Frozen Ocean - The Dyson Swarm

Posted on Thursday, August 21, 2014

Frozen Ocean is kind of an oddball, existing somewhere in the gray area between Atmospheric Black Metal and Dark Ambient. I’m not familiar with the band’s back catalog, but from the sound of things, sole member Vaarwel started out playing Black Metal but gradually began incorporating more and more Dark Ambient/Deep Space Ambient stuff into his compositions. That being said, the majority of The Dyson Swarm has more in common with Neptune Towers, Arecibo (aka Lustmord) and the original Cosmos soundtrack composed by Vangelis than anything that could be classified as Metal. The overwhelming bulk of the songs on this album are instrumental, with only two having vocals (“CE-4” and “The Dyson Swarm”). Even then, the vocals play only a small part. The music itself is very atmospheric, having a mellow, trance-inducing effect that is best listened to in the dark or under candlelight. It’s also very repetitive, something that is noticed almost immediately. Having listened to a lot of repetitive Black Metal (usually in the Burzum vein) over the years, I didn’t have a problem with this. The minimalistic song structures do start to wear on you on the longer tracks, particularly on the two that exceed nine minutes. This LP has taken more than a few tries to grow on me, mostly because I have to be in the right mood to listen to it. Fans of atmospheric music or those “Sounds of Space” Ambient releases that you occasionally find in the New Age section of the record store will probably enjoy this the most. If you’re like me and you’re a Metalhead who crosses over into the Dark Ambient scene, The Dyson Swarm is an interesting listen, but it isn’t for everyone.

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AlNamrood - Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq

Posted on Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This is my first time hearing AlNamrood, and like other bands from the Middle East, I was curious to see what these guys brought to the table when it came to Black Metal. I’ve heard others from the region and most of them have been good. I was cautiously optimistic about this band, mostly because in the game of musical Russian Roulette, one of these groups eventually has to suck donkey dick, and so far none of the ones I’ve heard have chowed down on the metaphorical mule member. Thankfully, AlNamrood doesn’t suck. They’re actually pretty interesting. They’re a Middle Eastern Folk-influenced Black Metal band that has an oddly Industrial sound. The production on Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq probably has a lot to do with that. The drums have an unusual sound to them, especially the snare, which sounds like an empty oil barrel. Unlike the garbage can lid sound of most European or American Black or Death Metal bands, this has a deeper, more metallic tone. The guitars are also slightly strange sounding. They have a higher pitch, which may have to do with the Arabic Folk rhythms that they’re using in their songs. The distortion on them sounds a bit odd, too. It may be that, for once, I’m listening to a Black Metal band that doesn’t tune down or use heavier gauge strings in their guitars to sound more brutal. The combination of the odd drum tone and the guitar tones gives this a very unique sound. It takes a bit of getting used to, to say the least. Musically, this LP sounds like what would happen if you added distorted electric guitars to Akrabu or maybe the solo works of Nile main-man, Karl Sanders. It has that same Arabic Folk style that you get from a band like Melechesh, but in a more ritualistic or Industrial way. I know that AlNamrood is aiming for the Middle Eastern Folk Metal crowd, but I think that fans of more harder-edged Industrial or Industrial Metal will also find the music on Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq to be interesting enough to check out.

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Harakiri for the Sky - Aokigahara

Posted on Monday, August 18, 2014

Turn not to those Black Metal bands who have factitious spirits, or to white wizards; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. She is Negativity our Goddess. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against positivity, against happiness, against the oppressors of the darkness of this genre, against structural purity in weak riffage. A man or woman who is a musician and has a positive energy or is an optimist shall surely be put in a bundle on eBay. For Negativity so loathed this world, that She aborted Her only rotten son, that whosoever believeth in despair should not write music that sucks everlasting pipe. For there is one Goddess, and one mediator between Her and men: the band Harakiri for the Sky. Bereaved, now these are the sons of Negativity, and it doth not yet appear what they shall be; but we know that when She shall appear, She shall be into them, for their melodies are bleak as fuck. For by Her were all things created that are in Black Metal, and that are on Aokigahara, miserable and more miserable, whether they be Katatonic, or Forgotten Tomb-ish or Heretoiresque, or Tears for Fears covers; all things were created by Her and for Her. For Eklatanz himself shall ascend from “Panoptycon” with a shout, with the voice of the archdemon, and with the banner of Negativity: and the fans of SDBM shall rise first; then we who are dead inside and remain shall throw horns up together with them in the stereo, to meet the Cunt in the garage with the car running. The Goddess Negativity is not willing that any should see the glass half-full, but that all should check out this sick fucking record. That if thou shalt confess with thy keyboard the Goddess Negativity hath nursed Harakiri for the Sky from Her breast, thou shalt be saved from lame Black Metal. Have no fellowship with the unrealistic works of hope; but rather condemn them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in music. Negativity: the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

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Kriegsmaschine - Prism: Archive 2002 - 2004

Posted on Thursday, August 14, 2014

To coincide with Enemy of Man, the new full-length LP from Poland’s Kriegsmaschine, the band has also unleashed a compilation of demo and unreleased songs that they recorded over the period between 2002 and 2004. Naturally, the sound quality on these tracks isn’t the same as their new LP, but for something like this, it’s pretty damn good. Most of the time, demo and unreleased tracks sound pretty bad, the reason being that they were never recorded in the same quality as a serious release, especially if the band didn’t intend for the songs to be available to the public. Considering this, Prism is very listenable. The music here is on the raw side, showcasing a more stripped-down and straight-forward Black/Death Metal style. There isn’t as much Ambient/Atmospheric stuff on Prism, but the music itself has a dark feeling to it that comes from the rawness and the aggression. It has a “live in the studio” quality that makes you feel almost as if you’re in the rehearsal space with the band, listening to them go through a full set of material. Another thing that I noticed about the music on Prism is that it’s far more Punk-influenced than their full-length albums. It has an ancient Bathory feel to it that you don’t get on Enemy of Man, which has more in common with Mayhem and Behemoth. Tracks like “Goathammer Sorcery” and “Deathcult Supreme” get your head banging immediately and they’re instantly engaging. If these guys played either of those songs live, I’d put money down that there’d be fatalities. Though the songs on Prism sound considerably different than on Enemy of Man, I found that I enjoyed them almost as much, but for different reasons. I liked the rawness and Punk energy that the band has and though the songs aren’t really representative of what Kriegsmaschine sounds like today, they do what good Metal should: they kick ass. That makes this compilation worth tracking down and listening to.

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Throes of Ire - Funeral for a Witch

Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Funeral for a Witch is a concept LP about the life of Margaret Aitken, a woman who was forced to confess to witchcraft under torture but was spared when she agreed to help the witch hunters by outing other witches. The story goes that she sent many innocents to their deaths by fingering them as witches - being a witch herself, she’d know another when she saw one, or so the logic went. In the end, the guilt she carried around with her eventually consumed her and drove her mad. The truth that she was a fraud eventually came out, whereupon she was burned at the stake for her crimes. On paper, this sounds pretty interesting. It was the main reason I wanted to check out this record, in fact. In practice, though, the Doom/Death Metal that Throes of Ire sets this story to isn’t very exciting. The song structures are pretty simplistic, the riffing and pacing are ploddingly slow and the songs are overly long. The lyrics, though, are great. The story is interesting and it’s well written. The delivery and the music, on the other hand, turn a rather riveting read into an exercise in drudgery. Only on “Solitary Mourning” (the last track on the LP) does the pace kick up and things get interesting - but you first have to get through eight minutes of music similar to the other songs, which were lethally boring. Even that doesn’t last very long, though. Sadly, Funeral for a Witch lacks the kind of diversity and dynamics in the songwriting that it really needed in order to make a concept piece like this work. Though this is their second release, Throes of Ire still needs a lot of development before they’re ready for the big leagues. The lyrics are up there already, but everything else is severely lacking. The songwriting is simplistic - which isn’t a sin - but simplistic structures get tedious when you stretch things out over ten to twenty minutes. The songs needed something to break up the monotony in the worst way. Even the vocals needed diversity. The only style employed on this album is the standard Death Growl, but it was delivered without passion. The vocals were dry and lifeless, which, when blended with the already dull music, did nothing to spice things up. They did the equivalent of adding dull and tasteless oatmeal to dull and tasteless oatmeal. All you got in the end was more dull and tasteless oatmeal. Though there’s a lot of improvement necessary in the sound of Throes of Ire, I hope these guys can figure things out. They have some interesting stories to tell, but their musical abilities haven’t caught up with their imaginations yet.

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Entombed A.D. - Back to the Front

Posted on Monday, August 11, 2014

Silliness. Pure fucking silliness. Not this album itself, but the bullshit surrounding it. For those unfamiliar with the situation, essentially LG Petrov says that Miller Lite “tastes great,” while Alex Hellid is convinced that the American beer’s #1 attribute is that it’s “less filling.” Bandmates of nearly 30 years, the pair agreed to disagree on this matter, but things really started to boil over when Petrov went on record stating that toilet paper rolls should be placed over —the “6” formation, if you will— in the dispenser, while Hellid vehemently defends the under position. “It should be like a 9, godammit,” the guitarist recently told Metalpenisfucker.com. “A 9 is more fucking evil! Just ask King Diamond!” “Bullshit,” the vocalist fired back on Extrememusicassram.org. “A 6 is a fucking 9! An inverted 9 is even more evil, motherfuckers!” This dispute has caused a seemingly unrepairable rift in the Entombed camp, and since both gents own the rights to the name, we have this whole Back to the Front fiasco. Petrov intended on using the moniker for this LP —which was already finished and being promoted in the Fall of 2013— but Hellid apparently needs it for the carpool lane. So, after months of legal battles, now we have Entombed A.D. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, wouldn’t you say? What’s worse, this record is now faced with the unenviable task of overpowering the drama attached to it. For the most part, it succeeds. Look, I gave up on the hope of another Left Hand Path a long time ago. (That’d be like expecting Slayer’s forthcoming Nuclear Blast album to be another Reign in Blood. Isn’t gonna happen.) At this stage of the game, expecting another Wolverine Blues would probably be a tall order, but I wouldn’t mind another Uprising, or even an Inferno. Based on those expectations, Back to the Front not only delivers but exceeds. Basically Serpent Saints minus the goofiness, the majority of these songs charge hard and hit heavy. The patented Death ‘n’ Roll style this group has steadily been rebuilding since disastrous career-low Same Difference comes to fruition here. Tracks like “Bedlam Attack,” “Pandemic Rage,” “Second to None,” “Bait and Bleed,” and “The Vulture and the Traitor” combine stomping Punkish energy with headbobbable groove, and then there’s the left-field Thrash assault of “The Underminer.” Of course, it helps that LG sounds equal parts pissed and focused. This might be his most straightforward vocal performance since those glorious early ’90s, while guitarist Nico Elgstrand occasionally pays homage to the period with a melodic lick or two of his own. But let’s hold off on that Left Hand Path II stamp for now. It’s a fair enough compliment to acknowledge that this is the best Entombed record in 10 years, and more so that it is an Entombed record. Fuck the dumb shit.

Rating:
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Lantlos - Melting Sun

Posted on Friday, August 08, 2014

Out of pure embarrassment and shame, I almost passed on reviewing this record. I just never seem to get Lantlos right. If I were writing a review of my 2011 Agape review, I’d most likely give it the lowest possible score after chastising myself in haiku fashion.
Stupid cokehead.
Get off Neige’s nuts.
Listen to the shit more than twice.
The clueless douche I was just 2 years ago doesn’t even mention that “Bliss” is the greatest song ever recorded! Luckily with this follow-up, Markus “Herbst” Siegenhort has delivered something even I can’t screw up. Actually, I might want to rescind that statement on the probable chance that I fail to describe how amazingly fucking perfect Melting Sun is. Melting Sun is the musical equivalent to having your balls licked during orgasm. It causes the same floating effect as the “Mr. Nice Guy” weed in Half-Baked. It’s like smelling a Cold Stone Creamery for 40 minutes while watching Hulk and Thing fight in slow motion while Alexis Texas feeds you bacon wrapped in bacon with her ass. Juvenile humor aside, this LP is completely flawless and far too beautiful for the confines of my vocabulary to do justice. When I learned that Alcest’s Neige was no longer doing vocals, and that the band had removed all traces of Black Metal from their sound, I was momentarily skeptical. But that skepticism was buried and forgotten about halfway through opener “Azure Chimes.” Herbst’s clean vocals are fantastic, often made all the more mesmerizing by backing vocal harmonization, and the music… holy shit! It’s so good I’m pissed. Crushing heaviness and airy Shoegaze delight co-exist in a euphoric paradise where darkness is achieved through light and sadness by joy. Nowhere is this more evident than on the heart of the album: “Aquamarine Towers” and “Jade Fields.” Both tracks display an attention to detail in songcraft that emotional music so often lacks. Downtuned, distorted guitars carve the flesh while clean guitars caress the brain, as unforgettable melodic passages glide around sparse-yet-incredibly-addictive verses. I remember being a teenage musician, staying up all night, trying to fill the entire page with the perfect lyrics. Little did I know that “I’ve seen you / I’ve been through the sun” could comprise something a million times more effective in its abstract simplicity. Instrumental segue “Oneironaut” gently guides us into slow and soothing closer “Golden Mind.” This shimmering lullaby is like the cigarette after sex, or in this case, aural pleasures. I can’t say enough about how excellent this is. A benchmark for Post-Rock and the Album of the Year nominee I didn’t see coming. By following in Alcest’s Black Metal-shedding footsteps, Herbst has unequivocally surpassed his comrade for now. As much as I’ve enjoyed Shelter, it wilts in the glow of Melting Sun.

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Lord Dahthar - The Tower

Posted on Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Lord Dahthar started out as a side project by Dahthar when he was the keyboard player for a now-defunct band called Vision of Mara. So, quite naturally, this band has a very keyboard-centric sound. In fact, a third of this EP is just straight keyboard playing without any other instruments. Though the first and last songs aren’t specifically denoted as intro and outro tracks, that’s essentially what they are. They’re probably the most adventurous and interesting parts of this release because for the most part, anything with guitars and drums isn’t very exciting. The riffing is pretty basic, sporting a very “single chord played over and over again with occasional changeups” style. All of the intricate stuff is handled by the keyboards, though most of the time, you can’t hear them because the treble-heavy guitars and the light switch drums drown them out. I was a bit surprised by this, mostly because I expected a band fronted by a keyboard player to sound a lot like Dimmu Borgir. This might have been a better EP had Dahthar and company pushed the keyboards out in front, because there’s no faster way to annoy me than to make me listen to light switch drums and bass-free guitars. The tones on the guitars and drums were pretty bad. It was so annoying that this review almost turned into a rant about how Dahthar should have made this a keyboard-only project. It took me several listens (rather painful ones, at that) before I could get past the production issues. If the next release by Lord Dahthar has better production (turn the bass up on the guitars, get a better drum tone and bump the keyboards up so that they don’t get drowned out by the other instruments), I’ll probably appreciate their music more. The sound here really brought it down for me. Though the keyboard-only tracks were good, the other ones just didn’t have the same quality. These guys still have some growing to do, but production issues aside, the music on The Tower shows a lot of promise. Their next release will be the one that’ll tell us whether Lord Dahthar is worth following or not. If they can get a good studio engineer and put together a package that showcases their skills, they could be serious contenders.

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Incantation - Dirges of Elysium

Posted on Friday, August 01, 2014

When I thumb through issues of my old fanzine [Portrait of Defiance -Editor], so many things piss me off. Poor grammar, typos, errors, bad interview questions, bad jokes, half-assed reviews, my constant misuse of the Power Metal genre tag… I could keep going but it’s too painful. In my defense, I was as young, dumb and full of cum as a Metalhead could be, but that’s no excuse for being a semi-retarded asshole all the time. (There’s a reason that —assuming I can outlive, like, 6 people— there won’t be a soul at my funeral.) But what makes me cringe the most about those old rags is how mean I was to Incantation. And not only when I’d review their material. I’d often go out of my way to take shots at them in other bands’ reviews! I was such a bullheaded, all-or-nothing kid. If I didn’t find something instantly memorable, I’d take a Dumb and Dumber shit all over it and disregard its value altogether. Back then, I didn’t realize that an album’s feel could yield the same staying power as great songs and riffs. That vibe alone could stand the test of time, or that the menacing aura of pure unbridled evil that Incantation achieved with Onward to Golgotha and Mortal Throne of Nazarene would never be equaled, despite countless imitators. These days I can put those records on and easily get lost in a sound so ominously brutal it’s soothing, even if 20 years later I still can’t hum any of the riffs to you. The good news is that present-day Incantation is still heavy as fuck, and that whole memorable thing has been significantly ironed out. John McEntee has become quite the songwriter in his old age, and for about the last decade-plus we’ve been treated to the best of both underworlds. Dirges of Elysium picks up right where 2012’s Vanquish in Vengeance left off. A whirlwind of powerful hooks encased in blast paired with… well… dirges of Elysium. This might be McEntee’s best vocal performance since taking over the mic a decade ago. A few slight hiccups, but for the most part he revels in Old School guttural glory while even managing to be understandable at times. Some of the LP’s longer cuts tend to drag on a bit, and 16-minute closer “Elysium (Eternity Is Nigh)” is just about impossible to sit all the way through, but overall Dirges is yet another worthwhile addition to a body of work that speaks for itself.
Suggested mixtape selections: “Debauchery,” “Carrion Prophecy,” “Charnel Grounds,” “Impalement of Divinity,” and “Dominant Ethos.”

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