Thursday, 30 May 2013

Putamen Insula - Souriez (2013) | 88%

A dead king is a perfect king

Putamen Insula is another Québec black metal jewel and shows how eclectic the scene is. If you read my other my stuff, you noticed some reviews for Décombres and Neige Éternellle, two traditional black metal bands with roots in the Second Wave. But this trio is quite versatile and very different from most of its peers. Led by Sovannak (vocals and guitars) who's also in a new black/punk band called Oppression  the band is clearly a beast with many faces. Their sound is original and during this awesome release, they're showing their love for both depressive raw black metal and French punk à la Bérurier Noir. While never blurry and disjointed, they can move the listeners with ease with their varied approach to the dark arts rooted in cynicism, hatred and fun (yes, you read that well, the band is having fun playing their music and it's really obvious). But the main focus is an avid social justice commentary, two songs are about environmental radicalism and that's interesting. 

There's an omnipresent misanthropic feel to be found on ''Souriez'' (Smile in French, sarcasm is always fun, eh?). The atmosphere is gloomy but nonetheless inviting. A certain amusement or pleasure emanates from the album, a livid enjoyment of the despair of other people. The lyrics are in French, while they're pretty good, the band can easily transpose their vivid ideas with their sound and that's obviously a great quality. The production is just raw enough to give the needed sonic landscapes that the songs deserves. The band often tries its hand at a humongous instrumental approach, that's really demonstrated through track four to six. It relies on the songwriting process, the cool and interesting riffs more than anything and that's a plus in my opinion. That intertwined with appealing concepts made "Souriez" a very entertaining release, I'm now pissed to have missed the release show! I
t's always appreciated to explore the depth of this band who's not relying on a certain aspect to grow, they care about everything. But there's still cool vocals, they're vitriolic and are often buried beneath the mix, rightfully so as it gives a raw edge to the music and adds to the despair. Half of the awesome raw black metal duo Verglas joined the band in 2012 adding a crazy maniacal rockish vibe to the recording. The drums are driving the music and are a good companion to the superb simplistic approach of Sovannak's riffs.

Musically, It's beyond groovy and the musicianship is pretty damn strong. It's brandishing some jazz, classical and avant garde touches at times showcasing their diverse and rich sound. The song ''Thugs In Leather and Spikes'' has some awesome instrumental moments such as the first 2 minutes which are basically jazz with smooth drumming. When the song starts to be metal, it has crazy rock and roll leads reminding me of surf rock à la Beach Boys. I can't emphasize enough how great the drumming is, it's full of details and experimentation. So is the bass playing (sad that the bassist left the band recently). There's nice basslicks and it's a bit more in your face than your middle of the road black metal band. It's really needed since the music is usually mid paced and the riffs are not thrown like a Panzer division tank in your face. The track ''Traditions matinales'' has this sweet post black influences without being totally wimpy like many of these bands cough Deafheaven cough. I usually admire and love bands who can evolve in many world, in many scenes while being in symbiosis with their influences. Melding punk rock to black metal, groovy rock and roll to an almost crusty approach of raw social commentary, Putamen Insula is succeeding at creating a powerful slab of hate. There's seven chapters to the story, they're all semi long tracks (from 5:30 to 8 minutes). The second half truly made the album for me, you can safely hear the adventurous side of the band here. If you're looking for an heavier, cleaner alternative to bands such as Raspberry Bulbs or Bone Awl, check them out.

It's a shame the tape is already sold out since it's very underrated and one of the best black metal releases of 2013. Please do a second pressing, guys ! It's both beauty and hatred, the songwriting is top notch and the musicianship is surprising. Putamen Insula asks for nothing, they give you everything and leave nobody untouched. Your body, your soul, your opinions, all crushed. Mange de la merde.
Putamen Insula's Facebook page
Earth First!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Stoned Jesus - Seven Thunders Roar (2012) | 85%

''I'm an Indian and a Mountain ! Whatever man, I'm high !'' 

Ahhh, Ukraine, such a jewel of the former Soviet Union with its boxers, its vodka and its Borscht. Known for its black metal scene, the country is also producing a large amount of quality doom steel. Stoned Jesus, their best representative, released their sophomore album in 2012 and it's a very cool example of atmospheric doom/stoner. There's also Ethereal Riffian and Narrow House to follow, it's a small but talented scene and its potential is high.

Their debut album
First Communion was pretty good but felt a bit generic and didn't brought anything fresh to the doom/stoner world. It was very fuzzy and quite Sabbathesque, nevertheless, it was promising. On Seven Thunders Roar, the high lord managed to incorporate new influences in their music and it definitely helped to improve it. The psychedelic element was present anteriorly but it's much more refined here and it's now an integrative part of the band's sound. The album is composed of many different kind of atmospheres, it can be very uplifting or heavier. It's never quite dark either, that was one of my complaints at first. I thought the album was too happy for this kind of music. I know that's a very silly reason ! The mood is indeed soothing most of the time, I need to quote one of my stoner friends who said that about the last song ''Stormy Monday'' : ''The chorus is the equivalent of lifting off on the back of a dragon above a big ocean after taking bong rips''. That's a very fitting description. The feel good side of the band can be a bit overwhelming, at least for someone such as myself who prefers the darker ambiance of doom metal. Nonetheless, they play that style very well and it works. and the songwriting is still pretty damn strong, it's served beautifully by the organic musicianship.

The complete cover art! 
Igor (guitars, vocals) is a pretty cool dude. His vocals are quite psychedelic and they're pleasing to the ear. There's no harsh vocals to be found here, it's very mom friendly, you can play the record when you're on a pic nic with your douchebags friends and they probably won't complain too much. You should probably smoke some weed with them while you're there....yeaaaaaaaah ! The epic track ''I'm the Mountain'' starts with an instrumental intro of three minutes but nonetheless, the vocals are still an important part of the band's identity as there's some really groovy choruses and sing along songs like ''Indian''. It would had been nice to hear the band in their mother tongue though (Ukrainian or Russian, I don't know actually). We're in an era where many bands choose to go back to their roots and sing in their mother tongue, if folk metal can do it, doom should too as I feel it's one of the most honest incarnation of the iron arts.

The accent is not too thick but it's a bit weird to hear an Ukrainian stoner sing ''I'm an Indian !!! Yeah, I guess he's fucking stoned, drunk or both at the same time! So, a cool clean vocal delivery similar to the classic/psychedelic era, a good range and weird ass hippie lyrics are fundamental to the band's imagery. The lyrics are quite good and not written in Engrish. They're not your typical try hard occult bullshit with references to Lucifer and to be honest, that's cool because the whole formula is getting tired. Igor wrote metaphors about his life and it's pretty damn fabulous. They're psychedelic words with a joyful 60s Acid vibe

"On a silver unicorn. Rides that lady of the storm. Heaven's bliss from up above. She's the queen of all beloved"

You can also get a glimpse of how they sound by looking at the amazing cover, I mean there's a skull on fire, a bear, an Amerindian, an owl, a crow and a deer. Weeeeeeeeed. Yessir !

The production is very lush and rich, the bass is loud in the mix but it's very flattering. The band works well as a power trio. The drummer is groovy and Igor's riffistic approach is subtle and natural. Like the production, the transitions between mid paced, slow and faster moments are very smooth. They can write longer songs effortlessly and it would be very cool to see the try to write an epic à la Dopesmoker, I think they have to skill to attain such greatness. Seven Thousands Roar is a very good album but the band is still young and I'm convinced they can do way better. I think Ancestors's progression is an apt example for them. They're basically became more progressive with each albums while never really denying their doom/stoner roots. That's what I'd like Stoned Jesus to do too. They can break their boundaries even more, man ! 

I don't know what's in their brownies but I'm gonna cook some. Here's the recipe. But first, you'll need a versatile guitar, a fuzzy bass and some groovy drumming. Don't forget the Orange amplifiers ! These are crucial to the brownies' mix ! You'll also need :
-100 lb of traditional doom metal
-25 lb of psychedelic rock influences
-125 lb of stoner rock/metal
-10 tablespoons of progressive
-10 to 15 bong hits
-A bear rug

Cook tenderly during 50 minutes and you'll have a fucking awesome doom album.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Gevurah - Necheshirion (2013) | 83%

Pretenders to the throne of Lucifer!

As I said in my review for Décombres' debut, I really think that the Québec black metal scene is one of the strongest in the world and probably the best in America. The scene always had a particular sound hugely rooted in icy atmosphere recalling the nationalistic views of certain musicians. Gevurah managed to break out of these imaginary boundaries with this EP and they did it marvelously. They don't play the chauvinism card and are not relying on the cold weather and snowy trees to build an atmosphere. I usually sense a Norwegian influence on the current black metal scene from my province and while it's noticeable here, it's much more Swedish.

Gevurah is blending the traditional sense of onslaught of the dark genre with the modern sound of nowadays with a lot of verve and honesty. On this 32 minutes EP, the duo plays an aggressive but atmospheric form of métal noir reminding me of bands like Funeral Mist or Ofermod. It sounds very European and it's influenced by the orthodox black metal scene.
It's indeed a mixture of Sweden and France for me, it reminds me of Deathspell Omega or Aosoth but nourished with the full blown attack of the the classiest Marduk albums. The songs are long (but could be longer since they really have the skills necessary to write these) and intricate and they're offering a wide variety of atmosphere. The first eight minutes track starts with a slow riff before the fast avalanche of pure unadulterated aggression. The second track Flesh Bounds Desacratred is a very fast paced number and it's evil as fuck, well the whole album reeks of evilness, really. The vocal approach is also quite spectacular, Thoth is a very talented dude (he's also handling the insane drums). I've seen one of his former bands (Atonement) live, and he destroys. His delivery is strong and the intonation of his voice fits the cold and harsh songwriting. The lyrics are sometimes pretty intelligible as well adding to the occult atmosphere. Produced by the band itself, the album sounds massive, the sound's quality is blameless. It doesn't try to be vintage or to be a member of a particular scene. The fact that one of the members has his own recording studio definitely helped the pristine quality of the mix. The sound of the album really helped the songs to be what they should be, 5 dark diverse offerings complimented with a devilish sound. The last track is a cover of the Swedish band Malign and it's quite baleful. I liked that they're not covering Mayhem, Darkthrone or any big bands that every South American bands and their cousins are covering. ''Ah fuck, not a cover of Funeral Moon again!''. It's also fun to hear a different style of black arts, their 4 original songs are all much slower and epic whereas the the cover is faster and shorter. It still fits their sound though and it easily demonstrates that the band has many tricks up its sleeve.

To help them on their quest, the musicianship of our heroes is pretty strong. I can safely say that all the ingredients are at their rightful place and while not showing off, the album has a good technical vibe for the style. They're never crossing into avant garde territory though and are always atmospheric even when it's very fast. Although I'm not a fan of orthodox black metal, Gevurah's formula really works. They have the right balance between speedy blastbeats induced parts and slow, crushing tremolo riffs. Another force of this album is that there's absolutely no crappy ambient fillers with violin, chanting monks or satanic monkeys or any shit shit like that. The Montrealer duo is beyond a doubt ready for a full length adventure and Profound Lore were very wise to sign them for this release.

Evolving into a specter characterized by a huge spiritual influence, an orthodox satanist approach and the whole approach is very well done thanks to a deep investment into the art side of the band. It's not your usual cold and forest black metal nor your ''for the glory of Satan'' Dark Funeral imitators. There's a thorough research made by the members, I thought of Behemoth for a moment. Say what you want about Nergal but the lyrical side of his band is complete, interesting and deviates from the anti-christian norm and Gevurah aims to acheive such level of imagery. It's not that I dislike when our black metal bands are using the heritage as their lyrical themes but when most of them are doing it, I think it's a bit tiresome. My 2 favorites of the QCBM scene are Gris and Akitsa and similarly to Gevurah, they both have original and distinctive themes.

Necheshirion is a very strong EP full of qualities for both traditionalists black metallers and those who like some innovation and modernity in their blend of dark atmosphere. They have a lot of potential and I'd certainly like them to push the envelope even more, they have the skills to become a big band. After an excellent demo, their first EP is quite epic and highly recommended!

Gevurah (click the candles, eh)

Buy the album on Profound Lore

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Ningen-Isu - Ougon No Yoake (1992) | 92%

人間椅子 - 黄金の夜明け

Ningen-Isu – Ougon No Yoake (1992)

The Golden Dawn of Magic Japanese Steel

Tony's note : During this review, I'll use romanized Japanese because it's way easier than having to copy the Japanese alphabet, that's very complicated for us mere westerners. 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. I must thank the wonderful Crick for his tremendous help and his support, this review is also a bit for him. Thanks Jackson, you fucking brat.

Here's some songs of the album:

Japan, the land of mysterious Kit Kat flavors  weird tentacle anime and Marty Friedman shredding solos in advertisement, has always been a surprise pack for metal. You could find the most asinine Visual Kei that's very hit and miss and full of pretentious eight minutes piano interludes or weird ass thrash metal such as the amazing Gargoyle. Ningen-Isu on the other hand is a strange beast in its own right, they're an original act and they're not a tributary to the Japanese sound conventions. They've been doing what they want for ages. Ougon No Yoake, their third album is definitely one of my favorite from the trio as it's a pretty damn good example of how their sound is diverse and rich.

What I'd like to underline before continuing is the fucking awesome musicianship of this band. The core of Ningen-Isu, Kenich Suzuki (bass, vocals) and Shinji Wajima (guitars, vocals) are Japan's Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. The band changed their drummer 4 times and this one do the job but the percussion aren't really the focus on this album even though there's totally nothing wrong with them. The bass is as loud as it can be without being obnoxious and it's pretty damn awesome and the guitarist is a total riff Samurai. The songs are all pretty long and intricate, there's many songs around seven and eight minutes and the album is almost seventy minutes. While I usually appreciate long songs, the album is a bit too long and it's hard to fully grasp all at once but so is the band and their whole discography is an arduous task to listen to. Nevertheless, they are truly gratifying and it was hard for me to pick an album to review since I wanted there's so many and they're all excellent.

Ningen-Isu's original line-up, notice the Geddy Lee look?!
Like the eternal sushi, the power trio is mixing tasty ingredients to cook a very special meal. Imagine a Japanese restaurant menu, it's classy and full of terms you don't understand and similar to the famous Sriracha sauce, there's plenty of foreign influences despite the clear and apparent will to stay rooted in their native culture. That's the thing I really about this band, they have assimilated many influences and when I say many, I mean it. They took the fuzzy and riff based approach of Black Sabbath and made it weirder. It's like if Iommi spent 12 years in Kyoto learning how to fight with a katana, that's way more interesting than Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai  right ? It's the best kind of worship, really, You can definitely feel the love for Sabbath but it's never a carbon copy and the other influences are also quite vivid. There's also some Deep Purple such as in ''Heisei Asaborake'', the riff at the start reminds me of their classic song ''Smoke on the Water'' but à la Japonais. They're mixing the hard rocking approach found in these seminal bands with a ton of different metal genres. There's some stoner elements (in 1992 too, that's very early) and even some thrashy elements. It's also not as progressive as some of their later albums like Taihai Geijutsu Ten but there's some important prog elements to be found. Especially in the bass playing, the third song ''Wa, Gan Denebega'' reminds of the instrumental side of early 80s Rush with these groovy and prominent bass licks. The proggy side of the band is made obvious with the talented musicianship and the sophisticated songwriting but also with the tempo changes such as the one in the longest track ''Suibotsu Toshi''. Mixing slow doom riffs with a vocal atmosphere akin to a ballad leads to an amazing track.

There's some really cool slower and softer moments bringing a sorrowful side to their groovy and almost joyous music. The short instrumental acoustic track ''Subarashiki Nichiyoubi'' is a great interlude with a beautiful guitar melody and some folky Japanese influences. It means ''fantastic sunday'', weird since the track has a sad atmosphere while being soothing and relaxing. That's probably what a Sunday should be, I guess... The music is as melodic as it's technical. That's often the case for Japanese bands, they're masters of their instruments and when they focus on the songwriting, it can create a perfect combination, such as this album ! There's nice leads, while there's not a lot of them, Wajima is a very skilled player and he's never overplaying.His solo in ''Mugon Denwa'' is full of emotions and his one in the epic title track is rocking. We shouldn't forget the heavy/speed metal influences, while present here, they're much more obvious in their next shorter and faster album ''Rashoumon''. ''Ougon No Yoake'' is not their best to get into them, but if you feel adventurous and if you like the styles they're showcasing here, delve into it !

Suzuki and Wajima are sharing vocal duties and since I usually focus more on the instrumental side, it was hard to differentiate them at first. Suzuki has a deeper voice and he's using it for the folksier side of Ningen-Isu. Wajima's voice is higher and a bit more metallic. They're both pretty good and the mix of their voices is natural and creates a nice chemistry. It wasn't quite obvious to me that the band had no lead singers at once so you know it works well. The lyrics are in Japanese so their meaning is lost to me and I don't really feel like reading ridiculous Google translations. I do know that the band sings about literature  be it Japanese legends or Lovecraft (the last song is literally The Mountains of Madness in their mother tongue). While the singers aren't singing in your usual Visual Kei style (the one where it's hard to differentiate women from men both with their vocals and their clothing style !). Nonetheless, the vocal intonations are still pretty damn Japanese. If you're a Westerner like me, it can take a while to cross the language barrier. The vocals, while good, are not omnipresent and I liked them well enough. But the highlight of the album is the bass guitar and the electric guitar interplay, they're creating an intercourse of riffs in your face. I know some people find the vocals to be obnoxious and I'd admit they can be an acquired taste as they're pretty unique and weird but they're definitely an important part of the band's identity.

Although it's not their catchier nor heavier release, ''Ougon No Yoake'' or ''The Golden Dawn'' is an awesome album. Unlike the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the album is truly magic. Rest assured, it has nothing to do with the racist Greek party ! The songs are rich, full of nuances and different emotions and pure bliss. Their brand of progressive hard rock/doom metal is pretty unique and original and stands as a strong but lonely fortress in the Japanese musical scenery. While I'd like to understand what they say, it's really not necessary.I don't even need to understand the words, it would be like watching a silent movie with subtitles. Japan has great metal outside of Sigh and their kawaii silly abominations, do yourself a favour and explore their scene. Start with Gargoyle, Metalucifer, Sabbat but never forget the mighty Ningen-Isu. The music is as bright as the album art giving us some hope for the Orient metal scene. Yes, this is from 1992 but their current albums are as good and you can't make a mistake by choosing one randomly, plunge in their music.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Àrsaidh – Roots (2013) | 93%

William Wallace would be proud.

"Evoking ancestral wisdom, I stand hypnotised"
The man behind Askival, after a short inclusion in Alcest wannabees Falloch, came back to his roots (pun intended) with this album. My expectations were high when I learned that Andy Marshall had a new project and it wasn't post rock/shoegaze. When I saw the gorgeous cover art decorated by the logo full of trees, I was hoping for the best and boy, I wasn't disappointed. The scenery on the album art is, well you can see it, but the snowy peaks and the dark sky reminds me of both the remote places in Scotland and a surreal, almost martian setting. Painting an accurate portrait of the sound, the art reflects the sadness found in the music. Expect great things because Roots is an amazing record and the best thing the atmospheric folk/black genre has to offer in 2013.

The album, a 50 minutes journey to Scotland's countryside, is composed of 3 very lengthy numbers and a short 2 minutes interlude. The long songs are giving the musician the time to let grow the trees he threw seeds for. There's gorgeous and expanded atmospheric parts with folkloric instruments that can really live on their own without the need for a lot of vocals. Indeed, the focal point of Àrsaidh is the flow of the music, the sixteen, thirteen and seventeen minutes songs are long and soothing rivers that you cross on the raft you found on a riverbank. You definitely have the required time to admire the River Tweed without having to fear the mouth of the wild North Sea. Hell, the first title track has no vocals for the first 6 minutes and it doesn't freaking matter with Àrsaidh. Maybe for the more impatient people, the task will be arduous but the whole release is truly rewarding when you take the time to enjoy the album. It works as background music too (I like to study with music and I'll be able to with this project) and it's never boring. The amount of craft in the songwriting is without a doubt the highlight of Roots and for a solo band that's definitely impressing.

Roots, while having a copious amount of atmospheric tendencies and even a post rock baggage, really has a worthy amount of black metal influences. Probably not enough for the pure warriors resting in their Norwegian fjords though. But for someone such as myself who enjoys bands like Winterfylleth or Agalloch, I can enjoy a varied album like Roots without any corpse paint issues. The atmospheric/post is to me, the cement which holds this album together, it gives a much needed bond between the folk instruments and the metal elements. I rarely heard such a talented blend of sounds, it's subtle and done tastefully while never crossing the Cheese Kingdom. That's certainly good for Scottish metal, I'm sure they prefer to be represented by Àrsaidh than these silly pirates in Alestorm. There's a lot of bagpipes, acoustic guitars, violin and keyboards but it's all so cohesive and integrated in a well thought formula that even if you're not fond of folk metal, you'll have no problem with the album.

Although I think there's a shortage of riffs to be found, it doesn't mean that it's not enjoyable. The music is slow and mournful and are relying on repetition to move the listeners and it works very well. There's melodic simple leads such as the one in Roots and it gives a grand epic feel to the music evoking at times the atmosphere you can find in a band like Summoning. The vocals are pretty damn good too, there's no full on clean eruptions and they're not that present but when they are, it's awesome. Andy is using an harsh throaty voice and it fits the post metal side of the band because it's somewhat near the way atmospheric sludge bands are singing. There's some clean chanting such as the start of the second track Carved in Stone, one of my complaints is that I wanted more of these epic vocals as I'm an huge sucker for these and Primordial fan but it's still a mild criticism. It doesn't detained my enjoyment as it's really an amazing album and it's establishing Andy Marshall as the de facto king of Scottish metal or at least I would support him as I would also support the national referendum in Scotland in 2014. 

Talking of Scotland's national question, the lyrical approach of Àrsaidh is similar to the one of many English bands, it's mainly about the Celtic cultural heritage and it's written in a sorrowful way. Taking inspiration from classic poetry, the lyrics are subtle and reflects the dramatic history of this northern region of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, I can notice the similarity 
between Québec and the sake of Scotland. Both in the black metal's lyrical research and the history of assimilation, conquest and divide. And this only adds to my appreciation of Roots. While I'm transported into a land of mountain and rivers, I feel my feeling of belonging to the universe increased. While I'm not quite a nationalist for the sake of it and I'm often divided between the archaic concept of nation and human rights and freedom, I like this approach and I know where he's going with it.

"We are sorrow's children /Torn from Alba's womb /A reflection of fallen martyrs The lifeblood of this land "

A superb production is decorating the long and excellent dirges. Àrsaidh is a good (well, no excellent) compromise in the atmospheric black metal scene. It's more epic than Fen, more folky than Winterfylleth and better, less cheesy than Wodensthrone. If you're looking for a fast paced album full of catchy anthems, look elsewhere. This album is pure sorrow and it's a perfect mastery of a folky yet dark atmosphere. One of the jewels of 2013, that's for sure.

Like Àrsaidh on Facebook
Listen to the title track

Buy the album on Bandcamp

Friday, 17 May 2013

Blood Dress - Beyond the Flesh - 78%

Classy Argentinian tech death designers

My fellow moderator and veteran reviewer BastardHead challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and review a technical death band, he proposed Blood Dress's first album Beyond the Flesh and he was right to do so since it's a very good release. The gorgeous but simple cover art hides a very competent new quintet. While I never heard an Argentinian death metal band before, I can safely that these guys have nothing to envy to their European or North American peers. In fact, it should be the opposite, they took the often lifeless, cold and mechanical genre and made it a bit warmer than usual. Okay, their name is not the best metal alias ever but they have a cool enough logo to make up for that.

The main reason why I liked this band is the fact they're a student of the Anata School of Technical Death Metal and not a Necrophagist disciple. Yes, it's technical but for a purpose and it's not only for showing off. That's the main issue I have with this genre. Songwriting is the most important thing in music and metal is no exception and I feel that most of the genre is wanking for the sake of showing off the mad skills you got for practicing 10 hours a day in your parents' basement while eating Froot Loops. While entry level dwellers are waiting for the new Suicmez guitar hero album, Anata slowly died. The world is a sad place.

Although they're not strangers to frenetic leads and blastbeats drums patterns, Blood Dress can actually write songs and there's a real will to break out of the boundaries with the introduction and the interlude, I definitely liked this little aspect of the band even though I dislike an avant garde band like Unexpect. I thought it should had been a bigger part of their sound. They have some clean guest singers in some songs like in the amazing Will I Die, by far my favorite track on the album, it's epic and reminds me of progressive death metallists Opeth. This song truly made the album for me, I absolutely liked the mix of clean and harsh vocals and it didn't sound like a modern, asinine and commercial track that a big label requested. Hell, the band isn't signed (they fucking deserve the support of a label)

There's a bigger emphasis on the riffs than in many tech bands and the solos aren't 4 minutes long and can still be enjoyable. The songs can be fast but they like to slow things down like Obscura would but they're not quite inspired by later era Death. Their 2 guitarists have a nice chemistry and I liked their shredding but outside of the special elements I already mentioned, the band is not quite original and inventive. Their slower than usual tech/progressive death metal tracks are good but doesn't deviate from the norm. Not that I wish they would...Okay, yes I do but that's only because I'm not a fan of this kind of death metal and I heard what they can do when they experiment a little. The vocals aren't abnormal for the genre but they're nothing special and are easily forgettable. As many other tech bands, they're not the focus point of the music even if they're competent enough. They remind me of Ross Dolan (Immolation) but with less power and range. Just like the other instruments, there's nothing bad to say to say about the vocals except that they're a bit unmemorable.

Beyond the Flesh is still a good album in its own right and if you enjoy their genre, you'll definitely find something to like here. The production is very good and fully professional, the musicians are skilled and there's enough technicality to please the fans of guitar masturbation and enough melody in the songwriting to please a huge enough percentage of the naysayers. For a first release, the guys properly established their sound with a compact and solid debut, they surely deserve the attention if you enjoy good riffs with your technical death metal.

Blood Dress' homepage

BastardHead's blog (by the way, his taste sucks!)

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Cemetery Fog - Journey to Hell (2013) | 55%

''We had the munchies so we had to stop at McDonald on our way to Hell''

Hailing from the eternal nation of Finland, Cemetery Fog is a new obscure project and this is their first demo. I found them the day they were submitted to the Archived, I was the moderator who approved them and let me tell you that it's rare that we discover bands that we truly like and after 3 djent bands, 2 post hardcore ones and 2 ambient suicidal acoustic ''metal'' listening to Cemetery Fog was like a balm on my wounds. This 16 minutes demo tape ointment piqued my interest and I emailed the band asking if they wanted me to write a review for the release. Well, it is !

Crossing over many dimensions, the band (well, perhaps it's only one guy, I actually don't know...Maybe it's Napero!!!) has recorded a fine first demo. While in a busy Old School Death Metal scene with bands like Krypts, Lantern or Desecresy and a productive black metal scene with Baptism, Horna, Satanic Warmaster, Cemetery Fog acts like a blender. Reminding me of fellow Finns Barathrum, they mix black metal with a lot of doom for a raw sound. There's also some death metal to be found but it's less apparent because of the mix of the demo. The production is decent for a first release, it's very muddy and dirty and fits their old school analog vibe well. The bass is almost absent though and the drums could be, well interesting. The riffs are mostly mediocre but for a first release, the songwriting is okay, it's nothing groundbreaking but it will please your worthless soul with its dark slow riffs and out of tune lead work. There's some cool riffs like the sick doom/death part at 9 minutes and the last track has some influences from traditional doom. The vocals are bestial, deep growls, nothing particularly amazing and they're often weak and they lack range. They kinda sound like shit, voluntarily but their place in the mix is okay. I think the production is suitable for their needs but they lack a valid and very interesting sound. I'm sure they want to sound like shit, well I prefer my shit to be more consistent.

There's almost 3000 metal bands in Finland, I'm sure I'm not an asshole to say that Cemetery Fog needs to do a lot to become a caretaker of the metal underground. They need to nourish the earth with a lot of manure and fertilizer and I don't know if they have the necessary shovel. We'll have to wait and see.

The whole thing is pretty primitive both in spirit and in sound and that's a plus if you like your metal without any modernity and with an analog sound. The songwriting while still amateurish shows some promises but they're not quite in Hell yet. They're still busy eating a Big Mac.

McDonald Finland

Monday, 13 May 2013

ZOM -Multiversal Holocaust (2013) | 70%


Coming from the wretched country of Ireland, ZOM is a promising black/death metal unit and that's their third release. I never heard their previous offerings but judging from this short 7 inches, they still need to progress to achieve their own sound. Influenced by a plethora of extreme metal sounds, ZOM is interesting but not enough to rise the echelons to attain the bestial stardom.

I sure like a dirty and noisy production and this trio apparently do too. I'm actually not quite fond of how the drums are burying the guitars especially that they're not quite special or interesting. The riffs are quite decent, their production could have been sharper and heavier though. Influenced by classic black metal bands such as Nifelheim, Blasphemy or kvlt newcomers like Adversarial and the whole Nuclear War Now ! Lineup ! ZOM incorporates thrash elements in their music with really enjoyable trashy breaks reminiscent of Slayer or Sodom. These, despite my current aversion to most things thrash these days, were the most enjoyable moments of this release. They really drive the songs to new heights and I think ZOM is at their best when they slow things down a little and show some doom/death influences. With this said, I prefer having these tasty thrash riffs over mindless, inane and useless short blurbs called solos by Revenge. There's a short Kerrykingish lead at the end of the second track Terror of the Cosmos but like I said, it's almost completely buried under the production and the drums.

I also really appreciate their atmospheric tendencies and their short but tasty samples of lamentations and similar dark shit. I feel they're not quite apt at really using their occult atmosphere though, it feels incomplete and I'm sure they could serve a better purpose, the 2 songs are both almost six minutes but they could really reach the seven or eight minutes mark without any problems (and in fact, there's an 8 minutes version of the title track on their previous demo...too bad they edited the song!)

Both songs are stopping abruptly, I think they suffer from coitus interruptus. They could easily breathe better and have the sufficient amount of time to grow into full fledged epic numbers like Bôlzer who's also on Iron Bonehead records. I think there's an avalanche of riffs, yes, but it's way too condensed. Still, ZOM are good at building bestial and old school metal and at creating an eerie, occult feel throughout the 12 minutes release. As reflected by the great but simple album art, the band has a cool imagery but they need to push the envelope further with a stronger songwriting to reflect that.

I think ZOM (fuck, I like to say their name, ZOM, ZOM, ZOM!!!) has a lot of potential and I'm looking forward to their first full length album but for now, I can't say the band is ready to be Satan's house band. Get drunker, guys and do more complex evil incantations !

Buy the release here, thanks to Iron Bonehead for the promo copy!

Memory Driven - Animus (2011) | 97%

C3PO and R2D2

Well, okay, how to start this review? I've been meaning to write this one for almost a year but this is such a rich album that it was an arduous task. But here it is, I finally managed to vomit my thoughts for your displeasure. I will not vomit on Dennis Cornelius though, he's one of the most underrated musician of his generation. His work in bands like Revelation, Doomstone, Under the Sun or even Place of Skulls is great and he's a true force of American doom metal. Memory Driven, his current baby, was formed after the split of Dwell Within (a traditional doom band, check out their demo, it's pretty damn good).

Animus is a very original release and perhaps the best progressive doom metal album ever recorded. It's as emotional as a mama bear protecting its babies and as a deep as the San Andreas Fault. Its true focus point is the perfect mix of styles. The progressive rock and the doom metal are without a doubt blood brothers here, there's a true interdependence between the two genres much more than in almost every other metal bands. They're mixing more than these 2 genres actually and that's the amalgam of many influences that is making this band so worthwhile.

The formula of the band consists of a solid instrumental background and an honest lyrical approach. There's an authenticity in the songwriting, a will to experiment within the confines of heavy music while keeping a clear guiding line throughout the course of the album. The direction goes hand in hand with the overall feel, it's dark and mysterious but it feels good to be with Dennis and company. It's like being in this crappy bar in Oklahoma with the musician and a bottle of whisky while he talks of his divorce or why his wife left him. You can actually feel the somber compassion coming through the lyrics, they're so personal and subtle. There's no anger or rage, just despair, bitterness and self-pity.

''A constant drain on me / An open tap of my will /To live on obscene / An empty soul to fill''

Their lyrical approach although relevant and interesting is not where Memory Driven is innovating, it's not something quite common in the traditional doom scene but it's not something alien either. Normally, the lyricists are more inclined at telling analogical stories or going full geeky with fantasy lyrics. While nothing entirely special, the themes here are representative of the doom metal atmosphere without the need to praise Jesus like some of Cornelius' comrades. Emotional, simple, honest and contemplative are apt adjectives for his lyrics. The lyrical side is also, in my eyes, a secondary identity of the band and that's fine. Fortunately, the quality is still present, it's only that the band could be a very interesting instrumental unit with ease and that the vocals are a welcome extra. I'm not commonly fond of the vocal-centric aesthetic of doom metal, the lyrics served the music and having great vocal lines is a plus for sure but don't forget the riffs. I mean I'm not listening to Black Sabbath because of Ozzy, the ''Prince of Darkness'' can eat a bat for all I care.

What is progressive about Memory Driven? There's the aforementioned mix of genres but it's much more than that. Although we can definitely feel the Maryland traditional doom influence, it's almost completely transformed into a beast of its own. The band writes ethereal music with a fondness for intricate musical foundations and a complete understanding of how chemistry in a band should work. While the spotlight is obviously on the guitars, the bass lines and the drums are really enjoyable. There's a lot of sweet cymbals moments and a knack for refined plays, A tempt has interesting drum patterns which helped making the song very interesting. The riffs are mostly slow and it can be very heavy. The guitar tone is loud and grounded in doom and I can almost sense some doom/death riffs here and there. There's an harsh warmness in the production that makes the guitars really interesting. It's an awesome production to be honest, one of the best I heard for this genre. The bass isn't too loud in the mix while still offering us a much appreciated wall of noise and the leads are interesting, Dennis is an original and great lead player and it's discernible in the song So It Seems. He knows when to be restrained and knows when to pull the artillery.

The band is progressive, yes but they're not the kind of band who'll use a Chapman Stick, a sterile production and conspiracy libertarian lyrics. Their approach is reminiscent of bands like Porcupine Tree, Anathema or particularly Opeth. There's acoustic guitars (the awesome instrumental song Avas Song) and there's ethnic percussion in Unveiled to illustrate the slight experimental side of the band. The vocal approach is rooted into American rock and more precisely the Grunge/heavy metal/alternative rock scene and that's surprisingly enjoyable even if it may seem strange. Cornelius is delivering his best vocal performance here, much better than the one on Memory Driven's lackluster debut or Oversoul (basically the same band, 10 years before Animus!). The vocals are clean and rockish and are proposing a sweet counterparts to the dark and smooth atmosphere found in the music.

There's a big influence of Alice in Chains to be found here and the vocals are not quite your typical doom metal ones. You can surely feel the influence of progressive doom underrated giants, Revelation (and their other project Against Nature) but there's an added atmospheric element and it's less mechanical than their stuff. Just like John Brenner's projects, there's a vivid Rush influence in Memory Driven as demonstrated by the second instrumental track These Aren't the Chords You're Looking For (hehe, read the title of my review again). This track reminded me of a songs like YYZ or La Villa Strangiato. It's a rare occasion that you encounter an instrumental and technical doom song and it's one of the highlights of Animus.

The first track Empty Gesture is a good example of their genre, it starts slowly with a melancholic intro and doesn't have vocals until 4 minutes or so into the song. While it may seem excessive, it's not, there's a purpose for everything on Animus. I didn't like the silent hole in the middle of the last 12 minutes song though, this method is always pissing me off and it's an obvious filler. I know it's to separate the soft part from the heavier one but I thought it was unnecessary and it broke the cohesion of the song. Still that's a tame complaint for an overall perfect album. The songwriting is really damn strong and it's really underrated, I feel that his crossover prog tendency made this a "hard to get" album or perhaps they only need more coverage and that's exactly what I'm aiming to accomplish!

Like the droids found by Luke Skywalker, doom and prog are in total harmony on this album,  R2D2 retained the memory of the old traditional doom metal scene and C3PO brought a shiny new golden progressive influence. This mastery was brought to life by a fabulous and veteran of the riffs, master Cornelius. If you're a prog music fan and think doom metal is too stagnant then Memory Driven is a required listen.

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Friday, 10 May 2013

Evangelist - Doominicanes | 65%

Fatum amet asinum 

If you read some of my previous reviews, you know that I'm a huge doom fan but that I'm not quite fond of the christian ideology many bands are using as their lyrical theme. You would say that I should have known where this band was going just by looking at their name and you would be right. Evangelist wouldn't dwell in the satanic realms and I don't necessarily want them to but based on their first album, I was expecting some more Lovecraft and Howard worship instead of an epic doom metal album about Christianity  I'm not someone who's not affected by the lyrical content of an album, it's as important as the music for me. Music is a vessel and it can be used as an ideological tool and we shouldn't underestimate the power of such creations. Considering that, the new lyrical direction killed some of my enjoyment. But the main problem is that the songwriting doesn't live up to the quality of their debut album.

Even though the songwriting is pretty similar to In Partibus Infidelium I think it's not as strong. The band is still evolving in the same epic doom genre but compared to their previous album, it sounds a bit like a rehash and I found it boring. I went back to their debut and this confirmed my suspicion, it's simply not as good. Perhaps I'm just bored by epic doom but I can only feel that it's been done to death. The vocals are pretty good  and there's some cool high pitched NWOBHMish vocals in the last epic track named ''Militis Fidelis Deus'' (God the faithful soldier in Latin) it works on paper but damn most of the album has the same high vocals Messiah Marcolin became famous for and it got a bit stale, it's like ''okay, we get it, you have a good range and shit, can you be more interesting ? ''

"I'm gonna cook you for supper!"
''Damn infidels drawing nearer † Host of ghosts we became † Our souls are in Lord’s hands''

Yep, my fear was totally confirmed when I heard this song, it sounds way too preachy for my taste. The ''hallelujahs'' sung in the background literally killed my boner for the riffs. It's all about context you would say and it's true, Even if the lyrics are about the Crusades, a subject I enjoy a lot, it just wasn't dark and evil enough for me to enjoy ! Not enough bloodshed in the streets of Jerusalem, not enough nails on the cross of Jesus Christ. Man, this song is also interminable, it's 12 mins and it feels like a Sabazius song, especially the end. I'd like to hear some really satanic doom metal for a change, I'm sure the devil would be proud to hear the slow lamentations and the epic music. Nevertheless, the monk chanting at the start of the song is quite cool and the song is very epic.

Personal preferences aside, I feel that Doominicanes is a very safe record and it's really not bringing anything new to the genre. The band themselves said ''No keyboards, triggers, samples or other slick and fancy studio tricks, expect DOOM METAL!'' and yes, that's the case, unfortunately the ability to write awesome authentic doom songs is lacking. As I heard the new Procession, I noticed that the ability of writing epic AND varied songs is present in the music of the Chilean horde but not in Evangelist's songwriting. 

I wasn't expecting techno influences obviously but the songwriting is simply not good eno
ugh for me. It's not as shining as the debut. While the riffs are often good, the rhythm section just doesn't do shit, it's like if the facade of a farm had a nice red paint and the rest of the building was white, I feel like throwing some eggs on it to add some colors  It's not vibrating or interesting enough during the slow moments (that's something a band like Reverend Bizarre understood and did well, the bass and drums were high in the mix and proficient to keep most of the listeners interested during their 30 minutes songs). I wanted more and I wasn't satisfied, the bass is too quiet and the drums are too simple. The band is composed of anonymous members, so perhaps it's a solo project...That's not an excuse! I want some groove, ladies!

Okay, it's definitely not a bad album and if you're already sold by the genre and worship at the altar of Candlemass then what I'm saying doesn't matter much. Maybe my expectations were too high after the high score I gave to their debut but I'm simply disappointed by the lack of imagination and evolution from these anonymous musicians. The riffs are good and the solos can be enjoyable (check out ''Deadspeak'', my favorite song of the album) but something is lacking. And it's not the passion, it's clearly there, they like epic stuff and it's obvious throughout the album. There's some albums you really want to enjoy but it simply doesn't work, just like you can't hardly walk a cat with a leash or enjoy non-alcoholic beer.

The album needs faster moments along with the 5 long mid paced songs, 2 or 3 faster tracks would had been very nice. Without tempo changes, the album feels like a huge monotone wall of epicness and it's too much to handle. These 44 minutes are too much considering their style of doom is sugary and somewhat whiny at times. It really can be tiring. The band is too centered on the quality of its vocals and should put more emphasis on the riffs and the flow of the songs than the actual lyrical content, it's too cluttered by high vocals all the damn time.and it drags a lot. I like epic doom but god, this was mundane.

Evangelist is still highly recommendable and quite unique for the Polish metal scene but their debut is vastly superior and has no fillers compared to their sophomore. Hopefully they'll get back on track with their next release. If you're a doom collector  get the album but there's better doom to check out in 2013, might I recommend Black Oath or the aforementioned Procession ?

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Wardenclyffe - Ordo Ab Chao (2012) | 87%

A short story/doom metal fanfiction about the demo of Wardenclyffe, a Swedish doom/death band. If you're reading the story while listening to the album, it's a bit more entertaining and you could grasp the analogies better. You can find the demo here: on their bandcamp.

The Sombre Alchemist and The Cleric Prince

Prelude / I : Orcadian Dream

The smoke is darkening the sky, the city is in ruins. The air smells like putrefaction, the flesh is naked and bloody. The cleric prince who just came from his exile to the northern peninsula of the kingdom is daydreaming about the wind and the salty water of the coast where he was enjoying a peaceful retreat. This battle left a bitter taste in his mouth and his ears were a bit numb. All of a sudden, his brother in arms raised him up and put him on his saddle and escaped the grasp of the invaders. He closed his eyes, feeling the sea on his toes and wondered if he made the right choice by coming back.

The monastery was left untouched by the arrival of the invaders. The grass was still green and the monks were still busy. The remainder of Prince Jacob's army was scattered through the location, resting. As he was discussing with the abbot, Ola, his general appeared to let him know that a guest arrived from the capital to see him. He went to the courtyard where Micael, his most valiant fighter was sharpening his battleaxe. A frail man was waiting, Jacob then recognized Sir Albert Witchfinder, a former knight now at the service of the state. He was the man who gave him the symbol for his coat of arms : a tower with a circular dome. When the prince looked at him, his eyes were livid and he said something softly :

"Expelled from the garden – hard is the burden , As the tyrant from the past returns "

The nature of the enemy wasn't quite clear yet, but this omen truly confirmed the return of the Sombre Alchemist Dorrian. As he finished his message, Sir Witchfinder fell to the ground, exhausted by his fast travel. It appears that the dark lord took possession of the capital city, Wardenclyff. Dorrian, the sorcerer and leader of The Doomsday Cult was once a prominent member of the state before his dark arts' inclination appeared and took over his mind. In light of this new information, the prince looked at his 2 most trusted men and they knew they had to ride to the capital.

Riding on the devastated field, the sound of the horses was something almost joyful and sad at the same time. The galloping of the hooves evoking the urgency of confrontation and the grin you have before taking the life of a man. Summoning the old bards of yesteryear, the riders are asking favors to the deities named Jennings, Iommi or even Gabriel Fischer. While the men are tempted to think about the Dying Bride and letting romantic emotions flow through them, they prefer to sing in a gravely voice full of harshness to hunt the pain.

The destroyed city was still burning 1 week after its destruction and at its stone wall border, a troop was concealed. Led by the famous war chief of Dorrian, Nicklas Terror, well known for his heavy sword blows and his dark runemagic powers. While Jacob, Micael and Ola can compete with his strength, they prefer a fair and disciplined combat, some would say that they prefer to dance.

The nostrils of the horses were fuming, waiting for something tragic to happen. Finally, the 2 cavalries charged into eachothers. Bursts of pure energy and fire were flowing across the field. Rapidly, some of the soldiers were fighting on the ground. Micael attacked Nicklas Terror with his hammer. The blows were fast, you could hear the frenetic drumming of the god of death beating down the petty souls of mortals. Terror's sword finally managed to penetrate Micael's armor, the fighter still on his legs drove off in his ranks bleeding. The cleric prince saw the situation and reached his wounded friend in time to save him. Meanwhile,Terror barely escaped with his life at the hands of Ola, the bald warlord and his longsword. The border was then cleared and the road to the capital accessible !

II : Behind the Shadow of the Goat
The steps of the palace were getting slippery with all the blood of the dead capital soldiers. The Sombre Alchemist, a tall white man wearing an owl cowl hiding his straight long black hair was walking towards the grand building. His apostles armed with the blue light were creating a way for him. The palace of fallen majesty was now defenseless. The enormous door of the court room opened, the noblemen who were hiding in the safest room of the kingdom were rapidly surrounded by the apostles.

The king, enthralled by fear, was thrown on the clear marble floor now cluttered by some of the most adventurous noble warriors. The imposing lion sculpture in the middle of the court started to bleed at the touch of Dorrian. Some horns appeared on its solid scalp, the figure of the sculpted animal changed to the one of a morbid goat. A mixture of boiling blood and vomit engulfed the poor king. After a brief look at the macabre scene, the sombre alchemist started to sing this verse in his peculiar voice, a voice you were able to hear at night if you were near his infernal cathedral. A clean, albeit weird voice that is not melodic but rather grave and unnatural.

"Behind the shadow of the goat / Here comes the wrath of the obscure
Behind the shadow of the goat / They bring death onto the herd"

The blood coming from the eyes of the statue was dripping on the floors. The alchemist reached a scroll from his inside pockets, he started to sing the incantation written on this old parchment. Hastily, loud sound vibrations were now emanating from the statue. A mid paced buzz gorged with darkness was saluting the scared crowd. It's a groovy summon captivating the minds of the weak with its occult identity. The melodies are slow while strangely memorable. Despite being prisoners of The Doomsday Cult, some nicely-dressed men were carried away with the tempo.

The apostles, blissfully joyous in a circle around the statue, were unleashing hoarse verses in honor of the new regime. The snarls were stopping sometimes to let the dark lord sing his cleaner incantation. Hence, on this day,the souls of the nobility were tainted by a new caliginous devotion.

''They bring you the plague – planting the seed – for your destruction''As the Alchemist's army was ready to let loose throughout the kingdom, the tyrant removed his owl cowl, his deed was done.

III : Macroshift

Jacob the cleric was at the head of his cavalry when he entered the capital. Surprisingly defenseless, the prince entered under the adulation of the possessed population, gullible and touched by the sudden affection, he made his way to the fallen palace where his dead father was now resting. Alongside the streets, many musicians were playing an entrancing welcoming, the lead melody was mournful and sad not unlike the current atmosphere in the kingdom.

On the porch of the palace, Dorrian was waiting for him with the king's crown in his hands. Jacob led the slow procession through the city. He ordered his men to wait up while he climbed the stairs leading to the palace's entry. The dark loud sang this in a high clean voice :

"See – the prince arrives
Leave – the past to die
Meet – his paradise
Earth – shall be cleansed"

The prince removed his helm and knelt before the alchemist, the golden crown now laying in the fair hair of the fallen cleric was bright like the moon. When the gaze of Dorrian met the one of his accomplice, a loud blast was heard from the ranks as the pummeling sound of death made his way through the city. The deceiving liege lord, with a simple gesture, ordered the execution of the resistance, his former comrades. Ola, the warlord fell to his knees, facing his death to the hands of the esoteric apostles while Micael tried to flew, in vain. The deep slow melody continued during the bloodbath, the lamentations were silent as the new king, devoured by darkness was enjoying the spectacle. The order has ended, the chaos has taken its place.

''Ignite me – The wings of death arise / Release me – Unleash the Macroshift ''

Were the words written in the letter Jacob received from the Sombre Alchemist.