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

Au Champ Des Morts – Dans La Joie (2017)

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Au Champ Des Morts are a somewhat new band, summoned in 2014 by former Anorexia Nervosa members who didn’t want to sit idly after the band went into hiatus, they released an EP in 2016, and now they are back with more of their bitter poison in the form of a debut album.

 

The album starts with a pretty standard sounding shoegaze track, and for the first four minutes nothing really prepares you for what is going to unfold before you. Then, around 4:05 something happens, something truly promising. The mood switches to the epic melancholy of late Primordial albums, the music speeds up a notch and the vocals become bolder in their expression. The album never loses interest from then on, constantly going back and forth between anger and despair. With every passing track more and more influences are transparently brought in. Loose ends from Asgaroth’s “Absence Spells Beyond”, from Therion’s “Vovin”, from Fen’s “Malediction Fields”, heck, even from Dead Can Dance’s “Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun” are tied nicely to what feels like the origins of depressive BM, and creates some of the finest French contemporary post black metal. Absolutely fucking brilliant songwriting!

 

The purposefully unclean guitars weave a dread web of mournful melodies, enhanced by the vocals in their many forms. The drums are unexpectedly inspired –for the genre– which was a positive surprise. The bass tries to follow this orgy, and in many a case you will catch it playing wicked tunes, but its somewhat flat sound doesn’t allow it to truly shine.

Production-wise, the mix is somewhat muddy. This isn’t really a deciding factor when it comes to black metal, yet in this case it does do a disservice to an –otherwise– excellent album. Dans La Joie goes way beyond the boundaries of shoegaze post black metal, and I guess it will appeal to fans of Fen, Drudkh, Primordial, Battle Dagorath, and anyone with an open mind really. Bottom line: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

For more info hit:

https://dmp666.bandcamp.com/album/dans-la-joie

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

auchampdesmorts-band

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/

 

Noteworty Report: December 2016

Welcome to the second “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), good yet not ‘highly recommended’, or plain simple albums that sound promising but I didn’t have the time to pay as much attention as they deserved.

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.

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.

 

AsthenicSyn – Thy Flesh Consumed

I said it earlier this month, but it bears repeating: the Russians are upping their game lately. This is the debut album for AsthenicSyn, and it really is impressive. Mainly aggressive black metal, with atmospheric and post BM touches here and there, amazing riffs and cool vocals. The only turndown for me was the 2-3 “deathcore” moments. You know how much I dislike that, still it would be a shame to skip such an album for it.

https://www.facebook.com/AsthenicSyn/

 

NNGNN – Forceful Blasphemy (EP)

The thrash/black duo from Edinburgh is on fire in this little gem. Fresh yet true to the spirit of the genre, armed with riffs that reek “total death”, they march north now that the “dark throne” is up for grabs.

https://www.facebook.com/nngnnband

 

Скверна – Гнозис (EP)

Skverna is yet another band from Russia that is worth checking out. This EP is a little gem of experimental black metal. Have I ever told you how much I love the use of saxophone? Especially when done right.

 

Ash Borer – The Irrepassable Gate

This band needs no introduction. I was hardly satisfied with their previous albums, but this time I have to give them credit both for their melodic parts, as well as the doom-ier moments which sound grander than the abyss. I bet you already checked it out, but if you missed it, now is the time to right this wrong.

 

Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive

I rarely enjoy live albums. Especially if they aren’t on DVD. But this one isn’t just any live album. It is a mirror of the original DMDS, only with better sound. Kidding. Or maybe not. Well, listen and have an opinion of your own, do I have to force-feed you everything? A very good performance in any case…

 

Ossuary Anex – Mutilation Through Prayer (2016)

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Ok, it was about freaking time for a new review, right? I should start this one by pointing out that I am not a huge fan of death metal. There, I said it. I don’t like death-core. Heck, I don’t like anything-core as a matter of fact. When it comes to death metal, I like some Swedish school, or melodic/symphonic stuff like Septic Flesh, or when I feel like going all brutal, Deicide, Vital Remains and a tiny bit of later Cannibal Corpse is pretty much all I enjoy.

So what we have here is the second album of the Russian band Ossuary Anex. And I must admit I couldn’t tell they’re Russian until I read it. This is the kind of death metal I would expect from a US band, or at least a really inspired moment of a Greek band. The album starts with a sick piano intro, the blasting commences and it’s uphill from then on. Nothing is forced, the songs flow with enough variation and thanks to their duration (which averages around 4 minutes) it never gets boring.

Brutal sounding guitars, highly energetic technical play, a bass that slams you right in the face, the vocals are brutal and deep (even if mixed a little lower than what I was expecting), and natural drums, which was a great surprise given the overly trigger-happy nature of the genre.

The mix is really good and powerful, and you can easily discern every instrument. These guys totally convinced me. It’s been years to enjoy a brutal death metal album as much (last one I remember was “Promulgation of the Fall” by Dead Congregation, and that was back in 2014). Not to mention the killer artwork. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

More info:

https://lordofthesickrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/mutilation-through-prayer

http://www.lordsick.bigcartel.com/

https://www.facebook.com/OssuaryAnex

Noteworthy Report: November 2016

In today’s overcrowded metal scenes, more than 30 albums are being released EVERY DAY. It is nearly impossible both for fans to discover the true gems among them, as it is for the bands to rise to the surface of all this information.

ATF is a project I run on my very limited free time and as such I am not writing reviews just to write something. I don’t have the time to talk about bad or mediocre albums; if I don’t like it, I skip it. No point in wasting anyone’s time just to shame a release. Whenever I take the time for a full blown review, it has to be worth it. I want you to see an album on ATF and instantly know that you have to give it a listen.

Of course there are releases that even if they don’t make it to a review, they are worthwhile to check. And this exactly is 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), good yet not ‘highly recommended’, or plain simple 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 each month, 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.

 

Morke – Sleepy Eye (EP)

morke

This is the first release of the one-man band from USA. The EP consists of one 25-minute long track. Contemporary US black metal with a Canadian flare is their trade and it sounds promising. A bit repetitive, many cool ideas that would be stunning if they were packed in a shorter track, but hey, who nailed it in the first release?

http://morkemn.bandcamp.com/releases

 

 

 

Paganland – From Carpathian Land

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Melodic pagan black from Ukraine in the vein of Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum. This is their 3rd album, and I expect to write a review for it if I get the time to listen properly. Definitely worth checking out!

http://www.svarga.eu/en/from-carpathian-land

 

 

 

Ravencult – Force of Profanation

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3rd album for the Greek black/thrashers. This is the most anticipated album for me this year, and Ravencult don’t disappoint. A relentless storm. A must have.

https://ravencult.bandcamp.com/album/force-of-profanation

 

 

 

 

Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones

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The French experimental BM pioneers need no introduction. In this 30 minute release they managed to distill all that is evil, all that is massive, all that is essential to produce amazing black metal, and nothing more. They wasted not a single second for fillers or blabbers. Breathtaking!

https://deathspellomega.bandcamp.com/album/the-synarchy-of-molten-bones

 

 

Enslaved – The Sleeping Gods / Thorn

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Another band that needs no introduction. What we have here is a collection of experimental material from their past releases. If you are a diehard first-era fan, approach with caution, but you should check this out. If you like anything from the last decade, you should definitely check this out.

http://www.nuclearblast.de/en/products/tontraeger/cd/cd-digi/enslaved-the-sleeping-gods-thorn.html

Review: Deathkin – Kohti Kotiani Kaaosta (2016)

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The album begins just as another Marduk clone (from Finland as the vocals suggest), but Deathkin are really smart about it. After they capture your attention, it takes them less than 5 minutes to turn things upside down. Slowing the pace after the first bombastic charge, they give time to the rest of the tracks to unfold properly, and this gives space to the guitars to present a repertoire that extends from the roots of traditional Finnish black metal all the way to more modern stuff (I even heard a bit of Eternal Tears of Sorrow and Windir in there somewhere). I really liked the vocals, and Deathkin aren’t afraid to experiment with them. From the typical for the genre growls, to majestic chants, to nightmarish Latin spoken parts, this album has you covered.

With a running time a bit over the 45 minute mark, they kept things under control. The album didn’t bore me at all, on the contrary I didn’t really notice its duration and went to check why it stopped playing. The music flows naturally as there are no fillers here, only well thought compositions and an eased progression with new elements slowly being introduced as the album goes on.

The sound is clean and powerful, especially for a self-produced / self-released album. The guitars are sharp but not oversaturated, the bass is audible, the vocals are front and center with good articulation. They really did a good job mixing this.

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Deathkin are unsigned by choice and they sure deserve all your support. Melodic Finnish black metal at its finest! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

If you want to find out more about them, or buy their music, follow these links:

https://www.facebook.com/deathkinband/

https://deathkin.bandcamp.com/album/kohti-kotiani-kaaosta

http://deathkinblackmetal.bigcartel.com/product/deathkin-kohti-kotiani-kaaosta-cd-2016