Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Ghoulgotha - Prophetic Oration of Self

GHOULGOTHA - Prophetic Oration of Self (BLOOD HARVEST - 7"EP 2013)
I got familiar with this band, when I bought their split 7”EP with Into Darkness. But I honestly bought that EP strictly for Into Darkness, whose music I knew and loved already. Ghoulgotha was completely unknown to me. But as it often happens, I listened to their song and it turned out to be fantastic as well. So, I started digging a little and found out that they also have one more 7” in discography titled “Prophetic Oration of Self”, which was released by Blood Harvest, so a label, which I have a great respect for and quite few releases collected. I did not hesitate then and bought also “Prophetic Oration of Self”… why not! I loved “Abnormal Paralysis” from the split EP and it was just a must to get more of Ghoulgotha stuff.
And it surely was no mistake to get “Prophetic Oration of Self”. This EP delivered what I expected and even if I can’t say that I like everything about it, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a nice stuff. So, side A contains the title song… and it is a massive, heavy, slow doom / death metal fucker. There are some great parts there, but also some, which I have small doubts… I mean, Ghoulgotha sometimes tries maybe to sound like more progressive doom metal band, they have some unusual ideas, which maybe is unnecessary sometimes, as they sound too fuckin weird for my taste… But I can live with all that and even if this song is far from being perfect, it is still able to create this heavy, claustrophobic, sick atmosphere, which good doom / death metal bands must do. Then side B has “Disintegration Paradox”, which is almost three minutes shorter song than the one from side A and maybe this is also why I like it more, as Ghoulgotha doesn’t fuck with some weird shit so much in it, it’s more straight forward, with some faster parts, but also with that utter slow and massacring slow riffing… very good, indeed. Sounds like Anatomia on this one and I like it that way. And mind that raw sound of this EP!
So, “Prophetic Oration of Self” is not a perfect EP. I think the side A song is mediocre, but “Disintegration Paradox” from side B is way better. And then I also know that the song from Into Darkness split is awesome, so Ghoulgotha is a good band in the end... and I wait now for their first full length album now!

Final rate: 65/100

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Revel In Flesh - Death Kult Legions

REVEL IN FLESH - Death Kult Legions (CYCLONE EMPIRE - LP 2014)
I must say that for a short minute I was quite suspicious if it’s a good idea when the band like Revel In Flesh releases three albums in three years and also spice their discography up with several split EPs (four being released the same year as the mentioned third album). I mean, can they be able to keep the quality with such quantity and still record excellent, guts ripping music and avoid being thrown into some useless and mediocre stuff? Can the band be still able to compose awesome, memorable songs and avoid fillers? Can it be still so exciting, especially if it comes in times, where we’re flooded by similar type of bands? All that leads into one question – can we still enjoy “Death Kult Legions” and was Revel In Flesh able to maintain the high quality of their previous albums? I was listening to this record several times (too many times I guess hehe!) in the past days and I am very happy to announce that the answer to all those questions is “YES”! More so, Revel In Flesh just released their best album and there are simply some of their most killer songs here. And that’s great!
Of course, if you’re looking for something innovative, then “Death Kult Legions” is not an album for you. If you feel slightly fed up with that whole new wave of old school death metal and with the Swedish sound of such music, then again “Death Kult Legions” is not for you, because you will simply feel bored and unenthusiastic about it. This album won’t have anything to offer to you. But if you’re just a death metal fanatic and love the traditional take on this music and especially the Scandinavian sound is your passion, then I highly recommend you getting “Death Kult Legions”, because this is one of those almost perfectly executed examples for this style. I know that some moaners will always complain, that this is just a copy and there’s nothing better than the old bands and old albums and that for them it is silly that a German band plays and sounds like a Swedish from 20 years ago. But do I have to worry about such meaningless complain and stupid reasons? No. I don’t give a fuck and surely won’t waste my time on them. Personally I love such music, I love that sound and I don’t care if the album was recorded yesterday or in 1993 or if the band is from Stockholm or from fuckin German shithole. The quality of the music will always prevail and damn, I simply love albums like “Death Kult Legions”.
In the recent years bands like Entrails, Puteraeon, Graveyard, Brutally Deceased and Undead Creep really proven that the classic death metal in the Swedish vein can be still very exciting, when played by new bands. And Revel In Flesh is surely among the best of them. “Death Kult Legions” is one of those albums, which is filled with killer songs and which blows the head off of every fanatic of this music. Great groove, amazing harmonies, many memorable melodic parts, but also aggression and dark atmosphere… all is here. And I love albums, which combine all these ingredients in such excellent way, you know? Like here, on side A, we first have a song called “In the Name of the Flesh”, which is truly killer, aggressive death tune (one of the two / three my favourite songs on the album, definitely!!!!), surely one of the fastest and most powerful songs here, but still with that memorable details like chorus… and then we have “When Glory Turns to Ruin”, which is the first melodic, almost kind of epic song on the album. And again, what a fantastic track, how great are these riffs, harmonies and vocals! So, it is a nice mix. And basically each song is nailed really well, it is fantastic listen and I am surely not disappointed. Along with the mentioned “In the Name of the Flesh” I must really mention such tracks like “As Souls Descend” and “Frozen Majesty”, as well as “Levitation” and “Cryptcrawler”, which are again slow, epic and melodic masterpieces and “Hurt Locker” for its sheer, relentless aggression. Yes, very good achievement from Revel In Flesh and I really recommend this album to all fans of such music. It surely is one of the best albums of 2014, in my opinion, so it is enough for reference, I suppose!
What I hate about “Death Kult Legions”? Well, it is so easily listenable and catchy album that I listened to it too many times hehe! How many times can I play the same vinyl over and over again? There are many more waiting in the queue hehe! Just kidding, of corpse. But I guess I am only not so impressed with the cover choice this time. I don’t give a crap about Manilla Road, never listened to them, never will. Sure, for some it is more interesting choice for the cover than another Dismember or Nihilist cover… but I don’t like it, period! Other than that, an almost complete record for me. Ouuuuuuhhh, and maybe the artwork is too green hehe!
I give 88 to a German band, why not? hehehehe!
Standout tracks: “In the Name of the Flesh”, “As Souls Descend”, “Frozen Majesty”, “Levitation”, “Hurt Locker”, “Cryptcrawler”

Final rate: 88/100

Incinerator - Human Garbage

INCINERATOR - Human Garbage (WOLFSBANE Records - 7"EP 2014)
2014 brought us many awesome discoveries, when speaking of underground death metal. And just recently I made one more, thanks to a friend of mine, dear Raymond (hehe!). The band is called Incinerator and is Dutch. That’s pretty much all I know about them, as there’s no photo and the band members’ names are completely unfamiliar to me. Oh, I know also that they first did a digital EP in 2013 and in 2014 basically the same songs were released again (I don’t know though if they’re new versions or what), first on tape (100 copies) and later on 7” vinyl (400 copies, through Wolfsbane Records) under the title “Human Garbage”. The whole artwork is all in red, so naturally the vinyl is also red… but the music is sweeeeet! So sweeeet!!!!
This is yet another old styled, or should I say traditional death metal band. Stylistically I think Incinerator is close to early Asphyx, Swazafix or Pestilence (from “Consuming Impulse” era mainly!). There’s similar aggression, atmosphere… similar feeling within these riffs and also vocals, which are like early van Drunen and Loomans. Four songs are on “Human Garbage” and they are excellent. I love basically everything about them. The production is perfect for such music, the songs are maybe not innovative or they won’t surprise you with some spectacular technical aspects, but the riffs are massive, brutal, sick and keep the obscure, morbid atmosphere of the old death metal recordings. First song called “Slaughter” is exactly what the title means… pure fuckin massacre, absolutely phenomenal piece, best song for sure!!! I just played it so loud and banged the skull like crazy, what a wonderful song!!!!! “Morbid Lust” – also killer! Then on side B we have a title song, which is maybe too short to make a stronger impact, but it is a smasher anyway and finally there’s “Feed the Soul”… again, pure fuckin slaughter with truly amazing guitar solo. No more words. Killer debut 7”EP. Killer band. Remember this name.

Final rate: 80/100

Affliction Gate - Shattered Ante Mortem Illusions

AFFLICTION GATE - Shattered Ante Mortem Illusions (METAL INQUISITOR - CD 2014)
So many bands, so many albums nowadays… it’s simply impossible to listen to everything. So, I knew about the band called Affliction Gate, as I read some interviews with them in few zines (Crypts of Eternity, Compilation of Death, etc), but I never had a chance to hear any songs from them. Or maybe I did (as I think some tracks were on compilation CDs from zines like Mystical Music, if I remember correctly???), but I never went anywhere further. And I guess I would still be completely unfamiliar with the music of Affliction Gate, if I wasn’t contacted on Facebook by Laurent, who actually plays guitar in this band. Soon later Laurent sent me a copy of “Shattered Ante Mortem Illusions”, which is the latest release from this French band. And damn, I am really happy he did, because this EP turned out to be really damn awesome, I have enjoyed it totally.
Yes, “Shattered Ante Mortem Illusions” is only an EP, with three songs plus an outro, so there’s barely 14 minutes of music, but it is good enough to make me feel hungry for more! The best song here is surely the first one, “Memories of Battlefield”, which is a very nice death metal killer, with some slow, doomy riffs, but also some more mid or fast paced parts and mournful melodies in the vein of Hail of Bullets or Asphyx, really cool guitar solo, etc… Great, heavy as fuck, brutal also… I absolutely love such style of death metal, which is concerned about the atmosphere and aggression, but not about some mindless brutality. It’s just really awesome! And the following two tracks are also great. “Aftermath Curse” is faster in the old school meaning of this word… Great track again and surely another highlight of this short release.
Haaaaaaaaaa... These 14 minutes with “Shattered Ante Mortem Illusions” go just too quickly. I would love to hear more hehe! But well, Affliction Gate is about to release new album soon I think and I still have to catch up and get the first CD… Now I can just recommend you this band and this EP, surely another great old styled death metal piece!
Standout track: “Memories of Battlefield”

Final rate: 80/100

Decayed - Ten Years of Steel

DECAYED - Ten Years of Steel (HIBERICA - CD 2001)
Portuguese metal scene never belonged to my favourites, but there are couple of bands which I like. And Decayed is surely among them, even though I know only very few recordings from their very vast discography (a discography which surely can be compared to those of bands like Nunslaughter, Sabbat or Throneum). One of these releases, which I have is this killer live album titled “Ten Years of Steel”, which was releases some years ago by Hiberica Records, as a limited to 1000 copies digipack. And well… because I  know that Decayed is rather little known band and I always like to recommend my readers such unknown black jewels and their older recordings, so here I am going to write few words about “Ten Years of Steel”.
And it really will be just couple of words, as such live album doesn’t require a long introduction or indepth description. Such would simply not match to this straight forward, relentless, primitive and primeval, archaic black / thrash metal horde. This is simply an obscure and totally old school take on this music, deeply influenced by all the classic heroes, starting with Venom and Bathory (especially the early Bathory I must say!), as well as early Celtic Frost, Sodom, Samael, Bulldozer and… hold on! No, I am not gonna make this list longer. No point. We all know and remember the old heroes. You must mainly remember the first three Bathory classic LPs and that’s it. Decayed’s music is simply great. Very powerful, with crazy, memorable, aggressive riffs, absolutely perfect for the headbanging… There’s harsh, raw vocal, there’s dark, satanic atmosphere. Yes! And “Ten Years of Steel” is a live album. And sometimes such small underground live albums have only a doubtful sound quality. In this case I must say that even the biggest complainers will be satisfied, because this album sounds really awesome. Sure, it is raw and very unpolished production! It is nothing like those new, modern live albums, which you don’t know if were recorded in the studio or in live area. “Ten Years of Steel” is simple, harsh live recording, but has great audible riffs, drums and vocals. Everything sounds perfectly for such kind of obscure music and more importantly, the atmosphere on this gig was simply astonishing. It’s hell of a crazy show, brilliant underground performance, very well played songs, awesome interaction between the frontman and the crowd… and some truly killer songs like “Fuck Your God!” or “Sacrificial Rites” and more. There are 13 live songs, including a nice cover medley. Brilliant show.
And as a bonus we get three studio songs, from the Corpus Christii split, originally released in 2000. Surely a nice addition to already a nice live album. I like such recordings, because they let you feel the powerful atmosphere of the gig, the small venue and smell of sweat and blood, the whole intensity and rawness of live performance… Simply, this is how an underground live recording should sound like.
Standout tracks: “Fuck Your God!”, “Rise at Dusk”, “Thy Summoning”

Final rate: 75/100

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Pentacle - The Fifth Moon… Beyond and Back

PENTACLE - The Fifth Moon… Beyond and Back (VIC Records - CD 2014)
Another this year’s re-release and one, which I was really excited about, ever since first time I heard about it. This time it’s Vic Records re-releasing “The Fifth Moon”, long sold out EP from Dutch ancient death metal worshippers Pentacle. I have most of their releases, but somehow I never had a chance to find this one (EP was originally released in 1996) – and there were CD and picture LP released. So, I was happy to find out about reissue. More happy I was when I found out what this CD will feature! Damn, it’s not just four original songs but a great dose of bonus material, which makes this release simply a must to have! YES! Just imagine that this double CD titled “The Fifth Moon… Beyond and Back” contains: “The Fifth Moon” original EP, an outtake from the original studio session for this EP, then the 7”EP “Exalted Journey”, which I never had a chance to hear, so it’s so awesome to find it out here! Finally the second CD contains both Pentacle demos “Winds of the Fall” from 1993 and “Caressed by Both Sides” from 1992 plus… yes that’s not all hehe… plus a rare compilation song and a rehearsal track. Wow! I guess I only miss songs from the Desaster split plus a Hellhammer cover from picLP version of “The Fifth Moon” and that’s it. But I suppose you can’t have everything and they did want to leave some stuff more exclusive. Besides, this CD comes with a killer 32 page (!) booklet with a lot of info, photos, lyrics and other shit. Yes, this is what I call a complete reissue. Damn, even if I already had the original “The Fifth Moon” edition, I would still want this reissue, as it is just too good to skip it! Well done, Vic Records!!! It certainly is one of your better releases!
OK, I commented on how this CD is released… what is very important, obviously, because it is a re-release. And what about the musical content? Well, here are two CDs, with two hours of obscure death / thrash metal the ancient way! Obviously the best stuff here is on the disc one. I absolutely love “Exalted Journey” EP, because when compared to “The Fifth Moon” it has heavier and harsher production. This EP sounds simply killer and both songs are classic as hell. But damn, “The Fifth Moon” is the essence of old styled death / thrash. Filled with great influence from the classic bands like Death, Possessed, Celtic Frost, Delirium, Pestilence or Asphyx, it is a real shredder with such anthems as “Black at Heart” and “A Serpent in Bloodred”. What an amazing selection of riffs, impressive arrangements and the unique vocals of Mr. Gubbels. This is the real pleasure to listen to this band. As always!
CD two is more challenging, due to some very raw and primitive sound quality for some of these recordings. But it’s not too harsh for me! And the song, which I like the most from this disc is definitely the rare DSFA compilation song titled “A Dance Beyond” – what a fantastic bulldozer, in great Celtic Frost / Hellhammer way, with some almost doom / death riffs and keyboard background! I absolutely love it, even if stylistically it differs a little from the Pentacle we all know. But the same can be actually said about the demos era of the band. It is more basic and primitive take on death metal, with Wannes singing style being harsher grunting when compared to the screaming style he adopted on the future recordings… Not everyone may even recognize if it’s the same band. Anyway, "Winds of the Fall" demo is another highlight for me, really. Some really good songs, very, very nice demo production, really killer dark atmosphere and more pure old styled death metal than ever. And more so, it contains a song called “Descending of the Soul”, which I already knew from its re-recorded version, which appeared on “Ancient Death” MCD. Absolutely fantastic track, surely the best from the whole demo. Then the debut demo “Caressed by Both Sides”, which is  even more like basic and almost primitive death metal harshness, with simple riffs and arrangements, more so with a very rehearsal production. It’s not as good as any of the future recordings of Pentacle, not even as good as “Winds of the Fall” demo, but I also like it. It surely was great to finally listen to such early Pentacle recordings, as I never had a chance to hear their demos before.
Do I even need to recommend this CD? No! “The Fifth Moon… Beyond and Back” is for me personally one of the greatest releases of this year and surely one of the best compilations. For me it is almost perfect in every aspect – musical and for the fully informative and interesting booklet. A great summoning from the past… Simply awesome. Hear these ghastly sounds!

Final rate: 90/100

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Solstice - The Sentencing

SOLSTICE - The Sentencing (REPULSIVE ECHO - LP 2014)
There are several labels nowadays, which specialize in re-releasing all those old demos / old albums – and damn, I have nothing against that phenomenon, since a lot of these reissues turned out simply awesome. Not all of course, as sometimes they reissue stuff, which I think is not worthy and not interesting for me or the quality of the reissue is too fuckin poor – but that’s always individual opinion. Anyway, recently in Greece a new such record label has been formed, called Repulsive Echoes. Their first release, which I bought was an awesome classic demo of Diabolic “City of the Dead” – very well done vinyl version of this old US death metal crusher. And later a second vinyl came out, with another old US death metal squadron called Solstice with their legendary debut full length album, here in this version titled “The Sentencing” (originally simply called “Solstice” and released in 1992 on CD). This vinyl release was surely something that die hard death metal maniacs and fans of this album have been waiting for years – there were some different CD versions, but never LP. So, great idea from Repulsive Echoes to make this dream real! The pressing as limited to 500 copies (with three different colour versions), all sold out by now, as far as I know… So, happy I am to have one copy! And this LP is very well released. Great quality print, nice poster, awesome sound. Definitely it’s worth all the trouble and money and will not disappoint the maniacs!
I must say that I haven’t heard Solstice debut album for years. I used to have it on cassette, I had one of those Polish pirates, but that was almost 20 years ago he! And last time I listened to “Solstice” was probably in the late 90’s. I admit also that I basically forgot about their existence and was reminded about them only few years ago. So, I played this beautiful vinyl and listened to this album first time in such a long time… and damn! It didn’t grow old at all! It still sounds so fuckin killer and brutal! And I am sure that whoever out there have never heard this band and this album, but he loves such classic US death metal masterpieces like “Retribution”, “Beyond the Unknown”, “Embalmed Existence”, “Imperial Doom”, “Tortured Existence” or “Dying Remains” then he will also love “The Sentencing”! Malevolent Creation and Resurrection would be my main comparisons here; and I mean such aspects as the production (typical heavy and thick Florida sound), dense, technical playing, intense riffs and great vocals – performed by Rob Barrett, who you surely know from Cannibal Corpse and Malevolent Creation and who turned out to be not only a great guitar player, but also impressive vocalist, whose vocals sound close to such Brett Hoffmann. More so, Alex Marquez played drums on the album, so he’s another proof that there won’t be any weak stuff.
The album contains eight crushing and thrashing death metal songs plus one cover, which is also the only part of the record, which I am not so much fond of. It is a cover of Carnivore, who I never been into, I don’t like such music, so in the past I did not like this song and now, when I know it is Carnivore cover it still doesn’t speak to me. But the rest of the album is superb quality, slightly thrashing, but brutal and intense, technical death metal, with such great tracks like “Transmogrified” or “Netherworld”. Powerful stuff, which simply must be played loud, so you can feel its energy and intensity. The vinyl plays wonderfully, I have no objections at all, so… I would recommend you getting this LP, but it is too late now hehe! But maybe you’ll get lucky and get a copy on some internet auctions, maybe you’ll find a CD… whatever, but this album must be in your collection, if any bands or titles I mentioned in this review are your thing! And keep your eyes open for the upcoming releases of Repulsive Echo – Gutted, Oppressor (US)… Damn!
Standout tracks: “Transmogrified”, “Netherworld”.

Final rate: 85/100

Friday, 19 December 2014

Hazael - Thor

HAZAEL - Thor (THE CRYPT - LP 2014)
I don’t really know how should I start this review. Should I introduce the band and this album first or go straight to the point? Ha, it’s tough sometimes to discuss albums, which are for some fans so incredibly important, while many other don’t even know them or never even heard of the band before. But this is something what shall change soon I hope, since the album saw a long awaited re-issue. OK, I will start then from my first encounter with the band… Hazael is their name. And as a Pole, who have been listening to this music since 1990/91, I got to know them already in their demo days, when I bought the excellent “Clairvoyance” demo cassette. Soon later Loud Out Records unleashed their debut album “Thor” – which to this day is a very important release for the Polish death metal. Sure, if you look at the world underground then maybe the album is not so significant and for many is nothing more but a Polish take on the Swedish death metal… Those people will always say that they prefer Scandinavian bands over a Polish one. Well, that’s only their problem. The thing is that here in Poland Hazael with “Thor” got a very good response, I think. And soon this great feedback was confirmed by a deal, which Hazael signed with Century Media. Anyway, years later it seems that “Thor” has better reputation than ever before. The original “Thor” CD, limited to 500 copies, turned into one of the most sought after death metal jewels from the early 90’s, with the prices flying up ridiculously. So, I knew it is only a matter of time, before someone will re-release the album. And it was also obvious for me that whoever will re-release it, it will be a bull’s eye!
Finally the fall of 2014 brought us the so long awaited day. A cooperation between two excellent underground labels – Dark Descent (for CD version) and The Crypt (LP) gave a birth to a re-release of “Thor”. First, I must say I am very glad that these two particular, no other, labels took care of this reissue. Why? Well, first off, they’re both leading in the present underground death metal, releasing a killer number of impressive CDs and LPs. Both have also done many similar reissues and all were fantastically prepared. These two labels gave us certainly that “Thor” is in good hands and with no bullshit and cheap quality. I wanted to see only the best results and such I can see now! The more happy I am that I can listen to “Thor” from the vinyl! For years I only had cassette, I never had a chance to get CD – I just could hardly afford it, seeing the absurd, silly price the sellers demanded. I hope that the CD re-release will stop the silliness, but more so, that it will provide Hazael (who reformed recently, by the way) a good opportunity to promote their name and this excellent album, so it won’t be an overlooked re-release… but I am the most happy that an LP is unleashed also. From the beginning I hoped to see “Thor” on vinyl and this dream came true. The Crypt did – as always - a very good job. The quality of their LP releases is undisputable. Maybe if you expect to hear some bonus tracks, demos, etc – like they did with “Subconscious Lobotomy” and “Those Shredded Dreams” for instance - then you may feel slightly disappointed. Also because the album doesn’t come with any extras like posters, stickers or chocolate bars with the band logo (hehe)… we’ve been all spoiled by previous The Crypt releases, which were rich with extra stuff. In case of “Thor” it’s just a gatefold cover with two vinyls… is it really “just”? For me it is enough! And I am sure that “Clairvoyant” demo and such “When the Sun Is Dead” EP (which I also like a lot!) will see a vinyl release one day as well!
OK, time to say something about the music on “Thor”. I already mentioned that Hazael was described as a Polish answer to the Swedish death metal (I wonder though if the band ever felt it this way hehe). But don’t take it in a negative way. I can risk and say that even in Sweden there were not many bands and albums, which would be better than this! “Thor” is simply fantastic, very well composed, performed and recorded album, with a killer set of songs – one after another, they’re all awesome pieces! I can honestly put “Thor” in the same box – when speaking of the musical style and the quality of music – with such classic records as “The Winterlong”, “The Ending Quest”, “The Karelian Isthmus”, “Subconscious Lobotomy”, “Bitterness”, “Passage of Life” and “An Evil Shade of Grey”. What all these albums have in common? They’re all finest examples for classic Scandinavian death metal, which is filled with melody and mainly focused on the atmospheric side of this music, surely more than bands like Entombed, Grave and Dismember did. Of course there’s still aggression and the harshness, but the creation of dark feeling, atmosphere and strong melodic base are the fundaments of these albums. “Thor” is no different. More so, this album even has that characteristic guitar tone, mainly hearable in the melodic parts – and it wasn’t even recorded at the Sunlight but here in Poland hehe!
There’s a couple of faster and more aggressive tracks, like “Frozen Majesty” and “Clairvoyance”, but the majority of this album can be described as dark, atmospheric death metal. Several tracks really stand above the rest – like “Kingdom of the Mist”, “Wyrd”, “Seven Winds” or the mentioned “Frozen Majesty” (also my favourite track here). The entire time this music is quite catchy and insanely memorable, and also very diverse – some faster parts, melodic riffs, doomy stuff, even few female vocals… Tomasz has also quite unique voice, surely not a typical death metal growl, but something maybe closer to the singers from early Sentenced and Cemetary albums.
This album grew old very well, it doesn’t feel out of date to me, still is very fresh and still makes a very good impression, as big as 20 years ago. I love the vinyl, it was long awaited and I am very, very happy to have a copy. I am also sure that the entire edition will be sold out quick.
Standout tracks: “Kingdom of the Mist”, “Wyrd”, “Seven Winds”, “Frozen Majesty”

Final rate: 90/100

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Dark Tranquility - Yesterworlds

DARK TRANQUILITY - Yesterworlds (FLOGA Records - LP 2011)
I will be honest with you. For me bands like In Flames and Dark Tranquility may have never existed. I simply do not care about most of their albums, Dark Tranquility especially, whose very softened sound with weak vocals and boring pop metal music makes me sleepy and sick. I don’t give a shit if someone calls it melodic death metal, because for me there’s no death metal in their music at all, I also don’t care if they are popular… Dark Tranquility means zero to me. Recently though I decided to buy this vinyl compilation titled “Yesterworlds”, released by Floga Records, only because it contains very early Dark Tranquility recordings and I remember that years ago I used to like their 7”EP. If it wasn’t for this EP, then I would probably never bother to check “Yesterworlds”. And I must say that I surely do not regret getting this LP. It is quite cool, well done compilation, with some good songs and surely I can say that it is the only release from the vast discography of the band, which for me is worthy to have.
And first I must say that Floga did awesome job, when released this LP. A very nice shiny gatefold cover (I like that it is all white with golden print, it looks awesome). Inside of the gatefold there’s a huge archival photo of the band, while the record is housed in additional inlay. On top of that, the whole comes with eight pages 7”size booklet, with original graphics, photos, liner notes and all lyrics (which are damn long!). Yes, very good job.
“Yesterworlds” contains “Trail of Life Decayed” demo 1991, “A Moonclad Reflection” EP 1992, “Promo 1994” and one song from a rare compilation (1994). Musically most of this stuff is way different to the pop metal, which Dark Tranquility is so famous for. It is way harsher, more aggressive, quite technical death metal, with some melodic accents and dark atmosphere, which will surely remind you early At the Gates first of all. Take “Trail of Life Decayed” first and foremost. It is not my favourite demo, to be honest, but it is all right, I guess. I am quite surprised that a very young band in 1991 managed to get such a good sound quality on their first studio recording (surely they sounded way better than such Crypt of Kerberos or Afflicted). The music is rather weird and not so easy to describe. It has some small melodic stuff like the excellent finishing part of “Void of Tranquility “, but at the same time it is really raw and basic, with some frequent tempo changes, even quite fast playing in places (like the beginning of “Beyond Enlightement” and “Vernal Awakening”). The vocals are screaming maybe not as much as Tompa usually does, but are in similar harsh, screaming style, not growling. It may be a severe recording, but I can assure you I like it more than any full length albums Dark Tranquility ever did.
“A Moonclad Reflection” EP on the other hand already sounds more mature, it is slower, more atmospheric, more melodic. The guitar playing is more harmonious, the band uses some acoustic guitars, etc, so the progression is very obvious. And certainly this is my favourite recording in the entire Dark Tranquility discography. “Yesterworld” is simply amazing song, love how it begins and some parts later are also great. It’s very memorable, great quality melodic dark death metal. For me sometimes it’s almost close to some melodic black metal bands like Naglfar or Dissection, mainly because the vocals of Anders Fridén were again screaming and harsh. So, the end result is quite obscure, for my pleasure! Mind that both songs from “A Moonclad Reflection” are really long (almost eight minutes long each), so maybe this is why the whole material is not so easy to dig and requires some more listens. The remaining songs on the LP are from “Promo 1994” and well… They are good, all appear I think also on “The Gallery” album, but they already are a bit over the edge for me. I can probably listen to them with no problem, but also with no excitement at all. Just typically boring melodic “death” (hmm) metal with bad vocals (sorry but I never liked the vocals of Mikael Stanne!); take the song “The Gallery” – fuck, I am yawning already after a minute and the clean vocals in it are simply shit! So… I rather play the demo and EP again!
So, to conclude… for sure “Yesterworlds” is a great compilation for the fans of Dark Tranquility and Floga did great job, when releasing this vinyl. Musically it is OK, but as mentioned already, I only like the demo and EP, everything after that is boring for me (“Skydancer” still being OK, but from “The Gallery” further on the band can be flushed in the toilet for me!). So… I like half of this LP, so I give a mediocre plus final rate.

Final rate: 69/100

Darkshine - Ten Years

DARKSHINE - Ten Years (Compilation CD 2006)
Just made a fine discovery! I was searching through the boxes, where I keep some old promo CDs I received ten years or more ago and found a CD of band called Darkshine. What is that? I asked myself, as I had a very small recollection of it. A quick search on Metal Archives and I can see they were a French death / black metal band, not active anymore sadly and the CD I have titled “Ten Years” is sort of compilation with songs from each of the three demos, which Darkshine released between 2000 and 2006. I also found my old review of it, which I was very positive towards the music of Darkshine, so… I simply had to give it a listen and now I am writing some words, so I can recommend you this completely unknown band. I wonder if their demos are anywhere to be found still? I would love to have them.
OK then. “Ten Years” brings us two songs from “Lupus Infernorum” demo 2000, four tracks from excellent “Stigma Diaboli” demo 2004 and a couple of songs from 2006, published I think only on this compilation. The CD starts with these new tracks and well… I must say that they may be the newest material of Darkshine, but I like them least from the whole set! They’re good and solid, slightly harsh death / black metal, with some similarities to Behemoth for example (even the vocals sound similar to Nergal’s), but performed in harsher and more obscure way. There are even some similarities to death metal bands like Morbid Angel, so all in all it’s truly a good stuff, the first song especially. Meanwhile the previous materials sound really different. They’re both have kind of darker atmosphere and stylistically remind me one awesome, but slightly underrated Norwegian act called… Aeternus! Yes! I feel there’s a strong resemblance to the authors of “Beyond the Wandering Moon”, when speaking of the whole atmosphere of the music, particular riffs, its heaviness, tempos, but even the vocals. And that stuff sounds really damn fantastic. I like it a lot! In some parts it sounds also close to Rotting Christ, but that’s just a small impression. All in all, I must say that such tracks like “Sanguis Christi”, “En la Cruz” and the excellent “Vseslav” are really damn good. I wonder then what happened to Darkshine, why they split up, etc. Their website is still active, but it doesn’t give much information. Anyway, I hope that one day I will get a chance to hear Darkshine demos in entirety.
Standout tracks: “Sanguis Christi”, “En la Cruz”, “Vseslav”

Final rate: 70/100

Bubonic Christians - Promo Tape MMXIV

I know that nowadays there’s a growing interest in archaic music formats such as vinyl and cassette tapes, but I must say that it is still rather rare to find a promo tape with demo material in a post box. I guess it’s because the bands seldom do demos on tapes by themselves, and if such appear then they’re rather released by the labels in some small quantities, not by the bands – and such are never destined to be sent as promos. So, I must say that even if I am not necessarily a big cassette collector, it’s always cool to find one in the letter. And this time I found one, sent over to me by Alcoholichrist, who I already know from his bands Hell and Alcoholichrist – both really solid underground black metal projects. This time Alcoholichrist sent me a tape of his newest project called Bubonic Christians, which he plays along with Waste on drums and Maxime Taccardi on vocals (this dude is also doing some killer artwork… really obscure and mad… with a lot blood and insane ideas!). “Promo Tape MMXIV” is the first recording, I think it is limited to 11 copies only, released by their own label Casern Bitch Productions. First, I love the layout. The logo is also really great… and the music… at first I was attacked by some lo-fi, chaotic, raw black metal, but once I found myself in the chaos, then I actually started to really dig these sounds and in the end liked the whole material.
French black metal scene is often known for its relentlessness, harshness, primitiveness, for its morbidity, sickness and total no compromise. I am not going to call some names for the examples, as there’s no point. Anyway, Bubonic Christians follows very similar path of depravity. There are two cacophonic and possessed songs, each offering something different. “Morbid” begins with a fast lo-fi black metal, with a lot of noise and distortion, but there are also some excellent, slower parts… A very good track indeed, with some insane vocals of Taccardi. “Let Me Piss On Your Grey Stone” is probably my favourite track here; slower, with great riffage and atmosphere, but also some variety. Think of the combination between classic Norwegian black metal sound and French black metal primitiveness.
The cassette, along with these two songs I mentioned, also brings a couple of instrumental bonus tracks, maybe for the karaoke fans hehe. They’re good also, but I prefer to hear stuff with the vocals. So… Bubonic Christians is a good band, definitely. New material is coming soon, so keep your eye lids open.

Final rate: 69/100

Friday, 5 December 2014

Revel in Flesh / The Dead Goats - split 7"EP

I was waiting for this split 7”EP impatiently. Two killer underground death metal bands on one single – it was impossible not to catch the bait! And I did not resist! Revel In Flesh and The Dead Goats offer one song each and Selfmadegod did very good job releasing this EP – awesome artwork and beautiful red / black splatter vinyl limited to 100 copies (with 400 additional black vinyls hehe). It simply is a must to have for collectors like myself, who likes both bands a lot and also love split EPs (and I know not everyone is into them so much).
So, I have listened to this EP several times now and I can say that definitely The Dead Goats wins here for me. I simply love their song titled “From Hell He Comes”. Great, bone crushing opening riff, which is very much in the well known Dismember style from “Indecent and Obscene” LP, quite fast and nicely aggressive it sets the mood, which is underlined by the furious, quite unusual for this sort of music, harsh vocals… and then a second part of the song begins, which I simply love. It is a classic Swedish melodic guitar, with slow, sorrowful riff… What an awesome atmospheric piece! Yes, I simply love it. And maybe this is also why I think that “From Hell He Comes” is The Dead Goats’ best song so far and definitely my true favourite from this split EP. I give it 90/100 with an ease.
Meanwhile Revel In Flesh brings “Phlebotomy”. And it is a good song, but… well, I have collected and listened lately also three other split 7”EPs with Revel In Flesh that were released in 2014 and they were all great, but hmm… I think that it may be a reason why I feel like “Phlebotomy” is simply more mediocre song? Don’t get me wrong. It is still rather good and enjoyable old styled death metal, more or less with a strong Swedish influence, but very rough and obscure, nicely aggressive tune. Surely it is enough to please maniacs like me. But to be objective, Revel In Flesh did better on their previous releases, especially on their full length albums, but also when speaking of the split EPs I liked such “A Chant of Misery” more. “Phlebotomy” is all right, but it also sounds like a an outtake; deserves 70/100. This song is more like maybe a small appetizer before “Death Kult Legions” comes!
All in all, an awesome split, with two great bands.

Final rate: 79/100

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Disinterred - Incantation

DISINTERRED - Incantation (DOLOREM Records - CD 2014)
Not so long ago I was demolished with couple of demos, which I have purchased from newly formed Dolorem Records from France. They both were demos of band called Torturerama, which I seriously recommend to all fanatics of classical Swedish styled death metal. And now I have another new release from Dolorem, which I like a lot also! And just as Torturerama, which is from Belgium, Disinterred is also from this country. And another resemblance between both acts would definitely be the music, since Disinterred can also be described as a band, which has been deadly infected by the Swedish virus. And I can again repeat what I have written before: “who cares if it is a Belgian band that plays like old Swedish band, when their music is so damn awesome??”!!! Yes, I don’t give a flying fuck about that whole dispute in which people try to question sense of the existence of such bands. Why would I bother myself with such nonsense when “Incantation” demo reeks with this vile and disgusting stench of old Scandinavian crypts?
“Incantation” brings us five tracks. They’re embraced in great harsh and stinky production straight from Disinterred’s rehearsal room, which is just excellent and fits this music perfectly. It sounds like classic old demos! Surely you’ll love the characteristic guitar tone and great growling of Sven Poets. You’ll love also how Disinterred combines the aggressive tunes with some more melodic stuff, so something what we all deeply love about the Swedish take on the death metal. No originality is needed, if these tunes crush so damn effectively. And despite not being able to bring anything truly exceptional and remarkable to the genre, which is so overcrowded nowadays, I am still very pleased with this demo and surely my verdict can be only one: “if you like such kind of death metal madness played in the Swedish vein, with such newer bands like Entrails and Puteraeon, then these Belgian fanatics are here for you!”. So, listen to these four songs… and a live bonus recording, which is here also! It is impressive as well, because this almost 30 minutes long live devastation sounds also not bad at all and is able to bring the energy and vitality of live performance very well.
So… Yes, very good stuff. This CD is limited to just 100 copies, so make sure you get a copy before they’re all gone! I am surely try to find some more Disinterred stuff now!
Standout track: “Sacrifice”, “The Promise”

Final rate: 80/100

Horror of Naatu - No Hope for No One

HORROR OF NAATU - No Hope for No One (Self released demo CD 2014)
This band came just out of nowhere, suddenly striking with their debut demo. And I was caught in the chaos immediately, I admit that! Horror of Naatu is blasting from Cracow, Poland and it’s a new band formed with August, drummer of such bands as Stillborn, Genius Ultor and Deception, in the line up. He’s handling the drums and the rest of the instruments as well as the vocals are all performed by Hunger, who I am not familiar with I think (!), but who recently joined also Stillborn on bass. Anyway, this duo has just debuted with “No Hope for No One” demo. And I must say that I quite liked it.
I guess the only thing which we can say against Horror of Naatu and their debut recording is that in many ways this is rather typical and almost well familiar, maybe also kind of mediocre death metal. But when every time I say something like that then I also mention that originality has never been a factor of major importance for me, so I am not bothered whether Horror of Naatu sounds innovative or not. More important is if the music kills or not. In case of “No Hope for No One” I can say that it surely is a decent and solid debut demo, but maybe not something what would really break all my bones and make the unstoppable ear bleed. But it is good stuff. A nice production, with heavy, more than a decent sound and some nice, impressive riffs, with tempos mainly fast and blasting like crazy… but there are also songs like “Passus”, which are concentrated on slower motives and more so, here and there Horror of Naatu also uses some more melodic accents. All in all,  “No Hope for No One” delivers a solid and worthy dose of death metal. Nothing majorly unforgettable, nothing what will complete to be the best debut of the year, but good enough to enjoy these cold, winter mornings. I’ve listened to it several times and surely will give more listens later.

Final rate: 69/100

Decaying - One to Conquer

DECAYING - One to Conquer (HELLTHRASHER Productions - CD 2014)
When looking at the whole Hellthrasher Productions roster then I can say that Decaying definitely belongs to my three favourite bands from it (along with Intestinal and Ectovoid). I was truly into all three albums, which those Fins have released so far, with “The Last Days of War” being my undisputable and most preferred choice. What a damn good album it is! Decaying is not offering anything new and unknown to the genre, but solid and damn worthy their music is, enough to crush the bones of every listener. So, I was obviously looking with excitement at all the news coming about the new album from the Finnish death squadron. At first, they released a digital EP, but honestly I never even bothered to check it out… and finally “One to Conquer” has been released last week!
Decaying can easily be placed in the same box, where you can already find bands such as Hail of Bullets and Bolt Thrower, which are all war based, conceptual bands. Their earlier works were mainly dealing with both world wars (“Encirclement” was more about the first of the great wars, “The Last Days of War” more about the second one, events which happened in Europe and Pacific… although it also has a song called “Passchendaele” hehe). Now we have “One to Conquer”, which continues with this war concept, but surprisingly is about Korean and Vietnam wars and even about the Cold War, so something more unusual for metal (but not uncommon, if you remember Sodom or Jungle Rot).
And mentioning Hail of Bullets and Bolt Thrower is not accidental also when we speak about the music of Decaying. Especially the first of these two must have a constant influence of these Finns. It is just similar sort of epic death metal, based on the slower tempos, mournful harmonies, monumental atmosphere, but also filled with a great aggression. It is inevitable that the names of Asphyx and Hail of Bullets will appear in every review then. “One to Conquer”, just like the previous Decaying albums, have a strong similarity, when you think of the song structures, overall atmosphere, some massive, slow riffs, melancholic melodies, which are so often present in basically every song on the album and finally there are some vocals of Matias Nastolin, which sound totally like he was Martin van Drunen’s younger brother if not Martin himself hehe. But please, don’t take that obvious comparison in negative way, because Decaying has a lot to offer in this musical style, more so, there are some songs, which I think are even better than Hail of Bullets’ stuff and finally these guys are simply good at what they do. And they’ve been doing this style ever since the early days of the band (which maybe wasn’t so long ago, as Decaying was formed in 2000, but since then they already released an impressive number of CDs!). and “One to Conquer” is absolutely killer album. It has everything what fans of epic death metal love and I think Decaying is on the right path, continuing what they perfected on the previous album. “One to Conquer” is just as good as “The Last Days of War”, which surely is a great news for fans of the previous CD.
What I especially like about “One to Conquer” is for example how all these songs are so damn memorable. They really stick in your head, have many great characteristic patterns, absolutely killer melodies, which lead the song into that monumental, heroic mood. The whole performance, along with the production value, is close to perfection and I can’t think of much to complain here. But if I was going to point out anything what maybe bothers me about “One to Conquer” then I guess it would the fact that the whole album has been played in basically the same, rather slow, tempo. It doesn’t make the music boring, but surely it becomes slightly monotonous after a while. Of course Decaying plays some great memorable riffs, some good melodies, etc, so they do everything to keep the listener interested, but that sign of monotony does appear in few moments anyway. Interesting is that the better I got to know the album, then the less monotonous it seemed to me, which is good I think. You simply must listen to it carefully. But hey, this is epic death metal, so I suppose that fast death metal would simply not fit to the whole concept or atmosphere of the record, right? All in all I have actually been listening to this album a lot in the past week and still can’t stop, really, it is just a very good death metal record, which maybe won’t be groundbreaking for the whole genre, but certainly is solid and great enough to be enjoyed and collected.
Standout tracks: “Zero Hour”, “One to Conquer”, “The Balance of Power”

Final rate: 85/100

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Venenum - Venenum

It is an undisputable fact that the German death metal scene has now became stronger than ever before in the past. And all these young wolves have managed to resurrect their scene in great way, after so many years of stagnation and simple dullness (for years I think only Fleshcrawl was really good death metal band from Germania, and behind their backs there few more mediocre bands and loads of shit crawling in the filth, unworthy and forgettable). I am not going to mention all these new band names now, but will focus on two. First is Excoriate - now sadly split up, whose "On Pestilent Winds..." LP was a real bone crusher. I am not sure at which point P.T. from Excoriate (also known from Hellish Crossfire) decided to form a new band, but in 2008 Venenum was born. The line up is completed with the ex-members of some other underground legions, whose names will not tell anything to most of you. Anyway, it is not important who's been playing where. The most major fact here is that Venenum with their debut EP simply slain.
Sepulchral Voice again did a great job, when releasing their LPs. I simply love the artwork, also because it is maybe not so usual for death metal bands, but just like in such bands as Invidious, Degial, Stench and Tribulation, it is rather unique, but fits the atmosphere of their music so perfectly (the slimy green colouring is awesome). I like the artwork, I like its haunting, horror atmosphere... it somehow reminds me some old horror satanic or whatever movies posters, but it just looks good! Morbid and profound!
The music counts most though and Venenum just knows how to catch the attention. Their death metal belongs to those few examples for the new quality within the old sounds. I mean, I mentioned some bands already (Invidious, Degial, Stench and Tribulation), plus I may add also such Ensnared, Vanhlegd, Repugnant, Vorum, Beyond... All these bands create a new sound, but based on some classic, old school patterns. They take a lot of influence from the classic death metal records, but just like in case of Venenum they're mixed with some influence from the 70's rock and heavy music. And it even has a small black metal feeling to it. As weird as it may sound to you, it does have a great sense and simply sounds awesome.
Starting with fantastic, very warm and organic, not digital and non plastic production, which fits so perfectly to such music, then with the ability to create a stunning eerie atmosphere... "Venenum" is death metal, with a great accent placed on haunting melodies and riffs, which are creating this sort of occult, obscure atmosphere, which makes you devour these sounds like in some kind of ritual frenzy. It's not necessarily a music to bang your skull and drink beers to, although you can surely do that as well, but I think it's more about contemplating it, letting its shadow surround you, freeze the blood and create some eerie visions. Yes, I am serious, as much as it sounds cheesy to you, this is how I receive these sounds. Of corpse “Venenum” is also aggressive, it’s a riff based music, with fantastic ghoulish vocals, some speedy parts, but also with a necessary share and worship for the classic Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore”, Autopsy new and old and early Morbid Angel influence.
The whole EP is based upon four killer anthems, which all have some interludes in between, so you can imagine that the whole is almost like a conceptual and very carefully planned and thought work. “Bewitched Craft” and “Lunar Tombfields” are surely my favourite anthems here, but seriously speaking the whole EP makes an enormous impression and is simply killer (OH, these riffs in “Sacrosanct Transcendence”!). For me it’s because of bands like Venenum the whole death metal scene became so interesting and unique again. They make new quality, created something new and fresh, all exciting again. Definitely a worthy recommendation! 
Standout tracks: “Bewitched Craft”, “Lunar Tombfields”

Final rate: 95/100

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Sear Bliss - Phantoms

SEAR BLISS - Phantoms (II MOONS - CD 1996)
I don’t know too many Hungarian bands, but among all those, which I do know and remember about Sear Bliss is definitely the best. This one band definitely stands above the rest of their (usually mediocre) scene and is also the only Hungarian act, which I regularly buy and collect, every time they release something new. Why? Well, it is simple – first, they have very original and characteristic style, which makes their music so special. Furthermore, they never putted out a bad album, never shamed themselves with weak and uninteresting record. Sure, some albums I like more, some less, but in total Sear Bliss is very solid and worthy band. And that’s not something common, right? I regularly come back to Sear Bliss CDs, their earlier stuff mainly and just recently I was thinking if / will they release something new? It’s been already three years since their last album “Eternal Recurrence” and seven since “The Arcane Odyssey”. So, maybe it’s time to do something new? And when thinking about it, I went through all Sear Bliss albums, starting with the excellent debut “Phantoms”. And because this record impress me so much every time I listen to it, I also decided to write few words about it, to remind you not only this excellent CD, but also Sear Bliss, who I think are still slightly underrated in the extreme (black) metal scene.
Sear Bliss for me are the masters of atmospheric, monumental black metal. Their music was always characterized by a unique mixture of harshness and obscure black metal, with a lot of atmosphere and melody. Since their early days Sear Bliss had special, exceptional riffs, brilliant arrangements, which make them sound like no other band around… and finally obviously they’re also known for using the trumpets, which add a special flavor and feeling to the music, making it sound even more epic, monumental or whatever you wanna call it. Important is that the results are always very good. And “Phantoms”, released in 1996 by Mascot Records sub-label called II Moons, is definitely among by favourite recordings of Sear Bliss. What an excellent debut it is. What a stunning music, brilliant compositions and everything!
One of the biggest strengths of Sear Bliss and albums like “Phantoms” is the diversity of the material here. More so, Sear Bliss is doing so well with both aggressive and more atmospheric playing, that both styles fit together perfectly, complement each other and are a unity. And the sound of the album can be described as powerful and monumental, aggressive but sometimes almost melancholic and even beautiful hehe although I know this word may freak you out hehe! That diversity can be noticed in almost every song. “Far Above the Trees” is slow, monumental, sorrowful piece, which really evokes that nostalgic feeling, with some heavy riff and dreamy keyboards. This very easily listenable, memorable tune is followed by “Aeons of Desolation”, which basically provides similar patterns, the atmosphere is quite alike, it’s melancholic, nostalgic, the music is again rather slow, but even heavier, when Sear Bliss adds the trumpets and the finish is very symphonic – and how awesome it sounds! Yeah, I love how well the band combines melody with heavy riff and harsh black metal vocals, which by the way have such a strong accent that maybe it will take you a while before you get used to them (tone of the voice is similar to Gehenna’s Sanrabb, but add the accent to it!). Definitely “Aeons of Desolation” is among my favourite tracks on this album. It is a killer anthem, so memorable, so perfectly arranged and performed. But “Phantoms” is built in strange way; it begins with slower, more epic songs and the closer to its end then the more uncompromising and faster the music becomes. Already “1100 Years Ago” will surprise with more uncompromising black metal attack, including some blasting parts (hey, the first line of the lyrics is “Oh Lord, let us fire every church…” hehe!), but obviously it all is also combined with a lot of atmospheric passages, again with some powerful sound of the trumpet, acoustic intermission and great harmonies. But then we have such fine examples for diversity of Sear Bliss music like “As the Bliss Is Burning”, “Beyond the Darkness” and “With Mournful Eyes”, which all are mainly concentrated on fast, blasting black metal, but spiced with some monumental breaks. And trumpets again! And that is really powerful,
So, what about those trumpets? Well, they appear here and there, more as a filler to the riffs, to make it sound even more powerful and monumental and surprisingly it did give the wanted result! I am always really astonished how well it sounds and that they actually fit such music perfectly. And I am sure that if the brass section was replaced by keyboards then the result would not be as good and interesting.
And last thing… the artwork. All these early Sear Bliss releases have awesome pictures painted by Kris Verwimp. “Phantoms” is also really nice one. It presents a white female figure, White Witch, which releases an eagle – which as far as I remember represents a human soul. Another important things showed on the painting are two trees with wooden female figures melted / devoured into these trees. And finally a snake in the roots of the left tree, hiding in its little cave.
So, how I can resume this review? Do I have to really? It is just splendid, 50 minutes of great, almost perfect music, which I could listen to over and over again. I am very impressed and again I can only wonder how the hell is it possible that Sear Bliss and “Phantom” are still so little known and that hard to find? Absolute recommendation. 
Standout tracks: “Aeons of Desolation”, “1100 Years Ago”

Final rate: 90/100

Monday, 10 November 2014

Klabautamann - Der Ort

First time I had a chance to hear “Der Ort” was when Heavy Horses Records sent over to me a promotional copy of this CD around 2005. I did enjoy the music of Klabautamann quite a bit, I even decided to interview this band, for being slightly different than majority of black metal stuff around and of course also because I simply enjoyed their music. Years have passed… and recently I was listening to Klabautamann’s debut album “Our Journey Through the Woods” quite a lot and really liked it. So, now I decided to give “Der Ort” some listens as well and I can say that it’s good album also, but maybe not quite as good as I remembered hehe!
Saying that I don’t mean it is completely not good or uninteresting album anymore. No, I just feel like I prefer the songs and style from “Our Journey Through the Woods” slightly more. I won’t deny that Klabautamann has made a nice progress between both records. Their music evolved and progressed and yes, “Der Ort” kept some ingredients from the debut intact, but at the same time this album got rid off some aggressive and more pure black metal side of the music and switched them for things, which I may not always be so fond of. Style wise “Der Ort” still has that huge dose of atmospheric, sometimes folky black metal, where the band builds their music upon harsh, distorted riffs, often accompanied by acoustic guitars, all in order to create that great, epic, sometimes also melancholic feeling. Interestingly, if I compared the previous album to such bands like Helhiem, Agalloch, Enslaved, Helrunar, etc, then “Der Ort” may be more original style wise, but with small Agalloch / Wolves In the Throne Room traces still noticeable in few parts (not as strong though as before). And that black metal aspect is good. I like that Klabautamann so easily is able to combine the harshness and aggression with melancholy, melody and also arranges the songs with some additional instruments, etc. There’s a great richness of ideas on the album; you’ll find here some fast black metal mixed with a lot of acoustic guitar parts, next to piano interlude in song titled “Der Ort”. Then the next track “Forlorn Sin” has an acoustic opening with some clean vocals, which truly creates a nice, melancholic atmosphere, reminding me such bands like Agalloch, Forlorn and Borknagar. But there are also quite few songs, which have a stronger accent putted on the harsh, often quite fast riffing – let me only mention “Winternacht” and especially “Waldschrat”. They also create a dark, gloomy atmosphere, also have some melodic parts and several acoustic passages thrown within their structures, but generally seem to be more aggressive and straight forward than the rest of the material. And I must say that I really like this combination of fast, raw riffing and acoustics!
A real surprise and something that hasn’t been done in Klabautamann before comes with “October”. Imagine a doomy, melancholic song with not even a smallest touch of aggression, but with an overwhelming sorrowful atmosphere and all female vocals. It is very unexpected finish of the album. I must also mention “Red Urn”, which is all acoustic, with some clean and whispered vocal parts… again fitting well to the overall atmosphere of “Der Ort”.
Most of these sounds rather different when compared to “Our Journey Through the Woods”, I think. On one side I feel like the music of Klabautamann became more accessible, which means it’s easier to listen to, maybe slightly softer (despite having quite few fast black metal accents). But on the other side, it’s also richer, more carefully arranged and not as simple as the debut. All in all no one can deny that Klabautamann has progressed quite much. Whether their music went in a good direction, I will leave it to you to decide. I have listened both early CDs quite many times in past days and I think I like the debut more. “Der Ort” is also good, but maybe there are just too many fragments, which I didn’t like so much… On the other hand I am now really intrigued how the next two records of Klabautamann sound like, so I will definitely try to find “Merkur” and “The Old Chamber” soon. Very interesting band, all in all. 
Standout tracks: “Der Ort”, “Forlorn Sin”

Final rate: 70/100

Ares Kingdom - Veneration

ARES KINGDOM - Veneration (Nuclear War Now! - LP 2013)
It’s been a while since Ares Kingdom released their last album “Incendiary”. But finally the fans could be relived seeing a new recording with their logo coming out in 2013, titled “Veneration”. But could they? All in all, this is not another full length album in normal meaning of this word, but nothing more but just a cover album. Yeah… I know. It can be a disappointment, really, since there’s no new material of Ares Kingdom in it at all, but just a collection of some covers. And personally I am not a big fan of cover albums… I mean, I like the idea of playing / recording covers, I like to hear a cover as an additional song on the album, but somehow a whole LP filled with just cover songs is not something what I would be happy to hear. It’s just because most of such albums – like these Six Feet Under records called “Graveyard Classics” – were shit. OK, there are some exceptions, for example I quite enjoyed Vader’s “Future of the Past”, but it’s maybe due to a great choice of songs, which Vader played. I also enjoyed such CD like Throneum / Revelation of Doom, but it contains both new songs from each and as well as the covers, so it is a bit different. “Veneration” was a doubtful idea for me, also because when I saw the bands, which Ares Kingdom covered, it turned out that there’s hardly anything what I would know. I didn’t even plan to buy that album at first, but I somehow did get the vinyl, but only because it wasn’t that expensive and I just wanted to get another release of Ares Kingdom in my collection.
And you know what? I am actually very happy that I got “Veneration” in my hands. It turns out that even though Ares Kingdom recorded some totally unknown bands’ covers, the result is fantastic! Yeah! I’m seriously relieved and happy that this album turned out to be so awesome. And who would think that an extreme metal band, which makes a cover album without playing songs of such obvious bands like Celtic Frost, Sodom, Venom, Kreator or Death can still be a winner? Ares Kingdom definitely is! Their choices were completely unpredictable, but despite not being familiar with most of the stuff they recorded I liked it anyway. And it is probably because Ares Kingdom recorded these tunes in their own style, like they were their own songs, adding there that viciousness, aggression, feeling and dark atmosphere, which we all know from the normal Ares Kingdom songs! They’ve been spiced with real ferocious and relentless feeling, so the end result is simply… delicious hehe!
Most of the songs, which have been covered here come from the ancient times of mid 80’s! From these old days bands like Slaughter Lord, Sacrilege, Dokken and Mefisto (Sweden!) were chosen. Damn, you must admit that they’re not so popular choice, especially Mefisto or heavy / rock band Dokken! And from the 90’s there are R.U.Dead? and Nepenthe, plus on top of all there’s a song from Vulpecula. So, I think I only knew two songs from the whole set before hehe! But if you ask me how can Ares Kingdom play something like Dokken in their own, harsh and extreme way, then let me tell you that already in my review of the previous albums like “Return to Dust” I was pointing out that unusual mixture of rough death / thrash metal with some traces of classic heavy metal. So, these old, not always death metal, songs sound naturally similar to the usual Ares Kingdom style! Like that Dokken… you would never guess these songs (“Without Warning / Tooth and Nail”) can be coming originally from so different stylistically band. Ha, I actually listened to all songs, which are covered on “Veneration” in the original versions on you tube to compare them and I can only repeat that great job had been done here. Such Mefisto, who has a strong Hellhammer / Celtic Frost influence on their ancient “Megalomania” demo from 1986… So, why playing a hundredth version of “Circle of the Tyrants” if you can play “Act Dead”, which has similar style and feeling? And then why choosing something from more known bands like Hellbastard or Onslaught, if you can replace it with something completely unknown and unpopular like Sacrilege from “Within the Prophecy” album from 1987? At least it can introduce this band to some listeners. It did to me! Early 90’s death metal? Well, they could have done Poison, but instead did R.U.Dead?, who were also damn great band.
I like that Ares Kingdom chose a song from Nepenthe. Although I am not familiar with their demos (this band was active in early / mid 90’s and released three demos), but it’s a nice comeback to a past for Alex Blume, who played in Nepenthe back in the old days. And of course Chuck Keller had his Vulpecula, whose song “Celestial” has also been covered here on “Veneration”. It’s a nice tribute to their old bands I guess. This way “Veneration” show the roots and influences of Ares Kingdom. All songs have been played in absolutely fantastic way, my favourites here are definitely “Die By Power”, “When Your Heart Turns Black” and “Oblivion”. So, I recommend “Veneration” definitely, don’t get scared away by the fact that it’s a cover album. It is worth having and being played for sure. I like it a lot. 
Standout tracks: “Die By Power”, “When Your Heart Turns Black”, “Oblivion”.

Final rate: 80/100