Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Marduk - Plague Angel

MARDUK - Plague Angel (BLOODDAWN Productions - LP 2004)
It’s an end of the era! Legion, such a charismatic and important vocalist of Marduk, leaves the band in 2003. But his replacement couldn’t be better, because Arioch known from Funeral Mist and Triumphator, joins the legion!!!! And as it turns out, this replacement gave Marduk a lot of freshness and new energy to create even more destructive and possessed black metal. "Plague Angel" from 2004 was the first attempt of newer Marduk to cover the world in total darkness again. An attempt, which I think is very successful and gives us one of the strongest and most ferocious records in Marduk discography. 
Let's be honest, from the first seconds of "The Hangman of Prague" you know that musically Marduk remained very much the same. They kept their characteristic weapons intact, but added more ammo to it, to sound more lethal than ever before. And this album from the beginning bursts with violent and ultra aggressive sound of hyper-fast black metal. Which is what Marduk fans love the most. Me too. These blasting tracks are just fuckin awesome, not only "The Hangman of Prague", but also such "Throne of Rats" or "Warschau". Or "Steel Inferno". The intensity of these songs, tempos and savage string attack are unbelievable, you can only listen to it in admiration. Personally, I think with songs like "Warschau" it feels like you're under the most intense and ferocious bombardment in battlefield, with no time to grasp air, no time for reaction... And it's even faster than Marduk from "Panzerdivision Marduk". Unbelievable. 
Obviously there are also some slower songs, so the album isn't one dimensional, endless fast ejaculation. And again these slow tracks are an icing on the cake, especially such "Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets", "Perish in Flames"... Or the fuckin "Deathmarch", an orchestral piece with fantastic malicious shrieks of Mortuus... Wow, it always gives me goose skin and feeling of the most obscure and eerie music you'll ever hear. Auroch... yes, his voice is truly sinister and vicious, he sounds like someone possessed. I love his arrangements, how he spits forth all these fast passages, with voice, which you cannot compare to anyone else. His vocals are also much more diverse and not so one dimensional as Legion's, just listen to tracks like "Life's Emblem" or "Deathmarch" and give me your opinion. Or admit immediately that he's the best black metal vocalist! Because he probably is! 
One of the most recognizable aspects of "Plague Angel" is its war - like feel. It is a direct reflection of Morgan Hakkansson's interest in II World War history. The imagery they started to use, some orchestral introductions from those dark times and lyrics for such songs like "Steel Inferno", "Warschau" or "The Hangman of Prague" (which was a name given to Reinhard Heydrich, SS Obergruppenführer from Prague)... It's a bit different then that the satanic concept of their older albums. But it's another fine aspect and worthy change in Marduk's style. Definitely we have here one of their better albums. 
Standout tracks: "The Hangman of Prague", "Throne of Rats", "Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets", "Everything Bleeds", "Deathmarch" 
Verdict: 90/100 

Vallenfyre - A Fragile King

I don’t care for most of these so called “all-star bands”, they are mostly useless and uninteresting to me. But there are exceptions. I love Bloodbath for instance. And Vallenfyre is another such fantastic side project, in my opinion. Created by Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh, this band simply fuckin rules. Technically speaking this album ("A Fragile King" from 2011) doesn't bring anything new or exceptional. But maaaan, what a fine dose of death / doom metal it is! It sounds perfect to me and gives goose skin every time I hear some riffs from it. 
What Mackintosh did here was bringing back everything what made Paradise Lost so good back in the early 90's. And what this band stopped to play already after their second record. Unfortunately. And damn, when I listen to some of the gloomy, heavy doom riffs or melancholic, mesmerizing melodies I can really think only of Paradise Lost's first two albums. I can almost feel tears coming from my eyes, when I play songs like "Seeds" or "Desecration" - these melodies really remind me "Gothic" and take me back 25 years in time, when as a kid I was shredding all my Paradise Lost cassettes. It makes me feel young again haha! 
But "A Fragile King" is not only that. Along with the classic British doom / death a’la Paradise Lost, Gregor spiced Vallenfyre with a bit of Swedish death metal influence (the production is quite Swedish-like, especially the guitar tone), a lot of Autopsy-esque rotten death metal, crust... Just everything to make these songs ultimately exciting and old school. All riffs, which are on this album are just killer, Mackintosh really got into this old school death metal style easily, like it was natural to him. Every song is a crusher, from start to finish "A Fragile King" keeps my attention and overwhelms with that cryptic, rotten, dark death metal atmosphere. Personally I prefer, when Vallenfyre plays the slower stuff, it's insanely good, also because these guys have excellent touch to compose brilliant melodies. Damn, just listen to "Cathedrals of Dread" - what an amazing song, with great melodies, D-beat, aggression, vicious feel... 10/10 for me. 
Another important fact is that Greg handled vocals in Vallenfyrewhich is very surprising. And I think he did very well, I did not expect him to sound so fuckin great. He has way better growls that Nick Holmes haha (especially Holmes on Bloodbath's "Grand Morbid Funeral" album), he sounds like beast and his raspy, cavernous voice fits this style of death metal just perfectly.  
Standout tracks: "All Will Suffer", "Cathedrals of Dread", "Seeds", "The Grim Irony" 
Verdict: 90/100 

Khold - Masterpiss of Pain

KHOLD - Masterpiss of Pain (MOONFOG Records CD 2001)
2001 brought us debut album from new Norwegian black metal band Khold and I still remember how impressed I was after hearing "Masterpiss of Pain" for the first time (got a promo CD from Moonfog back then). I felt like their music went the completely opposite direction than most of the Norwegian black metal scene - which in the early 00’s reached the bottom of disgrace for me. And while most classic bands wanted to experiment or started to play music, which could hardly resemble their earlier works, Khold came up not only with a dark, grim and utterly cold simplistic pure black metal, but also managed to create their own, very characteristic style. Obviously, Khold is a successor of Tulus and was created by Tulus members. This is why so many characteristics of Tulus, especially from their (then final) record "Evil 1999", could be found on "Masterpiss of Pain". But I think that Khold music is even more ice cold and inhuman. More vicious. And better. 
I have to say that the music on "Masterpiss of Pain" is just fantastic. There's such a heaviness to these sounds, underlined with their tuning, which is very low. And with so well audible and active bass, the music feels like was about to crush you into the ground... or drill into your head with the immense, sadistic pleasure. This instrument is never hidden to the secondary role in the back... often plays more important role than the guitar, like in "Bortvandring", which is great disturbing song with very eerie atmosphere. That already creates sound, which you couldn't compare to any other band, except Tulus of corpse. Riffs are quite simplistic, but are really creating kind of hypnotizing effect on the listener. Especially when most of the album is mostly slow paced, what naturally improves the final effect. The atmosphere, as I already mentioned, is very grim and ice cold and the vocals are very ghoulish, very harsh and shrieky. At the same time everything is surprisingly easily listenable and memorable, so Khold music will stick in your head after first spin for good. I keep coming back to it often, but to be honest, I mainly play "Masterpiss of Pain" rather than any of their other albums. 
Standout tracks: "Den store allianse", "Svart helligdom", "Bortvandring" 
Verdict: 75/100