2012-12-14

A decade ago: 2002 in retrospect

The mighty year of our Lord, 2002. Do you remember it? Of course you don't, you were probably around 4 years old back then. Me, I was 21 and absolutely loved all things metal. This was also around the time that I started to really buy a lot of physical CD's. Too bad then, that 2002 perhaps might be one of the worst years in metal-history. At least to me personally. Apart from Arckanum, Arcturus, Thyrfing, Tiamat and (to a lesser extent) Vintersorg - this was really a crap year when it comes to good releases. But I will guide through some of, what I consider, were the key-releases during this sorry year...

Arckanum - Boka Vm Kaos (EP)
Well, this one I covered in my latest review, so I really don't have anything special to say about it. Except that it rules. And will forever do so.
Recommended track: Yeah, "Bafomet" is perhaps THE best black metal song ever made.






Arcturus - The Sham Mirrors
After the bands' previous effort "La Masquerade Infernale" (1997), "The Sham Mirrors" might very well be the best avantgarde-metal album of all times. I would like to kind of "qoute" (at least what I can recall) a really old review of this album I read somewhere about 10 years ago, which I think is a good description of this album; "Arcturus creates a ball of cloth from all of metal's different genres, then drags it through a blizzard and finally kicks it into the burning flames of Hell". Yeah, it wasn't really like that, but it was close at least ;-)
Recommended track: While they're all as good as they can get, my personal favorite is probably "Nightmare Heaven".

Behemoth - Zos Kia Cvltvs - Here and Beyond
Honestly, who has the stamina to sit through an entire Behemoth-album? There, I said it. These Polacks, while impressive musicians and all that, have never managed to keep me interested for more than 2-3 songs on each album. In my ears, they all fucking sound the same. And don't get me started on those 7489 layers on each of Nergal's vocal tracks. But back in 2002, they were actually better than they are today, even though my personal favorite among them is "Satanica" (1999).
Recommended track: Well, "As Above, So Below" was the one they made I video to. So I suggest you all start there.

Bloodbath - Resurrection Through Carnage
I remember how big the hype was back in the days when this was about to be released. And with the two "main guys" from Katatonia, Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity) and Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth on vocals, the hype was not exactly uncalled for. And a fine mix of Swedish and Floridan death metal de-fucking-luxe it is. And even though I kinda prefer the overall song material on it's follow-up "Nightmares Made Flesh" (2004), this one can stand firmly on it's own merits.
Recommended track: "Like Fire" - try not to headbang to this tune and you'll win a used snus.
Empyrium - Weiland
On their fourth album, ze Germans in Empyrium made the dreadful mistake to sing in the mother tongue. Yeah, while I have nothing against Germans, I can't say that their language actually sounds very good when sung. Sure, those Rammstein-guys kind of makes it work, but it does most definitely not fit atmospheric semi-doom folkmetal as is the case here. It's a shame really, since I am completely and in utter love with the band's previous 3 albums. Also, as the case was with "Weiland"s predecessor "Where At Night the Wood Grouse Plays" (1999), the music is less doom-metal and more neofolk, which honestly the band isn't as gifted at playing. At least not making interesting.
Recommended track: No one. Seriously.

Nightwish - Century Child
I call myself an old-school listener of Nightfish. I discovered them with "Oceanborn" (which I still consider their best work) and also bought "Wishmaster" and liked it to some extent. With this one they started to drift off into the mediocre periphery. Say what you want about the opera-diva that fronted them during these days, but she was (and still is I guess) good at what she did. Sure, the vocals became tedious quite quickly and I think the other guys in Nightfish understood this so they wanted to balance her voice with a male counterpart. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but did they really have to get the most annoying male vocalist in the history of metal? Apparently...
There are some ok stuff here, but don't even get me started on "Wish I Had an Angel" because each time I hear that piece of crap, I wish I had a shotgun.
Recommended track: Uhm, I guess you could try "End of All Hope".

Paradise Lost - Symbol of Life
I've always thought of these Brits as a very inconsistent band - far from the geniuses in My Dying Bride and the brilliance of Anathema - and "Symbol of Life" is absolutely no exception. It's semi-boring goth metal, mainly bordering on rock with the whiny vocals of Nick Holmes. Occasionally, they do work magic, I have to give them that. But "Symbol of Life" isn't exactly an album that will go down in history as Paradise Lost's finest work.
Recommended track: Well, "Erased" was the big hit here. So go with that one.

Satyricon - Volcano
This slab of Norwegian black metal light is a mixed bag indeed. Some songs hints about what the future was about to bring - such as the rock n' roll-ish hit song "Fuel For Hatred", but most of the songs are plain boring quasi-black metal that just plodders on without any real aim or intent. Then there's "Repined Bastard Nation" which easily is the saviour of this disc. Frontman Satyr described it as a "freight-train waiting to run you over" and that's the truth of today.
Recommended track: Definitely "Repined Bastard Nation". Good lyrics as well.

Sentenced - The Cold White Light
While I prefer both it's predecessor "Crimson" (2000) and it's follow-up "The Funeral Album" (2005), "The Cold White Light" does have it's moments. And some of those moments are also boring goth-metal without direction. This far into their career, I kinda feel that Sentenced was perhaps a bit too comfortable with their sound, thus making a couple of songs without any afterthought. At least that's how I feel when I listen to this album.
Recommended track: My favorite has to be "Neverlasting", but there are a couple of other solid ones as well.

Sportlov - Snöbollskrieg (MCD)
In 2002, this was the shit. It was so god damn fun to hear actual black metal-musicians make fun of the entire genre - combined with ski-sports that is. I guess it's only fun if you understand Swedish, and when I listen to it today, I can't really say that I'm smiling. I was 21 years old at the time and that was my sense of humor back then. OK, so some thing are occasionally still quite amusing, but the music itself is so boring it all becomes pointless pretty quick.
Recommended track: Not really, but "Lady Magda (Satans Lönnmördare)" is the funniest one lyrically.


Taake - Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmelriket
This is solid, classic Norwegian black metal. Nothing more, nothing less. I really don't know what else to say, since it's just so in-the-middle. Not once does it really become boring and only one or two times does the music rise above a certain level.
Recommended track: Well, they all really sound quite the same, so why don't you try "Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik I" which (logically) is the first one...


The Crown - Crowned in Terror
While not as impressive as it's predecessor "Deathrace King" (2000), The Crown's 2002 opus isn't exactly horseshit either. Original vocalist Johan Lindstrand had here been replaced by well-known screamer Tompa Lindberg (known from At the Gates, Grotesque & Lock-Up to name a few). And while enjoy Tompa's voice a lot, I actually prefer Johan - his vocal delivery on both "Deathrace King" and "Hell is Here" (1999) was beyond outstanding. Otherwise, this is what The Crown do so very well; a solid slab of death metal mixed with thrash. Catchy, aggressive and plain great!
Recommended track: Most tracks here are really solid, but I guess my favorite one is the "The Speed of Darkness" with it's awesome Knight Rider-theft.

Thyrfing - Vansinnesvisor
Hands down the best album that this band has made so far. There are a couple of outstanding songs on "Vansinnesvisor" and it wont be easy to chose a favorite among the lot. This is a masterfully crafted album with a solid production that has it's dirty roots in doom-ish black metal with lots of hints towards folkmusic. I never quite got the hang of this album when it was released, but it's a real grower, I'll tell you that.
Recommended track: On the whole, I guess that "Draugs Harg" wins, but the chorus to "Kaos Återkomst" is maybe even more impressive.

Tiamat - Judas Christ
Until "The Scarred People" was released this year, "Judas Christ" was perhaps the most consistent of all Tiamat-releases. It's got everything from slow love-songs to up-tempo pop/goth-metal songs that makes you wanna dance. If you can manage Johan Edlund's insanely broken school-English, be prepared to be swept along by a couple of masterfully crafted songs.
Recommended track: Difficult, but I have to say "I Am in Love With Myself" (because I really am).

Vintersorg - Visions From the Spiral Generator
I started listening to Vintersorg around the change of the new millennium and it soon became my favorite band. So you can understand how high hopes I had for this album. I was really disappointed when I bought the album, since it sounded so different from the previous albums. Today, I can appreciate the progginess a bit more, but I still think there are some tracks on there that ain't exactly spot-on. Still, there's phenomenal songs such as "Universums Dunkla Alfabet" and "Spegelsfären" and good songs such as "Vem Styr Symmetrin?", "A Metaphysical Drama" and "The Explorer" on it.
Recommended track: Definitely "Universums Dunkla Alfabet" which combines aggressiveness, heavy riffing, atmospheric keyboards and a really impressive chorus.

2012-12-12

Retro review: Arckanum - Boka Vm Kaos (2002)


Band: Arckanum
EP: "Boka Vm Kaos"
Style: Black Metal
Release date: 2002-02
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. Capitvlvm IV - Bafomet
2. Capitvlvm I - Vm Kaos - Gatvm Ok Kosmos










So, why exactly did I come with such a stupid idea to review an EP that solely consists of two songs? Well, I really, really wanted my readers to be aware of the fantastic music that resides within this disc, that's why. Yeah, it's a bit stupid and also quite impossible to actually give it a rating. So I wont do that. Rate it, that is.

Though I am far from an expert in Ancient Swedish (I wouldn't probably understand a word if I heard someone actually speak it), I think that my translation of "Boka Vm Kaos" into "Book of Chaos" is quite close to the truth. Is the music also chaotic then? Well, I'll tell you all about that later.

For you see, I cannot just blabber on about the music, because you all know that sooner or later we have to speak about that abomination of an album cover that "Boka Vm Kaos" is. I seriously want to know; who in Lucifer's name came up with the incredibly insane idea to place a fucking goat-man on the cover? I assume it is suppose to represent Pan, of whom Arckanum-mastermind Shamaatae is so obsessed with. And whether they put this make-up and a (fake?) beard on some dude or Photoshopped it together doesn't really matter either. That alone is not the problem with the cover. The problem is obviously the look on the guy's face. They decided to not go with the "evil look", but instead tried what I assume is supposed to say something like; "I am in fact evil, so evil that I grin wickedly about it".
End result: Complete and utter failure.

Shamaatae, sometime during the nineties
The music itself on the other hand; is nothing but amazing. The disc opens with "Bafomet" - which just might be the best goddamn black metal-song I have ever heard. No kidding either. From the atmospheric spoken dialogue in the beginning, to the intensely melodic, yet harsh verses, the incredible chorus-lines and the chaotic outro - "Bafomet" really has it all. Sure, the production is zero to none and really muffled, but it is done so in a very convincing way and this song would loose so much with a more "modern" production. I wouldn't call neither the production nor the quite dull drumming any flaws - they do their job and suit the entire concept and package so damn well. Vocally, Shamaatae is a fucking god. Although, as I stated before, I cannot understand much of what he sings about, but it sounds like he means every damn word he spits out. And spitting in a really fitting word here as well. There's absolutely venom in the man's lungs, I have no doubt about that. The only other black metal-vocalist I can think of that actually could give Shamaatae a match is Mortuus of Marduk-fame. Just so you guys understand, this is as far from any Shagrath-clone as one could get.

The second song "Vm Kaos - Gatvm Ok Kosmos" is almost as good as "Bafomet". The two songs are really close, both in concept and in the way they're performed, but they still manage to keep the listener interested all through. Granted, "Vm Kaos - Gatvm Ok Kosmos" really doesn't evoke such strong emotions as "Bafomet" does, but otherwise it has nothing to be ashamed of.

This is an amazing release by Shamaatae and Arckanum, but as I mentioned above, I cannot rate it due to the fact that it's only two songs long. In other words, it's just too unfair. I have just had this urge for so long to say something about "Boka Vm Kaos", and now I finally have. If you call yourself a fan of black metal, you owe it to yourself to get this amazing EP!

2012-12-01

Top-20 list of 2012

It is that time of the year again, when one is supposed to complete the difficult task of placing the albums released this year in the order that one likes them the most. It's been one hell of a year, with lots and lots of my old favorite bands releasing an album. I mean, when was the last time the "Peaceville big three" (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride & Anathema) released albums the same year? Never. That's when.
The same goes with the now old-school gothic metal bands such as Cradle of FilthMoonspell, Therion and Tiamat. I guess I'll have to wait till next year for albums from The Crown, Arcturus and Satyricon, which I'm really looking forward to hear.
All in all, it's been a damn good album year - much better than last year I must say. I would even go so far as to say that the first four albums on my lists will be future classics. Perhaps I will include them as Metal Monuments sometime in 2025 - who knows?


HONORABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order)
Bell Witch - Longing
Cannibal Corpse - Torture
Cryptopsy - Cryptopsy
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandoras Piñata
Down - Down IV, Pt. 1 - The Purple EP
Dödaren - Maen
Evoken - Atra Mors
The Gathering - Disclosure
Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine
Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol
Soulfly - Enslaved
Therion - Les Fleurs du Mal (yes, it actually grew a little bit on me)

20. Domgård - Myrkviðr
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
Thematically, this band could be placed in the same anti-cosmic tray as Dissection and Arckanum. This is of course nowhere near the quality of any of those bands and I kind of like their previous "I Nifelhels Skygd" (2010) a bit more. Still, this is solid and quite slow black metal with feeling. Not bad at all.


19. Katatonia - Dead End Kings
Style: Gothic metal/rock
Origin: Sweden
In my original review, I gave "Dead End Kings" a 6 and said that it sounded exactly as I thought it would. After a few months, it still hasn't grown on me the way I'd like and it still pretty much feels like "just another album" from Katatonia. This might be the most good-looking album cover of the year though.


18. Marduk - Serpent Sermon
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
Sort of like the case with Katatonia above, the new album from Marduk feels like "just another album" from these seasoned veterans. The fans are now used to the incredible vocalist Mortuus and the band's sort of redefined sound, but it would be nice to be surprised by the band's sound for once.


17. Anathema - Weather Systems
Style: Atmospheric rock
Origin: UK
I wish that Anathema would some day return to their doomy rock/hearfelt music they did between 1996 to 1999. I know that it most likely will never happen, but I miss that wonderful music so much. Today, they still make quality music in the field they're currently operating in, but I know they can do so much better. Still, this is an improvement from their previous album.

16. Bloody Hammers - Bloody Hammers
Style: Occult doom metal/rock
Origin: USA
This is something that I usually don't find very attractive, but these guys sure have crafted a couple of interesting songs + they have a vocalist that doesn't annoy me instantly as most vocalists in this time of music tends to do. A solid debut album. The song "Witch of Endor" is a must-hear!


15. Cradle of Filth The Manticore and Other Horrors
Style: Gothic/symphonic black metal
Origin: UK
Far from their heydays in the 90's, but better than the last couple of albums. That's a statement that I think that most Cradle of Filth-fans can agree with me on. For further information, read my review.




14. Testament - Dark Roots of Earth
Style: Thrash metal
Origin: USA
Thrash has never been my genre-of-tea so to speak. But I sometimes surprise myself in liking stuff that I normally don't. Such is the case with the latest album from these veterans. I simply cannot deny the overall quality of the songwriting on "Dark Roots of Earth". Read more in my review.


13. Moonspell - Alpha Noir/Omega White
Style: Gothic metal
Origin: Portugal
I stated in my review that this was quite the disappointment and I still stand by that fact. But I had such high hopes for this double album so the letdown might have sounded a little too much in my review. It's still nowhere near a classic album and I still know they can do better than this. A couple of really strong songs gives them the 13th spot on my list.

12. Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead
Style: Doom/heavy metal
Origin: Sweden
As the case was with Moonspell, this was also a somewhat disappointment compared to the masterful "Death Magic Doom" (2009). Still, it's Candlemass for F's sake! They're veterans in their field and Leif Edling is a gifted songwriter - there's no denying that. Read more in my review.


11. Carach Angren - Where the Corpses Sink Forever
Style: Symphonic black metal
Origin: Holland
This was a huge surprise for me. A dutch symphonic black metal band that sings mainly about about ghosts and haunted stuff? Imagine a mix between the good parts of old Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir (but with a better vocalist), some of the horror-moments of The Vision Bleak and a bit of eclecticism of Sigh and you have Carach Angren.


10. Mgła - With Hearts Toward None
Style: Black metal
Origin: Poland
Polish black metal done in a Norwegian old-school style. That's about the only thing you should know about this band. I only discovered this band this year but I must say that they've crafted more interesting albums in the past. Still, this is sort of song-writing quality is rare in modern black metal.


9. Hexvessel - No Holier Temple
Style: Neofolk
Origin: Finland
This is labelled as neofolk, which might be a bit odd description as far as I'm concerned. What you should know about Hexvessel is that it features vocalist Kvohst from avantgarde-metallers Code and DHG and he gives a wonderful performance on this music of 70's-influenced progressive rock and acoustic calmness. Soothing and catchy!


8. Burzum - Umskiptar
Style: Black/folk metal
Origin: Norway
Although, I've never been a big fan of the Count's past, I really enjoyed the last albums "Belus" (2010) and to a larger extent, "Fallen" (2011). This new one kind of follows in the same footsteps, albeit managing to be even less black metal and more folk-ish. In other words, another step in the right direction.


7. Shining - Redefining Darkness
Style: Depressive black metal
Origin: Sweden
As I stated in my review, this was a very positive surprise for me, as I haven't been very fond of the band's previous efforts. But they really hit the nail on this one. Dreading, surprising and soothing at the same time!





6. Huldre - Intet Menneskebarn
Style: Folk Metal
Origin: Denmark
I heard this band's demo from 2010 and wasn't really that impressed. But a proper production on this album upped the ante on those that followed from the demo + the adding of another bunch of solid, real folk metal songs made me raise my eyebrows in disbelief and shake my head to the music. This is easily the most impressive folk metal debut album since Ásmegin's back in 2003.

5. Sigh - In Somniphobia
Style: Extreme avantgarde metal
Origin: Japan
A concept album about dreams, nightmares and insomnia done in an entirely bizarre Japanese avantgarde-way? You bet! This is music that cannot be described properly and has to be heard to believe it. More avantgarde and dare I say even better than the last album from Arcturus? Yes, "In Somniphobia" is that good!


4. Tiamat - The Scarred People
Style: Gothic metal
Origin: Sweden
I didn't have much expectations from my old goth-favorites, but did Tiamat surprise me or what? I love it that feeling; When expectations are low and you are smashed in the face with lots of damn good songs. Read my review for further information.



3. Vintersorg - Orkan
Style: Folk metal
Origin: Sweden
If there's a new album from my absolute favorite band in the world, Vintersorg; then it's almost certain that said album takes the number one spot on that year's list. The fact that didn't happen this year, has nothing to do with "Orkan" being a bad album in any way. On the contrary actually. But the competition was just so fierce in the top this year. Also, maybe I as was a bit over-ecstatic in my original review.

2. My Dying Bride - A Map of All Our Failures
Style: Gothic/doom metal
Origin: UK
Along with number 3, My Dying Bride is one of my absolute favorites and "A Map of All Our Failures" is another solid album in the band's vast discography of masterpieces. No other band does gothic doom metal the way that these lads do. Always solid. Always impressing. Read my review for further information.


1. Borknagar - Urd
Style: Progressive black metal
Origin: Norway
I guess that a sort of circle is completed now that the very first album I reviewed on this blog got the number one spot of 2012. I originally gave it 8 out of 10 but this album just kept growing and growing until it became a monument in it's own. The band really upped their song-writing abilities to maximum on "Urd" and having such an amazing trio of vocalists as Borknagar have with Vintersorg, Vortex and Lazare really showers the listener with layers of vocals and choirs. They all do amazing  jobs but as I stated before - it is largely due to the fact that the band has found their way back into writing epic songs such "Epochalypse", "Roots", "The Beauty of Dead Cities", "Frostrite" and "Mount Regency" that makes "Urd" such a solid album.

2012-11-28

Guess the band?

It's as simple as that. Guess the band.
Figure them all out and write it in the comment-section. As a reward, I will mention your name somewhere in the future. Amazing huh!? Shouldn't be too hard either.

1. 











2. 









3. 









4. 









5. 









6. 










7. 









8. 









9. 









10. 









11. 

2012-11-27

Graphic booklet and CD-mysteries, part 3. (D-E)

So this is basically where I go through my own CD-collection and take some photos of stuff that I consider weird, ugly, beautiful or just has to be dissected in one way or the other. I will try to focus more on the actual booklets, because there are tons of lists out there with just ugly album covers (although that's certain come up here as well). In other words, there wont be any vinyl-albums discussed here, nor will there be anything from In Flames or Opeth, because I don't own albums by those bands. I will more or less go through CD's random and see if there's anything interesting to be said about them.
Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Let us begin with the swansong of Swedish death-thrashers Defleshed - namely the cover of "Reclaim the Beat". I read in some old interview when this album was just out, that one of the members (either guitarist Lars or vocalist/bassist Gustaf) was really impressed with the cover and described how he took a photo of some statue, but changed the colors to red in Photoshop so that it looked like the statue was hammering on something and the blood splashing all over.
Honestly, it really doesn't look that impressive dear Lars or Gustaf. Perhaps if you were skilled enough to change only the color of the water I would have raised an eyebrow or two. But even then, everyone can clearly see - despite it being red - that it is water, due to all the foam and stuff. The end result is just a very random cover that looks like if it's been released on Invasion Records. Oh wait, Defleshed actually was contracted to the infamous label once. Just look at the cover for their debut album if you don't believe me.

Next up, is some unknown band called Detriment. And no, I have absolutely no idea how their album "Surreal" found it's way into my CD-collection. I can't remember ever having heard the music, but let's be honest here - who in their right minds would actually want to listen to the music featured on a disc that looks like this?

It's a mish-mash of horrendous graphics (the skull, oh my god! The skull!) and a myriad of different fonts. Basically a prime example exactly on how not to do album designs. But I am very curious to know just how much design work this Devilbitch did after this one? I'm suspecting that he or she or the company didn't get that many job-offers after this one.

I really couldn't go through the D-section of my CD-collection without mentioning a single word about Dimmu Borgir, right? True, although there weren't as much to say about them as I first thought. But there is this one picture from "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" (1997) that I've always found really amusing.
It's like one of the guys suddenly thought; "Hey, there's five points to a pentagram and we are five guys in the band - let's do something with that!" And the end result is a classic corpse-painted mistake of colossal proportions. Still, if I turn my thoughts around the other way, there's something really heartfelt about this picture in a certain sense. I mean, I can't be the only one that actually misses classic mid-90's-Photoshop stuff like this?

Just like their British counterpart Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir at many points in their career chose to have a single photo of each band member (stating their name and occupation in the band) in their booklets. This is something that I really enjoy and in Dimmu Borgir's defense, I must say that I also enjoy their consistency of graphic design - just as the case was with Cradle of Filth. But the Filth actually did their job better than Dimmu (and not just in the graphic, but the music as well) which I really feel mirrors in the photos below.
Yeah, you can say what you want about the deformed arm holding Shagrath's head and what mushrooms they must have consumed whilst choosing the color of Silenoz' bathrobe. That's all passable in my opinion. What I find something to be an inconsistency in their graphic work is that each member has a little photo like this in the booklet of "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" (2001). Apart from these two, we also see Galder burning an angel, Mustis with a snake-face and Vortex with another guy coming out of his chest(!). And there's the case with the photo of drummer Nicholas Barker.
I'm sure that most Dimmu Borgir-fans are quite aware of the fact that the band's line-up at this time consisted of 5 guys living in Norway and one - namely Nicholas - residing in England. And is that the sole reason as to why nothing out of the ordinary happens in the "personal photo" of the drummer? I believe so. And when I take a closer look, I notice that the photo of Nicholas here actually is a crop-out of the only entire bandphoto there is the booklet. Hilarious! Couldn't they at least have Photoshopped something out of the ordinary in this photo? Apart from changing the background to a garage door that is...

So, apart from this boring (and very bad I might add) photo from a totally unreadable lyric in the booklet of Empyrium's "Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays" (1999) - that's all I have to offer this time. Hope you guys still follow this section of my blog. Cheers!