Monday, November 4, 2013

2013 albums you may have missed out part 2

Summoning: Old Mornings Dawn

How many metal bands inspired by Tolkien can you name? I bet there a quite a few, but none of them is more legendary in my books than Austria's Summoning. It wasn't until in 2006 in my endless quest of epic, atmospheric metal when Oath Bound blew my head off. The album was something I had really never heard of and the long, epic songs kept me focused like a kid in the candy store. Now I was familiar of the band before and the fact that they will never play live and use programmed drums made me stray away from them for some reason. Looking back now I wonder why? I really don't know the answer anymore. My taste in music as my persona is all the time developing and I have to embrace the progress.

It was not clear if Old Mornings Dawn ever sees the daylight. Silenius (Michael Gregor) reveals in an interview for Northwind Promotion that he was empty and unmotivated for many years, but his heart attack changed it all. He realized Summoning was still important to him and he needed to start composing again. Read the full story here. For us, the fans, there are two greats results: the band nor the music didn't wither away. Seven long years after its predecessor, the final saga saw daylight in June 2013. The internet played a huge part in promoting the album: somebody leaked the album months before its release and it received a lot of negative feedback as the rip was of poor quality but it was also heralded album of the year by many fans. I felt a bit awkward and lost as I didn't know what to think. I don't start preaching here about Spotify, blogspots, torrents and Pirate Bays but it is a fact that the distribution model for music has been changed.

For some reason as this album was one of my most anticipated albums this year, I avoided it like the plague. In fact due to that I fucked up my initial order from Napalm Records and as a result the Summoning wall flag and the pendant are now missing from me. Forever. Gutted about that I ordered the final fan package, Earbook Edition, later along with the 7" vinyl but still I cannot help second guessing my actions. The music itself follows the good old Summoning agenda, the songs are pretty long, epic and have horns, battle sounds and flutes. What is new on the table is the use of female voices, whispers and clean vocals. They have not reinvented themselves, but they state there is a natural progression in the music itself.

For me the finest moments in the album are The White Tower, Caradhras and Of Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves. The album itself is strong and there are no fillers. Only complaint I have is that the metal elements are somehow toned down, the narrator's voice sounds a bit cheesy but the overall atmosphere is consistent and strong. As far as I understand this will be their final album and if this is the end, Summoning finishes off with a high note. The album will not be my pick for album of the year, but I am pretty certain it will enter my TOP 10.

Caladan Brood: Echoes Of Battle

Salt Lake City metal anyone? Enter a complete new (established in 2008) band formed by Shield Anvil and Mortal Sword from Utah playing epic atmospheric metal with lyrics inspired by Malazan Book Of The Fallen. Not convinced yet? What if I tell you that Summoning and Elffor are often mentioned as similar artists?

I found Caladan Brood totally by accident from social media as one of my buddies had a link up in Facebook saying you really need to check this band. To my huge surprise I immediately liked and disliked the band at the same time. I liked that they sounded like Summoning, the cover art was beautiful, the logo epic and the sound trustworthy. I disliked the band cause Summoning fans have been ranting them as copycats, the vocals were sung by both members and the orchestrations sounded the same. The final verdict came when I found myself ordering the A5 edition of the album together with the t-shirt: if greatness comes in two different packages having the same flavor, then why can't I have both?

In fact Echoes Of Battle has been dominating my powerplay list quite a lot in the winter 2013. It was released in 15 February and it seems has I have listened to it twenty times or more already. There is a certain likability in it: first of all the orchestrations are done masterfully, the choir in the beginning of Book Of The Fallen will be imprinted in your brains for days, the vocals display the emotions beautifully and there are some great riffs, hell even a solo! The overall sound is pretty metal in the end, although there are pipes and whistles. The use of trumpets and horns wake the inner warrior in you, although I don't have a faintest idea how these guys look like. Then again does it really matter? You'll be the judge of that cause it is pretty clear that these guys won't probably tour ever.

Echoes Of Battle is strongly recommended for any fan of Summoning or atmospheric black metal in general. There are six opuses to choose from and the duration is more than 70 minutes, so you need to reserve time to digest this monster. For the debut album these guys present a storm warning in songwriting, but some song tender to linger a few minutes too long for my liking, but it doesn't really diminish the overall performance. Take songs like Echoes Of Battle, To Walk The Ashes Of Dead Empires and Wild Autumn Wind and you will know that these guys are the real deal. I welcome them with open arms to the scene and raise my leather topped horn filled frosty ale high in the air! 

Buy and support the band here:

Deafheaven: Sunbather

Deafheaven is something you really hate if you were born in the 70's and have your roots in old school metal like Accept, Twisted Sister, Slayer, Pantera or Iron Maiden. They play Post-Black Metal with hints of screamo and post-rock, now if you don't want to expand your music taste you should stop now. Others, welcome to discover one the most interesting bands in the last three years.

It was in 2011 when Roads To Judah was released. I remember listening to the opening track, Violet, thinking what is the big thing about DFHVN? When the intro ends and the onslaught starts I nearly dropped my teacup, what the hell is this? Fast, blast beat like drumming, ferocious vocals and tremolo guitars: this is the new sound of the youth! I tried to dislike them for their short haircut, shaved cheeks and mother's favorite boyfriend like clothing, but the music won me over. And yes, I am not that close minded. I ranked Roads To Judah in my TOP 3 in 2011, but looking back at my play count now I guess it should have been higher. The entire album is triumph from start to finish, so I strongly urge you to get from their Bandcamp site.

Sunbather was released only two years after the debut album and the band went through some major line-up changes as only the founding members guitarist Kerry McCoy and vocalist George Clarke were left. Luckily they found excellent replacements and especially the new percussionist Daniel Tracy shines on this album. Where Roads To Judah only had four songs, Sunbather adds three more but they more more acoustic interludes or GodSpeed You! Black Emperor like post-rock songs. For me it is a good thing and a bad thing: If I just want to blast DFHVN in all its glory, I cut off Irresistible, Please Remember and Windows from my playlist. It's not that they would suck, but they give you some time to breathe and I don't need that everytime. The four remaining songs: Dream House, Sunbather, Vertigo and The Pecan Tree play over 46 minutes altogether so the songs are long. However, there's a lot of variations and tempo changes so they don't wear you out. Clarke's shrieking and snotty vocals are pretty much in-your-face and the guitar sound is pretty light and clear. This might confuse you, but it is done intentionally. The Pecan Tree might be one of the finest compositions this year, although I am still not sure if I like the fade out.

You know I still need to talk about something, don't you? PINK album cover on metal band?? What the hell were they thinking. I don't know and it really looks like you would be listening to a new mainstream indie pop band, but DFHVN is the real deal. Pink is the new black.

Listen and support here:

Album Of The Month, September 2013

Ulcerate: Vermis

I can't fully remember the first time I heard about Ulcerate, but the fact they originate from Auckland, New Zealand and play technical death metal grabbed my intention immediately. It is no secret that I have always had the utmost pleasure in finding metal from countries you wouldn't expect. A quick visit to my metal bible, The Metal Archives, and the answer reveals: currently there are close to 300 listed metal bands from those small islands!

Vermis is the band's fourth full length and the first under Relapse Records. The album has been mixed, recorded and mastered in New Zealand by the band's virtuoso drummer Jamie Saint Merat. If you are a fan of technical metal drumming you have probably heard of this man before. His style is fast, complex, complicated and arrhythmic. Listening to the album makes me think how the hell can this guy remember to play the songs exactly the same live? I mean there a numerous tempo shifts, fills and rhythms inside one single song! Other trademark the band has is the down-toned and distorted guitar sound which has often been compared to Deathspell Omega. The final cornerstone of the band is the bass player and singer Paul Kelland. He is really nasty, fearsome and convinces me in his growls that "leave me alone, I know what I am doing!".

It is no secret this is one of my most anticipated records this year. I made the preorder immediately when I heard the first song from this album: it was galaxy crumbling! Officially the album has been out about six weeks now and it only seems to get better the more I listen to it. One word of warning: Ulcerate craves a lot from the listener as the one liner choruses are totally missing, the songs clock usually over six minutes and when the song is over it is more complicated than five technical death metal albums put together! For me the trick is the shear and utter relentless, raw power and talent the band unleashes upon you. It is like an oncoming avalanche: you see it's approaching from the horizon and you prepared to run away but as it roars closer to you, you compelled to stand still and have it done its way to you.

I cannot simply pick one song for you to tryout: you have to hear this bulldozer from start to finish. It starts with a short intro like song Odium before gathering its full destructive power and by the time Vermis starts be prepared to be smashed to the ground! Gracious of them, Ulcerate gives you a brief two-minute break to get your act together with interludium Fall to Opprobrium until it finally crushes you like a meaningless, despicable, scum of the earth insect by finishing you with the closing trio. After 55 minutes there is one question I need to ask myself: the sound has now been perfected to level where a point of no-return has been reached, so how are they going to top this? I don't know, but I need to change my pants. Again.

Stream and buy this monster down below: