God Syndrome – Controverse (2016)

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Time and time again I have declared my dislike to groovy metal-core. And here I am reviewing an album that stands with one foot in it. No, it’s not dry season. Rather the opposite. It’s just the simple fact that this is a killer album despite its grooviness (or –for people that aren’t me– thanks to exactly that).

God Syndrome come from Samara, Russia. Have I told you lately how the Russian extreme metal scene is becoming a really great one? This is another example of this fact. With one foot knee-deep in American tech-death-core and the other in Swedish melo-death, they present an annihilating mix similar to Hypocrisy on steroids.

The album starts with a tech-y catch-all track, one to lure the average generalist metalhead, but shortly after that it gets a character of its own (and gains the review slot). The songs flow beautifully and you won’t even notice its almost hourly duration. This in my book counts as great songwriting.

The guitars are expertly performed, especially for a lead-packed album such as this one. These melodic leads are pretty trippy to the point of melancholy, bringing late Septic Flesh and Hypocrisy to mind on many occasions. The vocals are perfect and fit the music in both its brutal and melodic phases. The drums are intense and really well composed. Always on target –no matter the experimentation– they manage to give the right atmosphere to every riff. The bass here takes on a more supportive role. Clean and powerful, it glues all the pieces together.

Sound-wise, the production is perfect. The instruments are well separated and mixed properly. Special care has been given to preserve enough “air” to let the dynamics do their part.

Overall, this is an album worth your time and money. I never really expected to say something like that for an album with a –core synthetic in it but honestly, anything less would be a mean lie. It has enough power to satisfy every extreme death metal fan, and enough groove to satisfy pretty much every other metalhead. Fans of Hypocrisy around “The Final Chapter” era will surely love it (this is the third time I dropped their name so I really mean it)! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

For more info follow them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/godsyndrome

Noteworthy Report: April 2017

Welcome my friends to another VERY late Noteworthy Report of Against The Fragmentaire. ATF is a project I run on my free time, which is becoming more of a rarity nowadays, but I try to keep active no matter the circumstances. Want to know why?

In today’s overcrowded metal scene, more than 100 albums are getting released every month. Granted, some of them aren’t all too great, but how can anyone tell? Nobody has time to listen to every single one of them. That’s what the Noteworthy Report is all about. Every month –or so- I gather my notes and talk about the best releases that usually pass under the radars of big publications.

Enough with the chit chat, on with my list for April!

Prometheus – Consumed In Flames

I’ve known Prometheus through some demo tracks and I’ve known them to be a Hellenic black metal band. So I was a little surprised when their debut landed. Here they have a clearly more blackened Death orientation. The album is packed with great riffs, inventive and intense drumming and occult atmospheres. An absolute must have!

 

Atrexial – Souverain

We stay in the blackened death metal ballpark, this time coming from Spain. Bombastic songs clearly inspired from the Swedish scene, with Marduk-esque riffs but on a different track. Some of the songs may sound unfitting, but since this is their debut I find it natural to explore a few paths and wander off from time to time. Don’t let this fact turn you down and enjoy this fresh release in any case.

 

Corpus Diavolis – Atra Lumen

Melodic Black Metal from France, bold enough to step outside the dissonant prog/black playground that has been set up there. Their music is brilliant, their drumming has a spark of genius, but their most striking aspect are the theatric vocals. A true masterpiece.

 

Ulvegr – Titahion: Kaos Manifest

Sometimes I just have to stand in awe before the talent of certain musicians. The guys responsible for this release just spit excellent album after excellent album on an unmatched pace (and under many names: Elderblood, KZOHH, GreyAblaze and more). In this 4th full length they touch on the Egyptian mysticism (bringing to mind the Greek band Acherontas at points) and they intertwine songs with prayer-like intros, the way Acheron did in “Rites of the Black Mass”. One of the best releases I heard lately…

 

Cult Of Erinyes – Tiberivs

Occult progressive black metal from the masters of the kind. The duo from Belgium returns with an album that won’t let down any of their followers. Hit play, breathe its intoxicating fumes and travel somewhere dark, to a place you can call “your unknown”…

 

So that was it. I still haven’t posted my “through the cracks” NWR, but I sure will. But first I have a review in the writing, so stay tuned because this won’t take too long to finish. As always, if you have any suggestions leave a message or send me a mail…

Noteworthy Report: March 2017

Welcome my friends to a very, VERY late Noteworthy Report of Against The Fragmentaire. As you know, ATF is a project I run on my free time, and these past two months were busy as fvck putting me off track.

In today’s overcrowded metal scene, more than 100 albums get released every month, and March had more than his fair share of “big” releases, from the highly anticipated fourth album of Woe, to a new Forteresse release, and from the –also highly anticipated– furious album of The Furor to the debut of all-star Doedsvangr. On top of the fierce competition for fan attention, Mastodon released their new album which –as uninspired as it is– overshadowed pretty much everything else.

Yet the underground never sleeps; if you aren’t easily entertained by the “low hanging fruit”, March came with some impressive gifts that passed under the radars of big publications. Without further ado, these are some of the most noteworthy releases.

 

Vacivus – Nuclear Chaos

The UK blackened deathsters (ala-Portal) return with a short but killer EP. Soul crushing riffs reduce everything to dust. Nuclear Chaos is upon us, embrace it or perish!

 

Harvest Gulgaltha – Altars Of Devotion

In a similar vein, Harvest Gulgaltha play “cryptic necromantic black death metal”, or in other words, minimal blackened death. The majority of the album is slow-paced and feels like sinking in quicksand. So much gloom and despair it feels otherworldly.

 

Mistveil – Amnesia

This is quite a debut from my compatriots Mistveil. They play melodic doom/death metal in the vein of Saturnus and early Draconian. I personally enjoy such music during the cold winter nights, but this is just my preference and timing isn’t a factor of quality in any case. You don’t want to miss it!

 

Nordland – European Paganism

This here is an album with what I call a “barrier-to-entry”. The first minutes of the album feel like they pointlessly thrust in every direction, but at some point you get what they try (and ultimately manage) to do. The album is exactly what the title says: they pick threads from pagan black all over Europe, and join them in a unique piece of art. You will hear Enslaved (both early and late), Ancient Rites, Fen and a bunch of other influences beautifully married in unity. A really interesting as well as demanding listen.

 

Wormwood – Ghostlands: Wounds From A Bleeding Earth

The Swedish folk black-metallers released their debut album this month. Filled with mostly awesome stuff, fans of Thyrfing and Amon Amarth will want to check it out. There are some odd, off-putting, Iron Maiden-ish moments here and there, but I guess this never killed anyone…

 

Pillorian – Obsidian Arc

Born just this past summer by veterans of the scene (including John Haughm of ex-Agalloch), Pillorian released their debut album in March, sharing their take on avant-garde folk black metal. If you’re a fan of USBM don’t skip this album…

 

In the following days I will release the April NWR, as well as a special NWR of releases that I listened and cared enough to share but fell through the cracks of time and ultimately never got to talk about them. So stay tuned, and as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Interview with Au Champ Des Morts

Every time I write a review, I try to get in touch with the band and get some more information around the album and the musicians responsible for it. And it is always a pleasure when this actually happens. Back in February I wrote about Dans La Joie and a few days ago I had the pleasure of talking with Cécile G., a very down to earth personality with a lot of insights to share. Go ahead and read this…

Give me some historical background on the band and the members.

Cécile: Au Champ Des Morts started up in August 2014 when the both guitar players, Stefan Bayle (ANOREXIA NERVOSA) and Migreich (VULV) first met during an underground festival in France. They’ve decided to make this project a real band and in 2015, the line-up was completed by the arrival of Wilheim (NEURASTHENIE, EXECUTION) on drums and myself (OLEN’K, ANOREXIA NERVOSA) on bass. After recording the album, Migreich decided to leave the band so now we’re evolving as a trio.

What is the feedback on the album so far? Are sales going as you expected?

The feedbacks on our album are good and far beyond our expectations. We are very touched by the welcome given to our work. Regarding sales, we don’t know yet and it’s still too early to say because our album has been released at the end of January. And honestly we don’t expect anything, I mean, we did not really thought about this, especially since this is our first album, so we will see. At present, I don’t think you can predict anything concerning record sales in underground music.

You incorporate a lot of different elements in your songs. Can you name some of your influences?

Our influences are very varied, to sum up, it goes from black metal, cold wave, old hard rock, essentially bands from the 80s to now. And to name but a few I will cite bands like Bathory, Celtic Frost, And Also the Trees, Dead Can Dance, Austere, The Devil’s Blood… There are too many to quote them, but we are really passionate and we always listen with pleasure to the cult albums as we always looking for new stuff too.

What are the lyrical themes about?

For the lyrics, we all participate, we write on a theme or something inspired by the music, or a personal experience that has affected us. Symbolic, our vision of the world, our readings…Inspiration comes from everything around us.

But, for this album, once we were working on the track listing, we found that a kind of concept has emerged. I like to summarize it by this sentence “We are the witnesses of death under all its forms”. Indeed, the theme of death is omnipresent in our work, under every of its levels; death of the flesh, death of the soul, death of the civilization, death of the world.

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While on this subject, you stick –like most French bands– to your native language. Was this decision made because you feel more free to express yourself that way or some other reason (they sound more exotic for example)? Do you feel this as a limitation?

In fact we have not really thought about this, it came naturally. Maybe at the beginning we thought it would be easier to express ourselves in French because it is our mother language and we are attached to it, but it is not obvious to sing in French in Black Metal growls, it’s not really appropriate. Even in clear vocals in my case, it’s new to me, I’ve always sung in English or Latin so it’s a good challenge and you have to be careful to choose the words that make sense and can be musical too.

I think we use French because we wanted to deliver something which really comes from us and for the declaimed singing the French is perfect for its theatrical and powerful side too. I do not see this as a limitation, I just find that exercise is a bit more challenging.

What does the album cover stand for? Care to share some info on the artist who drew it?

The cover of our album was made by the talented artist Dehn Sora. He perfectly rendered the atmosphere of our album, the concept of death and its symbolic. Like any great artist, his work has many interpretations, it is for listeners to make their own, it’s the same thing about listening our music. You have to leave room for imagination and sensitivity of each one, art is made for that. We admire his work on contrasts and lights and his way of living black and white, this is what marked us and I invite you to take interest in the work of this artist.

What are your future plans? Do you have any live shows booked?

We’ve returned to composition, and we’re looking for a second guitarist to play live so no shows booked for the moment. It’s very important for us to construct something worthy of the album for what will be Au Champ Des Morts live and we hope to be ready soon.

How do you write music? What is your creative process?

It’s Stefan who mainly composes. The process is simple, usually everything starts from a riff which becomes an obsession. Then a structure is built and melody ideas keep coming. You have to be in a particular state of mind to compose, it’s a kind of second state, something beyond yourself. For that you must have time to devote yourself fully to it, I mean, trying to make a vacuum around yourself, which is not really easy sometimes.

Do you have some specific piece of gear or software that greatly facilitates your job?

Not really. We work the old way, with not really recent material, an old Atari, an analog console, vintage effect pedals, Marshall amps… This suits us perfectly. We only use computers for practical reasons and for recording software. That’s fine when it works but when it breaks down and you’re forced to take a recent pattern it becomes a headache. All this to realize in the end that it works much less well than before. It’s really frustrating to waste time with it…We hate the modern world and its nonsense.

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France has built a trademark-BM scene. How does it feel to be part of it? Is it a blessing or a burden?

We are often asked this question, I do not have the impression of being a part of a “scene” strictly speaking. I don’t know if there is a trademark BM scene in France, as French musicians we have always been interested in French metal bands, so I think you are better placed than me to talk about it. The idea of scene disturbs me a bit in the sense that it evokes a certain form of conformity, or even competition.

For me, it is obvious that in recent years there have been talented and interesting artists in France. I think of bands such as Year of No Light, Throane, Alcest, Aluk Todolo … Of course they share common influences but they have very different personalities. The link is in the way of elaborating the art, and a certain state of mind that drive those bands to compose this way. It deals with sincerity and a will to come back to a more emotional way to make music, without thinking about business or selling. At least that is how I feel and I fully share this vision. If this is what you call the trademark BM French scene then I agree.

Any underground metal bands from your local area we should be looking out for?

Underground metal bands… No, I don’t see. The only name that comes to my mind is Burzum but I think you already know it. There are probably others but I don’t know them yet. The problem of overproduction…

What do you know about the Greek extreme metal scene? Any favorite bands?

I don’t know too much about Greek extreme metal scene, sorry. I know Astarte, Necromantia and Rotting Christ of course. I like Rotting Christ, Stefan knows them well as they went on tour together during the Anorexia Nervosa era.

Before letting you go, any news from the Anorexia Nervosa front?

Even if Anorexia Nervosa belongs to the past, we are always in touch with the members, we are close friends. They are fine. Concerning music, Hreidmarr has several musical projects in progress and Neb Xort still holds the Drudenhaus Studio, he has recorded our album.

Closing thoughts, anything else you want to add?

Thank you for this interview. Let yourself be invaded with Joy and Light…

 

Follow Au Champ Des Morts at https://www.facebook.com/Au-Champ-Des-Morts-1061663760580553

Interview with Ossuary Anex

A few days ago I got the chance to talk a bit with Russian brutal deathsters Ossuary Anex (if you remember them from the review of their latest album I did a few months back). This interview is quite revealing, especially if you aren’t really familiar with the Russian metal scene. It is a somewhat long read but as always, it is going to worth your time.

Give me a bio of the band so we can get to know you better.

Max: Ossuary Anex was created by me in 2008. (Before that I was playing in an Occult Death Metal act called Daemon). Nothing particularly remarkable was in our bio. The line-up changed often during the early years, so the group evolved slowly. But it may be noted only the release of our debut album in 2012. And In 2014 Kirill joined us as lead singer. I think it was a turning point for the band. He was the missing element for us, and our puzzle was completed with the arrival of him. From that moment the new life of the band began to take form in which it is now.

Actual Line-up: Kirill – vocal, Simon – bass, Sergey – Drums, Max – guitar.

You released your second album “Mutilation Through Prayer” a few months ago. What is the feedback so far? Are you watching the sales, are they going as you expected?

Max: We get a lot of positive feedbacks so far, sometimes even rave reviews. Some positive articles were written, for example by Frank Rini, another on Hellmagazine, or your own review etc. It’s really cool! But we are not watching the sales of our label, perhaps it is too early to think about it.

Have you gotten the time to reflect on the album? If you were back in the studio, is there something you would change in it?

Max: It’s been over 3 years since we started working on this album. Of course, we have been changing during this time, as well as our attitude to music. This album captures the vision that I had when the work began. Despite the fact that it was released not long ago, it shows where we were three years ago. The recording of the album stretched across almost two years. Sometimes it was not easy. If it were possible to make the album for a lesser period, I think it would be much better.We could have made a more thought out, more perfect record. When a recording stretches for a long time, fatigue accumulates, interest reduces. Everybody wants to finish as soon as possible. And quality may deteriorate. But I wouldn’t like to change anything in it. This album is just a slice of our history. Now we have a different view, and we will translate it into new things.

Most brutal death metal bands are into blood/gore culture when it comes to lyrics. You on the other hand decided to tackle religion. Why is that?

Kirill: I think religion is a great evil for people. Religion causes war, intolerance and ignorance. It makes a man a slave and a pliant puppet in the hands of liars. I hate that shit!

Max: It should be noted that some obscurantism has been increasing in recent years in our country. The Middle Ages return. The Church has been gaining strength. It influences the politics and culture. Religion has been becoming a national idea. In addition, “insulting the feelings of believers” became a criminal offense in Russia. Orthodox activists cancelled theatrical performances, exhibitions, and concerts, if they think that it is something blasphemous and no one can do anything about it. For example, concerts of Cannibal Corpse, Behemoth were canceled in 2014 in some cities. All concerts of Belphegor were canceled in 2016. Strictly speaking, our album is outlawed in our country today. But we are not known by the masses, we’re an underground band. If we were a famous band, we would have had problems I think. That’s why religion is an urgent topic today.

The album has some astonishing artwork. Care to tell me who did the cover and how you came across each other?

Max: Thanks! It was created by W. Smerdulak. He is a quite famous artist and designer in some circles. Initially, we didn’t have a definite idea about our cover art, but we clearly knew what we didn’t want. We talked with the boss of our label about it. And he said: «I’ll take it upon myself, I know an artist that you need». We trusted him and decided to agree. When we got the first sketches, it was not so clear what we would get in the end. But when the work was finished, everybody liked it and only small changes were made.

Are you happy with your label’s support so far?

Max: Yes, quite. These guys are really decent. We began to look for the label, as soon as we had finished the recording. We sent out our stuff without mixing to many labels. Max (boss of our label) answered immediately as he listened to our raw tracks, and offered us good terms. We received suggestions from several foreign labels. But the offer of Lord of the Sick Recordings was the best that moment. In addition, I knew Max for many years as an ideological person and true fan of extreme music. After signing a contract he and his team set to work very hard. Almost around the clock we kept in touch with him. He was responsible for creating the cover art, the booklet design, also participated and helped us in our work with the studio, which was mixing our stuff. The good support was provided after the album’s release. Considering that it is underground and young enough label the work has been done perfectly.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Kirill: I try to draw inspiration from the shit that’s going on in the world. Some texts from the new album were inspired by the Old Testament. This book is saturated with blood and horror, the best inspiration. Sometimes an idea comes to my head by itself and I try to write it down immediately.

Max: Usually I draw inspiration from dark and gloomy music. Although I listen to different music styles. Sometimes black metal, sometimes death metal, folk, new age etc. Quite often I visit concerts of symphonic music. I like Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Borodin, Schubert, but especially Schnittke, he is an absolutely crazy composer, I call him “The God of music“, hehe.

What is your creative routine? Is there some piece of gear you wouldn’t be able to work without?

Sergey: We wouldn’t be able to work without our guitarist. Max writes all the music. Then together we work with parties and make changes if necessary. When the music is ready, Kirill applies text to the music.

What are your future plans? Do you have any shows booked?

Max: Ossuary Anex have a Russian tour with Relics of Humanity and Darkall Slaves in May 2017. In Autumn we’re planning another tour and a couple of separate shows. Besides, we began to work on a new album, we have a lot of ideas. We would like to achieve even more natural and dark sound. By the way, Justin DiPinto (a former drummer of Malevolent Creation, Pyrexia, Mortal Decay, etc.) agreed to participate with the drum work on the album. We sent him an outline of our new things, and he was quite interested. Sergey, our permanent drummer will concentrate on preparation for the concerts.

What are some of the difficulties extreme metal bands face in Russia?

Sergey: The main difficulty for extreme metal bands – little interest in this kind of music. In our country, people treat minorities and subcultures with suspicion. Few people go to concerts of extreme music. No culture of buying music. Everyone’s downloading from the internet.

Max: …and as a consequence it is difficult to find good like-minded musicians.

Tell me about your local scene. Are there any notable bands I should research?

Max: The extreme scene in Russia is very unstable. I don’t know groups that have been being active since the 90s, which have been regularly releasing albums, constantly performing, were well known throughout the country, like Greek Rotting Christ for example. There is a death metal band Miscreant from our city, they have been playing since 90s, but now are almost inactive. There is old band Alkonost, their earliest stuff is awesome – rough pagan metal, but their new work is not so interesting. But many decent bands began to appear in the last 10 years about in deferent styles. Black Metal: Drauggard, Grey Heaven Fall, Vedmak, Neron Kaisar. Death Metal: Cephalic Impurity, Grond, Pyre.Grindcore: Internal Damage, Fitcage, Disact, etc.

Simon: There are a lot of extreme metal bands in Russia, but not many bands linger on the stage. Remarkable bands for me – Disact, Visceral Disorder.

Any albums you got to listen lately that you feel deserve more attention?

Max: I recently listened to an album of Apparatus (Copenhagen) it’s called the same – Apparatus (2015). I really like it, very dark and atmospheric music. And I think almost all the releases of Lavadome Productions deserve more attention.

Great, I haven’t heard of them, but I sure will. Now, what do you know about the Greek metal scene? Do you have any favorite bands?

Kirill: I’m a big fan of Rotting Christ. I really like Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, I listened to this album a million of times. It used to be my favorite album. Well and early Septic Flesh of course.

Max: The Greek metal scene is very rich and diverse! One of my favorite bands – Inveracity, I love their album Circle Of Perversion (2003). Then, I know guys of Sickening Horror, they had a Russian tour in 2009, and I organized the concert in our city for them, they even couch-surfed in my flat! Also Dead Congregation – awesome band. Besides, I know Greece has a very strong black metal scene! I listened to Necromantia, Varathron, Zemial, Lord Impaler, Agatus, Burial Hordes and many more!

Ok, you covered pretty much everything. To wrap it up, is there anything else you want to add?

Thank you for the questions, it was very interesting to answer them, and thank you again for your review of our album!

Follow them on https://www.facebook.com/OssuaryAnex

Ignis Gehenna – Baleful Scarlet Star (2017)

ignis-gehenna-coverIgnis Gehenna is a one-man band from Tasmania, Australia. Nihilifer (also known from the now split up Erebus Enthroned) is the mastermind behind this act that already counts a decade on its back. In this debut full length album he attempts to conjure a sinister darkness from beyond this world, and admittedly he managed it all too well.

The album starts with a slow, mesmerizing tune, and from the first minute you can tell this is going to be a good album. It doesn’t take long however to realize this is an understatement. Halfway through the first song and the raspy vocals are hooked on skin like snake fangs. Then enters the bass with a furious melodic riffing and instead of just filling the sound, it fills your brain with deep burning scars. And this is only the beginning; each track pushes the envelope just a bit further. The album is constantly shifting from mid-tempo groovy to Swedish-like melodic black metal with a natural ease, and sure has the riffs to support the act (the closing riff of Baleful Scarlet Star keeps playing in my head at random moments during the day).

The guitars are heavy and distorted and give the album the dreading sound it requires to drag you to hellish magical paths. The incredible (and quite audible) bass helps heighten the feeling of desolate desperation which tends to become the trademark of Australian extreme metal. The vocals are also amazing. Part venomous, part grandiose and with clear articulation are more than you may ask for. The drums are doing their best to push the album a little further into the masterpiece area. They won’t ruin a good riff with needless experimentations, but given the chance they go all inventive.

Production-wise, the album is outstanding. The songs are crafted with great care and keep the interest peaked at all times. You will literally be surprised at how fast time flies by when you listen to it. The sound is gloomy but not muddy; on the contrary, everything sounds clean and well separated. The well crafted mastering maintains a consistent atmosphere for the entire duration. The cover artwork is fantastic and only adds to a flawless album. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Follow them at: https://www.facebook.com/ignisgehenna

Noteworthy Report: February 2017

In today’s overcrowded metal scenes, more than 100 albums are being released EVERY MONTH. Through ATF I try to review 2-3 of those albums, the ones that really worth it and don’t get as much credit as they are due. Unfortunately, this means that an awful lot of good albums are not going to be reviewed. This is why I post the “Noteworthy Report”, a monthly installment with albums that are either too noticeable to miss or albums that sound promising but I didn’t have the time to pay as much attention as they deserved.

As always, I will begin with the albums that usually pass under the radars and put the “established” acts in the end, since you probably got to listen to them already. If you believe some other way of order would serve the bands better, let me know in the comments.

 

Scuorn – Parthenope

Italy’s Scuorn have almost a decade on his back (yes, this is a one man band), but only released their debut just the past week. Symphonic black metal (that will remind you the great Limbonic Art at points) with a Mediterranean folk twist. Sounds really promising. Added bonus: the second CD comes with the orchestral versions of the songs.

 

Pure Wrath – Ascetic Eventide

Debut release for this one man band from Indonesia. Nice atmospheric black metal and a sound quality I wasn’t really ready for. At points the repetitions feel somewhat uncalled for, but the overall impression is a good one. I wish I had more time in my hands to focus in this album. If you do, don’t miss the chance to give it a spin.

 

Guerra Total – Nihilistic Malthusian Manifesto (The Ouroboros Cosmic Indifferentism)

Whoaaahaha! Total war is sure what is going on in this album. South American blackened thrash featuring some weird piano/synth moments that -once I got used to- actually managed to keep me interested throughout the duration.

 

Eterna Rovina – Metamorfosi

Another one-man band from Italy that plays mid-tempo atmospheric black metal. The album starts with some uncertainty, but a few songs in it picks its own direction and stigma. Don’t let the obvious mastering blunders turn you down, this is just the perfect stepping stone for improvement.

 

Sinister – Syncretism

Need I say anything more? Really?

 

So, what are some other interesting extreme metal albums that got released in February? Let us know in the comments…