Arckanum – Sviga Læ

October 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Regain Records, 2010

Formed in 1992 in Mora, Sweden, Arckanum’s sole member Shamaatae has just released his sixth full-length since 1995. Arckanum’s music has gained more and more popularity over the last few years, with the release of 2008’s Antikosmos and 2009’s ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ. Both albums, highly respected by both fans and critics, have put Arckanum back to the forefront of black metal, and for good reason. For those who have yet to hear anything by this artist, it could be described as well-crafted and properly produced black metal, usually played in a mid-pace tempo. For anyone who’s heard Shamaatae’s last two albums and enjoyed them, you can go on right ahead and get yourself Sviga Læas it doesn’t feature any drastic changes from said albums.

To be perfectly honest, Arckanum’s music can be aptly described as memorable. Every song bears a sort of hypnotic anthem-like quality which upon the early listenings can seem like it will fade away quickly, but as is the case with albums of this type, the individual tracks end up growing on the listener and meaning more and more after each listen. For instance, In Følva Felr may at first seem like a song that will only be appreciated upon the first listen, but after a few spins you can notice that it bears this undefinable quality, which ultimately makes the song become memorable.

However, this isn’t the type of album I’d listen to hours on end. As someone who enjoyed the two previous albums but didn’t become obsessed with them, I’d have a hard time telling which tracks are on this album and which tracks were on last year’s ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ . Listeners who love this music to death will most likely feel different about this, but as someone who just appreciates the music, that’s how it is.  Still, Sviga Læ is a properly executed black metal album which, if you haven’t heard Arckanum yet, will have you wanting for more. In terms of production and guitar tone, Satanic Warmaster comes to mind. It’s something about the type of riffs to the distorted guitar, which to me are very reminiscent of SW. I found the clean closer Røk to be quite dull and uninspired, but the other 34 minutes of this album are pretty much in the vein of…other Arckanum albums.

That’s pretty much the jist of it: if you already know and like Arckanum, then go right ahead. If you don’t know them yet and like mid-paced black metal in the vein of Satanic Warmaster and the likes, get this or any of the past two albums. It’s properly executed, well-written and perfectly produced, and contains all the essential elements that make an album enjoyable.

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Bahrrecht – Lotharingen

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Demo, Self Released, 2010

From Lorraine, France, Bahrrecht is a relatively new name  in the black metal scene. This is their second demo overall, following a demo released in 2005. The drumming duties are handled by none other than Winterhalter of Peste Noire, Amesoeurs and Alcest fame. The other members are also active in other bands such as Funeral Holocaust, Svartblut and Cofex Inferis. To be blunt, this release is very impressive, and this is amplified by the fact that this is only the second demo from this band to see the light of day.

Bahrrecht play an exciting brand of in-your-face, grander than death black metal that really get the black metal juices flowing. It’s important to note that in terms of musicianship, production and composition, Bahrrecht excel on every single level. The group has figured how to make efficient and aggressive black metal without following any particular trend, but also without being overly unorthodox. Nuit de Neige, the opener, wastes no time in acquainting the listener with the sound of Bahrrecht: aggressive without pretention, blasphemous and profane. The riff that kicks in at around three minutes will have fans of reverby, trebly and dark black metal utterly satisfied.

Sous Une Pluie D’Étoile, as well as the two other tracks on this demo continues this tendency: to have a subtle melody lingering in the back, while the bulk of the musical attention goes to portraying an image of a world filled with worldly obscenities and unwelcome tyranny veiled with a layer of deep and satisfying acceptance. It is often said that many black metal artists are more style than substance, but if there’s one band that’s made solely of substance, it’d have to be Bahrrecht.

The only thing that irks me a bit on this release is the vocal performance. These kind of “demented” shrieks have become commonplace in black metal, and they don’t really work for me. At least they’re really not that high up in the mix. Still, musically, Bahrrecht have truly mastered the black arts and its subtleties, as evidenced in the ending of Sous Une Pluie d’Étoile and the general feel that this demo gives off. For fans of honest and aggressive black metal, a must-have.

Marțolea – Noaptea Dihãniilor

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Self-released, 2010

Martolea is a one-man folk/black metal band hailing from Romania, and its sole member is none other than Alin Drimus, mainly known for his work with acclaimed Prog/Black metal band Negura Bunget. Drimus handles all the duties on this album, from the songwriting/production to the performance, featuring instruments such as the wooden flute, the mouth harp, the kaval and a bucium.

Drimus plays a very well balanced blend of raw and addictive black metal with the perfect touch of folk music. The traditional Romanian instrumentation really makes the song feel that more folky, without having to compromise in any way. Yes, the recipe for most of folk black metal is quite simple, and for this reason it’s been done a little too much. However, the professionalism in terms of production, songwriting and musicianship of Drimus really makes this album that much more enjoyable.

The chants are really something else, something of a Gregorian chant,  sung with a low, brooding voice. It really makes a great change from the vocals we usually hear in this particular brand of folk black metal. At its core, this is a black metal album with folk elements, and it’s one of the reasons why this album just doesn’t fall short. Every track bears its own atmosphere, but the closer Zorii is really something else. While most of the other tracks on the album give off this vibe of wilderness and contact with nature, this track sees Drimus play a sort of melancholic, mid-paced black metal song. The wooden flute really comes out even more in this track, and it’s a very impressive way to close off the album. It definitely surprises me every time I hear it.

At first, Noaptea Dihãniilor might come off as a little uninspired or bland, for some reason. But after taking the time to get to know this album and its intricacies, it definitely grew on me and it has to be one of the best black metal albums I’ve heard this year, and probably the best folk black metal album in a while. To make a great album in this musical climate, there can’t be any holes in the cracks, any little mistakes or any less-than-stellar production. Martolea deliver on every level, and the result is a highly compelling, layered and enjoyable album.

Circle of Animals – Destroy the Light

October 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full Length, Relapse, 2010

You can think whatever you want to think when you hear the terms Industrial and Experimental metal. It’s easy to automatically think of too many experiments gone wrong, too many bands which tried to incorporate as many elements as possible into their music and still fall short. Most fans of metal and extreme music in general have come to terms with what the term experimental has now come to mean. But Chicago’s Circle of Animals is here to instill hope in your heart with its debut album, Destroy the Light. Considering the current state of industrial metal, Circle of Animals can be seen as saviors of the genre.

The main two members of the band are none other than Minsk’  Sanford Parker and Yakuza’s Bruce Lamont. The fact that these two are seasoned musicians shines through the music, both in terms of compositional prowess and flawless production. For each track, the band invited a different drummer from any corner of the globe, which ensures that the drumming on the album constantly seems fresh from track to track. This is an interesting luxury which only makes the listening experience that much more fulfilling.

Each track on here has something great to offer, but it’s clear to me at this point in time that No Faith and All Spirit/No Mind are the standout tracks. The former could easily become an industrial metal anthem, if anything. It boasts this certain contained intensity without going overboard.  The latter is a little slower, like a dying bacteria. There’s something really intense yet under control about this album that really enhance the overall experience.

It seems like in a very small span of time, my hope for industrial metal has been reinvigorated. This album is professional, highly enjoyable and profoundly fabricated in terms of composition, musical performance and production. Definitely a great new band to look out for, at all costs.

Belenos – Yen Sonn Gardis

October 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Northern Silence Productions, 2010

Belenos, formed in 1995 in Beaurains, France, has been at the forefront of pagan black metal scene for the last ten years. It’s now been many years since I’ve discovered their first two albums, the very raw and agressive Errances Oniriques and the melodic/pagan-sounding Spicilège, which have always ranked among my favourite black metal albums. Needless to say, Belenos is a band that has had a profound effect on me, and I consider myself a lifelong fan of this group. Belenos is now a one-man project consisting of sole member Loïc Cellier.

Yen Sonn Gardis sees Cellier mixing the raw black metal of Belenos’ earlier offerings with the more melodic and pagan-sounding black metal that we heard on their later releases such as Chants de Bataille. As a first for a Belenos album, the album is entirely sung in the Breton language. Upon the first few listens, it becomes obvious that much work has been put into this album, both in terms of production value and compositions. The riffs scream Belenos loud and proud, playing the same type of riffs that they (he) has played for a while now.

I can’t knock this album at all in terms of song structures, production or vocal performance. It’s obvious to anyone who’s heard Belenos in the past that the music sounds professional and always satisfies those who have a craving for Pagan black metal without having to compromise brutality or rawness in any shape or form. However, it seems that after letting this album sink in with a few listens, the songs kind of get lost in the shuffle. I can tell you now that to me, the only song that really stands out is Hollved Hirisus, the second track. As much as I’ve heard the other tracks on the album, I couldn’t really tell you what they sound like. This is something that I accused 2006’s Chants de Bataille of quite a bit, and something that ruined that album a bit for me.

Still, for anyone who’s new to Pagan black metal and wants to hear a brand of it that doesn’t do any compromise and can still deliver, Yen Sonn Gardis can deliver. As per usual, there are still unique elements that will make this album more enjoyable than most of the other Pagan BM that’s out there: the Gregorian chants which are beautifully sung, the immaculate production and the truly epic feel. But for those who are already fans of Belenos or Pagan BM, you’ll have to check this one out for yourself to truly decide whether it’s truly magnificient or slightly redundant. Regardless, Belenos is still one of the top Black metal bands around today.

Lex Rigor – Ashes Of The Last Remains Of Humanity

October 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Demo, Self-Released, 2010

Lex Rigor hail from Russia, home to some of the best black metal we’ve ever heard (bands like Old Wainds come to mind). In today’s black metal climate, it has become pretty obvious that too many bands come up short, either in terms of musicianship or in terms of compositional skills. Demos and EPs come out dozens by day, band after band after band. Looking up new bands is often a very tedious task, as it almost always quickly becomes a pain, given the overall mediocrity of most bands.

But it’ releases like Lex Rigor’s Ashes of the Last Remains of Humanity that really reinvigorate my constant curiousity to check out new bands. Lex Rigor play a brand of truly hateful and bleak black metal. Let’s not forget that terms like hateful and bleak are tossed around way too much in black metal, which is why as a listener, you always have to be on guard of these terms as they’ve often been used to describe bland, boring albums. But if can say so myself…bleak and hateful.

Lex Rigor’s musicianship is nothing less than top notch. The riffs here are dirty, heavy, grim and bring about a true black metal aura, resulting in a more enjoyable experience for the listener. I could guess that these guys have been playing together for at least five to ten years. And for a demo, the production is really up there – it honestly doesn’t even sound like a demo at all. There is absolutely nothing negative that can be said about the production. You could have told me that these tracks were part of an album, and I’d have believed you.

The songs are perfectly structured. The riffs are there without overshadowing the godly vocal performance, which gives a fiery fuck you to all the conventional black metal vocalists. Lex Rigor is blackness without compromise, brutality without repetition and most of all, evil in intentions. Anyone claiming to be a fan of the black arts absolutely has to get this demo for themselves, as this is nothing less than a treat.  Ashes Of The Last Remains Of Humanity evokes that feeling that all too well know and love, that blackness that resonates throughout all great works of black arts.

Omega Massif – Geisterstadt

October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Radar Swarm, 2007

Omega Massif is a german band. They play a certain breed of instrumental that could easily be defined as Neurosis-inspired sludge or, as the band members define their sound, downtempo. Let’s not get lost define genres and styles instead of forgetting to mention the obvious: Geisterstadt is an amazing, wonderful and beautiful album. There’s something about its utter simplicity that has an undefinable immensity and grandeur to it, without any visions of frantic grandeur or chaos.

On paper, Omega Massif sounds like any other sludge band that plays in the vein of slower sludge bands. Heavily distorted riffs, instrumental, quite simplistic songs  that are played on tempos varying between mid-pace and slower pace. Even if tabs or sheet music were to be made of this music (which wouldn’t take a whole lot of time to write up, as these riffs can be as simple as they get), it wouldn’t do any justice to the aura that evokes the music of Omega Massif.

The opener, In Der Mine,  is a great example of the music’s massiveness. The direction of the piece can be altered by the smallest, most subtle changes in the music, for instance the drums not playing as many hi-hats per measure or such. The way the music is produced and written gives it this highly addictive and unique feel. The musicians behind Omega Massif definitely know that less is more, especially when attempting to evoke feelings of complete vastness and limitless space.

After listening to this album time and time again, the Neurosis influence really becomes obvious, which led me to realize that there aren’t enough bands out there that are trying to create this brand of slow and sludgy heavy music. This sounds even odder when you realize that this type of music would surely be easy to imitate, as one doesn’t need to be the most competent musician to venture in this kind of music. Like all great albums, Geisterstadt evokes feelings that are basic and common to the human soul, yet undefinable with words. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who calls themselves a fan of sludge of the slower and heavier brand. If you enjoyed this album, you have to give their Mount Logan split a try. It easily tops this record.