Saturday, 24 August 2013

Emperor live... again???? So fuckin what?

EMPEROR announced some live dates for 2014...
And so fuckin what...? Magazines like Terrorizer may shit themselves in joy that Emperor will headline Wacken and Bloodstock, I ask so what? So fuckin what? I guess Ihsahn and Samoth must have got a nice pay check from the organizers to exhume and fuck the old Emperor corpse once more, even though they've called it quit already twice. And that pisses me off totally. I liked the band in the 90's, love the old LPs, their comeback in mid 00's wasn't that spectacular, as their live shows and the band lost the magic and atmosphere completely... and now what? Do I want to see them playing live again, just because they've run out of money? I don't think so! But that says a lot about nowadays metal scene, where money rules it all. Personally I don't want to smell this old carcass anymore... Emperor's live LP from 00's was boring and their big festival appearances will also be boring... And to remind you what was the best period for Emperor, for me personally, just look at the photo below. Go to hell.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Armagedda - Ond Spiritism: Djæfvvlens Skalder Anno Serpenti MMIV

ARMAGEDDA - Ond Spiritism: Djæfvvlens Skalder Anno Serpenti MMIV (AGONIA - LP 2004)
Wow… I have just listened to (five times!) Armagedda’s third and final record titled "Ond Spiritism: Djæfvvlens Skalder Anno Serpenti MMIV". And I just cannot believe that it’s been almost ten years since this album came out! Originally I got this album as a promo CD from Agonia Records at the time of its release, but as soon as the vinyl version came out I purchased it, as I’ve found this LP to be so good, so awesome that I just wanted to have it on vinyl, rather than a promo CD, you know… Later it has been re-released a couple of times I think, but I still have that original gatefold LP, which looks and sounds just killer. Erik from Watain was responsible for all the layout and graphics and he did great job; I like the fact that the colouring is so untypical for black metal records… It is not black and white, but sort of brown and generally (especially the booklet for the CD) looks like it’s been an old occult book or something, and it has been smeared with blood… all in all it looks great!
When listening to “Ond Spiritism” I think the first thing, which amazes me is how the sound of the band has matured since the previous LPs. I mean the debut was more or less, but very harsh, very raw and badly produced black metal, then “Only True Believers” was a step forward to it – with better production and better songs, but still very classic and traditional Darkthrone’ish black metal. And “Ond Spiritism” takes another huugggee step forward, musically developing into something almost completely different than “Final War Approaching”. The production is way better; the album sounds quite clean, but with that raw and black metal feeling; it generally has nice organic sound, very natural, of the band playing live and I must say that I really, really like that kind of production… So, forget the low-fi noise from the debut LP. More so, great accent has been putted on the rhythm section here. Drums’ sound is just perfect and the bass is almost dominating in some parts of the album. Somehow the way bass sounds and the role it takes reminds me bands like Tulus and Khold, where this instrument is very well audible and quite often the whole motif is based on its playing. The same can be noticed on “Ond Spiritism”; maybe not necessarily on the whole album, but in few moments like “Helvetestoner” for example. This song begins with an intro played on bass, what already sounds unusual, I think.
Actually “Helvetestoner” is one of my favourite songs from the whole album. I really like that opening riff from it, which is quite melodic and surely it shows that the band was not necessarily doing the ultimate harsh and primitive black metal anymore, but instead went into more original and less orthodox, but still very black metal sound. And that can be even more audible in the second track “Döpt i oheligt vatten”, which really does remind me Tulus. Bass guitar plays very important role, with the guitar riffs being more like a filling to the entire sound of the song, but generally the whole track is quite atmospheric and grim, but in very original way. For sure it is something uncommon. After that “Afsked” sounds like a classic black metal song, straight to the point, accenting on the traditional guitar riffs and structure. And the same goes for "Ændalykt". The cold, grim and eerie atmosphere in these songs is something what makes me like this music especially… it truly is freezing and has awesome feeling, which is underlined by the ghoulish, raspy vocals of Graav (with all the lyrics written entirely in Swedish, while the previous LPs had mostly the English written texts… and I definitely like these Swedish lyrics, as the vocals sound better). Also pretty much the whole album is either midpaced or slow, speaking of the tempos. Unlike the previous LPs you won’t find here too many of those simple, monotonous fast black metal songs, with one or two riffs played in one constant speedy tempo, like it was taken from “Transilvanian Hunger”. I guess “Afgrundsvisioner” is the only exception here, as it provides some outbursts of uncontrolled hatred and speed, but the whole song is more varied and for sure it cannot be described as monotonous, so in the end I think this is one of the best, if not the best, track off the whole LP.
Sadly “Ond Spiritism” is the final album from Armagedda. The band stated that “…We decided after the release of “Ond Spiritism” that it was for the best to put this phenomenon of ours to the past, we felt that we had achieved everything we needed and seen in our dreams. To continue would have been a move in the wrong direction…” and well I can surely respect such decision, when the band calls it quit, if feels that the album they just did will definitely be a pinnacle of their style and it would be difficult, or almost impossible, to come up with something better (or at least as good) in such style of music. Sometimes it is better to finish one chapter, instead of repeating yourself endlessly and fucking the same corpse over and over again, while it rots more and more and smells worse and worse and you know it won’t get fresh anymore. So, in that way I do respect the decision of Graav and A., but from the other hand I remember I was quite disappointed to see this band finished so soon… especially as either LIK or Lönndom managed to capture my attention so much. But well, that’s another story… Certainly though “Ond Spiritism” will remain to me as one of the better black metal records from the previous decade.
Standout tracks: “Helvetestoner”, “Afgrundsvisioner”, “Döpt i oheligt vatten”
Final rate: 90/100

Moss of Moonlight - Winterwheel

MOSS OF MOONLIGHT - Winterwheel (Cascadian Alliance - CD 2013)
Along with the debut album “Seed” from Moss of Moonlight I also received their second release, which is “Winterwheel”, a recently released digipack EP… although 40 minutes of music would probably be enough to call it a second album, anyway if the band wants it to be EP then EP it is. OK, my review of “Seed” was certainly positive, I quite liked the band’s brand of melodic pagan folk metal or whatever you’ll call it (Cascadian folk metal), but I also noticed that not everything about the music of Moss of Moonlight is what I would really like. Anyway I started to listen to “Winterwheel” with great interest and I truly must say that this EP is far better than the debut album and I like it much more.
There’s only one year gap between both recordings, but I definitely can say that the music of Moss of Moonlight has matured, is just better written, better composed, has some more interesting folk passages spread through the whole material and also is better performed and recorded. So, the words: maturity, progression, development are key words here. I think I can say that all four songs, which are on “Winterwheel” are just superb and each has something great and unique to offer, so I was listening to this EP with great interest and really enjoyed it a lot. Already the first song “Gǣt” provided some great emotions, as this almost 12 minutes long anthem has some truly incredibly catchy and memorable melodies and I also must say that I like the way Moss of Moonlight has arranged this track; its structure is very interesting and I can say that already this one song showed a great progression, which Moss of Moonlight has made ever since the recording of “Seed” album. At least this is what I think, as none of the songs from “Seed” were that long and had such unique structure and such awesome harmonies and arrangements; “Gǣt”  has them all plus it has great long instrumental passages, great vocals (both harsh growls and clean male and female vocals, choral parts…)… everything about this song is excellent. Then we have “Ēole” and who knows if it isn’t my favourite track from the whole EP? The way it begins – with an awesome neofolk motif and with such memorable vocal lines such as “for we are all Pagan, children of cinder/eaters of seed, walkers of wheels” it is instantly memorable and catchy tune. Again I like how the music develops within one song – starting with an acoustic neofolk tune similar to Death In June and such, then becoming more aggressive, with harsh vocals and distorted guitars and with some more special, unique moments within the song. I guess you simply must hear it to know what I mean, but I must especially point out that the folk element in Moss of Moonlight music has become much more interesting on “Winterwheel” than it was on “Seed”. Definitely the band has had more interesting ideas and what they composed is just awesome; “Ēole” is a song, which I can listen to for the whole day long.
Then we have “Catte”, which is like a conglomeration of both previous songs, maybe with les folky moments, but instead you’ll even find there quite fast, almost black metal parts and again it is very long, 13 minutes long, track and again a lot is happening there (some more female vocals for instance, what luckily doesn’t bother me so much, as the performance is better and not so dull)… “Hræfne” is the final song and it is pure neofolk; I must say that I am not big expert in this sort of music, although I did listen to some artists in the past, whose most of the names I probably don’t even remember anymore (I did love Blood Axis, Ordo Rosarius Equilibrium, Death In June or Von Thronstahl for instance and certainly there are some similarities to these bands here)… anyway “Hræfne” sounds really well and such moments as this one are for me the essence of what folk metal should be about… surely not about joyful melodies and singing about ale and trolls… This song has great, mystic, almost shamanic atmosphere, it intrigues and when in my previous review of Moss of Moonlight I wrote that I would like the band to develop their folk side more then I definitely meant something in the vein of “Hræfne”. I wouldn’t mind to hear some more such songs on the future Moss of Moonlight releases.
So, I guess I need to resume the whole review now… Well, I guess you can see that I really have enjoyed “Winterwheel” a lot, especially its neofolk side, but the metal side of Moss of Moonlight is also something what you need to pay attention to. Generally I definitely like this EP more than “Seed” and again I must underline the maturity and progression in the band’s music which happened between these two recordings. I must say that “Winterwheel” is one of those releases, which are totally infectious and once you play it then you simply press “repeat” button and spend more and more time with this music, so awesome it is. I kind of am disappointed as I’m in the middle of the Summer now and it is damn hot outside and I’m in the middle of huge city, so the environment is not perfect for such kind of album, especially one, which has such concept, but for sure once the winter will come with freezing temperatures and snow covering the landscape I will probably – as I do every year – take many trips to the woods, so then I am sure that this album will accompany me and will be a perfect soundtrack. In my review I have not discussed the concept of “Winterwheel” too much, I guess the band will be able to say more about it, I will just give you a small description which I have found on the website: “It’s a cyclic study of our past, of Anglo Saxon Paganism, and an attempt to give it meaning in a modern context…”. The song titles translations are: “Goat”, “Elk”, “Cat” and “Raven”.
“… for we are all Pagan… hear us!”.
Standout tracks: “Hræfne”, “Ēole”
Final rate: 90/100

Moss of Moonlight - Seed

MOSS OF MOONLIGHT - Seed (Cascadian Alliance - CD 2012)
Folk metal… uughhhhhh… usually I would say NO to something like this. What this kind of music reminds me are all those happy / humpa humpa bands from Finland singing about drinking ale and trolls, which I just cannot stand and thus the term folk metal became a synonym for shit metal. But to be honest there are bands, which take influence from folk and mix it with metal, which I really, really like… starting with some old Norwegian releases, from bands like Storm, Isengard, Wongraven and even early Satyricon through bands such as Falkenbach, Forefather, Sleipnir and finishing off with US masters from Agalloch – these are just few examples for bands, which use folk in their music in good way, making sure that their music is still majestic, epic and harsh, as well as has something truly intriguing and exceptional. Recently I have received a couple of recordings from American folk metal band called Moss of Moonlight and I must say that the music of this duo did give me a small headache, as I was troubled whether I should criticise this band for too joyful and infantile melodies or praise for interesting concept and some really great passages. And that’s because some parts of their debut album “Seed” are really good and some are just indigestible for me. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
I think that I should first present you Moss of Moonlight, tell what this band is all about… This duo (with Jenn Grunigen on vocals and drums and her husband Cavan Wagner doing vocals, playing guitars, bass and some other instruments) hails from USA, from Cascadia. And that place of origin is very important here, as the band sings about Cascadia, presents whole concept, which is dedicated to this region of USA (they called it Cascadian folk metal), as well as to heathenism. As the description says: their music is made of mountain, tree and ocean. OK, now half of the readers of this zine will skip this review, as I mostly write about bands from completely different musical territories. But I am sure that there are also some individuals, who like more metal styles than just old school death metal or classic black metal… and I am one of them. I like many different sounds and styles of metal; not all of them, as I also truly hate few, but I can tolerate quite many. And I guess if I wasn’t so open minded for some other than just extreme metal styles then the music of Moss of Moonlight would be very difficult to listen to and I would probably vomit after first couple of songs. Luckily I didn’t; even if it was close at few moments hehe.
Right, now about the music… With such pagan concept it is easy to conclude that the band will take a lot of influence from folk music and black metal… Well, I definitely wouldn’t exaggerate so much about the black metal, as honestly I cannot hear too much of this style on “Seed”. Moss of Moonlight obviously has some harsh vocals, some more aggressive riffs and epic parts, but not necessarily they’re black metal (of corpse it depends what you’ll call black metal… but what black metal is to me is surely not present on “Seed”). So, I think that Moss of Moonlight just combines folk music with harsh metal sound… and do they do it well? Hmm, some parts of the album are really good and I like them a lot, but since the music is very varied then I am afraid that there are also some, which I have troubles with, as they’re just too infantile, too melodic, too cheerful and just too damn happy. I like, when the music has certain dark feeling, majestic and epic, but still very dark and let’s say eerie atmosphere. “Seed” is very diverse album, so it has both: dark and light, melodic tunes. I am for instance not especially happy about hearing so many female vocals on the album. They alone are not a problem, but if they come together with some cheesy, sugary sweet melodies played on keyboards or some other joyful parts then the whole music becomes indigestible. Just listen to “The Grand Parcel” – come on; this is just a little bit over the edge for me. There are some other fragments, which aren’t that good in my opinion, but all in all they are very few in number and luckily I have listened “Seed” to with interest; the album is 65 minutes long, so you can imagine that Moss of Moonlight has something more to offer and so there’re plenty of different songs and emotions captured in all its ten songs. So, starting with really nice tribal intro “Faran” (is this some sort of American Indian influence there?) we have such songs like “Existent No More”, “Together, United” (one of the best songs for sure)… then we have “Zen”, which may be more melodic, but I somehow like the atmosphere of this song and especially all the folk passages in it, played on some weird instruments. Another nice, folky song is “Follow the Owl”… They are really good songs, only I think that the both male and female clean vocals need some improvement; and I am afraid that every song has some moments, which I didn’t like so much. Finally I must mention “Internal Epilogue” for its epic, almost bombastic riffing; for sure this is the heaviest song from the whole album, but the best has been saved for the end and here I mean the finest song “The Trail Beyond the Dying Sun”, as this is about 15 minutes long anthem and is like a conglomeration of everything what Moss of Moonlight is all about. Sometimes you can just close your eyes and actually imagine being somewhere in the wild, especially when you hear owls or some other sounds… Definitely there’s a great atmosphere in this song.
There are some nice folk elements, some more epic metal riffs… this music isn’t really heavy, aggressive or extreme; it is rather calm and peaceful in some ways. I’ve read some comparisons to Agalloch and Wolves In the Throne Room… for the first band I would agree only partially, while the latter I don’t know at all, so I cannot comment this comparison. Anyway, as I already stated before I find “Seed” as an interesting and involving album; one, which I can listen to from time to time, if I go to the woods for a walk or something, then listening to it on the headphones is something cool… but again, I don’t like everything about “Seed” and thus I cannot give it a more perfect score rather than 69 out of 100. For sure this duo proves to be a talented couple, with plenty of musical ideas, it is only the matter how will they use these skills and what music they’ll compose… I actually would probably prefer if Moos of Moonlight went deeper into the folk music rather than into the sweetened cheesy metal.
Standout tracks: “Together, United”, “Zen”, “Follow the Owl”, “Internal Epilogue”, “The Trail Beyond the Dying Sun
Final rate: 69/100

Monday, 19 August 2013

Entrails - Raging Death

ENTRAILS - Raging Death (METAL BLADE - LP 2013)
Entrails’ “Raging Death” was for sure one of the most expected albums in the recent months, I really wanted to get it asap, but somehow it took me two months, before I putted my hands on the vinyl (finally). Obviously I already have had both previous full length records, as well as a split 12” with Ominous Crucifix, in my collection, all three are just superb releases, so Entrails quickly became one of my favourite bands of nowadays, but the fact that they’ve signed a deal with Metal Blade was something what gave me some troubles. First of all, I don’t understand why all of a sudden all these big labels wanna sign bands, which they wouldn’t give a damn shit about few years ago… OK, I know – the reason is one, but simple: trends, money… but sometimes signing with a major record label brings some unwanted changes and not always the new music turns out to be as good, as it was, when the band was in a small, independent underground label and was known to only few hundreds of maniacs. For instance I must say that I completely don’t like Century Media’s singing Necrowretch. Their new album (“Putrid Death Sorcery”) is just boring and didn’t impress me at all. So I was also worried a little about Entrails. I hoped they won’t turn into some boring melodic death metal a’la Amon Amarth or some other crap… and well, I am happy to announce that signing with Metal Blade didn’t infect the music and Entrails is still as furious, creepy and killer old school Swedish death metal band as they were when they’ve recorded the previous albums. Sure, production wise “Raging Death” is a step forward for the band; the sound is crisp, clean, powerful and sort of modern, but with the necessary dose of harshness and dirt to maintain its natural, old school feeling. I have only positive words about it, to be honest!
Now about the songs… Well, according to Jimmy the two previous albums were more or less, but a collection of his old songs or riffs he composed back in the early 90’s, so now “Raging Death” is the first album for which the band (now a four piece) had to sit down and compose the songs. Well, I wouldn’t even guess that, as the whole material sounds just as good and as old styled as the earlier releases and more so, I think that these guys just have a natural feeling, passion and enthusiasm for this sort of playing, which makes the songwriting very easy and spontaneous for them. OK, maybe not all the songs from “Raging Death” are perfect; there may be a couple of fillers, but there’s never a sign of boredom or anything like that. The overall quality is very high and the album is very good, with some exceptionally awesome songs, which just shred to pieces instantly. For the whole LP I may have one complain and I don’t know whether you’ll agree with me or not, but well, I must write this… I don’t really understand the point of doing the finishing part of “The Cemetery Horrors” and to make it sound exactly like Entombed’s “Left Hand Path”. To me this already is a legendary theme and Entombed did something AWESOME when using the creepy melody from “Phantasm” horror… adding it into death metal song was so damn wonderful and it is one of my favourite songs of all time; for sure it is one of the best and most memorable death metal moments of all time. Entrails did exactly the same and I don’t know what to think about it… From one hand for sure it sounds great, but it is such a clear rip off that it has no sense at all. I understand playing similar music, but to use exactly the same motif, especially one, which is so characteristic and legendary, is a mistake and misunderstanding for me. Sorry Jimmy, but that’s how I feel. Having riffs and style similar to the old bands is one thing, but why would you just copy something what someone else did? Haven’t you got enough comparisons to Entombed (your old logo, the artwork for “The Tomb Awaits”) so you had to do your own version of “Phantasm”? Who cares if it sounds great… if I wanted to hear it I would play “Left Hand Path”, you know? Of corpse I suppose the band wanted to create a creepy horror atmosphere, but more creativity is required here rather than copying something what Entombed did 20 years ago. Another small accusation I have for the song “Cadaverous Stench”, which sounds too much like Unleashed hehe. But for some that may actually be a positive thing hehe!
I still like “Raging Death” a lot, but definitely I have some mixed feelings about it. Luckily these things don’t overshadow the positives of “Raging Death”, which are just some excellent songs. And first and foremost I would need to mention “In Pieces”. Fuck, what a killer song it is!!!!! It is just infectious and damn memorable death metal tune and when I play the vinyl I usually play this song few extra times, so great it is. And that chorus: “Beyond the living, beneath the dead… they will rot in pieces!!!!!!!!!!!” Arrrghhhhhhh, damn impossible to resist the necrolust; beware the necrophiliac maniac!!! I always growl with Jocke these lines hehe! And then there’s "Bloodhammer”, which also just rips the guts out mercilessly. Again – I love it! These two songs alone prove that Entrails is still very creative and have skills and ideas to compose classic, killer tunes of metal of death. And in between there’s also “Carved to the Bone” – a great death hymn about cannibalism; love it, its creepy atmosphere and infectious atmosphere. All these three songs are perfect for me, but there are more fine tunes here. On side B my favourite would definitely be “Descent to the Beyond”, which is killer, groovy song, with great, hooky riff and killer eerie atmosphere. Supposedly “Death League” should also be something special, especially as it holds some guest vocal performances (from Dan Swano, Kam Lee, Rogga Johansson and Jörgen Sandström), but since I cannot distinguish when each of these guys growls – as all vocals sound the same – I see nothing extraordinary about it; it’s good and solid song, but nothing more. It’s nothing like Desaster’s “Metallized Blood” at least, if you know what I mean. I am afraid that just like on the previous LP also on “Raging Death” Entrails didn’t avoid having some fillers on the album and I think that such songs like “Defleshed” are just a little boring… In that case even “The Cemetery Horrors” sounds great, despite that “Phantasm” motif… and finally Entrails has also recorded the cover of Marduk’s “Dark Endless”… and you know what? It is my least favourite album of Marduk, I don’t like it so much, but this song, the way it sounds and has been played on “Raging Death”, is just killer, better than the original. It is amazing how death metal and classic Swedish it now sounds hehe, with that guitar tone and death metal vocals. I really do like this cover and while I was quite sceptical about the choice of it, now I must say that it was excellent decision. You know, when Demonical recorded Emperor’s “Night of the Graveless Souls” I didn’t like their version at all. And this is why I was so sceptical. I am happy then that Entrails did this song so well and I like it more than the original!
Standout tracks: “In Pieces”, "Bloodhammer”, “Carved to the Bone”, “Dark Endless”, “Descent to the Beyond”
Final rate: 86/100