Nidingr – The High Heat Licks Against Heaven (2017)

 

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Nidingr started way back in 1992 as a solo project of Teloch (also known from his work in 1349, Gorgoroth and Mayhem among others), yet for some reason they never reached the starhood status other bands of that same era achieved. They released their debut in 2005 and even from that first album they showed signs of expert musicianship and a wild blend of melodic -yet sharp- black metal, cross-bred with brutal death metal moments. Yesterday they released their fourth full-length album, ‘The High Heat Licks Against Heaven’, and as nature wants it, this is a mature evolution of the band and its style which can still be heard rooted deep in its songs.

The album starts with a blast of energy that sets the mood and expectations: this is going to be a Hel of a ride (warning: there be Valkyries), definitely black metal, but hard to put in a corner as it constantly shifts and wind up in weird and unexpected turns of doom, avant-garde and death metal. The only element that is ever-present is the Viking mythology.

 

The guitars on this album are hard to characterize: at points they stand firmly on previous Nidingr works, at points they stand with one foot knee-deep in Mayhem-like bursts and the other in US death breaks, and in the end all roads lead to epic ballads. But there is no confusion as everything is mapped properly. On top of that, the clearly audible bass is at great form here. Not only massively glues everything together, on its spare time it goes into raging melodies complementing the work the guitars are doing non-stop. Simply beautiful.

The vocals are fitting. ‘Is that all?’. Well, for such a complex album, “fitting” translates to some of the most diverse and well performed recordings. The growls are articulated (a rare feat on its own), the clean voices, both male (performed by Kristoffer Rygg, aka Garm) and female (performed by Amalie Bruun, aka Myrkur) are mesmerizing. They manage to take you there: the Norse saga.

The drums sound natural, an option most modern extreme bands avoid as they are hard to do right and it raises the bar for the rest of the instrumentation as well. Nidingr went for it, as they seem capable of pulling this off anyways. The compositions here however are somewhat conservative –given the nature of the album– and although perfectly executed, they leave you wanting more.

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The mix is wonderful. Nothing is forced here, despite the shift of styles even mid-song. Everything has its place, sounds natural and well separated. The sound is powerful but special care was given not to kill the dynamics. If you are a fan of relentless, violent black metal, well, there is something for you too in here. If you are a fan of honest extreme metal, labels aside, this album is for you. Twice as much if you also like Enslaved. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

More info:

https://www.facebook.com/nidingr

https://nidingrsom.bandcamp.com/

 

Avslut – Vanskapt (2016)

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Avslut is a newly formed band, but also a hard working one. In their sole year of existence they released two singles and one EP, for which I am going to talk about in this review. The band members are seasoned musicians (although I never heard of their previous bands) and this can be heard – the quality of their work is astonishing.

If what you seek in your black metal is darkness, disharmony, anger, misery, deformity, this EP has you covered. With four tracks clocking just over 20 minutes, they give us a taste of classic Swedish black metal that pays tribute to the entirety of their scene, in its own unique way.

Sharp guitars intertwine and create beautiful yet nightmarish riffing, the bass is digging graves and the gnarled vocals assault the senses. The intense drumming is inspired and fitting and the tight mix glues everything together nicely, leaving enough headroom for dynamics. I always like that as it makes the listening experience easy.

The compositions are well thought out. They never go stale; instead they constantly evolve into some new mischief. Vrede had my hair raised. On many occasions I felt my heart racing. I can’t remember when was the last time a contemporary release managed to do that to me. All I can say for this little gem here is: a work of genius. I became a huge fan of Avslut in under 20 minutes. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

For more Avslut head here: https://www.facebook.com/1008Avslut1008/

Interview with GreyAblaze

Back in December I had a great opportunity to talk with Astargh regarding GreyAblaze’s fresh full length album. As a musician myself, I am always curious about the way other people of my ilk work as well as the business end of things. If you too are curious, read below and be enlightened.

Give me a short bio of your project.

The project has no biography. Once I had the idea to write DSBM project, but it turned to something else.

The album was recorded back in 2013 but got released just now. Why is that?

I didn’t want to give it indiscriminately to someone, all proposals for the production of the album were unsuitable. Ashen Dominion did everything as I wanted, so they released the album.

 

What is the feedback so far? How are the sales going?

I do not know how many CDs were sold, I do not follow it. But we got a lot of positive feedback.

Now that the album is out, would you change anything in it?

No, everything turned out as planned. All I wanted to do now, will be on the new album.

You haven’t gone into the usual great lengths that most labels require to market the album (professional photo shootings, videoclip etc). Was this deliberate? Are you happy with the label’s support so far?

Here, it was not necessary. There are music and images in the lyrics. Think that this album not needs in musicians photos and music clips, we give to listeners the freedom of imagination.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

It is very difficult to say where it all comes from. I think it come from inner state, some feelings, from music of old bands, such as Queen or Pink Floyd.

What are the lyrics about?

All the lyrics for the album written by Helg (Khors, Ulvegr, KZOHH).  They didn’t have some sending or concepts, but they are filled with a very expressive images that emphasized Greyablaze music.

What is your creative routine? Can you tell me anything about your favorite gear or software you use?

Usually I compose music at home. When all the demos are ready, we start working on the Dark Essence Recording Studio. At work, I use a lot of software, the main DAW – Pro Tools, also I use many Kontakt libraries. I have old American guitars BC Rich and Jackson, I used them on all recordings.

 

What are your future plans with GreyAblaze? Are you planning to play live shows?

Now I compose a new album which I want to release this year. About the live performances anything difficult to say. If there are proposals, we will play concerts, but there is the same problem as with Elderblood – for organizers of concerts is difficult to carry a band from Ukraine.

Any albums you listened lately that you would like to share with us?

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Cult of Luna / Julie Christmas – Mariner

What can you tell me about your local scene? Any bands we should lookout?

I do not watch the local scene. All worthy groups are already known.

What do you know of the Greek metal scene? Do you have any favorite bands?

From the Greek scene, I heard a lot of bands. Favorites are Septic Flesh and Acherontas.

Anything else you want to add?

Thanx for the interest in GreyAblaze. Horns Up!

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To stay tuned with GreyAblaze, follow the band at:

https://www.facebook.com/greyablaze

https://vk.com/greyablaze

Noteworthy Report: January 2017

In today’s overcrowded metal scenes, more than 100 albums are being released EVERY MONTH. Some of them are awesome, most of them are not. Through ATF I try to review 2-3 albums every month, 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 –hopefully– monthly installment with albums that are either too noticeable to miss (so no point to write yet another review just to get some traffic), or albums that sound promising but I didn’t have the time to pay as much attention as they deserved.

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.

 

Acrosome – Narrator and Remains

This is the second full length for the Turkish one-man band. Nightmarish ambient covered in a fog of murky avant-garde black metal. There are many elements I didn’t really liked, but the overall impression the album did to me was very powerful. Few dare to execute this kind of music, and fewer do it properly. Acrosome tried and delivered.

 

Afterblood – Blood Art Tryptych (EP)

I wasn’t aware of this Greek blackened death metal act, until we shared the stage half a year ago. Their energetic show was captivating, so when they released this new EP I was eager to check it out. The overall impression is very good, even if I mostly prefer their blackened moments (see Behold The Fallen). Definitely worth your time.

 

Begerith – A.D.A.M.

I knew I was in for a treat with this album even as the intro was still unfolding. Polish blackened death metal, closely following on the steps of late Behemoth. Astonishingly majestic, majestically astonishing.

 

Draugsól – Volaða Land

This is a cliché joke by now: there is something in the waters of Iceland, no other explanation for how they manage to have so many, so talented, so high quality extreme metal bands up there. Draugsól are no exception.

 

Scáth Na Déithe – Pledge Nothing But Flesh

Now this is a tricky beast. These guys manage to instill a heavy, mournful atmosphere to their black metal, dispelled only by the constant gear shifts from doom to high speeds. Parts of it are pure nightmare material, parts are direct whispers from the outer planes, and parts are just Irish black metal. Interesting listen in any event.

 

Enepsigos – Plague of Plagues

This is a hell of a debut. The Norwegians start their album with somewhat careful tracks, but as the clock gets ticking they raise the bar higher with every passing song. Less than halfway in, they finally stand up for their bio proclamation: this is some Trve Norwegian Black Metal. The ‘groove’ didn’t do me any good, but some riffs are pure poison. Don’t miss it.

Listen to the whole album here: https://drakkar-productions-official.bandcamp.com/album/enepsigos-plague-of-plagues

 

The Flight of Sleipnir – Skadi

The Americans return this year with their 6th album of ethereal progressive black/doom. The slowly unweaving tracks create the perfect otherworldly atmosphere to accompany your whiskey. Too bad there are not as many hours in a day to properly enjoy this.

 

These are some of the most impressive releases for the first month of 2017. If things keep up like this, I can safely bet this is going to be a hell of a year!

Noteworthy Report: Rest of 2016 (4/4)

The time has come to close this 4-part Noteworthy Report. These albums and EPs made my year SO much better and if you have compatible music tastes (which is why you are here probably) I can guarantee they will make yours too if you take the time to listen to them.

 

Paul Ozz – Tartarvs

While it is hugely common for black metal musicians to form one man “bands”, the same is a rarity in the death metal scene. Paul Ozz is a hard working musician who managed to put together a little gem of progressive death metal in the form of an EP. He also released a new single just this month.

Listen in full here: https://paulozzmusic.bandcamp.com/album/tartarvs

 

Panzerfaust – The Lucifer Principle

If you ever wondered how the end of the world would sound if you were trapped in a dusty cathedral while it was happening, this EP has the answer. This is some dark black metal.

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/decibelmagazine/sets/panzerfaust-the-lucifer-principle

 

Perennial Isolation – Epiphanies of the Orphaned Light

This is the third album for the atmospheric black metal band from Spain, and I got to say, they did a tremendously good job at every aspect, from the compositions, to sound, to artwork. The moment you hold this CD you know you’re in for a ride through misty forests. Highly recommended for fans of Agalloch and Fen.

 

Sol Sistere – Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum

Chile has a quite small metal scene, but the few names that made it out of the ‘deep underground’ are of such remarkable quality that makes up for their numbers. This one here is one of the best atmospheric post black metal albums I heard all year.

 

Sinsaenum – Echoes Of The Tortured

Interesting mix of black and death metal. Some DM parts felt underwhelming, but otherwise it is a solid release. Amazing lead guitars and all kinds of cool stuff going on with vocals, and how couldn’t be with three singers one of whom being Attila Csihar…

 

Sojourner – Empires of Ash

Murky, atmospheric black metal bordering pagan folk. For fans of Summoning and Saturnus alike. Quite enjoyable for slow evenings.

 

Sylvaine – Wistful

Shoegaze post rock with a few blackened moments that bring Dismal Euphony’s ‘Soria Moria Slot’ to mind and others reminding late The Gathering, while still carrying a personal brand. Pretty good music to relax you after a hard day.

 

Spire – Entropy

An album that is constantly switching from agonizing Doom/Death to rabid Black metal. It resonates a murky gloomy atmosphere even in its most energetic moments. Excellent work from the Aussies.

 

Temple of Katharsis / Faceless God / Sulferon – Knights Of The Northern Black Empire

The one thing you will immediately notice upon playing this split is the primitive production and sound. But as I stated opening the series of this “Noteworthy Report – all of the great releases of 2016 I didn’t get the time to mention during the year”, I AM giving a break to the least established acts. Once you allow your mind to focus on the music, you will find 6 killer compositions that present 3 different aspects of the Greek underground. Sharp, short and to the point.

 

The Foreshadowing – Seven Heads Ten Horns

There are parts of genius and parts that threw me off, pretty much in constant exchange. It still sounds like a dream, it manages to carry you away. Two Horizons is one of the most beautiful tracks I’ve heard this year.

More info here: https://cycloneempire.bandcamp.com/album/seven-heads-ten-horns

 

Thy Worshiper – Klechdy

Magical, paganistic neofolk, prog black metal from Poland. It sure sounds interesting but can it be good too? Short answer, YES. If Ravenloft was a real place, this could be its folk music.

 

Ultha – Converging Sins

This album generated some hype, and rightly so. Unfortunately I found the majority of vocals not really matching the music which is a masterpiece. Still it is a great album that will give you goosebumps on many occasions throughout its duration (which is slightly over an hour).

 

Urgehal – Aeons in Sodom

Old school Norwegian Black/Thrash. Is there really anything to say about Urgehal? If you never heard of them before, well, you’re a little late…

 

Urfaust – Empty Space Meditation

Urfaust is a band I always liked for the ritualistic occult paranoia of their music, and I always admired for their ability to transfer the feeling of their recordings on a live setting as a duo. Empty Space Meditation carries the heavy air of Der Freiwillige Bettler, yet the maturity of the band in this new release is striking.

 

Voidthrone – Spiritual War Tactics

If you ever go on a journey through some barren desolate hell-hole, this is THE must-have soundtrack to heighten your despair. Dissonant black/doom from USA at its best.

 

Void Omnia – Dying Light

This is the debut album of this newly formed American melodic black metal band, and I must admit they did a hell of a good job. The contemporary US BM scene is becoming quite the thing lately.

Listen here: https://voidomnia.bandcamp.com/album/dying-light

 

Winterfylleth – The Dark Hereafter

The lads from UK are on fire for yet another album. Melancholic, misty, atmospheric black metal, and a brave cover of Ulver’s “Troldskog Faren Vild” compose an instant classic. Don’t miss that one.

 

I haven’t included the albums that I presented in previous Noteworthy Reports (in November and December), nor the albums I reviewed (Deathkin, Battle Dagorath, GreyAblaze, Ossuary Anex, Diabolical) as this would be redundant. The fact I got to talk about them in the first place means that they ARE so special.

If you discovered some other albums that I may missed and you believe I will enjoy, feel free to let me know in the comments…

Have a fucking great week everyone!

Noteworthy Report: Rest of 2016 (3/4)

The sad thing about early EoY lists is that it pretty much renders EoY lists moot. You are supposed to present your readers with the list of what albums you think are the best releases of the year. But when you publish them early, a lot of great releases are left out (as if a release near the days when people are buying presents isn’t a valid strategy for bands), so it actually is a list of “best releases of the year so far”. Then why not do it in October? “Don’t be ridiculous, this would just mean best releases of the year so far, it won’t be the best releases of the year so far close to end of year”. Right.

Anyway, enough chit chat and on to the meat.

 

Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith

Inquisition prove one more time that even when they have a bad day, they can do far better than most ‘mainstream’ black metal bands.

 

In the Woods… – Pure

Now this is some comeback! I never really hoped for a second “Heart of the Ages” and so I wasn’t really disappointed that they didn’t deliver one. Still, this isn’t some half-arsed attempt to grab easy money using your past glory as many bands usually do (Gh-Venom-gh). Listen to it, it REALLY is In The Woods

 

In Vain – Mantra

Progressive Black/Death Metal from Norway. Took some 4-5 minutes to grab my attention, but from then on it was a breeze, despite some odd moments. Fans of Borknagar should not miss this.

 

Imperium Infernalis – Imago Dei

Nightmarish vocals, exquisite drumming, tormenting riffs, forge this extraordinary album. Progressive black metal made in Greece. Don’t miss this!

 

Kawir – Πάτερ ‘Ηλιε Μήτερ Σελάνα

Kawir are probably the oldest and most respected Pagan Black metal band in Greece. This album is a bit more heavy metal centric than their previous works but it is still amazing. HAIL KAWIR!

Listen to the album here: https://ironboneheadproductions.bandcamp.com/album/kawir-father-sun-mother-moon

 

Kosmokrator – First Step Towards Supremacy

The biggest drawback here is some of the drumming which in some cases feels out of place. Overlooking this, there are some great riffs, extraordinary vocals and an effort so solid you will sh*t bricks.

 

Lux Divina – Walk Within the Riddle

Spanish black metal with a feeling, for fans of Wolves In The Throne Room. Very well thought out compositions, tight and focused play and an excellent production. Give them your attention, they worth it.

 

Mistur – In Memoriam

Sognametal is alive again! If you don’t know what it means then I guess you don’t know about Windir. If you do know what it means, I can only add this comes right after “Arntor” in my preferences. YES, it is THAT good!

Listen in full here: https://mistur.bandcamp.com/album/in-memoriam

 

Murg – Gudatall

Grim and ferocious Swedish black metal. It could be a masterpiece, but somehow they manage to abruptly dismiss all the tension buildup, which will make you feel awkward in many cases. A very good album nonetheless.

 

Netherbird – The Grander Voyage

Finely crafted Swedish melodic black/death metal. The album flows from start to finish as a beautiful stream of music, revolving around a main theme and using it playfully to cross boundaries and genres. Nothing you haven’t heard before (not THAT important to me anyways), it has its fair share of epic moments.

 

Novembre – Ursa

Partially doom, partially prog, partially death, this wild mix is probably the best album Italy gave to the world over the last years. Highly recommended for fans of late Enslaved and Fen, and to anyone who appreciates well composed music actually.

Buy it here: https://novembre2.bandcamp.com/album/ursa

 

Negură Bunget – ZI

When you merge the folk tradition of Transilvania with natural ambient black ‘n’ roll the result is certainly weird, and paradoxically sounds great. A rewarding listen…

 

Nahtrunar – Existenz

When this album got released halfway in December, I knew it was going in my EoY list within minutes. It deserved to spread like wild fire, but unfortunately most major publications had already closed their lists and articles for the year at that time. If you are serious about your black metal, you CANNOT afford to miss such a finely crafted album.

 

Plebeian Grandstand – False Highs, True Lows

We used to say that there is something in the Icelandic water that turns its youth into super-musicians. I am starting to believe that there is something going on with French water too. Relentless experimental black metal, in the vein of Deathspell Omega. Top notch.

 

Prosternatur – Abyssus Abyssum Invocat

Ritualistic experimental black metal. I don’t have much to say about it, it is *almost* a masterpiece. There were a handful of moments that disturbed the whole atmosphere that was building, but apart from that, the album is really haunting. Great release.

 

Verwoed – Bodemloos

Bodemloos in English means bottomless, and this EP is exactly that. The loose structures of the songs pull you toward a spiral to the depths of hell. Nightmarish black metal is what the Dutch are good at, and this is no exception.

 

So this was the 3rd part of my list of noteworthy releases. One more to go, and then I might even tell you which of all those are my favorites. Have a great weekend everyone!

Noteworthy Report: Rest of 2016 (2/4)

Ok, time for the second part of the “Noteworthy Report – all the great releases of 2016 I didn’t have the time to write about”. Take the time to listen to them and wonder why exactly haven’t you noticed those gems earlier. The big publications impose a “barrier to entry” since in today’s business model of music the Labels can’t anymore. The big blogs and webzines use click-bait techniques to keep themselves afloat. And in between a struggle happens, of bands trying to get their music out there, to the fragmented attention span of the fans. Enough talking, here comes…

 

Cwealm – Odes to No Hereafter

There are many people that believe melodic black metal was prematurely ushered out the window back in 2000. Astraeus, the mastermind and sole member of this Swedish band, is one of them. Taking the genre from where Dissection left it before Nodveidt’s imprisonment, he expands from there adding modern elements. A really impressive debut album, highly recommended.

 

Celtefog – Sounds Of The Olden Days

Another one man band, this time from Greece. Melodic, atmospheric pagan black, this album is guaranteed to take you on a trip to battlefields now lost. Their most mature release so far is promising despite its flaws. Keep an eye on them. Listen to it here: https://celtefog.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-of-the-olden-days

 

Coldblood – Indescribable Physiognomy Of The Devil

High quality technical death metal from Brazil. The insanity of their vocals combined with their powerful riffs are going to leave a deep scar on your brain.

 

Conceived By Hate – Death & Beyond

If there is one metal genre that thrives in Central America, this must be death metal, usually sprinkled with drops of blood, sweat and …Thrash. This band from El Salvador represents just that.

 

Cult of Fire – Life, Sex & Death

Occult black metal inspired from Hinduism (although the band is actually from Czech Republic). If I only had a word to spare that would be: soulful.

 

Darkestrah – Turan

There are only three (3) active bands in Kyrgyzstan right now, and Darkestrah are the oldest among them. Majestic pagan black metal of the highest standards.

 

Dark Tranquillity – Atoma

This is a band that doesn’t need introductions. Whenever they experiment outside their comfort zone the outcome doesn’t always reflect their quality. But the mark of a great musician is taking lessons from those misfires, and Dark Tranquillity have shown time and time again that they can return to their base character and build with what they learned from their experiments. This is just a good album, so naturally their next will be a masterpiece.

 

Ellende – Todbringer

Austria has a great tradition in this kind of atmospheric black metal. This is just another great example. Fans of Summoning will greatly enjoy this album.

 

Fiat Nox – Light the Torches

Debut release of this atmospheric black metal act from Gremany. Demo, EP, you name it, all I know is that these guys know their game and the three songs it contains are both enjoyable as well as promising.

 

Gherzen – 1917

They say it is bad to judge a book by its cover. I guess this is true for music too, as the debut album of this Russian band easily proves. One of the best atmospheric black metal releases of the year.

 

Gespenst – Forfald

This album is breathtaking. From start to finish, and despite their quite long durations, these four tracks act as a reminder of why we are drawn to this music. Majestic, dark, phantasmal. Scandinavian black metal at its finest!

Listen to the album here: https://hellthrasherproductions.bandcamp.com/album/forfald

 

Gruesome – Dimensions of Horror

When Gruesome appeared out of the blue two years ago we didn’t know what hit us. With Dimensions of Horror they continue on the path of Savage Land. Highly recommended for fans of early Death.

 

Gravatus – LI_E

Experimental black metal from Romania. There is much room for improvement, but it certainly sounds promising, and being in this list means it is way better than most mediocre attempts made by established bands of the genre.

 

Grok – A Spineless Descent

Old school majestic black metal from Colorado, USA. Feels like it is 1993 again, awesome stuff.

 

Gjendød – S/T (Demo)

This is probably the surprise of the year. The duo from Trondheim came out of nowhere and released a demo that took the world by storm. Classic Norwegian black metal of the kind we thought lost. Killer riffs, aggressiveness all over the place, bundled with bombastic sound. A must have!

Listen in full here: https://hellthrasherproductions.bandcamp.com/album/demo-2016

 

Temaukel – Spirit of Wintek

This is some quite epic melodic black metal from Chile. Temaukel is the solo project of Krenn, and they have already released a new single this month.

 

Throes Of Dawn – Our Voices Shall Remain

Any ‘best of’ list that does not contain a single Finnish band is a fake best of list. Throes of Dawn is one of the oldest bands of Finland and is highly recommended for fans of late Amorphis and Tiamat.

 

So that was the second part. Two more to go (coming shortly). That’s another handful of music to get you through a day or two…