Saturday, 22 December 2018

Witching Hour - ...And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon (2018) / 90%.

In the pale moon light! In the witching hour!

When I got this in my email from Hells Headbangers, I was expecting nasty black/thrash, something like Nifelheim, Desaster, Occult Burial or Bonehunter (from HHR as well) but no, I was surprised to hear what Witching Hour actually play. I’ve been familiar with the name for a while but that’s actually the first album from the German trio I check and it’s a banger.

What surprised me about this record is how smart it actually is. It’s really rare that a black/thrash band manages to be actually intelligent while retaining their primal destructive instinct. Witching Hour are like a barbarian who didn’t dump their intelligence stat. I think the latest non Vektor thrash band I’ve heard that wasn’t completely only into destroying corpses with their teeth musically was Norway’s Nekromantheon (definitely fucking due for a new record, by the way) and that’s saying something. I guess we could say that the shadow of Deceased isn’t far as well and Fowley’s mark is surely present in Jan Hirtz’s rough drawl.

Their approach is epic and long winded. The decision to start with a ten minute track was bold, especially considering that the first half is instrumental. It did create an interesting and worthwhile introduction to the album. It then continues with five packed tracks full of intricate thrash riffs not only content in delivering aggression but also focusing on delivering interesting time signatures without entering Mekong Delta German progressive thrash territories. Witching Hour also incorporates a large amount of heavy metal in there, it’s ancient occult metal and it made me think of Demontage, the unknown jewel from Toronto, in many ways. Drawn out songs full of incredible riffs combining melodic might with precision, wits and passion are what they offer on here.

They also offer some moments to breathe and gather your spirit such as the first moments of the superb closer “As I Walk Among Sepulchral Ruins” and its repetitive but atmospheric guitar introduction. I got nothing bad to say about this record, it gives me what I want in thrash metal in 2018, it’s not overly long, it delivers the riffs, it’s not fucking dumb and about pizza or “fun” and it remains evil while never becoming unnecessarily full of thicc nacho cheese.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Sadomagickal Seducer – Testicular Torture (2018) / 80%

Cum See Daddy

This had “magickal” in the name so I obviously had to review it. The fact that there’s a naked man being tortured on the cover was just the cherry on the sundae. Sadomagickal Seducer is yet another project by Comte Bergaby/Olivier B. Emond who’s known as Turbo Sodomizer here. He’s currently known for Shezmu, Palmistry, Complot, Pénombre, Hexeth or his new folk black project Moulin Banal. He’s quite a busy man. Unlike many underground metal musicians who have a boatload of projects, Emond finds the inspiration to make them sound all different and distinctive.

SS’s debut extended play is an intriguing mix of unhinged sexual tension. There’s a lot of things going on at the same time on those four dense tracks, all below the four minutes mark. There’s huge proto black/thrash/speed riffs à la Midnight mixed with some metallic punk lubricant not too dissimilar to what Satan’s Satyrs or Alucarda should sound like. The vocals are put through a wall of sexual moaning and lamentations, they’re rough and it sounds like there’s a maniac who’s being maniacally tortured by a bunch of horny Quebecois lumberjacks.

The special thing about the project is the huge layers of orgasmic keyboards all around the songs, it creates an atmosphere where a special orgy could happen. The EP ends on a lovely cheap church dirge and some sobbing just to make you feel uneasy. The project delivers enjoyable riffs with a peculiar ambiance and the room smell like a massage parlor once the release is done.


Thursday, 20 December 2018

Mirror of Deception – The Estuary (2018) / 92%

Wurst Doom Ever I: Baden-Württemberg

2018 is a grand year for German traditional doom as it marks the album releases of three of the most important bands of that tiny but intriguing scene. I’m speaking of Angel of Damnation, Dawn of Winter and of course, the reason I’m sitting at my desk right now, the esteemed Mirror of Deception is back after a long break. Now, if only we could get a new Wheel full length…Oh, we also got the debut full length of Goat Explosion!

While I’m a big fan of traditional fan, I reckon that the genre can be interpreted as samey or even “easy” to play. “Just write some Black Sabbath riffs, dude”. Sure, ok, but no, it’s not that simple. The best doom bands are the ones who go beyond the usual requirements and create distinct identities and pocket dimensions of goodness. MoD doesn’t sound like anyone else, they truly have an idiosyncratic take on the genre. It’s weirdly atmospheric with intriguing vocal melodies and trippy but subtle guitar riffs. I feel there’s some hints of Gothic rock in there or maybe crumbs of atmospheric rock but that’s just me trying to find where the uniqueness of their sound comes from. Veteran doomster Michael Siffermann has this German precision in his vocals, he’s mournful but confident. Alongside fellow guitarist Jochen Fopp, he took his time during after they got back together in 2014 to craft interesting and strong compositions

Their process and approach reminds me of Revelation, perhaps the best American doom band of all time that never got their due. I feel the same ritual was done with Mirror of Deception, they spent countless hours in a dark chamber where old progressive rock was then fused the hell out of it with doom metal. What was left was a sorrowful potent blend of unique metal that’s challenging my understanding of what the genre should be or become. It’s not progressive per se, it just feels wonderfully odd and the choice of melodies is charmingly off putting. Their doom is both accessible and obscure, both catchy and obtuse… They’re a band of differences being thrown together.

Ultimately, trad doom is a genre relying on the strength of the riffs but the emotional weight of those involved is also quite important. Mirror of Deception handles both masterfully without being cheesy and overly into sadguy sadness like 40 Watt Sun.


Lycanthro – Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (2018) / 75%

Strong heavy metal lads in development

The second extended play from those Ottawa metallers is a professional homage to a bunch of heavy metal masters but they’re also starting to get their own identity amongst a sea of NWOBHM worshipers.

James Delbridge, guitarist/singer and what I assume main songwriter is only twenty and that’s possibly why his influences are so apparent. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and 70s Rush are to my ears the most prevalent and I mean, those are some of the best bands ever. There’s a bunch of other things too like some thrash, power, speed or even progressive metal and symphonic elements in there and it creates an enjoyable mix of engrossing snacks. Delbridge is definitely a gifted vocalist and guitarist, he demonstrates that on all tracks.

Like modern Maiden, most tracks are on the long side and the album’s culmination is the fourteen minute epic “The Pale Rider” with its beautiful piano segment à la X Japan. They’re a good mix between emotions and strong musicianship and that’s something usually akin to the European sound (bands like Blind Guardian or Wuthering Heights come to mind.) The band still has to release a full length album but I’m confident they’ll do good, they nailed their production on this EP (that could had been a full length to be honest). They simply need to be a bit more original and distinctive to establish themselves as Ottawa’s premier modern heavy metal band. They have the potential to be more than a local opener for well known bands.


Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - Y Proffwyd Dwyll (2016) / 85%

Carl's Sagan Deep Fried Burrito

“What a fucking stupid name” is quite possibly what almost everyone would say if I mention the subject of this review and I mean, I can’t blame them even if they’d be wrong. I see it more as a parody of those super boring “dank” weed themed stoner bands who are trying to write the next Dopesmoker while working night shifts at a suburban convenient store. That welsh band is much more than that and their second release that can be googletranslated to “The Proof of Fraud” or “the False Prophet” based on what MA says is an austral voyage to an unknown and probably better not to be discovered aural plane.

Compared to their debut album, they decided to extend the tracklist to six numbers instead of having one long half an hour song, it’s a wise decision since it’s a bit more listenable that way. MWWB are a hard band to classify, I think it could be summarized as “psychedelic doom metal” and we could call it a day...

Oh you’re still here? Sure, I’ll continue. Well, the first element that really came to my mind with that band is the dichotomy between the vocals of Jessica Ball and the immense riffs displayed by the two guitarists. Ball’s voice is soft, feminine and melodic while the guitars are thundering and massive. This is The Gathering - Mandylion era or SubRosa maximized with a lot of vitamins and protein powder, probably some Red Bull mixed Vodka too. It’s big and it’s like me after I drank too much energy drink and I’m crashing down, it’s quite slow, heavy and hypnotized.

The songs, all between six and ten minutes, are dense with otherworldly effects that are really wrapping the normal metal instrumentation in a special vibe. It’s like if you deep fry a meat lover burrito in duck fat, it’s a bit too much at times and it can overwhelm your senses but it’s consistently tasty. With their spacey prowess and their desire to be unequivocally uncompromising, I guess we could call them the doom metal Mithras.

All in All, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are good at putting the doom/stoner tropes in the garbage, putting the garbage can on fire and throwing it into a star gate where it can come back with a symbiotic entity who’s actually chill as fuck and just likes to blaze it while watching old Carl Sagan documentaries.

Allfather - And All Will Be Desolation (2018) / 81%

My father is proud that I review metal

I was sold right away when I first heard of this British quintet. Their look, their political stance (anti nazism, antifascism etc) and their blistering sound were good selling points. The main aspect that really made me go bonkers is that fact that they’re basically what happened when you really slow down Nails. “Suum Cuique” from Abandon All Life made me cum buckets and I was salivating at a whole album of that stuff.

Allfather is indeed tough guy slowed down beatdown but they’re guys who want to beat down white supremacists and they support trans equality. The kind of tough guys I want to actually support, you know. Not thinly veiled right wing metalloids. Still, their lyrics are full of dark images and putrid realities. The Brits mix a lot of things in their sound, from American sludge to mid-era Entombed (think Morning Star) to modern doomy/crust. You know the genre that a lot of bands play nowadays, a scene where the hardcore and the metal divisions are really blurred. It’s not a bad approach at all.

Their songs are heavy dirges, sometimes slow, sometimes mid-paced but almost condensed and compact. The opener “Black Triangle” starts with a quasi ethnic guitar introduction before delivering the good and the eleven minute closer “Lampedusa” offers a Crowbar-ish vocal performance armed with an epic song structure full of snappy heavy riffs and an a prehistoric elephantine drumming. The riffs are varying in quality, sometimes it’s fucking incredible like on those previously mentioned opener and closer but the middle of the album is a tad weaker. That’s the q-tip method and it’s often used in music. I can’t blame them. All in all, it’s a pretty solid essay by those cool Englishmen and alongside Dawn Ray’d, they represent left wing metal in the UK. Full support.


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Musta Risti - Musta Risti (2018) / 86%

NWOFHM #13 - Worship the Black Cross

Doom metal. Finland. Svart Records. I mean, I knew this was gonna be at least immensely solid. My guts were right. Musta Risti (black cross) was formed back in 2012 and it took them six years to unleash their debut album and while I’ve only discovered the band, I’m sure it was well worth the wait. Finland is a fertile land for doom of all horizons and the Lahti quintet is apt mixing some of those obscure sub genres together.

Vocalist Einari Toiviainen shines on that record. While I regret not speaking Finnish to understand the lyrics, he delivers them effortlessly and with conviction. He’s a strong vocalist with a traditional voice that could easily fit in heavy metal or hard rock bands. Musta Risti bangs hard and don’t waste any time. Seven songs, less than forty minutes, it’s short and condensed like a cute grandma baking pies from a rustic Scandinavian village. They remind me of a band like The Gates of Slumber with how varied they are. They alternate between groovy heavy/doom to psych trad doom and they do it well.

They’re mostly able to distance themselves from the omnipresent presence of Reverend Bizarre in current Finnish doom but the longest track “Kaaoksen lapset” (The Children of Chaos) evokes the masters. The presence of Minotauri isn’t far either. You know, the good influences. Musta Risti is a band with two guitarists and it’s evident. They use their lineup well and indulges in feelsy leads. The bass could be more present but sometimes it’s unleashed like on the closing track. I think the production could had been a bit thicker at times but overall, it fits the band. I’m stoked to see how the band will evolve. They have a lot of potential just like the Montreal Canadiens’ new rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Alongside Mansion or Deep River Acolytes, Musta Risti released one of the strongest doom albums from Suomi and proves that the scene still has a lot to offer.


Iron Griffin - Iron Griffin (2017) / 87%

NWOFHM #12 Metal Conquest

Released the same year as the second Mausoleum Gate album, this extended play by the new solo project of its drummer managed to surprise me a lot. Iron Griffin formed by Oskari Räsänen joins the rank of the highly effective Finnish heavy metal scene currently lead by the likes of Chevalier, Lord Fist, Legionnaire or the new excellent Outlaw. While I loved Mausoleum Gate’s self titled album, their sophomore bored the hell out of me so I was happy to discover that Iron Griffin managed to make up for that with this fresh and exciting release.

After a synthwave intro reminiscent of the Stranger Things soundtrack, Oskari delivers four solid heavy metal tracks. He handles almost everything on the EP and for a debut release, he knew which direction to follow. He even did the super geeky but highly evocative artwork.

Session member Toni Pentikänen did a wonderful job at the mic even if his resume is basically empty as far as I know. We’re served clean, high pitched and screamy vocals of pristine quality. The keyboards were handled by F.F. Nieminen of the excellent Rivette (covered by the Magickal Realm back in 2017) and they add a certain classiness to the compositions. The songs are catchy, melodic but they’re never cheesy or overly saturated. “Message from Beyond”, “Metal Conquest” and “Journey to the Castle of the King” are all bangers below the four minutes mark and they’re super fun. “Lord Inquisitor” ends the short release with a more epic song structure and some badass lyrics.

With iron, with steel / I will avenge for the gods / With power and force /I command /And claim my throne again!

The bass lines are thick the guitars vibrant, subtle but really outgoing. Iron Griffin aren’t about heaviness at all, they’re all about atmosphere and songwriting. The riffs are a necessary tool for their identity but Iron Griffin doesn’t entirely rely on them and that’s a strength for that particular style.

Like the bands I mentioned in my introduction, Iron Griffin surely play heavy metal but they do it in a way where it’s devoid of fake nostalgia and easy copycat posturing. The Finns are academicians of heavy metal, they know how to craft memorable songs with an original sound worth praising. 


Lüger – Hellraisers of the Waste (2018) / 80%

Sleaze, Leather and Metal

The Montreal quartet finally released their debut album this year and it’s a lethal banger. The band led by singer/guitarist Jim Laflamme are proud sleazy fellas and they brought their A game for their first full length. It’s forty minutes spent in a post apocalytipc world where the only thing you can find to drink is whiskey that tastes like motor oil and there’s apparently a strict dress code since everyone wears leather pants and all the men are shirtless. It’s a world where the gimp from Pulp Fiction is having a lot of fun and where you can see a young Mel Gibson roaming around.

The band owes a lot to Motorhead and Pentagram, it’s dangerous, uncompromising and highly sexual. The record smells like it was conceived during an orgy in a secret Montréal basement. The guitars of Laflamme and Max Meunier are huge and really shows how well the band has managed to create their distinct sound. One huge dose of fast paced doom metal, a lot of speed metal, some heavy metal and some devout praise to the gods of dirty rock & roll. They also integrate a fair share of psychedelia (the overture of “Beneath the Red Sun” for example) and it helps them create an occult and entrancing mood. The aggressive bloody vocals reminds me of the most idiosyncratic thrash singers from the hey days of the style, an approach not too dissimilar from Tom Angelripper from Sodom!

The eight minutes track “Lust Paradise” is my highlight of the record, it shows everything the band can do and add an enjoyable epic feel. Lüger has strong musicians, above average songwriting but I do feel they could be even better and that it will be a wild ride to see them evolve and crush motherfuckers with their explosive biker sound.


Akitsa – Credo (2018) / 95%

I’m a credible reviewer so I’m not gonna namedrop Darkthrone

Unlike Quebec’s sovereignty project, Quebecois black metal has been quite healthy recently. The scene is diversified and hits hard from both Québec City and Montréal. There’s the occultism of Gevurah, the icy winds of Cantique Lépreux, the atmospheric/post power of Basalte or, obviously the nationalistic panache of Forteresse. Akitsa, at least for me, has always been a lone wolf in terms of sound even if they have a varied discography. With Credo, their sixth full length and first for Profound Lore, they bludgeon the competition with their sharp riffs and their arcane knowledge of second wave black metal.

I’ve probably said it before but for me, the quality of the riffs is the most important thing in black metal (if you’re not Summoning, that is). You’d say that it’s important in all metal genres and you’d be right but for that specific style, it’s usually the main focus, especially when we have to deal with raw bands. If you do a simple pizza and its only topping is the tomato sauce, your sauce needs to be fucking good. It’s the same here. We’re lucky though since Akitsa are master riff crafters. They cultivate rawness like we cultivate apples to make ice cider. “Siècle pastoral” opens the album with an introduction buildup of urgent and primal guitars. You know what you’ll get right from the start.

They’re skilled at creating atmosphere with the strict necessary (like our ancestors dealt with life), they could do it with the strength of their riffs alone but there’s some interesting touches like that chanting on the opening track. Those riffs are so good that they’re able to hypnotize by their drony repetitiveness and their punk might akin to Darkthr... uhh Bone Awl or Raspberry Bulbs! Furthermore, the vocals of Outre-Tombe are spiteful and they’re able to deliver the French lyrics well. If you think they’re too raw, you might not listen to the adequate genre for you.

The blast beats ferocity of “Espoir Vassal” transports you into the frigid time of the year in Québec where the snow melts and cold mud just enters every pore of your body. Speaking of its thematic approach, Credo develops themes very well. It’s mixing history, poetry and a clear focus on the rough Quebec winters. Just like their music, it’s abrasive, buried in dark realities. Akitsa burns with coldness. It’s like sticking your tongue on a frozen hockey net on a dare. For some weird reasons, once your tongue is released from that ordeal, you’ve still enjoyed yourself.

They’re strong musicians but they’re also quite apt at creating a solid identity for themselves. From the old campfire photo used as the artwork (taken in 2000) to the cult forest band pictures, it’s rooted in traditional black metal aesthetics and I mean, I’m fine with that since I’m a big fan of Darkthr...oh shit!

All in all, Akitsa defied my expectations and managed to beat Cultes des Ghoules to gain the prestigious number one spot for black metal released in 2018. It combines excellent riffs, epic song structures and a mighty ambiance. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Heavy Sentence – Protector/Darkest Hour (2017) / 85%

Gunz, Axxxes and Spykkkes.

I’d be lying if I said that I checked Heavy Sentence because I was interested in the music. It’s obviously because they had the best artwork I’ve ever seen. It’s over the top, silly and fun. I knew I had to acquire the seven inches, my wall asked for it for its birthday. From the lady with the latex suit, the weird boobs and the big gun to that winged skull head dude, it’s incredible. If you don’t like the artwork, there’s chances that you really suck at parties and that you order your 12 inches subway sandwiches without any sauce and cheese.

Luckily, Heavy Sentence’s music is fucking cool as well. The debut release of the Manchester based band gives us two fast paced numbers with a lot to digest. It’s heavy metal, sure but there’s a plethora of interesting genres included in their recipe as well. There’s the rough, throaty vocals of Gareth Howells who’s in a lot of bands I’ve never heard of that gives me a sort of blackened thrash/speed vibe. There’s surely some punk here too mixed with their NWOBHM love. It’s only like seven minutes but it’s all over the place and they mix melodic leads with an evil, vintage voice. What’s great about them is that it’s pretty unique despite their familiar sound. Exciter, Maiden, King Diamond? Sure, but it doesn’t sound like anyone in particular. The two songs are somewhat different too. “Protector” feels more like outgoing classic heavy/hard rock and “Darkest Hour” is like a dark mournful speedy heavy number.

It’s not cute nor safe heavy metal and this was made clear with the troglodyte wielding a great axe on the cover. Buy or get decapitated.

Un - Sentiment (2018) / 82%

Ruins & Flowers

The American west coast (Portland, Seattle etc...) sure has a distinct sound, call it Cascadian or whatever, it’s unimportant in the end. What matters is that most of those bands are pretty damn good and interesting. Acts like Lycus, Alderaban, Ash Borer, Usnea or Bell Witch put a lot of atmosphere in their extreme metal and they help the creation of a potent sound.

Un (one in French) released their debut full length back in 2015 and I thought it was an impressive slab of slow stuff. Sentiment, their sophomore album improves their formula ever further. Funeral doom is a hard style to mess around, its primary components make it hard for its disciples to truly distinguish itself. They’re like those black cultists preaching at the altar of the olde godes like Esoteric or Thergothon. While Un aren’t iconoclasts or genre revolutionaries, they did enough to separate themselves from the pack. 

Funeral doom is often seasoned with death metal or even black metal (see Nortt) but using the American blend of sludge (high in trans fat, see Crowbar) was definitely a good idea. It doesn’t make a super huge difference in the final result but it’s a bit more exciting than your run of the mill funeral doom band. The growls of front-man Monte Mccleery (probably also a cowboy with that name) are deep and ultimately quite traditional but what sets them apart is their guitars. You obviously have those slow, crunchy riffs but the band lets itself loose with those big joyful melodic leads like at the end of the title track. It’s borderline post metal at times but it’s never unfocused.

Just like the artwork where ruins are meeting a meadow of colorful flowers, darkness meets light. The inclusion of female vocals on “Pools of Reflection” did wonders for their atmosphere as well. Un’s strength relies on the small details and their propension for melody and beautiful guitar leads.

Un on Facebook