Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 albums you may have missed out part V

Atlantean Kodex: The White Goddess
(Epic Heavy/Doom, Germany)

Atlantean Kodex is fairly new to the metal scene, but compared to it, the band made its way to many year-end list in 2010 with their debut album The Golden Bough. Three years later these Bavarian metal gods return to the scene with their sophomore album The White Goddess. The second album in a band's career always creates a lot of pressure as they need to prove the debut album's success was no one-time wonder and that the band are more than capable to expanding its sound and writing even better songs. Some bands nail it, some fail miserably. Fortunately Atlantean Kodex belongs to the first category: they absolutely nail it with The White Goddess.

I have been hooked to Last.Fm since 2010 ever since my friend introduced me to it. How in the hell I could have even lived in the past without this marvelous website? I am all about tracking my doings and loved creating year-end lists or playlists and always eager to find new bands I may have missed before. Enter Last.Fm and three and a half years later I have now totally little over 2,500 metal bands checked out. The road is endless tho as according to there are more than 90,000 metal bands including the entire metal scene and all the countries in the world. One thing I have noticed in the songs' shoutboxes are the comments from the users, which I read very often. One comments seems to dominate it nowadays, "Epic". I know the word is overused and has thus lost some of its meaning, but the first thing that comes to mind with The White Goddess is epic. There are eight songs altogether, but three of them are interludes so you get only five songs. That may sound too little, but the quality of the songs sends many band's entire discographies from here to kingdom come. 

From the first time you hear the chorus of Sol Invictus, you have two choices: you either yield, put on your fighting spirit t-shirt and go crazy. The other option is just to shake your shoulders and go: what's this? Another epic classic heavy metal band singing about swords, steel, battles and victory? Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Atlantean Kodex sounds intentionally cheesy and overdone. The massive choruses, epic build-ups, warrior-like spoken parts or Manowar-like guitar tone fools you into thinking "Hasn't this been done already?" The soundscape has been done, yes many years ago already but the the songwriting and atmosphere on this level is something extraordinary.

Take whichever of the five songs with vocals and you will find parts that will stuck into your head like glue. It could be chorus or Sol Invictus or Heresiarch or Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown: all of these songs have extremely well-written choruses that you will find yourself singing them while taking a shower or waking up to another working day. If that doesn't still convince you, take Enthroned in Clouds and Fire or the closer White Goddess Unveiled and you'll be compelled to sit still and embrace the awesomeness and emotional atmosphere of the songs. When the piano-driven outro in the last song fades out, somehow you feel complete and pure at heart.

One last thing needs to mentioned here: Markus Becker has improved since the debut by a mile. It's not that we was weak or under underachiever before, it's just that now the vocal delivery is less cheesy, more believable and most of all the dude can sing. My absolute favorite moment on the album currently is Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown: Mr. Becker is simply on fire on this track and it is one of the finest heavy metal anthems you'll hear 2013. This album is a must-have for all fans of traditional and melodic heavy metal.

Listen to the entire masterpiece here:

Orphaned Land: All Is One
(Middle Eastern Metal, Israel)

Orphaned Land is an odd bird in the field of metal: they hail from Israel, incorporate middle Eastern melodies into their songs and the lyrics deal with Abrahamic religions, unity and peace. They have been active for more than twenty years already, but my first encounter with them was about three years ago when I first heard their 2004 album Mabool - The Story of the Three Sons of Seven when a trusted friend of mine recommended the band to me. I was blown away, how come I hadn't heard of this guys before? Unfortunately I am not familiar with Israeli metal scene, so please accept my apologies if I am missing some groundbreaking metal acts from this country.

Their previous effort The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR is one of the finest metal albums of 21th century, so if you haven't heard it yet make sure you do so after this. To my surprise, All Is One takes their sound into a new territory with having only one song with harsh vocals, which was a letdown for me at first. In addition there are numerous midpaced and melodic songs incorporated with traditional middle Eastern folk music melodies, which makes it less heavy and aggressive. However, I found myself returning to the album one play after another. There is just something extremely addictive in this album: the melodies are very catchy and the addition of female vocals and orchestration add texture to it. You will hear some of the most emotional singing and lyrics (like in Brother), the overall quality of the songs is impressive and the guitar work and vocals are outstanding. You know that music should take you to places, don't you? The overall atmosphere transported me amongst the pillars of old Arabic temple ruins in the middle of the desert. I was staring at the half naked and veiled dancers in front of the roaring fire surrounded by mystique. The high priests were wearing long white gowns topped with golden jewelry and a long, curvy dagger. Too many Indiana Jones movies, you say? Could be, but this is why I love this album, it disconnects me from reality every time I need a break.

Orphaned Land has convinced me once again they are one of the most professional and versatile bands out there currently. I cannot wait to see what these guys come up next.

Watch the official video for Brother here:

Witherscape: The Inheritance
(Progressive metal, Sweden)

The great vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/producer Dan Swanö is back! Actually he has never really been gone, but once again shows that everything he touches turns into gold. If I would list all bands he's been active with or the albums he has helped to produce, the list would be too long for me to type or for you to read but luckily the homework is done and you can check it out here.

Witherscape may look superficially a brand-new name to the scene, but this isn't the case. According to Swanö, Witherscape had been in planning for a long time and spawned as a result of his working relationship with Ragnar Widerberg (guitars and bass), which began at a Swedish music store. In spite of being five years older than Widerberg, Swanö (vocals, drums and keyboards) discovered they had so much in common musically that brainstorming for a full-on metal project of their own was the next logical step. "The Inheritance" is a pretty thick concept album split into different episodes and very briefly, the Witherscape story takes place in a remote village in northern Sweden in the late 1800's. The central character lives in Stockholm and comes from wealth, and upon the death of his family he's informed by the family lawyer that he has inherited a large estate up north. Having been oblivious to the estate's existence, he decides to investigate, and once he's there "all kinds of weird shit happens…", according to Swanö. (taken from

Witherscape could be categorized as progressive metal having death metal elements when Mr. Swanö uses his harsh vocal register. One thing that strikes me the most are his clean vocals, which sound strongest and most powerful to date resembling the mighty Russell Allen, who is one of my favorite metal singers. The biggest strong point in the album is the versatile song material: some melodies remind me of Symphony X (probably due to the similarities in vocal technique) and some Opeth (guitar sound and harsh vocals). There is little to complain about The Inheritance: the songwriting is great, the atmosphere is airy, flow of the songs is consistent, the production thick and musicianship topnotch. My favorite cuts from the album are Astrid Falls and Dead For A Day.

The Inheritance is a worthy addition to progressive metal fan's collection. Hopefully this fruitful collaboration will continue as this super group is clearly right on the mark.

Watch the lyric video for Dead For A Day below:

Cult Of Luna: Vertikal
(Progressive metal/Post-Hardcore, Sweden)

Cult Of Luna blew me away with Somewhere Along the Highway (2006). Especially songs like Finland and Dark City, Dead Man almost broke my neck and I virtually trashed at least six airguitars! I have been following their career ever since and after their show in Finland in March 2013 I have finally completed owning their full-length discography. 

I ain't gonna lie: I had enormous hopes for Vertikal, because I knew what these guys are capable of. When the first song, I: The Weapon, was aired I was jumping for joy: this is how I like my CoL. First spin after the entire album I was pleased and happy. There were still elements in the new direction which left me a bit uneasy. Especially that dubstep sounding part in Vicarious Redemption starting at 11-minute mark, almost had me choking: what the hell is going on? It's not that I was not able to tolerate it, it just took me by surprise. Later reading back the fans' comments about it on Last.Fm, most of them accepted the twist with open arms while others were in denial. Vertikal takes Cult Of Luna's sound into a new territory and there was a long, five-year break between the previous album Eternal Kingdom and Vertikal. Obviously it was clear for the guys, that they wanted their sound to evolve and embrace new territories. During the recording break, the band also moved from Earache Records to Indie Recordings.

Vertikal features heavier use of electronics than before and some industrial sounding samples. Their sound is still heavy and aggressive, but they are able to bring something new to the mix. Especially the bass or the low electronic end brings good balance to the sound and the production on the album is fitting and powerful. One minor complaint is the vocals, which sound a bit too monotonous at times and could have had more variation to my taste. The original singer Klas Rydberg left the band in 2012 and the vocals are performed by Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg. Both vocalists still deliver and do an amazing job, especially the closer Passing Through took me by surprise delivering haunting vocals and beautifully fragile atmosphere. 

Another thing I have to add is the flow of the songs: Cult Of Luna has always had the ability to write interesting, long and epic songs which grab the listener immediately. They don't fail this time either and I am pretty sure the album will please old and new fans of the band. Finally I have to urge each and every metal fan out there to go and see them performing live: the sound, the visuals and the musicianship is stellar. You won't be disappointed.

Watch the official video for Passing Through below:

Cathedral: The Last Spire
(Stoner/Doom Metal, UK)

Altar Of Plagues is not the only metal band this year that called quits. One of the great doom bands from UK, Cathedral, announced that once The Last Spire is out that will be the end of the band. This makes it yet another cult band I failed to catch live. I did have my chance in 2011 when they played in Jalometalli festival in Oulu, but the logistics and the finance were not on my side that year. Luckily my friend was able to witness it and naturally the gig was awesome (as expected).

My history with the band is short and there are times when their obscurity makes me think they are one of the greatest bands ever and there are times when they make me question their cult-like reputation. The Last Spire is made of all the traditional trademarks of the band: stunning and weird vocals of Lee Dorrian and thick, heavy guitar riffs by Gaz Jennings along with throbbing bass and powerful drumming. Basically the dominant flow of the song is slow or midtempo, but when you least expect the tempo changes or they throw in some weird 70's sounding hammond and moog samples. Lee Dorrian's vocal delivery is yet one of the strong points in this album: his distinctive, weary and high-pitched sound makes the band unique and stand out from the mass. Another cool fact I found out while I was doing my homework is that Mr. Dorrian was the first lead vocalist in grindcore legend Napalm Death (1987-1989). Bloody hell, I had absolutely no clue about this (note to self: you still have a lot to learn dude).

It's hard to pick a standout track as the entire album is meant to listen as a whole experience, but if you listen to the video clip of Tower Of Silence, it pretty much encapsulates what the band is all about. In addition Pallbearer is a great example of Cathedral's sound: just when you think the entire 12-minute song is heard, everything changes as they pick up the pace. If you crave for great, unique and versatile doom, I strongly urge to pick up The Last Spire. Thank you for the music Cathedral, your legacy will live on and I'll follow where the members' musical road shall take them next.

Watch Tower Of Silence below:

Officium Triste: Mors Viri
(Death Doom Metal, The Netherlands)

Rotterdam's Officium Triste is celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2014. I was introduced to this band probably four years ago after their previous album Giving Yourself Away (2007) had been released. At that point of time I had (and still have) enormous hunger for well-made death doom metal and I was scouting for bands I had probably missed. 

Officium Triste play melodic doom along with wailing guitars and dominating keyboards. Their guitar sound is light and airy, but the vocals are absolutely crushing and chilling to the bone. To me the biggest brother-in-arms is Saturnus, probably due to the similarity in vocal style (spoken parts vs. deep, powerful growls of Pim Blankenstein). Mr. Blankenstein also contributed vocals to The 11th Hour's sophomore album Lacrima Mortis, a great doom album which I strongly urge you to check out!

The album flows effortlessly and the atmosphere is melancholic and sorrowful. Production is crisp and fitting to their sound. For me the absolute highlight of the album is the 10-minute closer Like Atlas. The part starting at 6:32 haunts me every time I return to it: that melody is just utterly contagious. Officium Triste might not be well-known, but their discography is pretty consistent so I'd strongly recommend checking them out. Mors Viri is a good place to start and a nice addition to your doom metal collection.

Stream the entire album here and support the band:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 albums that may have slipped your fingertips part IV

Skagos: Anarchic

Skagos hails from Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada and have been active a little more than half a decade now. Anarchic is the band's sophomore album and was released in February on Eternal Warfare. Skagos plays atmospheric black/folk metal where the emphasis is on creating long, epic song filled with various tempo changes, interludes and passages using clean and harsh vocals. That is really nothing extraordinary, but as soon as I press play, there is something different about these guys. Their sound reflects the lyrical themes: atavism, mythic beings and shamanism, beautifully. The band stands on defence of native people rights and its cultural traditions. Somehow it all makes sense as it feels almost that you are witnessing or taking part in mystical ritual somewhere in the woods far away over the foggy mountain tops.

Anarchic is made up of seven movements each labelled in Roman numerals from I to VII:
Movement I: The Darkling Plain (Hic Rhodes!)
Movement II: Wétiko - Cannibalism
Movement III: Await; Dawnrise
Movement IV: Spring Speaks Truth
Movement V: Corvidae
Movement VI: Entropy
Movement VII: Feral Dawn
The version I have bought from the Bandcamp is divided into three tracks: Anarchic I-III, Anarchic IV-V and Anarchic VI-VII. The total playing time of the album is more than 66 minutes, so these guys create full experience slowly but firmly where the tracks move from one emotion to another. 

The biggest strength these guys have is the sophisticated taste in building the atmosphere inside the songs taking the emotions from soft, acoustic passages to fierce and relentless black metal drumming and riffing without losing focus. As the songs last from 18 minutes to more than 23 minutes, these guys demand your full attention but when you get on board, the reward is juicy, harmonious and versatile. I look forward to what they have to offer in the future, cause they are probably one the most intriguing bands out there.

Listen and support here:

Deos: Fortitude.Pain.Suffering

Deos was formed in London, England only this year. The line-up consists of multi-instrumentalist Daniel (Colosus, Eye Of Solitude and God Eat God), vocalist Déhà and guitarist Alex. The band is currently unsigned, but I am guessing the record deal is just around the corner as Fortitude.Pain.Suffering is a storm warning from this young band. On Bandcamp it says the album is dedicated to Anita Nicoleta (1969-2013), but unfortunately I could not find the story behind this. Obviously they have lost probably a family member, a wife or a girlfriend and this could be their way of saying farewell making it very personal.

Deos play slow, melancholic and depressive funeral doom. Although the song are really depressive and sorrowful, somehow I find it soothing and strength giving. This could be the band's way to release their grief and loss in a time of distress and despair. I am pretty new to the funeral doom scene in general and as I am quite emotional and soft inside, I tend not to focus on depressive doom only. With my vivid imagination and urge to google everything, I sometimes just want to leave things as they are. This way they don't follow me into my dreams. The album doesn't suck the life out of you, but the melodic and wailing guitar and the sorrowful atmosphere combined with deep growls sucks the light out of the room where you listen it. I can recommend this album to all metalheads who need to let go of some scarring memory or are grieving the loss of a person dear to him/her. There is light at the end of tunnel, but it needs time and space to get there.

Stream the album here and support this great band:

The Howling Void: Nightfall

The Howling Void was formed in San Antonio, Texas back in 2007 and Nightfall is the band's fourth full length on Russian label Solitude Productions. The Howling Void is the sole vision of the mastermind Ryan (all instruments & vocals) and the sound is symphonic/funeral doom. The previous albums had deep growls, but Ryan informed on Facebook before launching the new album that his vision on The Howling Void's future has been changed and all the growls will be abolished. The critique started immediately as a change is always intimidating for the fans, especially when you let go of some of the trademarks in the band. Luckily the first single, In Subterranean Temples, proved me immediately that the evolution was necessary and things are moving to the right direction. I am easy going and could have easily enjoyed the growls too, but The Howling Void now differentiates from the mass, which is always a good thing. Then again I cannot say whether this was Ryan's ultimate goal or not.

Nightfall is a beautiful, gloomy and symphonic trip through time and death. There are six songs on the album and the entire playing time is a little more than an hour. The atmosphere is built on eerie, haunting keyboards and melodic guitar passages and subtle drums and vocals. The songs are very airy and mysterious making the album easily accessible. However, there is plenty of room for the songs to breathe keeping it interesting and intriguing. One thing I need to add: the atmosphere created using the keyboards remind me of Laura Palmer's theme from Twin Peaks by Angelo Badalamenti. Don't get me wrong, I loved Laura Palmer's theme and I love the sound on this album. Somehow I just cannot help myself imaging walking in the foggy forest, smelling the pine trees in the air, being afraid what I am about to find on the shore. Music should take you to places and play with your imagination, otherwise you get bored very quickly.

Stream and buy the album below:

Sadhaka: Terma

Sadhaka was formed in 2012 and Terma is their debul album on Pest Productions. The line-up consists of musicians from Fauna, Vradiazei and Disemballerina among others. I had no idea what this band would sound like, but once again reading Pest Productions newsletter convinced me I need to check them out.

Sadhaka plays Cascadian style atmospheric black metal and the songs are long and epic. You can tell the difference in vocals this time as they are not growling more desperate, passionate and raw. The structure of the songs varies from one mood to another and sometimes it takes several minutes to get the ball moving, However, reaching the top cruising speed ultimate gives you fast drumming and riffing before things slow down again or take a break. Writing long epic songs, songs that break the ten minute barrier, require skill and talent in keeping all the parts together. It is obviously a trademark thing nowadays, as I cannot recall any Cascadian black metal bands with radio friendly three to four minute songs. You want to know why? My guess it that they don't except them to hit radio waves, but then again I could be completely wrong as I don't really listen to the radio.

Sadhaka is a worthy purchase in your Cascadian black metal collection. There are many these so called supergroups or collaborations nowadays and they don't necessarily work out. These guys are in it to win it.

Stream and buy a your digital copy here:

Thy Light: No Morrow Shall Dawn

Pest Productions really knows how to pull my strings as Thy Light is another purchase on Bandcamp solely based on their monthly email newsletter. Fancy depressive black metal from Brazil? Me? Why not, give it to me!

No Morrow Shall Dawn is the debut album from Thy Light six years after their highly acclaimed demo Suici.De.Pression (gotta love the wordplay). We are not moving towards lighter lyrics or more joyful sounds, but what Paulo Bruno (instruments & vocals) delivers here is pretty decent and enjoyable doom. The sound is typical for the genre: slow, synth driven song and agonizing, subdued vocals. The biggest complaint I have read about the album is that the fans think the guitar sound is too soft or even commercial, but for me it suits fine, actually some guitar parts are played really masterfully. Another thing I need to highlight that the opening track Suici.De.spair: it sets the moods perfectly.

The title track features guest performance from Tim Yatras (Germ, Ilium and Blackened Angel) and it needs to be mentioned here, cause I simply adore all projects where he is involved. All in all the album builds up nicely and has some memorable highlights, but returning to it from time to time leaves me wanting for something more. I can't really put my finger on it, but I would like some compositions to have more variations and texture. Nonetheless, the album ends on a high note with absolutely crushing The Bridge making this album worth mentioning.

Stream and make up your mind here:

Lychgate: Lychgate

Lychgate is another supergroup formed in Cambridge in 2012 featuring Greg Chandler (Esoteric), Aran (ex-Lunar Aurora), Vortigern (The One) and T.J.F. Vallely (Omega Centauri). Especially Mr. Chandler caught my attention immediately as Esoteric's latest album Paragon Of Dissonance made my TOP 20 list back in 2011. Moreover, there was a lot of hassle regarding Aran joining the ranks as Lunar Aurora called it quits back in 2012 after the mighty Hoagascht which ended on many year-end lists.

The expectations were high for this group and the result is very good, but not legendary. You can feel here and there are still some parts that need some fine-tuning, but make no mistake: Lychgate has already capacity to kill and destroy. It seems that this is one of most albums that only seem to get better with each play. What is positive about the band is that it has been able to create its own sound, which might not be easy as the maneuvers run skin deep if you have been active in metal for two decades already. 

Lychgate's sound could be described as keyboard driven haunting black metal topped with Mr. Chandler trademark vocals and epic drumming. On songs like Against The Paradoxical Guild and Dust Of A Gun Barrel Lychgate is able to reveal its full potential and shine, proving this collaboration needs to continue. I have high hopes for this band as this release leaves me wanting for more. 

Stream three songs here:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Finnish albums and EPs you might be missing out part 2

Insomnium: Ephemeral

I am not going to lie: Insomnium has been one of my favorite acts from Finland ever since I heard Above The Weeping World album. Naturally I was more than excited to hear that before the new album is out in 2014, they are going to release a new track and three acoustic songs (instrumentals) that were previously dropped from other albums. My excitement quickly changed to disappointment: acoustic instrumentals and only one new song? I decided to push play on Ephemeral nonetheless and the rest is history.

I don't know what it is, but Ephemeral has some of most uplifting lyrics and joyful feeling I have had in a long time. Especially this part is the greatest:

Dying doesn't make this world dead to us
Breathing doesn't keep the flame alive in us
Dreaming doesn't make time less real for us
One life
One chance
All ephemeral

We are all here for just this brief moment that is nothing compared to the universe. Why not make the best of it? I find myself sometimes taking things too hard, over-analyzing and worrying about things that are totally out of my control. Why? I don't know why, but every time I hear this song I loosen up and smile.

I first heard the song about three months ago and now my playcount is 48, so you could say I really love this song. I don't really care even if it sounds a bit poppy, has a radio friendly chorus or lighter guitar sound: the atmosphere and the feeling this song gives me it beyond words. In addition all the three acoustic pieces turned out to be killer: I don't have to skip none of them when I play the EP. I cannot even begin thinking an album full of Ephemeral class songs, that would send my flying backwards. Instead I am trying hard to forget that Insomnium is in the studio and just focus on the message: one life, one change, all ephemeral!

Ranger: Knights Of Darkness

Being a Finn and a metalhead, I always smile ear-to-ear when I found a new band from my own country. Ranger hails from Helsinki and although they have been active a few years, I didn't even know these guys existed before I noted a 5/5 review from a Finnish webzine. Naturally I jumped on this review: what is this, is there yet another band I have somehow missed?

Knights Of The Darkness is an EP including five tracks of Finnish speed metal. That's right: speed metal. The sound takes me immediately back to 1980's golden years and when the first song, Ranger, starts I am immediately floored: moaning thrashy guitars, John Cyriis (ex-Agent Steel) like high-pitched screams and ferocious drumming: all the elements you need to have your speed metal cocktail ready. Touch Of Death takes me back immediately to my golden years in the 1980's when I still had hair, was wearing my brand new Adidas sneakers and a denim vest: ah, the good ol' days.

I am enjoying tremendously the energy these young guys have, this is exactly what the Finnish metal music scene needs: great songs, relentless energy and young, talented guys with the attitude to rule the entire world. I can already imagine being on their gig and it makes my excited and almost sweating as the uncontrollable headbanging will probably not end. I don't know about you, but I need to press play again on these clips and start looking for that denim vest...

Listen here (includes the ordering link from Ektro Records):

Beastmilk: Climax

The next album may not be metal, but it kicks ass big time so I see no need to exclude it from my picks. I still remembers a few years back when I saw Killing Joke in Ilosaarirock. The band's name didn't actually ring a bell, but hearing some of their hit songs made me curious. I got acquainted with their discography and especially their last two albums have been on rotation in my player quite often. In general, I don't want to be controlled too much in my music taste: I want to be able to listen to whatever I want whether it is post-rock, pop, ambient, blues or post-punk.

Beastmilk is a brand-new act from Helsinki featuring Mathew "Kvohst" McNerney on vocals. You may know him from Hexvessel. Beastmilk play industrial and British sounding post-punk. They are not entirely breaking new ground, but what they do, they do extremely well. Climax is the debut album and it features ten catchy punkish anthems. First thing that steals your attention that the production makes you feel like you are in night club in downtown London and the second that these guys have crafted songs that will be hunting you for days (e.g. the chorus on Death Reflects Us or Genocidal Crush).

I was fortunate to catch them warming Solstafir a month back and they convinced me that these guys are going to make it big. There is just something really likable and catching about this band and I really hope the international breakthrough is in the making.

Listen to the entire album below and support the band:

October Falls: The Plague Of A Coming Age

October Falls (originally a solo project of Mikko Lehto) hails from Helsinki and has been active a little more than ten years now. The Plague Of A Coming Age is the band's fourth full length on Debemur Morti Productions and in addition to M. Lehto on guitars and vocals features Sami Hinkka (Ensiferum) on bass and Marko Tarvonen (Barren Earth, Moonsorrow, Chaosbreed and Thy Serpent) on drums plus guest appearance from Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) on tracks The Plague Of A Coming Age and Boiling Heart Of The North. That is one kick-ass line-up but so is the music.

October Falls' sound is melancholic, moody and could be labelled as dark metal. M. Lehto's vocals are harsh, but they are not growls. Guitars are not downtoned, instead the sound is crisp, melodic and powerful. The songs have been shortened from the previous album (A Collapse Of Faith) and the sound is more accessible and dynamic and less doomy. The atmosphere is created through powerful and melancholic guitar melodies/passage and subdued vocals. There is a lot to like about this album. First of all the atmosphere is very fitting to me, especially when you listen to it on a rainy day. The musicianship is stellar, the compositions are well-crafted and the songs have similar backbone but enough variations to keep it interesting. My personal highlights on the album are The Verge Of Oblivion, Bloodlines, Snakes Of The Old World and Boiling Heart Of The North.

I hope this band would reach more attention with this release as it is one the best metal albums from Finland this year!

Listen and support here:

Alghazanth: The Three-Faced Pilgrim

Alghazanth plays symphonic black metal and hails from Jyväskylä, Finland. The band has been around for almost twenty years now, but I discovered them back in 2011 with their previous album Vinum Intus and it what an excellent release it is. The band had a major line-up change in 2011 when Goat Tormentor (Mikko Kotamäki) left the band to pursue his career with other bands like Swallow The Sun and Kuolemanlaakso. Luckily the replacement was found quickly as bassist Thasmorg (Mika Kaakkolahti) stepped up to fulfill the duties. He guy is not entirely new behind the mic as he has sung on the debut album Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity back in 1999.

The Three-Faced Pilgrim is the band's seventh full length on Woodcut Records and has been out since 13 December, so this is very fresh blood. I have to confess that I had been waiting for this album eagerly and to my satisfaction it delivers big time. The songs continue in the same vein where Vinum Intus left off: long, symphonic compositions with many tempo changes and structures inside each song. Thasmorg handles the vocal duties very fittingly with his nasty and throaty performance. The overall production of the album is fitting in my ear and the atmosphere is maintained masterfully throughout the album. My only complaint is that if you listen to the about many times in a row, the song tend to blend in with each other and you could get lost. However, it is far too early to say whether this is criticism or not.

I have seen Alghazanth live once together with the mighty Inquisition and Primordial back in 2011 in Hammer Open Air. It was actually already then when Thasmorg took over the vocal duties. I have no complaints from that show, other than my neck was pretty sore the next morning from all the headbanging.

Listen to AdraMelekTaus below and support this great band.

Jess and the Ancient Ones is a ritual magic (taken from their Facebook page) band from Kuopio. The sound is rich and retro paying homage to 70's blues driven hard rock. The total number of musicians in the band is seven consisting of three guitarist, a bass player, keyboard player, drummer & percussionist and of course Jess herself behind the mic. I can still remember when I heard their first single 13th Breath Of The Zodiac. I needed to google immediately where is this band coming from and are they really Finnish. An hour or so, my order had already been sent to Svart Records for their self-titled debut album.

First thing that grabs your attention is Jess' warm, powerful and elegant vocals. I have seem them live a couple times already and I can confirm that she can deliver live too. Next thing you notice is the wall of guitar sound provided by three harsh looking, tattooed fellows. I have learnt some of them used to play death metal back in the days and that explains why some of the moves on stage include hair tossing and moshing. Astral Sabbat is a mini-Cd including three songs: two entirely new and one Shocking Blue cover, Long and Lonesome Road. The song Astral Sabbat takes you into Tarantino sounding soundscape with surf guitar tone and 70's synthesizer sound. It is not a classic tune from JATAO, but a very good song indeed. The closer More Than Living is the reason you need to hear and buy this record. This close to fifteen minute opus has all the elements as why you need to fall in love with them: stellar songwriting, emotions from slow and fragile vocals to full-driven onslaught in the end accompanied by Jess' amazing vocal delivery.

JATAO is already recognized outside the boarders of Finland and all for the right reason: these guys are capable of becoming the next major export in music as the hunger for female fronted rock and doom is ever increasing. 

Watch the official video for Astral Sabbat here:

2013 Irish albums you may be missing out

Mourning Beloveth: Formless

Irish Mourning Beloveth has been around for more than 20 years now. They play death doom metal with lyrical themes dealing anguish, despair and despondency and my first encounter with them was about three or four years ago. I haven't been a doom lover in the past, but somehow that all changed in the 2000's. It was not only anxiety in my own personal life that pushed me searching to gloom, depressive and mournful sounds but also my musical progression and desire for longer, more profound, thoughtful and epic songs. When I first heard The Mountains Are Mine or the entire Sullen Sulcus album, I was sold: this is how doom should sound in my ears.

Formless is only the fifth full length in their career, but what they lack in quantity they surpass in quality. The album is sorrowful, it is slow, it is emotional and it is monstrous in length: six songs and total playing time over 80 minutes. Only one song is below 10-minute mark, the others usually clocking in at quarter of an hour. What I love about this band are the harmonies the vocalists Frank Brennan (guitar & clean vocals) and Darren Moore (harsh vocals) are able to produce. Especially Frank's emotional singing style and the vocal delivery is one of the highlights of the year. Take for example Nothing Has A Centre: Frank gives one of the best, if not the best, vocals I have heard all year. Only Jón Hansen from Hamferd is able to fight back if you ask me.

Formless has been out since February and I have been playing it quite a lot. There is not much I can argue about the album, sure some songs could have been cut out to make it more radio friendly, but I am guessing this is not the direction or the desire of the band. One thing about the album is certain: it requires your total and utter attention as the songs are really consuming, strenuous and demanding. However when you reach the end of the album Nothing Has A Centre and the closing track Transmissions leave you in awe. This is one of the finest doom albums this year and I strongly urge you to check them out.

Listen to the opening track below:

Mael Mórdha: Damned When Dead

I am a sucker for Primordial, Ireland and pagan metal. Combine all these three elements and the result is Mael Mórdha, a little brother to the mighty Primordial. Some people hate the comparisons to other bands as each and every band wants to be known from its own songs and achievements. Mael Mórdha does not have to keep its head in the bush as it clearly rides on its own material, material which is actually pretty effing good.

Damned When Dead is band's fourth full length and first on Candlelight Records. Their sound is folky doom pagan metal in the roots of Primordial, DoomSword and Moonsorrow. Singer Roibéard Ó Bogail sounds clearly irish and his vocal style is emotional and patriotic. The production on the album is fitting and flow of the songs is usually mid-tempo and lyrics deal with Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Guitar tone is not super heavy yet crispy and balanced. What makes this album a winner in my books are the folk driven melodies give the album an atmosphere that separates them from the mass. I hope these guys would tour Finland soon in order to witness their stamina live.

Support the guys here:

Altar Of Plagues: Teethed Glory & Injury

Remember when I was talking about the coolest album covers with Ataraxie? Well, Teethed Glory & Injury may have the other one fighting for that top position. How often have you seen a ballet dancer twisted in almost bearable position in a post-black metal album? Never? That's what I thought too.

In the beginning it was not clear to me that Altar Of Plagues called it quits after this album. Having listened to it 20 times or more, I now understand: where could they probably have gone from here? The album is not perfect, but it offers some the most out-of-the-box thinking and songwriting I have heard this year. It is almost as if James Kelly & the gang had an infernal vision that when we live, we go out with a big bang. They sure were able to execute this plan note by note. You have seen it on year-end lists and they deserve to be there for sure. I am going to tell you a secret though.

When I first heard God Alone, the first single from the album and saw the video with ballet dancers, I thought immediately: these guys have clearly lost it now. Where is my Cascadian style black metal, tremolo riffing and long 10-minute mark breaking epic songs? All these elements are missing from this album. Instead they have incorporated a haunting, industrial keyboards elements, post-rock style interludes and strong electronic fluence. As if you were listening to some sort of hybrid of post-rock, industrial hardcore and post-black metal. This is the reason why the scores for this album range from 11% to 97%, you are either going to love it or hate it.

Teethed Glory & Injury is the final vision of the band. Rest assured, all members pursue their musical career in other projects, one of which is Malthusian whose totally ripping demo I have reviewed in my earlier post. On the other hand, James Kelly is continuing with Wife, which has no metal elements at all and takes him to more electronic sounds. Take it or leave it, Altar Of Plagues exits the black metal scene on a high mark in my books although I am still having mixed feeling about the album sometime. Some days I am missing the long and epic black metal songs and other days I am really enjoying the groundbreaking sound and songwriting they present on their last album. The only thing I am more than gutted is that I never got to witness them live, by the time they were performing in Finland last year, I was safely attending Amon Amarth concert thinking these guys are sure coming back, they are still young. Boy was I wrong about that.

Listen and support below:

Dread Sovereign: Pray To The Devil In Man

Altar Of Plagues doing electronic black metal and Nemtheanga doing doom metal and playing bass? Has the entire Ireland gone bonkers? Dread Sovereign features Nemtheanga on bass and Sol Dubh on drums from Primordial and Bones on guitar from Wizards of Firetop Mountain. The trio was activated this year and Pray To The Devil In Man is their first EP on Roadburn Records. Dread Sovereign also played their first gig in Roadburn Festival 2013 this year and yes, I did not witness it. Unlike my imagination, my monetary funds are limited people.

When you first press play you grab the cover to check is it really Nemtheanga on vocals? Yup, the guy sounds actually like Ozzy on some parts sounding nasal and tense, but then effortlessly goes lower to his trademark register. I cannot stop admiring his talent and his attitude while performing on stage, every show I have been to he gives 100% to the fans, no less. I still remember the goosebumps I had when I first heard him shouting: "We are Primordial and we come from the Republic Of Ireland". Bloody hell, I almost wet my pants that day!

Pray To The Devil In Man features three tracks and 21 minutes of doom. The songs are pretty slow-paced and the melodies are sorrowful. The guys don't show off by giving you tapping solos or flaunt with technically difficult songs, but somehow the atmosphere is very down to earth and honest. This EP is best digested having some strong hopped beer or Irish whiskey. Consume with care.

Listen to the first single Thirteen Clergy To The Flames below:

Nomadic Ritual: Holy Giants

I stumbled across these guys by accident (as I have done with many unknown, but totally awesome bands before). After a brief homework session I learnt they are located in Belfast, Northern Ireland and are new to the scene. Holy Giants is the band's debut full length and they are offering it Name Your Price on Bandcamp. Actually both Limited Editions on tape and CD are sold out, but you can support the guys on Bandcamp directly by giving a few euros for the next pint of Guinness.

Nomadic Rituals play caveman doom (or something like that) where the sound of the bass so down-toned and crushingly heavy that you feel like your ears are ready to go deaf and heart is jumping out of your chest. There are no catchy choruses you can sing-along to, instead plenty to super gloom and heavy doom that will break your neck and vibrate the shirt you are wearing just as a reminder that not all music is intended to make you draw flowers or make you happy. I am not ready to slit my wrists either after this, in fact I am curious as hell to see if these guys are able to pull it off live. Good job guys and hopefully the Guinness money will start pouring in after all four people reading my blog will contribute you on Bandcamp. Sláinte!

Stream the album here and support!

Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 EPs, Demos, Splits, Covers, Singles worth checking out Part II

Árstíðir lífsins


Árstíðir lífsins is Icelandic and means "The Seasons Of Life". The band has been active only five years now and they write long, epic folky black metal songs based on careful research and scientific literature. It goes without saying that it is not the aim of this band to be affiliated with any politically charged scene within Metal. Árstiðir lífsins wants to present itself as an intelligently crafted work of art independent from any narrow-minded dogma. If you are new to these guys, I would strongly recommend checking their entire discography, both albums are simply great.

Vindsvalarmál is close to twenty minute epic ranging from one emotion to another. Though Metal and Folk are the most dominant musical influences in the music of Árstíðir lífsins, several other forms also add their qualities to the final result. Music and lyrics are tightly interwoven and change continuously, closely following the story told. That is why harsh, uncompromising Black Metal parts fade into folkloristic choir passages. This sentence was taken from their webpage as I couldn't have said it better myself. The vocals are extremely raw and passionate, giving you the feeling you are actually sitting by a campfire watching the vikings roar and telling their story. I have heard this song fifteen times already, but I always find new things with it, this is what makes this band very interesting but on the other hand very demanding.

Helrunar was born in Münster, Germany back in 2001 and it features Skald Draugir on vocals, who is part of Árstiðir lífsins too. I have to admit that I haven't followed their career quite actively, but I think it is changing. Why? Because Wein für Polyphem is really good and versatile song and holds up its site on the split very well. Both songs take their time and space to get full force, but once they reach their peaks you cannot stop banging your head uncontrollably. The songwriting on both songs proves why you don't lose your interest although these two songs could easily make two entire grindcore or powerviolence albums.

Helrunar is probably easier to approach as the lyrics, although sung in German, have a clear chorus which you can relate to. Vindsvalarmál is harder to get into due to having very little to sing-along to, but the atmosphere is very well executed and the orchestral parts add value to the entire experience. This split is well worth the purchase and a great listen while conquering new ground or taking a long hike in the forest.

Listen to both songs below and buy it on Van Records.


Oak Pantheon

Amiensus is one of my new findings from Bandcamp. They only released their debut album Restoration on Pest Productions last year and now they offer a CD split with Oak Pantheon on Tridroid Records. Restoration took me by surprise as this young band is clearly enthusiastic and passionate about the music they create. Some songs on Restoration remind me of Opeth and that is a compliment to these guys. Arise is Amiensus' longest song to date reaching the ten minute mark and these guys are in it to win it. Amiensus' style could be described as progressive black metal and the song offers clean and harsh vocals and melodic passages holding the act together.

Oak Pantheon is another stellar finding from Bandcamp a few years ago as they reminded me of Agalloch. Some people might call them copycats, but there is a lot more these guys have to offer. Their entire discography is impressive and especially Architecht of the void Pt II from their EP The Void 2011 is one of my favorite tracks in the last two years: that guitar melody is simply haunting! Their sound is slightly different on A Gathering, but I am still enjoying it tremendously.

Most of all the guys are some of the nicest guys in the industry! Back in the day my order for From A Whisper was almost lost in the mail as Katrina hit the Broken Limbs Recordings warehouse and since it was not sure if my order would reach me, the guys sent me a copy from their personal collection along with a note that their entire discography would be free for me for life, now how cool is that?
Listen to the split here and support the guys!



Conan is as crushing as it should be. The name compels the band to sound massive, primitive and cannibalistic and that is exactly what this Liverpool trio does. The guitar is downtoned, the sound is heavy and since they play really caveman like doom, it is slow and loud. Conan has been active only since 2006 and their debut album, Monnos, was highly acclaimed in 2012 lists. You should check out this beast here.

Beheaded is a 17-minute crushing journey to the roots of doom. There is little to complain about the song if you value stoner doom. They don't show off by playing fast solos or writing one liner choruses, but the heavy and overwhelming atmosphere they can create is like a ten ton hammer crushing you like a worthless maggot. I have yet to experience these guys live, so I cannot tell you whether my heart is going to jump out of my chest, but ask me again in April cause they are coming to Tampere then. 

Chicago's Bongripper plays instrumental doom and have been around the same time as Conan, so they fit perfectly together in this split. Unfortunately I still haven't checked their entire back catalog, but Satan Worshipping Doom is downright heavy and as nasty as a nail under your fingernail. It has only four songs, but you get close to 53 minutes of heavy stoner doom to keep you warm. What about the song titles? Hail, Satan, Worship, Doom? Combine that with the name of the band and we have a winner again.

Once Zero Talent (gotta love these guys) kicks in, you can expect heavy riffing and a bass that will have your heart skipping a few beats every now and then. The heavy and massive guitar wall is thicker than Conan's and more versatile, but since there are no vocals the guys are keeping me focused and eager to hear the next passage or riff. This is pretty much the perfect song to work out to, you can torture yourself as much as you like as these guys will not give in. As far as I know Bongripper is currently unsigned, but I am guessing it won't last long.

Listen here and support these great bands!

Solstice: Death's Crown Is Victory

Although Solstice have been around since 1990, only two albums have surfaced so far: Lamentations from 1994 and New Dark Age from 1998. Solstice plays epic traditional heavy / doom and their sound is clear and majestic. To my ear their style is reminiscent to Atlantean Kodex, Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass. I have to admit that I was not familiar with band before, but I am glad I found them. Based on the reactions on the net, their return was more than hoped and on Bandcamp and Last.Fm the fans are praising their return. 

Death's Crown Is Victory is a might four-track EP featuring entirely new band with guitarist Richard M. Walker being the only remaining founding member in the band. The EP starts with Fortress England, a three minute instrumental which set the mood perfectly. By the time I Am The Hunter kicks in you will hear powerful riffing and traditional, true heavy metal atmosphere. Paul Kearns behind the mic fits perfectly to the band and his sound is soft and powerful. There is a lot to like about this EP: first of all everything is somehow fitting: the production, the atmosphere and the vocals. If you like traditional heavy metal with a touch of doom, you would be fool to pass this by. 

Listen and support here:

Bölzer: Aura

Bölzer hails from Zurich, Switzerland and have been established in 2008. There are only two guys in the band: drummer HzR and guitarist & vocalist KzR. Thus you could easily compare them to Columbian black metal masters Inquisition, but their sound is more death than black metal to me. I knew absolutely nothing about this band, but as their name kept popping up on magazines and webzines posting their best of 2013 lists. As soon as I found them from Iron Bonehead Bandcamp, I was instantly hooked.

Aura is a three-track EP offering twenty minutes of relentless, crushing death / black metal. Their sound is based on heavy riffing, pulsating drumming and crushing vocals. They atmosphere they can create with just guitar and drums is really exquisite and fitting. One would think the songs need bass or another guitar to sound complete, but the guys pull it off. Especially the riffing in Entranced By The Wolfshook will have you headbanging the entire week and is easily one of the biggest surprised I have heard this year. So far the only complaint I have heard is that why is this EP so short. Haha, well three songs will have your body craving for more and based on this ruthless attack I am pretty sure the guys will be dropping a full length next year. Here's to hoping.

Listen and support the band here:

Atomic Aggressor and Death Yell are two death/black metal bands from Chile. I had absolutely no information on these bands before, but it was yet another link on Facebook I clicked (luckily) and I was hooked and did my homework on the bands. 

Atomic Aggressor has been active almost thirty years now (vow!) and so far they have released only three demos, a compilation and a live album. Death Yell's history is pretty much the same: a demo, a split, an EP and a compilation since they formed back in 1986. Then again both bands called it quits in the early 1990's and have now been reactived and I am glad they did.

Blind Servants starts with downtoned guitar tone and blasting drumming. The song grabs you by the balls instantly and headbanging is imminent. Atomic Aggressor's style is old school death metal with modern twist and they remind me of Morbid Angel and Disma. The only complaint I have is the a bit muddy production, but it doesn't take away the fact that the song kicks ass.

Back From The Depths doesn't really slow things down and is even better in my opinion. I remember when I first heard it, the guitar riff on the chorus was stuck in my head for days and I kept repeating it. There is something really catchy about this song and it takes me back to the good ol' death metal days. The production is a bit flat here too, but the song kicks so much ass that it really doesn't matter.

I hope both bands will release their first full lenghts on 2014 and deserve more recognition. I need to do my homework on Chilean death metal too (note to self).

Listen to the split here on Hell's Headbangers Bandcamp page:

Enter another two entirely new bands from US I had never heard before. Aylwin hails from California playing atmospheric black metal with lyrical themes about nature (as you can expect from the cover art) and atavism. Their sound is reminiscent of US Cascadian Black Metal with lengthy and epic songs concentrating on riffages, building atmosphere on distorted guitars and wailing vocals. There is really little to complain about Aylwin side of the split,  My Spirit of Pine and the Outer Body Experience: A Sequence of Night and Day. The song is a 14-minute composition starting with eerie female chanting before blasting into black metal beat and relentless riffing. It has all the classic elements of atmospheric black metal and it is best listened upon a cold, frosty night looking at the stars. If you happen to live in a wooden cottage up in the mountains sipping your last drop of whiskey by the campfire I would assume the surroundings would be perfect for this record.

Stellar Descant is Anthony W's one-man project from Oregon and has been active since 2010. The guy is pretty productive and has managed to put out two demos, two full-lengths and two splits so far. My first encounter was with Farallon split and it caught my attention immediately. Farallon: A Sequence of Subduction and Orogeny is a 29-minute monolith and returning to it now while writing this takes me back in emotions. Although the song is long including from distorted riffing and blast beat drumming to acoustic guitar passages, bird shrieking samples and native American percussion like drum parts, the entire composition holds well together and takes you to places. To me the high point is the relentless drumming accompanied by wailing and high-pitched screams, man I do feel alive at that point. I would use the term my friend is using and makes me smile everytime: "Sent me flying backwards".

There are quite a lot atmospheric, forest worshiping bands from the US lately (especially Cascadian region), but for some reason their atmosphere and message fits me perfectly. Everything is somehow down-to-earth, believable and honest. The production is not perfect but the raw and emotional soundscape, undying energy and honesty is something you can relate to easily. To me it feels these guys are creating the music they have always wanted, download it up to Bandcamp with pay what you will option and probably hope that at some point a music lover from Indonesia, Canada, China, Russia, Chile or Finland will find you and promote you in his/her blog. I love doing this and I hope you love reading this as much.

Listen/download to the entire split here and support these great bands: