PICK OF THE WEEK: Atlantean Kodex deliver epic masterpiece with ‘The White Goddess’

Atlantean KodexHype can have both a positive and negative effect, especially when it comes to music. On one hand, it can draw up interest and reveal something to a new audience that perhaps was not aware of the band or album. On the other hand, when the praise hits a fever pitch and seems in complete overdrive, it can turn people away from the music for an admittedly dumb reason.

I admit that when I got the new Carcass record, I already had been overwhelmed with praise and enthusiastic reviews, and I had the record about two months before street date. So that early wave of frenzy was a little much for me, and it had a negative effect on my experience with the record initially because I had been inundated with glowing words about it. Then I got over it, ignored what I already had heard (over and over) and realized it’s just a killer record that had longtime fans going overboard because they got something they’d been waiting for.

VOLGatefoldIf you follow sites like ours, and ones larger that blanket the terrain of extreme metal, no doubt you have heard everyone going batshit over “The White Goddess (A Grammar of Poetic Myth),” the new record from German epic metal band Atlantean Kodex. You pretty much can’t avoid it. Because of my Carcass experience, I purposely tried to avoid the umpteen million reviews that came before this one so I could digest the album with a clear mind. Not that it was impossible to avoid all the hype, but I can still read headlines and such in my Twitter and Facebook feeds, so I knew people were going nuts. But now that I have–repeatedly–visited this record, I’m not sure if it would have mattered if I had read one other review or a million. This record is just stunning, a perfect portrait of epic metal that harkens back to Bathory, Helloween, Manilla Road, and Candlemass, and Atlantean Kodex’s power is just crushing. Spend some time with “The White Goddess” and see if the songs don’t begin to etch themselves permanently into your brain.

The record has surging guitar work with lead lines you practically can ride on (credit to guitarists Michael Koch and Manuel Trummer), a solid rhythm section that rumbles and rivets (basisst  Florian Kreuzer, drummer Mario Weiss), and vocals that soar into the clouds like a great bird. Honestly, had vocalist Markus Becker been around in the ’80s, when this style of metal was at its apex, he would be considered a god. Now, with so many bands using growls and shrieks (especially with the overflow of death and black metal), his work might feel like a shock to the system. I’ve even heard it suggested before he’s an acquired taste. I guess he is if you have to adjust to expertly delivered clean vocals that rivals singers such as Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, and Michael Kiske, but if you do, that’s kind of sad. His vocals just kill, and so does this band on their incredible second record.

Another note is Atlantean Kodex are a heady group of folk, delving into history, folklore, war, and more, and going through their lyrics sheet might have you keeping Google handy so you figure out just what they’re on about. We’re going to concentrate more on the music here, as we could be here all day breaking down and analyzing the words. Plus, I found it half the fun reading up on what’s going on (I did the same with 2010’s “The Golden Bough”), and maybe you’ll end up doing the same thing. That’s one of the reasons I loved Maiden growing up (and I still do) because I’d get a killer record and I’d learn something.

The intro piece “I. Trumpets of Doggerland (There Were Giants in the Earth in Those Days)” takes almost as long to hear as the title is to say, and it’s a regal opening complete with trumpets, chants, and glory. That leads into “II. Sol Invictus (With Faith and Fire),” a track dedicated to author Paul Busson, one of Europe’s great fantasy writers, and the track just bristles with energy, from the bellowing opening call from Becker to the exploding melodies and charging anthemic pace, and the great, infectious chorus that keeps coming back and causing your blood to rise. After another short instrumental “III. Bilwis (Sorcery and Witchcraft in Eastern Bavaria),” complete with acoustic passages and fires crackling, it goes into the monstrous “IV. Heresiarch (Thousandfaced Moon)” that thunders like a classic Metallica track in spots, and bathes in heaviness but also maintains its melodic edge and furious hooks for which the band is known. The song paces itself through raucous hills and more tranquil valleys, and the awesome storytelling never does anything but completely enthrall. “V. Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown (An Anthem for Europe)” begins with a clip from Winston Churchill before it launches into one of the most breathtaking songs on the record, a track I hesitate to call a ballad that’ll trigger the wrong thoughts, but it is full of emotion and passion, with Becker declaring, “Our new Jerusalem we found.” It’s eight minutes of brilliance, one of the best epic metal songs in a decade that deserves to fully unfurl across stadiums for the masses to witness.

“VI. Der Untergang der Stadt Passau (Flaming Sword of the Watchers)” is the third and final instrumental cut, with acoustic guitar and waves lapping at you, and it sets the stage for “VII. Enthroned in Clouds and Fire (The Great Cleansing)” that opens by robbing you of your breath, and unleashing chimes and gothic undertones that create a sense of murk. Along the way, Becker sings of “a winter without end” and an “ancient harbinger of the end,” as he envisions religious shackles being broken, people being overcome by disease, and the apocalyptic fears of many coming to pass. Closer “VIII. White Goddess Unveiled (Crown of the Sephiroth),” a song awash in images of Kabbalah and that brings to full steam a collection of the band’s incredible lead guitar lines that conjure great feelings of nostalgia in this writer who grew up feasting on epic and power metal in the ’80s, huge choruses, and a majestic performance that puts a gigantic, fiery exclamation point on this record and brings down the curtain on one of metal’s most impressive performances of the entire year. If this record came out in 1987, it would be a time-honored classic. That’s not to suggest it can’t still be one.

So hype sometimes serves a noble purpose. Atlantean Kodex may only be two records into their run, but they’re onto something special. “The White Goddess” is a record that could bring people back into the metal fold who perhaps gave up on the music in the ’90s or ’00s because something this brilliant is raising up the genre. And it could be a great lesson for younger fans who think all bands have to growl and snarl their way through everything. This is one hell of a great heavy metal record by one of its finest new bands, and this one should stand the test of time, long after we’re all gone.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.atlanteankodex.de/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/

Hexer’s visions of annihilation make their way to vinyl on corrosive debut collection

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In a week when we’re talking about classic, sometimes elegant heavy metal releases that feel like magical folk tales and historical battle retellings bombarding our listening, it seems like the right time to get ugly and talk about something perverse and rotten and completely bathing in filth. Trust me, we’ll get back to the majestic tomorrow, but today we’ll cake our faces with coal soot.

If you’re in a miserable mood where you just feel like burning everything in the world, you could do yourself many favors listening to Philadelphia-based black metal shadows Hexer, a group that plays no live shows (though they’re booked for 2014’s Gilead Fest!, offers no promo photos, and seems content to live in the corner of the darkest, dankest basement, seeking to jump out at you like an agitated spider. The band’s music sounds like what it would if you took the concept of music, somehow formed it into a tangible object, and put it through an industrial fan blade. Then once you were done, you set the fan on fire because, why the fuck not? Their fusion of black metal, punk, and thrash is infernal and completely buried in filth, yet it maintains an inviting edge. Melodies pull you in, make you feel comfortable for a moment, then shake you upside down until the contents of your stomach appear on the floor.

Hexer is comprised of three people, that being guitarist/bassist Phlegethon, vocalist Ansgar, and guitarist/drum programmer Lazarus, who also holds a primary role with fellow black metal warriors Mutilation Rites. I won’t totally give him up here since we aren’t exposing identities of the other two (and we don’t know anyway), but a little research will get you your answer. Together, they make metal that could not be rougher around the edges, with sounds that harken back to the second wave of black metal when it was the utmost compliment for your band to sound as non-produced and raw as possible, and vibes that could give you the chills and cause you to keep looking over your shoulder. This sounds like a demonic nightmare seen and heard through cellophane, and as ugly and foreboding as it is through its 36-minute running time, you just can’t look away. It’s too good, too suffocatingly beautiful that you can’t help but stay on for the whole ride, even if your psyche is telling you that might not be the best decision for you. Just give in and let out your inner hell.

What you hear on this band’s self-titled debut LP (wisely released by Gilead Media, who have a knack for unearthing gems like these) is a compilation of two cassette releases they put out in 2011, remastered by Adam Tucker with morbid new artwork by Ansgar. Thankfully, the underground chaos was kept in tact, there was no effort made to make these songs sound more polished, and the utter hellish vibe was allowed to remain, with Hexer sounding like they’re ready to take up arms against humanity and smear the blood across the night.

The six tracks aren’t given names other than Roman numerals. And considering this LP is put together from the tracks of the two cassettes, I goes in front of the track names from the first release; II before those from the second. So, “I:I” kicks off the record with a melodic buzzsaw fury, with riffs sounding like they’re a product of both punk and black metal (I hear some early Nachtmytium in this). The vocals are maniacal and frenzied, sounding like a demon on the loose, and spindling guitar lines and bubbling menace end the track in smoke. “I:II” is thrashy and dizzying, with razor-sharp lead guitar lines totally buried in noise, and Ansgar’s vocals riding along with the bloody stomping and galloping that the band serves us generously. “I:III” caps the first half, feeling like a static-drenched nightmare, with Ansgar howling annihilation and hell with her inhuman shrieks that rise along the band’s insanely catchy riffs.

The second half opens with … you guess it, “II:I.” Again, melody surges up, giving you the idea that they like to put an extra-infectious edge on their metallic pestilence, and there are parts of the song that are damn near danceable. That’s right. But you’ll get hurt doing that because you’ll have to go too hard and too viciously, so just sink into the riffs that taste like raw meat dipped in sugar. And violence. “II:II” opens with a riff that sounds kind of similar to guitar work found elsewhere on the record, but then it gives way to abject terror and abrasive vocals, scorching lead work, and an absolute drubbing that’ll leave you exhausted. But save room for “II:III,” a song with some serious crunch and a threatening demeanor, like you’re looking into the eyes of someone whose primary goal is malice. The vocals remain harsh as fuck, though there are moments where they smooth up just a bit. As the song reaches its conclusion, the band adds some new colors and textures to this hell-borne blaze, letting the record burn off with apparitions of the world ending and humanity suffering playing out in front of you.

It’s scary that you could walk past the members of Hexer on the street, and you wouldn’t know the chaos and tumult behind their eyes. They see you destroying yourself and the world around you, and they’re here to add gas to the fire and mock you as you burn. This mysterious band has a world of promise, absolutely crushes in the most animalistic way, and hopefully can conquer the planet before it eats itself.

For more on the band, go here: http://hexer.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

Twilight of the Gods bring together great metal forces on debut ‘Fire on the Mountain’

TOTG_04_(c)Steinar_Sortland-Edit_Costin_ChioreanuWe talked yesterday about–and I gulp heavily as I write this–supergroups. I write that word just because it’s an easy way to describe a group of musicians who have made music in other bands and come together to form a new one. Period, and that’s it. I know a lot of people hate that title, and I totally get why.

Anyway, that brings us to Twilight of the Gods and their debut album “Fire on the Mountain,” an album that should warm the hearts of anyone who grew up feasting on Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Bathory. It’s classic heavy metal. It’s gloriously played, it’s huge, it’s epic, and it not only celebrates the roots and very existence of heavy metal, but it rolls in it and enjoys the very feel of the genre’s mud on its back. There is no reason for anyone to feel bad about basking in metal and its history, and fuck all the people who think there’s something to snicker at. We are greater than them, we will prevail, and bands like Twilight of the Gods will stand behind us all.

Twilight coverTwilight of the Gods has Alan Averill as its leader, the same man whose voice makes Primordial such a devastating, glorious force in metal and who also sings for the criminally under-appreciated Blood Revolt, as well as Dread Sovereign and Plagued. He’s joined by other killers such as guitarists Partrik Lindgren (Thyrfing) and Rune Eriksen (ex-Mayhem, Aura Noir), bassist Frode Glesnes (Einherjer) and drummer Nick Barker (Dimmu Borgir, Testament), who make up a deadly collection of players whose collective goals seem to be paying homage to classic metal, be it death, thrash, or black. This record is a poetic, adventurous collection of seven songs that might feel different to listeners who just came onto metal the last few years but will feel like a homecoming for those of us who have been in the genre’s defending forces since the 1980s and grew up during one of the style’s greatest eras.

Oh, speaking of Bathory, Twilight of the Gods actually started off as a tribute to that titanic band that was led by the late, great Quorthon, and the band’s name is taken from the 1991 album of the same name. But there’s more power and classic heavy metal contained in this, as they morphed past their primary influence, and you’ll notice just how much Averill is letting his voice soar and explode, sounding as powerful, charismatic, and in command as ever before, and he just sells the living hell out of these songs. He’s beyond great here.

We kick off with “Destiny Forged in Blood,” a true anthem for a genre flooding with them, and when Averill howls, “This is our heathen metal call to arms!” you can imagine him and his band standing alongside Dio, Dickinson and Harris, Sabbath, Fenriz, and, of course, Quorthon as a metallic guard you would not dare cross. Just a great opening cut. “Children of Cain” swelters and rides hard, like a classic Maiden cut. There are some solid NWOBHM-style guitars, military drumming, and more passionate singing that pushes this song through the stratosphere. “Fire on the Mountain (1683)” is a mammoth cut about the Battle of Vienna that opens with driving bass and war chants, groove-heavy verses that allow Averill to retell the tale and bury you with rhythm, and a tone that could help you reimagine cavalries and armies clashing, pitting soldiers of the Ottoman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire as they spill blood over faith. This is the same type of song that made Maiden great, and Twilight of the Gods could boast they’ve come up with an historical crusher along the same lines.

“Preacher Man” is harsh and scathing, with Averill delivering his most poisonous vocals on the whole record, later vowing, “I’ll be the devil in your hearts.” “Sword of Damocles” has its roots in an ancient tale that warns about the pitfalls of power and riches, but it stretches those lessons to modern times, where world leaders have deadly weapons at their disposal. The song has an awesome chorus that has to become a live favorite, with Averill declaring, “We are the sons of the hammer.” Excellent cut, and a pure and real metal classic in the making. “The End of History” runs 8:12 and obviously is packed with darkness and fear, which you could figure out from the title alone. It’s a little doomy in places, which is fitting for the subject matter, and behind the somber haymakers are explosions and a spray of gunfire. Before the song ends, Averill offers listeners a chance to evaluate where they are in their lives and if they’ll make another difference by asking, “Do you have the will to rewrite the past and alter the future?” Closer “At Dawn We Ride” takes a little while to get cooking, as it pulls back on the intensity and takes time to reflect on the devastation in front of it. Thunder cracks, the band keeps a steady, bruising pace, and the song lets the fires burn out, the smoke settle, and the war subside for now.

Hopefully this is just the beginning of Twilight of the Gods and that they’ll add many more chapters in the future. This is a band of some very busy musicians who have many, many irons in the fire, but they’re onto something special here. They deserve to fill a great hall where they can tell their stories and really unfurl their true majesty, and the crowd would be slain without question. This is a great new band, and I beg they have many more albums under their armor.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/totgofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Like gimmicks? Go away. Sarke return with fiery, platter of true metal on ‘Aruagint’

sarkeCombining huge metal forces to create a greater whole sounds like it should be a wonderful idea, but more often than not, it isn’t. But we have two great examples of metal supergroups, per se, we’re going to roll out the first two days this week that prove you can make a mighty band out of players who made their names elsewhere and still come away with something magnificent.

Today we’ll look at Sarke, a group that brings together a number of experienced, influential players into a band that has made some of the truest, most fun metal of the last half decade and have done so again on their new record “Aruagint,” the follow-up to 2011’s “Oldarhian,” itself a fantastic little platter that provides hours of great, honest metal fun. What started as a solo project for bassist Sarke, himself a veteran of bands such as Tulus, Khold, and Valhall, has morphed into something even greater. Joining him is Nocturno Culto, one of metal’s most honest, ardent warriors who you know from Darkthrone, and he has provided vocals for this band since its start in 2008. If you don’t like Culto, you don’t like metal. Period. Over the years, the band has taken on guitarist Steinar Gundersen (ICS Vortex, Spiral Architect), drummer Asgeir Mickelson (a zillion bands including Scariot, Thornbound, Ihsahn), and keyboard player Anders Huntstad (Tulus, live member of Satyricon) to form a new whole. They destroy. Simple as that.

sarke coverSarke, who will appear at next year’s Maryland Deathfest in an absolute must-see performance, also have beefed up their sound on “Aruagint,” still plying their trade heavily in death metal but also adding thrash and even prog tendencies, making them a really involved, mentally bruising unit. The result of their creative process for their third record is nine songs that run the gamut of metal power, bend your brain here and there, and provide nearly 40 minutes of fun that is free of trying to live up to genre standards, in total defiance of trends, and serve as a reminder of these guys standing as metal’s guard who are here to show what living this style is all about.

You get a great taste of what’s in store with opener “Jaunt of the Obsessed,” a song that’s full of punk fury, Culto taking total command over the song, and the rest of the group driving hard, putting deep bruises all over your psyche. “Jodau Aura” follows and has an Apocalyptic pace, with Culto sounding like Tom G Warrior, slowly delivering his diatribes, while the rest of the band settles into a nasty, muddy pace. The song is gurgly and menacing, and the music has a fantastical feel to it, like it’s one chapter in a great storybook. “Ugly” is a change of pace, getting somewhat light-hearted, but still crushing, with Culto howling, “I’m ugly, ugly as hell!” “Strange Pungent Odyssey” is bluesy and swaggers, something you might not expect from this band, and its groovy shuffle manages to maintain that sense of evil flowing through it.

“Walls of Ru” is really where the prog tendencies start to rise up, and they remain a major part of the band’s musical offense for the remainder of the album. This track is jerky, punchy, and thrashy, yet toward the end of the song, some wooshy, windy keyboards come in and give the atmosphere a whole different feel. “Salvation” is violent and charged up, with the rhythm section declaring war and pulverizing your senses, awesome riffs flowing, and Culto taking complete command of the sound, sounding a little gravelly and raw. “Skeleton Sand” is the most interesting cut on here, as it opens with an eeriness and synth lather and eventually goes doomy. There are heavily melodic parts, and Culto even tries to smooth out his growls a bit, while the prog fire once again flares up. “Icon Usurper” has that Celtic Frost feel again, especially with the vocals, and the guitar work has a sci-fi, outer space adventure feel to it. Closer “Rabid Hunger” is that savage, uncompromising conclusion you expect, with creative guitar work, fluid, mind-altering soloing, and more devastating vocal work from Culto, who puts his bloody stamp on this record and demonstrates once again why you should hang on his every word.

Sarke are a joy to behold, a great blast of metal that is honest, true, and free of modern influences that have watered down the scene. Each record finds the band progressing and getting more ambitious, and “Aruagint” is just a fucking blast. Don’t worry about what everyone else is listening to or what morons on the Internet are pressuring you into hearing. Take a bite out of true, pure metal and enjoy the power that Sarke brings to the world.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sarkeofficial

For more on the label or to buy the album, go here: http://www.indierecordings.no/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Wolvserpent’s ‘Perigaea Antahkarana’ certain candidate for record of year

wolvserpentWriting about music certainly has its perks, and I am not complaining about one of them. OK, sometimes there are way, way too many press releases in my inbox that I never intend to read, but that’s not that bad. That’s what the delete button is for. Other than that, I get to hear just about every metal release weeks, sometimes months, in advance, and have built up enough goodwill that I don’t have to do much to get access to music I want to write about on this site.

Sometimes the music does get burdensome, however. There are tons of promos sitting in my inbox I’ll hear maybe once because there isn’t enough time in a week, and the deluge of music makes it tougher and tougher to unearth real gems just because there’s so much through which to sift. OK, I said I wasn’t going to complain. But now and again something will come along that wakes me the fuck up and instantly declares itself. No matter how many records are waiting on your plate and no matter how many critical pieces you have to write, this record keeps calling back to you, distracting you, acting like a  lover who wants to pull you away from your tasks, and you can’t say no because the allure is just too great. That’s exactly what happened when I took on “Perigaea Antahkarana,” the new album from Wolvserpent, their second full-length under that moniker, and their Relapse debut.

12 Jacket (Gatefold - Two Pocket) [GD30OB2-N]I’ve been following this band ever since they were Pussygutt, and their adoption of a new moniker seemed like a wise choice if they wanted to get their music to more people. Or maybe that had nothing to do with the decision at all. Anyway, the Boise, Idaho, duo of Blake Green (guitarist/vocals/keys) and Brittany McConnell (drums, percussion, violin, viola) always have made swelling, challenging music that’s hard to pin down and isn’t easily digested if your idea of art is three-minute songs with hooks. Their albums (2010’s awesome “Blood Seed” was their debut under this name) are experiences you must take on and engage with completely, otherwise, you’re missing the point. They spill lots of guts from various sub-genres into their music, from doom to black metal to drone, and the strings add a folk and chamber element to what they do, making their music an even richer experience. The perfect setting to hear Wolvserpent, especially this album, would be isolated in the forest in the middle of the night, with only a campfire and wildlife to keep you company.

Classically trained and certainly out-of-the-box thinkers when it comes to metal compositionally, Green and McConnell made “Perigaea Antahkarana” a sort-of life’s work mission. They wrote, recorded, rewrote, re-recorded, delivered a free demo version called “Perigaea,” and then reinvented the music again into this five-track, 82-minute beast that is one of the year’s best metal records, if not its very best. It’s one that you can take to those closed-minded naysayers who think all metal is just grunts and scrapes and demonstrate that no, we really do have great thinkers and doers among us, and the evidence is in this immaculate, devastating, heart-filling record that I cannot get out of my system or out of my headphones for that matter. It has taken me away from my mass of work elsewhere because it keeps calling to me, inviting me for another visit. And I always take it. It’s an incredible album that I could stay here all day offering praise and adulation, but let’s get to the music itself, that creates this magical world.

“Threshold Gateway” is an atmospheric introduction piece, like entering the woods at the start of a long journey, as birds chirp, winds whip, and light melodies bubble to the surface, making way for “Within the Light of Fire,” a song that begins with strings swelling and emotions rising. Black metal-style guitars erupt, Green’s growls begin to have a presence, and a great canopy of sound opens up over you. The band continues to explore and the sound expands, as growls turn to shrieks and the music gets trippy and mesmerizing. But just as the fog lifts, a nasty, groove-filled doom riff kicks in and dumps the sinister power into the picture, exploding like a powder keg and crushing you entirely. Eventually the storm subsides, as organs sweep into the track and the song bleeds out in drone. “In the Mirrors of Water” is a 21:39 journey, with the opening seven minutes leaning heavily on McConnell strings, which she builds into a moody, folk-like wave that laps over and over again, leaving you dizzy but enthralled. Gazey guitar kicks in and changes the environment, simmering and sweating, and a few minutes later drums kick in and the song begins to build into its full lather. Toward the end of the track, Green unleashes savage growls, and the cut melts into black metal fury, pounding until the final moments when calm is restored and the birds return. Already this is a weighty experience, and we’re only part of the way there.

The second half of the record opens with fluttering strings, fires crackling, and a deep woodsy ambience as “A Breath in the Shade of Time” begins, running a healthy 23:53. Bells begin to chime and the song achieves a rustic feel, perfect for connecting with nature and traveling deeper into the isolated forest. The song has a movie score essence, keeping the drama on high and coloring in the story, and buried growls and a sea of strings serve to keep the textures changing. This also has heaping doses of funeral doom, with the song lurching slowly and a somber expression unfurling before you. Guitars continue to spill in, as the song veers toward the stars, with a female voice calling and chanting, the song bleeding into the night. Closer “Concealed Among the Roots and Soil” is a 17-minute serving of some of the most direct playing on the album, as the bottom drops out almost immediately and the doom blows the doors down. The song is humid and sticky, the metallic melodies are drubbing and cause swelling, and Green growls forcefully over punishing chugging and ceremonial magic. It caps one of the truly special records of the year, one that deserves repeated play despite its challenging length.

So here you have it, one of the best metal albums of the year, and potentially the top choice. There still are a few months remaining to figure this out, but “Perigaea Antahkarana” is a serious contender for that spot. This is a collection of interconnected movements, a true human experience that should connect you to your animal side, and a fascinating piece of work created by two gifted musicians whose creativity knows no bounds. All hail to Wolvserpent, a band that is becoming one of metal’s greatest forces right before our eyes.

For more on the band, go here: http://wolvserpent.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

Grave Miasma’s debut finally slithers to surface in form of grisly ‘Odori Sepulcrorum’

Grave MiasmaWe are entering a period when death will be at its apex. Leaves will die. Plants will die. Vegetation will die. Sunlight will die. We will celebrate the passage of human souls from this place to the next plane, if that’s even a thing, and we’ll adorn our houses with decorations of skulls, ghosts, ghouls, and blood, something commercialization has turned into comical items but actually are things you never want to encounter.

Because of all of this, and the drab grayness and damp cold that’ll soon chill our bodies, having music to make that period darker and more morose is ideal. Who wants to be happy all the time? Why not immerse yourself in the decay and the madness and embrace the oncoming dead period as we transition out of light? If you’re into that idea, you might find a perfect companion in the heavily anticipated debut from U.K. death metal killers Grave Miasma, whose “Odori Sepulcrorum” finally has arrived via Profound Lore (jointly released with Sepulchral Voice), perhaps the most obvious destination for this band’s dark arts.

PrintWe often bitch and whine about the current state of death metal and how it’s become overly polished and even commercialized and pine for bands who make us remember the first time we heard, say, Incantation and Morbid Angel. Grave Miasma is that band, as their doom-encrusted, gritty, ugly death metal already is the stuff of legend, having developed a sterling reputation among underground fans and giving listeners a preview of what they could accomplish with a proper long-player with their two EPs “Exalted Emanation” and “Realm of Evoked Doom.” Their style is crusty, punishing, covered with tar, brutal, evil, and furious. If you desire having a band that truly understands the roots of death metal, what it’s about, and why it’s supposed to be terrifying, you need to hear this album, one of the most explosive in the genre all year.

Grave Miasma began life as Goat Molestor (band name of forever) before taking on their new, more fitting moniker. The four members, who adopt singular letters as names, also have played or do play in well-regarded bands such as Cruciamentum, Indesinence, and Adorior and perfectly capture the evil and horror that should comprise true death metal in this band. There’s a reason Grave Miasma already have gotten so much love and that people have been clamoring for “Odori Sepulcrorum,” and their first record absolutely delivers but also plants the thought of just what this band could accomplish in the future. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The shroud is lifted, and the ugliness and worm-infested chaos greets you right away on “Death’s Meditative Stance,” with its grind of guitars, doom-flooded punishment, dizzying leads, and dissonant melodies, and that’s not even mentioning the cold, harsh, brutal growls and hisses that drive the campaign and serve to dement you. “Ascension Eye” is more than seven minutes of slurry mashing, guttural damage, and warped soloing that sounds a bit like early Slayer, only more intense and out of control. The song is just monstrous, and the vocals that bubble up toward the end pushes the track into vicious madness. “Ovation to a Thousand Lost Reveries” is totally morose, as drums splatter all over like flesh being diced by a combine, as the growls singe, and the guitar work finds a new level of notoriety, with the finger-tapped soloing feeling like one’s psyche being flushed down a drain. It’s awesome and exhausting. “έσχατος,” a track you may have heard online already, is sickening and dank, with one of the band’s signature darker-than-night openings and a setting filled with smoke that’ll rob you of breath, make you choke to tears, and convince you those death bells ringing out are for you.

The title cut immediately infuses more doom into picture, with slow-slithering pounding and foggy transmissions, but there are pockets that convulse violently, with the vocals sounding like they were put through a glass shard filter for maximum pain and suffering. Yes, melody does play a part toward the conclusion of the song, but what dominates is the terror spilling out at every seam. There is an interlude that sounds like it’s conjuring ancient spirits, and that spills into “Seven Coils,” a song that has Middle Eastern inflections, like a dusty mummy coming with intention to suffocate. There are sounds that just smother everything, similar to what Portal have made into their specialty, and the vocals have a whispered intensity to them as the growls spew forth and cause nightmares. Toward the end, there even is a section that has prog-rock-style noodling. Granted its face is smeared in concrete when it’s over. The closer “Ossuary” is a real eye opener, one that gives another gigantic hint at what this band could accomplish. Yes, it’s doomy and reeks of death, but there is atmosphere, there are strange horns (at least I think they’re horns) that gives an eerie ambience to the track, and the band explores more with their playing. It never compromises the band’s power or charnel force, but instead it puts an interesting, compelling cap on one hell of an impressive debut record.

The wait was worth it for Grave Miasma’s debut, and it’s a perfectly bloody dose of true death metal that will go down just right as the temperatures and sunlight turn against us. Death is in the air, morbid thoughts begin to dominate, and this band is here to slam shut the dusty, stinking coffin door. This is one of the year’s best death metal records, one that proves people still remember how to play this stuff and can do so with an unstoppable vengeance.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.gravemiasma.co.uk/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

Or here: http://www.sepulchralvoice.de/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

And here: http://www.sepulchralvoice.de/index2.htm

Fyrnask, Lustre expand metal’s boundaries, reveal new colors on each of their new records

Fyrnask

Fyrnask

Metal very much can be looked at like beer. You have those folks who have their one or two beers, drink them for life, and don’t want to hear about people brewing things a different way, new tastes, or new concepts. Beer is one thing, and that’s it. Then you have you more adventurous types who like to try all kinds of new craft brews, enjoy the colors and the tastes, want to always have something new and exciting in the fridge and have an open way of thinking about the beverage.

For some people, metal always will be about the riff or the brutality, a certain thing that must fit into a certain mold, otherwise it isn’t metal at all. Then there are those who like when bands go off in all kinds of different directions, throw bizarre spices into their concoction, and really stretch the field of metal to make it more expansive and, as a result, able to survive well into the future because the genre doesn’t have to adhere to a certain pattern. Bands like this are akin to, say, Dogfish Head’s carrot-based, served-warm brew Hot Thoup, where you first want to asks loudly, “Is this even beer?!” before settling in, trying it on and realizing you’re enjoying an imaginative, one-of-a-kind beverage that your Budweiser drinker is probably too blocked by walls and doors to ever consider. Metal can be that way, too.

Fyrnask and Lustre really could not be more different from each other sonically, but each operates within the parameters of metal in exciting and innovative ways, carving out a section of their own but also digging tunnels well past metal to reach other areas. They generally aren’t on the tip of the tongue of most metal fans (yet, anyway) but already have a warm circle of followers in the underground and have made music that has captured the hearts and minds of listeners everywhere. Certainly if you played these groups, and their new records, for fans at the summer’s annual meathead-driven Mayhem fest, dudes would have way too much testosterone to even consider what these bands bring to the table. They’re also probably drunk on some shitty mass-produced swill. But for those who put more thought into metal and want their experiences to be enriching and unpredictable, each band very easily should fulfill again and again.

One thing each band does have in common is they are made up of just one member. Germany’s Fyrnask is the project of Fyrnd, whose black metal leanings make this the heaviest of the two bands by far, but it isn’t savagery for the sake of it. There is plenty of atmosphere, folk-like, woodsy instrumentation that might you feel like you’re baking in front of a campfire in the middle of nowhere, and passion you can feel. “Eldir Nott” is the follow-up to 2011’s magnificent “Bluostar,” and it manages to push the creativity and power to an even higher level. Sweden’s Lustre is the dream of Nachzeit, and he has offered up four full-length offerings since the project’s conception, each acting as a dream-state step into a fantasy land, where you encounter strange creatures, odd land masses, and fogs that soothe and calm as much as obscure your vision. It’s not heavy, pulsating music by any means, but if you’ve followed the life of the project all the way up to new “Wonder, certainly you get the crossover appeal.

Fyrnask coverWe’ll start with Fyrnask and their astonishing new record, that’s grisly and furious, but also colorful and wondrous. Fyrnd really explores the capability of this project on Eldir Nott,” an eight-track, 50-minute record that’s a mix of dark, storming epics and ambient passages that tie together each explosive chapter. The obviously titled “Intro” is what you expect it to be, the door opener into the record that begins to light the pyres so you can see the start of the maze. “Vigil” then ignites, with pure black metal power, lush atmosphere, and the feeling the sky is opening up. The vocals go from shrieky to a rumbly growl, and right before the concluding carnage that caps off the song, a pastoral-like section sweeps in to establish the misleading calm. “Jarðeldr” is a 12-minute-plus journey, beginning with weird, windy noises before heathen-like hammering and sheer power is ushered in to blacken everything. As one can expect from this project, the tempos and moods go back and forth from oppressively dark to hope-filled light, but the most impactful moments of the song come with the harsh, shout-filled vocals and the penetrating drone that feels like a hole is being burned into the middle of the forest.

“Suoannas Sedir” is another interlude, this one filled with thick drone and acoustic splashes, and that takes you into “Saltrian,” one of the most molten and aggressive songs in this project’s catalog, a total firestorm of power and audio violence. Shrieks rain down, the metallic overtures pulverize, and the clubbing power eventually drowns out into a swirl, as it’s sucked into a frozen vortex, ripping you into the heart of a time warp. “Samas Stigr” blows more frosty sentiment into the record, making the transition into “Síaiða,” a song with a doomy beginning but eventually chugs mightily. Fyrnd unleashes more hellacious screams, haunting dulcimer (at least it sounds like dulcimer) creates a sense of eeriness, and the song becomes unhinged at the end, unleashing hell. The closing instrumental “Sut” whirs, chimes, and drones, letting the album’s spirit pass into the night, looking for another soul to chill.

Another awesome creation from Fyrnask, two albums into a promising run with only a gaping-wide future in sight. “Eldir Nott” is another stunning jewel in this project’s crown, a record that separates itself from the brilliant “Bluostar” but stands alongside it as a powerful foundation.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fyrnask/114847128596890

To buy the album, go here: http://templeoftorturous.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.templeoftorturous.com/

Lustre

Lustre

“Wonder” is one. It’s the fourth Lustre full-length and another in a line of records that captures an atmosphere that’s alien and odd. The music on “Wonder” feels a lot like a soundtrack to a weird, questionably shot sci-fi movie from the ‘80s, one that may seem a little strange on the surface but that gets into your blood and gives you weird feelings. Opener “Moonlit Meadow” is aptly named, as the keys shimmer and a fantasy dreamstate stretches out before you. You can hear some guitar growl behind the blanket of sound, with detached shrieks floating around feeling kind of Gollum-esque. The music achieves a trance state and should have your mind existing elsewhere once the song trickles out. “Green Worlds” has a chimey, watery introduction, and the keyboard line slips in and settles as the main melody. The song has a chambery feel to it, and it could exist on any plane of existence, in any era, and still be able to capture your imagination.

Lustre cover“A Summer Night” might make you think of the days recently expired, especially as night greets us earlier and the cold air starts to move in. Keys woosh, drums pitter patter over the melody, and the music is like something that could be bubbling in the back of a strange lab somewhere, ready to take over your mind.There are minimal vocals that sound like ghosts from ages past reaching back to modern times to tell their tales, trying to live again through you. Closer “Petricher” pulls back the primary melody line from the record, tying everything on this 37-minute album together nicely, and the bubbling, foggy transmission settles over, rises here and there, and eventually slips away, leaving you a wealth of new ideas and old dreams to examine and absorb.

Lustre really can’t be considered a purely metal project at all, as this music really just travels on the outer edges of the genre. The music is full of murky blues and greens, and it’s a nice soundtrack to summer subsiding and fall arriving. “Wonder” won’t let you thrash and bleed out all of your energy, but it might help level you and get a hold of your anxieties. That might not seem brutal, but that’s kind of the point. Metal can be many things, and Lustre help ensure that there are no such thing as limits.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/lustresweden

To buy the album, go here: http://www.nordvis.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=22&products_id=120

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nordvis.com/