Velvet Cacoon – P aa opal Poere Pr. 33

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full Length, Starlight Temple Society, 2009

Before anything is said about the musical content of this album, I must point out that this review will not cover in any way the mysteries and stories that surround this band, their actions, whether they are style over substance or anything related to that. Enough (if not too much) ink  has already been shed about the extramusical activities of Velvet Cacoon, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s music.

Velvet Cacoon has been a band that I have liked since people started taking note of them, when Genevieve was released. I enjoyed that album quite enough, although I wouldn’t call it a classic by any stretch of the imagination. Even though I understood its purpose and was able to appreciate their sound, they still sounded like they were looking for their sound. Their future was promising however, as I’ve always been a fan of this particular brand of black metal: extremely dreamy, ethereal, otherworldly. Their album Dextronaut and Northsuite I found a little bland and generally uninspired.

In all honesty, I would consider P aa opal Poere Pr. 33 to be VC’s best offering thus far. I’ve already listened to this album in its entirety several times, and it’s easy to notice that the band has truly found their sound, or at least a sound that works for them as of now (as I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see their next album sound radically different in sound and in purpose). In terms of piece structure and production, the formula is the same as other VC recordings: overly simplistic riffs, heavy and dreamy guitar tones, and drums that somehow end up being more simplistic than the riffs.

There’s something truly ethereal, immense and captivating about this album that keeps me coming back for more. The drum breaks are extremely powerful in terms of sensation, as the listener can clearly hear a subtle and minimalistic melody through a wall of distortion. The opener “2” is a great example of this.  At around three minutes, the drums take a break and a soft melody can be heard lingering in the back of the echoing guitar riff. As a fan of atmospheric reverie, I find great enjoyment in this.

On a side note, I’ve never been a big fan of VC’s atmospheric offerings, so I was pleased to notice that only one track on this album (Aventine) featured ambient sounds. Every other track on this album can be thought of as a blueprint for a great atmospheric song, “2” and “Oviamoire” standing out of the bunch. This is a great album that any fan of Velvet Cacoon’s older material, as well as fans of heavy atmospheric music should definitely give a try.

Walknut – Graveforests and Their Shadows

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Stellar Winter Records, 2007

Hailing from Moscow, Russia, Walknut feature a mere two members, namely Stringsskald (more known for his work with Temnozor), who writes all the songs and plays all instruments, as well as Ravnaskrik, the lyricist. In many ways this is a one-man band. Their only offering to date, Graveforests and Their Shadows includes a total of six tracks, four of which clock in at over ten minutes.

Some bands’ sound, good or bad, can be hard to define with words. This, however, isn’t the case for Walknut. The overall sounds and aural transmissions can be properly summed up as Burzum worship. And yes, as much as that might make you cringe, it’s as good as Burzum worship will get. I do understand that there are hundreds, if not thousands of Burzum worship bands out there that blandly copy Varg’s sound without bringing anything new to the table. I’m aware of that fact.

However, it would be dumb to ignore the musicianship and talent that this musician possesses. Speaking of this album’s production, it’s nothing short of spectacular (and let’s not forget how important production is in this genre). Definitely not over or underproduced, it’s clear that Stringsskald’s almost fifteen years of experience in the genre have served him well. It’s easy to see that “they” got the sound they were looking for. As is the case for all the masters of the black arts, Walknut know how to make a ten minute song dreamy, melancholic and properly structured, as opposed to botchy, repetitive, redundant and boring. Also, it’s interesting to note that out the entire 42 minutes on this album, only the opener Hrimfaxi features ambient sounds. Other than that, it’s pretty much black metal from top to bottom.

Overall, this is a perfectly executed album, with stellar production and appealing song structures. The only thing one could accuse Walknut of is their similarities to Burzum. But, as most fans of black metal will tell you, Varg’s music has touched the hearts of thousands of musicians, and this influence is still going strong in today’s black metal. For the hundreds of band that suck as worshipping Burzum, Walknut do it right. It also goes without saying that if you were never a fan of Burzum, then you won’t even enjoy this album. But for anyone who can appreciate what Burzum has done and can appreciate this type of honesty without compromise, then I highly recommend this album.

Slough Feg – The Animal Spirits

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Profound Lore, 2010

Slough Feg is one of those very few bands whose entire discography I would recommend. I’ve been a huge fan of these guys since 2005’s Atavism, and I haven’t looked back since. Their 2007 opus Hardworlder was one of my favourite albums to come out that year, and it’s still ranked among my favourite albums of all time.  2009’s Ape Uprising saw the band take a more doom metal approach to their music, and even though a little different, it still had Slough Feg written all over it. All this to say, if you haven’t heard this band yet, you need to check out everything from their self-titled debut to this very album, in no particular order.

This album is definitely ressembles Hardworlder more than Ape Uprising, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Slough Feg keep on being the bringers of pure riffs, these very riffs that have been used countless times throughout heavy metal history, but somehow Slough Feg still manage to make everything work without sounding redundant, or even worse yet, unoriginal. Fans of Slough Feg will definitely find this album highly enjoyable (and some have already begun declaring this offering the album of the year) even though it isn’t groundbreaking per se.

However, to me, this album seems like it’s done its time after ten listens or so. I don’t know if it’s because it’s their eight full-length record or because after all these years, I have truly heard these kinds of riffs too many times. As I said earlier, Hardworlder was one of my favourite albums of 2007 and I have listened to it countless times. This album, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to me like it has that timeless quality to it. Yes, it has all the makings of a great Slough Feg album:  stellar production, very competent songwriting and the same old vocals we’ve come to expect. But there’s a little something that makes me a little uninterested after a handful of listens. Whatever it is, it’s still a great album, by a great band. Has it fully lived up to my expectations? No, but in my heart I don’t know if anything will ever truly surpass the greatness that was Hardworlder.

Still, this is a great album by a great band. It’s definitely nothing less than you would except from a Slough Feg album, even though like I previously stated, there’s a little something about it that doesn’t scream “album of the year” to me. However, as this breed of heavy metal is very hard to come by, especially in 2010, any fans of heavy metal owe it to themselves to check this album out. Oh, and the final track, Tactical Air War, features none other than Bob Wright from Brocas Helm, so…yeah.

Haemorrhage – Apology for Pathology

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Morbid Records, 2006

This is how Grindcore should be. Heavy, brutal, short songs, straightforward, and the thing most bands don’t understand: to have good production. A huge amount of Grindcore bands think they can get away with shitty riffs and production. Lighten up folks, Grind isn’t as simple and/or easy to play as people make it out to be. The Spanish band Haemorrhage have been working on their sound for over 10 years now, releasing 5 full-lengths to date and releasing tons of splits and whatnot throughout the years.

This is the craziest grind album you’ve ever heard. Tops Nasum’s ‘Helvete’. It’s just so fucking amazing. Riffs riffs riffs. The band bludgeons out riff after riff of mind-fucking-blowing memorable (that’s right memorable, not just random brutality), brutal music. ‘Festerfeast’ and ‘Frenzied Genital Carbonization’ instantly come to mind. The production and guitar tone is modern, with just the right amount of old-schoolness that makes me go absolutely crazy. Every instrument has its own sound, you can hear every instruments, the drums aren’t just blastbeats (and that’s really interesting, the drum beat are very noticeable). And the vocals. What the hell? A mix of low, guttural vocals, high-pitched screams a la black metal, you name it. Halfway through ‘Surgical Extravaganza’…a solo. Slightly reminiscent of Aborted’s latest work, but 10 times heavier and just plain better. The album starts with complete brutality but ends in a semi-melodic tone. Normally, I wouldn’t like that, but right here it adds variety.

This is just plain chirurgical madness. It’s layered, so it keeps you coming for more. By saying that i’m not saying this is overly complex music with tons of influences, nor am I saying this is just plain uninspired modern grindcore. The brutal death injections are amazing. Haemorrhage are the new band to watch out. Enter the syndicate of sickness.

Gorod – Leading Vision

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Willowtip, 2006

Gorod is a band from from France which features most members of Gorgasm. They released their debut album last year, Neurotripsicks, and it didn’t impress me that much – as opposed to what most people thought, I thought it was pretty redundant and boring death metal. This new album though, definitely puts Gorod at the top of my favourite death metal list, and it’s definitely one of the best death metal albums released so far this year (without forgetting Spawn of Possession and a few others).

First things first, this isn’t straightforward death metal. Like the aforementionned Spawn of Possession (whose latest album could be easily compared to this one), Gorod know how to make things interesting: Not too many blastbeasts, no rushed production, a lot of melody, but still keeping an undefiled sound. Some parts tend to fall more into technical grounds (such as Thirst for Power), but they never exaggerate like the successful tasmanian band Psycroptic. Anyway, whenever one of those pretentious technical part shows up, they don’t last long and there’s usual a kick-ass riff right after. What makes this album so cool is that through the full 42 minutes, Gorod somehow manages to pack in every cool riff and idea that’s ever been tried in death metal – without being redundant for 1 second. When it comes to their melodic side, I’m pretty sure I haven’t anything Gothenburg in this album – more something of neo-classical death metal or brutal melodic death bands. There’s a lot of leads and solos for those who like their Death metal with tons of ’em (the middle of ‘State of Secret’ comes to mind – awesome solos, a little bit of shredding and sweeping), there’s some stuff for those who like some dissonant passages, some brutal-ish parts, you name it. The vocals are nothing remarkable, as I seem to get the impression that most of this album is focused on musical value. I honestly wouldn’t mind at all if this had been an instrumental album.

Gorod try every trick in the big book of death metal, and they’ve mastered their art so gracefully in under one year (Ok, their debut wasn’t that bad). I definitely hope a lot of bands can learn from this: you don’t have to try some extravagant stuff to be original and awesome. You just have to take all the elements you like from a certain genre of music and make what you can of it. Every member of Gorgasm is an excellent musician, creatively and by playing their instruments. The future of death metal looks promising, if more people can do music like this.

Funeris Nocturnum – Code 666: Religion Syndrome Deceased

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Woodcut Records, 2002

Funeris Nocturnum was a band I had never heard of before, and according to a few of the reviews I found on the ‘net, they seemed to be a pretty good band. So I got their latest album, “Code 666 – Religion Syndrome Deceased”. Luckily, they don’t sound like most of the other black metal bands that have been popping out of nowhere recently, and their riff work shows talent.

A good thing about this album is the keyboards. FN has managed to put a good amount of keyboards into each song without overusing them at all, unlike a band like say Dimmu Borgir. They also manage to create some pretty unique keyboard soundscapes, like near the end of Vulpine Paralogism. The riff work is also pretty unique, seing as not all the riffs are tremolo-picked or so, some of them even sound like death/thrash.

The bad part is its length. 34 minutes is just not enough. They could’ve easily made a few songs longer and it would’ve reacher 41 minutes in length easily. Most of the songs aren’t too long or too short, but sometimes 3 minutes isn’t enough and it doesn’t satisfy me. Also, the vocals were the same from start to end. Some variability in the vocals would’ve helped a bit.

Not a bad album overall, in fact I appreciate it a lot. If these guys work on their few flaws their chances of becoming the next BM band are quite big.

Epheles – Le Dernier Pardon

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Full-length, Self released, 2003

Hmm.. I really don’t know what to say here. This band has a pretty interesting past, as one can notice by reading interviews (if you speak or read french). Some of Epheles’ work has been compared to Burzum, even Emperor.. but no. This is the definition of French Black Metal. Stuff like this doesn’t come out of other places than France. Anyways… they’ve released 3 demos in the past, all of which were truly legendary and memorable, and this album didn’t even get released, due to a label who vanished. Only a few cd-rs of this album have been distributed. Of course, I got mine off P2P, and it was fucking hard to find. Now i’m not bragging how lucky I am to be one of the few that have MP3s of this album, because it’s really a shame. I wish this album actually got released and that people started praising Epheles. Sadly, Epheles will probably remain underground for a good amount of time. Anyways, they’re supposedly going to record an album this year, so we never know. Anyways, along with Mystic Forest (and all other projects of Stefan Kozak), Epheles is the BEST French Black Metal band right now. There’s no useless crap or bullshit black metal wannabe riffs here – what we have, most of the time, is either atmospheric forest-like ambience, or straightforward black metal riffs which sound a bit like Malvery, but faster. Compared to Mystic Forest, this is way more black metal influenced rather than classical music influenced. Most types of feelings can fit this album – Depressive, angry, hateful, suicidal, you name it. Whatever adjective that’s been used in the past to describe a BM band/album. Headbanging parts include parts such as “La Marche Des Oubliés” near 3:20. Ambient parts represent the nature in its darkest and most beatiful form, like it was thousands of years ago. The more symphonic moments give more “imperial” or “majestic” feelings, but they always keep a dark tone, like in the middle of “Ultima Venia”, which sounds mysteriously interesting. This is just another example of what French Black Metal can do. They can create many emotions, while mixing all types of riffs and atmospheres. A must if you can find it.