2013-02-22

Review: Vreid - Welcome Farewell


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

Tracklist:
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...

RATING:
5.0/10


2013-02-21

Review: Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance


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

Tracklist:
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!

RATING:
8.0/10



2013-02-12

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.






















2013-02-07

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.