2015-05-23

Review: Solefald - World Metal - Kosmopolis Sud

Band: Solefald
Album: "World Metal - Kosmopolis Sud"
Style: Avantgarde metal
Release date: 2015-02-02
Origin: Norway

Tracklist:
1. World Music with Black Edges
2. The Germanic Entity
3. Bububu Bad Beuys
4. Future Universal Histories
5. Le Soleil
6. 2011, or a Knight of the Fail
7. String the Bow of Sorrow
8. Oslo Melancholy

I hadn't originally planned on reviewing the latest output from Norway's eclectic duo Solefald. Not because I didn't like it, no because it was released almost four months ago and most people into this music have already either heard it or read about it elsewhere. But this is a very special album and I felt that I had to say something about it. So here I am, ranting on about the masterpiece that is "World Metal - Kosmopolis Sud".

Yeah, I guess it's a dead giveaway concerning what rating this album will get, but I just can't hide my feelings for this album. That's right - feelings. I honestly can't remember the last time I felt this way about music, first time I heard "Sear Me MCMXCIII" by My Dying Bride when I was 16 and the first time I heard "Svältvinter" by Vintersorg when I was 19 comes to mind though, as they also gave me that certain something. I'll admit I really enjoyed Solefald's last offering "Norrøn Livskunst" (2010) and it gave me a couple of eargasms back in the days. So I naturally had high hopes for this album, but I wasn't prepared to be this overwhelmed.

It all starts with what might be this year's best song - "World Music with Black Edges" - seriously, I can't think of any other band that manages to fit eurodisco into a metal song, without it seeming out of place. But Cornelius Jakhelln and Lars Are Nedland does just said thing. Tribal rhythms and weird soundscapes also enter this musical pallet and never has a song been so aptly titled. Lyric-wise it goes all over the place, but I just can't help but smiling at the incredible words penned by Jakhelln:
'In 2000 we wrote « Open the Black Metal Order » :
« There are no Blacks in Black Metal, the name must be an error
How did this temple of sound roar into being?
Who made it the tornado it is?
The bad kids are getting old but they what played is not
Open the Black Metal Order. This is pain immortalized
The future is said to be many things but I predict it to be Transatlantic
Who is able to carry on through? Who is able to stay courageous? »'

Musically, the album continues with melodies that glues to your brain, combined with sheer madness while the two vocalists sing, growl, scream and snarl all over the place. Naturally, it takes a couple of listens to even begin to comprehend what the hell is going on. Once you do, I hope this music sounds as sweet to your ears as it does to mine. Hell, even the obvious weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird-song "Bububu Bad Beuys" is amazing! Unlike "Tittentattenteksti" on it's predecessor, this one makes me smile and nod my head with the music. Think "black metal meets african drums" and you might have a clue as to what's going on.

While "Le Soleil" might be the album's weakest point, it isn't bad at all, it just lacks a certain feeling that the all the other songs do. And oh my, how the last trinity of songs on "World Metal" touched me deeply; When I first listened to "2011, or a Knight of the Fail", I immediately enjoyed it. After I had heard it a couple of more times, it felt like I knew it by heart, but after I read the lyrics the first time, the hair on my arms stood straight up and I felt shivers all through my body. One simply has to read the lyrics whilst listening to this song in order to fully appreciate it. It continues with the insanely emotional "String the Bow of Sorrow" where I my eyes started to tear up when I first heard it together with the lyrics. I think you get my point by now, so I really don't have anything wise to say about "Oslo Melancholy".

It has been quite difficult to write about this album I must say. Mainly because it's just so damn difficult to describe in words, one really has to listen to it. Now. I can't give "World Metal - Kosmopolis Sud" 10 out of 10 though. Why? Simply because the album isn't perfect, but very close though.

'I will leave you here, where you sat with your parents
On the simple wooden staircase
Where bumblebees hum and blackbirds sing
As the evening breeze sways the firs in the sunset
- Solefald'

RATING:
9.5/10


2015-05-22

Two decades ago: 1995 in retrospect

I always used to look back at 1995 as the year for me when it came to some of my favourite albums released. But how do I view this year now that I'm all grown up and boring? Has some of my favourite albums really aged that well or should I be butt-smashed for my inferior taste? Let's find out...

Anathema - The Silent Enigma
This used to be one my absolute favourite albums and I totally get why. I had just recently discovered this sort of metal but doom was still to slow for my taste. What this album does, is standing with one foot in doom metal and the other being firmly placed in the band's future, with more dreamlike atmosphere and (somewhat) faster pace. Though this is still really slow music and it honestly hasn't aged very well, especially Vincent's vocals which I find tedious at some points, though far from being bad.

Recommended track: When I do spin this album, it's always the first two and the last two tracks that gets any playtime. So I could choose either of those, but right now I'll go for the monumental "A Dying Wish".

Arckanum - Fran Marder
I didn't discover Arckanum until 2008's "Antikosmos", but this is where it all started. This is evil-sounding black metal that still somehow manages to be very nature romantic and atmospheric at the same time. It's very lo-fi (obviously) but intended to sound like that as well, so that's nothing to complain about. Had I heard this back in -95 I would probably have shat my pants in terror. Also, gotta love that album cover.

Recommended track: "Gava Fran Trulen" is a classic of course, but my favourite is easily the mid-tempo paced "Trulmælder" with it's weird female vocals in the chorus.

Arcturus - Aspera Hiems Symfonia
Symphonic black metal it is then. I've always considered this debut album from Arcturus to be more of a youthful reminder of the band's past rather than a real album that fits into the band's avantgarde-discography. Lately I've come to revise that opinion a bit. It sounds very early 90's in it's style and execution and if it weren't for the vocals and the odd Arcturusisms here and there, one could easily mistake this for an early album by Emperor or a later album from Dimmu Borgir. Thankfully Garm's vocals easily beats both Ihsahn's and Shagrath's, that's for sure. Some parts of this album I really like, some I don't. Simple as that.

Recommended track: Although I prefer the re-recorded version from "Disguised Masters" (1999), "Du Nordavind" is still the best track here.

At the Gates - Slaughter of the Soul
If there's just one album that deserves the term classic, it's probably "Slaughter of the Soul". I like the album for what it is, even though the music could have been a bit more varied. But it's a melodic thrash/death-extravaganza with endless smash-hits and it still sounds relevant today. Legendary album is legendary if you know what I mean?

Recommended track: I have to chose only one? Oh, fuck it! Then I'll just go with the title track then. I love that song.


Darkthrone - Panzerfaust
I'm ducking before incoming shitstorms and evil fists as I'm writing these words, but to me, "Panzerfaust" is the epitome in the discography of Darkthrone. Here, all the previous elements came into fruition; sheer aggression, atmosphere, melody and vocal delivery. It is obviously a lo-fi production, but they're thankfully not going all "Transilvanian Hunger" (1994) on us. It's clear that the band had grown up a bit when they recorded "Panzerfaust" compared to the previous albums. If you've never cared particularly for Darkthrone earlier, try this album and it just might change your mind. It sure did for me.

Recommended track: For me, there are three tracks that are outstanding on this album; "En Vind Av Sorg", "The Hordes of Nebulah" and "Hans Siste Vinter" - try them all.

Dissection - Storm of the Light's Bane
Another classic melodic black metal album. It took me years of neglect and scorn before I finally realized just how good of an album "Storm of the Light's Bane" is. Jon might have been a satanic madman and an accomplice to murder, but by Satan how gifted he was when it came to writing memorable melodies and all things considered catchy. Sprinkled by his spitting voice of razor blades, this is album is to melodic black metal what "Slaughter of the Soul" was to melodic death metal - a real classic!

Recommended tracks: All are classics (except for the intro and outro of course), but the one that always makes the hair on my arms stand is "Retribution: Storm of the Light's Bane".

In the Woods... - HEart of the Ages
I never liked this album when I bought it back in the days and I still don't today. The music can best be described as melodic black metal with dreamlike atmospheres, avantgarde-elements and insane screams that really destroys whatever feeling could've been. Except for the title track which I still count as a very good song to this day. This band was so much better when they focused on clean vocals, which they thankfully figured out themselves when they released "Ominio" in 1997. That album is great. This one isn't.

Recommended track: As I wrote, the title track is really all that matters.

Iron Maiden - The X Factor
I'm not actually the best person when it comes to discussing Iron Maiden, especially during the Blaze-era. But hey, it always pisses someone off so why don't take a shot right? To put it blunt, Bruce outsings Blaze in every way possible, but since everybody already knows that, what else should I say? Well, it's a dark album, at least in Maiden-measurements so I get why a vocalist with a lower register than Bruce's was considered for this album. Musically, Iron Maiden has done a shitload of way better albums than this and everyone knows that as well. It's far from a disaster though, I just wonder why anyone in their right mind would rather listen to this than "Piece of Mind" (1983), "Powerslave" (1984) or "Somewhere in Time" (1986)?

Recommended track: Well, the single  "Man on the Edge" has cool melodies but is totally ruined by Blaze's vocal melodies. "Sign of the Cross" is a much better song and has an epic feel to it, but would probably have been better with Bruce anyway.

IsengardHøstmørke
Folk metal in it's purest form, without any flutes or violins. I am pretty sure all the songs here are Darkthrone-leftovers that were considered too melodic for said band. Fenriz's nationalistic vein really shows here, and he is dangerously close to drop over the ledge and go all cartoonish on us. Mostly he manages to balance on the edge and it's great on tracks such as "Neslepaks" and "Over De Syngende Øde Moer", but when his drunken vocals says 'Fuck you all!' over a monotone keyboard in "I Eí Gran Bortí Nordre Åsen", it is difficult to not start laughing out loud. As said, you have to appreciate "bad" vocals and lo-fi production in order to fully be able to digest "Høstmørke". I appreciate those things some days. Some days I just find it plain dumb.

Recommended track: The word "skapelsen" (creation) backwards is spelled "Neslepaks" - so there you go!

My Dying Bride - The Angel and the Dark River
I have listened to this album more times than can be considered healthy and thus, I know it inside out. To me, it certainly is a classic album, but I can understand why some people have a hard time accepting vocalist Aaron's weeping vocals and the lack of growls on a doom/death album. The band had here moved further from pure doom, even though most of the songs still are slow as hell, but they have added so much atmosphere it's almost ridiculous. This album bleeds atmosphere and even though it might sound a little dated today, it's nothing that removes the overall impact it had on me as a young boy. And the bride is still dying...

Recommended track: All songs except the utterly boring "Cry of Mankind" are great, especially the lovely "Two Winters Only" - that song is going to be in my life forever.

Mörk Gryning - Tusen År Har Gått
Another melodic black metal to the reaper. And melody is definitely the word to emphasize here. Mörk Gryning ("Dark Dawn" - yes, it sounds equally silly in Swedish) basically consisted of teenages at this time and it sometimes shows, even though I mostly am impressed by the songwriting quality on this debut album. "Tusen År Har Gått" is a solid work, but there were better melodic black metal albums released this year, for sure.

Recommended track: Sometimes, there's a reason why band's choose a certain track as the opener and this is no exception. "Journey" it is.

Storm - Nordavind
One guy who was exceptionally active in the year of 1995 was good old Fenriz. This is his third album on this retrospective list. Storm is basically a more "serious" version of Isengard, with less emphasis on black metal and even more nature romantic and nationalistic in sound. This is both good and bad, depending on what mood you're in. And why on earth is "Noregsgard" basically a folk-metal copy of Darkthrone's "Quintessence" from the album released the same year? Has no one ever asked Fenriz about this? Also, this album contains the classic anti-christian theme "Oppi Fjellet". Good for giggles.

Recommended track: I like most tracks here but choose "Villemann" if you're into Fenriz' drunkenness and "Langt Borti Lia" if you want to hear more from the beautiful voice of Kari Rueslåtten.

Theatre of Tragedy - Theatre of Tragedy
Once upon a time, I was a real sucker for all things gothic and metal combined and Theatre of Tragedy was a band that could fulfill just that. For one album at least. And I'm of course rambling on about their second album "Velvet Darkness They Fear" (1997) and no this debut. Both albums uses the same formula; male growls vs. weak female vocals (from the most overrated woman in metal) all based on a layer doom metal with loads and loads of keyboards, but the successor managed to take those ingredients and craft solid songs. This one has only two of those...

Recommended track: ...and those are "A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal" and even more so, "Dying - I Only Feel Apathy".

Therion - Lepaca Kliffoth
This is another album that I was really into as young, but compared to the one just above here, I still listen to "Lepaca Kliffoth" on occasions. Sure, it sounds really dated when you listen to it in 2015, but I cannot deny that there are some really strong songs here. Also, I like this version of Therion the best - when they used keyboards instead of orchestras, when the vocals was a combo of Christoffer's semi-growls and Piotr's deep drunken voice. Some minor orchestrations and soprano vocals are found here, but they blend in so good with the rest of the music that it only adds flavour. This is basically keyboard-driven heavy metal with elements of gothic- and doom metal. Easily this band's best album.

Recommended track: I have loads of favourites here, but the winner has to be "Evocation of Vovin".

Ulver - Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler
Another album that is really considered a classic by many people. Not by me I tell you. I don't get that nature romantic feeling that I know they aimed for. To me, this mostly sounds like Dimmu Borgir's "Stormblåst" but with a lot of cringe-worthy clean vocals. It's mid-paced black metal that really isn't something special. At all. Sure, there are parts here and there that gives me hope for a minute or so, but then it's all destroyed by a tedious riff or boring melody. I don't get this album and I don't think that I ever will. Sorry, but Ulver and I will probably never be close friends.

Recommended track: Not really, but at least "Een Stemme Locker" is short, to the point and has beautiful acoustic guitars that reminds me of Empyrium's "Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays" (1999). Check that album out instead!

Unanimated - Ancient God of Evil
Dissection and Mörk Gryning weren't the only Swedish bands that released melodic black metal albums this year. Naglfar did it as well. Oh, and Unanimated too. In reality, this perhaps borders a bit more on the melodic side of death metal but who cares. If you're familiar with any of the other bands I just wrote, then chances are good that you'll also enjoy "Ancient God of Evil" with it's amusing cover art. This is a quite uneven album in my opinion, with some amazing songs and some tracks that doesn't really feel finished.

Recommended track: "Life Demise" is a fucking classic (dat melody!) and you owe it to yourself to learn the lyrics and sing along. My favourite part is where he's supposed to sing the word 'visions' but end up clearly saying 'wisions'. So many Swedes have trouble with differentiating between v and w.

Okay, I am seriously off-topic now. But was 1995 really such a good album year that I've always considered it? I still have to say yes to that question. Some of the albums listed above are still large favourites for me and add to that Moonspell's amazing "Wolfheart" and Paradise Lost's breakthrough album "Draconian Times" (these two albums are scheduled to be dissected in other sections in the future and therefore wasn't listed here) and I'm even more sure. I thought of adding more albums that are considered classics, such as "Demanufacture" by Fear Factory, "Mandylion" by The Gathering, "Infidel Art" by Sigh and "Amok" by Sentenced, but I felt that I wasn't really qualified enough to write anything on those albums.

Review: Arcturus - Arcturian

Band: Arcturus
Album: "Arcturian"
Style: Avantgarde metal
Release date: 2015-05-08
Origin: Norway

Tracklist:
1. The Arcturian Sign
2. Crashland
3. Angst
4. Warp
5. Game Over
6. Demon
7. Pale
8. The Journey
9. Archer
10. Bane

"Sideshow Symphonies" (2005) was the first album without vocalist and founder Kristoffer G. Rygg (aka Garm, aka Trickster G. Rex) who apparently got tired of all things metal and decided to turn Ulver into a trip-hop band, depending on way too much drugs as a sole inspiration. Vortex (Borknagar, ex-Dimmu Borgir) naturally took over the vocals since he basically was the only one who could be up to such a task. It didn't make things worse that he already knew the band and provided vocals on a couple of songs on the masterpiece that is "La Masquerade Infernale" (1997). "Sideshow Symphonies" was a major disappointment for a lot fans, including your humble writer. Bad production aside, something was lacking compared to "La Masquerade Infernale" and "The Sham Mirrors" (2002). The songs were quite boring and not nearly as adventurous as they had been in the past. All in all, it sounded like Arcturus was trying too hard to sound like Arcturus. I think I'm on to something here, since the band disappeared and kept silent for a long time. So here we are in 2015 and it's been 10 long years since we last heard from the insane space-crew that inhabits the star known to us earthlings as Arcturus. But was it all worth the wait?

"The Arcturian Sign" kicks things off a bit in a manner and a style that was nowhere to be found on the tedious predecessor. It's an excellent choice in an opening track since it combines elements from all the band's previous albums, including the atmospheric black metal album "Aspera Hiems Symfonia" (1995) and it's a joy to hear some more, albeit brief, aggressive moments in Arcturus' music. "Crashland" is more mellow and atmospheric and could easily fitted onto the predecessor. But if that would've been the case, it would have been one of the best songs. The melody parts, both musical and vocal, treat my ears with wonders where the part around 1.50 reminds me very much of Guns N' Roses (of all bands). It's works emotional wonders on my mind and the album continues to do, despite what mood the space-pirates sets for us. "Angst" brings us Norwegian lyrics and a tad more aggression again whereas "Warp" has a keyboard melody that is to die for. "Demon" and "The Journey" is pure psychedelia and "Bane" has a moment where all "The Chaos Path"-lovers surely will get their satisfaction.

The songs are overall shorter than they've ever been throughout the band's career. "Arcturian" is a varied album that takes quite a few spins to actually digest, but once that is accomplished, I can't do anything but bow down to the masters of the genre that is avantgarde metal. The production is muffled and only slightly better compared to "Sideshow Symphonies", but I have never been a person that deduces points from an album just because the production is bad. Okay, I just might, but then it has to be a total disaster that really annoys the fuck out of me. This is nothing like that.

I know it's only May, but if "Arcturian" isn't anywhere near my top-5 at the end of the year, then this has surely been an amazing year music-wise. All in all, if you've liked Arcturus' previous efforts and you don't enjoy the fuck out of this one - there's something seriously wrong with you.
I know at least one such person...

RATING:
8.5/10


2015-05-21

Top-10 list of 2014

I JUST CAME BY TO SAY HELLO... (FOREWORD)
Watain live 2015-02-22 in Malmo, Sweden
Over a year has passed since I last wrote a damn thing on this blog. Why, you may ask? Well, it's the same usual excuse people have when they stop doing things online. In my case it has been being buried in studies, moving to a new apartment (twice), finding the love of my life and most importantly; a general lack of interest in both the blog and music.

But hey I'm back! For how long, no one knows. So let's just be happy while it lasts ok? Or be sad, I don't really care. I have a few ideas laying around on what to write about here and I hope that all the people that used to follow this blog still continue to do so. It will most likely be in the same vein as before, with the usual grammatical errors and spelling fuck-ups. Why? Because I'm Swedish that's why.

But first things first - I never did a top-list over the albums of 2014 so that's prio uno. Basically, it was a crap year in music so that's why this list became so short. Also, I almost didn't listen to more than 10 new metal albums for the entire year, so there's probably a lot I've missed. Anyway, not halfway through 2015 and it's already waaaaay better. So let's just put this list out of it's misery asap!

10. Lux Occulta - Kolysanki
Style: Avantgarde metal
Origin: Poland
This is weird. I mean really weird. And sometimes it's not metal whatsoever. Sometimes it's very good when I am in the right mood and sometimes it just feels to damn weird. The tempo changes are out of this world, they use every damn instrument you can imagine and it's all sung in Polish. It's ugly, but in a good way although it sometimes feels these guys are going weird just for the sake of being weird. Compared to Arcturus, Ulver or Solefald, it feels too forced.

9. Stilla - Ensamhetens Andar
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
Quite similar to the band's debut album "Till Stilla Falla" (2013), but with a better approach to song-writing. The band is far from your classic black metal as they use acoustic guitar and keyboards (only for atmosphere mind you) and sometimes remind me of the best nature-parts of old Ulver and Armagedda's underrated "Ond Spiritism - Djefvulens Skalder" (2004). Mostly midpaced, atmospheric and easy-listening black metal makes this a good album - simple as that.

8. Anathema - Distant Satellites
Style: Progressive rock
Origin: UK
It's been a long time since Anathema had anything to do with metal, but since they once started out in that manner, it still feels legitimate to have them on my blog. And how can one deny the sheer beauty in vocalist Vincent's voice? Or the band's incredible song-writing?
On this album, the band almost sounds as vital and as relevant as they did on the amazing "Judgement" (1999). And that alone is a very, very good rating.

7. Entombed AD - Back to the Front
Style: Death metal
Origin: Sweden
Oh stop it. You already know what this band sounds like. L.G. still sounds like a caveman and it's basically the same song-writing approach and sound as it has ever been. The only thing that is different are those two new letters behind the name and the fact that they once more use two guitars. And what a difference that makes (the thing with the guitars, not the letter-part) compared to "Serpent Saints" (2007). They sound more angry and more revitalised than they've done in a long time and that's a good sign. Keep it up.

6. Skogen - I Döden
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
Skogen is actually quite similar to Stilla when it comes to their approach to black metal. Very nature-ish, some clean vocals here and there, atmospheric key-parts (only when it's appropriate mind you), lyrics in Swedish and more focus on melody rather than aggression. Sometimes I also get some serious Arckanum-vibes and that isn't horseshit either. The only complaint I have is that some of the songs drags a bit too much for my taste, thus making the album a couple of minutes too long.

5. Alvenrad - Habitat
Style: Folk metal
Origin: Netherlands
Folk metal sung in Dutch have never been my cup of tea (I still have nightmares from that one time I did the mistake of listening to Heidevolk), but this is surprisingly good. It's no secret that these guys have listened to Vintersorg both once and twice and sometimes it really shows in the songwriting as well as in the vocal-melodies ("Woudakoestik", "Verweven Klauwen"). At other times, they go more aggressive on us ("1911") and the prog-like love for Jethro Tull and other bands are ever-present on the entire album. This is a really promising debut album and I love to hear what these guys will accomplish in the future.

4. Empyrium - The Turn of the Tides
Style: Folk/Progressive metal
Origin: Germany
Let's get it over with immediately; this is far more atmospheric and drenched in keyboards than Empyrium has ever been before. Comparison with the band's first two doom-metal albums are nowhere to be found and even the acoustic guitar-masturbation that was so present on the third album is lacking. All of the songs are basically slow, slow songs with lots of keyboards and mostly clean vocals and choirs, still masterfully done by Thomas Helm. There are sudden outbursts of doom metal, acoustic guitars and growls, but usually when they show up in a song, I am already tired. It's still masterfully done and all the songs are basically great, but I had so high expectations on this comeback-album and I have to say I was a bit let down. Also, I want to hear lots and lots more of Shadorf's voice.

3. At the Gates - At War with Reality
Style: Melodic thrash/death metal
Origin: Sweden
Comeback album of the ages? Whatever your opinion on this band and their worldwide acclaimed "best metal album ever" (you know which one I'm talking about) you can't admit you weren't at least interested in hearing how "At War with Reality" would sound. I was and I liked it a lot. Everyone else has already said that it's basically "Slaughter of the Soul" part deux, but with elements from the band's entire back catalouge and I am inclined to agree with that. Not as catchy as the 1995-album but also not as streamlined. Colour me impressed (but not over-excited)!

2. Behemoth - The Satanist
Style: Black/death metal
Origin: Poland
This album almost made me over-excited though. Thing is, I ruled out this band a long time ago and didn't think they had anything relevant to come up with anymore. They've basically done the same album over and over again since "Thelema.6" (2000). Yes, they haven't sounded AC/DC-exactly the same, but you get my point. What "The Satanist" does is thankfully introducing A LOT more varied song-writing, not so much instrument-wankery and most importantly; more black metal in the mix. This is something that is very refreshing compared to that "extreme metal-thingy" they've (successfully) been doing for so many years. "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer" is amazing and "O Father O Satan O Sun!" is epic beyond belief. Easily the band's best work since "Satanica" (1999).

1. Vintersorg Naturbål
Style: Folk metal
Origin: Sweden
If you read this blog, you know that I consider Vintersorg one of my all-time favourite bands ever (I feel like I've already written that elsewhere), so placing "Naturbål" on the top spot wasn't very difficult. It all comes down to this, have you heard this band before, you know what it sounds like. Have you enjoyed any of the two previous albums, you are guaranteed to do the same here.
I of course like it a lot. But I don't love it and I don't feel that it is as strong as it's predecessor "Orkan" (2012) and emotionally and songwriting-wise it has nothing on the band's first three albums. But songs such as "Ur Aska och Sot", "Lågornas Rov" and especially "Elddraken" are to me already classic V-songs, I just feel that they could have been even better. Sometimes it feels like the band writes an amazing melody or riff and then just decides to paste it together with something else, usually inferior. That makes the album halt a bit at some points and I would even go so far as to say that "Urdarmåne" is the worst "real" Vintersorg-song I have ever heard in my life - not counting instrumental tracks, intros and outros. And that really is something...

2013-11-22

Top 15-list of 2013

Me and my friend Tobias from Metal Moments drinking at
the Satyricon-show in Copenhagen 2013-11-07
FOREWORD
2013 is almost over, and that means that it's time for me to try to arrange some sort of order of the albums which I've liked the most over the passed year. If I was to try and summarize things, I'd say that 2013 has most definitely been a much weaker year compared to 2012, when Tiamat, Vintersorg, My Dying Bride and Borknagar all released killer albums which I still listen a lot to.
I only made a top-15 list this year (compared to 20 last year) as I haven't been listening that actively to the 5 records I first felt should be on the list. So I decided to put them all in the honorable mentions-section instead.
I felt that I had to make a rule regarding including EP's, because it felt unfair to include them in the list as well. But if I were to do that, be sure that both "The Manuscript" by My Dying Bride and Myrkgrav's "Sjuguttmyra" would have made the list - they are that good.
Also, there's no denying that Scandinavia rules my list as usual. But let's get it on now!

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order)
Amon Amarth - Deciever of the Gods
Carcass - Surgical Steel
Cathedral - The Last Spire
Code - Augur Nox
Hypocrisy - End of Disclosure
Koldbrann - Vertigo
Månegarm - Legions of the North
My Dying Bride - The Manuscript (EP)
Myrkgrav - Sjuguttmyra (EP)
Stilla - Till Stilla Falla
Witherscape - The Inheritance

15. Eldkraft - Shaman
Style: Doom/heavy metal
Origin: Sweden
When I read that Johan, the ex-vocalist from folk metal band Valkyria sang on this band I knew I just had to listen to it. The man has a very unique voice I must say. Far from being technically gifted, he possesses emotions and true epicness instead. The same can be said about the music on "Shaman" as well. The album is sadly a bit uneven, but if more songs would have been as impressive as "Gammal Krigare" - this album would have been very high up on this list.

14. Satyricon - Satyricon
Style: Black metal
Origin: Norway
One of the albums of 2013 that I anticipated the most. Much has been said about it and I feel that I am somewhere inbetween those who love it and those who loathe it. The song "Phoenix" is an absolute masterpiece of pop-metal and there are other more "standard" Satyricon tracks that I dig. But some songs on this album makes me question the sanity of Satyr and Frost. "Nocturnal Flare" might very well be the most boring song I've heard in all my life.

13. Ghost - Infestissumam
Style: Heavy metal/rock
Origin: Sweden
Could the nameless ghouls and Papa do the impossible and follow the extremely successful debut that "Opus Eponymous" (2010) was? I would like to say yes to that, since I feel that "Infestissumam" is a way more even album when it comes to songwriting and there are some real good smash-hits here as well. It's just that I "only" like Ghost. It's not my preferred cup of tea and I will never love them. Still, very impressed that they managed to write an ever better album than the debut.

12. Sacrilegious Impalement - III - Lux Infera
Style: Black metal
Origin: Finland
This was a band that I never heard of before, but a friend of mine recommended it and I felt like giving this band a fair chance. I'm very glad that I did, since this is classic 90's black metal, done the Norwegian way - only it's done by some guys from Finland. No huge suprises to be found on this album - just plain black metal with good songwriting just the way I like it.

11. Blodsrit - Diktat Deliberi
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
This Swedish band have had it's ups and downs and in no way is "Diktat Deliberi" a great album per se. It is a good album though, and compared to  Sacrilegious Impalement and their Norwegian 90's black metal - Blodsrit plays Swedish black metal with lots of cool hooks and some folk-elements here and there. I like. Listen to my original review for more information.

10. Watain - The Wild Hunt
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
Along with Satyricon, "The Wild Hunt" was probably one of the most anticipated black metal-releases of 2013. I wasn't that impressed. I mean, it's Watain so you know that you can expect a certain quality and I was pretty sure there would be a couple of tracks I'd really enjoy. And I was right. The problem is that this band probably never will live up to "Sworn to the Dark" (2007). They tried with "Lawless Darkness" (2010) but it wasn't as good. "The Wild Hunt" isn't as good as "Lawless Darkness" was either. Period. And just to be fair, there was a fine line between this one and the 2 previous spots on this list.

9. Cronian - Erathems
Style: Progressive metal
Origin: Norway/Sweden
This collaboration between Øystein G. Brun (Borknagar) and Andreas Hedlund (Borknagar, Vintersorg) should really be just the perfect music for my taste, since it sounds very much like their main band Borknagar without copying it. Only problem is, it isn't. I can't really put my finger on why that is, but I guess it's just more of the same. Which it really isn't either, since I really dig some of the songs present on "Erathems". The main thing is just that I'd rather take Vintersorg and Borknagar every day rather than this.

8. Amorphis - Circle
Style: Gothic metal/Melodic heavy metal
Origin: Finland
I've always had a bit of a torn relationship to Amorphis. I love their first three albums, find their mid-period to be extremely dull and welcomed the band's "comeback" when they got a new vocalist in 2005. Since then, I've always found one or two songs on each new album that I've thoroughly enjoyed, but that's that. You always know what you get when a new Amorphis-album is released and "Circle" is no exception. The main thing here is that I enjoy a lot more songs as I feel the songwriting is more even than it's been since... well, actually since "Tales From the Thousand Lakes" (1994). Kudos!

7. Bloody Hammers - Spiritual Relics
Style: Doom/stoner metal/hard rock
Origin: United States
This band that I recently discovered, made it onto spot 16 on last year's list. I still like what this band does in (what to me is) a very tired and mostly boring music genre. I still don't know what it is that makes Bloody Hammers be that exception - I only know that I like their style. And even though "Spiritual Relics" lacks the smash-hits it's predecessor "Bloody Hammers" (2012) had ("Witch of Endor"/"The Witching Hour") - the overall songwriting is more even and stable, which in my book is a good chapter.


6. Thyrfing - De Ödeslösa
Style: Viking/black metal
Origin: Sweden
If you follow this blog, you know that I was very dissapointed when Thyrfing changed vocalists and I didn't care for "Hels Vite" (2008) at all. But as I mentioned in my review of "De Ödeslösa", I felt that this album - despite not being great in any way - had the potential of being an album that grows with time. And it just so happened that it did. Solid viking/black metal that is mandatory music for all the Bathory-viking-era-worshippers out there.
5. Arckanum - Fenris Kindir
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
Perhaps it's time for sole member Shamaatae to take a little break from his love-child Arckanum? When you release an album every year since 2008, one knows that it can't all be top notch quality stuff. And that's really the bitter truth. I gave this album a 9 in my original review, but after repeated listens, I feel that grade was a bit too much. Still a good album though. And Shamaatae is still the best black metal-vocalist out there.

4. Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance
Style: Black/heavy metal/punk
Origin: Norway
I really don't know what else to say that I didn't already cover in my original review of "The Underground Resistance", except that it is still as damn good almost 10 months later. Oh, and "Leave No Cross Unturned" is destined to become a future classic.



3. Vulture Industries - The Tower
Style: Avantgarde metal
Origin: Norway
I've listened to Vulture Industries previous two albums to some extent in the past, but I had totally missed that they released a new album this year. "The Tower" continues where "The Malefactor's Bloody Register" (2010) ended. Not too much has changed with the band's solid avantgarde metal, except with the cool inclusion of saxophones here and there. And there's still a strong Arcturus-vibe present in the music, even though Vulture Industries will never come close to the masters.

2. The Vision Bleak - Witching Hour
Style: Gothic metal
Origin: Germany
Together with spot #14 on this list, "Witching Hour" was one of the albums that I anticipated the most this year. Whilst not such a big dissapointment as "Satyricon", this is still sort of a dissapointment for me. Why you ask? Well, I often listen to the bands' previous albums a lot and especially "Set Sail to Mystery" (2010). This album however, whilst not being bad at all, lacks the extremely solid songwriting that their last 3 albums had. If you've heard The Vision Bleak before, you know what you get on this album - it's as simple as that.
But why then, is this album so high up on my list you ask? The sad and simple answer to that is what I mentioned in the foreword earlier; 2013 has been a really bad record-year for me personally and I must say that these 14 albums doesn't even come close to the number #1 spot.

1. Falkenbach - Asa
Style: Viking/folk metal
Origin: Germany
I heard the single "Eweroun" a couple of months before the album was released and I enjoyed it. But I was a bit afraid that the rest of the album would be equally slow. Add to that, my hopes for "Asa" were very low - much because the band's previous album "Tiurida" (2011) was a huge dissapointment and an overall boring album that lacked both emotions and effort.
Imagine my surprise then when I heard the first notes of opener "Vaer Stjernar Vaerdan" and really liked what I heard. When the second song "Wulfarweijd" I sighed in relief as it was already evident that "Asa" was far superior to "Tiurida" in every possible way. This is a perfect viking/folk metal album that covers the entire spectra; furious black metal-outbursts, grandiose mid-tempo numbers and slower, more epic tracks. I am so glad that I got the deluxe edition with the bonus tracks, because they are equally as good as the "original" ones - so be sure to pick up that version.
I could go on and on about how much I love this album, but it cannot really be described in words. There's not a single dull or unneccesary moment on "Asa" - I even like the instrumental outro - and it actually has old, classic Falkenbach-albums such as "...En Their Medh Riki Fara..." and "...Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri..." beaten by great lengths.
Without a shadow of a doubt the musical highlight for me this year!
"En Lintinbluitin Faran..."

2013-05-07

Review: Arckanum - Fenris Kindir


Band: Arckanum
Album: "Fenris Kindir"
Style: Black metal
Release date: 2013-05-10
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. Fenris Kindir Grúa
2. Tungls Tjúgari
3. Dólgrinn
4. Hatarnir
5. Hamrami
6. Fenris Gangr
7. Vargøld
8. Angrboða
9.Úskepna
10. Spell
11. Sólbøls Sigr

One of Sweden's premiere black metal bands is back again! Well, "back" might not be the most accurate word when one considers that sole member Shamaatae have been releasing albums steadily ever since the "comeback" with the brilliant "Antikosmos" in 2008. Since then, we have been gifted with the masterpiece "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ" in 2009, while next year's "Sviga Læ" was - apart from a few tracks - quite boring. Last album "Helvítismyrkr" (2011) was a good and solid album all through, except it lacked the peaks from the -08 and -09 albums. I've always stated that Arckanum is one of the most underrated black metal bands man ever. Despite being a one-man project, I've yet to hear a single Arckanum-album could be considered bad. So you can imagine that my expectations were sky-high for this latest opus "Fenris Kindir".

The first thing that comes to mind when one listens to this album (apart from the 2-minute intro of the usual Arckanum-noise) is that there's an instrument we've never heard in this band before. OK, I might be exaggerating a bit here, but I cannot remember a single time in Arckanum's discography (and I own them all) where the bass guitar actually could be heard to such an extent. This is of course mainly due to the production of the album, whereas all the earlier lo-fi productions have never allowed the bass (nor the bass-drum sound) to shine through. Which is obviously as it should be since this band has never been about a full, rich sound - it's always been about creating a raw atmosphere of buzzing guitars and throaty rasps from the deepest bowels of Hel.
So to actually be able to hear the bass on an Arckanum-album left me a bit puzzled at first listen. But it didn't take me long to get used to this "new sound". Taking into consideration that the production is still very much lo-fi - though Shamaatae isn't exactly going all "Fran Marder" on us - I have no complaint whatsoever on the sound.

How does the music sound then? Well, let me assure you that if you enjoyed the last couple of albums, you won't be disappointed. But if you compare this to "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ", which took it's fuel from black metal, it doesn't take a genius to hear that "Fenris Kindir" is much more immersed in thrash metal. And I have no problem with this fact at all. Shamaatae could have taken the easy path and redo that praised 2009-album over and over again. It would have been good regardless, but it would have eventually been boring as well. I feel that "Fenris Kindir" is a varied album overall, which rarely makes the listening-experience dull.
Opener "Tungls Tjúgari" is classic Arckanum in every sense and it is, as usual, a joy to hear. Then you have tracks such as "Dólgrinn" and "Hatarnir" which really puts on a groove, effectively mixing black metal with melodic thrash-riffs. Both these songs are prime examples of how effective the bass really is in the mix. And as usual, we have the slowly building interlude in form of the beautiful "Hamrami" as well as it's cousin - the outro "Sólbøls Sigr". And no Arckanum-album would be complete without at least one track that only contains a pointless array of noises. On "Fenris Kindir" we have two. It's also a joy to hear Lena Klarström once more singing on an Arckanum-album. The last time she did this was on 1998's "Kampen" and the duels between herself and Shamaatae on "Angrboða" is pure gold!
Speaking of singing, the man himself still has one of the best (if not the best) black metal-voices ever. Each and every word is spat out with so much confidence, seriousness and venom that it almost becomes ludicrous to listen to any other random black metal band.

To try and summarize things, this is obviously a damn good album, no doubt about it. After a handful of listens, I've yet to find a song that really stands out as "best on the album". But I'm sure that song will show itself after I've given the album enough time. And that's another thing I really love about "Fenris Kindir" - the album instantly grabs my attention, but it is sure not to become tedious after 30+ listening-sessions. What we have here may very much be a grower that I would've given an ever higher score in retrospect.
The only negative aspects that I can think of is the instrumental noise-songs that always are present on each and every new Arckanum-album. It's not that I dislike them, it's just that they sometimes feel a bit pointless. Also, the album is tied together with each track overlapping into the next one (mostly by distortion and/or noise) which obviously was done to give the album a coherent feel to it. I'm sure that Shamaatae meant for "Fenris Kindir" to be listened to as an entire album - not a record where you can pick 2 or 3 favorites. This bugs me a bit, but it's a very small complaint when I zoom out and try to put down in words what this album feels like; it's a feeling that is hard to explain, but I just hope that I've made you realize that Shamaatae has crafted one of the best albums this year - no doubt about it!

RATING:
9.0/10


2013-03-15

Review: Rotting Christ - Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού


Band: Rotting Christ
Album: "Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy"
Style: Extreme metal
Release date: 2013-03-01
Origin: Greece

Tracklist:
1. In Yumen - Xibalba
2. P'unchaw kachun - Tuta kachun
3. Grandis Spiritus Diavolos
4. Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού
5. Cine iubeste si lasa
6. Iwa Voodoo
7. Gilgameš
8.  Русалка
9. Ahura Mazdā-Aŋra Mainiuu
10. Χ ξ ς'

Greece. How many metalbands can you namedrop from that country? Yeah, same here. I've always been aware of Rotting Christ, (honestly, how can you not be when a band has such a stupid name? It's sure to be remembered by everyone) but apart from a quick listen or two from their previous offering "Aealo" (2010) I've never actually bothered to sit down and thoroughly digest an album of theirs. Well, this is what I did with this latest album with the annoying title.

Awkward album- and songtitles aside, I think I expected a band sounding sort of like Portugal's pride (that's Moonspell for all you morons out there) but with a more experimental edge to it. And although this album doesn't sound anything remotely like Moonspell, I wasn't completely wrong either.
I can't think of any other band that actually sounds like Rotting Christ, which is both good and bad. On "Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy" we get some gothic rock-like structures, weird eclecticism and prog-like parts, dramatic opera-wannabe stuff and a foundation of death/black/thrash-metal, all combined. On paper, this combination of parts from Therion, Moonspell, Arcturus, Sigh and Cradle of Filth (parts - not a mix of said bands) sounds really good. In reality, I feel that this is an album that is missing a certain special ingredient. Yes, it is that classic ingredient which ultimately decides whether or not I like an album or not - the songwriting.
For while these Greek lads are undoubtedly gifted musicians and people who know how to cook songs together, I strongly feel that they lack the ability to build a really interesting song which you can remember 5 hours after last listening to the album. Don't get me wrong, each song in itself has parts all over the place which makes me raise an eyebrow or two or nod along to the music. But while no song really bores you to tears, there's no song that sticks out either. This is ultimately the albums blessing and curse.

All in all, this album is mediocre. Period. It's not one of those albums where you like 2-3 songs and the rest are shit. "Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy" is an album where you most certainly can appreciate every song, but never truly fall in love with them. It actually saddens me to sort of "bash" Rotting Christ like this, because despite their silly name, I really wanted to enjoy this. And I also do to a certain extent, but I doubt I will take this album out for a spin much more in the future.

RATING:
5.5/10