material in the hope of evoking something real and mystical; previous albums have evidently been produced in this very eagerness. No, what makes Gothic Kabbalah special is that it actually accomplishes the invocation of a strong esoteric presence in a musical fabric that goes far beyond the aesthetical, something which the albums prior could never do. The true moments of greatness on this record are found wherever the shocking light of revelation pierces through the veil of the myth and of the occult; whereas Therion were previously content to simply demonstrate the shapes and the outlines of the old legends, ‘Gothic Kabbalah’ cannot cease until it has transcended them altogether!

Now, it is quite clear that Therion have indeed managed an artistic representation of a wondrous realm in Esoterism, and have made it come alive therein; what is especially remarkable, however, is how the many different mythic strands that the albums touches on are eclipsed by a strong recurrence to the specifically Hellenic idea of the ‘Sophia Perennis’, or of the universal idea of the ‘Eternal Wisdom’. Just as a decidedly bombastic classical music has melded with a more crudely defined death metal background, as well as with other styles besides, so too have the various topics respectful to esoterism conformed to the overriding aim for the beautiful Sophia. So, while the cryptic meaning of the pair of terms Gothic Kabbalah still escapes us, the meaning of this album has not: it is the soulful execution of a vision set squarely upon the sun and the heavens above, and as such it is the perfect transition from a typically death metal perception that stares perpetually into a deep, long, and fiery abyss.

-Xavier-