Top 15-list of 2013

Me and my friend Tobias from Metal Moments drinking at
the Satyricon-show in Copenhagen 2013-11-07
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..."


Review: Arckanum - Fenris Kindir

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

1. Fenris Kindir Grúa
2. Tungls Tjúgari
3. Dólgrinn
4. Hatarnir
5. Hamrami
6. Fenris Gangr
7. Vargøld
8. Angrboða
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!



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

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.



Review: Thyrfing - De Ödeslösa

Band: Thyrfing
Album: "De Ödeslösa"
Style: Viking/black metal
Release date: 2013-03-01
Origin: Sweden

1. Mot Helgrind
2. Fordom
3. Veners Förfall
4. Illvilja
5. Kamp
6. Relik
7. Vindöga
8. De Ödeslösa

First off, I can't say that I have been really anticipating the new album from Thyrfing. In my opinion, "Hels Vite" was quite slow, dull and for the most time downright boring. "Farsotstider" was much better, though nowhere near the sheer brilliance of "Vansinnesvisor", which I doubt the band will ever top. Without expectations, I could really only be positively surprised or my prejudices would be confirmed. Here's what happened...

As soon as the first track "Mot Helgrind" starts, you can definitely hear what band is playing. Thyrfing have actually managed to carve their own little niche in the ever-growing ocean of viking/folk metal and I have to give them credit for that. Sure, the influence from Bathory is of course quite obvious, but combined with all their other elements, it sounds like a good mix. At least on paper.

For you see the main problem I have with Thyrfing post-2005 is the fact that Jens Rydén (ex-Naglfar) is handling the vocals instead of Tomas Väänänen. I think I've mentioned this sometime before, but I really felt that Rydén's vocals were spot on for Naglfar (which have gradually become more and more boring for each album since he left) but they don't fit that well in Thyrfing in my opinion. Väänänen had this really emotional and quite unique rasp to his voice, whilst Rydén has a more standard black metal-scream. And even though it's not bad in any way - the band has actually lost a bit of what made them so unique in the first place.
Granted, on "De Ödeslösa" Rydén actually comes closer to sounding more like his predecessor and that alone makes this album way more interesting than "Hels Vite".
Thyrfing 2013
It should also be noted that I feel like the band's eternal guest-vocalist Toni Kocmut has a larger role here as well and that's only positive. Is he the guy who's singing on the outstanding intro to "Kamp"? If so, they should really use his vocal-skills even more. Not that he's the most talented guy I've ever heard singing, but he somehow touches a certain emotion which fits so damn well in Thyrfing's concept.

Musically, it also feels like the band has a better focus that on the previous album; the songs have better structures overall and not everything sounds as slow and dragging as it did on "Hels Vite". Such an example is the amazing "Veners Förfall" which actually sounds like something straight off "Vannsinesvisor". I know I'm doing a lot of comparing to the past, but as usual, this is not a review in a zine or something like that. This is my personal blog, which you (for some reason) have chosen to read.
Other good songs are "Kamp""Relik" and some parts of the title track. All three having in common that they have a quicker pace than the rest of the album. Parts of "Vindöga" also rocks my socks with it's headbanging-friendly groove. But then there's these incredibly dull songs such as "Fordom" and "Illvilja"; the choirs, the keyboards and the mid-tempo stuff is all things we've heard from this band before and there are very few surprises to be found on these songs. Sometimes it feels like nothing's happening at all.

All in all, this feels like a very uneven album with the latter part being way more interesting than the first. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just so tired of their slow songs and we've somewhat grown apart during the years, I don't know. Fact remains, if you've only slightly enjoyed Thyrfing in the past, you should give this album a listen or two. I know I most definitely enjoyed parts of it. This was an album that I felt was insanely difficult to give a rating, but in the end I chose what I felt was most fair. "De Ödeslösa" might in fact be a grower, when given a couple of months to sink in. I feel like I might come back to this album in this blog later in the year.



Review: Koldbrann - Vertigo

Band: Koldbrann
Album: "Vertigo"
Style: Black metal
Release date: 2013-01-25
Origin: Norway

1. IntroVertigo
2. Totalt Sjelelig Bankerott
3. Hjertets Holodomor
4. Drammen
5. Stolichnaya Smert
6. Terminal Transnistrii
7. Phantom Kosmonaut
8. Goat Lodge
9. I Eklipsens Skimmer
10. Sans Soleil
11. Inertia Corridors

Well, this is a new acquaintance for me, although after hearing a few notes from Koldbrann, I must say that I am well-versed in their music style. For you see this is Norwegian black metal. Period. Though not in the "early-90's style" - but one look at the album cover alone should tell you that. Nah, rather think of latter Satyricon-albums, spice it with a bit of Taake and add some rock n' roll and we are very close to the sound of "Vertigo".

They sport quite a modern sound, although they've stayed cleared from sounding too polished, cold and clinical. In other words, the production really suites the music well and it sounds professional and everything.
I must say that I am impressed by the overall musicianship and song-crafting, having not heard very much about the band prior to this. They move very masterfully within all musical territories, having no problem in crafting a groovy, slow-moving piece of doomish black metal, only to cast themselves into a blitzkrieg frenzy at the next moment. And although I will prefer the latter (such as on "Totalt Sjelelig Bankerott") rather than the first (such as on "Phantom Kosmonaut"), it makes the album more varied and I have to give the band an extra point for that as well.

One thing that I cannot leave out though; three tracks are instrumentals that doesn't add anything to the album whatsoever. I really question the decision to include these three little fuckers, all of them being around 50 seconds long each. The next time I listen to this album, I will exclude these, thus making the album 8 songs long and effectively erasing about 3 minutes of pointless "music".

Vocally, this isn't anything we haven't heard before, although it's thankfully far from the generic rasps of Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir - whom I always compare with any new black metal-vocalist that I hear. Sometimes the guy, Mannevond that is, goes into a higher, agonized pitch which is really cool. And is that a guy trying to sound like a woman in the "chorus" of "Stolichnaya Smert"? If that really is Mannevond, I'm even more impressed. It sort of reminds me of what Fenriz did on "Goatlord". I'd say that the guy is definitely above the average black metal vocalist, though of course not being anywhere near the masters (that being Shamataee and Mortuus).

After my first listening-session; I wasn't very impressed to give this more than an average score, seeing as it wasn't bad in any way, but it just didn't grasp me completely as I would like it to do. But this is one of those records that you - A; definitely have to give a few spins until you "get" it and B; (this is probably more for me personally) have to be in the right mood to appreciate.
And although I kinda prefer the sound of latter Satyricon compared to this, there is still no denying that this is a damn good record - though I'm not blown away the way I wanted to be. Standout tracks for me personally is "Totalt Sjelelig Bankerott" (Kom igen då för helvete!), "Drammen" and "Stolichnaya Smert".



Review: Vreid - Welcome Farewell

Band: Vreid
Album: "Welcome Farewell"
Style: Melodic black metal
Release date: 2013-02-22
Origin: Norway

1. The Ramble
2. Way of the Serpent
3. The Devil's Hand
4. Welcome Farewell
5. The Reap
6. Sights of Old
7. Black Waves
8. At the Brook

I wonder how many people have written reviews about Vreid and failed to mention Windir? It must be a damn annoying curse for this band to always be compared to the past, but it really is unavoidable.
Anywho, I have always felt that Windir never peaked during the band's existence. They gradually became better and better for each album and the last album "Likferd" (2003) was really impressive. Sadly, it all came to an end when mainman Terje "Valfar" Bakken froze to death in a blizzard in January 2004. The remaining members chose to continue in Vreid and have since released five albums, which brings us to number six - "Welcome Farewell".

I have sort of followed Vreid from a distance since the demise of Windir, much to the fact that it is common knowledge that Valfar wrote most of the music in Windir + the guy had a voice that really stood out in a vast ocean of black metal-vocalists. But I have heard a couple of songs with Vreid and always felt that it was ok, just nothing instantly memorable or something that hooked me completely. What I mean to say is that I've listened to this band before, but never sat down and properly analyzed the music.

So here we go; "Welcome Farewell" is actually better than I thought. It is melodic black metal with a large focus on just melodies, yet you never hear them venture off into folk/viking-metal as Windir often did. That is all good, even though personally I'd preferred said path. I really cannot overstate just how melodic this band is, since you wont find any traditional black metal-riffs on this album (except for maybe on "Sights of Old"). Instead, they incorporate riffs and melodies from all kinds of genres, but focusing mainly on heavy- and thrash-metal. It's a bit weird and I personally think that the result is a bit confusing.

A problem that I have with the music is that some melodies, while catchy, doesn't really fit the music at all. Just listen to the beginning of "The Devil's Hand" to hear what I mean. Also, sometimes a song stops abruptly and a new riff that doesn't have anything to do with what we've just heard, appears. It's annoying as fuck and even though I understand that Vreid tries really hard to break the boundaries of black metal, it just doesn't work.
But my main problem is vocalist Sture which manages to sound almost as boring as Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir), who in turn might be one of the dullest black metal-vocalists I've ever listened to. While technically efficient  Sture just lacks a certain identity and the passion that I crave when it comes to black metal-vocals. Sorry, but that's the truth.

All in all, this is a confusing-sounding album which is neither good nor bad - it's just so awfully in-between. And from the previous stuff I've heard with Vreid, it all sounds exactly the same. Whilst being a good craftsmanship in itself, "Welcome Farewell" doesn't stand out in any way and I'm having a hard time remembering any song after a couple of listens. I want to like this band so much, but I'm guessing this sort of music wasn't made for me. Bummer...



Review: Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance

Band: Darkthrone
Album: "The Underground Resistance"
Style: Heavy metal
Release date: 2013-02-25
Origin: Norway

1. Dead Early
2. Valkyrie
3. Lesser Men
4. The Ones You Left Behind
5. Come Warfare, the Entire Doom
6. Leave No Cross Unturned

I can think of a couple of bands that will forever have that "love/hate"-label on them and Darkthrone is easily one of them. So before I begin this review, I will let you in on how I feel about them. Here goes;
I think that "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" is an album that is alright, albeit it is a bit overrated and have been given a bit too extensive praise merely due to the fact that it was an early, important album in the second generation black metal-albums. "Transilvanian Hunger" was a cool experiment, but IMO it's not overwhelmingly exciting to listen to. "Under a Funeral Moon" and "Panzerfaust" on the other hand, I feel are solid black metal albums with a lot of good songs. I also have a soft spot for "Goatlord" with all it's excessive  avantgarde-weirdness going on.
Then the band lost me completely and I cannot say that Darkthrone made any interesting music up until "The Cult is Alive" in 2006. Leaving most of their black metal behind and aiming for an obvious 80's sound with punk-influences, they have since slowly upped their ante when it comes to songwriting and 2010's "Circle the Wagons" got a lot of playtime in my stereo. Naturally, I had quite high hopes for "The Underground Resistance" and let me tell you right now that I was not disappointed...

What Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have always been so good at, is crafting really good melodies that  sticks your head. Catchy and memorable, without loosing their authority, so to speak. And that rule is no exception here either, even if the music has gone from cold black metal to 80's heavy metal. Yes, there are very few (if any) parts on this album that reminds you of any black metal, so just forget about that. Everything from speed to groove is present here and almost all of the songs are memorable in their own way. For instance, the beginning melody of "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom" is ace and reminds me a lot of old Candlemass.

Vocally, it's what you would expect. Rasping vocals completely lacking technique or skill, but making that up by infusing so much power and emotion. I'd take that over Bruce Dickinson any fucking day! As usual (by now that is) Fenriz and Nocturno switches between doing vocals, sometimes doing sort of drunken choirs, and it is a true joy to listen to. Also, try not to sing along to "Valkyrie", "The Ones You Left Behind" or "Leave no Cross Unturned" - for me it's close to impossible.
I also love the sound of the album. The guitars have a perfect fuzz to them and the drum-sound exactly gives me that "unwashed hobo-feeling" that I love.

What can I say that's negative about this release then? Well, not much actually. Some songs have intros that are a bit too long for their own good, but that's just a minor complaint. And when it comes to "Leave no Cross Unturned" - as good as it is - almost 14 minutes feels like 4 minutes too much. The main issue I guess I have with this album is that it's not my favorite metal genre per se, which means that I sometimes ain't in the right mood to listen to this kind of music. So as you can see, I have very little negative things to say.

Basically, I'm having a really good time while listening to this, since it's so headbanger-friendly and really makes me crave for a beer or twelve. And I get why some people claim that this isn't what Darkthrone should be doing, based on where they came from. But in my opinion, it doesn't really matter - let the guys do what they feel like doing. I have enjoyed many band's transformations during the years - Tiamat, Arcturus, Amorphis and Vintersorg - to name a few, and there will always be people mourning of how "the first demo was the best" and shit like that. But if one was to look beyond that, one can easily see how and why Darkthrone still serves a purpose today. I for one am really glad that they took this path and if you want to hear the band do black metal, listen to one of their older albums or any of the zillion clone-bands out there. I would be genuinely surprised if "The Underground Resistance" doesn't find it's way onto my top-ten at the end of the year.
I am thoroughly impressed!



Guess the band? (part deux)

...and we're back with this incredibly popular, yet pointless, section. To avoid confusion - please just write your answers in the comment-section below and NOT on the FB-page. Click on the pics to make (some of) them larger. Thank you my dear children.


Henrik lectures in... Therion

In this section I will do the exact same, but also the complete opposite as I do in the "Tries to understand"-section. Confusing? Not really. Here I will choose one of my favorite bands and pick one song off of each of their albums and lecture all you less fortunate beings who haven't yet understood the greatness of the band in question. Get it? Good.

I have to admit that this "Lectures in..." part was mainly constructed due to the overwhelming negative response my (quite) negative review of Therion's latest album "Les Fleurs Du Mal" got. With this part, I really wanted to show people that I actually did enjoyed and almost loved the band once upon a time. FFS - I even have the band's logo (the Kliffoth-star shown to the left here) tattooed on my right arm. Yes, I have to admit that this is a band that  has dipped in quality quite a lot since I first started to listen to them, but also, my personal taste in music have changed a lot. This has, in my opinion, given me a position where I can judge the band's man's work during the years in a quite non-biased way.

It was the autumn of 1996 when a friend of mine played me an album that was to change me life forever. At the time, I almost solely listened to Swedish "trallpunk" and that was what I enjoyed. Period. He had tried to get me into "weird metal" at other times before, and I'd always smiled politely and forgot about the bands. But this time, it was different. The incredibly atmospheric and haunting intro known as "Preludium" really made the over-dramatic teen in me get a hard-on. And when it abruptly shifted into the band's (nowadays) classic song "To Mega Therion" - I didn't know what to do with myself. I absolutely worshiped the music that came out of his speakers and alongside with Moonspell, Tiamat and My Dying Bride - Therion, and especially "Theli" had a huge part in shaping me into the man I am today. But enough reminiscing - let's dissect this fucker right now!

Therion's first album was a quite standard run-of-the-mill Sunlight-produced slab of classic Swedish death metal, but one could already hear small parts of the band's progressive ideas.
The song "Dark Eternity" might not be the best song on the album, but I feel that it's quite representative on the whole. It has a good groove and I really love that Christoffer's voice, which really sticks out in the ocean of Swedish death-metal vocalists. Although the band already was sort of unique here, I still prefer Dismember or Entombed when it comes to this kind of music. Thankfully, Therion the man quickly realized that death metal wasn't really the thing...

Only one year later (that's 1992 mind you) the band gives us "Beyond Sanctorum" which differs quite a lot from the debut album.
Sure, the vocals are still very much death metal, but we're also introduced to some cringe-worthy clean vocals for added effect. But the main thing here is obviously the keyboards which, along with those spacey guitars, manages to add so much more depth to the song. "Symphony of the Dead" is a good example of the experimental lust - probably taken from the album the band got it's name from. For all of you non-brains out there - that's obviously "To Mega Therion" with Celtic Frost.

Another year then (1993) and the band released the extremely uneven and experimental album "Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas". This experimental-lust and progressiveness really is what Therion is all about according to me.
The opener "Baal Reginon", along with "A Black Rose", "Dawn of Perishness" and "Procreation of Eternity" are the highlights on this album. But none of these can measure themselves with the creeping evilness of "Dark Princess Naamah". Here we are greeted with a small glimpse of the band's dark and ghoulish lyrics that they are so renowned for today. But also, I love the weird tempo-change in the song. It almost sounds like the song has been cut in half (halfway through the song ironically) and then that wonderful bass does it's thing and then the choirs come and then... Hell, I could go on forever but I choose to stop when I'm still sane. Great fucking song indeed.

Two years down the road and Therion released, what in my opinion still is their best album to this day. Here they have left behind most of the classic death-metal sounds and ventured further into classic heavy/thrash metal, combined with clean vocals, choirs and keyboards. The result is a most unorthodox mix of music that I haven't heard previous or after.
If I had a hard time choosing a song for the previous album, here I had to choose between the bass-driven groove metal-monster "Melez", the semi-classic symphonic metal-opera "The Beauty in Black", the Celtic Frost-homage "Sorrows of the Moon" and a few other magnificent songs. But I had to choose my own personal favorite and that is "Evocation of Vovin". In this song, we can hear most aspects of Therion; from the gothic intro, to the thrashing metal and the deathly vocals to the epicness and symphonic choirs; the weird song-structures on this one is actually what makes the song so god damn good. Just listen and dream away!

You all know the story by now. This became the most expensive album that the label Nuclear Blast had released up until then and the boss Marcus Staiger had to sell his car to afford the recording. The result is history and "Theli" is most certainly the mother of all things considered symphonic/opera metal.
Sure, "To Mega Therion" is the über-hit above all and the band will forever be connected to that song in particular. "Cults of the Shadow", along with "In the Desert of Set", are the two follow-ups that aren't as highly regarded, but the variation in the songwriting has rendered them more memorable in 2013 than the classic hit-song. This is of course common in any type of music, but I cannot understate the huge impact that the song above had on me as a late teenager.

Ok, so now we have arrived at the year when I actually started to follow what Therion did and bought each and every one of their albums as soon as it was released. I haven't included "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" (1997) here since it's not an actual album, but I really recommend it anyway, no matter how underrated it is. 1998 is the year when "Vovin" was released and my god, is this an uneven album or what!
Again, I had a hard time to choose which song I wanted to represent this album. I had to choose between the 5 first songs, but eventually "Wine of Aluqah" got my choice since it's has a quite fast tempo, combined with those deep, dark male vocals and female choirs. It is a song that is alright, but compared to the two previous albums, "Vovin" hasn't got shit. The actual facts are that only the first 5 songs are worthwhile. I haven't listened to the remaining 6 songs since this album was released, just because they're that bad. The first 5 contains epicness, calm moments, aggressiveness, choirs, power metal and other stuff. The remaining 6 are just boring prog-shite. End of story.

As the case was with the release in 1997, "The Crowning of Atlantis" (1999) isn't really an official album either. The titletrack, the Manowar- and the Scorpions-covers are fucking ace! So be sure to listen to it instead of "Deggial" (2000) which might just be the most boring Therion-album of all.
Yes, this album is actually boring as fuck. The opener "Seven Secrets of the Sphinx" basically takes the worst parts from "Theli" and "Vovin" and tries to be "heavy". The result is actually almost laughable. Apart from what easily is the best track here - "The Invincible", there are only two more tracks that are bearable. Namely the titletrack and the second folkish part of "Via Nocturna". The rest is utter shit, not even boring. Just plain shit.

Just one year later, Therion apparently decided to make the best album since "Lepaca Kliffoth". Sure, there aren't any death-metal grunts present here, but there's variation and the prog-worship is even interesting (unlike those on "Vovin"). And of course, this is a concept album of the worlds in the Nordic mythology. Therion sings in Swedish for the first time in their existence and fuck me, how good it is!
Out of the 11 (original) songs here I could haven chose like 8 or 9, because this album is THAT good. Some songs ("Ginnungagap", "Asgård", "Schwarzalbenheim" and "Muspelheim") here became classic live-tracks and very much rightfully so. My favorite is "Helheim" - and I think that it is mostly due to the fact that it is solely sung in Swedish and I am Swede who actually enjoys metal sung in Swedish. We are very, very few mind you (and no, I don't count those who like Sabaton). This song does the impossible; at the same time as it gives me emotions of yore, it also makes me want to dance and headbang at the same time. I don't think I know another song in any genre that does the same thing. So in my opinion; easily the best song that Therion has ever done.

Fast forward three years and Therion released a double-album, which also was released as separate albums, so I'll review them as such too. "Lemuria" is easily the most impressive, while this one - "Sirius B" - hasn't got the same edge to it.
Yes, this a slow and quite boring song in it's entirety. At least if you compare it to more up-tempo songs on the same album such as "Blood of Kingu" (where Mats Levén really shines). But "Call of Dagon" has a certain feeling to it that the majority of the rest of the album actually lacks. I don't know why, but that's just how it is. I guess it sounds the most old-school Therion and that's why I like it so much.

As I mentioned, the sibling-album "Lemuria" is far superior with songs such as the gothic power-metal song "Three Ships of Berik, Part 1", the suggestive title-track, the emotionally haunting "An Arrow From the Sun" and the Rammstein-worshipper "Feuer Overture/Prometheus Entfesselt".
But I naturally chose the groove-ish "The Dreams of Swedenborg" where the much missed Piotr Wawrzeniuk makes a return with his inferior, though emotional, vocals. The entire track feels like a homage to the "Lepaca Kliffoth"-days and I guess that's why I like so damn much. It's not a classic symphonic-metal Therion-track, but it's got that special something.

Fast forward another three years (2007) and this is in my opinion where things really started to go astray for the band. One can feel that there's so much things missing and the band-chemistry has gone out the window. I cannot say that I am the hugest fan of Snowy Shaw either...
The track I've chosen is for the same reasons as the one above. If "The Dreams of Swedenborg" could have fitted onto "Lepaca Kliffoth", "The Path of Arcady" could've easily been a B-single from "Theli" or something like that. I really don't have much else to say other than the rest of the album is boring as fuck.

Earlier, I've said that "Deggial" is Therion's most boring album to date, but then I really didn't think of "Sitra Ahra" (2010). Honestly, I'd forgotten about this album when I wrote that, and so should you. "Deggial" is fucking superior to this crap-fest.
The intro alone sounds like a rip-off from the golden days of Therion and it really makes me want to vomit. Everything from the dreadful Thomas Vikström to the incredibly boring songwriting is wrong on this album. And I have to admit that I chose "Kali Yuga, Part III" only because I've seen that awful video more times than is considered healthy. Not because I like it - quite the contrary actually. Just look at those animated birds and try not to laugh. But the song itself actually have a few redeeming qualities. And that is mostly due to the fact that some parts sound like they could've been from "Vovin".

And thus, we have come to the latest atrocity, "Les Fleurs Du Mal" which is so elaborately wrote about earlier. And yes, the first video-track is obviously still the best one.
The problem still remains; you can easily hear that this is originally a pop-song (nothing wrong with that) that has been Therionized. But why not use more dynamics instead of doing it the easy way? Why not incorporate more (I never thought I'd write this) progressive elements and a larger variety of vocal-styles? I have listened to the rest of the songs on this album a couple of more times and every time I listen to it, I hear a band a man who's so damn tired and bored of his child, that is Therion, that it's really sad.

Still, I will continue to buy this band's albums (I'm that stupid) because I am always curious to what it is that Christoffer will do next. Also, I haven't completely lost hope of his band. The ultimate thing would obviously be if Therion did something that was sort of a mix of "Lepaca Kliffoth" and "Secret of the Runes", but I know that won't happen.


A decade ago: 2003 in retrospect

Due to a general lack of interest in music and writing, Metal Monuments has been closed for some time now.  But I am proud to say that I'm back again, although I cannot promise just how frequent the updates will be, so bear with me.
What better way to restart this blog and the new year than by looking back 10 years ago to see what was happening in the world of metal back then? As the case was with 2002, I am sure that I will forget a couple of important albums. But hey, this is my blog and since when did I actually care? Just ask the Therion-fanboys ;-) Here we go!

Amon Amarth - Versus the World
As most people know by now, this was supposed to be the swansong from these viking-loving melodeath-Swedes, but instead it became their landmark album which today is considered the classic in the band's discography. And it's easy to understand why, as this is much more solid all through the disc when compared to their previous and latter works.

Recommended track: Almost everybody seems to dig the hell out of "Death in Fire" and I am no exception. It's so damn headbanging-friendly and always gets me in a good mood.

Anathema - A Natural Disaster
In my opinion, the band's previous effort "A Fine Day to Exit" (2001) was the band last good album, even though that one cannot compare to the two predecessors "Judgement" (1999) and "Alternative 4" (1998). Here, almost every hint of anything metal is gone. Not that there's anything wrong in that, since the albums I just mentioned also had very little of that. But here, the keyboards take up too much space, the songs seem to drag on forever and the overall feeling is just boooooredom.
Recommended track: Some songs are better than others and my favorite has to be "Are You There?".

Ásmegin - Hin Vordende Sod og Sø
I've already covered this album quite thoroughly in the Monuments-section and I still stand by the fact that this is one of the best albums of the 00's and one of the best debut albums of all time.
Recommended track: Still, the opener "Af Helvegum" gives me goosebumps, chills and a hard-on to this day as one of the best folk metal songs ever made.

Cradle of Filth - Damnation and a Day
As I look through this list now, I can see that a lot went wrong for many bands this year and Cradle of Filth is no exception as I feel that the bands last listenable album was "Midian" (2000). Here, everything that can go wrong did so. It's no secret that Dani has lost his ability to make those high-pitch screams and you can really hear that he lost it somewhere between said album and this one. Also, the songwriting started to become real boring here.
Recommended track: Well, it's not a proper catastrophe, but damn close as "Better to Reign in Hell" is the only song that I can stomach and it's not that good either...

Dimmu Borgir - Death Cult Armageddon
Haha, I always get a smile on my face when I see DCA's incredibly ugly ashtray-eye of a cover. There's aboslutely nothing good with that cover. The album pretty much suffers from the same ugliness, with the exception of that obvious hit-song, which is bearable due to it's epicness and the vocal contributions from Vortex and Abbath.
Recommended track: Yes, it's of course "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" I'm talking about.

Falkenbach - Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty
Back in 2003 when this was just released, this was the first time I ever heard something from Falkebach and I simply loved it. The thing is, compared to "Hin Vordende Sod og Sø" - another epic metal album released this year - it hasn't really aged that well. And though I admit I still take it out for an occasional spin now and then, it feels like there's something missing here. Especially when compared to the band's debut album "En Their Medh Riki Fara" (1996)
Recommended track: There are some good tracks here and my favorite is probably the opener "Vanadis" which captures both rawness and epic moments.

In The Woods... - LiveattheCaledonienhall
I always feel it's a shame that so few people know of and appreciate this band which had a quite unique mix of epic black metal (mostly with clean vocals) and some serious Pink Floyd-worship. This, their swansong is as much a live album as a best-of album. We get to hear lovely versions of classics such as "HEart of the Ages", "Weeping Willow", "299.796 km/s", "I am Your Flesh!" and the cool Jefferson Airplane cover of "White Rabbit". Sure, the overall sound and production leaves a lot to desire and for a newbie of this band, I'd recommend the excellent "Omino" (1997) instead.
Recommended track: I would actually recommend most tracks here, but since this is the only place where you can hear the never-released song "Beer" - it gets my vote for sure.

Katatonia - Viva Emptiness
I know I will go out on a limb now by saying that I really feel this is Katatonia's last really good album up to this day. Why you say? Well, because there's lots of good tracks here and I feel that their latter albums have all been really uneven songwise. This album is even and good as well. Get it?
Recommended track: Hmm, there's a couple to choose from here, but I think I will go with the opener "Ghost of the Sun" since I like the attitude and tempo on that one.

Lumsk - Åsmund Frægdegjevar
As the case was with Falkenbach's album a bit further up, I simply adored this album when it came out. And if "Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty" hadn't aged very well, this is even worse. This is folk metal played in it's most clichéd and boring way, even though some tracks are ok. I cannot believe how gullable I was back in the days when it came to this music style.
Recommended track: Hmm, I think I'll go with "I Trollehender", since it's a quite short, solid and sing-along friendly tune.

Marduk - World Funeral
Ok, I have to agree that vocalist Legion (his last album with the band BTW) sounds really tired and bored on this recording. But does that take away the sheer black metal brilliance of songs such as "With Satan and Victorious Weapons", "Cloven Hoof", "World Funeral", "Hearse" and the sinister death-ballad "Bleached Bones"? In my opinion, hell no!
Recommended track: Difficult this one, but I'll have to go with "Bleached Bones" since I really dig the lyrics in combination with the evil groove they got going. If you don't like it, remember that it really sticks out from this album compared to the rest.

MetallicaSt. Anger
Do you remember the hype surrounding this album before it was released? If you don't, go read this insanely brilliant writing from Lord K at Global Domination. That about says it all. I wouldn't call this an actual album. The words "joke" or "train-wreck" is closer to the truth.
Recommended track: Haha, most definitely not. There would have to be proper songs instead of pointless riffs with out-of-key vocals for me to actually choose something.

Moonspell - The Antidote
One of my old favorite bands really went dreadful beyond imagination with "Darkness and Hope" (2001) but this one might even be worse. The first three songs are ok, but weak compared to the band's discography peak from 1994 to 1999. This is pseudo-angry goth/black metal with little attitude and no bite.
Recommended track: There's a reason the band chose "In and Above Men" as the opener for this album. It's so much better than the rest of these songs.

Solefald - In Harmonia Universali
These avantgarde black metal maniacs have - in my opinion - always been really uneven on all of their albums up until the latest one "Norrøn Livskunst" (2010) which was the peak of their discography and leaves me with high expectations for their next one. "In Harmonia Universali" is no different when it comes to begin uneven. Some tracks are gold, while some are just utterly boring.
Recommended track: Oh, my how "Mount Blanc Providence Crow" gives me the chills! Cool video as well.

The Crown - Possessed 13
Just look at that awesome cover art! It alone would be enough to recommend this album. But hell, it's The Crown so what could go wrong really? Well, nothing. This isn't exactly as solid as "Deathrace King" (2000) was, but it's better than "Crowned in Terror" (2002). You just know what you get with this band; one of the best fusions of insanely cool and groovy death metal and thrash metal.
Recommended track: While I am tempted to choose the semi-hit "Face of Destruction (Deep Hit of Death)" I have to go with the even cooler "Zombiefied!".

Released only one year after the solid "Judas Christ" (2002), I remember how I had my doubts whether this could be as good. While not extremely bad, I was somewhat right since this might be the band's most uneven album to date. One good song is usually followed by something completely pointless which makes "Prey" annoying to listen to in it's entirety.
Recommended track: While "Clovenhoof" is so damn cool for what it is, I will have to go with the video-smash-hit "Cain".

Turbonegro - Scandinavian Leather
The band disbanded after the incredible "Apocalypse Dudes" (1999), but reformed some years after whilst said album had grown quite a lot and exposed the band to a broader audience (including me). And while this is lightyears beyond said album, it still contains solid punkrock songs such as "Wipe it Till it Bleeds", "Sell Your Body (to the Night)", "Fuck the World" and "D.I.B (Drenched in Blood)".
Recommended track: I resisted the urge to choose the inevitable video-hit "Fuck the World" and instead went with the catchier "D.I.B (Drenched in Blood)". Good for me.

Windir - Likferd
This was to be Windir's swansong due to the sad passing of frontman Valfar as he froze to death in the snowy mountains of Norway in 2004. Arguably, this is also the best album this epic black metal band released. There's really nothing more to say.
Recommended track: Most of these songs are real damn good, but I've always had a soft spot for "Resurrection of the Wild".