Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: Flešš – Frenzied Bloodlust Underneath A Black Moon

Label: Les Fleurs du Mal Productions
Band: Flešš
Origin: Canada

Vampiric metal is a very specific undercurrent within the black metal movement.The unholy blood drinking entities inspire groups like Flešš (pronounced flesh) to develop unique sounds that express the harrowing nature of these monsters. This leads to listening material that often is out of the ordinary. Truly unnatural.

Originating from Canada, this is is the second release from the mysterious raw black metal entity, that you’d best listen to at night. Nothing else I can tell you about the origin of the record, which I find rather unpleasantly mysterious.

The raspy nature of the opening riffs on ‘Frenzied Bloodlust Underneath A Black Moon’, the opening track of two songs on this album, are like the scraping of tombstones in the dark. Eerie keys and sound effects add to the uncanny feeling you’ll get listening to the opening of this tune. The guitars are gritty and distorted, concealing whatever it is that skulks in the shadows. And then it pounces, with thin battering riffs and unearthly wails, gasps and gibbering. It’s a frightening ordeal to listen to.

‘Vampyric Drain Through Hypnotic Force’ is a whole different story. A gloomy, hypnotic tune with barely any outbursts, but repetitive and slowly, but surely, reeling you into the maw of doom. Creepy and overwhelming, that really brings the whole thing back home to towering peaks and ancient castles in Transylvania… or maybe something less tangible, even more, slithering and always around us, hiding just in the dark.

Dungeon Sounds: Oghoryt – My journey through the sleeping forest of the past/In the cave plunged through the magical power

Label: Self-released
Artist: Oghoryt
Origin: Poland

Judging by the currency, the artist Oghoryt hails from Poland, but apart from that, no information is available. I’ve tried ye olde googles, but the mastermind must be busy in his laboratory, creating new sounds to bespell and bewitch the masses, like he does on these two releases. In autumn, the record ‘My journey through the sleeping forest of the past’ was unleashed, soon followed by ‘In the cave plunged through the magical power’. I’ll give both a spin.

My journey through the sleeping forest of the past

This release has a magical, hand-drawn cover of gold on black. It shows mountains and a thick pine tree forest, castle gates and a peculiar tower. Illuminated by the gold in the middle, we find the magical path. The music itself is condensed to a bare minimum of droning effects and very muted keys on ‘The wizard who stole the stars’. It’s so subtle, you might just pass it by as you stumble past like loud big-folk do.

‘A village of shady dwarfs hidden in a mountain cave’ puts up a bit more sound, mostly using the droning, metallic clang of the synths to put up a feeling of secrets and magic. Repetition is key for the tunes of Oghoryt, with ever rehashing of the same sequence in a sense. The sound is solemn, with a stately quality to it on the final track, titled ‘Witches’ Sabbath of purple froggy swamp’. It’s a journey for sure, but way to brief.

In the cave plunged through the magical power

Intense soundbites open up the second EP, titled ‘In the cave plunged through the magical power’. A crackling, lo-fi sounding drone is added to the music, which works much like an unnerving buzzing in the lower realms of the sound.Oghoryt sounds less gentle here, grander and more open on ‘I’. The buzzing is accompanied by even some slight bombasticism in the sound. In ‘II’ we ever so slightly move back to that intricate, minimal sound of the first EP, which made this act so alluring to me.
Oghoryt shows a lot of potential for the dungeon synth scene. Let’s hope for more soon!

Underground Sounds: VVilderness – Devouring The Sun

Label: Casus Belli Musica/Independent
Band: VVilderness
Origin: Hungary

It took me a while to really explore who VVilderness is, but I felt little surprise to see that Ferenc Kapiller, operating under the name vvilder, was operating this band. The previous project of Kapiller was Release The Longships. As much as a continuation, this is also a break with the previous sound, to create something new within the same context of northern mythology.

‘Devour The Sun’ imagines Ragnarok from an ecological perspective, as a cleansing of the world. A rebirth aftwerwards without the human infestation that has been slowly killing it. The sound is firmly lodged into the blackgaze niche, thanks to the shoegaze that is embedded in the soothing sound on ‘Devouring The Sun’.

The peculiarity of VVilderness is that the sound really is, as they describe it, akin to Alcest. Perhaps with a bit more brawn and postrock sensibilities, which come forward in the gradual build-up and conscientious craftsmanship that goes into creating an album so solidly connected. ‘Starless Dark’ is a slow ascent to the heights where the band operates, with sonorous tones and emotion-evoking strings. When it launches into the track ‘Sól’, this is where we get the black metal influences. Though I get the comparison with Harakiri For The Sky, I imagine a bit of Lantlôs too in there.

Though the music holds an intensity, that overwhelms the casual listener, the darkness eludes you. VVilderness offers tranquility, soothing beauty, like hazy rain on a sunny day. The sound is optimistic, warm and beautiful. On ‘Devour The Sun’, the guttural vocals disturb that peace and a slightly melancholic tone hits home. Well, it’s the end of the world so that makes sense. The undeniable majesty and force of the event takes over and dilutes this human emotion though, which fits the theme. From there we move to more acoustic music. ‘Life’ introduces the rebirth, with the sweeping ‘New Earth’, that simply offers a pure, meandering sound with high notes that sound like little bells heralding a new, beautiful age.

We leave with the glowing sounds of ‘Afterglow’. A bright ray of hope perhaps, though not for humanity.

Underground Sounds: Guilhem Desq – Visions

Label: Self Released
Artist: Guilhem Desq
Origin: France

The Hendrix of Hurdy-Gurdy

I never thought I’d read the phrase ‘The Hendrix of the hurdy-gurdy’ anywhere, but there it is. It applies to none other than Guilhem Desq. Breathing life into an instrument that makes people tilt their head in appreciation for its rustic image is no small feat, but the Frenchman has succeeded in it.

He completes that with the fantastic album ‘Visions’, where you truly enjoy this instrument in a profoundly new and imaginative way yet always harking back to its roots. From traditional folk tunes to oriental swooping songs, the instrument evokes many vistas of a world we left behind. A set of visions of you like, of this majestic past, we’ve come to cherish so dearly in this time and age.

Opening tune ‘Le château magique’ is airy, almost a trip-hop-like with its’ pleasant beat and playful tunes, which just flutter about. Nothing feels forced about this song, except perhaps that gently prodding rhythm. It’s the title track that brings up the eastern promises instantly, with tense drumming and intensity in the push of the instrument, which whines and cries as it edges you on. Luckily it relents and ‘La libellule et le baobab’ offers an oasis of rest. It’s calm and mellow tones are here and there disrupted by the shrill sounds of the hurdy-gurdy. Mostly the two sounds of sound join together effortlessly to create harmonious, pleasant music. As if you’re sitting in the sun, eyes shut.

We travel the desert on ‘Sand Sailor’, with more ethnic elements and the clear rhythm of a camel ride. We go on journeys through lush green forests, with the organic sounds of the hurdy-gurdy. Sometimes joyfully singing, otherwise making frantic brief bursts of sound that shock you out of our routine. Guilhem Desq plays warm and full of light at times, like the pleasant memory evoking ‘Jusqu’en haut de la montagne’. Here you imagine a far view, that bird’s perspective moment with the soaring tones swelling and rising over a base of pulsating droning nature. We close the album with the melancholic, yet eclectic, ‘Le château abandonné’. A beautiful tone, that brings together the best of the record.

Dungeon crawling: Tunes to tunnel by

If you love the good old dungeon crawler than you know the value of atmosphere and vibe. To achieve this, a good bit of music in the background or on a firm volume. For that, there’s some good music out there and some of it is very, very specifically made for just that task.

The music from Alex Crispin, Basic DungeonWaelmist and Deorc Weg are more than fitting for your next adventure of dungeon crawling.

Alex Crispin – Escape the Dark Castle (Original Soundtrack)

label: Cobblers Records
origin: United Kingdom

Themeborn is a gaming company from Nottingham (yes, Robin Hood’s hood), who created the game ‘Escape the Dark Castle’. An intriguing dungeon crawler, suitable for non-gamers (I really would love to get myself a copy). For this, Alex Crispin made a soundtrack, which has long been sold out. The game is still available and expansions are coming on!

The music Crispin made does justice to the vibe of the game. Eerie drones and ambient sounds, make you instantly aware of the dark, damp dungeon around you. The threat is looming and intensely oppressing as the first song starts. Dark, long tracks, like ‘Endless Dark’ and ‘Cult Procession’ imbibe your experience with the inescapability of the situation you find yourself in. Trapped in the prison with only one thing left to do: to escape. With this soundtrack, you absolutely know how thrilling a game can be if the vibe and story are right.  This soundtrack is a must for your gaming session, where tracks like ‘This is your end’ truly enhance the game experience.

Basic Dungeon – Tunnels & Treasures

label: Heimat Der Katastrophe
origin: unknown

If you are, like me, one of those people who instantly feels great when you hear the shady, dusky tones of 8-bit role-playing games? In that case, Basic Dungeon is exactly what you need. Gloomy, minimalist sounds that completely capture the adventurous vibe of those early crawling games. They were incredibly hard to play, sometimes for me as a child, impossible to grasp, but filled with a grand atmosphere that still gives me the shivers.
This record starts with the foreboding ‘Barbaric Clash’, taking you towards the arches in a dungeon, with pure darkness beyond them. It’s that darkness that is so appealing. No shifting in the distance, odd reflections of light. Your old games were light and dark, with little in between. There’s a simplicity to that, like to the sound of Basic Dungeon, that strips away all unnecessary things. ‘A golden coin is hidden under a dead giant rat ‘ may sound odd out of context, but in game, this stuff just happens. Much like ‘Pixeled Ghost’, which immediately summons that familiar image. More importantly, Basic Dungeon truly traps that old sound, with the simmering bass line and repetitive key patterns, creating a record that offers nothing but joy.

Deorc Weg – The Forlorn Cold of Ages

label: self-released
origin: United Kingdom

The entity Deorc Weg has mastered the sheer minimalism that goes into creating dungeon synth. It’s not the presence of sound that creates the tension, which makes the music so unique. It’s the absence and suggestion of what should fill the gaps that mesmerize its listeners. Like reading fantasy, you need to be free to imagine and fill in the blanks with your own thoughts and expectations and this is what you are fully able to with ‘The Forlorn Cold of Ages’.
The music flows constantly and the quality of the drums is for example astonishing. As it hits, sparingly, you can imagine the dust of ages flying up only to settle a moment later. The dusty, dry synths are imbued with life. Life unseen, but vibrant and thrumming in droning tones. There’s a way the tunes just flow fully and thus the minimal force is in the music. Everything shifts like waves, rising and falling as the sound ebbs away. Deorc Weg manages to sound both regal as much as foreboding in this manner. Truly the fitting sound for the places of legends.

Wælmist – The Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp

Label: Self-released
Origin: United Kingdom

Simon Lucas is the drummer in Winterfylleth and as far as I know a great walker of the verdant realm and the abandoned remains of the past. This record is inspired by the crypts underneath Paris, where millions rest their weary bones in a true necropolis. Although, that would suggest something different in how this ossuary came to be. Waelmist creates tunes befitting of this darker realm.

Dark and gloomy sounds barely form a tangible fog of sound. It’s the rare sounding of a gong that breaks into the solemn atmosphere of a place where the living have no say nor sway. Wælmist wallos in the mysterious, with slowly moving soundscapes and gentle reverb. It’s as if you can’t really discern the origin of the sound, as if the sound may not be really there. This is the atmosphere befitting the crypts, a world that belongs to the dead.

Underground Sounds: Living Altar – Scythes towards Psyche

Label: Inferna Profundus Records/Rat King Records
Band: Living Altar
Origin: Lithuania

Blood upon the Altar

I first read about Living Altar in Forgotten Path Zine.  As it stands, the band has been around for a bit, but it took some time get a release out. After a demo and split release, this is their first album and it’s some pretty strong stuff from the Lithuanian group.

The trio has had some experience apart form Living Altar. They played in Regressive and Fuck Off And Die!, bringing a bit of speed and thrash to the mix that makes up Living Altar.  Their inspiration is drawn from a psycho-spiritual world, making the band an interesting group.

‘Blinding Shower of Light’ is indeed much like a shower, pouring down on you visceral and vicious black metal. The rigid riffing finds contrast in the bestial drumming and battle-hungry vocals. A clear thrash influence can be detected early on in the songs when the guitars wail and scream. A different vibe is available on ‘Invert the Hearts’, which jangles and wallows in twangy guitars, that emit a more punky feel (like early Norwegian bands) with perhaps a bit of the current Polish bands atmosphere-wise. A strong moment on the record.

The recording quality is exceptionally good, but clearly muddled and dulled in production to create a certain lo-fi sound. Living Altar needs to sound primitive, it fits the brutal pummeling on the drums and frantic use of cymbals on tracks like ‘Dawn of Shadows’. They’re not renewers of the scene, but they are feisty worshippers of filthy, fierce black metal. That they deliver with conviction and fury.

This band brings a raw, feisty sound. They do it well and with power, so check them out.

Underground Sounds: Paleowolf – Megafauna Rituals

Label: Self-released
Band: Paleowolf
Origin: Serbia

Back to the time before time

Back into the primordial realm, to the days before history, with the latest release by Paleowolf. This record is titled ‘Megafauna Rituals’ and explores the shamanistic hunter-gatherers of the 150.000-9.000 BC era, when early man was faced with giant wildlife known as Megafauna. Check out their previous records too.

When we speak of giants walking the earth, this is a time we can certainly speak of. Nature was still dominating human life, overwhelming our ancestors, who carved their image into walls and objects in reverence to their primitive, raw power. This album, the fourth by Paleowolf, explores that in sound.

‘Aurochs’ opens with a firm, reverberating drown, paying homage to the ancestors of our cattle. A mighty race of cow-like creatures, whose grunts and bellows merge with the droning and drums, that sound with ominous force. The Auroch was actually part of our landscape up till the 16th century. The ‘Sabertooth’ is a very different beast. Its ferocity is captured in fiery tribal chants and drums, but also in the low growling and eerie drones. There’s a reverie in the song for this mighty beast. A proud statement, with matching sounds.

A similar expression follows with songs like ‘Totem’ and ‘Cavebear’, tribal utterings and beastly suggestive passages, that keep the listener in that strange trance. It takes you to something untapped, something reptilian in your brain of an instinctive nature. Only with the majesty of ‘Megaloceros’, we are awoken for a bit with its sonorous bellowing. All an imitation of course, since this mighty creature no longer walks the earth. The sound swells to a mighty roar, with powerful, firmament-shaking drums. You can feel the fires dancing over the leafy roof above the tribesmen as they dance to their primitive deities on ‘Direwolf’. Attempting in their rituals, to quell the natural forces that proved to be a danger during day and night. That’s when the howling resounds and eerie drones take over.

We end with the mighty ‘Mammoth’, after which the primordial realm gently fades away again.

Underground Sounds: Claret Ash – The Great Adjudication: Fragment One

Label: Casus Belli Musica/Beverina
Band: Claret Ash
Origin: Australia

Claret Ash is a black metal band from Australia and like most of those, they’re a bit different. The band has not been around that long yet, but have released two full-length records in the past. It seems that they’ve been experimenting a bit with their sound lately with a single and the EP, titled ‘ The Great Adjudication: Fragment One’.

The band appears to have a connection with Immorium, having had two members of this black metal band in their ranks. The Canberra act makes some interesting music and doesn’t follow the more well-trodden paths in their music, which is melodic and atmospheric. Time to dig in.
Ever opened the door and then got a full burst of sand or snow blown into your face? Well, that’s what pressing play for ‘Essence of Fire’ does for you. The song blasts off with those tremendous tremolo guitar riffs and roaring vocals. Much more surprising is the clean singing on ‘Devolution’, which takes on a melancholic, sensitive sound. The group is compared to Der Weg Einer Freiheit, and during the more energetic, angry parts I get it. I really do, but there’s something more to Claret Ash than that, which is where they become particularly interesting.
A track like ‘Plague Bearer’ then has a remarkable quality of ominous melody and atmosphere. A sinister threat, looming over you with big, hard-hitting drum salvo’s and particularly dire guitar parts unfolds. There’s little present in the way of cold, northern black metal, but a very particular sound. You feel their sound come up to the bottom of your stomach, resting there, slightly giving of tremors to make you feel wildly uncomfortable. Perhaps there’s something of an oldschool death metal vibe in their sound too, something less condensed into a particular genre. That’s definitely something you feel on ‘The Geir’, with clean singing and slow, doomy parts.
An album to dig into and explore continuously. Not that there’s a hidden layer to it, but it simply keeps being interesting.

Underground Sounds: Hellevaert – Hellevaert

Label: self-released
Band: Hellevaert
Origin: Netherlands

Drag you down to hell

A while ago I listed interesting black metal bands from the Netherlands, in what I planned to make an ongoing series. I surely missed out on one band there, because Hellevaert sounds like one hell of a sonic experience. Their album is self-titled, the name being the antonym of the Dutch word for Ascension day (which would be Hemelvaart, the journey to the heavens). I’ll let you make the translation by yourself.

Inspired by the likes of Dante Alighieri and Milton for their album, they draw up a tortured realm of dystopian proportions. The music has been enriched with samples and has not got the classic black metal feel. This is more crafted, less organic and more the creation of one brain, happening to be frontman Serpent. I know little more concerning the band, which helps to keep up the mystery.
The music is explosive, with intents blast beats and riffing that plows over you without any symptom of mercy. Apart from strange spoken samples, there’s little respite for the listener. The extreme and violent sounds rain down upon them, coalescing into massive slabs of black metal. Notable are the warped operatic vocals on ‘Hell And Apocalypse Await Eden’, which soars over the lo-fi sounding music at the start of the track. Samples from the Paradise Lost opera by Krzysztof Penderecki fill the gaps in the music.
The haze sometimes has peculiar fingerpicking guitar work breaking through the fog, like a rare sunray it is instantly noticeable. Probably due to the constant hemorrhaging fury of the music, which creates a landscape so desolate and full of grief. This must be the inferno. At times, Hellevaert approaches an almost cinematic quality with the cut and paste elements. You hear it on tracks like ‘Great Beast Of Tormenting Trials’, where jittery electronic music, samples, and explosions make up a hellish, almost Hieronymus Bosch-like soundscape. The band sounds strongly like a studio creation, but that’s where its strength lies.
Hellevaert delivers one hell of a record, that might be a bit too much in one bite. Enjoy it nonetheless, as you journey into the abyss.

Underground Sounds: Ashtoreth – Offering I

Label: self-released
Artist: Ashtoreth
Origin: Belgium

Only in the forest, true tranquility can be truly found it seems. For Peter Verwimp, the man behind the mysterious entity called Ashtoreth, this is where much of the magic comes from. In an interview, he expressed that in particular the tension between the urban and the natural matters in his work. Listening to ‘Offering I’, we mainly hear the tranquility of the verdant realm.

Aside from Ashtoreth, Verwimp plays music with urban black metallers Emptiness, whose sound finds root in the city and its mesmerizing concrete jungle. The band embraces a dystopian view perhaps, but their expression is clear. He also makes music in Building Transmissions, Maya and once made hardcore in Stifled Cries. A versatile artist with fantastic work.

This offering is a track, forming around a long, persevering drone. The effects wrap around it, coiling in languid manners to create a sense of wholeness. Balance most aptly describes the sound. This dehumanized journey resounds with what thrum of life.  Not the city-dwelling, economy-driven type, but the bustling of nature. It might be a slight murmur in the background too, that enhances the experience. The record was after all recorded live in Tinques, France.

Ambient samples and chitterings emerge as the journey goes deeper into the forest, deeper into that other realm. Dreamy chants reach your ears, as a branch is pushed aside. As the shamanic singing swells, the song takes on a transcendental air, a spiritual reaching up towards the canopy of leaves.

With the music of Ashtoreth, you are free to drift away on the stream. Let your mind latch on and take that spiritual slide of 50 minutes through a soundscape of lush green and ancient overgrowth.