Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: Barshasketh – Ophidian Henosis

Label: Blut & Eisen Productions/ Darkness Shall Rise Productions
Band: Barshasketh
Origin: New Zealand

By now, the band Barshasketh has relocated from the Lord of the Rings-y New Zealand to the similar, but more rainy Scotland. The man behind the band is Andrew Campbell, more well known under his moniker Krigeist. He’s been active as well in bands like Belliciste and Bròn. It actually seems that Campbell has now relocated to the Czech Republic even, but it’s a bit hard to tell. Maybe Belgrade, based on the info on the Belliciste page? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter that much either when we get to the music.

The sound of Barshasketh defies the local anyways, even more so on this new endeavour. To create a full band members were found in FallochHaar and Finnish Hautakammio. It allows for an album that will not soon be forgotten. Of that I’m sure. I’d like to point out that there’s some excessively amazing art work in use by Barshasketh, done by Daniel Valencia of Fomeno Design.

There’s a hint of melodic black metal bands like Keep of Kalessin hidden in the music of Barshasketh, thanks to the combination of familiar elements of distortion, tremolo guitar play and feisty blast beats with a thoroughly melodic element and a willingness to create a harrowing type of beauty through sound scapes. This is all woven into the fabric of the album and overridden with the bestial, raw roar of Krigeist himself.

In the music, one often hears that a repetitive static is created. This allows for other elements in the music to paint fantastic realms in the sound, allowing the listener to really sink into it as in an almost meditative state. Even the most furious parts have that calm hidden behind it in the form of melodic lines that gently weave through the ferocity that is Barshasketh. Sometimes the static sound almost feels like doom metal in its slow, foreboding progressions.

It combines the old and the new in the sound, which has excellent production. Interesting fact is that the titles are numbered, which creates the feeling of one piece of art, based in chapters. It works very well to express the long stretch in separate elements. This is an album that will surely appear in some End of Year lists. Great stuff!

Underground Sounds: Imants Daksis – Mūžīgā ģeogrāfa piedzīvojumi

Label: Lauska
Band: Imants Daksis
Country: Latvia

I have a profound love for the Baltics. The rugged land, the history, the people and the beautiful culture. Like the culture of the bards in Russia, the Balts have their own style of singer-songwritership that holds close ties to poetry and ethnic culture, but I digress. I’ve been listening to the music of Imants Daksis for years and though the words and language are something I struggle with, I love his unique sound. It feels completely honest, in addition to having an urgency to it that feels very personal.

Think neofolk, maybe even a bit of the martial stuff and we’re getting towards the sound of Imants Daksis. Ethnic instruments are present, the words are abstract and thought provoking. The voice can be shouting, whispering and everything in between. Daksis is a creative sould of 33 years old. He always appears to be exploring and expressing new forms of art.   I don’t know enough about the Latvian music world to say much more.

The title ‘Mūžīgā ģeogrāfa piedzīvojumi’ translates as Eternal Geographical Travels and on it Daksis is, like Rainis and Dostojevski as he writes he writes. As an artist he is trying to make sense of the world. The jangling, slightly dissonant guitar on opener ‘Ir baigi apjaust, ka esi šeit’ is accompanied by the foreboding vocals of Daksis. Never are they polished completely. They always retain a bit of their natural force and roar. The voice is the main instrument for Daksis and therefor always used in exactly the way its intended. Though the sound is essentially Baltic in origin, in addition one can detect various influences. Therefore the music takes on a universal feel and that fits very well into the concept.

The slow trickling ‘Jūdas dziesma’ deals with the forlorn deserts of the land of Judah and the wars that rage there and the meaningless of it all. It sounds so mellow, but haunting as well and slowly grips you. Sometimes playful, always a bit raw on the edges and never overly complicated. Daksis likes to keep things simple and accesible for the listeners. Personal favorite is probably ‘Rudens sapņi’, where in an almost 9 minutes lasting track all the best features of Daksis’ music pass by. The contained energy and expressive voice are captivating and enthrall the listener.

The great charm of Imants Daksis is not merely the force of the music. It’s the subtleties and poetic aspects of the tunes and words, which are utterly brilliant. It’s never giving more than needed, yet neither less. Dream away to a time before the modern age with this album, you’ll enjoy it.

Underground Sounds: Wretch – Wretch

Label: Bad Omen Records
Band: Wretch
Country: United States

Losing friends is a sad thing and sometimes it can be extremely hard to get over that. When you lose a friend who’s a band member, I can only imagine how much stronger that bond may be. Not to trivialise friendship, but band members share time together like no other. Jason McCash and Karl Simon shared that for a good decade in The Gates of Slumber. McCash left the band in 2013 and soon after passed away following a heroin overdose (according to metal archives).

So this album is catharsis, it’s grief in musical form. Gone are the stories of swords and sorcery, this is about the grim reality. It’s Karl Simon picking up the pieces and continuing down the road of amazing doom metal albums with this new outfit Wretch. The artwork instantly screams that old school doom vibe at you and that’s what you get.

Opener ‘Running Out of Days’  is a tribute to J. McCash and opens with those gargantuan Sabbath riffs, making you instantly get into the groove of this band and (if you like) bang your head to it. There’s something really down to earth to the sound of the band though. It’s not striving for grandeur, but for something real. Slowly the riffs roll by and a thundering rhythm section vigorously fills the void around the vocals of Simon, which are laden with emotion.

There’s something tormented to the way Simon delivers his vocals. After the initial venting on the first two tracks, the following seems to wind down and go into an almost psychedelic, spacy direction. Spiralling guitar parts and dreamy vocals form a much more convincing and warm sound from the group. There’s even an interesting instrumental track, titled ‘Grey Cast Mourning’, that surprises the listener with its gentle nature.

Closing the album, we return to the traditional doom roots. With its iconic cover and great tracks, this is one to stick with you. Hopefully Karl Simon feels like unleashing some more tunes on the world.

Underground Sounds: Black Tomb – s/t

Label: Graven Earth Records/Hellas Records
Band: Black Tomb
Origin: United States

Black Tomb is a rather new doom band that seems to favor a color scheme of black and orange on their outings, which results in an exquisite image. That’s the first thought I had, checking out their stuff.  Little information is available about these guys, who sound like their experience extends beyond this self titled debut.

Self described as New England Doom, the band recalls the sound of something between Hooded Menace, Electric Wizard and Graves At Sea. It’s a bit like a swamp of tar, while the forest is burning brightly orangy around you and everything is turning to shit. I think that captivates the sound of Black Tomb pretty fittingly.

The sound of Black Tomb reminds me a lot as well of Black Tusk, the dirty, gritty fury and the rawness of it all. There’s little subtlety and it’s constantly in your face. These gentlemen lack the surging energy of the latter though, but every riff sounds like if you could touch it, you’d want to wash your hands after. Slow, sticky and oh so pitch black, this is not the record to listen to when you’re already down and depressed. The irony is that the band included knives in the special editions… so yeah.

The tormented vocals, for example on the harrowing ‘Eyes At Midnight’ are a ripping, crushing delivery of screams. It’s bleak and relentless, full of pummeling riffs, that surge like a muddy avalanche. Man, what a debut record. I love this stuff, with its vicious sound and heaviness that may not push the genre forwards, but unites the best bits!

It’s always keeping you on the balls of your feet, ready for anything with the heavy bass and tons of groove and fuzz. There’s a constant anticipation or even threatening note to the music, that never fully erupts but definitely places these guys in the heavy weight category.

Imagine this on a fuzzy tape, playing in the dark. Hell yeah!

Underground Sounds: Allfather – Bless The Earth With Fire

Label: Rotting Throne Records
Band: Allfather
Origin: United Kingdom

If the motto of a band is ‘Beards. Metal. Fuck You’ , you know that this is something you want to play loud for a bit. The omnious reference to a Norse Ragnarok added to that makes it even sound more bad ass and that is pretty much the deal with this debut record by United Kingdom sludge metal brawlers Allfather. Can I add to my vote of sympathy that most of their Facebook timeline is filled with shout outs to other bands? That makes you even more of a cool band to me.

The four piece from Rochester have recorded their album in Son of Suns Studio of Jason Frye and Charlie Creese’s Magpie Studios. The mastering of the first five tracks was done by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (known from Nails, Yob, Sleep etc.), so that’s bound to be good!

Opener ‘Raskolnikov’ shows instantly, that there’s space for the literary and complex with an obvious reference to the work of Dostojevski (Crime and Punishment) with a lyric that demonstrates the shizmatic nature of the protagonist Raskolnikov in a ranted monologue. Surrounding that is the pummeling rhythm section, not unlike some of the Bolt Thrower  tank-track grooves. The vocals sound muddled and boiling up in anger. The whole sound is like an eruption.

If that isn’t enough to already be impressed by the group, you’ll be blown away by Sabbathy riffs and a punch to the jaw on ‘The Bloody Noose’ (wait for that rif for like 4 mins). The sound is not complex or unnecessarily frantic, but just good, groovy doom with an interesting amount of that old fashioned bluesy guitar sounds. Not that the band does anything simplistic, it’s just the sense of knowing what is enough for a good track I think.

A bit of biblical referencing on ‘Death, and Hell Followed With Him’ (Revelations 6:8) is also showing that more thought out element in the music. Clocking an epic 11+ minutes, this is the summit of the album (there’s a bonus track too) where Allfather takes the time to build up properly. There’s always something cathartic to their music and lyrics. Gritty, dirty and full of fat, greasy grooves, the band is like being dragged through the mud and feeling cleaner for it afterwards. And that goes on and on.
Good stuff!

Underground Sounds: Sir Robin & The Longbowmen – S/T

Label: Independent
Band: Sir Robin & The Longbowmen
Origin: Germany

With a beaver on the cover and an obvious reference to Robin Hood in the band name, this group from the German city of Dresden captured my eye instantly. Sir Robin & The Longbowmen is a big band with seven members that likes to play psychedelic music and that they do well.

The band also has a rather big load of humor if you look at their facebook page, where they claim inpspiration from Czech porn and thank Michael Jackson, Phil Collins and Costas Cordalis for some dubious contributions. Oh, that and they claim to be the tallest band in Saxony, which might be true.

Musically the sound of the band is rather filmic, oriëntal even on openern ‘Sissi’s Harp’, where the sitar-like sounds meander through hypnotically. That atmosphere sticks to the music, which also includes funky bass loops, frilly samples and a good buit of world music here and there. The sound is not too filled up with all sorts of jambling by the huge band, the sound is condensed into a meaningful and fitting form.

Repetition is one of the key elements of psych music and that is what you hear mostly on the songs, but the vocals vary immensely. From the muttering Spanish on ‘Tramboliko’ to be burly roar on ‘Dead Horse’ with it’s nice 70’s vibe. There is a trace of chamber poppiness in their sound, most notably on ‘I Would Like’, with some sensitive arrangements.

Shimmering slow pop with fluttering instruments is what the band does with little effort, as much as their more dense psychedelic jams. It’s all particularly captivating and enjoyable. Why do I dig this so much? Because the whole record is good, it feels like a whole, a complete record with good, pleasant music. Check them out, you know you want to!

Underground Sounds: Rebel Wizard – Triumph of Gloom

Label: Independent
Band: Rebel Wizard
Origin: Australia

Imagine extreme metal that is free of trends, free of hip motivations and pure in its expression of angst, fear and frustration. That is a bit of a tricky thing, since most bands are connected to some other, bigger movement, some sort of trend. Then stumbling across the most raucous, rancid record in a long time, which is filled with an almost jubilant fury and enthousiasm. That’s what you get from Rebel Wizard. 

What if you’d mix Angel Witch with Bathory and add some epic Iron Maiden riffs? Well, that would be the most close I can get to describing the feeling Rebel Wizard’s music offers. Sole member NKSV, also known as Bob Neskrasov, has been active in Neskrasov and Whitehorse next to this project, which allows him a singular way of expression outside of that (Neskrasov is also a solo project).

The album opens with the quote: “There’s no reason to be alive…”. It sets the tone for a grim sound, but when the riff comes in, it’s not the static haze of typical black metal, but a thundering, fists in the air heavy metal riff offering you a build up like no other. The song serves as an intro with its mid pace marching vibe. Prepare, for metal is back as you love it. The riffs on the following thrack ‘Where We Surrender Completely To The Miserable Shaman’ the guitars fall down on you, but again with those recognizable heavy metal vibes. Combine that with hoarse screamed vocals and you have a potent mixture of fury.

Rebel Wizard combines the two unlikely sounds to a vibrant, energetic sound that you can not sit still to, it demands you to stomp your feet, rock your fists and scream along in the overwhelming frustration that is vented by the Wizard himself. The switch in sound is so intriguing, so different, yet so incredibly catchy. Though the recording quality is not studio-crisp, it’s that gritty element giving it even more of an edge. Just listen to the track ‘Eat The Warlock’, which has the screaming guitars that work so well, regardless of any other aspect. The high pitch of the vocals feels almost harmonious with that sound.

I find that in words I lack the means to truly describe how full of vitality this record is, how strongly it just resets the starting point for a black metal album. This is brilliant and feels like such a raw, direct expression that punches you in the gut and then knees you in your face. Bam!

Underground Sounds: Ade – Carthago Delenda Est

Label: Xtreem Records
Band: Ade
Country: Italy

Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam
– Cato

Ancient Rome has spoken to the imagination of many artists. The fine arts as well as the popular arts. With films filled with brave warriors, great battles and the grandeur and decadence of old. The theme has been sorely under exposed in metal though with rare bands like Ex Deo (featuring Kataklysm members) or the mild influence on others Alea Jacta Est (a French hardcore band).

In fact I wrote about this already once.

Ade is a breath of fresh air in this little niche with a death metal album that will rattle the Collosseum. Think Nile or Behemoth, but definitely also a bit of that approach of Ex Deo and you have an inkling of the sheer brutallity of this technically endowed band. The group puts the sheer grandeur of the Roman empire in their sound and like with others, it really works.

Ofcourse the result is a bit theatrical and reeks of Bolt Thrower, but how else can you make a song about the most warlike nation ever? That must have been what this group from the eternal city of Rome thought themselves too. The trick is putting those female vocals and strange sounds into your music, but it works smoothy and balanced on this record that features a lot of Carthaginian themes. The title tells you enough, but a song like ‘Annibalem’ obviously refers to the famed general.

The music is complex, but clean sounding and therefor a lot of fun to listen to. It carries the vibe of battle, of intensity and frantic riffing. The vocals are brutal, either deep grunts or guttural barks, even more so setting the vibe that you want on a record like this. The stop-go bursts of guitar work are razor sharp, but so is the build up in some songs, all praising Mars. Blistering and dazzling, but always heavy as fuck, with those martial pounding rhythms and mighty horns. You can imagine the stamped of the war elephants, atleast I can.

You really don’t need to be a tech-head to set your teeth into this recording of fine, catchy death metal. Sure, it packs a punch, but due to the clean production and highly entertaining variety, it’s a fun record to really get into for pretty much anyone who digs the heavy hitters.

Underground Sounds: Numenorean – Home

Label: Seasons of Mist
Band: Numenorean
Origin: Canada

The whole post-blackmetal thing hasn’t got the best rep, but that is really a shame if you look at the larger thing. The genre is pushing the boundaries of black metal to a more poppy sound, thus allowing the genre some more connection, thus input and growth. Now, if every label needs some post BM bands to bolster their roster (and sales), that’s a different question. Not everything is as good as you’d hope, but these guys really are some fine song smiths.

Canadians Numenorean are one of those bands, pushing the sound into that more blackgaze direction of smooth sonic tapestries and emotional vocals. In 2014 the band dropped  demo and now there’s the full lenght from the duo. Byron Lemley and Brandon Lemley are the guys responsible for the music of Numenorean. The name is a fleeting reference to the Atlantis-like myth of the island of Numenor and its inhabitants in Middle-Earth, in Tolkien’s mythology.

Filled with long, emotional sounding songs with strange, unnerving samples, like on opener ‘Home’, the band evokes an instant reaction. Blistering speed and hyperfast guitar riffs, that create a feeling of static standstill are exchanged with languid passages of mild, reverberating playfulness. Roaring vocals and eerie screams are woven into the complete tapestry, which is much akin to a warm sonic blanket that smoothly enters your ears.

No raw bludgeoning assaults and piercing screams, this is a production that is ment to please. There’s a deep melancholy or despair to the songs. ‘Devour’ for example is a song that touches something, stirs long lost feelings and memories, thanks to that right tone and timbre of the music.

Now and then the music feels very postrocky, innocent and blissful. The continuous cycle of building up and then exploding into frenziend bursts of guitarplay and blast beats is also akin to the genre. It makes for a rather pleasant listen to this pleasant and strirring record.

Underground Sounds: Possessor – Dead By Dawn

Label: Graven Earth Records/Anvileater Records
Band: Possessor
Origin: United Kingdom

London always has some great bands brewing something unique and fun. I stumbled across the new Possessor album, number two from the three piece and I tell you, this is awesome! The album is right now only available through bandcamp and well worth your moneys.
Oh, check out the interview here too.

Call it doom, stoner, sludge or as I’ve read somewhere ‘thrash boogie’ and you get the message. It’s fun, dirty and has that jacked up feel of energy, speed and kick-ass riffing. The band seems to be mostly about the fun and just having good times, while lacing their music with some horror themes and grimy distortion.

Opener ‘Afterburner’ has the screaming guitars and the bad-ass bass lines to make you want to start moving (or put that pedal down while driving in your car). It overall has the groove and swagger of a Kyuss but more grungy. The guys like to spice things up with some horror movie samples, like on ‘Scorpion Swamp’, which has these characteristic high paced drums that keep you sharp.

The sound of these guys is heavy and full of groove, with vocals seemingly far away under a sonic blanket. They know how to create that carpet of woolly distortion, but sharp and catchy riffing is also in the book for Possessor. They remind you a little of Electric Wizard playing in the desert with John Garcia on vocals, but there’s something more to it here thanks to that southern swagger. It still feels remarkably British.

For some reason this band makes me think of Motörhead, because of that obvious lack of care for sticking to one genre and just bringing you something that is rock’n’roll as fuck, but just a lot more heavy. Check for example the punked out ‘Terror Tripping’ or the wild ride that is ‘The Curse of the Hearse’, there’s no way to put this band in one corner apart from that. The raw, unpolished sound is fun and catchy, that’s why I make that comparison. This might be one of the coolest things I’ve heard in months.