Monday, 30 March 2015

Excruciate / Epitaph - Split LP

This is a special release for me and a real jewel in my vinyl collection; a split 12” vinyl with two among the best, but most underrated Swedish death metal bands from the old days. Or maybe I should rather say they were underrated and forgotten for many years, as ever since Ekeroth released his book, these two and many more Swedish acts got more recognition, also among the newer, younger fans and also all their recordings were re-released both on CD and LP. Anyway, here I have the original LP version of the Excruciate / Epitaph split, released by Infest Records. Firstly this was the only version, there was no CD released, only recently a bootleg appeared, but who cares about these fuckin thieves’ unofficial CD? My old vinyl, after more than 20 years, still looks and sounds killer... and I love it!!!
Both bands present their demos here: Excruciate has their 1991 “Hymns of Mortality” demo and Epitaph their “Disorientation” demo 1991. I guess I don’t need to convince anybody that both are simply classics when speaking of the old Swedish death metal?! Both bands have very similar approach and fit together perfectly… but I think it’s obvious that Excruciate is the one, which is more brutal and aggressive. Their music is filled with heavy, chunky riffs, with many almost grinding fast parts, which will provide a killer dose of powerful energy… And here I think that “Sickness Hate” and “I Pray for Infinity” are the most violent songs, truly a crushing pieces where the stench of putrid corpse is coming from the speakers and the horror aura is increasing. But what’s great about their music is that it also has that melodic touch, which we always expect to hear from the Swedish bands; take “Hymns of Mortality” song for an example. It may be mainly focused on the fast, crushing death metal, but that can be suddenly interrupted by a nice slow piece, with memorable melodic lead. This is kind of stuff very alike to such Demigod, but what a lovely death metal slaughter!!! What’s characteristic for Excruciate was also their sound. Yes, it was close to the Sunlight, but different at the same time. They were recording at Studio Largen and surely the guitar tone is very specific for this band. All in all, a killer band in my opinion and one, which I always liked, ever since I heard “Passage of Life” on cassette (released by Loud Out) back in the 1993 or 94, I don’t remember now.
And then Epitaph… I admit that I like their music even more! Epitaph was slightly more melodic band, with a great emphasis on the atmospheric side of the music. But they still have this killer harsh and aggressive death metal riffing, there are also quite few faster parts and generally their music is / was a massive crusher… I think that if you take the good old Cemetary, from their classic demos and debut full length album and also God Macabre or Goddefied, then you’ll have a clear vision for the Epitaph’s style. Their recordings are a total must for the worshippers of the Sunlight Studio productions, as they have this classic sound, killer guitar tone… and musically it’s just awesome stuff. Take “Disorientation”; this fast motherfucker will please all maniacs of the harsh and aggressive death metal. Bloody excellent, relentless song, with a killer riffage and some great vocals. I heard opinions that Epitaph were merely a mediocre Swedish band; hmm, I definitely do not agree. I like their music a lot.
Standout tracks: “Hymns of Mortality”, “Disorientation”

Final rate: 85/100

Archives of the Dead part XVI: Acheron - Alla Xul

Archives of the Dead part XVI: ACHERON - Alla Xul (GUTTED Records - 7"EP 1992)
Line up: Vincent Crowley (vocals, bass), Tony Blakk (guitars), Mike Browning (drums), Vincent Breeding (guitars)
Recorded in November 1992, at Audio Lab Recording Studio in Tampa, FL, USA.
This was always a very special band… and you can think what you want, agree or not, but Acheron surely belongs to the best and most respectful US death / black metal bands. You may also have some mixed feelings about their ideological matters, about the strong bond with the La Vey’s Church of Satan and satanic imagery, who cares. The most important is that Acheron delivered some seriously crushing albums and Vincent Crowley still is a beast of a musician / vocalist. Acheron has very characteristic style and sound; one which impresses me a lot, so I return to their records quite often. Here I will write couple of sentences about their early 7”EP “Alla Xul”, released on Gutted Records in 1992, which is maybe little known, as it’s just quite rare, but damn, what a nice material it contains.
Only two songs here, but both are classic Acheron jewels. The band was always characterized with their own style, built upon usually heavy and slow (but not always!) and kind of hypnotizing riffing, creating the atmosphere of evil and obscure, especially when the killer voice of Vincent Crowley screams the lyrics, what feels like he’s a commanding preacher or a beast, dictating his blasphemies and prayers straight from hell! This is something what makes Acheron an extraordinary band and their music a ritual. You hear a short fragment and you just know it’s them! It’s a style, which no other band ever had. Both “Alla Xul” and “One With Darkness” are extremely brilliant anthems; both are heavy and obscure, but kind of memorable at the same time. Both have simply awesome riffs, but “One With Darkness” is especially worth being mentioned here, what a fantastic song (also known from “Rites of the Black Mass” classic album!), what a crushing atmosphere, what a brilliant performance! “Alla Xul” on the other hand is slightly faster, but both are surely insanely powerful and majestic pieces of blackened death metal. It’s worth also to say that the production of this EP is simply spotless, so great, clean, but raw and mighty! Damn, I just consider such songs as some of the most crushing pieces in the history of extreme metal music. And damn, Acheron still feels a bit underrated, but it’s a huge mistake if you never heard their mighty opuses. “Alla Xul” is rare, but ultra amazing piece. Close to perfection, if you ask me.
Final rate: 95/100

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Swampcult - An Idol Carved of Flesh

SWAMPCULT - An Idol Carved of Flesh (EASTERN VOICE Productions - CD 2014)
Some weeks ago I was contacted and asked if I would like to review a CD of band called Swampcult, hailing from The Netherlands (but the CD was released on Malaysian label!!!). Well, I hardly ever say “no” to such offers, unless it feels like I won’t be interested in the music or I simply don’t like the band… In this case, I did not know the band before, but I saw that I can expect some doomy black metal with a total Lovecraftian conceptual content. “Sounds promising, so bring it on!” I said and some days later I found the CD in my mailbox. Cool. It’s always nice to know that there are bands, which still promote their music with a collectable, physical copy of their release and not only want you to listen to damn mp3 (which I hardly ever do actually).
But hold on… doom / black metal? Hmm, honestly such description of the music would bring the early Katatonia albums to my mind. On the other hand there are many so called depressive, suicidal doom black metal projects like Shining, Forgotten Tomb… and even such Agalloch is often described as doom black! So, which of these would fit Swampcult and would be a nice comparison to introduce you to the music from “An Idol Carved of Flesh”? None of them haha!! Firstly because I think there’s hardly anything from the black metal genre in their music, at least not from the black metal we usually know. But doom metal… yes, doom metal is the great fundament of Swampcult music. But think of the mournful, dark and sinister doom, with very obscure and eerie sound… and if I was going to make any comparisons then loosely I would bring forth the final opus of Celtic Frost “Monotheist” and obviously also Triptykon. Atmosphere wise there’s a strong resemblance, of this utterly evil, creepy, occult music, dark as the hell itself! There’s also sort of psychedelic trance, which the music will awake in the listener... with the slow, repetitive riffing, quite weird sounding vocals (or incantations, as some would rather call it) of A. and so on.
And it’s fine, really. I can surely say that the aura around “An Idol Carved of Flesh” is quite attractive and surely Swampcult have some potential. But as far as this debut album is concerned, I think it’s still only a solid and good effort, but nothing what I would easily call a masterpiece. It’s not the highest quality yet, but some promising beginnings for sure. Swampcult has some killer riffs, some nice arrangements and ideas, but it’s still not quite as awesome as one would hope. Or maybe it’s just because it’s quite specific music, one which may find as many supporters as people, who won’t like it? I don’t know. Anyway, personally I’ve listened to “An Idol Carved of Flesh” several times and well, I guess the thing, which bothers me the most would be the monotonous aspect of this album and that after some time I simply couldn’t recognize which song is which, etc. Not a major problem, especially if I already mentioned that it’s rather solid and enjoyable music… but damn, this is something just too close to boredom, I wish the drummer would squeeze out some more energy from his hands sometimes haha! So… very specific album, rather unusual music, so who will dare to check it out?
Oh, obviously the concept around the Ancient Ones (“The Pits of Yog Sototh”, “The Unspeakable Beyond”, “Mysteries of the Worm”) always works brilliantly.

Final rate: 65/100

Heaving Earth - Denouncing the Holy Throne

HEAVING EARTH - Denouncing the Holy Throne (LAVADOME - CD 2015)
Do you know which are my favourite Czech death metal bands? No, it’s not Krabathor, although I do like them also. But my favourites are Brutally Deceased and Heaving Earth. And I mention both, as they share some members, so there’s some connection between them and surely a high quality, killer death metal came from both also. I got to know Heaving Earth years ago thanks to their “Vision of the Vultures” demo CDR and later I also managed to find “Diabolic Prophecies” album (released on Polish label Redrum) and split tape with Altars, all really awesome pieces of crushing brutal death metal. Finally after some years of break, Heaving Earth returns with their second full length attack, titled “Denouncing the Holy Throne” and released through Lavadome Productions. And damn, this is another impressive recording from Heaving Earth! And one, which I was really looking forward to hear. 
But even before I heard any sounds from this music, I was already impressed by the artwork for “Denouncing the Holy Throne”. Wow, it’s done by Marco Hasmann, who also did covers for such bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Cerebral Effusion, as well as he did the artwork for Heaving Earth’s previous album). But what a fine and detailed picture he made this time, I am really impressed, also with the whole booklet, filled with beautiful black and white photographs of cemeteries and religious (christian) objects. What I like the most is that they – both pictures and the objects – seem to be old, like in ruins, abandoned, forgotten… this speaks for itself perfectly and also match the title of the album. You just can’t expect a happy music and optimistic message from it (ha, such title as “Jesus Died” can’t say more about it!). But a quality music, yes for sure!
Maybe it’s a bit hurting to Heaving Earth, but the main influence on their music is quite easily audible. Also because two members wear this band’s t-shirts haha! I am talking about the masters of US death metal, Immolation! Yes, for me they are the main comparison, which I would make, if wanted to describe you Heaving Earth music. But it’s not a sole influence, obviously, as it’s classic US death metal in general, with Morbid Angel, Monstrosity, Divine Rapture, Vital Remains, Chaos Inception, Nile, Hate Eternal… More so, I can hear some similarities to Mithras, and it’s not because Leon Macey mixed and mastered the album, but because both bands have exactly the same influences and in the end such “Forever Advancing… Legions” and “Denouncing the Holy Throne” are quite alike to each other. Anyways, I guess it is clear what you should expect after “Denouncing the Holy Throne”. It’s just killer, high quality brutal, quite technical, but dark and sinister death metal! The album is filled with blasts, sheer, straight forward fragments, which will nail you to the ground and then there’re also quite many slower, massively heavy pieces, which will make sure you never get up and just crush you into the disgusting and putrid pile of meat, blood and bones. If it’s either a faster track like “The Final Crowning” or a slower bulldozer like “Worms of Rusted Congregation”, it’s always simply awesome! I like these shredding guitars, killer riffs, impressive leads… Really a lot is going on in every song, but luckily the music doesn’t feel like it’s too complex or too technical…
On top of everything I already written, I must also mention the superb production of “Denouncing the Holy Throne”, which is just spotless. I like the guitar sound, the drums… the vocals also… all instruments were perfectly played, so the performance of each Heaving Earth member is very good. So, I can’t imagine that this album will perish in the pile of other death metal releases. It just can’t happen. So, maniacs of the bands I mentioned in this review – don’t waste your time and get Heaving Earth right now!!!
Standout tracks: “Worms of Rusted Congregation”, “The Final Crowning”, “I am Nothing”, “Jesus Died”

Final rate: 70/100

Kurhan - Głód

I must admit that I really like the strategy, which Arachnophobia Records has taken right from the beginning of its activity. This label release only Polish bands and basically each band, each release sounds different to the previous and more so, majority of them has quite unique sound in general. Sure, I didn’t enjoy all releases, but most of them I did… but even if it happened that I didn’t like something (Sigihl), then I am happy to say that Arachnophobia has a great talent for promoting the bands, which have their own personality and quality. That tendency is continued with the release number 13, which is Kurhan and their debut album “Głód” (which means “hunger” in Polish). I did not know their previous releases, so I had no expectations whatsoever, but I must say that I am quite pleased with this album. It isn’t perfect, but surely a solid effort! And again, it’s different to all previous Arachnophobia releases, there’s something unique about Kurhan music but at the same time some elements are similar to some other Arachnophobia bands, mainly the Polish lyrics, which give this quite specific feeling to the music.
From strict musical point of view, this is quite difficult to describe. Surely Kurhan has a strong black metal feeling and the intensity, pace (mostly fast) and aggression are all quite characteristic for this style, but I think there are also some traces of death and even thrash metal as well. I like how violent and intense this music is, filled with many killer riffs and total relentless, straight forward attitude. This is surely the best characteristic of “Głód”; its sheer aggression, also quite complex song structures, but with rather simple riffing and richness of ideas (all played by the classic instrumentation, with no keyboards, acoustics or things like that!), dynamics and still some trace of the old school. I guess one can compare them to such bands as Voidhanger, I feel also a similar attitude and aura to what we could find on Genius Ultor’s “Nic co boskie nie jest mi obce”… Production wise, this album is not so much obscure or dirt, but the sound is perfectly balanced between the harshness and powerful energy and is rather on the cleaner side, making every instrument well audible. It actually is quite specific for Czyściec Studio, smelling with sulphur and coal. But I like how the guitars sound and especially drums – which by the way were very well played by Namtar, also known from Furia and Massemord.
And now, about the negatives, I don’t really know what to think about the vocals. They’re just… weird. Yes, weird. Surely I can’t think of any other extreme metal record, which would have used voice like this. But the problem is that I think the vocals not necessarily fit such an intense and aggressive music and I guess I would just prefer to hear harsher and more powerful, more traditional shrieking vokills. It does take many spins to get used to Mazur’s voice, but even after four days of listening to “Głód” I still can’t say that I am fully used to and convinced by them. Damn, it just looks like Arachnophobia likes to make my life difficult every time they release something new haha! Anyway, those vocals are a reason why I can’t fully enjoy this album. Still a solid effort though, but missing something what would put it into the highest level.
Standout tracks: “Swiatłość wiekuista”, “Ołtarze”, “Katedra”, “Czas”

Final rate: 65/100

Archives of the Dead part XV: Autumn Leaves - Hope Springs Eternal (Demo 1995)

Archives of the Dead part XV: AUTUMN LEAVES - Hope Springs Eternal (Demo 1995)
Line up: Boris Tandrup (bass), Egil H. Madsen (drums), Flemming C. Lund (guitars), Torsten Madsen (vocals), Thomas Andersen (guitars)
I’ve already written some words on this demo when reviewing Autumn Leaves’ excellent debut LP “Embraced by the Absolute”... but damn, I keep listening to “Hope Springs Eternal” and I truly think it’s simply an awesome demo, so maybe it deserves also some more words in this Archives of the Dead thing I occasionally do here; so no one will miss this killer demo… So, here it is!
And the reason why I like “Hope Springs Eternal” so much is probably the fact that this music is heavily infected and similar to the Swedish melodic death metal… and even though I am not a great fan of bands like At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, Eucharist, Crypt of Kerberos, etc then I must say that some of the early recordings of these bands are really good, mainly I mean their demos or 7”EPs, up to the debut albums. And Autumn Leaves sounds exactly like these early efforts of the mentioned bands. They also built their songs on quite technical riffs, with many melodic, harmonious parts in between, using many tempo changes and that characteristic harsh vocals. Of course this demo, released in 1995, came out very late, years after the debut recordings of Dark Tranquillity or At the Gates… all those bands I mentioned above already had full length albums released… so, it is very obvious that Autumn Leaves were followers of these bands, but despite that they managed to compose songs, which were just as good, as sometimes even better, than those of those Swedish bands, like for example I like this demo (and the following full length) album more than any recordings from In Flames or Dark Tranquillity. It’s just very well played and fantastically sounding demo, I think that “Hope Springs Eternal” with songs like “On the Verge of Tears” and the title track is just something fantastic. Oh, and also “Weakening Trip”, which starts with a riff, which I am sure already appeared somewhere else, but I can’t put a name of the band now haha! Anyway, what a killer demo it is, what a fine piece of melodic death metal! 
Final rate: 85/100

Friday, 20 March 2015

Anthem - Phosphorus

ANTHEM - Phosphorus (MAD LION - CD 2014)
There was a nice bunch of CDs, which I got from Mad Lion Records... and to be honest, of all bands, which are in this label's current roster two I like the most: Offence, whose “R.A.W.” is just a killer album... and Anthem, another Polish death metal force!!! Yeah, I know... we, Poles, have nothing better to do, so we only play death metal, drink vodka and eat potatoes haha! So what... we just do what we're good at... or some people are, as not all Polish death metal bands are that good. Anthem, whose debut album „Phosphorus” I am playing now, are maybe new to the scene (have anyone heard their demo or EP from 2007 and 2009? I don't think so haha), but their quality is undisputable and you can be sure that their music will blow your head off!
Musically it's just a total hurricane of death metal; it's a sonic destruction, total devastation and massacre! No bullshit, this stuff is just annihilation, as I can't describe such death metal in other way. It's brutal and heavy, mostly just totally fast and powerful, blowing out the speakers with great strength and energy. It's not so much original and unimaginable, but Anthem just does their job well. They have a lot in common with the traditional American death metal ways of annihilation, but a typical Polish character is there also (not to mention some Brazilian influences, from their neckbreaking samba haha). So, if you're into fast, brutal, but not over complex or technical death metal, but one which is just straight forward attack then „Phosphorus” is for you.
I like also that „Phosphorus” has a small old school feeling... so, what else can I add? Those 40 minutes of brutality were a killer time I just spent. As for the technical issues, I like the production of „Phosphorus” a lot, as it's properly heavy and energetic, but selective, with good drums and guitars sound. There are many awesome riffs and arrangements. And I must mention also the vocals. The lyrics are written in Polish, what gives maybe something unique to the whole, but let's be honest...  in majority of fragments you won't be able to recognize what language it is, as the growling of Vivi plus the ferocity of the music will not allow you to haha. Good, as I can't remember any examples of good sounding death metal with the Polish lyrics. So, the vocalist did an exceptional job, when transferring such a difficult language as Polish into the death metal music. Concluding then, as there are already too many compliments; „Phosphorus” is just damn good, killer album. The band is rather unknown so far, but I do wish them all the best as they're good enough to cause a serious bloodshed in the European death circles.
Final rate: 75/100

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Blodfest - Ild vist ulmer

BLODFEST - Ild vist ulmer (ANCIENT DARKNESS - LP 2012)
There’s a bunch of killer releases from Ancient Darkness Productions, which I have seriously enjoyed a lot. But even this label has one or two releases, which I am not so much fond of. One such is Blodfest, with their fifth (!) full length LP “Ild vist ulmer”. Well, it’s actually the first time I hear about them, which may be weird, seeing how many recordings they’ve done. More so, it’s a bit weird to see a band formed in 1992 (and again including musicians, who’re involved in big number of other bands as well), but doing their first official demo in 2005, but that may be some lack of information in the Metal Archives profile. Anyway, past several demos, split releases and albums and I finally have “Ild vist ulmer” on vinyl. Fine, cool to have it, but I am afraid that the music of Blodfest does not impress me as much as I would wish. It’s just as much typical as it is mediocre black metal effort. And I am afraid that my life wouldn’t be much emptier if I never had a chance to hear “Ild vist ulmer”.
To give you an idea, just imagine the most typical harsh, raw, utterly chaotic, fast black metal, with a total violent and uncompromising attitude. This is exactly what is Blodfest sounding like. Absolutely no time to be wasted for melodies or any catchy and memorable tunes, “Ild vist ulmer” concentrates fully on the aggression and black metal cruelty. And it’s fine, but the problem is that Blodfest not only has no specifically high quality in their music, which would make it truly worthy, but also the whole album is just monotonous as hell, as each song sounds almost the same as all before. I miss some truly neckbreaking and killer riffs or exceptional fragments, which would make “Ild vist ulmer” to be more than just average and let’s be honest, also so damn easily forgettable release. I suppose that for many this overwhelming bestiality and chaos, with which Blodfest music emanates, will be their strength and these maniacs won’t be bothered about the poorness or lack of anything special here. I understand that, but I personally require something more. So, this one Ancient Darkness release is a weaker one.
Standout tracks: sorry, can’t decide on any, as none really stack in my head

Final rate: 55/100

Demonic Manifestation - World of Horror

There’s always something special about bands from the so called Latin Americas (or quite often there is haha). Many bands from those regions are characterised with the most obscure and cruel sounds, relentlessness and ferocious aggression, sometimes so much missed among the “professional” US or European acts. Think of the bands from Chile, Brazil or Peru! And Mexico is no different. There are great bands in this country, like Infinitum Obscure (sadly split up recently, what a shame!!), The Chasm, Denial or Omision. And now I have another killer band to recommend you called Demonic Manifestation. Their first album “World of Horror” was only just released by Dan’s Crypt Records and man, what a crusher it is. Although I do realize that some of you will not care, especially when I say that Demonic Manifestation plays old school death metal and more so, is hugely infected by the Swedish sound... Some of you will immediately start moaning that Mexicans should do something different, more personal and characteristic for their country’s fierceness and darkness. But who cares, it simply doesn’t matter when the music is so damn good as the one from “World of Horror”.
So, as already mentioned, this is old school death metal! We have many bands playing this style nowadays, many releases, so the question is what distinguishes Demonic Manifestation that I recommend them so much? What makes them more worthy than the dozens of other bands, which attack us, playing the traditional death metal ritual? Well, nothing, as Demonic Manifestation is just as typical or maybe I should say as traditional and classic as you can only imagine. These Amigos don’t pretend to do something fake and artificial, they don’t come up with some useless boring shit and also don’t even dare to experiment and being “sophisticated” metal. No, “World of Horror” is very much similar to many other bands – it surely has all the well known ingredients of both European (mainly Swedish) and American death metal, so there’s aggression, fast blasting parts, crushing slow hammers and some nice melodic accents. Plus there’s a total Swedish sound and killer harsh vocals. So, as said before, nothing what you wouldn’t know. Despite all that, Demonic Manifestation has a quality better than 90% of similar acts. And this their greatest strength.
And the key lays in good songwriting. These songs are not only powerful and aggressive, so they deliver a killer dose of energy and erupt with unstoppable force, but they’re also insanely catchy and memorable and finally have this awesome feeling and dark, horror aura. Demonic Manifestation came up with typical, but just killer riffs, proper arrangements, etc. Yes, it’s nothing innovative, but they learnt their lesson damn well and the result is simply awesome. I just love such playing and have never enough, if it’s only played with passion and power. “World of Horror” surely has all that. Yes, there are many bands alike, some maybe even better, but loads, which are not even half as good as Demonic Manifestation. Even some old veterans like Convulse can learn how to play killer death metal from those Amigos.
So, you decide whether you want another old school death metal band and another one, which is so deeply infected by the Swedish pestilence. From my side I can guarantee that “World of Horror” is simply fuckin solid and awesome record, this is just 666% complete death metal, with no bullshit, on the same level – and also very close stylistically – to such Revel In Flesh, etc. So, if you’re a fan then I strongly recommend Demonic Manifestation. If you’re a complainer and moaner, then go away.
Standout tracks: “Demonic Possession”, “Crematory”, “The Tomb is Open”, “Funeral Fuck”

Final rate: 70/100

Monday, 16 March 2015

Funebre - Cranial Torment

FUNEBRE - Cranial Torment (XTREEM Music - LP 2012)
As they say, Funebre was among the first extreme metal bands in Suomi. They were formed already in 1988 and surely we can put them among the originators of the scene, along with such Abhorrence and Xysma. Sadly they were one of the most shortlived bands also, splitting up already in 1991, just after the release of their only album “Children of the Scorn”. Before that Funebre managed to release “Cranial Torment” demo in 1989, “Brainspoon” EP (which contained two songs from the mentioned demo) and “Demo 1990”. And both these demo tapes have been compiled on black piece of vinyl and released by Xtreem Music in 2012. Cool, I guess, as I always enjoy listening to all those old death metal demos on vinyl or CD. Sadly though this vinyl is quite a disappointment for me. I don’t talk about music value now, but the way Xtreem handled this release, which is just pathetic. I know that all their vinyls have rather poor presentation, sticking just to the basics (cover, insert with the lyrics, no extras at all) and it’s fine, I don’t expect extra fancy vinyls every time and from everyone… but the layout for “Cranial Torment” LP is just below criticism. It looks like it took the label ten minutes to prepare it, so simple it looks and there’s just nothing what would make this release even more worthy and special. There are no lyrics, no archive photos or scans from the old zines, no liner notes… nothing. So, for the presentation of this vinyl I simply give 2/10. It doesn’t deserve more. What rescues it from being thrown away through the window is the music and its great archival value. Other than that, it would just be bad!
The second demo is obviously the one I like the most. It sounds really damn heavy and brutal, with these ultra massive, often totally slow and crushingly HEAVY riffs, with low, guttural vomit… I mean vocals… but with also some faster parts and total dark cryptic rotten aura. There are even some melodic fragments here and there! All in all, one would say that it’s typical, classic death metal demo from those old days and I mean typically Scandinavian, as there are some Swedish bands, which were not far stylistically from Funebre. They were also close to some of their fellow bands like Demigod, Disgrace and Abhorrence, sometimes they also have that doomy, profound sound alike to the early Paradise Lost… All in all, “Demo 1990” is excellent, all three songs are great, but “Expunging Mortalities” and “Grip of Insanity” are especially worthy, very pleasant, rotten and morbid death metal in the heaviest possible way. Classic Finland, nothing more to say!
Then “Cranial Torment” from 1989 is nothing more, but a decent demo. It’s not as good as “Demo 1990” for sure, as it lacks that heaviness and crushing sound, which the following demo has. More so, the songs are rather mediocre, more primitive I suppose, with not as impressive atmosphere, even rawer production (what’s with the drilling bass??) etc. It’s also faster, almost grinding in many parts, like in “Leprophiliac”… There are still some killer fragments like in “Necropolis Discomposure” and “Brainspoon”, which will drill into your head easily and make a brain mousse! But frankly speaking it’s far from being my favourite demo of all time. I bet though that Funebre surely must have made a huge impact with such sick and brutal sounds back in 1989, as they came up with such heavy sound! Nowadays obviously such demo sounds incredibly outdated and archaic, but who cares…
So, two classic death metal demos, but a bad presentation of the vinyl. You choose if it’s worth having or not.

Final rate: 60/100 (low verdict is mainly because of the poor presentation of this LP)

Friday, 13 March 2015

Ligfærd - De ilde varslers ånder

LIGFAERD - De ilde varslers ånder (ANCIENT DARKNESS - 7"EP 2012)
Here’s Denmark’s Ligfærd. I know this band already from split CD with Pustulation – which was maybe nothing incredibly special, but a solid effort for sure. The thing I remember the most about this band is that I would never guess that their name is Ligfærd, when looking at their logo haha! Damn, I have no idea if the logo really says Ligfærd, as the letters simply don’t match haha. Jokes aside though, here’s their another recording “De ilde varslers ånder” EP, released by Ancient Darkness Productions. You know that I like all those 7” singles… They’re killer, collectable type of releases and this one is also a damn awesome piece for the collection, so I already must say that if you call yourself a black metal fanatic, then “De ilde varslers ånder” is surely something you need to search for.
Musically this is some seriously crushing ferocious and violent black metal, brilliantly filled with pure energy and aggression. The songs – and there are four tracks here, but one is only 40 seconds short – are mainly fast, but Ligfærd do some slower fragments here and there, so we have nicely diverse, but always fuckin fierce and cruel black metal attack in the Mayhem vein. “Når dombasunen lyder” is probably the most vicious song here, as it’s really damn pissed off and fast shredder, but I also like such “Anno Domini 950”, which may start with a slower part, but quickly erupts with another lava of hatred, of neckbreaking fast black metal. All in all, I must say that Ligfærd did awesome job here. I like all the songs, the performance with harsh, distorted vocals. I like also the production… really, good and recommendable stuff!
Final rate: 75/100

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Just Before Dawn - The Aftermath

JUST BEFORE DAWN - The Aftermath (CHAOS Records - CD 2014)
Few months ago I received the debut album of project called Just Before Dawn, which was formed by Anders Biazzi, also a guitar player in Blood Mortized. Well, my review of “Precis innan gryningen” was very positive, I enjoyed the music a lot, as well as the whole idea for the IIWW concept (which maybe is nothing new, as we also have bands like Bolt Thrower, Decaying or Hail of Bullets, but very cool anyways) and most importantly, also the idea to get different musicians involved in each song. All in all, “Precis innan gryningen” was a very positive surprise. I am happy that this album wasn’t just one-off thing and Mr. Biazzi worked on his second album… which I again got from him! Awesome! The second opus is called “The Aftermath” and was again released by Chaos Records from Mexico. Hmm, I must say that while I really have nothing against this label, but I would seriously re-consider releasing such thin digipacks as they did for “The Aftermath” (and for some other Chaos releases). I just hate them! Not only they’re more like fuckin beer coasters, so thin they are, but also it’s just so damn pissing to take the CD or the booklet out from the digipack. It’s actually easy to get them all damaged, so please… don’t do these coasters / digipacks anymore, just stick to the normal jewel case CDs, all right?
Now, as for the music… “The Aftermath” is pretty much a continuation of the first album. There’s no doubt that Anders Biazzi knows exactly what he wants to achieve with his project and what sort of music he wants it to play. So, “The Aftermath” is very much similar to “Precis innan gryningen”, which is fine. And I again enjoyed this album, but… well, I have one big “but” reserved for “The Aftermath”. I really think that this time there’re just too many songs on the album. While there’s nothing really wrong with the general performance or songwriting, it just happens that the album goes for 55 minutes and it just feels very monotonous after a while. This impression, especially the first impression, is even deepened if you realize that basically each song has been played in very alike tempos, with very similar, quite melodic and surely epic riff, arrangements, etc… Yeah, it’s just a bit too much. Of course monotonous is not the same as boring, but the first album was 35 minutes long and was more varied and it was one of reasons for its greatness. I guess that Biazzi wrote too many solid songs for “The Aftermath” and simply decided to include them all… but damn, I would just take 3-4 songs off and made again a nice 35-40 minutes long album. It wouldn’t be easy, as all material is very solid, but I am sure that the impression would be better. But well… “The Aftermath” is what it is. It is good album, but slightly too long.
What saves “The Aftermath” from being a piece of dullness is just the quality of some of these songs. Surely Just before Dawn is now a great specialist in epic melodic death metal. There are some great songs, I also like the atmosphere of the album… yeah… epic and monumental, not really brutal, but melodic and maybe even slightly sorrowful death metal. This is what you’ll find here. Such tracks like “Soulburner”, “Device of Utter Dearh”, “Lightning War”, “Death From Above”  or “Feast of the Firedemon” are all simply really damn cool and great songs, with some truly memorable melodies, great riffs, some really good vocals. But if I had to point out some less killer, weaker songs then I would mention such “Through the Mud!”, with rather weak vocal performance from old basterds Grewe and Lodmalm (the participation of the latter is quite surprising, considering his gothic / disco fuckin shit music he played with Cemetary and other projects…). This is surely a song I would just skip and erase from the tracklist, as it doesn’t offer anything truly exceptional. But the majority of the songs is very nice… it’s also aggressive, when it needs to be, especially when the music sounds like a soundtrack for warfare! Oh, it also makes a lot of sense to read the lyrics, so you’ll understand what war stories Just Before Dawn has to tell.
Again I must remind you that Anders Biazzi has invited several more or less known musicians to perform on his album. And damn, the list for “The Aftermath” is long and impressive! I don’t know all musicians, but you can hear such vocalists as Marc Grewe, Ralf Hauber, Johan Jansson, Dave Ingram, Jonas Stålhammar, Anders Strokirk, David Nilsson, Gustav Myrin, Thomas Wouters and Jonas Lindblad… plus some guest guitar solos from the likes of Rick Rozz and Ronnie Björnström. So, nice collective of allies united against the enemy and sent in the first line of the front. Invasion has began!
Summing it all up…“The Aftermath” is nice, solid album, but for the future I would be more careful with the selection of songs and the length of the album. Not always more means better. Also, maybe if you’re a fan of more aggressive and obscure take on death metal, then this album won’t be your thing. But I like both, so generally I have no problems with “The Aftermath” haha! It’s cool, solid death metal album, which I have enjoyed quite much, although prefer the first CD more. Oh, one more thing; there are two versions of “The Aftermath”, each includes a different bonus track – mine has a song titled “Frontline” with vocals from the old Necrophobic vocalist Anders Strokirk, who I am sure you remember from recording the vocals on one of the best albums of all time, titled “The Nocturnal Silence”!
Standout tracks: “Soulburner”, “Device of Utter Dearh”, “Lightning War”, “Death From Above”, “Feast of the Firedemon”

Final rate: 70/100

Catharsis - Rhyming Life and Death

CATHARSIS - Rhyming Life and Death (MAD LION - CD 2014)
Have you ever heard of band called Catharsis? Haha, yes, I know it is a foolish question, because this is one of the most common band names! So, which Catharsis I mean, if Metal Archives mentions 14 bands with this moniker and I am not even counting the K-atharsis, Kaa-tharsis or whatever?! Seriously, it is just unserious. Anyways, this Catharsis is Polish and they’re probably among the oldest bands with this name, being formed originally in 1992. But I doubt they’re well known even in the Polish underground. They did a 1993 demo and 1995 full length album, but then split up and were silent for nearly twenty years. And now Catharsis is back after almost two decades with their second album and new line up. Honestly, I don’t remember ever hearing their old recordings. I have seen such “Bitter Disdain” tape several times, but never bothered to give it a listen, so knowing Catharsis only by the name I simply had no bad or good feelings about their sudden comeback. Mad Lion Records has released their new CD “Rhyming Life and Death” and that’s what you should know at least!
So, I didn’t really expect much after “Rhyming Life and Death”, after all 90% of bands, which is described as technical or progressive death metal lays far from my usual interest and musical taste. And it doesn’t help if you mention bands like Death, Atheist, Sceptic, Sepsis, Esquarial or even Trauma as their main influences, as I am simply not that big fan of any of them (well, maybe except Trauma). But yes, certainly the music on “Rhyming Life and Death” is very close to these mentioned bands. It has similar feeling and technical riffing, with quite cool bass and drums arrangements, some really good riffs, including few melodic parts (especially the guitar leads), etc. Luckily, the music is also quite dynamic and energetic, so it’s not so dull as some of the mentioned bands. So, even if I am usually listening to more aggressive and obscure type of bands, then I can still quite enjoy Catharsis. It’s simply solid and well written music… OK, I will call it progressive death metal, why not!? I am actually quite surprised myself that some of these songs are so easily listenable, like “Without Vocation”, “Those Who Have Never Risen” for instance or my favourite “Ecological Violence”. Oh, I need to also say that the production is really nice, heavy and clear, perfectly fitting this kind of death metal.
What I don’t like most about “Rhyming Life and Death” are both piano interludes, which I think are absolutely unnecessary… I also don’t like that fragment with female vocals in “Breath of Death”, because they sound just not good and I hate to hear such in death metal. Generally though I can admit that this is a solid, decent album. Well, I guess that Catharsis is sort of band, which has quite big commercial potential and if their music was promoted well enough then this name would be more known around the European circles. I guess that even fans of such Arch Enemy would like it a lot. So, if you care about any of the bands I mentioned in this review, then don’t hesitate and find a copy of “Rhyming Life and Death”. I don’t think I will be coming back to this album often, but I can appreciate the quality of Catharsis music.
Standout tracks: “Without Vocation”, “Those Who Have Never Risen”, “Ecological Violence”

Final rate: 60/100

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Jarnvidr - Landzplågor

JARNVIDR - Landzplågor (FALLEN TEMPLE - CD 2015)
It’s been a while since Fallen Temple released anything, but I think I can say that so far the majority of the releases from this small label / distro was really great... The seven inches from Necromantical Screams, Hin Hale and Eternal Rot are my favourites, but also Monstraat album was something I especially appreciated. At the same time I must say that Fallen Temple did not avoid mistakes, which in my opinion was the 10” split of Devil Lee Rot and Ajatus – truly a weak stuff, really. I am afraid though that also this new CD, of Swedish band called Jarnvidr, is another piece, which I am not so much fond of.
I know that “Swedish black metal” is one of those trademarks, which can be a good selling point and bring immediate attention, so I am not surprised that so many Swedish bands, even as mediocre as Jarnvidr, get their music released on CD and LP. But come one! There should be some decency and quality and in my opinion “Landzplågor” hardly delivers either of them. Each song follows the old, well known, recipes for obscure, cold and harsh black metal: simple, mostly fast riffing, lo-fi bunker production, croaky, raw vocals… Primitive black metal, so many times played and heard before. “Landzplågor” doesn’t really offer anything exceptional and I doubt it will bring a lot of attention and praise, unless the old Thule / Taake demos are your favourite recordings of all time. There’s some variation within the album (but I would definitely get rid of all those useless intros!), even some really not so bad fragments (like “Vapenoffer”), where Jarnvidr shows some potential, but the majority of this album is simply dull and uninspiring. As said already, you’ve heard it countless times before, many times in way better execution, but also some even worse stuff. Jarnvidr is somewhere in between… average harsh cold black metal. If you need another such album, then get “Landzplågor”, as there are only 333 copies, but if you’re more demanding listener then simply let it go and grab something more worthy. By the way, I laugh when I read that guy from this band says “I’m not into black metal of today, no good bands anywhere, good records” blabla… well, it surely fits well his band and his album, as it surely is no good at all. And I am so glad to know dozens of way more killer black metal bands of today than Jarnvidr.
Standout track: “Vapenoffer”

Final rate: 55/100

Friday, 6 March 2015

Ogdru Jahad - I

I can see that a lot of projects in Denmark are sharing the same members, what can only prove that they all have a great hunger for extreme music. For instance here’s Ogdru Jahad, which shares the members with such bands as Sadogoat, Ligfaerd, Deiquisitor, Wolfslair, Blodfest, Offerkult and others (some of which don’t exist anymore or they’re their ex-members). Ogdru Jahad belongs to the most obscure and fierce bands from there, but damn... what a fine album they did! “I” is the title of it and it was released on LP (by Iron Bonehead) and CD (by Ancient Darkness). There’s a sticker with the band’s logo and the statement “black metal of death”… and I can’t think of any better description of this morbid and utterly evil music as this.
This outburst of filth and obscurity can easily be placed in the same old rotten coffin, where such bands like Teitanblood, Profanatica, Bestial Warlust, Blasphemy, Revenge, Conqueror or Archgoat were buried. It is just primitive ejaculation of hatred and desecration. This abhorrent music is based on very simple riff and arrangements, it is just basic and with no special effects or other fireworks; simply raw and harsh bestial black death metal. What Ogdru Jahad does well is that, despite being so archaic and primitive, they captured the essence of such music perfectly, creating a killer obscure atmosphere and simply managing to burst out the energy, which blows the speakers out. Tempo wise, this album is mostly just fast. Ogdru Jahad hardly ever uses some more variations (but there are some sick, chaotic solos, which even remind me the old Morbid Angel demos, what about that?! Haha) and hardly ever slows down to achieve more massive and heavy approach; they prefer slightly one dimensional, constant riff slaughter, something we here in Poland would call “nakurw” (find out yourself what this word means haha!). And yes, I do realize that “I” is nothing spectacular nor original, there were many similar bands in the past and nowadays we can also spot quite a healthy condition of this extreme scene, with many newer, but often truly great bands. Ogdru Jahad is nothing what would make conflagration… but damn, I somehow don’t care and had really a lot of pleasant hours with “I”.
I also must mention the killer logo of Ogdru Jahad and also the fantastic artwork for this album, where Lovecraftian lizard monsters and other ancient mythical creatures are attacking the well known figure on the cross. What a nice artwork by Alexander Brown! While the name was taken from the “Hellboy” comic books (where Ogdru Jahad are the Dragon of Revelation, and are destined to bring about the end of the world). So, summing this all up – very fine, solid album from Ogdru Jahad. It’s only their debut, but I am sure it won’t be their final word.

Final rate: 70/100

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Sear Bliss - The Haunting

SEAR BLISS - The Haunting (II MOONS - CD 1998)
Two years have passed since the release of the utter amazing debut album “Phantoms” and the second CD of Sear Bliss has been unleashed by II Moons, titled “The Haunting”. I mentioned in my review of “Phantoms” how much I appreciated the debut, how well it’s been composed, how great is the unique style of the Hungarian band. So, obviously my expectations for the second album were huge… Of course today I know this CD since many years already, so I have a strong opinion regarding it for a long time now… and I’m afraid it’s not quite as positive as my view of the previous record. I don’t want to moan too much and I also don’t want to change my overall opinion about Sear Bliss – because they will always be an exceptional band for me, but probably “The Haunting” belongs to my least favourite records from them, sorry to say that! It’s almost a disappointment when compared to such an excellent “Phantoms”, which was near perfection in almost every aspect. “The Haunting” is obviously sort of continuation of the debut, but I simply don’t feel like this material is as strong and as well composed as I would hope.
So, what went wrong here? I said that “The Haunting” is a continuation of “Phantoms”, because it surely is. Sear Bliss maintain their style’s trademark aspects such as a combination of rough black metal with a lot of atmospheric parts and the great usage of brass section, which fills a lot of the album together with the keyboards. But maybe what went wrong here is that the album became slightly too soft and over melodic in its major parts, in my opinion. On one hand Sear Bliss still has quite few black metal parts, but they’re all played in slow tempos, with rather simple riffing and too often accompanied by the keyboards, which may underline the atmosphere, but at the same time remove the harshness and aggression. “Phantoms” for me was perfectly balanced when speaking of the combination of atmospheric music and rough (black) metal. On “The Haunting” that scale went dangerously too much in favour for the melody, softened sounds and atmosphere. The riffs may still sound quite heavy and maybe not so typically black metal anymore – and surely there are some strong guitar parts here and there - but mostly they’re just strangled by the ever present keyboards. Keyboards dominate here, they even overshadowed the brass section, which is rather unfortunate, taking for consideration how great work it has done on the debut. OK, not all keyboards here sound bad, sometimes it’s fine, but my tolerance has been tested here quite few times I am afraid.
But I guess the main problem here is that it simply is not as good material as the previous or some future records. There are obviously some nice moments, some good songs – but none of them is as good as such “Aeons of Desolation” or “1100 Years Ago” from the debut. And when listening to the whole “The Haunting” I just feel slightly bored, as it becomes too monotonous after a while, when each song is played in similarly slow tempos, with similar keyboard parts and similar sort of riffs. I can again remind you how perfectly balanced and varied “Phantoms” was. “The Haunting” is just not good; there are some fragments that I like… but the whole album is simply mediocre.
Ha, I bet now that my whole review sounds rather negative… But I don’t want to make you think bad about Sear Bliss. It’s still a great band and “The Hanting” is… hmm, let’s just say that I do enjoy this record occasionally haha, but when compared to some other materials of the Hungarians, it’s simply not their best. It is unharmful, easy to listen to music, which you can play as a background to some meaningless works. But that’s it… it is just something what comes in at one ear and out at the other. Sounds rough? Hehe! But maybe if it wasn’t all so slow and so damn over melodic, then it would be better?! Who knows. The excitement, which I have when I listen to “Phantoms” or “The Grand Destiny” is just not present here. There’s not even one song, which I would fully love. So… I give this album 60/100, although I know that some people rank it higher than I do.
Standout tracks: “Left In Dark”

Final rate: 60/100

Bloodbath - Resurrection Through Carnage

BLOODBATH - Resurrection Through Carnage (CENTURY MEDIA - CD 2002)
Frankly speaking, the whole idea for the so called super projects, read: temporary bands, formed by so well known musicians and usually directed by major record labels, is something what I mostly despise. It’s where the artificial music business and cash talks, not the real needs, interests, passions and desires – at least in many cases it is like that. And maybe with Bloodbath it was the same in the beginnings, who knows… I am not the one to judge it. But the reality is that this once side project turned into a real band, with real albums, real music, real gigs, not something temporary and onetime thing. And more so, unlike many side projects, Bloodbath proved to have certain high quality in most of the recordings they did and so, it’s not an unworthy shit. They started with killer “Breeding Death” EP and then this crushing death metal masterpiece came out – “Resurrection Through Carnage”, a classic old styled Swedish death metal beast! Moaning and bitching aside, this is just bloody good album, sounding like some of the early 90’s masterpieces. It is almost surprising that something like this came from the people involved in Katatonia. Sure, they’re experienced musicians, who not only played soft melancholic rock in their lives… but it’s so different from what they usually play… and at the same time this music sounds natural, like they really did have death metal floating in their veins. Good!
The whole secret behind “Resurrection Through Carnage” is simple as it can only be; they composed a bunch of great songs, came up with killer riffs, some catchy, straight to the point rhythms, proper feeling, had simple, but awesome ideas and good vocalist … More so, they kind of blended the classic Swedish death metal style (similar to some Grave, Unleashed, early Hypocrisy and Entombed) with some ingredients from the old US legends such as Autopsy or very early Death…There’s no special philosophy or fuckin mathematics, just pure, straight forward, no bullshit death metal and it just clicked perfectly with such songs like “Like Fire”, “Ways to the Grave”, “So You Die”, “Mass Strangulation”. Each song is damn memorable and force the headbanging and it’s also good to scream some of the lyrics (by the way, Mikael Akerfeldt did a better job here than I would expect! He really has this old vibe in his growling!). The music is also soaked with the properly created gory, bloody horror atmosphere… So, there’s nothing missing here, just great, high quality old school death metal. It’s nothing original, nothing sophisticated (let’s leave that to Opeth hehe), but it delivers everything what we all enjoy in the traditional death metal sounds. And more so, it turned out 666times better than majority of few albums from bands I mentioned above, like Unleashed for example, who’re the dullest of all. So, super group or super bullshit, no matter what the real intentions behind “Resurrection Through Carnage” were, I still think it is an awesome death metal record and to this day it’s also Bloodbath’s best piece in my opinion.
Standout tracks: “Like Fire”, “Ways to the Grave”, “So You Die”, “Mass Strangulation”

Final rate: 80/100

Archives of the Dead part XIV: Accidental Suicide – Flesh Parade (Demo 1990)

Archives of the Dead part XIV: ACCIDENTAL SUICIDE – Flesh Parade (Demo 1990)
Line up: Steve Fera (bass), Chris Kinjerski (drums), Travis Staedter (guitars), Bill Mears (guitars), Ed Jackson (vocals)
You may agree with me or not – I don’t care anyway haha – but I think there are several death metal bands from the old days, which really should have gotten more attention. I do realize obviously that most of them released their debut albums simply too late and this is the reason why they didn’t get as popular as the pioneering bands – because there were pioneers and the followers and it is a huge difference. But it surely doesn’t mean that the music of those followers was not worthy or killer. In the US scene I could mention such awesome bands like Gutted, Morgue, Demented Ted, Resurrection, Viogression, Experiment Fear, even Morta Skuld and Baphomet… and I don’t even want to start with the European scene or with the bands which only did demos and never had any albums recorded. They all were awesome, but just didn’t get so much reputation. There’s one more band from the old US scene, which I will write here about – Accidental Suicide! They were great, really. There’s only one album released – “Deceased” from 1992 (Deaf Records) and couple of demo tapes, of which I especially like “Flesh Parade” from 1990. This is only a three tracker, but what a nice doomy death metal, what a cool demo!!
All three songs are also known from the album, as they were all re-recorded on “Deceased”, but it doesn’t matter. This demo is great anyway. Sound wise it is much harsher, but don’t be afraid; this raw production has great charm and feeling of the old death metal days. It sounds rough, but can you expect something else from the old demo tape?? And music wise, this is as traditional and classic as it can only be. Accidental Suicide had quite a lot of doomy moments, “The Life I Hate” is closely influenced even by such Paradise Lost, but what a godly stuff it is. I can understand that maybe more demanding listeners were not so impressed, as they heard similar stuff before several times, so they were calling Accidental Suicide a second rate band, but not me… I simply enjoy good death metal and this is what these three songs are. “Flesh Parade” is my favourite track here, as it is fantastic mid paced track, with just killer riffs and vocals. Absolutely perfect death tune! And also “The Life I Hate” is great, for its doomy, but heavy as fuck sound. Yes, it’s nothing innovative, nothing groundbreaking, but very solid brutal doom / death metal. Think of Paradise Lost, Morgoth, Obituary, Morta Skuld and Baphomet. A fine demo, but “Deceased” LP is even better! Anyway, please remember about Accidental Suicide; if you’re old death metal worshipper, then I am sure that you’ll like this band a lot.

Final rate: 70/100