Here at Don't Count On It Reviews, you can read reviews from different artists from different styles.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Krallice - Diotima (2011)

Band: Krallice
Country: New York City, New York
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Profound Lore

Since it's inception in 2007, Krallice has released two of the most forward-thinking, avant-garde black metal in years. Blurring the lines between progressive metal and black metal to the point where it's hard to tell where brutality begins and shear wankery ends. With each release their sound has become more and more well crafted and refined, with this new one focusing their sound even more so.
I remember reading an interview with the band recently and being surprised and disappointed by the fact that Mick Barr said that the band were going to make use of shorter songs while embracing a more death metal influenced sound. It was only after more info was released that I calmed down, as it was the shorter songs rather than the death metal influence that had me a bit worked up, but half of this album's tracks are still over ten minutes. Now, while I'll say that there's a bit more embrace of a mid-tempo sound, about 85-90 percent of this record is typical high-speed, technical black metal. Tracks like The Clearing and Telluric Rings are done in the band's typical progressive black metal fashion, but there are also tracks like the title-track, Diotima, where the band do slow things down for a little bit, and slow is a relative term here.
One of the more noticeable shifts on here is definitely in the vocal department, where Barr's throat-shredding wails still remain in tact, the majority of vocals are now performed by bassist Nicholas McMaster, who's style is much more of a low roar. I'd definitely say that unlike the last album, 2009's "Dimensional Bleedthrough," this album is a bit easier to swallow, but it's still something that you're not going to get on a first listen. I'd say it's arguably their most "melodic" record yet, as it isn't quite as weird as "Dimensional Bleedthrough" or as intense and the self-titled record. Despite the long lengths on here, and this really applies to all three records here, but most of them never really feel all that long, as the music has so much energy and there's always something going on, it's almost impossible to get bored listening to it.
Overall, what can I say that hasn't already been said about this band and this album, except for that I think it's great. This is definitely more accessible than their previous two records, but still far from being "mainstream." Definitely look out for this record, you won't want to miss this.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: The Clearing, Litany of Regrets, Telluric Rings

Liturgy - Aesthethica (2011)

Band: Liturgy
Country: New York City, New York
Style: Black Metal/Noise Rock
Label: Thrill Jockey

With their 2009 debut full-length, "Renihilation," Liturgy really broke out of a tired old trend of blasting black metal. I'll admit that I never got around to listening to that album, I've been busy, sue me, but I really wanted to hear this one since I've heard some good things. This new one is supposedly even more enjoyable and, believe it or not, fun to listen to, from what I've heard.
Being that this is my first encounter with the band, the first twenty seconds had me wishing why I decided to press the play button, but once the music started, the band anyway, I totally understood. What I wound up hearing on opener High Gold was an amalgamation of melodic charged guitar playing and drums that just cut through the mix with how fierce they wind up being. Anyone who's listened to, or seen this band live for that matter, knows how intense this drummer is, and it's not hard to hear why, I know how small his kit is, and he's just making his parts sound as intense, if not more so than, more established black and death metal bands, just listen to tracks like Generation.
This is not a band you'll want to hear if you a "progressive" or "post" band, there aren't many highs and lows, peaks and valleys on here, it's pretty much full-throttle at all times. I'm actually surprised how much I like this, as I usually have a problem with bands that spend most of an album blasting away, but I found most of this to be very enjoyable. It can be a bit much at times, a track like Helix Skull feels like it could have been left out as it doesn't really add to the album, and things don't really show signs of slowing down until Veins of God. Having said that, if you want a record that has some great, aforementioned high-energy, songs with some killer riffs, definitely look for this, as this is some of the most consistent riffing I've heard all year, with almost every song having something memorable about it.
Overall, this is some great stuff, if a bit off putting occasionally for it's non-stop brutality approach. I really think I missed out by not checking out their debut back in 2009 and have finally seen the error of my ways in not doing so sooner. Definitely check this out if you want a melodic, but brutal, black metal record.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Generation, Sun of Light, Red Crown

Friday, April 29, 2011

Aosoth - III (2011)

Band: Aosoth
Country: Paris, France
Style: Black Metal
Label: Agonia Records

Finally, a black metal record, the kvlt kind anyway, that I can safely say I'm a real fan of, or have been for a little while. I've been listening to these guys for a little while, really ever since I found out about the French black metal scene and have really been impressed with them. This third album was one that I certainly looked forward to hearing after being very impressed with their last one.
One reason I looked forward to hearing this record so much was due to a sense of curiosity as to what sound the band would pursue on this album. With their debut, they took a very traditional, straightforward approach to black metal, blazingly fast and intense with hints of thrash in the mix; but their sophomore effort proved to be much more dissonant and made use of more mid-paced sections. From the get-go of this album, it's obvious that the band have at least tried to bridge the gap between the two sounds, as such, you'll get an intense mix of chaotic riffing done in a much more aggressive and typical, if you will, black metal fashion.
I personally found this record to actually make use of more atmosphere than its predecessors did. Despite the more chaotic approach the instrumentation takes on here, the atmosphere is incredibly dense and crushing, fitting with the music, but makes a song like III all the more powerful. At times, IV was one instance, this record really comes off sounding like something Deathspell Omega might try and do, and I am aware that I have probably mentioned them a lot in these most recent reviews, but I really hear them coming out in a lot of bands, specifically here though. Something I really have to mention though, going along with the fact that I've been bringing up DSO a lot recently is that unlike a lot of those other bands, the riffs on here actually manage to implant themselves into your skull without really coming off as them trying to copy DSO blatantly.
Overall, I expect good things from this record, but this exceed them, instead of going off into one of the two realms they had previously done, this new one blends them together. Very few bands are able to make a record this chaotic so memorable. If you're into experimental black metal, or like bands that do a more chaotic style of it, you should do yourself a favor and check this out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: II, V

Inkisitor - Dysevangelist (2011)

Band: Inkisitor
Country: Le Mans, France
Style: Raw Black Metal
Label: Osmose

Personally, it's not often that I see an album cover that's so blatantly brutal and sacrilegious that I have to find out what it is. I'll say that most covers that are of the variety that I just mentioned are found more within the gore/porno-grind genres more than black metal. How could I resist something that's not and still manages to personify brutality with it's cover.
Having done a split with S.V.E.S.T might show you that these guys are a bit less ordinary than the typical black metal band. I'll say that it's certainly at least trying to maintain a certain level of intensity, but it morphs itself into something that bears, if only slightly, a resemblance to Deathspell Omega. Some of the riffs you'll hear are slightly more abstract or dissonant that the average black metal band, hear opener Reverse The Cross. The slower numbers, the title-track, Dysevangelist, also bring an almost twisted sounding atmosphere that compares to DSO into the equation as well.
But I have to say that the traditional vibe of this record is possibly what is creating the difficulty that I'm having with this record. About half, maybe a bit less, of this record has the potential to be a bit more dissonant or experimental, but the other half, or so, is the traditional side, which seems to just be a bland, uninteresting black metal that doesn't do anything for me. Tracks like Les Germes Du Pourrissement and Acid Inferno contain more, dare I say progressive, moments that I really wish there were more of on here.
It's quite a solid album, despite being their debut full-length, the band have been quite active since 2000. I could see this appealing to fans of both traditional and more experimental black metal due to the melding of elements, though I would have preferred more experimentation myself. If you're into bands keeping it kvlt while doing something a little bit different, look for this and you won't be disappointed.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Dysevangelist, Les Germes Du Pourrissement

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sect - Doomsday (2011)

Band: Sect
Country: Murmansk, Russia
Style: Black Metal
Label: Deathkvlt Records

I haven't looked into Russian black metal all that much this year to be honest with you. Last year I looked into the country's scene quite a bit, though I have to confess a lot of it wasn't very good, or it was just passable. This record caught my attention however, because of its stance as a purely old-school black metal record.
I have to say that the production on here is stellar, it's raw, but very clear sounding. It's a very modern sounding record, it's obvious that it was recorded recently, but it retains an almost crusty vibe, like that of a grindcore or crust punk act, at points I would have guessed that Kurt Bellou recorded this. Screeches of feedback pop out at times, just giving this record that in-the-moment feel to it, hear opener Atom's Radiance. But like I said, this record is also clear enough to hear everything being played, which, compared to the other Russian black metal records I've heard, is a good thing.
This is not as defiantly old-school as I thought it would be, though it certainly is more traditional than a lot of other bands going forward in the genre these days. It's a record that focuses a lot more on the attack, making use of rampaging guitar lines that are just melodic enough to be catchy, but not enough for you to say this band is melodic. A track like The Black Sun shows just what this band is about, crusty black metal with just a bit of a death metal influence coming through, Warriors of Chaos being a prime example of that influence. Probably the oddball on the album is Sonic Waves, which makes use of some weird female clean singing which doesn't really fit with what the band's playing, but that's just my opinion.
Overall, this is a really strong album of semi-melodic black metal that is definitely a step above what a lot of Russian groups are doing with the straightforward style. It's not groundbreaking stuff, but what's being done on here is crafted very well and will stay with you. Definitely look for this if you're into this sort of crusty, melodic, black metal stuff.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Confession, Warriors of Chaos, The Revelation

Nargaroth - Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare (2011)

Band: Nargaroth
Country: Eilenburg, Germany
Style: Ambient/Black Metal
Label: No Colours

Since it's inception in 1996, Nargaroth has consistently released albums that are tributes to early 90s black metal. Their style, never really shifting beyond the aggressive, almost primal, sounds of some of the genre's figureheads. This new album has garnered the band a bit more praise than previous albums for a more adventurous take on their style, I'm hoping that's true.
I have to say that I have never cared for the albums that Nargaroth has released up to this point, as they rarely did anything above average black metal in the style of early Mayhem and Darkthrone. Sure, some of the material, whether intentional or not, was comical at times, in a good way, but others were just plain bad and boring. This album opens with a six minute ambient/symphonic intro that really doesn't do much for the album except give it an odd sense of atmosphere that the rest of the album is left to try and live up to. That atmosphere, really doesn't go away after that intro, in fact, it all but consumes the metal aspects of the band's sound, hear a track like A Whisper Underneath The Bark of Old Trees.
I'll be very up front here and say that this album really didn't impress me all that much. Most of the sound on here is definitely in a more ambient realm than a metal realm, and even when the metal side is more dominant, it doesn't usually do anything impressive. This is a pretty slow, monotonous, and brooding record that focuses a lot more on atmosphere than really any other aspect of the genre, and in that regard, is similar to some of Burzum's material. The almost electronic oriented sounds that wind up appearing on tracks like Diving Among The Daughters of The Sea or March of The Tyrants really is something different for the genre, but it's not like it's so great that it should be praised, in my opinion.
Overall, this was not a release that really grabbed me. I find it hard to really want to put on a record over and over again when it doesn't really have anything exciting within it. If you're into more ambient based black metal, check this out, but it's definitely not an essential release to me.
Overall Score: 3.5
Highlights: Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ash Borer - Ash Borer (2011)

Band: Ash Borer
Country: Arcata, California
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Psychic Violence

In the three years since their inception, California natives Ash Borer have been gaining quite a name for themselves in the underground circuit. Releasing their debut demo in 2009 and then a high profile split with Fell Voices and a tour demo last year, this full-length came as a highly anticipated release. The band's style has been praised by those willing to take them in for their sense of adventure.
Like their cohorts in Fell Voices, Ash Borer are known for writing long and epic stretches of music. This album is made up of only three tracks, two of which top ten minutes. I can imagine those not yet acquainted with the band having a difficult time getting past that alone, but if you can get over the initial shock of the long tracks, you'll find something quite fascinating.
The style the band make use of, both on their earlier recordings and here, is a breed of highly atmospheric and melodic black metal that blends just the right amount of post-rock, folk (or folk rock if you like), and psychedelia together into their own black metal concoction. It's a pretty relentless variation of the style, so don't expect this to sound like Alcest with longer songs, this is much more aggressive and brutal; but I have to add that what's on here is probably, depending on the person, more trippy and psychedelic than most of the "post-black metal" scene. But I won't want you thinking that this is just a blast fest, because there are moments of beauty and calm on here, the nineteen minute closer My Curse Was Raised In The Darkness Against A Doomsday Silence would never work if it was blasting for it's entirety; but it's due to the clever use of well placed keyboard atmospheres, great drumming, and excellently timed clean guitar breaks that allows a band like this to write songs that are much more cerebral while remaining ingrained in the consciousness long after listening. A track like Rest, You Are The Lightning is probably the easiest place to start on here if you're a new listener, but I would still recommend listening to the whole thing through, as it really is an experience that shouldn't be overlooked. The production is raw, but not lo-fi, so it keeps a very kvlt feel to, in case you had any reservations about the band going high-fidelity.
Overall, this is a great, I want to call it debut, that definitely should bring these guys to the next level of public awareness. It's definitely an original take, and hopefully removes them from the whole cascadian black metal scene. If you're into adventurous black metal that is definitely captivating, do not wait to check this album out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: My Curse Was Raised In The Darkness Against A Doomsday Silence

Cult of Erinyes - A Place to Call My Unknown (2011)

Band: Cult of Erinyes
Country: Brussels, Belgium
Style: Black Metal
Label: Les Acteurs de l'Ombre

Coming from out of nowhere, Cult of Erinyes just appeared on my radar one day and just made me look twice at them. The few bands that I've heard them compared to interested me as they all differed in sound. I've seen the industrial black metal to more blackened death tags being thrown at these guys, so why not see what this is.
Despite being tagged as simply black metal by the blogs that I've seen it at, this album is certainly more than that. While retaining the black metal sound, there's definitely a lot of other sounds and plenty of experimentation going on within this record. In addition, I kind of had the feeling that this album would probably be a bit more adventurous than the average black metal record, as the cover reminds me of something I might see from a Neurosis show. This really didn't contain a whole lot of the sounds that I had been led to believe were going to be on here, so it did prove to be quite a surprising and engaging listen.
When you dive into this record there's a lot to be found, sure, there's the really fast and brutal black metal stuff, but there's stuff that sounds more akin to groups like Neurosis or Enslaved at times as well. By the second track, things like tempo variations, atmospheric interludes, strange sound effects, and warped vocals all begin appearing, Island. The drumming on here definitely has to be complimented, as the fills on these tracks are great, and they're anything but average when compared to other black metal bands, or most metal bands to be accurate, hear Velvet Oppression. Is this a good album, yes, is it an exciting album, yes, is it a consistent album, somewhat, and that's probably one of the few bad things about this in my opinion, some of these tracks are fantastic progressive/experimental black metal or ambient tracks, hear Permafrost, but there are a few on here that aren't up to the same standard, A Thousand Torments is the main culprit here, not really sticking out as anything different.
Overall, I'd have to say that this album really impressed me, as I wasn't really expecting all that much from what I had read on their description on blogs, but was pleasantly surprised. This is definitely some cool and exciting stuff that more people should definitely check out. Look this band up and check out this album for sure.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Insignificant, Velvet Oppression, Last Light Fading

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Primigenium - Faith Through Anguish (2011)

Band: Primigenium
Country: Madrid, Spain
Style: Black Metal
Label: BlackSeed Productions

When looking at bands that take over five years for a release, I think of probably the typical, Guns'N'Roses for rock and Wintersun for metal, but black metal has never been one of those genres. It's taken Primigenium nearly nine years to craft this new album. From others, it's apparently been worth the wait.
Being my first encounter with the band, I can't really say that it really differs too much from a traditional black metal sound. What's on here definitely sounds like it came out of the 90s, because the band did, what with the blazing guitars that occasionally have bits of thrash moments. The melodicism displayed on here is also that of a more traditional kind, it's memorable, but the riffs are not dominated by melodies, hear Faith Through Anguish I: Abysses.
With all the above being true, I can also say that this is a very modern based album as well. A track like Third Floor contains a very modern sounding atmosphere, almost going for an industrial sort of vibe at times. There are also occasional moments where more dissonant riffing comes into play, something that is more associated with the greats of modern black metal, Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega. The clean vocalizations that occur on here are also quite out of the ordinary, as they aren't so much sung as much as they are sort of moaned or howled in the background.
Overall, a very solid record that has plenty of unique characteristics. I find it really amazing that this band was able to keep their sound so traditional sounding, while musically exploring territories that are used in newer groups. If you're into stuff that's forward thinking while still brutal, check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Faith Through Anguish I: Abysses, New Soul Shepherds

Deferum Sacrum - Septicaemia (2011)

Band: Deferum Sacrum
Country: Kyyiv, Ukraine
Style: Black Metal
Label: More Hate Productions

I don't have a lot of luck when it comes to finding good bands from the Ukraine. Most bands from that area tend to have pretty bad production, even by black metal standards, and are musically uninteresting, though there are exceptions to both. I'm hoping this band might prove me wrong.
Surprisingly, this comes off like a modern take on traditional black metal, nothing too out of the ordinary. You can easily hear the influences from groups like Emperor, Mayhem, and Rotting Christ on here, with more melodic mid-tempo assaults taking over a consistent blast, though there are still plenty of those parts as well. Due to it's more ebbing and flowing structures, it does help provide a sense of progression on here, with some parts definitely sticking out more than others, hear tracks like The Crawl or Crown of Degradation. Though there are still quite a few tracks on here that don't really do much of anything for me, All Living Fades isn't a bad song, but really doesn't attempt to explore anything different from your typical black metal band. I found that the occasional death metal influences that came out on here were well done and used effectively as well.
I think my main problem with this album is just that I've heard this done time and time again, it's not really anything unlike the other hundred of corpse painted legions out there right now. Having said that, I do have to say that there aren't a lot of bands that sound as polished and well-crafted as this one is, as I stated in the beginning. I will also give the vocals on here a good nod as well, as they bear a resemblance to Emperor front man Ihsahn at times. The instrumentation on here is also far from bad, it's just lacking in the originality department.
Overall, this is a decent album, by no means a bad album, but nothing special. Fans of the old-school, early 90s band should definitely get a kick out of this disc. Once again, if you like black metal done fast, hard, and brutal, look this shite up!
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: The Crawl, Emasculating Touch of God, Mass Suppression

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sylvan Realm - The Lodge of Transcendence (2011)

Band: Sylvan Realm
Country: Maryland, USA
Style: Melodic/Progressive Black Metal
Label: Independent

I haven't heard much about this album, despite it's pretty decent cover artwork and description on blogs, it seems like it would have gotten a lot more hype. The fact that it's also an independent release also adds to the ambiguity of it, though the members involved are no secret. From the little bit of press I've read for this though, it seems to be right up my alley.
Wasting no time at all, Sylvan Realm opens with a progressive riff that instantly recalls something that has more in common with a group like Symphony X more than Emperor, unless it was later Emperor. It's a sound that definitely has roots within black metal but also a strong progressive, and almost neo-classical at times, vibe to it. It's also quite melodic as well, with a lot of catchy guitar lines that are instantly memorable, hear Disappear Into The Landscape for example, as well as some more somber moments of quiet intricacy with cleaner, or acoustic, guitars.
However, I have to say that despite being catchy, melodic, progressive, there is appeared to be a real lack of focus on here in my opinion. Tracks like the title-track, The Lodge of Transcendence, moved from blasting black metal sections to more proggy guitar parts into a more viking metal acoustic part and then into a sort of punky prog rock part that didn't really feel natural to me. The production on here, in my opinion again, is still too raw for what I imagine the band trying to do.
Overall, despite the little bit I had heard about this album, it wound up being letting me down a bit. This could very well be a great trio in the future, with some improvements, but as of right now, I just couldn't get into it. Check it out if you're into some more raw sounding progressive black metal.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Disappear Into The Landscape, Twilight Kingdom

KEN Mode - Venerable (2011)

Band: KEN Mode
Country: Winnipeg, Canada
Style: Sludge Metal/Noise Rock
Label: Profound Lore

Despite being around for over a decade, this is my first meeting with the Canadian outfit KEN Mode. I only learned of their existence through Profound Lore, one of my favorite labels, and since I check out almost everything that comes out on that label, this would be no exception. It was only after finding this album that I went back and heard some of their older material as well.
Upon pressing the play button, this record's opening bass line groove and vocals instantly reminded me of Poison The Well. The heavy grooves, the dissonant and angular guitar lines, and the yelled vocals bring PTW to my mind immediately, and not in a bad way. Tracks on here also contain a similar sense of urgency that PTW have made use of in their sound, hear tracks like Book of Muscle and Batholith. However, I've read that comparisons to groups like Today Is The Day and Jesus Lizard are also comparisons that are often said as well, which can both be heard in the more spastic moments of the album, A Wicked Pie for example.
Personally, while I found the drumming just short of amazing and the guitar playing pretty damn cool, I have to say that the bass work was the highlight of this album for me. The grooves laid down on here are just great, Flight of The Echo Hawk is a great example of how the bass is used on here, melodic and tuneful while still being an integral part of the rhythm section. The bass also adds the extra oomph, if you will, to the album, giving it that added bit of heaviness that a track like Never Was otherwise might be missing.
Overall, this is a very solid record with a ton of replay power. Noise rock is something that I've only recently started exploring and have already found what I like and dislike about some of the bands, but this I like. If you're into noisy, chaotic, somewhat metal sounding punk rock, definitely do not hesitate to check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Obeying The Iron Will..., Never Was, Mako Shark

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Xerath - II (2011)

Band: Xerath
Country: Basingstoke, UK
Style: Symphonic/Tech Metal
Label: Candlelight Records

With the release of their debut, "I," back in 2009, Xerath were thrust into the metal spotlight. Combining elements of Dimmu Borgir, Meshuggah, and Strapping Young Lad was a volatile concoction, but one that worked for them. This, their follow-up, sees the band progressing into an even more progressive sound.
The use of groovy riffs mixed with a symphonic backdrop could go array if not done carefully, but luckily, the band have only gotten better with their compositional skills on this album. It's obvious when listening to a track like Unite to Defy, that the different sections, the horns and the strings all have their own role in creating a certain atmosphere. I do have to say that when listening to this album, it takes a few tracks before the production starts to sound fine, at least for me anyway, and the guitars finally stop competing with the orchestral backdrop. I do have to give it to the band that each and every player can be heard, even the bass, which really impressed me, given how much is actually happening in a given track.
However, the metal part of this album is nothing to wave a finger at either. Guitar riffs a lot more memorable and the vocals have improved, to the point where they're drawing comparisons to Devin Townsend. Tracks like Reform III and Nuclear Self Eradication show the band at their most extreme, meanwhile tracks like Machine Insurgency and The Call to Arms show the band writing some of their best songs yet. Songwriting has improved and longer song structures definitely show that the band were willing to expand upon the more simplistic sounds of their debut.
Overall, this is a great album and a really strong follow-up to their debut. In my personally opinion, it expands upon the groundwork that the first album did and improves upon it. If you like groovy, symphonic, and progressive sounding metal, this is an album you won't want to miss.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Reform III, The Call to Arms, The Glorious Death

El Scar - God's In His Heaven, All's Right With The World EP (2011)

Band: El Scar
Country: Brighton, UK
Style: Progressive Metal/Djent
Label: Independent

I really have to commend Marc Le Cras, the guitarist and sole member of this project, for the improvements he's made since this projects debut last year. With that record and it's follow-up, the "MAGI EP," he's started to really come into his own. This new EP really shows how far he's come from writing djent songs.
I have to say that this album really moves past simplistic djent riffing and into more progressive territory. The djenty riffs are still very much a part of his style and are still very prominent on here, listen to What Was Seen In The Well of Light. This release sees the inclusion of a much more melodic sound, with tracks like Fumbling Towards Kindness and Memories Within My Palm, but I also hear some comparisons with Tesseract in the more ambient melodies that are used throughout this disc, like in The Moon Inside The Darkness. The staccato rhythms mixed with the more melodic clean guitar parts in the background really bring a more refined take that definitely is more enjoyable, at least on my end.
Overall, this is a very strong EP with plenty of memorable melodies and grooves. There's also a decent amount of variety, from pounding double-bass heavy sections to softer, more atmospheric parts. Definitely take the time to look this up if you're into newer instrumental prog metal, or djent.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Fumbling Towards Kindness, God's In His Heaven, All's Right With The World

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sonne Adam - Transformation (2011)

Band: Sonne Adam
Country: Tel Aviv, Israel
Style: Death/Doom Metal
Label: Century Media Records

I'm honestly surprised that this record is coming out on Century Media Records, I really am. When I heard a few tracks from the band's debut EP, last years "Armed With Hammers," it didn't strike me as a a band that would end up being signed to a label this big, not that they don't deserve it though. It just makes me wonder if old-school death metal sounds are finally making a comeback.
In recent years, I think most will agree that a label like Century Media has signed dime-a-dozen deathcore groups recently, but this is nothing like that. What you have with Sonne Adam is a sound that really takes the atmosphere and slower nature from doom metal and mixes it with elements of blackened death, the tremolo picked guitar lines, heavy palm muted riffs, and throaty growls. It's easy to draw comparisons to groups like Celtic Frost, Incantation, Portal, and Autopsy as influences on here. While I don't think anyone could call this all that original, it's done in a way that definitely has a certain charm to it that is totally unique, hear a track like Sonne Adam.
The atmosphere definitely brings this band a very different sound compared to their piers. While even more doomy death metal bands, like Hooded Menace, are certainly doing a relatively similar style, the atmosphere this band possesses really adds a certain bleakness to this album. A track like Shine definitely wouldn't feel as dark as it is without the dense soundscape behind it and the sounds on the title-track, Transformation, definitely stand out as being some of the best ambient sounds on this album.
Overall, this is a very solid debut release that recalls some excellent old-school death/doom metal. While it's still a bit immature in terms of songwriting, I feel it could be better, it's certainly not a bad place to start. Definitely check this album out if you're sick of modern metal and want something atmospheric and heavy.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Sonne Adam, Take Me Back to Where I Belong, Transformation

Felis Catus - Answers to Human Hypocrisy (2011)

Band: Felis Catus
Country: Italy
Style: Dark Ambient/Black Metal
Label: Independent

As a whole, the black metal scene is constantly evolving, sub-genres keep popping up every which way you turn and new bands with creative ideas are suddenly appearing. Felis Catus is a new group whose debut caught my attention after hearing some samples on Youtube. This debut definitely showcases a desire to explore unknown territory.
After a fairly traditional symphonic intro track, Apocatastasis begins exactly how most albums do in this sort of situation, fast and brutal. The exception being that midway through the track, the whole thing devolves into a more hymnal organ section that caught my attention. This whole album is one that is constantly bringing new ideas to the table, like the blues guitar work on Jakob Lorber.
When I think of ambient black metal, I think of bands that are more along the lines of Xasthur, but what's on here has much more in common with the industrial black metal scene. Acts like The Axis of Perdition and Nekrasov come to mind when compared to this band, but what's on here is much more melancholic and almost subdued in comparison to those two. Tracks like Wine and Roses and Night Gaunt don't so much blast or even go to a metal sort of level as much as they expand on a dark ambient background. The use of samples on here also really adds a different vibe to this record, granted, I have no idea what the samples are from or what they're even saying, but they're still pretty cool.
Overall, this record was certainly a unique experience and one that I think a lot more people should hear. There aren't really a lot of bands doing this sort of thing, besides the ones I mentioned above, but even they're pretty far from what this is. If you want a unique sounding industrial tinged metal record, definitely check this disc out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Through The Centuries, Jakob Lorber, Commemorati

Friday, April 22, 2011

Negură Bunget - Poartă De Dincolo EP (2011)

Band: Negură Bunget
Country: Timişoara, Romania
Style: Folk/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Code666

Having been around for well over a decade, Romania's Negură Bunget has become one of the most respected groups from that area of the world as well as one of the most unique groups to emerge from the black metal scene. This EP follows up two full-lengths that were released last year and a live DVD/CD that was released earlier this year.
These four songs certainly do take things to a bit more of a live sort of feeling, at least compared to the more atmospheric and meditative experiences of the last few full-lengths. Hotar definitely has a more, what I guess would be called typical, progressive black metal sound, it's a little more technical than what the band usually do, but it makes for a decent opener. The other four tracks retain the band's unique style but definitely don't carry with them the same sort of "tenacity" that this opener did. I've read some remarks that the vocals on here ruin the album, and while they aren't the greatest, they certainly don't ruin the album.
Overall, this is still a very solid release, not the greatest, but by no means a flop. It is different from the last few releases, which in all honesty I think everyone can agree that it would be hard for even these guys to top. If you're into progressive, atmospheric, folk sounding black metal, if you haven't heard these guys yet, you're really missing out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: La Marginea Lumii, Poartă De Dincolo

Battle Dagorath - Ancient Wraith (2011)

Band: Battle Dagorath
Country: California, USA
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Cold Dimensions

I remember when I first discovered Battle Dagorath back in 2008 in a magazine. At the time I didn't even listen to all that much black metal, but the cover art was a striking image of a snowy mountaintop that immediately grabbed me. While I didn't get much out of the debut back then, I feel that now I am truly able to appreciate this style.
The atmospheric style is one that, while the title is pretty much a given as to what kind of experience you'll have with a band from the genre, the amount done in it is still wide enough to hear differences between groups. With this group, you'll hear a more ferocious assault of black metal rather than a more down tempo and ambient sound. A track like Where Darkness & Frost Prevails definitely hit you square in the face with blastbeats, tremolo picked guitars, and howled vocals, something you don't get a lot within this sub-genre. Despite the more aggressive nature of this groups sound, it's still very hypnotic.
All the songs on here are long and epic, though most band's from this genre have that trait in common for the most part. I'd dare to say that most of these tracks manage to keep the interest level quite high, and that's a feat for any band playing this style, as a lot of them seem to just end up devolve into monotony. The epics on here don't just fall into an endless void of repetition, but instead show a strength for writing parts that flow together while maintaining an atmosphere, hear Kingdom of Black Abyss. Even during the more ambient moments of the album, Ancient Spectre of Oblivion, it still retains a unique sound that is unlike other bands, and actually proves to be just as entertaining as the rest of the album, I'm comparing this to other bands that have made use of ambient tracks on their albums though of course.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Empire of Imperial Shadows, Kingdom of Black Abyss

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Brulvahnatu - Menstrual Extraction Ceremony (2011)

Band: Brulvahnatu
Country: Edmonton, Canada
Style: Ambient Black Metal
Label: Pagan Flames

Brulvahnatu is a solo project of Kib Sreng who has been releasing his music under this project since 2007. In 2009 he released his debut full-length "Uterine Acid Swishes," which has since become a bit of an underground favorite. This is his third full-length and sees him moving into a more song oriented sound.
Where previous releases have made use of long epic songs, to the extent that there were only three tracks on the previous two full-lengths, this album makes use of a more "digestible" style. While the production still makes this album highly distorted and somewhat rough sounding, it's still melodic and quite memorable, hear Hunting Season (At An End). It's an odd assortment of styles, as the guitar riffs are done in a strikingly less black metal sound for a good half the album, while the drums tend to being blasting during most of it, and then you have the low guttural growls for vocals. It's a sound that's very unique but a little strange, as Liquid definitely showcases.
However, though the album is very consistent, I have to say that the crown jewel in here is the nineteen minute The Gland. This track just oozes progressive influences, from the jazzy saxophone lines to the blasting of the more straightforward black metal parts or even the doom section. I really can't say a bad thing about this track as it just contains everything right with this project. Even the drumming on here is done extremely well, especially within the last minutes of the track.
Overall, this is a pretty strong album that I was actually quite surprised by. This is definitely coming from an original place where catchy riffs, dense atmospheres, and progressive/avant-garde tendencies meets and fuse together. If you like experimental black metal at all, definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Gland, Menstrual Extraction Ceremony

Wistful - Wistful (2011)

Band: Wistful
Country: Portugal
Style: Atmospheric/Blackgaze
Label: Self Mutilation Services

I think I could say that I'm a fan of a lot of groups/projects that are lumped in with the whole post-black metal/blackgaze movement. Surprisingly though, while cover art is usually what attracts me to records of bands I've never heard of before, it wasn't the case with this. What intrigued me about this record was its inclusion of a Dead Can Dance cover.
From the get-go, I think it can pretty much be anticipated at this point that most new bands/projects from this sub-genre aren't going to be reinventing the wheel. What you get here is some nice, melodic, at times dreamy, black metal. It's certainly not going to have your jaw on the floor, but there's just a unique air about this recording that just puts it above so many others. I also think that the vocals on here stand out a bit more than other groups as they do have more of a personality to them. Enigma of The Absolute, the Dead Can Dance cover, is actually a pretty decent cover, and the clean vocals are actually really well done and make me wish there were more on the rest of the album.
I find the melodies to really be a lot more attention grabbing than what the distorted guitars are doing most of the time, hear the bass line in Ethos for example. This is pretty accessible stuff, in my opinion, it's not too distorted and it's very "poppy" in its choice of melodies, hear Anagoge. Now, there is still very much the black metal guitar sound on here, some tracks do feature tremolo picked metal parts more prominently than others.
Overall, this is a pretty solid debut release with some nice melodies on it. Definitely one of the better releases to come out from this sub-genre this year. Once again, it's not totally original in it's craft, but it's catchy enough and has a cool personality to it to make it well worth checking out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Ethos, Anagoge, Neos

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Leucosis - Pulling Down The Sky (2011)

Band: Leucosis
Country: Santa Cruz, California
Style: Black Metal
Label: Independent

Leucosis is a three-piece that I'm not really familiar with, I have seen their album on a few blogs, but only recently decided to take an interest in it. Their cover art intrigued me as to what exactly they sounded like, as the term black metal is a very open term nowadays. I've read good and bad about this album, but nothing really formed a definitely sound in my head, so here's what I thought.
It's hard to really pinpoint an exact sound for this album, as it has a very different vibe to it. Musically, there are elements of black, doom, and death metal along with influences obviously coming from drone and noise music popping up in there as well. Due to the very raw production, and the fact of being a trio, the sound isn't all that full, I would imagine that it's how the band sound live. Most of it is heavy and aggressive, hear the title-track Pulling Down The Sky, but more melancholic moments do pop up on here every now and then as well.
I do have to give it to these guys for having a very authentic feel to these songs. Tracks like Approaching Lucidity and Incarceral Form feel very natural and almost free-formed in a sense, I guess organic would be a good way to describe them. Fast and slow sections are very well constructed and executed without making one feel too long or too short. Having said that a track like Hymn to The Forest of Pixels felt way too long for me and nearly put me to sleep.
Overall, this is a decent full-length record from a decent new band. I believe that improvements still need to be made for these guys to craft a truly great record, but this one certainly is above bands with better production and worse sounds. If you like raw sounding doomy black metal, look out for this release.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Approaching Lucidity, Incarceral Form

Hagl - Irminsul (2011)

Band: Hagl
Country: Tver, Russia
Style: Black Metal
Label: Casus Belli Musica

NS Black Metal is something I have tried to avoid in my adventures, if you will, through black metal, as it's something I do not agree with. Though some bands stick out within that "style," I find most to be rather boring and unimaginative with their craft. The reason I mention this first is the fact that Hagl features members of M8L8Th.
This opened surprisingly well, as an intro track usually begins an album with a softer start, Интро begins with some solid riffing before diving straight into Драккар. It's a melodic sound that you'll find on here, but one that still recalls plenty of the old-school spirit of the early 90s and late 80s black metal scene. I wouldn't call this forward thinking or even original, but what's done on here is pretty straightforward and is pretty immediate, so it's easy to latch onto, hear Инструментал. It's actually surprising to me as to how much of a thrash influence is present on here, as most bands that I've heard from Russia don't exhibit much of that at all. There are also hints of screamo, the good kind, on here on a track like Молот, though I'm not sure if that was intentional.
The production on here is really good, surprisingly, this is being based solely upon the other bands that I've heard from Russia, and I have not heard them all. It's clean, but not pristine, you can still hear raw sounding tones that stop this from sounding accessible. It's also pretty short, being just over half an hour in total, each of these songs are only about three or four minutes for the most part. I think that this is a good record to start with if you're looking to get into the Russian black metal scene, in my opinion.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with this album, it has some really solid riffing on here that's all pretty memorable. Once again, the band could do better in terms of originality, but that really doesn't seem to be a focus for a band like this, these are songs that are just good to headbang to. Definitely check this out if you like some old-school black metal or blackened thrash.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Глубины Сознания, Ирминсула Высь, Ворон

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Scar Symmetry - The Unseen Empire (2011)

Band: Scar Symmetry
Country: Avesta, Sweden
Style: Progressive/Melodic Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

In 2008, Scar Symmetry released their third album "Holographic Universe," an album which wound up at the top of my 2008 albums. Since the release of that album, the band have gained two new vocalists to replace their former vocalist, and released "Dark Matter Dimensions." This new album follows that album up, focusing more of conspiracies rather than any sort of space oriented topics.
I think by now everyone knows the breakthrough "hit" for this band was The Illusionist from "Pitch Black Progress," well this album opens up in a similar way with The Anomaly. You'll hear a familiar sense of melodicism in that track especially, but looking back at their entire catalog, you'll notice that the band have always opened their albums with great openers, at least that's my opinion. Where this album differs from the last one is in it's more melodic approach, think somewhere between "Holographic Universe" and "Dark Matter Dimensions," as there's a lot more singing on here, but also a lot more progressive guitar work, hear Illuminoid Dream Sequence.
The band really have a sound that has become their own, so you won't find a whole lot of deviation away from that sound on here, though I've read that a lot of people have been impressed by the improvement on the clean vocals. A track like Extinction Mantra is more of a typical song for the band, you have tracks like the more 80's rock sounding Domination Agenda, which the band have always done on their albums, but the more brutal approach taken on Astronomicon, musically speaking, definitely is a breath of fresh air. The clean vocals definitely have a more dominant role in this album, often giving even the most brutal sections a great melody. There's certainly no slouching in terms of songwriting going on here, the band are in top form and keep up the consistency they've always had in terms of writing catchy melo-death songs while injecting just enough of the prog elements to keep, at least me, satisfied and always listening. This is still leagues ahead of what most melo-death bands are doing right now.
This band has never let me down before and they haven't yet with this album. While my personal favorite remains "Holographic Universe," this album proves to be within the same league. Definitely check this album if you like melo-death with an injection of prog, you won't be disappointed.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Seers of The Eschaton, Rise of The Reptilian Regime, Alpha and Omega

Septicflesh - The Great Mass (2011)

Band: Septicflesh
Country: Athens, Greece
Style: Symphonic Death Metal
Label: Season of Mist

Way back when I first started getting into extremer forms of metal, at this point I was listening to a lot of melo-death, Septicflesh stood out to me. I still remember very clearly hearing their 2003 album "Sumerian Daemons," for the first time and being blown away by it. Since then the band has broken up, reformed, released "Communion" back in 2008, and have now released this album.
When you make use of the entire Prague Symphony Orchestra and a choir, I'm sure things like Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish, Therion, are some of the first names to pop into your head, and yes comparisons can be made between them, the main difference being the overall use of the orchestra. Instead of using it to pompously try and make their sound more epic and adding melody to songs without it, or even using it as the main focal point of the album over the actual metal part of their songs, it's used to a more atmospheric effect, to which an epic nature is attained, but through different means. The metal aspect of the bands sound remains intact and is just as brutal as I remember it being, hear a track like A Great Mass of Death.
The great songwriting also remains a strong point for the band, as tracks like the brutal Five-Pointed Star and Apocalypse prove to extremely memorable not only for their choruses, but for the melodies used within as well. This album may actually be more brutal than their past few releases, making use of less clean vocals, as well as a more direct approach within the metal aspects of this album. There are tracks that do have more of a focus on melody like Rising, but the more death metal oriented riffing still manage to fit themselves into the song. Something I feel is to the bands credit, when comparing them to the groups above, is that if you took away the symphony and choir, you'd still have some great melodic death metal, or straightforward death metal, songs that are still really catchy.
Overall, this is a great record that only gets better the more you listen to it. There's a lot on here so there's always something new to be heard, which I really like in albums. If you like symphonic metal with an edge do not hesitate to check this out, you will not find many other bands in the symphonic metal genre that sound like this.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Pyramid God, Rising, Mad Architect

Monday, April 18, 2011

Barghest - Barghest (2011)

Band: Barghest
Country: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Style: Black Metal
Label: Big Mountain

Who doesn't love a good fist in the face every once in a while, musically speaking anyway. Raw, crusty, death metal influenced black metal from down South is what I came in expecting from this record. Matthew Thudium of Thou is also a member of this band as well.
If you like your black metal aggressive, blasting, raw, and distorted, you'll be in for a real treat with this record. This thing sounds like it came straight from the mid-90's scene, recalling sounds fans of Darkthrone, Horna, and Mayhem with hints of Emperor and Ulver here and there as well. It's a record where it's all about attacking relentlessly and just demonstrating pure ferocity. This isn't to say that there isn't a sense of melody on here, as tracks like The Rite of Isolation definitely prove that to be fact, but there's a definite lack of focus when it comes to write a memorable melody rather than creating a dark and oppressive atmosphere.
I think by now it's pretty obvious that if you like your black metal to sound polished or clean in any sense of the word, you'll be disappointed by this. A track like Pain of Days sounds like an utter mess when you compare it to a band like Enslaved, but on it's own stands to be one of my personal favorites on here. The tremolo picking, howled vocals, and crusty production really give this a live feel, though I would venture to guess that these songs would be even more atmospheric when performed live. In a case like this, it's the type of thing where I feel this sort of material is best presented live instead of on a recording simply do to the lack of a real sort of electricity that can kind of make these songs grow a bit tiresome after a while, in my opinion anyway.
Overall, I found this to be a decent album, not great, but definitely bad at all. If there's one thing to be said about this album, it's that it is consistent, it's fairly short and manages to get it's point across easily enough. If you like old-school black metal, I don't see any reason why you wouldn't be able to dig on this.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Hellish Entrancement, Reduced to Ashes

Rev 16:8 - Ashlands (2011)

Band: Rev 16:8
Country: Stockholm, Sweden
Style: Black Metal
Label: AFM Records

Swedish black metal is not exactly my favorite "sub-genre," though I still respect and admire several groups to come out from there. Rev 16:8 is a band that's only been around for a few years and has already drawn comparisons to groups like Dark Funeral and Marduk. This is the groups second album.
While I can't say that I've listened to a lot of this band's previous album, I did own it at one point, just can't say I've listened to it in quite a while, this album should definitely please any fan of brutal black metal. This thing is fast, melodic, blasting, aggressive, all the standards for the regular black metal genre. The comparisons to the bands I mentioned above, I've never really listened to Marduk too often, though I do enjoy their more recent material, and I never cared for Dark Funeral, are justified, but I find quite a bit of this record to peak my interest more so than the other two did.
Listening back to the debut record, I can now see the leap that the band has made between the two records. While sonically, the two aren't that dissimilar to each other, the songwriting and overall performances on here are much better, hear the title-track, Ashlands, for a good example. Tracks on here have a much more melodic approach, at least to me, and tracks like The Chase and Coal Mirror really stand out because of it, while tracks like Serenade maintain a much more brutal and assaulting sound.
Overall, I enjoyed this album a lot more than I thought I would and would gladly give it more spins in the future. While it's certainly nothing groundbreaking, it's performed extremely well. Definitely look into this band and album if you like more traditional sound black metal.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Agenda, The Chase, When Your Words Are Obsolete

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Whitehorse - Progression (2011)

Band: Whitehorse
Country: Melbourne, Australia
Style: Drone/Doom Metal
Label: Sweat Lung

It's weird hearing from Whitehorse, after a long pause between their debut self-titled record, we finally have a second release. I discovered this group through Nekrasov, who apparently was in the group at one time or another. While I wasn't looking forward to this album, finding it didn't make me want to re listen to their past work.
I would say that if you have any sort of misunderstanding with doom metal, this is not an album I would give to you. Not to say that this is a bad album, it actually isn't in the slightest, it's just that it isn't something I would ever recommend to someone who doesn't already enjoy the genre. This has all the staples you'd expect to find from the genre, crushingly heavy guitars, slow moving drums, thick bass, and low growling vocals, but there's also something on here that I think fans of Thou will be able to get into. The use of melody is comparable to their latest album, but what I'm referring to is the massive crusty sound that just shakes speakers, and me, to the core when listening, just hear opener Mechanical Disintegration. The use of weird noises also just permeates this album, which just gives it a weird, off-kilter sense to it.
This album is a very different experience compared to the band's previous full-length. Unlike that debut, here's the obvious one, this album is notably shorter, being only about half as long, as the debut was a double-album. The biggest difference for me is the more notable use of songs, or at least parts that are memorable, where as the debut was more of a sonic experience, with more droning passages. Though there are certainly moments on here where things do kind of return to that sonic wave, hear Remains Unknown, that just sort of overcome you.
Overall, this is a really cool album that definitely has a lot of great sounds on it. While it's maybe not as consistent as I might have liked it to be, in terms of the flow to the record, the tracks themselves are all very well done. Definitely check this album out if you like heavy, brutal doom metal.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Remains Unknown, Time Worn Regression