Category Archives: Review

Underground Sounds: møl – JORD

Label: Holy Roar Records
Band: møl 
Origin: Danmark

Blackgaze is an interesting phenomenon. Relinquishing the claim for black metal heritage, it’s rapidly become the outcast child, from a scene that refuses any forward movement. This is more and more reflected in the artwork and overall aesthetic of the bands involved. I have no idea how the gents from møl feel about that, but as I see their work they are in no way showing their desire to get their music lumped into that.

This is a shame in my perception, but regardless of my personal divulgences on what black metal is in 2018, let’s not bother these Danes with it. Their album ‘JORD’ is a masterpiece, whichever way you want to turn it. The band has been doing their own thing for a while, creating two EP’s and finally their debut album this year. With a distinct feel and aesthetic, they are one of the stand-out acts for this year, pushing this sound into new realms in their very own way.

Bands have often explored the cleaner and more grand realms that black metal can move towards. From the epic, symphonic stuff in the 90’s and industrial endeavors following what has been dubbed ‘The Matrix’-effect onwards. Creating densely atmospheric music is what møl does, with utmost polished sound and striking tremolo parts that pluck at the heartstrings on a track like ‘Bruma’ or the beautiful, tranquil tunes of ‘Lambda’. This track is an oasis after the onslaught of some previous tracks, with the all shattering vocals and melodic power of every song, which are extremely well constructed.
The production really does the trick here. The band clearly is not going for the good ‘ol necrosound, but maximizes their melodic and harmonious sound, giving it raw edges where it actually hurts with vocals and razor-sharp riffing. A particular example is the track ‘Ligament’, that opens with a flurry of cuts and piercing vocals, yet such tight sound. By the end, we get to the gentle parts of the title track, møl already completely captured you with their smooth, yet intense sounding tunes and beautiful soundscapes.

Underground Sounds: Unravel – Eras of Forfeit

Label: Life Lair Regret Records
Band; Unravel
Origin: Australia

Australian youngsters Unravel are ready to storm the world with their debut album ‘Eras of Forfeit’. The group set forth with a fresh sound in 2015 and has made a few releases since then. However, this is their first full record out on Life Lair Regret Records.

Blending a sound that contains death metal, grindcore and the vibrancy of hardcore, there’s a vitality to the sound of Unravel. Having played with bands like The Black Dahlia Murder to Parkway Drive, these guys clearly have a sound that resonate with whats going on today.

This record just grips me instantly, from the very first rumblings of ‘Arbitrator’. The pace and vibe of the record is much more that of a hardcore record, with its violent breaks and tormented screams. Yet, the ingredients are screeching death metal solo’s, guttural vocals that crack through the surface and an overall catchy groove. Not metalcore, it lacks the slickness to my ear at least. Relentless, the band barrels onward at that energetic, high pace, with ‘No Validation for Violation’. Sheer brutality and muscular riffing.

 By the time you hit ‘Mortal’s Thrist’, you are pretty much black and blue from the continuous beatings by Unravel, who never really let down. Every mellower passage only serves to warm up the pit for the next unbridled clash with perfect paced rhythms and guitars that shoot from ominous to an almost jagged, prodding sound that makes you want to smash and destroy. Lyrically the band mostly deals with the fucked up state of the world around us. Fitting, because that should fuel any furnace of anger. This is a record, you shouldn’t play in traffic.

Underground Sounds: Wolf Faced God – Stone Altars

Label: Dead Moon Records
Band: Wolf Faced God
Origin: USA

As we look back to our past, we delve further on to find meaning. The prehistoric times have started to fascinate us and various artists are exploring the sounds from that time. Wolf Faced God is one of those acts and with the album ‘Stone Altars’, the artist behind it reimagines the ancient past in a world full of wonder.

Hailing from the United States, Thorn Skarthborg is also the owner of the label Dead Moon Records, which releases various exciting acts in this dark ambient/ritual corner of the more explorative music. Boldly treading ancient realms and howling at the moon that still on a good night can fascinate us.

The trickling of water and eerie flutes resound in the distance as the tribal drumming starts. Instantly you are taken to a world, much quieter and smaller than ours. Peculiar synths reach through the hermetic, hallucinatory rhythm and take you to a bird’s eye position, from which you soar from opener ‘Children of the Sun’ to ‘Glacial Journey’. The wind rattles you as drones create the semblance of a song structure, but perhaps it is simply your mind trying to find structure in the wild sounds of nature?

Even more low and foreboding is the sound when we enter the ritual on ‘Paleolithic Rituals’. Humming, murmuring tones sometimes break through, evoking the sense of ritual chanting. A wonderful experience, not unlike the one on ‘Cult of the Mammoths’, which sounds playful and lively like the great forest. Immerse yourself in the splendor of a world that is simply much more dangerous and fleeting with this record, filled with magnificent ambient tunes. I absolutely love it.

Underground Sounds: Neter – Inferus

Label: Satanath Records, Cimmerian Shade Recordings, Murdher   Records, Black Plague Records 
Band: Neter
Origin: Spain

The titanic stone slabs on the cover may suggest a more doomy sound, but Neter plays straight-up death metal and has been doing so for a good 14 years. The band has had some line-up changes through the year but appears to be still going strong with this release of ‘Inferus’.

The production of music will never be called prolific for these guys. That’s fine of course, but with a mere two albums to their name, you’d be surprised to find that there’s not a lot of other projects going on. In no way does that say anything negative about the gents, who produce a solid slab of death metal with this release, reminiscent of Immolation and Nile.

After a gentle piano intro, we launch fully into it, with crushing riffs and melodies, that hint of a mysterious oriental theme on ‘Faceless’. The sound of Neter is threatening, dark and ominous, but also very clean polished and full of technicalities. The thudding drums never seem to stop and prod the songs forward with a steady surge of heavy bass behind them.

Perhaps the tunes by Neter sound a bit stiff after a while. The steady pummeling doesn’t really show much variation, apart from the melodic guitar parts that appear here and there. On a tune like ‘Galvanize’, they are slightly more present, but still swamped by the rhythm section and the barked, guttural vocals. During a song like ‘Endemic Warfare’, it even goes down to a fragmentary presence, as the drums keep hitting hard and pushing the song towards it’s end.

Underground Sounds: Hamferð – Támsins likam

Label: Metal Blade
Band: Hamferð
Origin: Faroe Islands

Doom from the Faroe Islands

Hamferð is one of those bands hailing from the Faroe Islands. Isolation begets inspiration it seems because the island nation under the Danish crown has spawned various bands in the metal genre that have made a splash. Tyr being the foremost of course, but Hamferð is definitely not an unknown entity, making songs in their own language for the masses. Members have also been active in Barren Earth and Heljareyga, connected to aforementioned Tyr.

‘Támsins likam’ is the second full length of the doom band, after their 2013 debut. Signed to Metal Blade, the group can hardly be called prolific, but definitely has something in their sound that only seems to be found on these islands in the north, something forlorn and melancholic. Not surprising for a band whose very name refers to the epiphany of dead or missing seamen, of which the tales on the island are rich.

‘Fylgistflog’ opens with the class and stature of a bygone age. Filled with a particular mournful mood, the song remains elegant in its opening. Perhaps the sound is reminiscent of the romantic qualities known from My Dying Bride and ilk. Vocalist Jón Aldará has the quality of a story-teller in his voice, which he uses aptly. The story is that of a family in mourning over a lost child. Supernatural entities visit and torment the family, whose sorrow is expounded through the crushing music of Hamferð. Music that is as heavy and cold as the sea.
When the floodgates open, the band reminds me of Ahab in their nautical element. Wave after wave crashes into you, from the depths of the abyss onward. On a track like ‘Tvístevndur meldur’, the grief is tangible, yet the voice of Aldará breaks through the dark clouds with an almost angelic quality, a light that breaks through the turmoil and chaos. The music never loses it’s composure and remains regal and noble in all aspects. Yet the guitar work is so massive and oppressive at times, that even the listener might give up. Even when the darkness completely overwhelms, the northern beauty of this record remains undisputed when the notes of ‘Vápn í anda’ slowly ebb away.
Nothing but appreciation for this exceptionally immersive, but hard record by Hamferð and its fantastic artwork by Costin Chioreanu.

Underground Sounds: Arkthinn – VI

Label: Fallen Empire Records
Band: Arkthinn
Origin: Unknown

Preface to this review is that the band Arkthinn is a completely mysterious entity ‘from the north’, connected to the bands Mahr and Voidsphere, who make up the Prava Kollektiv. Only one band has known origins, which are in the USA and France. Probably, Arkthinn shares atleast part of that origin. This is their latest demo, titled simply ‘VI’.

The band likes to repeat themselves in certain aspects of their work, like the magnificent images of the sky on the cover of each album. This one features a mountain peak underneath a starry sky, with a snow-capped peak. An image that instantly sets the mood and sparks the imagination of the listener.
There’s something hazy to the sound Arkthinn spits out on ‘I’. Aptly named by the way, so it gives away nothing in further information for the listener. It’s heavily distorted sound, creates a distance to the tormented wailes and in effect emulates the starry sky in its untouchable, ungraspable nature. This works particularly well for the listener experience, as the 20+ minute track unfolds in to a cacophonous battery of unrelenting chaos with blunted blast beats and inhuman screeches and abyssal wails.
The second track is a lot less dynamic, but even so, much more harrowing. Droning sounds enter the vastness of space and form a singularity that disturbes the cold silence. None of the sounds is clear enough to really make out, but it is very clear that the music is not ment to please but disturb from the get go. Twenty minutes adrift in the dark and by that time fear and nervousness emerge in the listener. A bold effort indeed by Arkthinn.

Underground Sounds: Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath

Label: Metal Blade Records
Band: Visigoth
Origin: USA
With their second full length, Visigoth from Salt Lake City really hits it hard. They might hail from the States, but in spirit, they roam the wide realms of Conan the Barbarian with their brawn and heavy metal mettle. Or perhaps they are truly representative of the ones who stormed the gates of Rome back in 410. This is their ‘Conqueror’s Oath’.
With roots in bands like Gallowbraid, Folkodia, and Destructinator, you can tell that the metal-love runs deep with this group. They’ve already made quite a splash with their debut album ‘The Revenant King’. The artwork is a joy to behold, the logo a powerful statement and the music is everything you love about traditional heavy metal

As the Visigoth marches in or gallops with the thundering hoofs of his warhorse proposing the pace, you realize one thing: heavy metal is not dead. The charm of big, muscular riffs and grand, epic vocals is immediately there, enticing you to march along and scream your lungs out on ‘Steel and Silver’. Think Manowar, think Turisas and everything that makes you want to wield swords barechested and save damsels (or save princess as a mighty Red Sonja-like warrior lady, equal treatment!).

Thundering drums and thudding bass loops are the foundation on which the music roars and puffs out its chest. Solid sounding and full of confidence, every song is a hit to me. That’s why ‘Traitor’s Gate’ stands out with its catchy intro, which immediately sets the tone for adventure and daring. The groovy ‘Salt City’ is, therefore, another oddity on this release, but not unpleasant either. A bit Kiss almost, stepping out of their regular framework. Whatever way they turn, the mighty vocals of Jake Rogers are a force by itself. What an incredibly fun and feisty album this is!

Underground Sounds: Atrium Carceri/Herbst9 – Ur Djupan Dal

Label: Cryo Chamber
Artists: Atrium Carceri & Herbst9
Origin: Sweden/Germany

It’s a given that Cryo Chamber releases are superb. My expectations for this joint release by Atrium Carceri and Herbst9 are therefore high and I expect some exceptional material here on ‘Ur Djupan Dal’, which is a cooperative piece of gloomy ambient music.

The story starts in a harbor, warm and mysterious, perhaps in the orient? But this is a land of magical beings, of giants and dragons, but also of mystic vapors and strange rituals. Atrium Carceri is a project by Simon Heath, known for his involvement with Cold Meat Industries and founder of Cryo Chamber. Herbst9 is a mysterious new age/ambient project from Leipzig with various other expressions.

Unearthly mumblings and rumblings open the record and allow you entrance into this realm, as a shrill whistle blows and various ambiance and field sounds seem to fill your consciousness. Slow, gliding and with a sense of immenseness drums guide you forward as the utterances keep disturbing the sense of tranquility. In the sound, there’s always something at the edge of your perception happening though. Something ominous, foreboding even, of other events that might lurk.

That whispering takes a clear shape on ‘Ur Evighetens Pipa’, where an almost mechanic rhythm is disturbed by utterings in an unidentifiable language. This mysterious tongue seems full of mystery. On ‘Drakhuvud’ we even hear ritualistic chanting, as the sound drones onwards with unremitting power and booming strength. That is what draws you into the sound of this record, it’s sheer force and overwhelming ability to captivate and demand attention with heaviness you feel in your gut.

Underground Sounds: Parzival – Urheimat Neugeburt

Label: Mighty Music
Band: Parzival
Origin: Denmark

Parzival can be considered the Danish answer to Laibach, but their inspiration comes from the distant past. Their music is truly Wagnerian, influenced by Gregorian chants and mysticism in a way no other act really ever emulated. Their release ‘Urheimat Neugeburt’ is a piece of art if ever there was any in my opinion.

The group centers around Dimitrij Bablevskij, a musician of Russian origin, who has a booming voice that is the obvious link to the Slovenian avant-garde act mentioned afore. Musically the group takes various topics but always sounds surprising, bombastic and completely overwhelming. Something very special if I may say so, particularly since the band here covers their own original album Urheimat.

The booming sound I remember from their record Blut Und Jordan evaporates from my expectations soon. Sure, the low, sonorous voice is there, but the music seems very minimal, restrained and cut back to nothing more than needed for a visceral effect of marching sounds and a strong, emotional swelling that you get with the national anthem (or that one song that stirs your feelings of pride). It’s the sound that makes you want to puff out your chest, yet the vocals can also bring you down to a brooding, pressing state.

A noteworthy element to emphasize is an operatic quality. On ‘Peitsche und Zuckerbrot’, soaring vocals set the song in an almost Therion-like atmosphere, with the slow progression only further supporting the grandiose impact of the tune. ‘Lord of the Sea’ is the new tune on this record, which instantly stands out due to the melancholic opening sequence and layered sound. More dense and richer than the other material, it is a stand-out track on the record. On ‘Navida Purana’, we are even treated to some bright riff material, that contrasts with the languid, ritualistic chanting with crisp and bright notes. Parzival definitely understands the value of contrast and various textures, which makes this such an immersive, powerful record.

With an atmosphere that switches between the Wagnerian 19th century grandeur and the far eastern mysticism, Parzival conveys a unique feeling. At times a mild playfulness emerges, but overall this is serious music, more suitable for the grand theatres of yore. Immerse yourself, enjoy.