SMT/ATF Episode 12: USA

Welcome back to a very special episode of Against The Fragmentaire. Why is it so special you may ask. Well, mainly because I decided to post a double episode and be done with it for the whole “season”, but also because this week we are going to check the USA, home to all things evil that somehow aren’t Russian!

Ever since I realized I was going to keep this series going by myself (yup, my original plan wasn’t to “blog” this alone), I had a hard time to figure what I am going to do when the United States of America come in line for a showcase: I mean, 6 slots are really few when it comes to so many states counting over 17000 bands in metal archives! It felt like I had to squeeze all of Europe in 6 slots.  Just a week ago a decided to tackle this in a manner that looked right: I will split the US in west and east and give 6 slots for each. And so I began my cherry picking ordeal as usual. And now that I decided to have a holiday episode to spend more time with friends during the following week, it doesn’t really matter…

 

One of the very first album’s I’ve heard in the black/death metal genre was “Rites of the Black Mass” of Acheron. This felt extreme and harsh back then, and even while it isn’t anything super new I most fondly remember it because of the weird introductions right before each song. Unfortunately I have lost the tape since then and the CD version I found only has the music. A shame… Thankfully there are a few songs in youtube that include the intros too!

 

Ladies. Gentlemen. Children. Forget everything you knew about doom and drone metal. Sunn O))) is the new definition of Ssssssllllllloooooooooowwwwww gggggggzzzzzzzzrrrrrnnn music development. Either like them or hate them…

 

One of my favorite blackened folk metal bands around is Agalloch. They are constantly pushing their own envelope a bit further and they offer –to me at least- the best music to accompany my whiskey. Their beginning wasn’t so impressive but they now show such maturity and quality that words are meaningless…

 

Another similar band that I also enjoy is Falls Of Rauros. This is the American school of shoegaze black metal and I love it…

 

When it comes to depressive black metal, one of my favorite picks is always Wolves In The Throne Room. These guys really are up to something. Their atmosphere really takes you there, in the ancestral roots of this land, all you have to do is be patient…

 

Another excellent sample of weird black metal. I don’t understand how Lurker Of Chalice manage to create such soothing feelings when they play such a nightmarish music. Ritualistic, astral, aggressive, epic. No, terrifying! That is the key ingredient that mixes all in a unique way. Dive deep into their abyss, you are going to like it. At least I do…

 

And since we touched ritualistic stuff, let’s take a look at Equimanthorn. I got to listen to this very song back in 1994 and though I don’t usually get to listen to them, it really has a place in my mind as something unique.

 

I will close the extreme/black metal chapter of the States with December Wolves, a band that sounds completely Norwegian and sometimes feels like listening to 3 albums of Satyricon simultaneously. Very underrated band for such a feat!

 

The time has come to relieve Andrew a bit from all this cacophony. Coming next are… Cacophony, a project of the genre I hate most: show-off metal! At least those huge names DO play some tough shit! Or should I say did…?

 

As you may already guess if you take a look at this series from the beginning to this point, I have a great distaste for progressive power metal. Circle II Circle however is one of those few bands of the area that managed to get a place in my collection. Not as show off as most prog bands, not as silly as most power metal bands, they settled in between and I like them for that!

 

There is a genre that only two countries in the whole world have invested, and this is humorous thrash. M.O.D. is one of my favorite, mostly because they do write music to accompany their jokes, whereas other bands like To Plokami Tou Karxaria or Anorimoi mostly aim for the pointless fun and nothing else…

 

Closing this marathon of metal, we have November’s Doom, a band I would recommend to fans of Opeth mostly, but certainly everyone can feel free to check them out. Melodic doom death at its finest…

 

This was the last Against the Fragmentaire for 2011. Whatever you do these days, have fun, drink and eat more than you can, but in the end of the day drive responsibly! See you next year…

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SMT/ATF Episode 11: Canada

And here we are again, a bit late due to work and other bleak stuff, but still alive and kicking. This is yet another ‘episode’ of Against the Fragmentaire, a series dedicated mainly to the weird cases of music, though sometimes ‘normal’ or ‘traditional’ seems to be the statistical anomaly when it comes to this art. This week it was time for a break away from Europe, so here we are checking out Canada, the place that is so near yet so far from the rest of America, and also the place where the Apocalypse WILL happen if we accept “South Park” as a documentary from the future.

So, Jack, do YOU know jack about Canada?

 

One of my favorite epic bands in the modern scene is SYG:AR:TYR. They remind me a bit of Bathory at points, though these guys have the privilege to expand on solid ground where Quorthon was experimenting over a decade ago. Enjoy.

 

 

I keep telling in my reviews –which are growing sporadic by the day anyways- how much I hate it when a band plays 10 different styles in 10 songs, especially if they are part of the same album. Well, Woods Of Ypres is one of those rare occasions this doesn’t hold as much water. From post black metal to funeral doom to melodic post rock with a touch of metalcore, I enjoy these guys and the fact they have a song for each of my moods…

 

 

I know a certain amount of prog deathsters believe their favorite genre died when Chuck left this vein world, but Quo Vadis are one of the very few bands that managed to keep that flame burning. Technical play and awesome songwriting matching this of Death (the band)…

 

 

And now for something completely different: a blast from the past. The year is 1998 and I am on my first radio show. Oh, how much I liked Thunder Rider back then! I still do, though I rarely spend time listening to that stuff anymore. A good song in any case. I really dig the vocals!

 

 

Fans of old Darkthrone, I present you Godless North. Go forth and conquer! I kept this near the end so poor Andrew can listen to some bands before he dies of boredom…

 

 

Some of you may by now wonder where this ‘weird’ music I mentioned is. I mean sure, those bands aren’t exactly ‘mainstream’ and ‘popular’, but seriously, weird? Ok, here is your present then: Menace Ruine is an excellent example of awesome music that no tag can describe it clearly, unless if you tag them ‘experimental ambient drone ritual funeral doom post rock black metal’, because they are all these. Weird huh?

 

Off I go for some rest, sounding the chips and beer alert for another week. Enjoy your weekend. I won’t because I work tomorrow too :/

SMT/ATF Episode 10: United Kingdom

Loyal to our rendezvous for another week in a row, and today I present you 6 weird cases from the United Kingdom that will hopefully entertain most of you (one), while they may drive some (the other one) crazy due to so much ‘death voice’…

It was around a decade ago, when a band had to have long hair in order to play metal, and even ‘skinheads’ had to prove their worth when a woolly band was accepted into the elite even at a lower quality level. Around that time I discovered Anaal Nathrakh, a band that shamelessly promoted their music while wearing colorful t-shirts and demonstrating short, well taken care of hair. BLASPHEMY! Well, until I pressed play. BLASPHEMY!!! So much blasphemy and so tasty black metal in fact that their hair never bothered anyone from then on…

 

Forefather is a band that moves in the epic Viking/black metal spectrum, the melodic end mind you. I don’t really remember how I got to them, but it is a shame that they have so many albums and yet I haven’t read a single line in any metal magazine about them. A shame!

 

This is one of my favorite bands from the big island. Fen are an oneiric atmospheric post-rock/black metal band. They don’t have so big a discography but I loved them from the very first song…

 

Biomechanical is a band I can’t really say much about. I don’t really listen to them anymore –especially after the turn away from thrash- but they do offer some nice technical stuff, if a bit chaotic. Worth checking anyways…

 

If epic is your thing, look no further than Bal Sagoth, the band that could have written the music for Warcraft II and many other games or even movies. Their style is pompous, symphonic, a bit silly for my tastes, but they do know how to entertain someone. If you always wanted to listen to Manowar and not be mocked by your black metal friends, you can now talk openly for those guys…

 

When it comes to video clips, I have some standards, and boy, do these guys fail me all the time! Akercocke won their reputation because of the fact they play wearing tuxedos on stage –look another British band that broke away from black metal tradition-, however they do carry some awesome music to their shows. The satanic influence is way above noticeable but that was never a problem, right?

 

Another week, another ATF. See you soon peoples. Now back to WoW!

SMT/ATF Episode 9: Russia

This is the 9th and up to now the most difficult part of this series where I pick a country and choose those bands that have something exceptional to show, if not their exceptionally great music, at least the fact that they are an exception to the rule of “play the flavor-of-the-month music or sink trying”…

Why was this week’s post so difficult to write? There are two reasons: at first, this week I present music from Russia, home to all things evil, like communism, the Czar and Konstantin of Stellar, and sadly enough I couldn’t find that many candidates for a slot. Does this mean there are not that many good bands there? Hopefully not! I just don’t seem to have as many CDs from Russian bands, and those that I do have are pretty ordinary as the practice of running through them showed me. The second reason is that WoW’s patch 4.3 came out this week and I just HAD to check it out. Actually I wrote this post in a hurry and heading back in some dungeon crawling afterwards. So here it is…

 

One of the first Russian bands I ever got to listen to was Alkonost. They play melodic pagan/folk metal, and I mean every word in this tag!

 

 

The second band is Dukhi Predkov, and they also happen to play melodic folk metal. The Slavonic folk elements are very prominent and fans of Skyclad and Eluveitie will definitely enjoy their music. For me, at least they are better than Temnozor

 

Seducer’s Embrace is russia’s answer to NWOSDM. I have to admit that I first got interest in them after reading “death metal” under the very colorful cover of their album ‘Self-mythology’, and to be honest I prefer their older works, as this one is too melodic for me. Almost Gamma Ray melodic!

 

Wine From Tears was a real shock for me. They play melodic doom/death metal, something similar to Saturnus, and they are very good at it. The production and the whole detailed-to-perfection package fooled me into believing them Swedish at first. Probably my favorite band from this huge land!

 

This is the first time since I began this series, where I went shopping and asked specifically for ‘Russian metal’ music. Thehappymask is my collection’s latest addition and they have some lovely shoegaze post-black metal treasures in their pockets. Invest!

 

Last and in our case probably least, we have Ordo Coquatrix, a band that shot their own foot in today’s way of making and promoting music. I was thinking of not having them here, because they have no means of letting you hear their music. That’s right! No youtube videos, not official website, not even myspace! All I can show you is the last.fm page of them, but unfortunately you won’t be able to listen to ‘XVIII’ which is a lovely weird song, but only a few typical depressive black metal samples of them. It really is a shame that the only way to get their debut (?) XXMI is to order it through some obscure underground distro or download it from some blog… Did I mention they didn’t even bother claiming their last.fm page as their own, artist-run page?

http://www.last.fm/music/Ordo+Coquatrix

The comment for them is no longer valid, since there ARE now videos available, so enjoy some ambient/drone from Russia!

 

 

Have a nice weekend!

SMT/ATF Episode 8: Germany

This week we visit a country that gave birth to tons of metal bands around two decades ago, but now the metal production has either stopped or turned to NSBM… Germany is the name of that place and I will not say anything about what else it gave birth to, because as I learn, it is even illegal in some countries –Germany included ofc– to even refer to such stuff… Holocaust Maleus Maleficarum!

 

Some people really like classical music. Well, I don’t. I can listen at a few tunes but that’s all there is. Some people really like Angra. Usually those are the same people who like classical music too. As expected, I don’t really like them either. For people like me there are Haggard. This band of around 20 musicians combines death metal with classical music and metal tunes in the vein of Angra. Well, I personally don’t like those guys either, but I am certain there are those who do… somewhere… someplace…

 

 

Empyrium is one of those bands that you get to listen to a song, don’t give them the attention they need and then forget about for a decade. But when you do get back to them and pay attention, they create a long lasting impression. Excellent atmospheric black metal. They later experimented with other music forms and they were good at it too!

 

 

Every once in a while I will suggest a new discovery to friends of mine, only to be asked “how do you find these bands? Do you randomly bang your hand on the keyboard and then go check what you got?”. One such case is Aaskereia. Very well crafted pagan black metal…

 

 

Lantlos is a quite recent appearance. If you are into depressive black metal or liked Lifelover from Sweden, don’t miss this band!

 

 

I know a lot of people don’t think ambient is music. Well, maybe it’s time to reconsider. The atmosphere, the calmness, the cold Vinterriket emit really put them on the throne of ambient black metal –if there is such a thing– and for me, this is one of the most relaxing stuff there is…

 

 

Last but not least, a band I always thought were British yet only LAST NIGHT it turned out to be German. I am talking for the darkwave Goths Diary of Dreams of course. Did you know they have a huge discography? I didn’t until LAST NIGHT. Seriously, digging in my collection can sometimes shock me!

 

 

That was all for now. Thank you for putting up with me for one more week. See you around here!

SMT/ATF Episode 7: Austria

Next in line is Austria, a small country similar to Greece’s size and population, only surrounded by the Alps instead of the blue seas. It is birthplace to tons of musicians, philosophers and scientists, and this is reflected even in their modern music…

 

One of the craziest bands I have ever listened to is Angizia, a metal opera enclosed in a circus tent. I am not really a fan of their music, but it surely is interesting to listen to such bizarre stuff…

 

Back in 2006 when I first discovered Dargaard I was amazed by the way they manage to transfer the air of medieval renaissance and also sound fitting in the metal soundscape. I used to listen to them while reading R.A. Salvatore’s novels. They build a really good atmosphere for pen and paper R.P.G.s…

 

Slowly but steadily we get to harder stuff with Hollenthon. Folk death metal, in the vein of old Therion. Worth checking them out, especially if you dislike the path the later picked after ‘Vovin’…

 

Summoning is a band that shouldn’t really need any introduction. However, it is really common nowadays to meet people into black metal that never heard of them. The band was even accused by a reviewer of the Greek Metal Hammer that they followed the ‘trend’ of Lord of the Rings back when they released ‘Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame’, but is actually one of the first bands to pay homage to J.R.R. Tolkien’s story with the entirety of their work. Awesome atmospheres and a music style similar to the LOTR books, pompous and adventurous. Another must for pen and paper R.P.G.-ers!

 

 

If you fancy extreme, sick, misogynic and utterly blasphemous black metal, Belphegor is definitely a band worth pausing over. They flirt a bit with old school death and thrash metal, but their awesomeness truly lies within melodic black metal.

 

I left Abigor for the last spot. Probably the greatest band this country has to offer, they always were one of my recommendations whenever some friend wanted to listen to great melodic black metal. They also began to explore the most progressive aspect of this genre with their latest albums where they play what was once called ‘Intelligent black metal’. I personally don’t like the tag because I don’t really consider stupid or unintelligent the rest of the style so, yeah, whatever…

 

That was all. Have a nice weekend all of you (two persons) reading these series!

SMT/ATF Episode 6: France

It is this time of the week again, when Tragon decides to pick a country and showcase some amazing bands that may have slipped under your radars. 6th week already, and this time we visit France, birthplace of so many stuff that I can’t really name them, and total black metal playground. Seriously, it seems to me that most of the metal bands there play some kind of black metal, and the majority of them are so awesome I had a very difficult time picking only six…

 

While I am not a huge fan of folk black metal, Aes Dana was one of the bands that kept my interest for a long time. Not that I loved their fast paced folk bursts, but they offer extremely good black metal as an added value. Fans of Eluveitie, check them out…

 

 

Smohalla is probably one of the most interesting avant-garde bands around. Their latest album ‘Resilience’ is stuck in my mind and I have to listen to this song every.single.day. What they sound like you ask? A sickened mix of Arcturus with experimental ambient. But this description is very poor. You have to listen to understand it…

 

 

I first heard of Dark Sanctuary thanks to the following cover of Dead Can Dance, and their eerie feel made me dig a little deeper. Amazing music. Add wine for extra pleasure!

 

 

It was exactly 9 years ago when me and some friends found a new way to discover new bands. We sat down and set up a last.fm account, hit ‘black metal’ in the search field and Himinbjorg was what we got. Amazing Viking black metal by one of the oldest bands there…

 

Experimental. Progressive. Doom. Grotesque. Dark. Religious. Sick. Black metal. I don’t know how they do it, but Blut Aus Nord put out one great album after another over the long span of their history. This is going to be a pretty bleak weekend…

 

 

Finally, we have Alcest, probably the only European band that can play shoegaze depressive black metal so close to the American school. Their album ‘Ecailles De Lune’ is simply a masterpiece!