Nokturnal Mortum – The Voice of Steel (2009)

nokturnal mortum the voice of steel

Article by David Rosales.

I. The Cult of Death

During the 10th century A.D., Prince Volodymyr and Queen Olha before him adopted Christianity in a war-torn land with deep-rooted Pagan beliefs. Little could either of them have predicted how hard it would be to impose a foreign philosophy on the yet unbroken Slavic spirit. Over a millennium later, the politically-imposed monotheistic deathcult would be suffering a slow death while the true colors of the Slavic nation would slowly resurface out of the fires of hate.

After all how could they have known that culture and spirit are embedded in the very marrow of bones and hearts of the people? Alas! This ignorance would still be espoused by armchair ideologists until the 19th century and further hammered from above from the second half of the 20th till this day, when true scientific thought is again challenging institutionalized blindness. That is, an ignorance of the logical implications of the lessons of history, psychology and biology, and instead seeing them through the lenses of a secularized Judeo-Christian paradigm. Such a modality of thought still reigns supreme today, even unknowingly among those who would claim allegiance to no supernatural power.

As the land of Ukraine became the collision point for both Asian and European hordes, its brave people soldiered through the intermittent periods of cold desolation and burning brutality. Their spirit weathered the storm, and as a sword forged between the hammer of growing materialism and the anvil of that Middle-Eastern cult of death (administered in a variant especially fostered for European minds, slightly different than that given to the Native Americans), a crude but precious Herculean force arose.

II. Slavic-Pagan Heavy-Black Metal

European nations previously beyond the Iron Curtain have not been known to produce the most accomplished black metal. These usually make prominent use of heavy metal technique while overlaying folk tunes on a poorly-focused progressive structure. These may still win the hearts of the fans of underground metal as honesty and spirit are still highly valued. This ‘best effort’ attitude is endearing, but such obvious naïveté, however authentic, can only take one so far.

Amateur tones characterizing the Slavic underground have meant simultaneously, salvation and bane to the subgenre. On the one hand, its crudeness has effectively forestalled the sellout phase that sooner or later comes about as entropy sets in. On the other, it has deterred a much desired collective coming of age. This is all very much in keeping with the general Slavic spirit: over the top bravado, sincere yet aloof sentimentality, but not the most structured of foundations.

III. The Coming of Age

Nokturnal Mortum’s history stretches back to the time when metal was on its deathbed, the junction at which the rise of parasitic and zombie-minded scenes first came about. The band achieved a certain degree of notoriety in the underground with their sophomore release Lunar Poetry in 1996. After that, the band did not offer much more than a few unconvincing recordings that flirted with pseudo-symphonic stylings: starting out big and epic early in the album and quickly degenerating into slightly comical rock beats and awkward folk tunes.

After five years away from the studio, the band returned with a folk-ambient album speckled with rock metal enhancements here and there. This was the necessary transition that would make the next album after it the most accomplished Slavic black metal album to date. To be more precise, what was achieved in that following album, The Voice of Steel, is an accepting of the full paradigm of black metal without giving up the naturalistic and folk-like tenor unique(in this day and age, at least) to Eastern European metal.

IV. Golos Stali: A Solar Black Metal

In contrast to traditional black metal, the ideological bent of its Slavic counterpart demands a different approach to technique in order to better convey the necessary impression. Instead of outright occult devilry, either through blasphemy or mystic conjuration, we find the remembrance of heroic personalities as well as true active(that is, through expression in the actions of life, ordinary and exceptional) reverence and worship presence of the forces of nature, both seen and unseen. This admiration for heroic prowess that so characterizes the native spirit of the land and people channels the powers of nature itself in their superlative expression at particular points in time according the times themselves.

Rather than the modal, riff-heavy construction of traditional underground metal, Nokturnal Mortum takes a harmonic, rock chord strategy. This may deter many a purist of the serious underground, but a little patience when approaching The Voice of Steel will result in a most rewarding experience. Once past the local use of rock aesthetics incorporated into a melody-and-riff riding that is closer to the methods of metal, the longer, repetitive structures of goal-oriented black metal become clearer.

Sections and patterns are allowed to sink in beyond familiarity and to embed themselves inside the mind of the listener. The lighter nature and swinging rhythm of the salient folk tunes are not given to induce a pensive trance-like state, and so the overall effect is used to a different result. Smooth yet significant transitions take place in such stealthy a manner that they may go unperceived by an inattentive audience. These bring a refreshing sense of justified variety to the strict continuity of events. A comparison with Sorcier des Glaces and the French method may not be out of the question in this respect, with the considerable difference that Slavic bands such as Nokturnal Mortum or Drudkh make more frequent and overt display of rock/post-rock textures and musical sensibilities.

To conclude, it feels necessary to point out the outstanding use of ambient techniques that should be part of the repertoire of any black metal band of any worth, whether applied explicitly or otherwise. These, in combination with rock texturing, rhythms and guitar soloing brought to the mind of the writer the late Pink Floyd. The result of the correct fusion of the more popular techniques showcased in the older band with the sharp focus of proper black metal can result in an interesting balance. The strictness of black metal seems to have been what the disconnected, apparently drug-induced passages of Pink Floyd required in order to contribute to the formation of a full music. These elements are humbly utilized in The Voice of Steel, which through the careful and patient working out of little aspects, their interactions and combinations, give birth to a formidable solar metal.

22 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Profanatica reveal The Curling Flame of Blasphemy

profanatica the curling flame of blasphemy

Profanatica have revealed the art and track list for their upcoming album The Curling Flame of Blasphemy. One of the few fruitful artists in current metal and a mainstay of our best lists, drummer Paul Ledney (also a founder of Incantation) and guitarist John Gelso have spent the third millennium refining the first wave.

Track list:

1. Ordained in Bile
2. March to Golgotha
3. Magic & Muhr
4. Black Hymna
5. Host Over Cup
6. Rotten Scriptures
7. Yahweh Rejected
8. Bleed Heavenly Kingdom
9. Vile Blessing
10. Curling Flame

Track six, “Rotten Scriptures” may be previewed on Hells Headbangers Compilation Volume 8.

Scheduled for an early summer release, the frequently “funderground” label promises that The Curling Flame of Blasphemy will be another:

metalucifer heavy metal bulldozer

13 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Another Cirith Gorgor – Visions of Exalted Lucifer review

cirith_gorgor_-_visions_of_exalted_lucifer

Article by Corey M. A more skeptical take appeared last December.

Visions of Exalted Lucifer comprises the type of surefooted, almost passive confidence that a band like Cirith Gorgor can be expected to gain with as much experience as they’ve had in black metal. Experience (not to be confused with longevity, as many bands have been around for a long time yet never learned from their mistakes or successes) alone has no intrinsic merit but does provide for musicians a way of mapping their excursions into the imagination, so as not to become lost or distracted by pointless tangents on their flights of fancy. Rarely does a band hone their skills through experience without losing that primal virility that drove them to reckless discovery. Usually, one strength overcomes the other as time wears on. Cirith Gorgor like most any black metal band active from the early ’90s into the mid-’00s, began producing clean, smooth, uninspired-and-uninspiring music that never ventures far from familiar topical territory.

Cirith Gorgor show no signs of exhaustion from their long service in the war against all that is modern and mundane, even though their current method of composition exhibits a firm grasp of a decidedly contemporary style of black metal instrumentation. Featuring intricate guitar melodies that weave about one another like caducean serpents, this constant use of counterpoint achieves a delicate balance between consonant resolution and dissonant suspension. This relentless feeling of teetering between sappy harmonic indulgence and chaotic keyless atonality without the music ever succumbing to one extreme shows the guitarists’ songwriting prowess. A band riding this knife edge of tension with efficient agility inspires a nervous awe.

Emphasizing Cirith Gorgor’s fearless wont to take black metal techniques to their logical extremes, some interesting “progressive” bits appear in the album. First, during the main riff in the second track, “Visions of Exalted Lucifer”, there is a somewhat hesitant stutter in the middle of the crucial chord change, shifting the beat count into 9s rather than 8s. In one of the verses that build up to a more unifying crescendo in “Rite of Purification – Vanished from this World”, this reoccurs; The guitar melody rises and falls in an arrogant refusal to be subjugated by the simple 3/4 time signature. While many might think that such technical meddling would negatively impact the direct delivery that makes black metal great, this opinion is understandably misguided thanks to the unprincipled pseudo-prog tendencies that modern metal acts are likely to shoehorn into their otherwise bland songs. For Visions of Exalted Lucifer, these odd phrases and atypical harmonic mutations are actually necessary to lead each song through its natural ebb and flow. They sure each riff’s opening, closing, and transitionary moments are satisfyingly wrapped up without exception. The drummer deserves credit for deftly assisting the chemical reaction-like relationship of guitar melodies, playing aggressive bursts only as needed at any given time, providing traction for the motivating riffs and assuring that a song never spins its wheels.

Listening to this album can be psychologically draining. Due to the constant whirling spiral of guitar harmonies, it is impossible to guess whether some riffs will resolve on a consonant closing chord or introduce more tension by shifting into a new key with its own harmonic space. Almost always, a lead melody is playing over the rhythm chords and spiking out toward strange and uncomfortable modulations. Whether the modulation occurs or is only hinted at is also difficult and sometimes impossible to anticipate. The modulations are not random, they are enigmatic. The stressful ambiguity of any proceeding direction can leave the listener with the vision of Dune‘s Paul Muad-Dib after ingesting a high dose of spice for the first time being assaulted by the infinity of possibilities as every potential future unfolds indistinctly at once. The listener will probably either be annoyed, rejecting the perceived unreasonableness, or submit and allow themselves to be dragged along for the wild ride, coming away with glimpses into the strange depths of alienated human minds. This is not an album for passive listening; it is appreciably polarizing and meticulously crafted.

Visions of Exalted Lucifer may be listened to on Hammerheart’s Bandcamp.

2 Comments

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sammath releases “De Heidense Vlam Zal Branden” lyric video

sammath_-_strijd_-_re-issue

Sammath have released a lyric video for “De Heidense Vlam Zal Branden” to promote the vinyl reissue of their debut album, Strijd, on Hammerheart Records.  Strijd is more conventional than Sammath’s later albums and one of the best releases in the atmospheric, late nineties black metal style reminiscent of Summoning. Unlike their tawdry contemporaries, Sammath arranged primal tremolo-picked riffs with keyboard leads into narrative compositions. While the keyboards sometimes may seem a tad excessive today, the record succeeds in conjuring up romantic visions of dark age barbarity worthy of its Arthur Rackham cover. Those who enjoyed Kaeck’s Stormkult should take special note.

 

Strijd may be listened to in its entirety on Folter’s Bandcamp page. The LP may be ordered from Hammerheart Records.

13 Comments

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sorcier des Glaces – North

Article by Corey M

An astounding eighteen years after releasing their debut full-length, Sorcier des Glaces releases North, maintaining their streak of high-quality albums. The themes of their last album, Ritual of the End (one of 2014’s best releases), are still present here and revolve around the band’s signature lyrical and melodic concepts; descriptions of people and places undergoing freezing damnation, in their unique vision of death occurring over epic spans of time.

This music holds the rare power to instill visions and sensations of ice-covered ruins and crippling cold by its melodic prowess alone. However, the vocals and lyrics are praiseworthy as well as the delivery is unnervingly clear, poetically orating scenes of melancholic morbidity illustrated by the music. This is achieved by Sorcier des Glaces’ idiosyncratic approach to writing long riffs with slow and steady chord changes all augmented by faster-moving melodies that anticipate and resolve the myriad melodically unorthodox transitions. It’s so rare to hear this style of complex harmonic activity performed this adroitly that the only similar album I can think of that achieves this level of complexity tempered by an intuitive sense of coherency is Far Away from the Sun. That is a high compliment.

In terms of technical performance, the musicians’ set-up is very similar to what is heard on Ritual of the End. Driving drums impel the helical, tremolo-picked, complimentary melodies which the lone guitarist/bassist cleanly divides into trios. The main melodies are carried by the rhythm guitar’s very long chains of power chords and the bass guitar modifies the basic root notes of the rhythm guitar, adding much harmonic depth to the songs. Meanwhile, one or more guitars play high-register leading melodies that expertly illuminate the emotive potential of the progressions. Playing their instruments at such a wide range of timbre and speed creates a broad, orchestral sound. The band’s creative flexibility allows the orchestra to tower indomitably, or branch out and flow smoothly, winding naturally around musical obstacles, like the trickle of water over irregular, rocky terrain.

The musicians even get a little bit more boldly experimental on North, particularly during the title track “North”, utilizing some long sections of cleanly picked chords that mutate and creep toward obscure resolutions while the bass dances its own giddy cadenza beneath the reverberating guitars. Typically this sort of deviation would wreck the feel of a song in the hands of inadept musicians, but here it is a delight. “Dawn of the Apocalypse” features an epic lyrical narrative enhanced by some more extreme shifts in dynamic intensity of the music. None of the changes are jarring or illogical; rather, they occur organically.

Despite the long and winding song progressions, I would recommend this album even to uninitiated metal fans. The sweeping guitar orchestration will ensnare anyone with a keen sense of musical passion, allowing Sorcier des Glaces’ malevolent shroud to obscure their sense of righteousness as they succumb to the awesome power of ice and occultic magic. North is an excellent album that will provide many journeys into the frigid recesses of the unconscious, at once harrowing and wondrous.

North may be previewed and purchased directly from Sorcier des Glaces at their official Bandcamp page.

28 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Morbus 666 – Ignis Divine Imperium (2016)

morbus 666

Article by Corey M

Featuring members of two well-respected underground metal bands – Imprecation and Bahimiron – the professional aptitude of the musicians is obvious as soon as Morbus 666’s album Ignis Divine Imperium is through with the first song, though that’s not to say that there is any showboating whatsoever from the players here. The sonic texture of this album is very similar to that of the latest releases by the aforementioned bands; dry, gritty guitars dominate the soundscape with a harsh midrange attack while scratchy vocals and a beautifully live-sounding drum set do little to assert their presence, but effectively support the hypnotically whirlpooling riffs.

Aesthetics aside, comparing Morbus 666’s music to that of Bahimiron is fair, because both feature a similar general sense of dynamics, method of structuring songs, and overall level of complexity (which is relatively minimalist in terms of modern metal in general). In both cases, we’re dealing with no-frills black metal that emphasizes gradual evolution of songs (strategically avoiding distracting melodic tangents) while eschewing ornamentation and anything other than rudimentary black metal technique: That is to say, the band’s whole arsenal consists mostly of tremolo picking, some creepy ringing chords, marching beats, and sometimes blasts. There are no guitar leads, acoustic interludes, stretches of vaguely disturbing ambient noise, or synthesized string sections. In fact, there aren’t even any drum fills or the sort of herky-jerky, stop-start tricks you might expect to hear from some of the more chaotic modern black metal acts. The engine of Ignis Divine Imperium is pure and relentlessly sinister melody, and for the most part, the band delivers impactful hymns that praise Satan as an anti-humanist archetype, denying (both lyrically and musically, and by extension ideologically) the casual fan the luxury of a comfortably passive listening experience.

The most effective bits of music in Ignis Divine Imperium are so simple and subtle that they may first pass by in a blur, but become more rewarding with repeated listens. For instance, the first track (“Fiery Abyss”) begins and ends with the same simple two-chord phrase, acting as bookends to the song. It works as an engaging introduction, but by the time this phrase is reintroduced, the experience of hearing it again is not just that of familiarity, but a more lucid contemplation of what sort of hidden meaning the melody implied at first, since it has now been contrasted with the winding riffs that have occurred in between the opening and closing.

To borrow another author’s* metaphor: Imagine standing at the edge of a valley, observing the lay of the land before you, and then descending into its depths and eventually emerging on top of the opposite edge. Looking back, you gain a more complete perspective of the depth and width of the valley through which you passed, since you are able to compare the span of time and steepness of the cliffs which you must have climbed down and then back up. In this same way, the introductory riffs of each song on the album serve to give the listener a general idea of what to expect, but it is not until emerging on the other side of the tangle of melodies that one can fully appreciate, by looking back, the journey as a continuum of experience, and realize that there was more to the introductory riff sequences than could be guessed by hearing them alone, as they relate to the riffs in the middle and then the end of a song. This seems like an obvious way to structure any song but amazingly (or not), many bands fail to make their songs interesting without drastic changes in rhythm and guitar techniques and naturally drifting from any main point that they wish to express. Meanwhile, the music of Morbus 666 succeeds by having strong riffs alone.

All this praise but some criticism yet; the simplicity of some of the riff sequences on this album work against the development of the song. There are definite stand-out tracks like “Fiery Abyss” and another near the end of the album, “Through the Black Fog Burns the Eyes of the Devil”, which explores the more majestic aspect of Satanic might with off-puttingly somber and yearning melodies, much like can be heard on the best Behexen tracks, but utilized much more convincingly by Morbus 666. However, other tracks sometimes fall into ruts which sound insincerely placid amidst the more viciously hateful passages. The band exercise possibly more restraint than is needed during these parts, which understandably serve as dynamic fluctuations to contrast and therefore highlight the harsher riffs, but they sound somewhat forced (as in uninspired) and can cause the concentration to falter after carrying on for so long. These minor flaws notwithstanding, the album earned a purchase from me, as I’m sure I’ll continue listening to it for some time to come. Besides, I’m very interested to hear another album from them, and hope that they can sharpen their songs even more, because they are on a war path and possess the firepower to eradicate any and all belligerents.

*If anybody knows who, I would like to know as well, since I remember the words but forgot where I read them, so can’t rightly credit the original.
9 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Reissue Radar: Immortal albums

immortal-pure_holocaust

While the sundered remnants of Immortal are trying to go their own ways (Abbath released a solo album, the rest of Immortal promises one later in 2016), Nuclear Blast Records is taking advantage of their rights to the Immortal back catalog by reissuing Pure Holocaust and At The Heart of Winter on vinyl. We’ve written about the strengths of Immortal’s early work in the past, and even the more streamlined and accessible At the Heart of Winter has its charms, so it should go without saying that the content of these reissues is valuable. Currently, the vinyl records are only available through Nuclear Blast’s German-language storefront, and not officially available until March 18th. German speakers might want to get in on this opportunity early.

10 Comments

Tags: , , , , , ,

Mayhem to perform De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas live

Mayhem recently announced that they would be headlining Temples 2016 in Bristol, England. Perhaps more interesting is that this is going to be the first time that any lineup of the band has performed De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in its entirety. Since the current lineup of Mayhem relies on Attila Csihar for its vocals and contains two other musicians from the band’s early ’90s lineups (Necrobutcher and Hellhammer), odds are this is going to sound pretty close to the studio version of DMDS. Regardless of your preferences for Mayhem vocalists (I very much value Attila’s contributions to the album) and recordings, bootlegs, whatever, the band’s performance at Temples is probably a better novelty than the band’s recent studio albums.

5 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Upcoming tours – Marduk, Immolation, Origin

marduk et al on tour

With the metal scene as it is these days, one out of three DMU-approved bands isn’t too bad. Marduk, Immolation, Origin, and a band named Bio-Cancer will be touring Europe throughout May 2016. While Marduk is headlining, their companions in general seem to have similar levels of notoriety; I wouldn’t dwell too much on the specifics of the headlines. I’m betting European fans of Death Metal Underground’s writing will treat this as a possible opportunity to see Immolation in concert. While that’s an optimistic appraisal, the band allegedly gives their older and stronger some emphasis when live, so if you can grit your teeth through the other material it could very well be worth your while. Otherwise, you’ll have to hope there’s good beer… and that there’s plenty of beer money in your pockets.

8 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature – Alastor – Waldmark (2016)

alastor

Article by David Rosales

Playing a laid back kind of black metal, Alastor’s music supports simple variations of a central melody on drums that range from blast-beating sections to short-lived standard rock beats on thin-sounding drums. At first, Alastor seems to be building on tracks in standard ways, until one realizes that halfway through the song, the music player tells you that the next track has already started. This sounds interesting in concept, but in the case of Waldmark, nothing is coming out of this except the constant stalling of closing sections. Being able to finish songs effectively seems to be the bane of of most musicians.

On the other hand, this might just be a dick move, because songs do seem to “end” in the middle of tracks, only so that a different idea starts and plays through the boundaries of tracks. It might just be a cheap way of trying to make the listener sit through a whole album of samey music with little to none emotional or content variation. It is extremely difficult to distinguish different songs, endings and beginnings, middle sections in a climax-less, conclusion-less flat music, even for a dedicated listener of underground metal music. Variation does happen, mind you, but the close range at which the whole of them remain, and the fact that they do not seem to be structured to take you anywhere, makes breaks and endings appear entirely random. You probably shouldn’t waste your time on something this amorphous.

7 Comments

Tags: , , , , ,

Classic reviews:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z