Category Archives: Review

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!

Underground Sounds: Night Gaunt – Jupiter’s Fall

Label: Temple of Mystery Records
Band: Night Gaunt
Origin: Italy

Who doesn’t like old fashioned doom metal? You know, doom the way it supposed to be. Well, if your answer is no, you should look no further. You wouldn’t understand how cool Night Gaunt is.

Night Gaunts are creatures from Lovecrafts unearthly tales, most particularly the Dream Cycle. There is little reference to the Lovecraftian tale though, but that’s alright. This release has two songs that are big and bold enough to stand on their own. It’s been released as an EP and is the first act of the band since their full length in 2014. Though this is not that much material, their whole aesthetic spoke to me enough to check it out.

The first track is the tragic, gloomy title track ‘Jupiter’s Fall’. It clocks just under six minutes and immediately hits you with the slowly progressing, big riffs. The minor tones are instant guarantee’s for a feeling of sadness and remorse, but the interesting gong sounds do wake you up from the nodding to the beat. The vocals by ‘Gc’ are smooth, even seductive to be fair. Sparsely using the vibrato in his voice, there’s an uncommon subtlety to the singers delivery, which is the right sort of magic for a haunting doom album. The sound has a bit of echo to it, making it sound more cavernous even.

‘Penance’ is the other side of the 7″ this is released as, with an urgent guitar line that hits you instantly. The song is more creeping, subtle like a snake that is wrapping itself around the listener. This song then does get a bit more muscular with the sturdy riffing, that never fails to have a sturdy, gothic demeanor to it. The pulsating rhythm does its part as well,  even giving a hint of an oriental twist in the delivery.

Night Gaunt delivers on their promise. Doom with a pitchblack flavor.

Underground Sounds: Downfall Of Gaia – Atrophy

Label: Metal Blade
Band: Downfall Of Gaia
Origin: Germany

The German Downfall Of Gaia is definitely a unique sound in the sludge/hardcore world. I like placing them in that genre-corner, because they remind me a lot of Converge, Altar Of Plagues and their ilk with the intense, bleak sound they produce. The band has concocted a very own mixture of styles nd it’s a highly effective one at that.

Thought he comparison of previous bands seems obvious, there’s definitely more to the band than that. Isis can be heard in the sludge elements, which are thick and spiced up with those wavery guitar parts. Then there’s a more rough around the edges crust element akin to Amebix and Discharge. All that leaves you as a band completely free to go in whatever direction you feel like. That is what the band does on ‘Atrophy’.

The howling vocals are really bringing that Converge comparison to life on opener ‘Brood’. Thunderous rhythms are combined with melodic guitar, completely disconnected from the ferocity going on with the vocals and rhythm section. The way the band manages to create music that is pleasant to listen to, while maintaining that raw edge is definitely part of why Downfall Of Gaia should be much bigger. The appeal of their sound is just very broad. The bestial bark of Dominik Goncalves dos Reis just works fine with the sweet riffs on ‘Woe’. There’s almost a bit of postrock there, with the warmth-evoking guitar work.

Building up tension is another postrock element the band has fully embraced. On ‘Ephemerol’ the tranquility of the guitar play and its sudden vibrant harmony with the rhythm section is part of that, of creating that tension so necessary for this music to really work. Always there’s a slight raw edge, in this case a distorted buzz around the edges of the guitar tones. Another majestic track unfolds, after which we get a short intermission that is as dreamy as music by the xx.

A highlight of the album is the soaring guitar work on the titlesong. The vocals appear from a cavernous underground, distant and muffled. As the album deals with themes of dead and life, you can feel the continuous contrast in the sound with opposing elements. Stretched guitar tones create some sort of blaring black metal static as melodious guitar play trickles into your ears. One feels close and warm, the other far away and cold.

Atrophy as a whole is a vitalist, contrasting and energetic record, where humble acoustics go hand in hand with black metal majesty. It’s agressive but never abrasive, furious but never losing control. If this was football, this would be total-metal by Downfall Of Gaia.