Here at Don't Count On It Reviews, you can read reviews from different artists from different styles.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ikuinen Kaamos - Fall of Icons

In The Not So Distant Future (Is An Opeth Appearing).

Ikuinen Kaamos is a progressive black metal band from Finland. Steadily over their 13 year existence they have moved from a basic black metal band into a band that is becoming more and more revered for their progressive songwriting abilities and technical playing skills. This new album picks up where their last EP, "Closure," left off, and creates a sound that is familiar, yet different.
That sound that Ikuinen Kaamos has stumbled upon is that of Opeth. Upon hearing the first song, Indoctrination of The Lost, you get the feeling that you've heard this sound before, if you're an Opeth fan, you have heard it before. This opening track sounds like it could have been on the "Ghost Reveries" album. It's all subjective as to whether this is a good or bad thing, but during it's mellow acoustic sections, you could replace vocalist Risto Herranen with Mikael Akerfeldt, and this would be an Opeth song.
Other than that, this is a fantastic album full of different influences, Opeth just happens to be the most prominent. Since most of the songs are over 8 minutes long, a lot is accomplished. Utilizing elements of their past black metal styling, their newer progressive sections, melodic solos, clean vocals, and acoustic passages, makes each and every song a treat to listen to over and over without them becoming boring.
The second track, Statues, continues where the opening track left off, but contains more black metal oriented vocals instead of death grunts; though they are mixed together throughout the track. While this track is not as varied as the opener, it features more melodic guitar riffs and more of a black metal influence in the middle of the track. The ending of the song utilizes more acoustic guitars playing a folk melody.
The center piece of the album, In Ruins, is not only the shortest track on the album, but is also the most melodic. Up to this point, mostly growls and screams have been the main vocal style, they are still used on this song as well, but cleans feature dominance. The main melody in the song could be a solo in it's own right, while about half of the track is acoustic, that melody is done electrically. The solo on this song is also one of the best on the album.
Condemned is another track that is much more like the first 2 songs. The opening riff on this song is very unique sounding and has quite and addictive quality to it. This track is the first that brings in an influence from doom metal in it's chorus section, while not overly fast or progressive, it's the element of melancholy that brings this riff to a listener's attention. This track brings to mind a bit of a My Dying Bride or Katatonia influence to the band's sound, which is good to hear some doomy riffs.
Apart closes the album on an epic note, being over 16 minutes long. This track does what every epic should do for a band, encompass everything that is on an album and bring something unique to the table. Solos are scattered throughout the song and range from more melodic and soulful to fast and technical. Acoustic passages are also fluent in the song, remaining very much a part of the band's sound, bringing that doom influence to their playing, bringing to mind Swallow The Sun for one part. The vocals vary from death and black metal screams and grunts to clean singing on this track, but the music is the main focal point on this track.
Overall, I could compare this band, and this album, to In Vain and their new album; this is because both have moved from a progressive black metal style with mainly screamed vocals and black metal oriented songs into progressive territory that utilizes more styles. This is an album that many fans of progressive metal will find enjoyable and worthwhile. This is a band that is still quite unknown, but on the rise, check out this album.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Node - In The End Everything Is A Gag

Sometimes The Easy Way Is to Just Leave.

Node is an Italian technical death metal band. Having been formed over 15 years ago and suffered numerous line-up changes, this new record contains some of their finest moments to date. Testament styled trash meets Children of Bodom melodic sensibilities and Pestilence technical prowess.
As already stated, the music has a very old-school feel to it, not being incredibly brutal or technical when compared to newer bands. This might turn off some people who are into bands like The Faceless or Beneath The Massacre from checking these guys out, but if you like those bands, this band is still worth your time. The technicality of Node is not dizzying riffs played at hyper-speed, brutal breakdowns, or technical wankery solos, as much as it is fitting cool sounding riffs into a song. This means that even if these guys aren't the most technical band out there, they can still write catchy songs and riffs that blow most of these newer bands away.
A lot of the songs on this record focus more on a groove more than a super fast thrash or death metal riffs or trying to be uber technical. Songs like New Order and Mia Follow Me Down feature some grooves that many will label these guys as a nu-metal or groove metal band, and neither of those is really accurate descriptions. Node explores much more territory than bands in those genres usually do, plus they actually have riffs.
There are quite a few songs that feature some more dissonant parts. The Masks of Life features a Dillinger Escape Plan-like part before it's solo. While this is not the most enticing or original thing ever, it mixes things up a little bit.
Lyrically, Node has more in common with a band like Strapping Young Lad. This comes from the lyrics being socially conscious but still having a sense of humor. The opening track 100% Hate shows a sense of humor by poking fun at society, hookers, etc. without sounding cheesy.
There is a cover on this album of Billy Idol's Rebel Yell. This is actually a decent cover song, and it also shows that the band is willing to show influences outside of metal. Besides being a cool song, it sounds almost like a copy of the cover that COB did of the song, both vocally and musically. This could be both a good or a bad thing depending on how you view that band.
The closing track, In Death You Live, could be considered the ballad of the album. Most of the song is acoustically driven with spoken vocals, but moves into a more thrash riffs during the chorus. It also features one of those epic guitar solos that is usually found in a ballad as well. Besides closing the song on a rather different note, compared to the rest of the album, it is a decent song.
Vocally, nothing on this album is overly low or high sounding. The vocals contain a heavy yelling style that has more in common with hardcore and thrash metal, or even early death metal. Occasionally he will move into a style that sounds like Alexi from COB, but he doesn't vary his style more than that. In a song like The White Is Burning, some spoken word parts come in the middle of the song, and This Ocean and All My Faults features some higher cleaner singing.
Overall, this is a good record, not mind-blowing, but worth hearing. Many people will probably decide that this is not technical enough or doesn't feature enough breakdowns, but fans of both those things should still check this record out. This record features some major hooks and is one that will have parts stuck in your head.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: The White Is Burning, When I Believed In God, New Order, All My Faults, In Death You Live

Carach Angren - Death Came Through A Phantom Ship

Sail The Seas On A Black Ship

Carach Angren is a symphonic black metal band from the Netherlands. Not to deter a reader any further, yes, this is similar in style to both Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. All the theatrics are on this album, but unlike them, and many other legions of symphonic black metal bands, Carach Angren can actually manage to keep your attention.
Many will, and rightly so, compare this band to those above without even listening to a note of their music; but this is not what you should do. This band actually manage to create cool concepts that rival that of the mighty Cradle in statue. Both this new record and their debut feature dark concepts that are both very up front lyrically, but also leave enough room for interpretation of what the concept actually is talking about, though not as much on this record as the debut.
As for the music, they are not using an entire orchestra like Dimmu or Cradle, they are using the synthe, but actually are quite straight with a listener by not trying to make everything so orchestrated that the actual riffs suffer. The playing on here is top-notch by all the players. The riffs are heavy and melodic, with the occasional progressive inclination thrown in. The drums are fast and contain your average blast-beat and heavy use of double-bass. But it all sounds very dark, which might confuse you, but once you hear this you'll understand.
The same can also be said for the band's song-writing abilities. While heavy riffs, tight drumming, and major orchestration are used fluently throughout, they wouldn't mean anything if the band didn't have a talent for writing good songs. These songs owe a lot to progressive music when structure comes into view. Bands like Opeth or Emperor both have equal parts in Carach Angren's sound and the way these songs are put together makes them much more enjoyable to listen to repeatedly.
Carach Angren is also not as theatrical as their predecessors. While those bands are easily overtaken by their concepts and orchestration, thus the music suffers, these guys don't use that fancy synthe work as a crutch. The synthe work on here can be a deal breaker due to the fact that it is used more for atmosphere more than anything, but does come up front with for more neo-classical playing. While an entire orchestra was not used, it has a much more real sound to than most bands. Not only due to the mix, but also to the mix of different sounds from an orchestral point of view. A string section is certainly used a lot, but piano, brass, and even a little bit of woodwind samples are used, like in Van Der Decken's Triumph.
As much as symphonic black metal relies on the use of keyboards or orchestras to help add an atmosphere, as they do on here, the guitars seem to be able to keep your attention. The riffs being played are a mix between more melodic death metal and black metal riffs, interspersed with some progressive and neo-classical solos and melodies. While not totally original sounding, they are more entertaining than most bands in the same boat.
The vocals also are quite interesting when compared to other bands second records. Seregor's vocals are quite diverse. While his primary style is a regular black metal rasp, he mixes it up with some clean vocals in And The Consequence Macabre and some death metal vocals on Departure Towards A Nautical Curse.
Overall, this is an enjoyable record that expands on their debut. While this band is fairly unknown right now, people should really check them out due to their actual talent for creating a unique sound and songs. This should appeal to people who like both black metal and death metal, granted that it's either more melodic or progressive than just the normal boundaries that hold the genres. Check these guys out if you haven't already.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Darkthrone - Circle The Wagons

The New School Has Been Crushed By The Generation of Old.

Darkthrone is an essential black metal band that all fans already know about. Over the years Darkthrone has shifted their style from death metal to black metal to more crush punk/proto-thrash style, and on this record, they do it again. Darkthrone has unleashed the almighty hammer of old-school heavy metal onto their fans.
This record still contains those traces of previous records, including the rawness, but more in style, the punk aesthetic. Songs like the title track, Circle The Wagons, and These Treasures Will Never Befall You all contain a very Motorhead and Paul Di'Anno Iron Maiden style of punk rock influenced heavy metal. This punk assault will never leave their overall sound, even within some of the slower numbers that have more in common with Black Sabbath.
Fenriz's drumming on this record definitely brings the Motorhead sound home with a ferocious assault on the kit. I Am The Graves of The 80s perfectly exhibits this, sounding like a track that could have been on "Ace of Spades" era Motorhead. Though his drumming style is not spectacular, it is perfectly suited to the style of Darkthrone.
Nocturno Culto's vocals are more old school as well in terms of his cleans. They fit perfectly within this "new" sound that is being used on this record. Though he never completely abandons his primal screams or bulky shouts, they are less prominent on this album more than any other. Whether it's more the dramatic vocals on the punk title track or the more gruff ones on the technical rock song Black Mountain Totem, they all make this record stand out among the last couple which have each steadily moved towards this sound.
The guitars on this album are fuzzy and dirty and gritty sounding as ever, but the riffs played seem even more catchy. Black Mountain Totem and I Am The Working Class both feature some of the catchiest riffs on the album. The riffs usually stay within the punk realm, being pretty mid-tempo to fast and open-ended sounding but will occassionally move into a more doom realm that is welcome. Black metal riffs never really come into the sound except at the beginning of Eyes Burst At Dawn. The solos on this record are actually very good, very expressive sounding, and unlike many bands, it sounds like a person is playing them, which is refreshing to hear.
Overall, this is a strong record that brings classic metal to the forefront of it's sound. Any fan of metal's younger days, the 70s and early 80s, will fall in love with the rawness and aggression of this record. Definitely worth checking out even if you're not a fan of Darkthrone's older material.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Those Treasures Will Never Befall You, Running For Borders, Stylized Corpse, Black Mountain Totem, Eyes Burst At Dawn

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gorath - MXCII

The Darkest Reaches of Your Soul.

Gorath is a progressive black metal band from Belgium. Over the years and consecutive albums released, Gorath has become more and more progressive in terms of the musical expression, but also bleaker. "MXCII" perfectly demonstrates this darkness.
This entire album bleeds a black metal aesthetic performed in a similar way to a band like Mayhem, who have always been black metal, but never sound the same. The riffs on this record are more mid-paced and groovy than on previous ones, but gives the atmosphere a darker tone to accompany F. Dupont's vocals. Some the overall tone and vibe of the record might not be as aggressive as many fans may have thought it would be, but this style lends itself to being performed live. Much of the music has small breaks, like seconds, that would lure people into cheering when this is being played live, only to go back into a cool riff.
Another thing fans might not expect on this record is the different pacing changes that goes on throughout the record. From more mid-paced black metal grooves will stop and give way to a more tribal drum pattern, found on Doed Over't Galeveld. The only song to feature a more black metal structure is the middle and instrumental track, Do Ut Des, which is also the shortest track, this really seems to be a more traditional lead into the next track, the blazing Godsgerecht Geschiedde.
The drums really make this record stand out among all these other bands coming out now that play progressive black/death metal. B. Vanderheyden's drumming on this record is really incredible sounding. The amount of different fills he fits into his drumming without making it sound, or look, like he's just showing off his skills. Different cymbals and small fills with the toms really make you listen to the drums a lot more than an average listener might.
The leads played on this record aren't really what a fan might recognize as a lead at first, but listening will reveal some cool soloing. Some use of mid-paced guitar playing allow the lead guitar to play some slower, more melancholic soloing. Even the lead parts that accompany the rhythms are still chilling and feel ice-cold compared to other band's constant, non-stop, tremolo picking.
Godsgerecht Geschiedde and it's follow-up track, Heidewake, are more traditional sounding black metal songs, when compared to the rest of the tracks. These two tracks do have things that make them stand out though, mainly their structures. Both of these two tracks start off ripping and fast, but gradually slow down and then build up again into the aggressive side. But what separates these two tracks from each other is that Heidewake has a more depressive black metal ending to it, with dark howls that bring to mind early Shining.
The final track, Gesta Sacti Servatii, is the longest song Gorath has ever released, topping 10 minutes. This track moves through everything on this album so far, from more mid-paced riffs to eerie leads, progressive introductions into fast black metal phases. This track also contains the only "real" guitar solo part on this record and demonstrates a definite prog-influenced melody inside of itself.
Overall, this record is very cool and any black metal fan would find this a good listen. While maybe not as intriguing as their previous record, "Misotheism," this record contains the darker edge that that record didn't contain as much. This record is Gorath honing their abilities and sharpening their craft, meaning that these songs are meant more for a live setting.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Tombeveld, Doed Over't Galgeveld, Godsgerecht Geschiedde, Gesta Sacti Servatii

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Autechre - Oversteps

Welcome The New Age.

Autechre is an electronic duo who started back in the late 80s and are still going. Being one of the founders of the IDM, Intelligent Dance Music, has lended them the ability to experiment within electronics's boundaries while utilizing many different styles. This ability has made Autechre stand out as one of the genres most forward thinking artists.
"Oversteps" is some new territory for fans of the band. Unlike the previous release, "Quaristice," this album features some longer tracks and a much more atmospheric vibe. This adds to the minimalistic approach that is taken on this album, as was on the previous one as well, but more so on this effort.
In addition to the use of a larger atmosphere, the use of more drum and bass, new age, and ambient music can be seen throughout the record. Ilanders feature some of the classic style that Autechre has done in the past mixed with some more glitches than found in the past. While pt2ph8 is one of the most ambient influenced tracks on the album, with a very rich mixture of more trance-like beats over ambient atmospheres.
New age influence is spread out across this whole album, from top to bottom. Though one could argue that this could be an influence from chamber music as well, it adds that unique ambiance to the record. Compared to other albums by Autechre, "Oversteps" proves to be a little bit more easier to digest compared to "LP5" or "Tri Repetae" for example.
But the tracks that stand out the most on this album are the ones that more a little more experimental in nature. While all the tracks feature their quieter moments, it's the ones that maintain it that are the real entertainers. Tracks like See On See, that are very minimal on arrangements compared to a track like Qplay. While louder sections do have their place on here, like on Os Veix3, they don't carry the same sensibility that those quieter ones do.
Moments on this album can become a bit repetitive due to the minimal approach taken. Some tracks do seem a bit more like filler compared to others, and those tracks that don't will really stand out. You might find yourself skipping over certain tracks that get a bit too monotonous to get to the tracks that hold your attention a little bit better.
By far, the best track on here is Treale. Having a very thick mold of atmospheres and textures blend together over strings. The use of electric noise glitches coming in every once in a while also keeps your attention. As the track moves on, it gradually becomes more and more layered with additional string arrangements being placed underneath the dominant beats and melody.
Overall, this record is fairly decent. Though nowhere as good as some of their other releases, "Oversteps" is by no means a misstep for Autechre. This is still something worthwhile for fans of electronic music.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Ilanders, Known(1), See On See, Treale, O=0, D-Sho Qub, Redfall

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peeping Tom - Peeping Tom

Avant-Pop For You to Love.

Peeping Tom is a pop rock band under the direction of avant-garde musician Mike Patton. While previous bands have explored mainstream explorations, Faith No More, avant-garde weirdness, Mr. Bungle, and straight-forward heavy rock, Tomahawk, Peeping Tom is much more accessible than any other project. This is an album full of collaborations.
Peeping Tom explores Patton's fascination with pop music. The overall style of this record is still very avant-garde in the way it combines elements of pop, hip-hop, alt. rock, trip-hop, dub, and more mainstream music together seamlessly. Fans of mainstream might have a little bit of trouble listening to it just because of everything going on in these songs.
The first track, Five Seconds, features dub and hip-hop artist Odd Nosdam on it. This song is pretty trippy sounding. While the main sound is very much a rock riff, the pattern that it follows is much more seductive. The subtle hip-hop beats that underline the whole song give it that sexy vibe that this whole record will follow.
The second track, and single, is Mojo. This track features beat-boxer Rahzel and hip-hop producer Dan The Automator on it. This track is catchy and simple, being fairly straightforward sounding with a hip-hop beat underneath Patton's signature vocal lines. Rahzel provides the beats with a more human approach to his beat-boxing changing up the beats for each section of the song.
Don't Even Trip is the next song. This song has a lot of elements of trip-hop and ambient music to it's sound. Featuring trip-hop master Amon Tobin, creating very trippy beats and bass lines that compliment Patton's melodic singing on this track. Though this track is almost 6 minutes, it is one of the catchiest songs on the record.
The fourth song is Getaway, featuring rapper Kool Keith. This song features Kool Keith in lead rapping vocals while Patton comes in mainly for the chorus and bridge. It is a very dark, more hip-hop oriented song with an almost 60's mob soundtrack-esque vibe to it.
The next track is Your Neighborhood Spaceman, featuring Odd Nosdam and Jel programming it. This track bring a lot of dub and hip-hop influence to the track. Though still very straight, this track moves through a more dub-step feel into a very ghetto hip-hop vibe almost like a tape-cut.
Kill The DJ is the next track, featuring Massive Attack. This track obviously sounds like a Massive Attack song due to D and G's assistance on the track. Mike Patton is not on lead vocals on the track, providing only the lead chorus and several other lines throughout the song.
Caipirinha is the next track, featuring bossa nova singer Bebel Gilberto. This track is very different type of song, owing a lot to lounge music. This could best be described as a duet between Gilberto and Patton. The track is very low-key, never really breaking out until it's chorus.
The next song is Celebrity Death Match with turn-tablist Kid Koala. This is the track that sounds the most like Patten's past work in some of FNM, being very reminiscent of rap-rock vocals with a hip-hop backdrop. Being a contrast to the last song, this track is louder, reminding us of old-school, west-coast rap and hip-hop.
How U Feelin? is the next track. This song features rapper Doseone with Patton on vocals, and reflects his dark hip-hop style. Nothing special compared to previous tracks, but is still entertaining and doesn't go on for too long, being under 3 minutes long.
The next song is Sucker, featuring Norah Jones on vocals with Patton. This track is one of the best, with a very sexy chorus and subtle dub beats under their vocals. This isn't too long, ending before it gets overdone.
The final track, We're Not Alone, is a remix of Dub Trio track that Patton guested on a few years before this album was released. This track is the heaviest song, being more alt. rock driven than any other track, featuring some more aggressive vocals by Patton. Though not an original Peeping Tom track it is still a very good track.
Overall, this album should appeal to Patton fans and fans of more mainstream music. Fans of "sexy" music will find the beats on here precious and subtle without being overpowering. There is a lot to find good about this record.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Five Seconds, Mojo, Don't Even Trip, Your Neighborhood Spaceman, Sucker, We're Not Alone

Decrepit Spectre - Coal Black Hearses EP

Remove Yourself From The Series.

Decrepit Spectre is a progressive black metal band from France. This band could be considered a super-group of sorts, having members of
, Seth, and Blutvial. This EP is just a small taste of what someone might expect from a coming full-length release.
For people that don't know about Decrepit Spectre, they are a band with a concept. The entire concept of the band was based upon Kvohst and Heimoth's love for the TV show, Six Feet Under. So the sound of this record is based on that and has a bit of a cinematic sound towards some of it's sections.
Guitar players Heimoth and Cyriex create wonderful technical groove riffs that still very much capture the spirit of black metal. But never really playing in one particular style, the guitars are rather playing to create atmospheres. The riffs never stay in one place for too long, shifting once you become comfortable in what you've listening to presently. Stylistically ranging from black metal to death metal to thrash and beyond, nothing is really off limits on this record.
Kvohst's vocals are, as usual, great sounding and original. Ranging from more traditional black metal screams to clean singing to deep chanting. This guy has a range that only Attila from Mayhem could match him. While most of the screams are right in front of the sound, the cleans are used with a lot of reverb, giving a large and open sound around the vocals. This effect gives his vocals an almost operatic vibe, like in Stranded Angels.
The bass is actually very clear in the mix of the EP. Still doing it's job providing the low end, the rumble is very clear and up front in the sound. This gives things a little different sound having the bass so, comfortably, placed within the guitars and drums.
Overall, this is a very promising EP. Definitely worth your time if your into black metal with an experimental side that moves into gothic and progressive territories. Fans of the members other bands will find this record as enticing as those are. Check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Coal Black Hearses, Graverider

Friday, February 19, 2010

Martriden - Encounter The Monolith

Expansive and Precise.

Martriden is a melodic black metal band from Montana. "Encounter The Monolith" is their second album, following up the promising "The Unsettling Dark." This new album improves upon everything on that debut record and expands upon it with near razor precision at song-writing.
As already stated, "Encounter The Monolith" expands upon the sound of the debut. These changes have moved the band into more progressive and technical territory, combined with their melodic style. While the previous record contained 10 songs, this record only contains 6 tracks, with many surpassing 5 minutes in length.
Opener, The Three Metamorphoses, starts things off with a bang. Starting fast and powerful and sounding like it was modeled after Emperor and Opeth. This track is most definitely an extreme metal song that moves through melodic black metal riffs as well as melancholic clean guitar parts that create an ebb and flow vibe to the song. Though this track exceeds 8 minutes, it doesn't feel that long, the band showcases some good song-writing abilities by focusing the overall sound on melodic and catchy riffs and fast drumming patterns while the vocals remain in the black metal vain. The guitars mainly stay within the black metal realm throughout most of the song, but moves into a bit of death metal during it's later moments. The final lines in the song are are the most melodic on the track, and acts as a small moment to breathe before the next track.
Heywood R. Floyd is a monster of a track, being rooted within more of a technical death metal sound more than black metal. This track exhibits more of a groove over melody, changing the pace. The bass is especially prominent in this track, displaying a similar style to Jeroen Paul Thesseling from Obscura. As the track progresses, it gradually becomes more and more of a progressive track, the use of keyboards to enhance the overall vibe of the track, giving it an epic feel. Guitar solos are littered throughout this track and bring that Opethian approach to this song. The drums are also especially creative throughout, using a lot of fills and different patterns to make the song less repetitive, while also adding to that progressive atmosphere.
Discovery is a track that brings more of a traditional sounding black metal approach to the table. The overall vibe from this song bring to mind the new Dark Fortress record, having a very catchy and accessible riff while still remains very technical and melodic. The melody on this track is undeniable and will instantly latch into your head. Nothing new is really demonstrated on this track that differs too much from the first 2 songs, but is still a good listen.
The fourth track, Human Error, follows a similar style to the previous, being less exploitative while demonstrating a different style. This track has a style that has much more in common with technical death metal more than the black metal style of the last track. This track does feature some cool atmospheric keyboards in the background. Being the shortest track on the album, it demonstrates that Martriden can write shorter, almost traditional songs while still showing a unique take on something old.
The title-track is the follows next. This track is much more of an epic and atmospheric type of death metal song. Being a little slower than previous tracks allows the track a little more breathing room for the atmosphere to enhance the overall feel of the song. Clean vocals are first demonstrated on this song. Some more progressive phases come in and out of the song, making this track a particular highlight on this record. This track stands out among the rest due to it's overall slower and melancholic atmosphere, something that the band has not attempted on a song yet.
The final track is the 10 minute epic, Death and Transfiguration. This track shows a definitive reference to Opeth's sound as well as elements of Katatonia and Agalloch are experimented with on this track. The atmosphere blends well with the dark sound of the guitars and the more poly-rhythmic drumming patterns. The keyboards even seem to explore a bit of the 70's mellotron that Opeth has used so much in their sound. The use of more clean guitars come in about half way through the track, bringing in the Katatonia and Agalloch touches to the sound. Being very solemn and doomy without moving into doom territory, they are able to express a lot in this beautiful section before moving back into more epic metal sections. Although exploring a lot within this song, it is an instrumental track, showcasing the talent of these musicians.
Overall, this record has really impressed me a lot. Coming from a band that put out a solid debut record, that although was good, didn't really show anything new, and coming back only two years later with something fresh and unique sounding. While this record isn't entirely a new style, it is the best I've heard a band move forward within one record to another and develop their sound so fully. This record is one that people should hear, this band will appeal to fans of any of the band's mentioned above.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every track is a highlight

Borknagar - Universal

For The Whole World to Hear.

Borknagar is a progressive black metal band from Norway. Any fan of black metal knows the extensive history behind this band, from super-group beginnings of viking metal to the more progressive natured black metal of nowadays. "Universal" is a record that encompasses everything from their past and infuses it with a spirit of regeneration to keep it modern.
It's been almost 4 years since Borknagar last released an album, 2006's "Origin." This album does not take a lot of what was on that record and add it to it's sound. There are still moments of more progressive rock and folk on "Universal," but they're intertwined with the metal, not separate from it.
This record contains some of Borknagar's most epic sounding songs to date on it. Even in opener, Havoc, there is a feeling that surrounds the song in a very, almost euphoric way, giving it that epic nature. Both the instrumentation and vocals are performed excellently. Throughout the entire song, Lazare' keyboards and synthesizers bring an orchestral, yet psychedelic, vibe to the more black metal oriented style of the guitars. Vintersorg's vocals soar above during the chorus of the track, creating something incredibly infectious.
Something that this band has done on their recent album continues to be present on "Universal," and that is the mix of every instrument. Nothing is unheard on this record, even the bass is quite present in the sound, and is never hiding beneath everything else. The whole record is like an open book, allowing you to hear whatever you may like without having to search for it.
This is also a good case of musicians being able to create songs with hooks and still be trve to their sound. Never one to abandon the black metal touches of their earlier work, it is still here, and some of their fiercest yet. Maintaining a strong style that depends on every player to show their abilities and not show off or try to be as flashy as possible.
From the blazing guitar riffs that Oystein Garnes Brun and Jens F. Ryland provide to the ferocious drumming of newcomer David Kinkade. These three members create that old school black metal sound that is on every Borknagar record, while it is bass player Tyr and keyboardist/vocalist Lazare who provide elements of more progressive music to the sound.
Tyr definetely makes his presence on this record known quickly. Utilizing an 8-string bass without overdoing anything is an impressive feat. He never comes out an attacks you with the bass-lines he creates, but slowly makes himself known to your ears as tracks progress and evolve.
Meanwhile, Lazare performs both vocals and keyboards on this album. The vocals he does are mainly back-ups for Vintersorg but steps up as the main vocalist in a later track, that will be described later. His keyboards give this album a major 70's feel. Using more old-school mellotron and synthesizers instead of more modern keyboards, he demonstrates the most soloing on the record. His work on this record is a real treat to listen to as he both utilizes subtlety in his playing as well as when he plays up front.
Vocalist Vintersorg has also stepped up his game for this record in writing some incredibly catchy vocal melodies. He utilizes both his clean folk-singing and his harsher black metal screams on this record, with tracks like Reason being dominated more by the harsher side, while Worldwide features more of his cleans. Both of these tracks cannot describe the presence that he has on this record, walking a thin line of being always present and annoying.
Songs like For A Thousand Years to Come have some of the most progressive moments on it. While it still maintains it's more black metal formula, it moves through different phases of intensity and beauty. The ending melodies that Vintersorg and Lazare provide in the vocals are some of the best Borknagar have ever had. While Fleshflower mixes things up a little bit. Both musically and vocally speaking, this track is unique compared to the other tracks on this album. Vocally, Lazare provides a lot of the main vocal lines, while Vintersorg provides the back-ups. Musically, this song has an almost retro feel to it, with the guitar lines being very melodic and the keyboards maintaining the 70's approach that has been on the whole album. The track appears to mix old Borknagar styled viking metal with more melodic prog-rock.
The final track, My Domain, features some beautiful melodies provided by previous Borknagar vocalist, ICS. Votex, also known as Simen Hestnaes, previous bassist/clean vocalist in Dimmu Borgin. This track is short, but concludes the album on a serious high note. This track is more doomy than the other tracks on the record, but is still emphasizes the epic nature that the rest of the record has demonstrated.
Overall, "Universal" is an excellent album, right up there with the best this year. Surpassing Borknagar's previous efforts in recent years by far. Showcasing both elements of beauty, progression, intensity, and brutality all within songs individually and together. This is one of Borknagar's finest moments.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every song is a highlight

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elysian Blaze - Levitating The Carnal

Moving Through These Empty Halls.

Elysian Blaze is a blackened funeral doom band from Australia. This band is actually a one-man band under the control of Mutatiis, who performs everything on this record. Though it is just Mutatiis, he has crafted some of the most original albums of the new and flourishing style.
This is the second album released by Mutatiis under the moniker of Elysian Blaze. Having only been released one year after his debut, "Cold Walls and Apparitions," this new album contains an even darker and more gloomy sound than the one that was found on the previous record. This album is one that just pushes you down and down into a cold depressive state.
This album contains only 7 tracks, yet is over an hour in length. Almost every track on this record is over 10 minutes, with only the opener and closer tracks being under 5 minutes. This can be a bit exhausting due to the length of each song and the nature at which the song will travel.
While the overall sound of the record is most definitely black metal, the more doomy elements are intertwined with these more traditional moments. This record moves at the speed of a black metal record from the 90's scene, almost mid-paced at most points, but speeding up or down after short bursts. This can be useful in just entertaining yourself whilst listening to a single song since they are so long.
The more funeral doom elements are due to the use of heavy and encompassing reverb. This record is practically drowning itself in it's own atmosphere. The use of such a dark and massive sounding atmosphere creates a cavern-like vibe to this record, feeling as though one is simply watching this guy perform all of this from the top of a cliff, while he is stories below playing it.
The use of keyboards gives this album a different feeling. While the keyboards on here are played in a traditional use, for the doom and funeral doom style, they add a new layer to this dirge of an album. The keyboards are usually played in a piano/organ format while being somewhere between the guitars and the monolithic atmosphere. So the keys and their effects can be a little off-putting due to how up-front they are in the mix.
Vocally, Mutatiis is not doing anything on this record that you've haven't heard from other one-man bands in this field. Most of the vocals are screams with the occasional spoken section, but it's nothing special. The vocals only add a sense of darkness that cannot be expressed in the music by itself in an instrumental form, and that is what the vocals do on this album.
Sigh of Night is an interesting track due to it being the shortest actual song on here, being about 10:30 in length. It showcases more of the doom style being very slow in nature and featuring some cool keyboard work. But what makes this track stand out is it's use of ambient music experimentation. While about half of the track is metal, it shifts into a hypnotizing ambient piece. This adds to the complexity of this recording as well as to the building of the music's atmosphere that will be expanded upon the follow-up track, Eclipse.
Beyond The Shape of Mortality is another track that changes things up. Being the longest song, at about 14 minutes, it moves across all the areas in Elysian Blaze's sound. From the ambient setting of it's simple beginning, to the funeral doom portion of the dreary piano that gently plays throughout the track, to the black metal aggression, to the doomy atmosphere, this is everything that this band is and has done within this boundary up until now. What really makes this track stand out though, is the use of the piano. Using this instrument in an almost neo-classical way really changes this track for the better and makes it much darker and easier to listen to in it's entirety.
Overall, this record has it's rare moments of beauty and multiple moments of aggression and depression, but that's what makes this record different from it's piers. This album is for people who like a dark atmosphere in their music and can tolerate long songs. While this may not be a stand out record or a record that defines the genre, it does have a sound that many people are unfamiliar with before listening to this album.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Macabre By Thy Blood, Sigh of Night, Beyond The Shape of Mortality, Levitating The Carnal

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pitbulls In The Nursery - Lunatic

Someone In This Group Has Got The Crazies.

Pitbulls In The Nursery is a technical/progressive death metal band from France. While their overall influences can be traced to other styles beyond metal, the performance on here is rooted in those styles already mentioned. This is the band's debut record and shows an incredible amount of talent.
The root of this bands sound is most definitely rooted within the death metal realm, but they explore so much more on this debut. From the technical and progressive playing styles exhibited by the instrumentalist to the use of more obscure lyrical topics. Every influence can be heard, but is melded into new shapes and forms that make them what PITN wants them to be.
Influences can most obviously be drawn from bands like Meshuggah, Cynic, and Atheist. These can be attributed to the bands love for more groove-based riffs while making them wildly technical. The occasional jazz-fusion break appears here and there throughout but aren't as present in the sound as the more aggressive side of the band. The more progressive side of the band is made clear on the first song on this record, Lunatic Factory, expressing a technical groove for the basis of the song, while those Cynic-influenced moments appear during the chorus. While the entirety of instrumental track Antagony is almost a tribute to Cynic and Atheist fusion.
The musicianship on this record blows many newer bands away and puts these guys near the top for new contenders. Every instrument is heard on this record and no musician ever gets left is the background. While the guitars do remain the instrument most will hear, the drums are always keeping up with the rest of the guys in the band and is never just providing blast-beats. The bass is also very impressive on this record, always being near the front of the sound and comes out for key and memorable parts of songs.
As already stated, the bass is a thing that this band has going for them. Bassist Francois Ugarte includes elements in his overall tone that can be traced to more jazz and funk styles. These are all utilized in the band's sound, whether it's the technical bass line provided for the end of the chorus of Impact or the funk beginning riffs provided on Corrupt TV, this guy knows how to play.
Drummer Jerome Farion's drumming on this record is not just what many will attribute to a technical death metal band. A lot of the drumming on this record could be compared to the early work of Meshuggah drummer, Tomas Haake, utilizing more obscure grooves as well as bits of more jazz oriented fills and patterns. He does of coarse do more traditional death metal blast-beats on these songs, namely on Corrupt TV, but they never withstand the entire song like many bands.
While guitarist Mathieu Commun and Simon Thevenet both exhibit a lot of technical and progressive playing abilities on this record. While they provide grooves that are somewhere between Meshuggah-like grooves and Dream Theater string weedling, they never cross the line into complete wankery territory. Solos on this album are utilized in more odd fashions, never using a typical styled solo more than once. These solos are more comparable to those of their influences, like Meshuggah or Cynic, being very melodic, but very odd sounding.
Vocalist Julien "Panda" Foucault's vocals on this album are more death metal oriented. The vocals don't change a lot, remaining mainly low and in the range of most death metal vocalist, so the singer doesn't particularly standout as the best musician, but he'll change it up in certain songs. Tracks like Calibrated or Corrupt TV feature bits of his spoken vocals to change up this monotony. Though he is not the best vocalist in death metal, he is creative enough to create some unique vocal patterns that do show some talent.
3 tracks on this debut are taken from the band's 2001 demo. Those tracks include: Impact, Strong, and Monkey's Masturbation, and these are the shortest tracks on the record. These tracks are less technical than the rest and feature a more Meshuggah mixed with later period Death sounds. Being progressive but more rooted in traditional death metal styles.
The final track on the record, In My Veins, is over 16 minutes long. Though the actual track itself is onl about 5:30 minutes, but the rest of the track is not just silence. About 7 minutes in, a sitar comes in and begins to play, quite elegantly. Around 9:30 minutes drums, bass, and a clean guitar come in a accompany it, giving it an interesting sound. The track begins moving from more fusion sounding into a more metal sound that was exhibited on the rest of the album.
Overall, this record is extremely promising. Sounding like an interesting mix between technical and progressive metal where all the musicians are talented and can all play their instruments well enough to craft songs that allow them to show off but still remain catchy. Fans of technical and progressive music will find a lot of good playing on this record and should take the time to look this band up.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Lunatic Factory, Impact, Corrupt TV, Monkey's Masturbation, La Norme, In My Veins

Monday, February 15, 2010

When Mine Eyes Blacken - When Mine Eyes Blacken

Screaming Alone In The Dark.

When Mine Eyes Blacken is a depressive black metal project from New Zealand. This is, in other words, a one man band formed by Mort. This is not his only depressive project out there, but it is one of the ones with better quality.
Like I already said, this is one of only many projects. His other "bands" include: Exiled From Light, Beyond Light, Serpenthrone, Winds of Sorrow, Schizophrenia, and Einsamkeit. Like what was stated above already, they all play a form of the same type of music found on this album, depressive black metal.
Nothing on this album is particularly different from other DBM bands, but the overall sound of the band is a little bit more "metal," so to speak. What this means here is that there are moments of more traditional black metal in the songs. Beneath Pale Stars showcases this by using more traditional double-bass work on the drums and more tremolo picking. While this is not all that impressive in the long run, it is a little bit more metal than some bands in the genre.
The drums on the album are probably what makes this album a bit different from others putting out similar work. The drums here exhibit more fills than 90% of the bands in the same genre do. This breaks up the monotony of a record like this, which prides itself of more repetitive cycles of melancholic guitar parts.
Most of what you will hear from the guitars is very clean and sorrowful on here, the entire opening track, Secluded Within Sorrow, Solace Awaits, is done in this format. While Beneath Pale Stars has more distortion to it, giving it a little more edge than the rest of the songs. But the guitars on here are mainly used like in other bands of the genre, to create a hypnotic type of vibe and a dark atmosphere.
The vocals on here are probably similar, if not the same, to what you'll get on another record by similar bands. The majority of vocals are shrieks that have a lot of reverb on them, making them sound all distant and creepy to people who don't know about this style of black metal. The vocals don't vary themselves a lot, you might have some screams or murmuring/speaking/talking within this record but that's about as varied as they get.
The lyrics from what Mort is screaming about, if you can understand them, isn't all that bad considered to most of the bands within DBM. The lyrics don't really go on and on about this guy wanting to die or commit suicide or kill other people, he isn't even really complaining at all. Most of the lyrics on this album are almost poetic at times, yes they are dark, and depending on the person, depressing, but they feature a tone and phrasing to them that many "bands" don't have.
The songs on this record are long in length. Featuring only 4 songs, 2 of them exceed 10 minutes, one going just over 20. Depending on the person listening, this could be good or bad, those who enjoy longer songs could easily find themselves entranced by these tracks, while those who don't will find these songs to be boring and monotonous.
Overall, this is not the worst DBM album ever made, but it's not the best. Those who do enjoy the style will find points that stand out more than others and points that are more obvious to them than me. If you're a fan of this genre, you either probably already have this or should check it out, if you aren't a casual listener of this style, this would be one of the better ones to take a look at.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Beneath Pale Stars, Within Deaths Embrace

Quadrivium - Adversus

The Best of Both Worlds.

Quadrivium is a progressive black metal band from Norway. "Adversus" is their first album and shows incredible potential for what they might achieve in the future. Influences on their sound are quite obvious from a black metal fan's perspective, so their not entirely unique, but they have something.
Influences on Quadrivium's sound can be drawn from bands like Emperor, Arcturus, old Ulver, Ved Buens Ende, and even a little bit of Borknagar. These give the band a different flavor, bits of symphonic and progressive filter though their more black metal sound. Stripped away of these and the band would most likely be a black metal band with some more melancholic sections. But the overall sound of these guys can be summarized into a symphonic blend of Emperor's works, the progressive tendencies from Arcturus and Ved Buens Ende, and the more folky bits of early Ulver and Borknagar.
What sticks out for most people on this record, probably, is the clean vocals that will appear here and there. No, it's not just an impersonation of Bjornar from Vulture Industries, he sings as a guest on this record. People seem to view the screamer on this album as an impersonator of his style or a rip-off. But the main vocalist, Lars Jensen, from Myrkgrav, provides all of the growls and screams on the record.
Besides vocalist Lars, only two other people are on this record, who are regarded as members of the band. Those two people are bassist Sven-Ivar Sarassen, and multi-instrumentalist Erlend Antonsen, who performed guitar, keyboard, drums, and lyrics on this album. With only two instrumentalist on this record, it shows an incredible amount of vision and potential.
Musically, this record is dense and full of different soundscapes. From the more symphonic elements of the band, which show a great similarity to Vladimir's, from Mirrorthrone, use of symphonic music. The symphonic side of the band is much more orchestraly based, not the kind of symphonic black metal that just uses a synthesizer to replicate the orchestra parts, this uses a wider scope of vision in that department. This type of orchestral sound is shown on every track, but seems more appropriate in a track like Principal Cognizance.
While the guitar riffs range from more groovy mid-paced parts to regular tremolo picking parts. What sticks out the most is in a track like Svartamaal, where the ending goes into an acoustic part that leads into the next track, this drives the more progressive edges home. Another track that introduces more progressive tendencies is the track Is, which features a clean guitar based sections. The introduction of acoustic and clean sections gives the listener take a break from the aggressive sound that the rest of the sound produces.
The drumming on this record is more varied than in most black metal bands. On a track like Nordover, the drumming is more mid-paced and goes into some cool rhythms in the middle of the track, while it's ending is faster and uses blastbeats,bringing a bit of a different flavor to the band's sound. On a track like Works of Glory, faster tempos are utilized more often, on the other hand.
The bass work on the album is pretty much a standard for bass playing. It mainly stays in the back of the sound and rarely comes out. The track that probably has the most emphasis on the bass playing though is Into The Void, a track which features quite a lot of different bass lines throughout the song.
Overall, this is a solid debut record for a new band. Though not completely original in their sound, you can tell that they're on their way to finding something unique. People should check this band out and support them, since they recently got a new clean vocalist and drummer. Watch this band and see what they are able to do next.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: A Sophic Fire, Works of Glory, Principal Cognizance, Into The Void, Is

Vulture Industries - The Dystopia Journals

Fans of Arcturus? I Think Maybe.

Vulture Industries is an avant-garde metal band from Norway. Many consider them to be the successors to the style Arcturus had founded. Continuing in their footsteps can be obviously seen, but they have a more extreme side of them.
Vulture Industries does have a lot in common with Arcturus. The avant-garde parts of the music do give it a tone similar to what would be a bridge between Arcturus' "La Masquerade Infernale" and "The Sham Mirrors." Another comparison is vocalist Bjornar Nilsen and the first vocalist of Arcturus, Garm. They both have a similar approach to their vocals and both use a more baritone range for their singing.
But as already stated, Vulture Industries is more extreme sounding compared to Arcturus. The guitars feature a more prominent place in the overall sound of the band. While the latter band used more keyboards and pianos for the basis of their sound. The overall tone is also a bit more easier to digest due to less avant-garde, left-field moments in the sound.
The overall sound of the band is very metal. While those doses of progressive and avant-garde do have quite a large part in the band's sound, they do not consume this the sound. Heavy and technical riffs and weird drumming patterns make up the musical background.
Riffs wander from traditional black metal tremolo picking to more progressive melodies. This makes things a little more tolerable to listen to more than constant barrage of avant-garde heaviness. But the touches of avant-garde a mainly bought in by the use by Bjornar's keyboard and programming on the album. Another thing that brings in these touches is the guest appearances of a cello and viola player on the album, when these back up the guitars, they bring an almost sorrowful melody to the song, namely The Benevolent Pawn.
The bass is pretty standard for metal. It mainly sticks behind the guitars providing a low end, but it does come out and make appearances in the front of the sound once in a while. Grim Apparitions is a track that showcases this the best due to the bass, drums, and keyboards coming out at the very beginning of the song. The bass is still very audible in the sound though, without listening very hard, you can hear the bass rumbling in the behind the guitars.
But again, as stated before, vocalist Bjornar has a similar style to Garm. But he performs more extreme vocals on this album than Garm has done in recent years. Whether it's the death growls on opener Pills of Conformity or more black metal rasps on A Path of Infamy he has a range that is larger than most. His primary style of choice though is a more baritone clean style which borders on laughable crooning and whimsical meandering.
Overall, this is a band still finding their sound, but has a greater chance of finding one that is unique to them more so than other bands. The sound on this record is very enticing and is both catchy and odd at the same time. Definitely a band to watch out for.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every song is a highlight

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Equirhodont - Black Crystal

Black Metal Legend Get's His Prog On.

Equirhodont is the side-project of Jioi "Big Boss" Valter of black metal legends Root. Big Boss has explored prog in Root's more recent material but Equirhodont expresses more low-key styles of prog rather than the metal side. Showcased in this album you will find a distinct sound that has not been expressed in metal very often.
Being from the Czech Republic, this band does not get a lot of press. This can also be said for Root, who helped to define the black metal genre, but I digress. Equirhodont would be a band that many prog fans would come to enjoy if they had better press for their work. Having a more experimental and conceptual approach to the prog style gives them a little different vibe.
"Black Crystal," though coming from a black metal musician, is not very black metal. Most of the prog references that are used here come from the combination of prog-rock, ambient, trip-hop, post-rock, and psychedelic and symphonic music. Metal does comes into the picture, though some parts do have heavier points than others. The fourth track, The Way, is the first pure metal track on the album and leads into more of the metal side of the band.
When compared to Equirhodont's debut album, "Equirhodont Grandiose Magus," it is very clear that this album is nowhere as heavy. While the debut had an emphasis on a melodic prog style mixed with some of the black metal that is expressed in Root. This album, as already stated, is focus much more on melancholic atmospheres and subtle melodies taking the place of more constant heavy riffs.
Big Boss is known for his screams rather than his singing, which is what he does here. His clean vocal style brings to mind an almost Dracula-esque vibe due to his vocals almost sorrowful crooning. Since the music rarely becomes heavy, it provides the perfect atmosphere for this vocal style.
But throughout the album, there is a narrative that carries the whole record together. This moves the album along with the intent on continuing the story found on the debut record. Featuring the return of certain characters from that album, as well as the introduction of others, providing a different way of approaching this album.
Lost Nation is perhaps the best track on this album. Featuring all sides of the prog spectrum, it features a more metal backdrop, but the solo section in particular is what is impressive. Moving through three solo sections, it begins with a flamenco styled solo, then a typical metal guitar solo, and then a more traditional 70's mellotron solo. This track also features one of the best choruses on the record, that is not as apparent on a first listen, but the melody will find itself locked inside your head.
The final track, Blood and Punishment, is perhaps the odd song on the record. Moving from an almost prog-metal song into an almost a cappella and ambient moment then back into metal. This vocals particularly on this track stand out, due to their odd nature and the performance Big Boss gives. Being a mid-road between spoken word and gibberish at some points and more dramatic speaking or quiet singing at others.
While the band moves through different progressive moods, they always seem to keep a textural atmosphere that remains in each song. From a more Porcupine Tree-esque track like Power of Crystal to a more Spock's Beard-esque track My Father's Message, they move through different cycles of prog without sounding like they're just trying to be really eclectic. This carries through the mellower more neo-prog work to more extreme progressive metal songs.
Overall, this is a record all fans of progressive music should check out. There is nothing like this band out in the scene today and people will find a lot to like from this band. Whether it's the more neo-prog moments or the progressive metal moments, Equirhodont will be able to find a home in any progressive fan's heart.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Return, The Way, Lost Nation, Blood and Punishment

Reverend Bizarre - II: Crush The Insects

All Hail, The King Is Dead.

Reverend Bizarre is a doom metal band from Finland. Unlike many doom bands that were out at the time Reverend started, they play a style similar to those of old. Though they are no longer around they were brain child of doom-man himself, Sir Albert Witchfinder, and played old-school doom.
The doom style played by Reverend Bizarre is the kind of doom the bands like Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and St. Vitus did. More old-school sounding than anything retro does these days, Reverend possessed the very spirit of doom in their work. From the insane lyrical topics of Doom Over The World to the pure heaviness of By This Axe I Rule!.
But this is not a one-man band. Albert plays the bass and acts as the vocalist while Monsieur Earl of Void plays the drums and Father Peter Vicar plays the guitar. These three guys provide some of the best old-school music to come out in recent years.
While the style of Reverend Bizarre is most obviously traditional doom metal/heavy metal there are differences in the performance and nature of the songs. The first 3 songs on the record, Doom Over The World, The Devil Rides Out, and Cromwell, are very upbeat in tempo and feature a much more accessible sound. Once these 3 tracks are done, the epics become the standard of the album. Most songs reaching over 10 minutes in length.
The first of these epics being Slave of Satan, being the longest one as well, reaching over 13 minutes. Opening with a strong, but slow moving, bass line that gradually brings the other instruments into the sound. Albert's vocals hark back to the days of early Candlemass both in the tone and style he's singing in and the lyrics he's singing about.
The final track, Fucking Wizard, harks back to the days of Black Sabbath, with the opening riff sounding very much like the band's signature title-track. Possibly the slowest moving track on the album, with Albert acting more as a narrator more than a singer for the basis of the track. It isn't until the last 3 minutes that the song picks up speed and becomes more like the first few tracks.
With the exception of a few select parts, like the last few minutes of Council of Ten, the music of these epics is slower and heavier than the first tracks. But those moments where the music does pick up tempo again, it is worth listening for the unexpected change. But this usually occurs only after a longer series of more dirge-esque hard hitting doom.
What many people may not realize about Reverend's sound is that the bass is quite high in the mix. But the bass is both a part of and separate from the sound of the band. Most of the time it is the former, being an essential part of the heaviness of the band, but when it moves away from the sound, it is usually for only a short and catchy bass-line that adds to keep the listener tuned in.
Due to there only being three members in the band, and the fact that this is drawing influence from the classic doom bands, the overall sound of the band is very stripped down in comparison to others in the genre. No keyboards or folk instruments are brought into the mix in Reverend's sound, so it is very stripped down with every instrument that is played having a large place in the overall sound.
Doom Over The World is probably one of the best metal anthems to come out in the last 10 years. Presenting a picture of war and destruction in it's lyrics, the music itself features a catchy groove that is memorable. Albert's vocals are very retro sounding, with everything sounding very dramatic in nature. Compared to many of the other songs on "II: Crush The Insects," this song is very upbeat and simple sounding.
Overall, this record is definitely worth your time. If you're a fan of the classic metal bands or a fan of doom metal done the old-school way, this is a must for you. This band has released some of the best metal anthems in recent years, so this album is one every metalhead must hear before they die.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Doom Over The World, Cromwell, Slave of Satan, Fucking Wizard

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hypothermia - Skogens Hjärta


Hypothermia is a depressive black metal band from Sweden. This is the brain child of depressive/suicidal black metal cult icon, Kim Carlsson. Those who are familiar with his other work in Lifelover, Kyla, and Life Is Pain will know about his dark views on life and humanity.
This is the fourth album under the Hypothermia name, not including all the splits and EPs he's released. This new album is both similar and different, structurally, from his previous records in that it is just 1 song that extends over and hour. While Kim has never produced an hour long track, previous records have contained songs that are over 20 and 30 minutes long.
While this is the longest piece of music Kim has ever released, it is also his most melancholic. The use of cleaner guitars and simplistic drumming adds to the starkness and repetitiveness in sound. Bordering between minimalistic and drone tendencies while retaining a core sound that is very bleak and sorrowful. But this is not a drone piece, in fact, it has more in common with post-rock/post-metal in the way it gradually builds upon itself. The song starts and goes through many phases of clean guitar but then has it's more distorted black metal tendencies, having build-ups and falls along the way.
Compared to his previous releases under this name, this new album is, by far, the best production he's had under his Hypothermia belt. While the distorted moments do feature the usual noisy production, the cleans sound very dark and atmospheric while remaining very streamlined. Compared to most of his piers in the genre, depressive black metal, Hypothermia showcases a sound that is much more easy to listen to than others in the genre have produced.
As with other Hypothermia releases, Kim is not alone on the record. Although Kim does provide the main musical direction with his vocals and guitar, he has gotten Richard, from Through The Pain, to play the drums and Johannes to play the second guitar. These three guys manage to create a sound that sounds like sorrow and guilt consuming a person and leading to an eventual suicide. Though that is sometimes the goal of some of these bands.
Some will argue, and it will fit given the overall sound, that this piece was improvised. Given the repetitive sound and small pauses in repeating melodies, it is a rational observation. Since Kim provides the melody and Johannes gives a background, more bass heavy, atmosphere with his guitar and is usually the one providing most of the distortion in the song, gives reason that most of this piece was done on the spot.
Though the pace and tone of the album are definitely not for everyone, it is actually enjoyable for those who are into more bleak forms of music. Fans of funeral doom, drone, improvised music, DBM (Depressive Black Metal), and atmospheric music, namely new age or ambient, will find this album entertaining. The use of sparse soundscapes and bleak images that will fill your mind from listening to this may not sound all that great on paper, or Internet paper?, but is actually very enjoyable.
The melodies that are scattered throughout the recording are melancholic but act as small hooks that are quite catchy. Though it may be hard for people to swallow a piece of music that is slow and sparse, it is actually melodic and entrancing due to it's repetitiveness. The people who have already listened to Kim's other bands know that every one of them has a quality that stands above the rest in the genre of DBM, and this release is no different.
Unlike other releases under Hypothermia, Kim does not scream on this record. Containing only the melancholic bleakness that the instruments provide. Faint traces of vocals can be heard in the last minutes of the recording, it is hardly his mirror-breaking screams from other records.
Overall, this record is thoroughly enjoyable. Though a lot of people will find this record boring, it contains the right elements to pull you down into submission and will entrance you. The depressive sound that Hypothermia has always brought to the table has only been enhanced with Kim's approach toward improvisation. Worth a look into for fans of the above styles.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The only song on the record

Beyond Black Void - Desolate

A Slow and Painful Death.

Beyond Black Void is the funeral doom/drone project by Belgium doom-maker Stijn van Cauter. This project holds only 3 songs, but is over an hour long. Anyone looking to hear some slow and brooding doom metal, look no further.
As already stated, this is just a project. "Desolate" was the only record ever released by this project, as Stijn has about 15 other projects going on right now, most of them in the doom/drone areas. Though many people will find this project to be similar, if not the same, in style to almost every one of his other projects, BBV does have some more "accessible" moments to it.
Again, there are only 3 tracks on this album. Having the number of tracks that it has and being over an hour means that every song on here is over 10 minutes long. One song reaches over and drags itself along for over half and hour. If this appeals to you, read further.
The first track, Desolate, starts with a very slow and melancholic guitar melody that echoes around for a while and carries on for about 3 minutes. Once you get into that 3 minute mark, the bass comes crushing in, and I mean crushing. The way this bass is used isn't so much to create a groove as much as it just comes in on top of everything else and creates a giant drone. Once in a while vocals come in. Not that that says much, because the vocals are both below the sound of a droning bass and are more like gurgles anyway, so you can't even understand them. Around 12 minutes, the droning guitar fades, leaving the "lead" guitar to echo on it's melody for a while longer. Around the 17 minute mark the drone comes back in, booming as ever. That drone lasts for several more minutes before, once again, fading around 21 minutes. The melody then carries on for the rest of the song before a final crash at the 23 minute mark.
At this point in the review, many, who are reading this, are probably wondering what that "accessibility" I mentioned before was from. That "accessibility" is used both loosely and lightly, because that which could make people listen to this is the melody/lead guitar that carries along a slow, but melodic sense to it. While this obviously will not please everyone, those who enjoy this type of droning music will find it interesting.
The second song, Storm Over Jupiter, is over 30 minutes long. This song picks up right where the previous one left off, with a melody coming in slowly and a droning bass following the main melody line. Though nothing new has been introduced into this song, musically, this track feels much more interesting and enjoyable than the first. Instrumentally, Stijn introduces a timpani to the sound. This adds to the trance-like state the music can bring you into.
The final track is EverVoid. This track is almost 15 minutes, and is the shortest track on the album. This track is a little more like the opener for the album, it's mostly a droning bass over a melodic guitar line, this track really doesn't sound too different from the opener due to this. The melody, of course, is different, but it doesn't quite live up to the previous track's monolithic stature.
Overall, I know a lot of people aren't going to get into this record due to the volume of the track lengths or the style itself, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it. Give this, or one of Stijn's other projects a listen and see if you like anything there. But for this record in particular, if you like big, droning, minimalistic metal, this is a thumbs up.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Storm Over Jupiter


Eluveitie - Everything Remains As It Never Was

We Must Save The Motherland.

Eluveitie is a folk metal band from Switzerland. Unlike most folk metal bands though, Eluveitie combines more traditional folk instruments and melodies together with melodic death metal. One of the few bands doing this style, they have a different take on folk mixed with melo-death than a band like Ensiferum.
The band's take on melodic death metal and folk, as already mentioned above combines folk melodies with screamed vocals and heavy instrumentation. While guitars, bass and drums provide the metal aspects by providing the heaviness to the band's sound, the more traditional folk instruments give the band a more unique sound. Instruments like the hurdy gurdy, bagpipes, violins, and pipes and whistles are all used in to create an atmosphere that brings one back to the times of old.
The heavier elements of the band are not overly heavy sounding, being fairly standard riffing and drumming. More simplistic riffs and grooves are used more as a backdrop to the vocals and the melodies provided by the other instruments. While not mind blowing, they create a heavier sound that appeals to a wider audience of people due to it's take on the style. Though there are certain songs where the guitars are much more mixed in with the overall band's sound, and these are the songs that sound the best, examples being Lugdunon or (Do)minion.
The more traditional elements of the band are what make this band more unique though. While these are used for more melodic and catchy hooks in the band's sound, they also provide a very large sound. When listening to a single song, at some points it can sound crowded due to all of the instrumentation going on within a given track. But these instruments add a very old sound and vibe to the band.
The vocals are quite different when approaching a folk metal band. As already stated, again, one of the few bands who did this sort of approach to folk metal before Eluveitie was Ensiferum, but they mixed more black metal elements with their music, where as Eluveitie mixes more death metal. The main vocal style is a semi-death growl, this style makes the vocals very clear sounding and understandable to the average listener, but a few more tricks are utilized in the band's sound. Besides Chrigel Glanzmann, the main guy in this band and the performer of vocals and most of the odd folk instruments, like the mandola, bodhran, gaita, or several flutes and whistles, many of the other members of the band contribute to vocals as well. On the title-track, Everything Remains As It Never Was, female vocals are utilized in the chorus while on The Essence of Ashes has elements of various members singing along with Chrigel.
On this album, there are probably more interludes than many other bands would use, but they work in Eluveitie's favor. On instrumental interludes, the more traditional folk sound of the band comes out, on tracks like Isara or Setlon. These tracks remain mostly acoustic and without vocals, but explore a more traditional sound to the band's sound.
One track that stands out among the rest is Qouth The Raven. This track contains a sound similar to that of a more recent Dark Tranquillity song, containing clean female vocals during the chorus and more melodic and catchy riffs with a strong violin in the background. This track stands out for it's more modern and more metal based sound.
Overall, this is a strong album with some great melodic hooks. Any fan of melodic metal will find this is a welcome addition to their collection. While nothing on here is entirely mind-blowing, there are several track that are well performed and make this band stand out among all the other folk metal bands.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Thousandfold, Nil, The Essence of Ashes, Kingdom Come Undone, Quoth The Raven, (Do)minion, Lugdunon

Friday, February 12, 2010

Meshuggah - Destroy Erase Improve

They Said It Best, "Future Breed Machine."

Meshuggah, a metal band from Sweden. I say metal because their style combines aspects of more and less then metal styles. While creating a style which no one has managed to best them at yet.
"Destroy Erase Improve" is the record where Meshuggah found their sound. Though their first album, "Contradictions Collapse" had traces of originality, it still clung to it's more groove and thrash based origins like Metallica and Anthrax. This record took those thrash roots, pulled them out of the ground and threw them into the blender with everything else (including the sink). What came out was something that was completely unheard of and unique sounding.
The sound on this record somehow manages to combine that groovy thrash metal sound with more technical aspects of jazz-fusion and progressive rock. While the main ideas are undoubtedly still metal, they are much more technical and mechanical sounding than anything else from the metal scene back then. Sounding very much like Metallica and Fear Factory had a baby that just did not want to fit in with all the cool kids at all and did what he wanted.
Guitar players Marten Hagstrom and Fredrik Thordendal showcase an extreme talent for crafting machine-like grooves that can make heads spin. While some songs exhibit more technicality than others, every song never sounds like the another on the album. From the wildly technical Future Breed Machine to the more mid-paced Soul Burn, and everything that comes after them, groove just falls off them and no pattern seems to repeat itself.
As a lead guitar player, Fredrik makes each and every solo on "DEI" sound unique among everyone else. Distancing himself from more straightforward solos or mind-blowing speed metal solos, he does what very few were doing, if anyone in the metal scene at all was doing, making his solos extremely technical and clean sounding. The tones on guitar solos here is surprisingly clean sounding, without the assistance of more metal distortion.
Drummer Tomas Haake adds to the band's sound odd tempo shifts and also functions as the main lyricist. The abstract topics he covers seem to range from technological mass control to more spiritual and conceptualize beings. Drumming wise, he combines odd poly-rhythms that mix extreme metal tempos with more jazz timing. From the furious tempos on Vanished to the slower tempos on Inside What's Within Behind, he can add little things that can make any drummer stop and hit repeat.
Vocalist, Jens Kidman, is also a natural for Meshuggah's sound. Vocally being somewhere between early death metal grunters at the time and more hardcore punk/thrash metal shouting, he helps the music to achieve that almost mechanical sound. At this point in time, this helped to differentiate the band from others like Machine Head or Slayer.
Nothing on this record can really be described perfectly without listening to it first hand. For many this record can seem repetitive due to that machine-like groove, Suffer In Truth, jazz-fusion breaks, Acrid Placidity, and constant shifts in the time signatures, Beneath. But those who can actually look past the simplistic angle to which many might see from, you will find those little parts in guitar or drum patterns that differentiate themselves from the last.
What was meant in the title above is that later in Meshuggah's career, many new bands will find them and try to copy them. Bands ranging from citing Meshuggah as an influence to just outright coping their style. Though these bands all take something from Meshuggah, none of them will ever match the style that has made this band such a force in music today.
Overall, this record contains songs that do take a little bit longer to get into than most band's do, but also contains songs that are completely original and can stick in your head. The songs on "DEI" are more complex than most metal bands, especially at the time it came out, but is also what makes these songs so great to listen to over and over again. Do not live your life without hearing this record.
Overall Score: 10 - Classic
Highlights: Every song is a highlight