Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: Tarnkappe – Winterwaker

Label: Hammerheart Records
Band: Tarnkappe
Origin: Netherlands

Black metal as a genre has been wildly progressive in the last few years and though some say it burned out, the embers are being fanned into new flames again. Nonetheless, there are those bands who bring you back to the essence of the genre. Tarnkappe is one of those and they do it very, very well on this second full length by the northerners.

With members in their ranks from bands like Gheestenland, Krocht, Asregen and Kjeld, you sure have some quality. The word Tarnkappe comes from a German word for a magic cloak. Pretty cool huh? Also pretty cool is the black and white album cover, the menacing Teutonic font and overall classic black metal feel. It’s a bit like back to the Darkthrone days of yore, when black metal was simple and evil.

That grim and frosty sound is definitely present in the ever continuing blast beats and static riffing. Tarnkappe rarely aims to show of their musical prowess, but works industrious on a continuous tapestry of thick woven riffs and beats into e freezing blanket of sound. On ‘ Aan De Aarde Gebonden’ we even get some of that black metal swing, with those evil sounding riffs and lingering passages giving room for the vocals. It’s really the feeling of the nineties that the band evokes on this amazing record. A continuous, grim sounding rain of sound with some very well placed atmospheric parts. I suppose a bit like the second wave of bands from the Norwegian scene like Gorgoroth. A sound much more measured and condensed.

The record seems to be misunderstood at times by reviewers, seeing the cohesive, tight record as a bit too controlled and organized. I think that’s exactly where it draws its strength from. With nature as an overlying theme, that natural order and harmony is translated into the music giving it a controlled and managed sound. It’s a different sort of order, but much more beautiful. This is what makes them stand out so much. There’s a majesty without glamour or shine to the sound. which is the way nature is considered beautiful. ‘Kale vlakten, desolatie’ is perhaps the most exemplifying song of that, with slow, thick riffs. A bit of an Enslaved-like grandeur in the heavy, sludgy sound even. This is black metal the way you love it and want it.

 

Attaining the absolute: Dillinger Escape Plan Live

I think that yesterday, watching Dillinger Escape Plan, something happened. This is one of the last shows ever of the experimental hardcore… progcore, I don’t know what to call it… ever will play in the Netherlands. This will be in 013 in Tilburg. It was amazing and somewhere in between I feel like Dillinger Escape Plan gives the concert goer a glimpse of the absolute. I’m telling you.

So maybe that’s the fever that was running through my body, which almost made me sell my tickets. I felt that it would not do to stay at home, while this band has sustained so many injuries. A little fever, they must shrug that off like a little bruise. Anyways. Musically this band is supreme, I’ve seen them play a bunch of times, but the first time was 11 or 12 years ago and I think that was a moment when my way of perceiving music changed forever.

It was a gig in the old Effenaar in Eindhoven, when it was still that cool old factory hall with the shitty toilets and crappy… well, it was just a rundown place, which gave it such a cool vibe. Dillinger completely blew me away that night and that is exactly what happened again yesterday.  If there is a band compatible to the level of attention and ferocity of Dillinger, it must be Meshuggah. Apart from that they have no peer.

Through the years the band moved to a more  artistic, more accesible and even wildly jazzy sound. On ‘Black Bubblegum’ and ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ you hear that softer sound. The feeling of being hunted is even on more tempered songs a constant present, like on ‘Happiness is a smile’ (which they played for the first time this night). These are all worthy endeavours, good songs that show the musicianship of these gents has vastly expanded over the years. I mean, the track ‘Farewell, Monla Lisa’ is a completely crushing, incinerating track with dirge-like passages lamenting the meaninglessness of our existence in one of the most powerful ways ever. Just wow!

Dillinger shines truly, when they play those classics. The all-destroying, aural assaults from the early days, like ‘Panasonic Youth’. Songs like this are destructive in essense, it’s the musical equivalent of scorched earth tactics. What is left after being completely battered and bruised by these frantic notes? Not without reason the set closes with ‘Sunshine The Werewolf’ from Miss Machine and ‘43% Burnt’  from Calculating Infinity. This is exactly because these songs are some of the purest expressions of rabid fury ever. The most violent music I’ve ever heard, but also delivered in a way that leaves no room for anything. An expression that is absolute, unmistakable and overwhelming.

Again, might have been the fever, but for me hearing Dillinger Escape Plan play again was cathartic. Destroying everything, playing on  a stage completely bare of any decoration. This is one of the most pure live experiences you can get.  Shame they’re throwing in the towel, but I won’t forget this night.

Underground Sounds: Wędrujący Wiatr – O turniach, jeziorach i nocnych szlakach

Label: Werewolf Promotions
Band: Wędrujący Wiatr
Origin: Poland

With a name that means as much as ‘Wandering wind’, you can have a good idea what direction Wędrujący Wiatr is going to be taking the sound in. The album ‘O turniach, jeziorach i nocnych szlakach’. The group hails from Rabka-Zdrój/Olsztyn and has delivered a spectacular album.

Describing themselves as atmospheric black metal, the inspiration for their songs is drawn from Polish folklore, legends and myth. Though that in itself is something that completely fascinates me, I’m not going to be able to figure it all out as easily, so let’s focus on how much the music already tells us.

The intro is a series of ambient sounds, the weary cracking of trees, a dog barking and owls hooting. A gentle folky melody emerges, while the wind gently blows. It helps to know that in the band comes from Warmia, a region in the north-east of Poland, what was former Prussian ground (and I’m not referrin to the Germanic state, but the Baltic-Prussians). When the black metal kicks in, there’s a weary synth line and a short break of melancholic chanting, which I’ve heard from Baltic bands too. It is after all a region that shares history and culture in many ways, but regardless. I’m speculating.

There’s something of the sea and windy forests to the way the sound works for this band. It’s like there’s a continuous windy gale through the music. It almost overtakes the music itself, which is intense, sometimes blistering. The demanding vocals are shouting, roaring even against the sonic storm around it. The band knows exactly when to put a break in, which then ends with a primitve sounding drum. Passages with wavery, static riffing help the listener dream away with the band. The record also has a folky intermission, which again sets a great mood. Musicallly the band is drowning the listener in the emotions and moods it tries to convey. This they do very succesfully on an album that sets them apart from the rest.

This whole record is an eerie, special experience. You listen to something that eases you into a dreamy past of a land that has its very own identity and colour. Wędrujący Wiatr manage to connect synths, atmosphere and an organic brutality to create an intrinsic, mysterious experience. An album to fall in love with.

Underground Sounds: Pensive Ceremony – Moonlit Wanderings

Label: Little Somebody Records
Band: Pensive Ceremony
Origin: USA

Pensive Ceremony is the solo project of Pythagumus. This gentleman seems to be the centre of a local scene with his own recording den, named The Hidden Thicket. He’s been involved in various own projects and this is one of them. The locale I mention is Washington state, in the town of Tacoma.

Pensive Ceremony is an acoustic drone project, rooted in the dark of nature. Dark pictures of animal bones decorate the facebook page and the artwork is also simple, but symbolic. It’s not a foreboding darkness though, it’s one of piece and silence (apart from the droning that is) where one can find a special sense of calm.

The opening tones of the album remind me so much of the legendary BBC series Robin Hood, where Clanned made the soundtrack of. The drone always appeared with Herne The Hunter to illustrate the radiant force of nature. This is exactly the initial response I feel to the music of Pensive Ceremony. It’s also that sound, that fills my ears and attention when I listen to opener ‘Dawn’. The track has a few little breaks with chiming bells and calm guitar play, both very peaceful and calming. It’s the sound of closing your eyes, while sitting on a tree trunk in the forest.

‘Hollowed’ is another endless drone, passing you by like its ambient sounds of the wind and a constant humming in the fields. It’s not the actual sounds, but the way I feel when I perceive the sounds of the music. It is highly evocative of images. It’s an embrace of the nature that surrounds us, it brings us closer because it allow sus to open all perceptivity to that which is offered. It’s really minimalist and whatever is happening receives maximum focus of the listener.

Why not put this on your iPod or other mobile audio device. Go to a park, sit down and let nature embrace you.

Underground Sounds: Ēnu Kaleidoskops – Tie, kas šķietami zuduši

Label: Self Released
Band: Ēnu Kaleidoskops
Origin: Latvia

Sometimes you need to find the sound that is lcoser to nature, by venturing into nature and trying to get in touch with it. This is what Mārtiņš Links did, while studying in Lithuania. It is the origin story for the band Ēnu Kaleidoskops from Latvia. A group that creates neo-folk with a particular calm and natural feeling to it.

This is as far as I can gather the third full length album of the band. The engineering work was done by Kaspars Barbals, who is a familiar name due to his work in Skyforger in the past. The group is a loose collaboration of artists, joining forces where needed to create beautiful music. On ‘Tie, kas šķietami zuduši’, the third effort under this name, they succeed for sure.

The music is typical for the Baltic tradition. A bit heavy handed, a bit dark sounding, but also very cozy and natural. A lot of chanting and a wide array of instruments to create all the different little sounds in the clean recorded songs. The vocals are mostly in harmony with backing vocals and instruments, like very clearly audible on ‘Asā zāle’. Meandering, wavery instrumentals put no pressure on the listener.

The playful folky medleys, like ‘Elpa’ with a Jethro Tull-y flute  are very pleasant to the ear. Catchy, but also a little dark and unpredictable. On ‘Bula Laiks’ we even hear the intense rhythm section stepping back for just an idyllic bit of flute a few times, which sounds so heavenly peaceful and calm. The combination with the vibrant energy of the percussion is a thrill for the ear.  I think that ‘Rūķu armija’ with its jolly intro is even a little bit of a hit potential song.

The core of the music is typical for Baltic volk. The reciting tone of the vocals, the repetitive patterns of the music and all are very much reminiscent of an act like Romuwe Rikoito and I guess a dozen groups, since this style of folk is simply quite popular. Not that it’s a casual thing that the people enjoy, it seems that there’s quite some younger people inspired to re-invoke the heritage in this type of neofolk music. The repetitive element is a common feature, but the flute play and expansive instruments are not necessarily so. It does function in such a way to create a feeling of otherworldliness, even trance by the repetition. The listener sinks away into a much emptier, younger world.

The mystical sound of this group definitely works for me.

Underground Sounds: Afsprengi Satans – Seiðgall

Label: self released
Band: Afsprengi Satans
Origin: Iceland

Itś a bit muddy where this group just emerged from, with their peculiar cover and lack of info. There has been a band in Iceland with the name Afsprengi Satans, which is related to the groups Myrk and Momentum. Oh, and they’re from Reykjavik, but that is quite frankly all I can tell you about them.

The record is rather short, only five songs, of which four don’t reach the three minute mark, but number five lasts 14 minutes. The songs have the titles of the four compass points, where the final track is titled Experiment.

THe music you get is the sound of wind, blowing hauntingly, laced with soem further effects to create a blaring form of ambient music. In that torrent of sound on ‘Norður’, a rapid rhythm is discernible, but it is unclear what casues it. It may be something fluttering in the gale of wind, or tribal drumming. The tempo of that decreases a lot on the next track, which seems to have some horns  sounding through the unrelenting winds, howling and lamenting.

With only slight variations, the record just continuous its path. Whistling, blowing and biting, the wind goes on. Now and then it sounds as sif there’s cut up sounds, messed into the music. Hacked up, mutated and strange to even create more of a fearful environment. The final track is another long ambient piece, which randomly seems to change direction. A rather intriguing piece of music if I may say.

So yeah, this is a weird release, but also fun and interesting. Give it a spin, you might enjoy its haunting atmosphere.

Underground Sounds: Battle Dagorath – I – Dark Dragons of the Cosmos

Label: Avantgarde Music
Band: Battle Dagorath
Origin: USA/Germany

With a band name, referring to Dagor Dagorath, the mythical end-battle in Tolkien lore (used for the final battle of the early ages, read The Silmarillion, you hobbit). With a title, that brings to mind the great Bal-Sagoth, this is a classic endeavour by Battle Dagorath in the field of epic black metal, titled ‘I – Dark Dragons of the Cosmos’.

I think you can safely say that this comparison isn’t completely ridiculous. The band is a studio project of Vinterriket (Christoph Ziegler, Germany) and Black Sorcerer Battle (USA). The duo worked together on Hellschwadron as well. There used to be a third partner, but now only two members are listed for this release. It’s part one of a story the band wishes to

The sound of the band is steeped in the blistering cold of bands like Emperor, with the sense of majesty of Wolves in the Throne Room. It’s not easy to create long epic songs that remain interesting to the listener and Battle Dagorath does pull that off. A bit of story telling also isn’t missing, in between the cannonades of cold riffs that pour down on you. For example, ‘Phantom Horizons Beyond’ has an outro of cold, metallic clanging and the sound of steps. This may seem trivial, but ambiance is everything with sounds like this.

The continuous, beating sound is enriched by calm, melodic guitar lines that weave through the haze. The combination of that melodic element and the rawness of the overal sound is what gives the album its interesting contrast. The vocals are furious barks, filled with venom. It’s intriguing to hear them being followd up with clean, warm guitar parts, like on ‘Return to Gates of Dawn’. The comforting tones shift back to the vitriolic howls over tremolo riffs and blast beats. There’s something very classic to the sound of Battle Dagorath, but it feels fresh and welcome to hear a band like this. Hectic, wild and like a raging battle, they do justice to their name.

Underground Sounds: Nimetu – Abri

Label: self released
Band: Nimetu
Origin: Slovenia

I find that my quest in the realm of music has shifted to something specific. I want to hear things that evoke the imagery of the verdant realm (as Botanist calls it), music to help me find my green cathedral (taken that from Winterfylleth). That allows me to find some real gems and Nimetu from Slovenia is nothing less than that. The album ‘Abri’ is breath taking.

An Abri is a rock shelter, which I can relate to the sound of the record, which is rather cavernous, using echo’s to fill up the sound. The artist describes the ‘Abri’ as a special place, a place where people took shelter for centuries. It’s the start of the world. With your back against the wall, protected from the elements, the world is stretching out in front of you. Every move you’ll make will be into the out there.

The music is very minimal, but still eclectic and adventurous. Using only a flute, it evokes the vision one may have from an abri, seeing the landscape stretch out in front of you. With just an arsenal of fluits and a kalima, there’s music that genuinely creates peace and quiet in the mind of the listener. Andrej Hrvatin did everything by himself on this record, which explains the complete serenity over the whole record and sound. It feels so natural and direct.

You can feel yourself sitting high in that crevasse of a mountain, overlooking the tree tops and birds soaring by. The wind gently whistles past you while the sun crests the summit of the mountains and golden rays fall down. It’s all this and more, the natural sound of solitude. This music truly is hauntingly beautiful in its telling about freedom in a direct and unsurpassed way: by expressing it to the fullest.

Underground Sounds: Walden – Mantra

Label: self released
Band: Walden
Origin: Germany

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Danijel Zambo must have had clear reasons for naming this project after the famed book by the American author Thoreau. A hankering for solitude in nature is definitely something you can feel throughout the music of this record. The third release actually, by this musician.

The goal of this project is to create music that evokes ideas and emotions through referencing nature. As inspirations are also cited bands like Ulver and Empyrium, which is tangible in the dark folk sound that Walden produces. So time to immerse ourselves in the solitude of this Augsburg artist.

Walden is minimal guitar play, more expressive and impulsive than really creating songs, over mild ambient tones and the reverberation of the lower tones. It’s the sound of a lonely musician, enjoying the instrument without the need for song structures and complexities. Merely plucking the strings in  an absent state and pondering life, enjoying the feeling of creating casual sounds.

Ofcourse not all of the record is like that, but most of it does hold to that feeling. On ‘Rad Der Zeit’ we can even enjoy an oriental bit of play, with precious precision. But most of the album is like the album cover, a smooth sunset that takes its own time in emerging. Letting go of time and other urgencies, just being and becoming regardless of human influences. It’s finding harmony within itself, that makes this EP so powerful and touching to listen to. A search for tranquility through music, by letting it flow freely.

Normally I just share the recent album, but I’d like you to check the covers that Walden did too here, so here goes. Particularly ‘The Rains of Castamere’.

Underground Sounds: A Band Of Orcs – March of the Gore-Stained Axe Tribe

Label: IME
Band: A Band Of Orcs
Origin: United States (or Hirntodia)

So the group of human children that played D&D and accidentally brought the A Band Of Orcs into our world are now dead… except for their DM’s older brother , who tought them how to riff like Slayer. This eased the bloodlust of the tribe, who now embrace metal as a means to conquer and dominate.

Blending nerdism and metal is the best, really. Originally this band was a five piece, but the war machine has been thinned down to only three mighty Orcish warriors from their own realm. The whole concept has been worked out pretty brilliantly. Merch consists of a card game, dice and miniatures and the group performs in costume. Though this release is not that new, it was so awesome that I had to cover it.

The sound of A Band of Orcs has developed from a blend of Slayer and Norther with the epic balls of 3 Inches of Blood to a more gritty and dirty assault on this record. More directed to death metal, less controlled and with vocals that have  crusty feel to it. Maybe something like Kvelertak meets Svartsot in the Amebix basemetn style equipment? It has all the groove and brutality to go there, but also the epic riffing.

Sticking to their gimmick, the opening track is a weird war chant with frantic drumming, which launches into the title track. Hoars, shouted vocals rally the troops and indicate agressive action. Hooky, sharp riffs and tumultuous rhythms guide the song to its ultimate conclusion. ‘Heaving Death’ follows after a mad scream and a distorted, hazy assault of drums and guitars. It’s a thundering track and the pinnacle of this ferocious EP. Double vocals, chaotic and definitely wild, this track really harnesses the agression of the Orcish horde in a punked up aural attack. Oog, Cretos, and Gronk! are a deadly machine, so check them out!