Wednesday, 6 August 2014

[DEMO REVIEW] Venus Torment - Espiral Infinito


1. Intro (Vacio del Espiral Infinito)
2. Agujero de la Perdicion
3. Espectro Negro
4. Venganza y Poder
5. Andromania
6. Sin Muerte

Genre - Death/Thrash Metal

This is a release I've been meaning to write about for a while now, having come across this demo by these obscure Chilean's purely by chance, Venus Torment play a twisted, utterly ripping style of Death/Thrash lying somewhere in the chaotic devastation created by the riff focused brutality of Morbid Saint and bestial madness of the early South American Thrash scene. Being South Amercian themselves it's no surprise that the likes bands like Sarcofago, Chakal, Vulcano and the ilk play a huge influence in Venus Torment's sound.

The guitar work showcased here is utterly savage and sharp, the riffs come at you relentlessly, tearing breakneck through the chaos like a whirlwind of rusty daggers, and the lead work similarly stellar, wild unhinged shredding flailing all over the place and one of the highlights of this demo. The vocals are what gives it that real primitive 'South American' feel, a low throaty rasp previously used by the likes of Wagner Antichrist, indeed you can tell 'INRI' is most likely a huge influence here.

The first track is, as with lots of underground releases these days another completely pointless intro. I guess by now I probably sound like a broken record with respect to this, it's something I've come across so many times but very few intros ever 'set the mood' as they're intended,
serving no purpose in my eyes other that to fill up a bit of time. Anyway, with that bugbear out of the way, as you've probably guessed, the music showcased here is top notch, right from the opening note in track two tearing full throttle out of the speakers and grabbing you by the balls and not letting go right to the very end. From the hardcore punk influences prevalent in the bass and riff work (just listen to “Agujero de la Perdicion” for example) to the deranged soloing in the middle section of “Espectral Negro”, I can only compare it to something like early Kreator on speed.


I may have found these guy by pure accident, but have high hopes for the future, the one guy behind this act has real talent and can only imagine what he'd come up with with a real production behind him. It's a brief affair, clocking in at just under twenty minutes, but nothing other than what you'd expect from a demo in this style of music, just enough to leave you wanting more. No it's not in anyway original, nor do I have a fucking clue about any of the lyrics, but when the music is a brilliant as this, who gives a fuck? Or if you want a somewhat more blunt summary of what's on offer here, just look at that fucking cover. The South Americans seem to have a knack for this, don't they? If you like your metal flat out and morbid, keep an on this guy.  

Sounds like  - Morbid Saint, Celtic Frost, Sarcofago

4.5/5

Monday, 21 January 2013

[ALBUM REVIEW] Hell Militia - Jacob's Ladder

 

 Genre - Black Metal

1. Jacob’s Ladder
2. Jonah
3. Sternenfall
4. Death Worship
5. The Black Projector
6. Second Coming Of The Pig
7. Deus Irae
8. Jericho

Fresh off their recent signing to Season of Mist, Parisian black metal super-group Hell Militia have returned with their third offering and follow up to 2010's 'Last Station on the Road to Death'. With a roster boasting names who are linked with likes of Arkhon Infaustus, Bethlehem and Vorkriest among others spearheaded by the enigmatic genius that is former Mutiilation mastermind Meyhnach, it's hard to look past such a pedigree of names.

On paper Hell Militia should be untouchable with such a lineup but previous efforts were below average attempts at something which boasted so much more. 'Jacob's Ladder' is a vast improvement on the preceding albums it must be said, the band have appeared to continue their stylistic shift towards a manifestation more similarly aligned with the likes of Ascension, Dodecahedron and countrymen Deathspell Omega while still retaining that traditional orthodox Swedish vibe of Watain, Ofermod and the ilk.

When you look at the aforementioned bands recent success that can be a hard point to argue against. So does it work? To a degree yes but it's a style that has been performed and perfected so many times before now by the likes of DSO and Blut Aus Nord that it's inevitable anything anywhere remotely in the same vein immediately gets stacked up and dissected against what is essentially some of the best black metal created this side of the millennium, which just doesn't seem fair does it?

It is by no means bad though, the likes of the title track initiate things with an intense whirlwind of breakneck blasting and heavily obscure, piercing riffs accompanied by Meyhnach's wretched vocal delivery does make for some immersive listening at times even if this is a path extremely well worn by now.

Meyhnach's vocals are arguable the standout aspect of 'Jacob's Ladder', something which holds true for pretty much every album he's ever performed on, I mean just try and tell me 'Vampires of Black Imperial Blood' would be anywhere near lauded as much as it is without those twisted, schizophrenic vocals. The guitar work is well enough executed, steeped in layer upon layer of scything, caustic dissonance and the drumming tight and dynamic enough and when intertwined make for a heavily intricate and multi-faceted release which in practice should sound fantastic but in reality lacks that final sheen and memorability to really take this album to the next level.

For every decent passage there's another passage of exhausted and uninspiring boredom that has you reaching for the skip button. Take for example the likes of 'Death Worship' with its basic one dimensional rhythm and utterly stale riffing and the tedious and plodding dirge of 'Jericho' which overstays its welcome by about five minutes and you certainly have a lot of room for improvement.

Still though, tracks like 'The Black Projector' which contain some of the most impressive guitar work here, discordant ringing and sweeping riffs envelop the listener in a malevolence and filth that is unfortunately missing from a vast chunk of the rest of 'Jacob's Ladder'. Similarly 'Second Coming of the Pig' also harbours some fantastic pummeling moments of swirling chaos and an illustration that this isn't all complete monotony. And for fuck sake cut out those shitty B-movie samples next time around, the cliché barrel is completely and thoroughly scraped through in that regard.

Unfortunately once again Hell Militia fail to really deliver anything remotely threatening to those that they so obviously aim to emulate though it is at least an improvement on their previous releases which were to be frank, fucking shite. There are certain moments of inspiration scattered here and there but ultimately that's just not good enough and though the musicianship is indeed pretty impressive it doesn't have any particular coherence or definition. 'Jacob's Ladder' promises so much yet what we're left with is something altogether far too formulaic and non-eventful that it just wont cut it these days.


5.5/10

Originally written for Metalireland

Sounds like - Watain, Deathspell Omega, Ondskapt

Thursday, 1 November 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Saturnus - Saturn in Ascension


Genre - Doom/Death Metal

1. Litany of Rain
2. Wind Torn
3. A Lonely Passage
4. A Father's Providence
5. Mourning Sun
6. Call of the Raven Moon
7. Forest of Insomnia
8. Between
9. Limbs of Crystal Clear (Bonus Track)     

There are some bands that just completely transcend their perceived genre confines they're that far ahead of most of their peers in sound and stature that no matter if they were to release a shitty album tomorrow you still have to sit back and admire the sheer magnitude and impact their influence has had in a certain corner of music. It's been nigh on twenty years now since their momentous debut Paradise Belongs to You; the dismal Danish doomsters Saturnus are back with a full length after a barren six years with their gloom ridden soul siphon and believe you me, they're just as fucking miserable as before. I'm not going to lie when I say I wasn't holding out a considerable amount of hope for this release when I heard about it, I mean I wasn't expecting it to be bad, there's just only so many times you can release nigh on perfect album after nigh on perfect album, you've got to slip at some point surely?

Their previous three albums have all been astounding slabs of melancholic doom/death and each different in their own unique way and straight from the opening notes of “Litany of Rain” I just knew this was going to be another classic. For those who're none the wiser as to who Saturnus are, they're one of doom metal's relatively unsung heroes with their heavily melancholic and gothic stylized brand of death doom, think of something along the lines of Angel and the Dark River era My Dying Bride, Winter and Skepticism if you're looking for a close comparison as to what they sound like. Paradise... is widely regarded as one of the genre's finest examples of this style and not without good reason, it's easily one of the top ten doom/death albums of all time. Saturn in Ascension swings stylistically back towards the aforementioned album yet still incorporating elements from both the excellent Martyre and Veronika Decides to Die for a release which while extremely melodic and gothic in design, is still absolutely crushing in it's execution.

As I sit here with that familiar telling chill in the air, I can't help but feel that Saturn in Ascension is exactly the perfect soundtrack to these portentous nights. “Litany of Rain” begins with some tasteful choral vocals before the guitar comes crashing down to slowly lumber through agony wrought riffs interwoven sporadically with those angelic chorals for ten minutes giving the impression of a black draped funeral procession, shorn by wind and lashed by rain. Simply put, if you were in a positive 'life is great' mood before you listened to this, you'll be knocking out the Prozac afterwards. Thomas' vocals are as impressive as ever, his death guttural a grave shaking growl while his clean vocals emotive if a little awkward at times. The new recruits on axe (or shovel) duty, Rune and Mattias play with such a conviction and familiarity that you'd be forgiven for thinking they'd been in the band from day one. The atmosphere which is compounded through their skull crushing, heavily encumbered riffs and forlorn, meandering leads is second to none and where the similarity to Skepticism comes to mind, though don't be mistaken as this isn't funeral doom, it's a tad more upbeat and dynamic than that, though it's inarguable that in the past Saturnus has certainly lent their sound to such bands.

Such bands like Agalloch owe a great deal to these guys as well, again just listen to the debut and you'll hear what I'm talking about. Those delicate acoustic melodies and reflective, autumnal guitar passages present there return and are vividly present on “Wind Torn” and it bears a more than passing resemblance to Agalloch indeed. If ever a song threatened to tear your very soul out and nail it to a weather beaten cross then here you go, the guitar passages are mesmerizing and just welling in emotion and the vocals embracing a disconsolate abandon. It's entering the season of death and decay, and fuck if there's a song out there as fitting as this then I don't want to hear it. Depressing doesn't even cut it. “A Lonely Passage” and “Call of the Raven Moon” provide the non metal tracks this time around with the former a heart tugging soliloquy layered with acoustics and gentle piano passages. The latter is a good track also but comes close to being the only one here I would come close to calling filler material. The addition of the flute in along with the acoustics at the start was a nice idea but ultimately the song ends up being rather uneventful, not helped by the fact the spoken vocals sound a bit awkward and indifferent to be honest.

When your shortest track is still over five minutes, the quality and diversity which each track must contain becomes exceedingly important especially through a release this dauntingly intense and expansive, and something which Saturn in Ascension does well to maintain. The relatively brief “A Father's Providence” is a behemoth of a track with the most energetic rhythm here, a head-banger of sorts with more huge crunching riffs which gives us a slight glimpse to the bands primitive early roots with it's crude death gutturals interspersed with some tasteful piano work dancing underneath like droplets of water. As far as the second half of the album goes “Mourning Sun” is the standout track here, another with such an emotional burden that it'll bring you to your knees with it's overbearing riffs weighing a tonne, slowly inching forward. Again I have to state how amazingly sublime the lead/solo work here is, just as it was all those years ago with Kim Larsen; the guitarist has the tone down to a tee so much so that the album would be a lot less memorable without, and guitar leads were never really a focal point with doom metal. Just listen to “Forest of Insomnia” and you'll know what I mean, the guitar work in it is similarly enthralling in the way it builds up to the climatic solo at the end.

Saturn in Ascension is pretty much a doom metal masterpiece, but then Saturnus are apparently only able deal in masterpieces as this is now their fourth. It's standalone in it's utterly agonizing brilliance, an emotionally draining, sprawling and pious journey of desolation laying clear all one's woes and grief for all to see, and another doom/death monolith in the genre to file alongside an untouchable legacy. Saturnus are finally back guys and they're here to show a new generation of pretenders just how the fuck it's supposed to be done. A hopeless, shining paragon of modern doom metal and one that'll you'll undoubtedly be hearing more about further down the road. Can these guys ever do wrong? It doesn't seem likely. A certain contender for album of the year. Buy or die.

9.5/10

Sounds like - My Dying bride, The 3rd and the Mortal, Shape of Despair

Originally written for



Friday, 26 October 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Darkenhöld - Echoes from the Stone Keeper


 

Genre - Melodic Black Metal

1.     Intro         
2.     Alchemy and Arcana         
3.     Wyvern Solitude Chant         
4.     Echoes from the Stone Keeper         
5.     March of the Sylvan Beasts         
6.     Interlude         
7.     Mesnie Hellequin         
8.     Chasm of Asylake         
9.     Nightfall and the Fire Doom         
10.     Castle Ruins Anthem

Darkenhold initially came to my attention with their collaboration last year with compatriots Aorlhac on the La Maisniee du Maufe split, a band who they share many attributes with. Both draw their influences heavily from the old Norwegian black metal scene with the likes of Emperor, Satyricon and Taake forming the bulk of their sound, a heavily riff-centric strain of melodic black metal. They're also both from roughly the same area in South/South Eastern France, and most importantly with the the release of Echoes of the Stone Keeper, they're both fucking awesome. The tracks off the split were decent but nothing outstanding, similarly their debut release A Passage to the Towers... was a modest release that had all the echoes of a band who were yet to hit their true stride.

So enter their sophomore effort, Echoes of the Stone Keeper, with its pummeling, semi-melodic tremolo riffs and expansive patchwork of synth based atmospheres draped behind, it has all the hallmarks and qualities of a band who have really worked hard to hone their sound and create something very distinguished and memorable indeed. If you know Darkenhold already, you'll know they have a fetish for all things medieval and fantasy, more specifically, wyverns and castles, so you'd expect the music to reflect this then right? Correct, the atmosphere has been kicked up a notch or two and the arcane keys of which Echoes... is comprised of really emphasize that eerie, haunting and medieval atmosphere Darkenhold are striving for. Atmospherics wise, oft overlooked Norwegian act Wallachia I suspect play a huge influence in this, while the 'metal' itself is drawn from the same pool which gave us Satyricon, Emperor and even Abigor among others.

Like Wallachia, the album sounds like it was composed in some crusty old ancient dilapidated castle in the middle of Transylvania. It's melodic black metal constructed and delivered exactly the way it should be, huge immersive swathes of synth/key driven atmosphere at no expense to the fundamentals of black metal whatsoever, and getting that appropriate balance is a difficult thing to achieve. The guitar is in fact arguably the strongest element of Echoes.., the riffing is utterly scathing as it should be, and suitably diverse as no two riffs ever sound similar. Tracks like “Under the Sign of Arcanum” and “Chasm of Asylake” even have a sprinkling of acoustics just to mix things up a little and further compound that mystic and archaic atmosphere. The Satyricon influence in the riffing is painfully obvious, they could be very well lifted straight off Nemesis Divina itself, but that's no bad thing, for just listen to the absolutely devastating introduction to “Castle Ruins Anthem” or one of the many riffs in “Wyvern Solitude Chant” and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Aboth turns out an extremely impressive performance behind the kit as well, a thoroughly assorted affair refraining from the typical flat out blasts and unrelenting hi-hat abuse, a good drum performance being a rarity in black metal. A special mention must go out to “Nightfall and the Fire Doom” though, the out and out standout track here which can only be described as majestic, a sprawling behemoth of a track drenched in esoteric chanting, sepulchral riffing and an enthralling, enchanting atmosphere which lasts for six very brief minutes before fading out to something not unlike Wongraven. “Caslte Ruins Anthem” as well it must be noted is an absolute bulldozer of a track with that opening riff and it's staunch medieval sway which what I imagine the perfect combination of Satyricon and Wallachia to sound like.

The really full production does wonders for the music here as well, not exactly clean but thankfully not ever entering 'bees in a biscuit tin' territory. Echoes of the Stone Keeper is exactly what I expect 'medieval black metal' to sound like, like it was recorded in a colossal and grandiose gold littered throne room from the depths of some far fetched fantasy novel. It's distinctly unrepetitive and broad enough that there's always something going on that your mind never wanders. Darkenhold have really stepped up to the plate with this one and they'll be a force to be reckoned with in the future. This is majestic and melodic black metal performed about just as well as you're going to hear all year, and an album that will definitely be up there in my end of year list. Highly recommended. 

9/10

Sounds like - Wallachia, Nerthus, Aorlhac 

Originally written for Metalcrypt 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Visigoth - Final Spell

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Genre - Heavy Metal

1. Creature of Desire
2. Final Spell
3. Seven Golden Ships
4. Call of the Road

Just look at that cover, if that doesn't instill you with confidence from the outset then you're a lost fucking cause. Visigoth are a relatively new band hailing from the heavy metal wasteland of Utah, and coming at a period when it appears the latest traditional metal revival trend is slowly winding down, are an absolute breath of fresh air to these ears. Fair enough, as far as finding originality goes, especially in the traditional metal scene these days is about as fruitful as pissing up a rope but when it's performed as well as this, who the fuck needs originality? Final Spell is the band's second release after their decent enough demo Vengeance from 2010, and where it was set firmly in barefaced doom laden Omen territory, Final Spell has all the characteristics and glint of a band who have finally 'found' their sound, where much bigger and better things inevitably await.

So they have abandoned the epic, pounding US style for more traditional style of flat out heavy metal with a strong aroma of Euro power metal, much like countrymen Twisted Tower Dire, in fact so much so Final Spell is what their last album could have sounded like without the scourge of Johnny Aune. At times the similarities are uncanny and especially on “Call of the Road” which bears a striking semblance to Make it Dark, sound a bit more than coincidental, still I guess there are worse bands you could sound like. Jake's vocals are what really bring these tracks to life though, and imagine my surprise when I discovered this was the same voice behind the Agalloch worship act Gallowbraid. The tenacity and conviction with which he tears through the vocal melodies present on Final Spell is astounding.

Creature of Desire”, an anthem to metal's favorite two wheeled warrior machine has all the echoes of early Hammerfall and Priest with its sublime vocal harmonies, rolling riffs and spiraling guitar leads making the only place you want to be is hitting the highway with wind in your hair and metal coursing through your veins. The title track raises the bar even higher with it's criss crossing Maiden-esque shred and high tempo drumming, and when Jake nails that final scream you can't help but feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, even Halford himself would be proud. I cannot stress enough how strong the vocals are here, the polished production really does them justice. I'd liken them to Rain Irving from While Heaven Wept or even Harry Conklin if I had to chose anyone. “Seven Golden Ships” has a imposing crunch to the riffing in it, the guitars noticeably heavier but no less effective. Closer “Call of the Road” is more of a straight forward infectious 'rocker' for want of a better word, lively rhythms, blazing guitar leads and stratosphere piercing vocals, which as previously stated sound suspiciously like a couple of tracks from Twisted Tower Dire's last effort.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, no matter what genre of metal you tend to favour, there is nothing greater than pure unadulterated adrenaline pumping heavy metal performed the way the masters intended it, and this is exactly the way they envisioned it. Jake delivers his vocal lines like a man possessed and the performances on the guitars are nothing short of spectacular. Simply put if leather clad, fist-clenching and testosterone fueled metal borne from the smell of burnt tarmac and rubber is your thing then go buy this, if it isn't then go fucking buy it anyway and be converted. Bring on a full length, I'm getting withdrawal symptoms already, this shit is like musical crack.

9.5/10

Originally written for Dead void Dreams

Sounds like - Judas Priest, Twisted Tower Dire, Jag Panzer

Monday, 22 October 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Witchrist - The Grand Tormentor

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Genre - Doom Death/Black Metal



1. Into the Arms of Yama
2. The Grand Tormentor
3. Meditation for Sacrifice
4. Wasteland of Thataka
5. Exile
6. Beyond Darkness and Death
7. The Tomb
8. Tandava
9. Cast into Fire
10. Funeral Lotus 


Beheaded Ouroboroswas one of my top rated releases of 2010, one of the most downright unrelentingly putrid and heavy albums to crawl out of the gutter that year with its insane gutturals and earth cracking guitar riffs. Certainly if esoteric Death Metal that takes its leads from the Helmkamp inspired barbarity of ANGELCORPSE and ORDER FROM CHAOS along with INCANTATION's monolithic death processions then you've come to the right place. Fresh off making the transition from Ireland's Invictus to the high-flying Osmose, The Grand Tormentor” is the sophomore effort from this act and big things were expected. So how much has this unholy monstrosity progressed since their awe inspiring debut? Well, if it was possible to better such a masterpiece then somehow they have managed to do it with “The Grand Tormentor”, and in the process managed to make it somehow even fucking heavier than before. The result is a band who now along with countrymen DIOCLETIAN are now essentially the flag bearers for extreme metal in New Zealand.

'Into the Arms of Yama' kicks off proceedings, a ten minute filth encrusted opus that plunges you straight into the inferno with its initial INCANTATION-esque Death/Doom dirge with the impression that this is “The Grand Tormentor” slowly dragging its lumbering bulk up and out of the pit awakening for its tyranny on the world above. This eventually succumbs to a menacing drumbeat, down tuned guitars soaked in distortion and Void's inhuman gutturals hovering just beneath the music like unearthly bubbles of evil, which I suppose is basically the foundation for the whole album. Once you've heard this you'll understand what I mean about this being incredibly heavy, I mean there's more crushing low end present on “The Grand Tormentor” than the collective mass of your average American 'Weight Watchers' class. The tempo of the album varies frequently enough so things never get stagnant, faster passages with some rather headbangable rhythms intertwined with those previously mentioned slow and foreboding ones. Such an examples of faster moments would be the likes of the title track which hits you with an intensity which could cleave skulls or 'Wasteland of Thataka' of which the only way to describe is as pure unholy barbarism. The production here is such that as fucked up, chaotic and asphyxiating as it is, it still lends extremely well to each individual aspect of the music. All the instruments have enough clarity to flourish in their own given way, and when you can include two songs over nine minutes on album and still retain the listeners attention then you're onto a winner.

The music hits you like a wave of thick black tar with a noxious putrescence; the riffs bore through with a grinding ferocity ranging from doomy dirges to echoes of Black Metal with frantic tremolo picking and the drums ominous like an encroaching thunder while the vocals indecipherable and sickening, lurk beneath. Hell there's even time now and again for a few esoteric solos to raise their head. It almost sounds as if this is one of Satan's apocalyptic sermons that has been spewed straight up through a vent from the underworld and presented itself in all its fetid, sulphuric glory as what we now know as “The Grand Tormentor”. It's pretty much the embodiment of the 'anti-mainstream' within Death Metal, no technical nonsense and no melody whatsoever, just a sewage pit of ritualistic Doom Death Metal insanity. Fans of DIOCLETION, HERESIARCH and WRATHPRAYER probably already need no introduction to these guys, but this should definitely appeal to those who are fans so-called 'War Metal' and of bands such as INCANTATION, WINTER and even ASPHYX. Just be warned, gas masks out lads, you'll certainly fucking need them

9.5/10

Sounds like - Wrathprayer, Incantation, Diocletian

Originally written for The Metal Observer 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] King Dude - Burning Daylight



 

Genre - Neofolk/ Gothic Country

1.       Intro                     
2.       Holy Land                           
3.       Barbara Anne                   
4.       I'm Cold                               
5.       Vision In Black                  
6.       Jesus In The Courtyard                 
7.       I Know You're Mine                       
8.       My Mother Was The Moon                        
9.       Lorraine                              
10.   You Can Break My Heart                              
11.   Lord, I'm Coming Home


I’ve always felt a certain unashamed bias towards Seattle’s newest occult folk export in the shape of King Dude ever since the day I discovered I share a name with that fascinatingly haunting voice behind the project, TJ Cowgill. Being a huge fan of neo-folk music myself this was also a bonus as much of King Dude’s sound is shaped by the pioneers of that scene such as Death in June, Current 93 and the ilk, or well it was anyway, as after listening to Burning Daylight it’s hard not to notice the remarkable progression musically our man in black has made since My Beloved Ghost. They’ve basically broadened the spectrum from a no frills acoustic neo-folk act into something altogether more inspired and distinct with Burning Daylight. Infact the neo-folk influence has been hugely toned down in favour of something much more dark and apocalyptic, with a veneer of dark and sarcastic humour to it all. Gone are the catchy acoustic folk ditties such as “Spiders in her Hair” and “Big Blue Eyes” in favour of gloomy, occult and whiskey soaked gothic Americana with significantly more in common with Johnny Cash, SWANS and Nick Cave than it does Death in June or Sol Invictus.

Drawing his influences from ‘The Great Disappointment’, a period in the nineteenth century when a bunch of lunatics awaited the return of Jesus, and surprisingly ended up distinctly disappointed when the asshole didn’t honour his appointment, the album is expectedly involved with Christianity.    “Holy Death” begins proceedings with a heavily martial drumbeat and is awash with the same obscure dissonance you’d hear from SWANS, indeed I can even a slight Michael Gira influence in Cowgill’s vocals as he delivers his earth shaking baritone through a dense film of reverb. He’s always loved his reverb, and Burning Daylight is again, drowned in it. It adds huge waves of atmosphere to the esoteric subject matter Burning Daylight is based upon. The huge SWANS influence again rears its head again in “I’m Cold” and also the magnificently morbid “Jesus in the Courtyard” which is essentially what Johnny Cash would have sounded like if he decided to take on a booming Gira-influenced form of no-wave. To say this track is stunning is somewhat of an understatement, it projects visions of an altogether disturbing, underground black and white 50’s America all through a thick veil of cigarette smoke. “He got the devil around his finger, Jesus around his neck, none wants him in this world or the fucking next” he bellows with a genuine sonority.

The likes of “Barbara Anne” and “Lorraine” lighten the mood a bit with their more romantic theme, for there’s only so many doom laden dirges the mind can take in one sitting, and although “Lorraine” for me is arguably filler material. “Barbara Anne” is another fantastic tune delivered with devastating simplicity with its one-two boot heel kick and whiskey soaked croak. Variation is key for albums such as these and it’s one attribute Cowgill nails right square between the eyes. No two songs are sound the same and in this genre of music that’s a fucking miracle. “Vision in Black” harks back to Love and with its exceedingly infectious drumbeat resonating beneath a simple yet catchy guitar line with those heavily reverbed vocals just amounts to another song which you’ll find hard to get out of your head, and again the same could be said for the black humour of “I Know You’re Mine”. Hell there’s even room for a few shoegaze influences to seep through in “My mother was the Moon” in the delicate, glistening  spangle of its guitar work and bliss laden vocals which unless the Dude suddenly lost his ballsack, I guess done by an external unnamed female party.

The highlight of the album though must lie within the gloriously melancholic and over the top adieu to all of life’s ills in “Lord, I’m Coming Home”, a death laden serenade into the afterlife delivered with superb conviction in his deep, gravelly husk and almost Andrew Eldritch-esque howl on top of a blanket of  angelic synths and bluesy acoustic guitar. At face value its depressing as fuck, but in reality its effect is one of those tracks where it’s drink in and sorrows out, glasses up and curtains down, a more than fitting end for a journey which began swathed in the darkness of Satan and eventually emerges into the light. When I say I could imagine this track coming off a Nick Cave album I’m speaking the truth, it has all the swagger and guile one would expect from our friend down under, and if that’s not a compliment then I guess nothing is. Steeped in dry humor and a sinister smirk, shrouded in stale cigarette smoke and swirling bourbon all delivered with a portentous drone, Burning Daylight is a breath of fresh air into the neo-folk genre, but to be fair it’s far above and beyond most of what’s labeled as neo-folk these days. Plus, what the fuck is not awesome about an artist with a name like King Dude anyway? 

9/10

Sounds like - Johnny Cash, SWANS, Nick Cave

Originally written for Dead Void Dreams

[ALBUM REVIEW] Old Silver Key - Tales of Wanderings



 

Genre - Shoegaze/Post-Black Metal


1. What Once Was and Will Never Happen Again

2. November Nights Insomnia

3. Cold Spring

4. Nineteen Winters Far Away From Home

5. Star Catcher

6. Burnt Letters

7. About Which an Old House Dreams


When I first heard the news of a new project combining the creative forces of both ALCEST mastermind Neige and Roman Saenko of the almighty Ukranian Black Metal act DRUDKH, my inner fanboy was set to hyperactive overdrive. It’s no secret that I’ve loved pretty much everything Neige has ever been a part of, and the same could have been said about DRUDKH if you ignore their (at the time) latest musical abortion “Handful of Stars”. The hype and anticipation that revolved around this release was huge, and what we received in the end was one of the biggest, most underwhelming and uninspired disappointments of the year. Essentially everything “Tales of Wanderings” should have been with the influence of the collective genius behind the project, it isn’t. The best I can perceive this at all is that the only way DRUDKH could decide to become even more of a limp wristed ALCEST clone was to go one step further and hire the fucking man himself for vocals and masquerade it under a different guise. Seriously, it even sounds like he doesn’t want to fucking even be there his vocals are that dull and lifeless.

Musically OLD SILVER KEY has almost nothing to do with Black Metal, there are a few vague traces present in the riffing styles which crop up from time to time but nothing overtly significant; “Tales of Wandering’s” main focal point is on light, breezy shoegaze rhythms and prog rock based structures. The only problem is it completely lacks any substance, force and inspiration in the guitar passages, with a tone with about as much body as a French supermodel. They sound like one of those countless floppy fringed nineties alternative bands who never managed to make it, and for good fucking reason too. Oh indeed there are some decent, hell even marginally interesting moments on the album, but it’s really not enough to save it from  being consigned to the ‘really fucking boring ‘ bin.

‘Nineteen Winters Far Away From Home’ is the first track to make any sort of discernible impression upon my by now flatlining brain, with some faint Black Metal influences in the riffs which are actually quite nostalgic and dare I say, interesting. The drumming is fucking terrible though, it sounds like they planted a three year old behind the kit and handed him a stick. But guess what? It’s an instrumental, so take from that what you will. Ok that’s being a bit harsh on Neige, he’s actually quite decent on ‘Star Catcher’, my personal highlight of the album. I say decent, he moulds his voice around the music well and delivers some nice spirited melodies, but it’s far from his best. He just doesn’t sound comfortable singing in English it seems. The guitar carries that wistful sense of longing extremely well and eventually builds up to something you could actually call a decent track. ‘Burnt Letters’, the promo track again is remarkably average, with some impressive guitar riffs scattered about the vast dreariness, sounding something more ALCEST-like in its frantic guitar driven climax than any of the other tracks. ‘About Which an Old House Dreams’ is listenable too, a meandering, smokey number awash with an aquamarine reminiscence and nostalgia and Neige’s best vocal performance on the whole album.

The problem is that when the music is described just as ‘listenable’, especially from these two creative forces, it’s just not good enough. The end result is utter fucking hackneyed and humdrum monotony that sounds like a shitty Black Metal band making their worst attempt at being a tenth generation ALCEST clone with a mish mash of incoherent ideas and lazy execution. The worst thing about it is we’re all aware of what both artists are capable of, DRUDKH and ALCEST are both light years beyond most other Extreme Metal acts, but here it appears they just cancel each other out and couldn’t be fucking arsed at all and the end result is as dull as fucking dishwater. Well, it could be worse, it could have been “Handful of Stars”, at least there’s that I suppose, for make no mistake beating your head repeatedly off a slab of concrete is more rewarding than listening to that heap of rage inducing shit. It’s just unfortunate a significant portion of it rubs off here too. “Tales of Wandering”? My mind certainly wandered anyway...

3.5/10

Sounds like - Handful of stars - Drudkh, Elevator music, the washing machine

Originally written for Metal Observer