Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: NERATERRÆ – The NHART Demo​[​n​]​s

Label: Independent
Band: NERATERRÆ
Origin: Italy

Frozen bits of Reality from NERATERRÆ

Originally this project by Alessio Antoni was started in 2009 under the name NHART. NHART became NERATERRÆ and after a long period of time the music made in those early days is available to the listener. ‘The NHART Demo[n]s’ offer haunting creations from the past that need to be set free. That is what this release is all about.

Antoni also plays in Alma Flua, a band playing pretty straight forward rock and roll. The beast unleashes in this project though, which is a mixture of ambient, death industrial, power electronics, noise and drone. Te record consists of three demo’s from those early NHART days with truly intriguing sounds and sonic experiences to bask in.

The record feels a lot like being way to close to machines and devices in factories. Trains coming through tunnels and engines rattling. Fluid, mechanized and continuous are terms that describe the way the sound moves. There’s little to no song structure present, you simply get the cold, blaring sounds of an industrialized world presented in 4 minute formats. It chops up bits of that reality and freezes them in time. Some tunes follow a more industrial orchestration, but it remains an unpleasant experience.

If you imagine this music as part of our daily surroundings, isolated and ripped from the daily noise, the oddness sinks in. Otherworldly effects are part of what we hear on a daily basis and yet we hardly manage to distinguish them. The sounds NERATERRÆ  captures on this record are testament to our alienated world. It captures a radical disonnect from the many aspects and layers of our daily experience I might read to much into it, but the almost David Lynch-like (check the Eraserhead soundtrack) quality of this record feels particularly confrontational. Dark and full of despair, a record of clarity.

Underground Sounds: Battle Hag – Tongue of the Earth

Label: Transylvanian Tapes
Band: Battle Hag
Origin: United States

Battle Hag seems like a D&D players fantasy, but don’t be mislead by the peculiar artwork. This band from Sacramento crushes on their debut album. After a demo in 2015, the ‘Tongue of the Earth’ album is their tectonic offering to the world of heavy doom metal. A worthy effort indeed. It’s only out on tape, so that’s quite an interesting thing as well.

The music of the group seems to be inspired by the big, lurching sound of modern doom. Thematically there’s a Lovecraftian eschatological abyss lurking in their sound and words. The record was recorded in Earth Tone Studios in Sacramento by Patrick Hills.

The sound progresses slowly, with minute shifts and heavy, cumbersome movements. Ginormous riffs create a monolithical heaviness to the sound, but the crushing effects are minimal, as the band chooses for a more languid flow in their sound on ‘Necronomichron’. A twelve minute lasting behemoth of a track, it is completely impossible to resist its flow. More force is on the next track, ‘The Book of Thoth’ with gurgling vocals and abyssal riffs that reach for the heavens in despair.

Battle Hag sounds odly melodic at times, not simply relying on being heavy to create their maximum impact sound. The flow of the sound feels weary and haggard at times, The drums take on odd, almost shamanic rhythms  at times, like on ‘The Tower of Silence’. As if they form a summoning rite for a foreboding storm or a dark ritual. The band likes to add subtle things to the music, to enhance its impact. The cavernous vocal effects on the aforementioned song for example, while riffs seem to evoke a torrentous feeling at the same time really work.

Battle Hag offers a great debut full of little surprises. You’ll find something every time you spin this one.

Underground Sounds: Мрамор – 9 дней

Label: Independent
Band: Мрамор
Origin: Russia 

Apart from the fact that these guys are named Мрамор, which translates as ‘Marble’, I know little about them. They were formed in 2015 in Ulan-Ude. This is in the far east of Russia, in the republic of Buryatia. A place far removed from Moscow and probably much different to what you think you know as Russia.

The music of the group is definitely different and is described as post-black metal or depressive rock, which immediately draws comparison to German experimentalists Bethlehem. It makes for a fascinating bit of listening though.

Ok, I’m going to give you the description of the wild sound that Мрамор produces as I hear it. It has a major tone in general, it feels just super upbeat and joyous in the weirdest way. Their vocalist shrieks with the same maddening style as Yvonne Wilczynska of Bethlehem and sometimes the songs simply have hooks that remind you of the feel-good punkrock of the late nineties. Though after ‘Пробуждение’ that soon fades and we get into the more post-black metal spheres that this band is aiming for.

The tremolo guitar play creates a vibrant tapestry full of color. That continuous stream is definitely taken from black metal, but the pounding drum and groovy bass line say something completely different. This actually rocks on ‘Оттепель’ and that explains why the band likes to call their sound ‘depressed rock’. The songs are rich with samples but go from swooping, majestic pieces to pretty firm rocking tunes and gentle ballads like ‘Навсегда’ in the best Russian tradition. That stunning variety alone makes these guys extremely good and interesting.

Underground Sounds: Myrkgrav – Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen

Label: Pest Productions
Band: Myrkgrav
Origin: Norway

I really try to cover the more recent releases, but coming across Myrkgrav, I have to share this. Myrkgrav is the project of
Lars “Leiðólfr” Jensen, who played in Quadrivium and Storm. The project started out in Norway, but it seems that Jensen has relocated to Turku in Finland now. ‘Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen’ was released in 2016 and after that, the band was put on hold.

With Myrkgrav, Jensen tries to preserve stories and myths from his part of the world, the region of Ringerike. To prevent those from fading into oblivion, he puts those to music. The artist is still working on new material, but it’s not clear if that will come out under the banner of Myrkgrav. To create the music, Jensen uses guest musicians like Olav Mjelva of Wardruna and various others. The artwork immediately sets the mood with its depiction of the beautiful, wild nature.

Musically Myrkgrav sticks somewhere between catchy folk punk and folk metal. It lacks the rigorous sound of full-on metal, but comes closest to Glittertind for me on some parts. Even when the vocals are grunted, the overall sound remains very accessible. Tunes like ‘Skjøn jomfru’ stick close to the folky traditionals, with clean, warm vocals that are easily enjoyable. ‘Vonde auer’ with its fiddle by Mjelva immediately takes you to the valleys and mountains in all their overwhelming beauty. The guitar play is remarkably catchy on tracks like ‘Bekom Gyrihaugen’, with swooping parts carrying you away. It’s one of the multiple instrumentals on this record.

A track like ‘Soterudsvarten’ shows the more heavy side of the band, but the folklore and the playful sound is still a heavy part of it. Sometimes the galloping rhythms feel a bit too repetitive for my tastes, It makes some songs feel a bit unnecessary, but then again on this record, some older work has been added from past periods of Myrkvar. When we return to the folky tunes, that’s where Myrkvar is exceptionally pleasant. The singing voice is calm and sonorous and manages to tell stories. The opening song even comes back towards the end in an English version, which is pretty sweet.

This album is quite a treat, clocking over an hour in total time. Check this out, it’s stilll available to listen to.

Underground Sounds: Au-Dessus – End of Chapter

Label: Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions
Band: Au-Dessus
Origin: Lithuania

Au-Dessus from Lithuania

Au-Dessus is one of the new wave of bands that bring a new aspect to the realm of black metal. Some may call it post black metal, others may use the new term blackgaze for this. Formed in Vilnius in 2014, the band has members in its ranks from groups like Pergalė, Exile Into Suffery and Mangragora. Though they hail from Lithuania, the name translates to ‘Above’ in French.

What you immediately notice about this group is their whole aesthetic. No harsh logo’s, corpse paint or spikes, nothing traditional. The only thing that you might find connective is the black hoods, but even those are stylized and different. The cover with a child, carrying coins on its eyelids is heavy. It signifies a death. The subtlety and cold beauty are exemplary for the sound of the Lithuanian group.

The sleek and clean artwork is immediately tangible in the well-produced sound of the group. Polished riffs and a great balance in the sound makes listening to Au-Dessus a pleasure. The songs are numbered, and ‘VI’ plummets you instantly into the atmospheric black metal riffing. The continuous, blaring wall of sound creates an uncanny calm, with haunting spectres ever at the edge of the experience. Vocalist Mantas roars, growls and spits in pure harrowing anger over the ever pushing and progressing sound, which flows with the smoothness of a river.

By the time you hit track ‘IX’ it becomes sort of clear that there’s a good bit of rocking groove underneath all the mayhem. For brief moments the engine to the sound shows, which is really running smoothly and purring like a kitten, but screams a moment later when the pace increases for a dramatic climax. Au-Dessus is all about the build-up, the subtle shifts and sudden bursts of energy. Wave after wave of dissonant, wailing guitars hit you. You submerge in the cold sea of sound.

I’m quite certain that purists will have less appreciation for this band. Their sound moves you with layers upon layers of the atmosphere, crisp production and a sense of grandeur and emotional beauty. They make me think of groups like Harakiri For The Sky and maybe elements of Deafheaven, while holding that mysterious allure of more occult bands. They never seem to actually implement many symbols in their music, maybe to let the sound speak for itself more.

Au-Dessus can be tough and hard, but only when it serves the overall narrative. Most of their music has a dirge-like somberness to it, but harrowing, biting passages are there when they need to be. Losing yourself in this record is quite possible.

Underground Sounds: King of Asgard – :taudr:

Label: Trollmusic
Band: King of Asgard
Origin: Sweden

If Unleashed hadn’t become the beer-guzzling cliché that it unfortunately is and had stuck to their guns, they might have become King of Asgard. I’m very aware that this is a risky thing to say because to put them in one sentence is bound to be controversial.  Musically, the Swedes appear to be difficult to place. Angry Metal Guy puts them in the folky black metal corner, while Metal Temple throws them in the bucket of melodic death metal. Being the much less genre-oriented typing metal fan that I am, I’ll just leave it at this; King of Asgard has a bit of both but is mostly Viking metal.

King of Asgard revolves around Karl Beckman, who has stayed firmly on the trajectory he started on with Mithotyn. This band is slightly different in being more dark and brooding. ‘Taudr’ is the fifth album by the band, which also has featured Jonas Albrektsson since 2009 (from Thy Primordial and Retaliation a.o.). Albrektsson is arguably more of a black metal guy, hence the sound on this record. Everything about this record just oozes northern folklore and the grim realities of that realm.

So even though I don’t wish to admit it, for me the great appeal of this album is definitely the black metal atmosphere blended with folk. Not in the blended way, where it all ends up being a drinking horn raising bacchanal. No, both aspects do their respective job in turn or distinctly separate. ‘The Curse and the Wanderer’ immediately jumps into the fray with vigor and battle lust. Notable instantly are the drums, that definitely keep the hard and solid bottom in the songs. Even when the chanting parts pass by, the skins keep it together. Sharp, tightly mixed guitars drive the song forward, without ever doing more than needed.

The hurdy-gurdy on ‘Death …and a New Sun’ is exactly where it needs to be. It offers the droning center that you stick with for the whole song. Rigid riffing and a continuous, monotonous sound tell a story in itself. It also makes the song extremely heavy. But I’d like to talk about the title track because the dynamic intro is already exciting foreplay to the grandeur of this song. There’s a majesty to the sound here, thanks to an again excellently produced bit of string magic. It leans towards folk metal, without ever crossing the border to fun and silly-land. The harsh bark of Beckman really shouts you into submission. Man your oars and row, you scabs! Excellent drumming on this track again.

A climactic point on the album is ‘…For the Fury of the Norse’. To me, this track crosses some lines in its grand finale moment, but it is entirely fitting on its spot in the album. The soaring guitars and slow pace are a bit too Marvel Thor for me. Still, it’s rather enjoyable and on a more critical level, I can’t find any fault in it. Closing the album is Mithotyn cover ‘Upon Raging Waves’. A cover is always tricky, particularly of a band with a distinct sound. Beckmann obviously understands his own song well enough to shape it to the sound and feel of King of Asgard. It might be the best song on this album.

King of Asgard is not breaking new ground because they do what they do excellently. A true gem in current day metal, particularly for those who need no novelties in their heavy sound.

 

Underground Sounds: Bergrizen – Der Unsterbliche Geist

Label:  Purity Through Fire
Band: Bergrizen
Origin: Ukraine

Bergrizen is remarkably enough a solo project by Myrd’raal. The band hails from Kiev. The music is self-described as HelCarpathian black metal, which was not a term I was familiar with up till now, but listening to this record I’m quite sure that its a fitting term for the furious sound.

The band has been around for a good 10 years now and in the live setting, there is a full band playing the songs, so that must be something to behold. This is the fifth album by Bergrizen, with the ominious Hegellian title ‘Der Unsterblichen Geist’.

The sound of Bergrizen combines a classic somberness with the rigid sound of straight-backed black metal. Pitch black, but surprisingly enough, also very listenable. There’s an inherent darkness to the sound of this band, with many remorseful and melancholic passages in the quieter bits. From the points where the music swells, we get powerful arches, tremolo riffing and pained howls.
The singing is often inaudible to an extent that only the feeling is conveyed in almost bestial screams. Musically the record cover might suggest much grimmer and harrowing sounds, but surprisingly Bergrizen is full of melody. On ‘ Ankunft der Winterdämmerung’ we also hear a deeper, more abyssal voice full of evil promises. Then again, on ‘Entsagen’ we actually get a bit of that rock’n’rolling sound and feel.
Bergrizen has a lot of the traditional black metal vibe while being much more easy to listen to. That doesn’t diminish anything of the grim and dark atmosphere on the album. It just makes it pleasant to delve into it.

Underground Sounds: Weed Demon – Astrological Passages

Label: Dissonant Society
Band: Weed Demon
Origin: USA

With a name like Weed Demon, you can already pretty much guess that we’re getting groovy, spacy doom metal from this Ohio quartet. The massive, rocky vision on the cover, which I love, tells everything anyways. It immediately captures my attention when a band like this gets some cool artwork. It shows the dedication to the general drive behind the sound.

So Weed Demon has been around only briefly. These gentlemen have no massive music history, so the quality of this release is especially fresh. Previously the band released an EP titled ‘Stoned To Death’, which seems to have stuck way closer to the more stereotypical stoner schtick. ‘Astrological Passages’ is the thing you should check though.

Weed Demon kicks off with foreboding guitar picking in that dropping doom style. Massive reverb gives the thing a cavernous (or spacy if that fits the title better) effect. The roaring vocals really give off the vibe that one listens to a maddened caveman who’s roaring into the dark in pure rage. Big, lumbering riffs progress at their own pace, sound effects create a foreboding, creepy effect at times. Weed Demon is a menacing beast, crawling towards you. Bringing the sound of Sleep and Spaceslug together in the best possible way.

The sound has a lot of space in it though, regardless of its full pounding force. Every hit of the drum, strumming of the guitar, it just floats on as if in space. Even the lyrics are huge, talking about almost abstract concepts like the immensity and awesome power of space in a burly roar. It’s interesting that the sound still has a lot of groove left thanks to that freely soaring guitar work. I imagine this band really kicking it live thanks to that. My favorite track I suppose would be ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, thanks to its foreboding, dark lyrics. Here and there the band uses some little tricks to keep you on your toes, like some samples or mysterious chanting on ‘Dominion of Oblivion’.

My favorite track I suppose would be ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, thanks to its foreboding, dark lyrics. Here and there the band uses some little tricks to keep you on your toes, like some samples or mysterious chanting on ‘Dominion of Oblivion’. It’s a bit cheesy, granted, but the gents pull it off for most of the song to sing sonorously in this meditative style. The music just works alongside it. Weed Demon is heavy, without ever being oppressive. Their music is awesome and that’s why you should listen to this.

Underground Sounds: Lör – In Forgotten Sleep

Label: Independent
Band: Lör
Origin: United States

The group Lör has been around for a while. Three of their members also played in Top Hats and Effigies and Ashen Waves, the exception being drummer Greg Bogart. The gang of four hails from Morrisville in Pensylvania and seem to hold a special place for nature in their hearts judging by the band photos. The group started off in 2009 and released two demo’s in the past.

‘In Forgotten Sleep’ is the product of some gents that know music. Most members have a background in orchestra and concert band class in school. This makes for a different sound and a remarkable approach to music. It makes for a fascinating record, that is for sure.

A particularly folky sound is what greets you when play is pressed on ‘Dusk’. Warm acoustics and gentle singing, that swells to a puffed-chest epicness soon. Flutes join in this jolly hero song ‘Dusk’, with swooping rhythms and a swelling voice. I kind of want to go and polish my sword a bit. It’s like Ensiferum playing an acoustic set of Blind Guardian songs in a smoky tavern in Waterdeep (D&D geeks will understand).

When the music launches into its metal parts, it does so with a frenzy. The guitar licks sound thin and unadorned but retain every bit of their sharp catchiness. The drums sound thunderous within the clean sound. It leaves you with a sound that feels like the essence of a power metal song. It leans more to the folky fantastic that it tries to emulate and therefore has a more authentic feel to it. Still, the sound takes on epic proportions on a tune like ‘Song for the Lost’, with those Dragonforce-y riffs and Wintersun-y eclectic bursts of energy.

Lör takes you to a place of fantasy. It’s not folk and you don’t feel that organic, natural sound, but they put that in the mix as an ingredient. It flavors their music, which is different and exciting while also weirding me out a bit. I think that this is a good thing.

Underground Sounds: Raventale – Planetarium

Label: Ashen Dominion
Band: Raventale
Origin: Ukraine

Raventale has been around since 2005. Since then the atmospheric black metal band has been steadily pushing out new records. The band revolves around Astaroth Merc, who seems to be a busy little bee with various projects. Just a to name a few; Deferum Sacrum, Balfor and Chapter V:F10. Raventale is his main project though, in which he does literally everything.

Raventale has dabbled with various themes, from Tibetan buddhism to Native American mythology. Astaroth draws inspiration from pretty much everything in order to create his art. It makes the music deep and ritualistic, with cosmic pretences. This is something special for sure.

‘Gemini – Behind Two Black Moons’ immediately launches with a big guitar wall and a thick, melancholic atmosphere. The slow pace is reverential, mighty and the backdrop for furious vocals, that preach in an apocalyptic tone. The guitar work feels very classic heavy metal. Soaring and full of strength, they really have an almost magical effect.

The regal sound makes way for a more forceful track on ‘Bringer of Celestial Anomalies’. Though the big wall of sound remains, it packs more aggression and energy. Another fact you’ll notice is how the production is exactly how it should be. Expansive at some points, and narrow at others to give you exactly what you need.

Even when the band interjects brief interludes of just guitar, a hazy wave of distortion keeps ringing in the background. Silence never falls in the universe of Raventale. For the following tune, titled ‘At the Halls of the Pleiades’, a more rigid, stripped-down sound can be heard. Blaring melodies and strong, steady rhythms are a show of muscle. Nothing about Raventale is gentle or measured, everything is about the grand gesture and that is something pretty cool in how this band does it.

A record for those who need some power and cosmic darkness in their playlist. I encourage checking this out.