Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tarot - Life and Death DEMO (2014) / 82%

Deck of Wild Cards

Tarot is a newcomer to the metal scene with this first demo released on the small up and coming Australian label Heavy Chains. Pretty involved in the Tasmanian scene, the third tape release of this label named Life and Death rocks!

There's basically no information about this band outside the fact that they're Australian so I'll just pretend K.K. Warslut (Destroyer 666), Jael Edwards (Ignivomous) and the singer of Portal are involved! Just like the Canadian project Tales of Medusa (apparently dead nowadays, sadly, review: here!), there's a voluntary obscurity here for some unfathomable reasons. There's nothing shameful here, it's not raw keyboard only black metal with a picture of some trees on it, it's proto heavy metal/hard rock played by young men in 2014!

Let me just say something about their name, Tarot is a pretty unoriginal one for a new band... I know their music is truly inspired by the sounds of the 70s and 80s but guys, internet exists now and Google is a fantastic tool! Marco Hietela's band is not quite unknown, eh? Anyway, despite this shitty decision, the music is quite good and that's the important thing.

Their sound is basically a mix of old Deep Purple and Uriah Heep with a rawer approach almost reminding me of Manilla Road at times. The title track starts with intertwined heavy guitars and organ licks just like the heydays of Blackmore/Lord. The riffs are pretty nice, both groovy and mid paced to slower, epic moments like the pleasant, contemplative start of “Sound the Horn”. The keyboards are quite omnipresent on the fifteen minutes demo but it's never cheesy or AOR influenced. There's some cool and well done guitar leads here (such as the ending “Vagrant Hunter”), if I was as talented as the songwriters here, you would surely know that I would scream that everywhere! But yeah, I'm a pretentious jackass so...

The vocals, on the other hand, remind me of more recent bands. Namely the laid back approach of In Solitude. It's nothing spectacular but I really enjoy that kind of simple vocals acting as a little cousin to the instrumental side of the band which is obviously the focus point here. The singer is pretty buried underneath the music, it seems like an artistic decision since the production is, all things considered, very decent for a first demo.

The three songs demo is definitely interesting, it's nothing new and doesn't try hard to be either and that's perfectly fine for me when the quality is there! Alongside Stone Dagger (Read my review for their demo here), Tarot released one of the best heavy metal demos of the decade establishing them (or him, I have no idea how many members the band has...) as a future player of the underground traditional scene.

Choose your card wisely and trust me! With fellow Tasmanian The Wizar'd, they're delivering a devilish tornado of metal to the mainland. Like its cover art, Life and Death is simple yet impressive and charming. A band to watch, guys. 

Stream/download the demo here!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Ningen-Isu - Shigan Raisan (2011) 92%

人間椅子 - 此岸礼讃

Blue Light

Tony's note : During this review, I'll use romanized Japanese because it's way easier than having to copy the Japanese alphabet. It will also make things easier for you, the readers. Furthermore, the page of the album on the Metal Archives has the romaji translations of the songs in the additional notes so you can perhaps try to unveil the mystery behind their songs. Also refer to my two previous reviews!

This is my third review for this insane Japanese trio and true to their reputation, their 16th album (yes!) is still a rock solid release. Even if I wanted to repeat myself, it would be a rough thing to do since all their albums have their own differences but never without compromising on their long time mission and vision. Their varied approach is no exception on Shigan Raisan and its thirteen songs attack, the length of their albums is certainly one of the characteristics that is hard to handle for newcomers (I do hope there's some westerners discovering the band and I know I managed to get some people into them at least!)

The sixty-eight minutes release is rich, vast and explores many eras of their sound. Compared to their 90s stuff, there's a huge groove influence but rest assured, it's nothing like Pantera's awful material. It's more in the aesthetics of their craft, it's embracing a sort of modern, neat and mechanical production, it's also reflected in their guitar tone. I'll even proclaim that it's one of their most diverse album to date, it's melding the old school blues inspired heavy rock with progressive Rush-esque rock, progressive metal, doom metal, heavy metal and even thrash at times. Sometimes on the same song like the epic “Kochouran” and its eight minutes of intense, emotional songwriting. Their older influences are totally connected to the younger and well assimilated elements that came to life and it's creating a coherent, strong album.

The riffs are heavy and they have this danceable approach made possible by the airy production. Even though there's only guitarist, it's a constant attack both with the barrage of riffs, the melodic solos or even slide guitar on “Gusha No Rakuen” which is basically hard rock/blues in Japanese. This song is instantly followed by a three minutes Kill 'Em All inspired thrashy track, that's the perfect illustration of how the band works, they're coherently incoherent if you want.

There's still the vocals/language barrier to overcome but I think it's one of their most accessible album concerning these issues. It will once again be a deal breaker for certain people since you kind of need to be a Japanophile to like them. The relatively deep delivery of both singers (Kenichi and Shinji, the immortal core of Ningen-Isu who always handled everything except the drums) is pretty enjoyable for me, it's refresing and fun! The Japanese enunciation is simply hard to get used to when you're a foreigner and it can't be hidden beneath harsh vocals since they're not an extreme metal band!

Everything is weird in Japan, I recently discovered this awesome band called Koenjihyakkei (progressive rock, Zeulh) and the whole scene is full of jewels, Ningen Isu is perhaps the brightest though.

Here's two songs for your enjoyment:

Friday, 18 April 2014

Mansion - The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol​.​1 (2014) / 92%

“Wild child, you're gonna burn in hell!”

After a great EP released in 2013 that automatically topped my “albums of the year” list, Mansion from Turku (Saku Koivu's hometown!) is back with a short ten minutes appetizer to nourish my mum doom needs. This is torture though since I'm totally expecting a full length from these Finns and the wait is killing me! There's one coming this year apparently so my expectations are through the riff and if I wasn't a broke student, I would travel to Finland to attend the release gig alongside the doom legends of this Nordic country.

Mansion has this mysterious aura surrounding them, they have many members but the core seems to be the singer, a brunette with a peculiar and enjoyable voice and a vampiric man possibly handling the musical side of the project. The Metal Archives' member page and the album lineup lists all kind of members but I'm doubtful it's accurate, the band seems to use session members live or simply friends of their cult. The important thing is that the direction of the band is clear and thoughtful!

The seven inch vinyl release includes two strong numbers, side A is “Wild Child”, a groovy fast paced number with a catchy chorus that I sang in the bus despite its “occult” lyrics. It's pretty obvious that the band already evolved after We Shall Live, the twenty minutes EP was fun but it was quite contemplative and darker than the material on Vol. 1.

The first chapter of what I expect to be a series of awesome short releases has this awesome fusion feel almost reminding me of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters as it has horns (there's a trumpet solo for fuck's sake) and a nice powerful bass presence. The first song is fast, has a good riff to go along with the exceptional female clean voice with added background vocals giving a sense of urgency to the heavy, fast and hard rockin' track. It's still about Kartanoism, that weird sect that I explored more thoroughly in my first Mansion review, it's dark, occult and talks about repentance...but I'm still having a mighty amusing time!

Side B is “New Dawn”, it's almost six minutes and it's slower, it shows that the band can successfully expand their sound even in a ten minute release. It's even richer than We Shall Live since it's adding a lot of instruments, nevertheless the overall production feels rawer and heavier than the atmospheric but plain approach of their debut. I think both approaches have their charm though. Instrumentally, it's stronger than all the bands of this so called occult doom/rock trend, the guitars are shining even though they gave more place to the bass and the horns. The vocal lines are pretty much perfect, the guitar riffs are heavy, well written and supported by a rock solid rhythm section. With Vol. 1, the band evolves towards a sort of big band identity not unlike Jess and the Ancient Ones but with an ever grander scope. I would be fine with a Grateful Dead-esque avant garde doom band, in fact I would probably sell my grand mother for that. I still have two and one of them is insane.

I'll bitterly put that EP on repeat until I'm fully assimilated and can't function anymore, this will work as I'm painfully waiting for a longer release. Nonetheless, this is a good transition, catchy as fuck and intensely profound. Perhaps not as good as their debut, it's still top notch and worth your time!

Someone has to set you straight, get on your knees!”

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Serpent Warning - Serpent Warning (2014) / 92%

The Progression of Conservationism Through Doomed Tempos

Another Finn doom band, another success. This self titled album is the debut for Serpent Warning after a good demo released in 2012, the three tracks are featured here so if you missed that (you probably did), don't worry about it and check out this album as it's awesome.

The quartet evolves in a traditional, drawn out yet very catchy sort of doom. Serpent Warning is a six songs attack for the good old forty minutes length, with this duration it evades the risk of becoming tenuous. So many bands don't know how to edit their songwriting and it becomes a seventy five minutes mess that I, even if I'm a big fan of So Long Suckers, can't often endure. There's no time wasted here, the songs ranging from six to nine minutes are complete killers full of hot riffs. The mid paced tempos ensure that the listener is never bored and there's absolutely no fillers. The production is optimal for traditional doom, not too clear and heavy as fuck. It's a good reminder that we're not listening to saccharine Gothic doom pop.

It's heavy yet melodic, the sound is so rich that I thought the band had two guitarist but it's not the case. It's all the work of Antti Koponen who's very apt at keeping things rooted in a shrine of well crafted riffs and nice, short and sweet solos like the one on the self titled track (preserving the doom tradition of having a song bearing the name of your band like the forefathers of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus.) The songs are intricate but at the same time, it feels simple and easy. Doom isn't a very hard style to play technically speaking but you need to play it with passion even if it's not complex. Plenty of bands fail at being competent doom bands because they mash decent but empty heavy slow riffs together and intertwine them with regular, boring clean vocals. You can check the new Pilgrim if that's your sort of thing, I personally forgot what I was listening after the second track on Void Worship. It's directionless unlike Serpent Warning. Indeed, the Finns crafted excellent meaningful dirges that are memorable.

The three musicians Serpent Warning are newcomers but it's truly not a factor here, they're more than competent and everything is perfectly tight. The bass can easily be heard, it's subtle and not in your face but it's definitely more present than in your overall metal band. It's important for a genre like doom that often relies on only one guitar since that's usually all you need. It's also cheaper to tour with fewer members, since the genre is unfortunately and frustratedly under-appreciated, it's essential to spend more money on beer since despair is always free.

The fourth member is also known to be in another great Finnish doom band, the bad boys of The Wandering Midget. Their last album From the Meadows of Opium Dreams was one of my favourite album of 2012. Samuli Pesonen's vocals is one of the highlight of this release, he sounds like Albert Witchfinder (Reverend Bizarre obviously) but without the dark crooners overtones and a slight higher pitched tone. His clean vocals delivery is great and he's perfect on these catchy choruses that are decorating the release like the opener “Evil River”. His accent is charming and his semi deep voice is a fit to their music. Sadly, he has left the band before the release of the album, he was replaced by a woman so we'll see how this will evolve their sound. I predict a The Wounded Kings-esque direction. They won't obviously turn into Blood Ceremony or Jex Thoth just because a mysterious entity with a different genitalia now handling the microphone, this would be a shame since their sound is interesting in its conservationism. No need to include progressive tendencies, keyboards or other random stuff that hipsters discovering metal through Pitchfork are using these days to be relevant. Strong songwriting and aptitude to deliver it is all you need. It's a proven formula!

“Nothing under the sun can change the way that we are”

Isn't that true enough? Doom is a music rooted in your gut, it's hard to fake an interest in the genre and those who do it are automatically spotted and deemed as opportunists (The Sword). Serpent Warning's only flaws that I can hear and see is the similarity between the songs and the fact that the album, apart from “Ceremonies of the Sun”, the best track on the album, is a real barrage of heavy doom without real moments to breathe. I'm not even sure that's a thing that I can complain about since it's obviously something they intended they do and it works well.

Certainly worthy of its great artwork (“Procession in the Fog” by Ernst Ferdinand Oehme) and its ominous yet enticing feeling, the band's debut signals that Finland is perhaps the best representant for trad doom in Europe with Lord Vicar now leading the charge and Fall of the Idols being one of the most underrated band to ever grace the genre. I think we can safely add Serpent Warning to the list of great Finn doom, I personnally can't wait to hear what they'll do next. It's probably not an album for doom newbies but the connoisseurs are gonna give it its due praise.

Serpent Warning on Facebook

Thanks to I Hate Records for the promo copy.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Opium Warlords - Taste My Sword of Understanding (2014) / 88%

Well cooked doom with an experimental aftertaste

After Reverend Bizarre was laid to rest, Sami Hynninen decided to explore some pretty weird stuff such as the raw black metal of Armanenschaft or the minimal droney doom of The Puritan. Opium Warlords, a solo project of varied ambitions is now delivering its third offering to the goddess of doom. I'll admit I'm not quite fond of his post So Long Suckers except for his involvement in Spiritus Mortis and their marvellous album The God Behind the God but this album confirmed that he's not messing around anymore.

Taste My Sword of Understanding has been proclaimed as a more accessible album by Svart Records and it's definitely a fact. I don't dislike drone or experimental music but sometimes it's hard to accept that one of your favourite musician changed his style or simply isn't touching your taste like he used to before., “Doom Metal is Dead” was the demise motto when the Reverend was killed and while Kimi Kärki is keeping traditional doom alive with Lord Vicar, Hynninen branched out and investigated the insane. I'll say he's a pretty good detective since its new promo pictures are him wearing a tiger mask underneath a cloak in a forest. Nonetheless, this album is certainly not as fucked up as the first two of the project. While the seventy two minute release is perhaps its more varied opus to date, there's some filler that is cluttering the final result.

There's all kinds of slow here, eerie slow, crushing slow, psychedelic slow or even ballad slow. Nonetheless, I was a bit worried with the first two track since it's not my cup of tea. They three instrumental tracks are  riffier than the songs on We Meditate Under the Pussy in the Sky though.The opener “The Sadness of Vultures” is slow, plodding and the riff isn't very good,  the second instrumental track, the fifth song called “The Land Beyond the Pole” is better, the traditional doom bass line is tasty and the lo-fi aspect works. The last one on the album “Manisolas From Misandria” truly works though, it's pretty awesome and has this occult vibe and it's not cutting the flow of the album. These interludes could be seen as fillers but it gives the album  some breaks between the emotional rivers composing the sonic ocean of Sami's kingdom.

Illustrated by the esoteric lyrics, the album has this powerful somber aura. I always liked Sami's words, often giving the occult a silly yet endearing feeling. This time, it's pretty dark and spiritual, we only find our fun in the musical appreciation but there's still some lines of overt self indulgence as “pretentious doom” is even mentioned in “Mount Meru”. He's always been a mentally complex individual and his special lyrics are a big part of his projects' identity and this album is no exception. Vast, unsubtle as a fun elf on acid, it's a nice ride and even if it's not really taking itself seriously, it's intelligently done.


"Bring me your tears!!"
My excitement truly began with the second chapter “The Self-Made Man”, the twelve minutes song starts slowly, not quite differently from the two introductions. It takes its time to become awesome but the eight minute mark made me scream “Albert is fucking back!”. Deep, busy bass licks, heavy doom riffs, high clean charming, quasi operatic vocals, it's almost like someone revived the Reverend but he became more insane and forgot to take his meds for two or three months. The song that follows proves that, it's some sort of calm dirge with throaty harsh but comprehensible vocals, “The God In Ruins” almost has this depressive black metal vibe and I think it's quite wonderful, it gives the aforementioned variety an album of this length needs. This song goes back to the non full length releases of his old doom band where they probed other genres such as in the Harbinger of Metal seventy minutes long extended play! Furthermore, “The Solar Burial” contains some demented vocals mixed with haunted & whispered clean ones and there's also some ethnic or oriental influences thrown in the mix. It can almost remind me of the seminal world music explorers of Om as some parts don't have any guitars and are letting the bass flow freely, it has the same soothing yet entrancing flavour.

Nevertheless, this is surely not for doom newbies or those who suffer from some sort of attention deficit disorder. It's not a release that you'll listen to while doing your morning jogging (not that I do that sort of healthy activities!), it's reflective doom for adventurous people. Even though the album was composed between 1994 and 2009, it's very cohesive and it's a mix of the touch he mostly threw away in 2007 and some of the sounds characterizing his actual endeavours.

I would classify Taste My Sword... as experimental traditional doom, it's divergent enough from the Saint Vitus school to not be qualified as a return to Sami's roots and it's estranged enough from Live at Colonia Dignidad, the debut album of Opium Warlords to not be considered drone doom. The compositions were probably written before he got into drone and experimental, at least the ones approaching trad doom. The avant garde feel that was present on the first two albums is still here but minimally. It's more in the spirit than everywhere else. Sure it's unorthodox and out there but it's still done with the traditional doom atmosphere in mind.

The release won't change your opinion if you already hate his projects but for a fan, it feels like a fresh wind of change after his latest disappointing albums. I believe that Reverend Bizarre is dead and buried and this will have to do as a plaster on my gaping wounded void.

OW on Facebook

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Hades Archer - Penis Metal / 78%

Chilean Phallic Alloy Proclamation jajajajajajaja

Hades Archer from Chile is a cool band exploring the tumultuous sounds of extreme(ly) sexual metal. Led by Nabucodonosor III (not his real name!) who's playing everything except the drums, Hades Archer is surprisingly better than most people would expect even though this EP is named “Penis Metal”. Released before their two truly effective full lengths, this twelve minutes record is a cockslap to the face of metal fans worldwide and proves that the South Americans are the sickest metalheads on the planet.

Their brand of black metal blends both the old school attack of their continent, especially the unrelenting attacks of the Brazilians motherfuckers Sarcofago and Vulcano with this huge bestial influence coming from the Destroyer 666 and Blasphemy schools of riffs. Heinous, fast as fuck. violent black metal approaching black/death metal is what is delivered here. The songs are short, blistering attacks with well written heavy, aggressive riffs and simple yet catchy leads. The production is not quite raw for that kind of metal, it's almost professional and why the hell shouldn't it be! The guitars are ferocious, the drums just can't stop their vicious pummelling and the vocals are cavernous and apt at spouting the dirty, “insightful” lyrics (I think the song “Objeto” features the word “puta” 25 times!)


I dare you all not to sing that insanely stupid chorus! Metal is dumb and it's not for prude little soccer moms who's latest musical discovery is John Moyer, Hades Archer knows that and they do their best to be as kvlt and krieg as possible. Fuck intellectualism, we're not here for that. We're here to talk about penises, goats and Satan, you know, the important stuff. Their sound is the typical Nuclear War Now one, perverse troglodyte war metal metal once created by underachieving musicians who wanted to play heavy or thrash metal but didn't know how to tune their guitar or were too broke to buy a drum set not made of cardboard. It's rough but it's not amateur, there's a distinction to make. The songs are well crafted and they're highly melodic considering their style. It's of course very samey throughout its short length but if you wanted a neoclassical ten minutes instrumental song, you're listening to the wrong band, son.

Nabucodonosor is also in the excellent black/trash power trio Force of Darkness, a bit more my style than Penis Metal. Hades Archer is not as thrashy and it's way more abrasive and savage but without making any melodic or lo fi concessions. This EP, while not as good as “For the Diabolical Ages” or “The Curse Over Mankind” has nothing to be jealous about. It's a strong 10 minutes or a bit more if you have the version with the cool Sodom cover and it fucks right on your kitchen table, bareback style. If you like their style, you'll have a good time. Let the Penis Metal penetrate your head. Thrust me, cool shit.