Music Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS – Australian Metal Compilation: Godspeed


australian metal compilation - godspeedVARIOUS ARTISTS
Australian Metal Compilation: Godspeed
Rowe Productions

Back in 1994, Steve Rowe — the founder of the band Mortification — started up his own indie label named Rowe Productions, as a means to help promote the underground Christian metal bands, not only in Australia, but all over the world. As such, the first release on the fledgling label was a rather ambitious compilation of Australian metal bands called Godspeed.

I purchased my copy back in 1997, at a much-missed record shop that specialized in Christian metal. I figured it was time to get about doing a proper review for this one, as I’ve already reviewed the second in the compilation series. Here goes, then…

Cry Mercy – “Shut Up And Listen”
Decent groove metal tune, good hook; this one seems slightly different than the version that appeared on their self-titled release…

Mortification – “Time Crusaders”
This is the studio version of the song that originally first appeared on the Live Planetarium release. This is the first time the studio version showed up, as it wasn’t included on the Blood World release, like “Symbiosis” did, for some reason. Anyway, good cut regardless…

Nu Humans – “Shattered”
Decent heavy metal cut, good riff, bit tinny on the production, but listenable…

Discarnated – “William Melancholy”
Melodic death metal with a pretty good groove and some doomy bits hither an yon, good cut…

Doxology – “Fight”
Melodic heavy metal with a good riff and decent, if muddled, production…

Deracination – “Fourth Dimension”
Rather good straight-forward death metal tune, from their four-song demo that came out after the full-length. You know, it’s really high time that and the four-song demo get the remaster/re-release treatment. But, I digress…

Harbinger – “The End Is Near”
good NWOBHM riff going, builds up to a rather good straight heavy metal cut…

Krioni – “Black”
Melodic metal cut, female vocals, bit of a poppish veneer to it. Catchy hooks, not too bad for what it is…

Screams Of Chaos – “Eyes Of Chaos”
Interesting industrial cover of the Light Force song. This was my first exposure to Screams Of Chaos, by the way, one of the better finds to grace my collection…

Beheadoth – “Mine Heart Doth Beseech Thee (O Master)”
This cut is actually an early incarnation of the better-known Black Metal project Horde. This song is in keeping with the blistering, face melting second wave Black Metal sound, and is one of the best cuts on this compilation…

Rockin’ Rabbies – “Be Alert”
Representing the quirky hardcore punk genre is Rockin’ Rabbies. The sound is befitting the name, really, as it’s straight forward and snotty…

Embodyment – “Dishallowent Grounds”
Not to be confused with the American post-hardcore band Embodyment, this Australian Embodyment (they would go on to change the “y” to an “i” later) features a doomy death metal cut that is pretty good…

Justice – “Proven Infallible”
Straight-forward hard rock cut, good hook and riff going, but rather bland in the execution…

Metanoia – “Ripped In Two”
Really good Death Metal cut, originally from the Screaming Fetus demo; this also was my first exposure to this great Death Metal band, who fortunately didn’t just release one full-length like Deracination and Discarnated did…

Ignite – “Sanctuary”
Now, this is a good doom metal cut, with a raw and heavy groove and baritone vocals…

Thrash Puppies – “Fastest Song In The World”
Crossover thrash, again with the interesting name choices. This one is decent, if a little standard, if you get what I’m saying, here…

Rosanna’s Raiders – “Mr. Magic”
And ending the compilation with something of a wet splat is this early cut from Rosanna’s Raiders, which is an odd addition to the collection, as the band was more commercial rock than actual metal, per se. Regardless, kind of a weak cut to go out on…

So, here we are. For a compilation, it’s a pretty decent collection, running a good portion of the Metal spectrum with the styles and genres represented on here. For the most part, there’s nothing too bad with the production quality with each song, as I think Steve just took the songs directly from the demos and didn’t do much tweaking. But, I could be wrong about that. Overall, the Godspeed collection is something to get for the fact that there are some good rare cuts on here, including the first instance of Mortification’s “Time Crusaders” studio cut, with only a couple of cuts I’d skip over.


Music Review: A HILL TO DIE UPON – Via Artis Via Mortis

Leave a comment

a hill to die upon - via artis via mortisA HILL TO DIE UPON
Via Artis Via Mortis
Luxor Records

A Hill To Die Upon has, over time since their first release Infinite Titanic Immortal, grown and matured as a band into something quite epic while still maintaining a high quality of extreme blackened death metal. As such, their most recent release, Via Artis Via Mortis, finds the band at another level with what could possibly be their masterpiece release to date.

Here, the sound of the music is very much still rooted in the melodic blackened Death Metal that is the hallmark of the band, on Via Artis Via Mortis there’s a focus on the songwriting that shines through the technical aspects while having a much darker atmosphere. There’s less on bombast, with the blastbeats used sparingly, but nevertheless maintains the brutality and heaviness. Songs like “The Garden” and “Artifice Intelligence” build slowly with intensity, with songs like “I Was There When You Went Under The Water” and “Great Is Artemis Of The Ephesians” showing a more progressive side to the band’s music, while “Jubal And Syrinx”, “Sorcery And Sudden Vengeance” and my favorite cut from the album, “Mosin Nagant”, show that they can still pummel you with brutal goodness. The lyrics of the songs also continue to be well-written, with a lot of thought and passion put into them, complementing the music.

Unlike the aforementioned Holy Despair, I purchased Via Artis Via Mortis the weekend after it was released, effectively dominating my media player for a few weeks thereafter. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I do believe Via Artis Via Mortis is A Hill To Die Upon’s best release to date. Highly recommended.

Music Review: GRIM – Vespers

Leave a comment

grim - vespersGRIM
Black Metal Underground

I don’t know if anyone of you reading this have ever experienced a good old-fashioned Midwest winter. Or any season in the Midwest. Right now, here in my dwelling place of Nebraska as I write this, it’s a balmy -6 degrees Fahrenheit on this sunny Sunday morning. It’s full-on frozen tundra weather here in Nebraska, and the only thing that makes this more Black Metal than its Scandinavian birth place is the fact that we lack the mountain ranges to block the skin-stripping wind chills that can freeze you instantly. None more bvtal.

Which brings me to GRIM. This was the name of a one-man Black Metal project by one Thomas Eversole, who released one album previous back in 1999, entitled Scepter Of Blood, which was re-released again in 2013. Around this same time, one other album was recorded and released, Vespers.

Musically speaking, Vespers is not your typical Black Metal album. It does feature a blistering second-wave style of face-melting guitar riffs, blastbeats and rhythms with focus on the ambient feel of the music; the vocals, however, is a Gregorian Chant choir. You see, as it turns out, Vespers is essentially a performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, with ambient Black Metal used to great effect. The combination of Black Metal and Gregorian Chant is inspired and unique, giving an ambient feel of, say, the wind of a dark midwinter blizzard blowing through wind chimes. It works.

Now, the way the first paragraph ties into th review is, I was listening to this album while driving through the bleak and cold Sunday morning to church. It was overcast, gray, and all around me the barren frozen farmland stretched out, giving a strong feeling of isolated beauty. Playing Vespers just enhanced the scene wonderfully. I got my copy from Bandcamp, and I would recommend checking this out.

Music Review: HOLY BLOOD – Day Of Vengeance

Leave a comment

holy blood day of vengeanceHOLY BLOOD
Day Of Vengeance
Bombworks Records

For quite some time, my Holy Blood collection was incomplete. For, while all the other Holy Blood releases have been made available as a purchasable download — including the recent Glory To The Heroes EP — for whatever reason, their 2015 release, Day Of Vengeance, never was made available in that format. And there isn’t any information I can find to explain why, either. Not that the band owes me or anyone else an explanation, mind you. They can do whatever they want; release an 8-Track only, if they want. Actually, that does sound kind of cool. Maybe a reel-to-reel release. But, I digress. Point is, I finally broke down and purchased the physical CD through Amazon. My Holy Blood collection is now complete.

So, anyway, what’s the METAL like on Day Of Vengeance? Glad you asked.

Upon initial listening, I can understand why many were taken aback a bit with the style it went with. While early records had a more Black Metal-leaning style, and subsequent releases went with Folk Metal stylings, Day Of Vengeance is mainly a straight forward Melodic Death metal release, with a couple of flashes of the Folk Metal of past releases, mostly by way of the two instrumentals, the opener “Dawn Before Battle” and “In Paradise”. The overall quality of the album’s music is very good, featuring some good n’ heavy riffs and hooks, with most of the songs affecting a mid-paced yet brutal heaviness. The song “Holy Blood” also has a touch of the ol’ Folk Metal, and is a bit doomier in execution, and “Powerless Darkness” utilizes choral vocals for texture, but for the most part this is an album of heavy riffs, blastbeats and hooky rhythms with growl vocals. It’s not bad by any stretch, really.

So, overall, I found Day Of Vengeance to be a satisfying Death Metal release. It’s not a Folk Metal album, to be sure. But, if we can’t allow bands to deviate from the norm, they won’t be able to grow, right? Guys? Fellas? Eh, worth checking out.

Music Review: DROTTNAR – Stratum

1 Comment

Endtime Productions

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.

Music Review: BLOOD COVENANT – Sign Of Time

Leave a comment

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

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

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.

Older Entries