Friday, 21 September 2012

Slug Lord - 65% A lord? No, a knight perhaps? Mayhap just a cupbearer...

The Finnish Doom scene has always been one of my all time favoritewith bands like Reverend Bizarre, Spiritus Mortis or Fall of the Idols.  Slug Lord with their debut EP are newcomers in the scene, but the quality is not quite there yet. While leaning towards a Doom/Stoner influence, I don't think they have a lot of potential as they don't really deviate from the well traced path. But do they have what it's needed to become one of Tampere's future household names ? Yes and no...

Their sound has an obvious emphasis on fuzzy and simple riffs, reminding me of Electric Wizard in some places. One of the slowest song is ironically called 'Speeding', an 8 minutes dirge with a solid atmospheric solo. The songs are ranging from 5 to 8 minutes for a total length of 42 minutes, it's considered an EP by the band, but it has the duration of a full album. The riffs are generic, it's not bad, but their self titled ep doesn't place them in the higher echelons of Doom. They're a Slug Knight at best, definitely not a Lord. The songs lacks something special and the decent production is not to blame here, everything is well recorded and there's the right amount of atmosphere and feedback, but I think the guitars could be heavier and the bass more present and fuzzy. The drumming is decent though, but like the rest, it's not very inventive. Maybe some keyboard would have been welcome, I'm not (the one) usually begging for originality, but some is needed here...The only original feature can be found in the vocal department, it's truly the album's shiniest characteristic.

Indeed, Johanna Rutto's vocals are my favorite part of this album, too bad she's not in ,of the band anymore. I hope they'll be able to find a new solid vocalist because I'm not exactly sure they would make a good instrumental band as they're not even great with vocals. Rutto's vocals are interesting, I could compare her to a more abrasive Alia O'brien from Blood Ceremony's, albeit with no flutes in her hands as there's no folk elements in the music mixed with Agnete of Prog metallers Madder Mortem. She can be catchy, like in 'Gastropoda' with its pleasant chorus, sometimes more mystical and it feels heavier. She has a good and pleasant range, nothing feels forced. It doesn't change their dark music though, it only adds another layer of occultness. I mean, : simply look at the Lovecraftian album cover art, full of deadly tentacles ! Nonetheless, the album, despite its rather typical length, feels redundant and overlong. The ideas stopped being fresh after the second song, there's not a lot of variation and it's not honestly quite boring.

Still, the album was kind of enjoyable, particularly because of Johanna's vocals. It's not something I'll seek out again though. Despite my lack of praise Slug Lord, if you like Doom/Stoner, you'll like them, but they're Acid King's cupbearer. If you enjoy this specific sort of wine, go ahead and check them out but don't expect anything groundbreaking.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Neige Éternelle – Forêt Nord-Côtière : Shattered icicles of hatred 80%

In the midst of the cold Labrador current, a dark mist shall appear. As the wind lays his grasp on the fir trees outside, the windows of your frail little shack are frozen, the candles are laying on the floor, fire can't survive here. Grab the snowshoes on the wall, yeah, the ones just beneath these antlers. There's nothing synthetic about this winter, nothing. The cold grasp of the white danger will attack your sanity and it will destroy your will to live. Your naked skin, victim of the howling wind is getting blue, the door opens, you put your fur coat, a gritty warmth traded against mirrors and you search for your flask in the inside pocket, you twist the cap and drink a sip of whisky. Despite the snow storm, you step forward, seeking, drinking, it's freezing but it's rewarding. Your beard full of shattering icicles is moving, it makes a strange sound buried under the sound of the cracking sound, but there's another sound coming from the middle of the frozen river in front of you, there's a man wearing a checked shirt with no sleeves singing his life, his face, bloody and dark appears lifeless. You approach him, his screeching voice resonates, the ice, albeit being thick starts to split. The icy cold water welcomes your soul, your breath stops as the liquid penetrates your lungs, intoxicating, deadly.

That's how the demo made me feel like, but here's the actual non pretentious content ! Neige Éternelle's first demo is a very promising delivery of fast paced aggressive black metal from Baie Comeau, a town located approximately 420 kilometres north-east of Québec City and near the Saint Lawrence river. This maritime identity is reflected in the demo title "Forêt Nord-Côtière" or north-coast forest in English. Just like many coast villages in Norway, this region of the province has many fishermen and the comparison with the Scandinavian brothers doesn't stop here, this 4 songs demo is a really strong black metal release in the vein of Gorgoroth and other Norwegian black metal bands. It's fast paced métal noire in French and for a first release, it's fucking promising. The main thing I liked is the Sti's vocals, they're the traditional black attack, but they're very in your face and even understandable at time and that's something fun for a French speaker, the lyrics are about patriotism, sadness and hate. The snippets I understood were well written and I'd like to read them, sadly the band was out of tapes when I told them I wanted to write a review the demo. The good vocals are complimented by the production who puts them in a very graceful place, not too buried, not too loud, simply the right amount of venom and hate.

Sti, the front man of the band
Their style of black metal is very well produced and it almost sounds like a professional album and I had to remind that I was listening to a demo throughout my first listening, I was quite impressed to say the least. The production fits both the 2 fast paced songs and the 2 more atmosheric ones and the band succeeds at being emotional and pertinent in both of these style. The atmospheric side of Forteresse is definitely comparable in both themes and sound. Don't get me wrong, it's not ambient or Darkspacey, it remains aggressive and fast. Also, there's a cool raw epic edge in Neige Éternelle's music, it makes things interesting without the need of technicality or complexity. While the riffs remains simple, the drums are quite dynamic and gives a very natural feel to the adequate songwriting and musicianship of these guys. The drums on "Fier patriote" are quite awesome and it's one of the highlight for me and I'm usually not quite listening to the percussions.

While not as ground breaking as Neige et Noirceur, the atmosphere of their music is convincing, no frills, keyboards and droney atmospheres, this is pure coldness created by fast snowstorms, eliminating all life forms. Pure coldness, pure black metal. Check this band, they'll release their first full length album this autumn and they'll play Sepulchral production's fest, the second edition of Messe des Morts in November !

Friday, 14 September 2012

Review: Décombres - self titled - Through the rubble of the mind - 85%

Once again, la Belle Province produced a talented black metal artist and like most of his brethren, Décombres is of the highest quality. Québec's warehouse of métal noire is renowned in the underground and in my honest opinion, it's the best scene this side of the Atlantic. Biased opinion aside, Philippe Boucher, the sole creator of this album is damn talented and his first album is a really fine slab of interesting and classic black metal.

Boucher, also the drummer of a technical death metal band called First Fragment handles all the instrument here and it sounds good. Don't be scared if you think tech death is atrocious, there's no hints of this genre here. It's pretty much Norwegian styled black metal without frills and major surprises, but the quality is there. The riffs are sometimes dissonant and they stay simple most of the time, but they are excellent. The music is guitar driven and there's good short and simple leads here and there, like in the third track "Élévation". There's an epic feel throughout some songs, "Dernier Souffle", the longest track of the album at around 8 mins has this feel reminding me of the early and arguably good Satyricon albums. There 's a cool clean vocals break that took me by surprise, it was quite in the background though, but I feel Boucher should expand this side of Décombres, it was definitely a cool element, I'm probably biaised again by my love for Primordial ! Eh, give me a break, there's some similarities between Ireland and Québec! The kind of atmosphere you'll get here is similar to Darkthrone's seminal trilogy mixed with the more dissonant black metal path, Thrall from Australia is worth a mention. Also, it reminds me of the riffier side of Burzum's early imput with a better and crisper production, of course. The bass is quite buried under the mix, but that's something I was expecting with this kind of black metal, the focus is on the guitar and it's rewarding enough. As far as I know, Boucher being originally a drummer isn't crazy about innovation here, it's professional enough and that's fine with me, the use of cymbals is particularly good. The production is great for a first album, there's no problem there, however, I would prefer the vocals to be a bit more present in the mix, but that's a minor complain. The vocals are your traditional black screechs and while being great, they don't break any new grounds, why would they anyway?

 The band's sound confirms my assumption that the Québec scene is quite healthy in its conservatism, there's no shoegazing and post black metal among Décombres' peers, proof that you can be original while not jumping into the trendy wagons of our cousin Neige (the only snow he's familiar is ours when he tours here). Note that I have nothing against these particular genres, I feel that they're only temporary...

Décombres' sound, while truly influenced by our northern brothers of Europe, remains rooted in the Quebec's scene. But, don't expect something like Neige et Noirceur or Forteresse here, there's no folk influences and the atmosphere is created by the fast riffing style instead of long and slow dirges. It's more in the vein of newcomers Neige Éternelle and one of the mentors of the scene, Frozen Shadows without the haunting keyboards though. While we're talking of Martin Marcotte's band, Décombres would fit perfectly on his high quality label, Sepulchral Productions (simply putting this here...) Still, Décombres is its own thing, the influences are obvious, but their sound is fresh and the smell of spring is vivid in the midst of their enchanting sound. The Lyrics are in French, but if you're afraid of the evil French Canadian separatists, rest assured, they have more in common with Monarque and Crépuscule than Brume d'automne and the aforementionned Forteresse. It's dark, personal and evil without being nationalist and satanist. Fortunately, the themes fits the music and that's an achievement in itself. Look for the rubble, every parts are important to create something worthy. That's something Boucher did with this album and he'll certainly do even better as this is his first album.

Apart from the short interlude in the middle of the self titled release, there's not a lot of place to breath, it's a complete album with excellent and varied atmospheres. There's the right amount of melody and agression to please most black metal fans. Phillipe Boucher made a bold statement with this album, he'll be a force to reckon with among the black metal artisans of our snowy province.

Black metal tabarnak!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Review: Violet Magick – demo 2011 – Latin doom part #1 - 74%

What we have here is a solid slab of heavy/doom from a new Mexican band called Violet Magick. The members of this trio are all using pseudonyms related to alchemy (Mercury, Salt and Sulfur to be precise) and that's reflected in their lyrical approach. Despite being firmly established in the occult doom scene, this band can't be incorporated in the doom rock movement alonside The Devil's Blood or Blood Ceremony but also can't really be linked to their Mexican brothers Maligno. I can't really find the huge usual Sabbath influence in their stuff either, their biggest influence is certainly the Italian doom school (Paul Chain, Death SS and Black Hole).

Their songwriting is fast paced, 3 songs for a little more than 16 minutes of music and it's pretty solid. I personally like the production, it's rough and a bit lo-fi but it fits their atmosphere and it gives a stoner edge to their compositions. For a demo, I would definitely consider this sound to be a success. The riffs are good, there's a good variety and the demo never gets boring, the solo on the second track "Spirits Rise" is too buried behind the wall of riff, but it fits nonetheless. The ones on the last track "The Ethereal Path" is great though. The demo starts with an organ intro with some bells, it's gloomy and sets the occult tone for the whole thing. The bass playing is damn tasty, simply listen to the bass solo at the start of the second track, there's a fun alchemy between the 3 musicians and it's clearly apparent. Violet Magick are a very apt power trio, the instrumental side is lovely for a first release and shows great potential. Nevertheless, I can't really get into their vocals, they're clean but the accent is quite thick and a little bit laughable at times. Nothing extremely bad though, it's decent but they definitely need improvement especially in the range and power departments, both are truly lacking. It's kind of the deal breaker for me about them, I think this style of doom metal needs a strong and charistmatic vocalist, Violet Magick doesn't have that...yet. The band has good chops and if they improve the vocal part, they could easily become an household name of Mexican metal. They'll be even better if they include some Mexican influences in their music, some accoustic guitars perhaps? That's something that we can find in Maligno's music, it would set them apart for sure. Albeit, they're not a generic band and I'll admit that originality can be dangerous.

This demo will please almost all the fans of traditional doom, there's a very good mix of influences in their music, mixing the Italian school with some touches of the American one. It's vintage, don't expect any groundbreaking ideas here, it's a well done hommage to their doom fathers but at the same time, they're free of the conventions chains. Hopefully they'll continue their good work and release a solid full length in the near future. To conclude, this a solid demo plagued by subpar vocals, but put this band in your watch list.

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