Music Review: DROTTNAR – Stratum

1 Comment

DROTTNAR - StratumDROTTNAR
Stratum
Endtime Productions
2012

I have to give Norwegian act Drottnar their due: They managed to evolve their style and sound over the years from the standard Viking Metal and Black Metal sound to something of a uniquely progressive Black Metal sound on their recent release Stratum. They could have stuck with the tried and true style, but instead they forged ahead, creating something equally magnificent and complex.

Somehow, this second full-length release (not counting Spiritual Battle, which is technically a compilation release) escaped my attention when it was initially released in 2012. Considering what I was going through at the time, I’m not too surprised about that, actually. But again, far besides the point.

Stratum was recorded by the band in 2009, but wasn’t released until 2012 for reasons I am unable to find online. Regardless, despite the six year gap between releases, Drottnar showed that they could very well experiment and forge their own progressive path, rather than remain content with following trends.

The music on Stratum starts with a foundation of Black Metal and Technical Death Metal. But, as immediately evidenced by the opening track “We March”, there’s some well thought-out technical aspects to the music, with odd time signatures and rhythm structures, like this was the logical progression of Believer’s Dimensions release. Yet, none of the raw, brutal intensity is sacrificed whatsoever. You get all the face-blasting and skin-blistering riffs, with a progressive technicality that will give you severe whiplash, along with some industrial elements for some tasty texture throughout.

Overall, Stratum is fantastic. It’s tight, it’s brutal, it’s not your usual Black/Death Metal album. If you’re a fan of the later Extol releases, or certain points of the band Nomicon, or just want something brutal yet not your typical stuff, check this one out.

Advertisements

Music Review: BLOOD COVENANT – Sign Of Time

Leave a comment

blood covenant - sign of timeBLOOD COVENANT
Sign Of Time
Darknagar Records
2011

Blood Covenant is a symphonic black metal band from Armenia that formerly went by the name Iron Cross until changing it to their current moniker in 2001. They’ve released three full-length studio albums since that time, along with a couple of singles and a live DVD. This is another band that I came across on Bandcamp and…well, let’s just say I am tremendously happy that I did discover these guys.

Sign Of Time [sic] is the band’s third full-length release, and the first one of theirs that I purchased from Bandcamp. After listening to this several times, I really need to get on the ball, here, and get their other two releases. Because if they’re just as awesome as Sign Of Times is, I need them to be gracing my earholes now. But, as far as Sign Of Time goes…

The metal on this release is epic. It’s a blend of Black Metal and s kind of Symphonic Gothic music that gives everything a dark, swirling depth to things. Imagine if Emperor collaborated with Midnight Syndicate or Nox Arcana, you’ll get the idea of what this album is like.

Sign Of Times opens with the aptly titled “Intro”, a nice use of ambient sounds, synth strings and horns, giving this a nice epic feel. This leads into “Sign Of Time”, a great, furious symphonic black metal blast, a great riff and good use of strings and choral chants, with a bit of King Diamond-style vocals making an appearance. “Unseen War” and “The Call” continue with the great symphonic black metal. This leads to “The Funeral Of The Dark Kingdom”, which is an instrumental that features strings, organ and choral arrangements. “Fall Babylon” continues with the Black Metal assault, has a great horror movie style ambient feel and a guitar solo that sounds inspired by Mozart. “Hayr Mer” is more of a Doom Metal flavor, and has a very Ghost-like choral effects on the chorus. I rather like that. “At The Cross” is another instrumental, and continues with the doom style with the orchestration and features a mournful violin. “Corruptible Reflection Of Reality” hits you with another blast of Symphonic Black Metal goodness, and then it’s another orchestral instrumental with “Golgotha”. The album concludes with “Metanoia” and “Faithful”, the later of which has a great speedy riff and the aforementioned King Diamond style vocals to close us out.

Overall, I am very, very impressed with Sign Of Time, as well as with Blood Covenant. This being my first taste of them, I can’t wait to explore they’re back catalogue as soon as I can. Highly recommended, this.

Music Review: APOSTASY – The Seven Eyes Of God

Leave a comment

apostasy - the seven eyes of godAPOSTASY
The Seven Eyes Of God
Catacomb Records
1994

Here we have yet another obscure cassette-only demo release from a band that completely escaped my attention back in the day, mainly because I was stuck with whatever the nearby record stores and Christian bookshops held for music. And when you’re a metalhead languishing in Eastern Nebraska in the mid-1990s, years before the internet was going to become a viable means of communication outside of your narrow sphere of existence, you either trust mail order through magazines, or hope that whatever passes as a record shop will have it, or will be willing to special order the thing. In that sense, I envy LA and New York music scenes. But, I digress.

Apostasy was allegedly one of the first black metal bands with Christian members to be formed in America, instead of Europe. Or Australia, natch. They hailed from Pueblo, Colorado, and released their only cassette demo The Seven Eyes Of God in 1994. I doubt I would have seen anything about the band or their demo outside of either Heaven’s Metal magazine, or one of the Christian Metal ‘Zines circulating at that time. Even now, the only information I can dredge up from the interwebs is their entry in the Metal Archives site.

This five-track demo of theirs was, as mentioned before, released in 1994. The music is listed on the Metal Archives site as “black metal”; I would qualify the music as that in the same way I would qualify the music on Death’s Scream Bloody Gore as “death metal”, in that it’s really more thrash metal with affected black metal type vocals. Which, given the period, was what the early 2nd Wave of black metal was, essentially aping Venom and making it more “extreme”. Of the five tracks, only three are full-fledged songs: “Eve Of Divinity”, “Destrier” [sic] and “Pagan Moon”. The first track, “Through The Gates Of Eternity…” and the last track, “Rebirth (Outro)” are both brief bits that work as atmospheric introduction and outros, respectively. The music in-between those two tracks are some decently played thrash/death style with black metal vocals, some interesting riffs going on.

Unfortunately, the major issue I have with this demo is the quality of the production. It’s very low-grade, there’s a very loud hiss that is rather prominent and distracting. Also–though I think this has less to do with the production and more to do with the fact that mine is a used copy–the songs muffle at points, and for all of the songs it sounds like the tape itself was eaten by the tape player (or a cat decided to play with it or something), and renders the songs extremely garbled at times, especially with the last three tracks. Especially on “Pagan Moon”, which is nigh unlistenable. Again, that’s probably not due to the production; but even counting that out, the production is rather cheep sounding and terrible, which is a pity as the songs are fairly decent otherwise. Kind of an old-school raw sound to them.

Music Review: AZBUK – Compilation For Eternity

Leave a comment

AZBUK - 2008 - Compilation For EternityAZBUK
Compilation For Eternity
Open Grave Records
2008

For a brief moment in time, the criminally short-lived Open Grave / Sullen Records managed to release an array of choice \,,/METAL\,,/, both from the mainline and Christian sides of the underground scenes. For those of us with a taste for Black Metal, that meant easier access to bands like Azbuk, with the release of Compilation For Eternity in 2008.

As the title implies, this is a compilation of tracks gleaned from the three demos Azbuk released: 1997’s Divine Force (“Supplication”, “Majesty”, “The Loyal Witness”, and “Abyss Eternal”); 2001’s Nosferatus Darkness Earl (“Nosferatus Darkness Earl”, “Reflections Of A Damned Mirror”, “Fallen Angel”, and “Constitution”), and 2004’s Ancient Secrets Of The Bible (“Ancient Secrets Of The Bible”, “The Kingdom”, “Return”, and “Symphony Of Death”). It’s an interesting look into the evolution of this South American band, going from standard black metal on their first demo, and transitioning to a more progressive blackened sound, figuring in elements of death metal and doom in the mix on their other two demo releases. The production is raw, as I don’t think there was much as far as remixing or remastering when this compilation was put together. It preserves the original dynamic, methinks. As with other releases like this, Compilation For Eternity works as a good introduction to one of the more woefully overlooked black metal bands. The only criticism I would have being not just releasing a two-disc or so collection with the entirety of all three demos included. But, at least we have this one in existence.

Music Review: SKALD IN VEUM – 1260 Days

Leave a comment

skald in veum - 1260 daysSKALD IN VEUM
1260 Days
Rottweiler Records
2015

For the most part, the first thing that pops to one’s mind when you say Black Metal would be Norway. That’s the traditionally thought-of birth place of one of the most extreme of the metal genres, naturally. But the spores of the genre inevitably took root in various other countries, and soon we saw Black Metal bands, as well as Black Metal-influenced bands, popping up in the most curious of places. Swedish Black Metal, however, seemed rather inevitable. And that’s my little way of seguing into talking about this release by Swedish Black Metal band Skald In Veum.

After forming in 2013, they released this EP–1260 Days–in 2015 through Rottweiler Records, both in the physical CD format and as a digital download. Whichever format you go with, 1260 Days is a fantastic just short of 30 minutes of harsh, unrelenting old-school Black Metal that’s well worth the money spent for this.

After your standard brief ambient intro featuring ravens cawing with a storm brewing in the background, the first proper cut from the release, “Drunk With Tainted Blood”, rips into your earholes, slaying your auditory senses with shredding riffs and face-melting blastbeats, intermixed with bone-chilling croak-shriek vocals that let up only briefly to hit you with some slow, thick and dark doom progression. For the entirety of the EP, all of the songs on here–including “Inferno”, “Eden Raped”, “Until My Head Rolls” and “Siaren”–maintains this style of Black Metal, with a strong early Dark Funeral vibe, with a bit of a Death Metal influence that shows up once in a while, especially with the lower register of the vocalist. Not that it’s a bad thing, mind; it adds a bit of texture to the scope of the music. The production is good, and the music is tight, lending itself to a very, very enjoyable listening experience from the get-go. Overall, I would say that 1260 Days was well worth your time checking out. Here’s hoping for more from the band in the future.

Music Review: CHRISTAGEDDON – Metal Unblack

Leave a comment

Christageddon-Metal-UnblackCHRISTAGEDDON
Metal Unblack
InChrist Records
2013

Christageddon is the black metal side project of Kristian, the main guy behind The Synics Awakening, another great underground black/death metal project that needs to be talked about more, in my not-so-humble opinion.

When it comes to genre, it’s pretty self-evident from the get-go what you’re getting just by the title alone. No ambiguity here. Refreshing, really. The album starts off with a brief intro of ambient sirens and marching, with voice over narration, then leads into the face melting thrash-based black metal onslaught of “Defending The Throne Of YHWH”. There’s some great riffs and touches of melodic playing that keep the songs from bleeding together and creating a sonic sludge in total; while “Baptized In Sacred Blood”, “Full Armor Of God” and “Christageddon (Metal UnBlack)” have that full-tilt sandblasting quality to the metal, there are also cuts that have more of a mid-paced heavy quality that works well (“Carry My Cross”, “At The Throne Of Judgment”), with a couple having almost a doomy quality to things (“The Lamb Shall Rise”, “Psalm Of Eternal Hope”), as well as a straight-up instrumental (“Satanic Forces Burned To Ashes”).

There seems to be an edition of Metal UnBlack that includes covers of seven Horde songs after the album cuts. I did not purchase this version, as I was unaware of its existence, and I think that comes with the physical CD copy of the album, and my edition is an MP3 download I purchased off of Bandcamp. Either that or Amazon. One of the two. Probably Bandcamp. Can’t be bothered to double check at the moment. Sorry.

Anyway, overall, Metal UnBlack is a good, solid collection of traditional black metal in the vein of Horde, Ceremonial Sacred and Elgibbor that you should check out some time. The production is good, and the lyrics will make any unblack metal warrior raise their metal horns in salute. And now I want to try and find their covers of the Horde songs.

Music Review: ADMONISH – Den Yttersta Tiden

Leave a comment

Music Review ADMONISH - Den Yttersta TidenADMONISH
Den Yttersta Tiden
Independent
2015

I’ve written about Swedish Black Metal band Admonish before, as I took the bass-ackwards route to reviewing their discography by writing a review of their second EP release Insnarjd back in 2014-ish. It’s taken me a while to get to reviewing their first EP release, Den Yttersta Tiden; there’s no rhyme or reason to that, just now getting around to it. Also, I should point out that, since that time, I’ve discovered that Admonish has its own Wikipedia page, which is downright fascinating with the history of the band and such. Anyway, on to the review, shall we?

Despite having formed in 1994 and being active since then, it wasn’t until 2005 when they released this three-song EP–Den Yttersta Tiden–following a show at Sweden’s Club 666. I cannot tell you how tickled I am upon discovering that. The music on the EP is of the old school Black Metal variety–furious riffs, blastbeats, chilling shriek vocals, tempered at times with some mid-paced interludes, atmospheric and somber undertones. There are some acoustic instruments and some regular singing mixed in–on the last track, “Var Inte Radd”, the regular singing and the black metal vocals do a kind of duet–giving a bit more texture to the standard Black Metal assault.

Overall, Den Yttersta Tiden is a good sample of Black Metal with some somber and atmospheric undertones. The production is good, and while not groundbreaking, it’s a good, albeit brief, listen.

Older Entries