Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Abyssos - Together We Summon the Dark


Genre: Melodic Black Metal
Country: Sweden
Year: 1997
Label: Cacophonous Records

Holy riffageddon, Batman! Enter Abyssos, one of the most rifftastic bands in black metal. Every song this band has ever written is so jam-packed with cool guitar licks that I swear they're not even human. This was the first of the two albums released during their unfortunately short-lived career, and its sequel is of equal quality, so I decided to go with this one due to it being the band's original full-length effort. Now, before I continue, let me get this out of the way: this band sounds nothing - and I mean nothing - like Cradle of Filth, and the only reason people make comparisons is because they have lyrics about vampires. Really. That's it. There's no mallcore to be heard here, only top-notch, headbangin', catchy-as-hell melodic black metal. This stuff is guaranteed to have your air guitar flying and your head flailing, yet manages to retain a dark, misty atmosphere. There are sparse keys and a touch of clean vocals (both male and female) here and there, but they're used in strict moderation, which means Abyssos simply rely on their incredibly kickass riffs and ineffable knack for fantastic songwriting. Sure, the album cover is cheesy, but it's obviously rather tongue-in-cheek, and this really is gimmick-free music that exerts first-rate ownage of its own accord. These guys had their art honed to a science before calling it quits, and it yielded spectacular results. Overlooked and underrated.

For fans of Sacramentum, Dissection, Aldaaron, and Vinterland.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tyranny - Tides of Awakening

 
Genre: Funeral Doom
Country: Finland
Year: 2005
Label: Firedoom

From the deepest filth-ridden crevasses of R'lyeh comes Tyranny, one of the most epic, evil funeral doom bands on the planet. Okay, they're actually from Finland, but the five sun-crushing dirges on this album will have you thinking Azathoth decided to write the ideal soundtrack to himself devouring the cosmos. The production is unfathomably huge, the drums sounding like they're rising from the furthest reaches of the ocean depths, the behemoth cyclopean rhythm guitars churning and writhing beneath sinister leads, all underpinned by subtle, textural keys that enhance the stygian, otherworldy atmosphere. Any sanity you might have left is utterly annihilated by the downright demonic vocals, whose visceral, infernal rumble truly thrusts Tides of Awakening into its own realm of incredibly malevolent universe-murdering funeral doom. This is a must-listen for fans of the genre.

For fans of Thergothon, Catacombs, Wormphlegm, and Colosseum.

Pantheist - O Solitude


Genre: Funeral Doom
Country: Belgium
Year: 2003
Label: Firebox Records

Pantheist are one of the defining bands of the funeral doom genre, largely thanks to this, their monumental debut full-length. O Solitude is a beautiful, intricate journey through an ever-changing soundscape, always sorrowful but never stagnant. This is probably one of the more diverse albums in the genre, as Pantheist use a variety of different instruments and keyboard textures to enhance their sound, and are even brave enough to pick up the pace every once in a while for heavy (if short-lived) head-banging sections. The vocals are also worthy of note, showcasing clean male vocals for a good portion of the album. The rumbling funeral growls are still present, of course, but the cleans definitely take centre stage, mournfully crooning above the music to create a lush, sombre atmosphere. This is one of those special funeral doom albums that really never gets boring or repetitive, always evolving, sometimes surprising, at other times with subtle finesse. Rest assured, doom fans: this album will captivate you from start to finish. Magnificent.

For fans of Skumring, Mourning Beloveth, Shape of Despair, and Colosseum.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Colosseum - Chapter I: Delerium


Genre: Funeral Doom
Country: Finland
Year: 2007
Label: Firedoom

Finland's funeral doom heroes Colosseum unfortunately joined the ranks of the fallen on the 15th of May this year, having split up due to the untimely death of mastermind Juhani Palomäki. The legacy he left behind is nothing short of astounding, having forged some of the most gripping funeral doom ever put to tape. Palomäki got his start in the melodic doom outfit Yearning, and eventually went on to form Colosseum in 2006. A demo and two full-length albums were recorded before he passed away, and a third was recorded and is set to be released in his memory. As for the music itself, this is colossal, epic, dynamic funeral doom of the highest order, absolutely crushing everything in its path. Megalithic riffs wander their way across bleak, desolate landscapes through which which distant, inhuman vocals rumble, a foundation over which tasteful keys weep beautiful, mournful melodies. The drums are handled expertly, every last kick and snare hit taking the wind out of your chest thanks to a big, booming production job. This is funeral doom you can truly feel, always exploring new emotional landscapes, never letting go, never resting on its laurels. There isn't a boring note on this album - it remains interesting and fresh across its entire length. Chapter I: Delerium is pure sorrow, darkness, and lamentation distilled into audio form, at once dark, oppressive, haunting, and beautiful. Thank you, Juhani Palomäki, for the magnificent art you left us with. A thousand cheers to you, sir.

For fans of Shape of Despair, Pantheist, Skepticism, and The Howling Void.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Forefather - Steadfast


Genre: Folk Metal
Country: United Kingdom
Year: 2008
Label: Seven Kingdoms

As many of you know, I'm not a big fan of folk metal overall, but every once in a while a band rises above the generic masses of that genre and creates something truly awesome. Steadfast is Forefather's triumph. Brothers Athelstan and Wulfstan have packed this album so full of forceful energy and awesome riffs that it seems as if the CD will burst at any moment. Every single track has something cool to offer, and pretty much every song here is memorable, if not downright infectious. The vocals are really fantastic, especially the smooth, soaring cleans that are largely responsible for the way this album sticks with you, lending an awesome epic touch to the already fantastic songs. Another interesting aspect of Steadfast is that, while certainly within the realm of folk metal, there are  no keyboards to be heard. The folk feeling of the album is derived entirely from the riffs themselves, which is extremely refreshing and handled expertly by the brothers Forefather. The lyrical concepts deal with Anglo-Saxon history, which is also extremely cool, and the album closer is actually a metal adaptation of a middle-English folk song (and it works very, very well indeed). The only drawback to this album is that the drums are programmed, whereas a real drum kit would have suited the full-force energy of the music better, but it's really a very small issue and does very little to detract from how awesome the album is. Even for those of you out there who, like myself, feel that folk metal has become a rather over-saturated and plastic genre, this breath of fresh air is definitely worth checking out.

Mercyful Fate - Melissa


Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: Denmark
Year: 1983
Label: Megaforce

Alright, alright, I know everyone has heard this, but just in case one of you hasn't gotten around to checking out this classic, here's your chance to redeem yourself. There's really nothing I can say that hasn't already been said - the atmosphere is dark and epic, the riffs completely rule, the album as a whole was ahead of its time, and of course Mr. Diamond's vocals are, as always, the most memorable feature of the music (that's not to say the guitar work isn't incredibly awesome, because it totally is, but let's be honest... the King's voice is simply impossible to ignore). Everything about this album is genius, and it definitely deserves the classic status it enjoys. I suppose I'm really posting this for posterity's sake, because a metal blog without Mercyful Fate is like... well, a metal blog without Mercyful Fate, which is generally unacceptable. 

Atlantean Kodex - The Pnakotic Demos


Genre: Epic Heavy Metal
Country: Germany
Year: 2007
Label: New Iron Age Records

Wow. Just... wow. There's no way I'll be able to do this justice in a short synopsis. This EP absolutely destroys me every time I listen to it. In just over 30 minutes, this German outfit has managed to create a musical tapestry that is so massively epic that it barely fits on the vinyl it's printed on. This is truly incredible music, especially coming from a band that has yet to release a full-length. I cannot express how excited I am to see what these guys are capable of in regards to their upcoming long-player (which I am hoping is due out very soon - it's been three long years since the release of The Pnakotic Demos); my expectations are very, very high, and I have no doubt that they will be exceeded. I'm already convinced that when it is finally released, it will immediately be an undeniable metal classic. This EP is just that fucking good. It has everything: megalithic riffs, massively epic and immediately memorable choruses, cool lyrics, gigantic atmospheres, and plenty denim-and-leather attitude to spare. This is good old-fashioned epic heavy metal forged with passion and vision, and these guys very obviously have a deep affection for the genre they're playing, because it shines through every last note. I really wish The Pnakotic Demos were longer, and I find myself reaching for the repeat button over and over again. Genius, absolutely genius. Think Manilla Road meets Bathory - this is some seriously epic stuff! I just can't say enough good things about this band - listen, love, and impatiently await their upcoming debut full-length. Damn near perfect!

For fans of Manilla Road, Bathory, Doomsword, and Solstice.

Wallachia - From Behind the Light


Genre: Black Metal
Country: Norway
Year: 1999
Label: Velvet Music International

Here's a very cool and seemingly forgotten gem of 90's Norwegian black metal. Wallachia is the one-man project of one Lars Stavdal, who is accompanied by a rotating cast of session musicians. From Behind the Light is a medieval-flavoured musical quest that immediately creates an awesome unique atmosphere. The production is quite full and heavy for this kind of music, which actually works quite well in this case. The only thing people seem to have trouble with at first is the odd vocals, which admittedly may take a bit of getting used to for some, but once that hurdle has been jumped, there's much to enjoy. Keys are used tastefully (mostly in organ form) to create a dark atmosphere, and the riffs are cool, ranging from heavy to atmospheric to... bouncy? It's difficult to put exactly what I mean into words, but immediately upon hearing the opening riff of "The Curse of Poenari" you'll see what I mean. Regardless, this was an incredibly cool album that definitely had its own thing going on. Enjoy! 

*Sorry guys, this one is only at 128 kbps. If anyone finds a larger bitrate file, let me know so I can switch out the link! Cheers!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Nehëmah - Light of a Dead Star

 
Genre: Black Metal
Country: France
Year: 2002
Label: Oaken Shield

Nehëmah is an enigmatic black metal entity from France who just so happen to crank out some of the best black metal you've ever heard. The atmosphere is all-encompassing, plunging everything around you into a mystical night-realm, shifting subtly from dark, to evil, to sorrowful, to arcane, to epic, and at times, all at once. This is one of those bands that manages to play a style that has been done a million times and somehow breathe their own life into it and really make it their own. Nehëmah is easily one of the best black metal bands out there, and this was their spectacular pitch-black full-length debut, a great place to begin your journey into their world. Definitely not one to miss.

For fans of early Darkthrone, early Satyricon, Burzum, and Epheles.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Heresi - Psalm II: Infusco Ignis


Genre: Black Metal
Country: Sweden
Year: 2006
Label: Total Holocaust Records

A friend of mine (who happens to run the Audio Ruin blog, which you should check out when you're done reading this) turned me on to this album recently, and I was immediately lamenting the fact that I've been missing out on it for the past four years. Psalm II - Infusco Ignis is a spectacular piece of black metal wrapped in a surprisingly full-bodied production. It's not slick and plastic sounding whatsoever - what I mean is that it's well-rounded with huge-sounding drums and an audible low-end that serves to make the music even more massive and all-encompassing. Epic whirlwind tremolos, evil mid-paced headbanging power-chord riffs, and stygian arpeggios comprise the sound here. This is no-frills, no gimmicks black metal played right, slaying all priests in its path and inverting all crosses in near proximity. The only drawback about this album is its painfully short length (barely over 28 minutes), but not a single second is wasted. Evil, epic, and cool as hell.

For fans of Darkthrone, Satanic Warmaster, and Judas Iscariot.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reverend Bizarre - Crush the Insects

 
Genre: Doom Metal
Country: Finland
Year: 2005
Label: Spikefarm Records

Reverend Bizarre was a strange, awesome, heavy-as-balls doom metal band from Finland. Everything from the fuzzed-out guitar tone to the theatrical vocals of Albert Witchfinder oozes an occult, old-school feeling that is truly genuine, and the songs range from the mid-paced stomp of rockin' cuts like "Doom Over the World" and "Cromwell", to sluggish, crushing behemoths like "Slave of Satan" or "Eternal Forest". If you're interested in strange, poser-crushing doom with a cool old-school vibe, Reverend Bizarre is a must.

For fans of Candlemass, The Lamp of Thoth, and Briton Rites.

Crush the Insects

Briton Rites - For Mircalla


Genre: Doom Metal
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 2010
Label: Echoes of Crom Records

Holy shit, this album is a goddamn riff apocalypse! Seriously, there are so many awesome riffs on this album that I can't believe a single human being wrote all of them. For Mircalla is an incredibly badass old-school feast for any doom maniac, replete with heavy guitars, occult lyrics, theatrical vocals, and did I mention RIFFS? I cannot stop spinning this monster! In fact, I'm ending this synopsis right now so you'll listen to it and grab a copy for yourself.

For fans of The Lamp of Thoth, Pentagram, and Witchfinder General.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Night Conquers Day - Rebellion is the Art of Survival


Genre: Black Metal
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 1999
Label: Hammerheart

This is an album that never fails to wow me, but it is incredibly difficult to summarize for some reason. It's just hard to put into words what this band was doing, I suppose, so I will keep this short. Rebellion is the Art of Survival is rife with genuinely awesome riffs, tasteful keyboards, cool as hell vocals, long, interesting songs - these guys had it all. The music is very unique, and Night Conquers Day really managed to create an atmosphere all their own, topping it all off with a very epic, mysterious feeling. At times thrashy, at times melodic, at times grim, but always gripping, Rebellion is the Art of Survival is definitely a lost gem of American black metal, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Absu - The Third Storm of Cythrául


Genre: Black/Thrash Metal
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 1997
Label: Osmose Productions

Absu is one of my favourite American bands, blending thrash and black metal with occult atmospheres, awesome lyrical themes, and epic album artwork - in short, they have it all. Many people prefer Tara, the album that came after this one, and while that album is indeed fantastic (and includes "Stone of Destiny", my favourite Absu song), I think I prefer The Third Storm of Cythrául overall. Tara focuses on blisteringly fast riffs and leans heavily on the thrash side of their sound, whereas Storm is a bit more balanced. Even when the guitars are thrashing away and the drums are pummeling your face like a jackhammer, the arcane atmosphere still manages to ooze from every note. Absu is a unique band that plays vicious, epic music, and The Third Storm of Cythrául is a good way to introduce yourself to their stuff if you aren't already acquainted with it.

For fans of Desaster, Usurper, and Night Conquers Day.

Obtained Enslavement - Witchcraft

 
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
Country: Norway
Year: 1997
Label: Wounded Love Records

Here's another band I feel doesn't recieve the accolades they deserve. Obtained Enslavement was formed in 1989 (the lineup included Pest of Gorgoroth fame on vocals), originally as a death/black metal band, but eventually they arrived at the wondrous symphonic black metal that would come to define their career. Witchcraft is often considered to be their best work, and I am not one to disagree. It's a spectaular album filled with dazzling arrangements and intricate, beautiful melodies that weave among one another to create a splendourous musical tapestry. This is one of those gems that takes you to a different world while you listen to it. Glorious.

For fans of Kataxu, Odium, Limbonic Art, and Emperor.

White Skull - Tales from the North


Genre: Heavy/Speed/Power Metal
Country: Italy
Year: 1999
Label: Nuclear Blast

Alright, I guess I have to get this out of the way up front: White Skull boasts one of the most badass female metal vocalists this side of Crystal Viper. Not only that, but her gruff tenor is backed by some awesome riffage. They play a sort of amalgam of heavy metal, speed metal, and power metal that actually works quite well. The songs are heavy, catchy, and well exectued, and Chris Boltendahl of Grave Digger fame even makes a guest appearance on a few tracks, which totally rules. So, if you want some fun, catchy heavy metal with female vocals that are way too true to wander anywhere near operatic pop-metal wankage territory, check this out stat!

For fans of Grave Digger, Running Wild, Crystal Viper, and early Blind Guardian.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blind Guardian - Battalions of Fear


Genre: Speed Metal
Country: Germany
Year: 1988
Label: No Remorse Records

Before they became one of the greatest power metal bands of all time, Blind Guardian were hanging out in the 80s churning out some kickass speed metal in true German fashion. Battalions of Fear was their full-length debut, and it rules. Expect lightning drums, molten steel riffs played at a thousand miles an hour, and big sing-along choruses delivered by the ever charismatic and majestic voice of Hansi Kürsch. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of people overlook this era in the band's history, which is really a shame, because their pre-power metal days produced some of their most memorable songs. Classic.

For fans of Helloween, Running Wild, and Stormwarrior.

Desaster - A Touch of Medieval Darkness


Genre: Black/Thrash Metal
Country: Germany
Year: 1996
Label: Merciless Records

Desaster is an extremely cool German band that I don't hear getting talked about too often, which is a damn shame. They play an addictive brand of thrashing black metal that is at times more black and at times more thrash, but regardless of what kind of riffage they're tearing your face off with, you can rest assured it fucking slays. This is no-gimmicks metal, no keyboards, no female vocals, just riff after riff of kickass metal that makes no compromise and takes no prisoners. A Touch of Medieval Darkness is the band's first full-length, and I really love the titular dark medieval atmosphere they managed to saturate their sound with. This is the most 'black' and least 'thrash' of their albums, and as a result, it has the most pervasive atmosphere, which I really enjoy. Don't get me wrong, the pedal-to-the-metal black-thrashing assault of their later albums totally rules too, but part of me has a soft spot for the overall feeling and mood of A Touch of Medieval Darkness. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

For fans of Deströyer 666, Nocturnal, Aura Noir, and Usurper.


Odium - The Sad Realm of the Stars


Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
Country: Norway
Year: 1998
Label: Nocturnal Art Productions

Continuing with the 'cosmic' theme of the previous post, I bring you Odium's only full-length release: The Sad Realm of the Stars. And what an album it is! It's really a shame we never got anything else from these guys (according to Metal Archives, they're 'on hold'... maybe, maybe, maybe they'll do something in the future?). This is a fantastic symphonic black metal album, tastefully executed and well arranged, creating a fantastic atmosphere and retaining energy and honesty throughout. Besides the somewhat obnoxious snare sound during blast beat sections, the production fits the music well, and the band does a very good job of retaining a balance between beautiful, haunting passages and the more vitriolic moments. Definitely not an album to miss for fans of the genre.

For fans of Kataxu, Limbonic Art, Obtained Enslavement, and Emperor.

Kataxu - Hunger of Elements


Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
Country: Poland
Year: 2005
Label: Supernal Music

This is one of those albums that has you slack-jawed in awe throughout your first listen. With Hunger of Elements, Kataxu presents massively epic black metal of the absolute highest echelon, sporting a cool, stardust-shrouded production through which beautiful crystalline symphonic keyboard arrangements wander, plummeting and transcending, enveloping the listener in its unique sonic landscape and not letting go until the final track fades into the distance. There is a very 'cosmic' atmosphere to Hunger of Elements; I can't help but imagine nebulae and galaxies drifting by (or careening past, depending on the song), and I've never heard another album that quite captures the same feelings and imagery as this one does. Mandatory listening for anyone who likes tastefully executed and colossally epic keyboard-based symphonic black metal. Breathtaking.

For fans of Emperor, Obtained Enslavement, Limbonic Art, and Odium.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Deviser - Transmission to Chaos


Genre: Atmospheric Death/Black Metal
Country: Greece
Year: 1998
Label: Mascot

Deviser is an obscure Greek band playing an interesting blend of death metal and atmospheric keyboardy black metal (the good kind, not the lame kind). The cover artwork is incredibly cool, and is actually what drew me to this album in the first place. The music within is also incredibly cool, characterized by a mystical, arcane atmosphere that really makes Transmission to Chaos a treat to listen to. Some songs have a more black metal vibe, while some are a bit more on the death metal side of the fence, making the overall sound difficult to describe. It doesn't sound disjointed as that might imply, however, as the overall album has a very cohesive atmosphere. This is a work of art forged in the depths of the underground. Awesome.

Desultory - Into Eternity


Genre: Death Metal
Country: Sweden
Year: 1993
Label:

Here we have some truly fantastic old-school Swedish death metal. I don't it them mentioned much when the topic comes up, which is a shame, because this is really a gem of an album. Into Eternity offers a surprisingly diverse music palette, churning though thrashy riffs, epic melodic passages, and all-out death metal assault, often across the breadth of one song. There is a very big, sprawling feeling to the album, and the production is spot-on, being raw enough to remain visceral and retain a dark atmosphere but clean enough that all the instruments are very clearly audible and, when the music demands it, very heavy. Unfortunately, none of their other albums can hold even a semblance of a candle to this one (and their last release was an abominable groove metal abortion - we're talking Pantera-meets-Shadows-Fall stuff...), but Into Eternity stands as a forgotten classic, and definitely one of my favourite death metal albums.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Keen of the Crow - Hyborea


Genre: Doom/Death Metal
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 1997
Label: Garu Records

Keen of the Crow was short-lived American doom metal band that unfortunately only brought us one full-length before splitting up. It was formed by two ex-members of Morgion following their split, and in my opinion, the music on this album is cooler than their original band's later output.  This is a truly spectacular death/doom monument, featuring epic, heavy riffs, diverse and well-executed vocals, and a big, fat production job that suits the music perfectly. Lyrically this is all Robert E. Howard stuff (as you undoubtedly noticed from the title), and it's really cool to see a band successfully taking a different musical approach to such topics. With Hyborea, Keen of the Crow has forged an epic, heavy, dynamic beast of an album, and it's really a shame we won't be hearing more from them.

For fans of Morgion, Mourning Beloveth, Runemagick, and Novembers Doom.

Stormwarrior - Northern Rage

 
Genre: Speed Metal
Country: Germany
Year: 2004
Label: Remedy Records

Stormwarrior's Northern Rage is a rip-roaring, pedal to the metal monster of a speed metal album. These guys play fast, catchy metal and are very, very good at it. They obviously have a soft spot for early Helloween, a fact made all the more apparent by Kai Hansen's hand in the album's production and guest appearance on the song "Heroic Deathe". Basically, this is everything you'd hope for from a German speed metal band, replete with big, memorable choruses, spectacular leads, and high octane riffs played at breakneck pace. If you're a fan of the genre, you really cannot go wrong with Northern Rage.

For fans of Helloween, Running Wild, Gamma Ray, and early Blind Guardian.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Usurper - Twilight Dominion


Genre: Thrash/Black Metal
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 2003
Label: Earache Records

Usurper is an incredibly cool and criminally overlooked American band that has been cranking out their own unique brand of blackened thrash metal since 1993. These guys are absolute lords of slinging molten steel through your speakers, with blistering riffs, a thundering rhythm section, and a killer vocal assault (very reminiscent of Tom G. Warrior). This is some serious headbanging material full of heavy, ripping guitar work and choruses that really get stuck in your head. If you're looking for something vicious, hard rockin', and fun (in a malevolent kind of way), then Twilight Dominion is right up your alley.

For fans of Nocturnal, Celtic Frost, Deströyer 666, and Aura Noir.