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/

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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/

Diabolical – Umbra (2016)

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Sweden’s Diabolical are the definition of unknown heroes of the underground. This exactly is why I started ATF, to shed some well deserved light on such bands. Formed in 1998, they have four full length albums under their belt, and I believe this year they are about to add another one to the count.

From the very first minutes of this EP they give the stigma of their brand of melodic blackened death metal, but their music is so multifaceted that under this veil hide a true chameleon. Even before the first song reaches its end, the mood changes, setting the stage for the follow up, and this repeats for the whole duration. Through those four tracks they offer enough variation by introducing new elements and changing the emotions using lead guitars, synths, voices, samples, whatever it takes to make the EP impactful. This in my humble opinion is just excellent songwriting and clever production.

The rhythm guitars sound ‘proper heavy’ while the leads are constantly buzzing away, weaving a melodic layer. The bass and drumwork are quite inspired, supporting the music without overburdening the mids. The brutal vocals fit the music like a glove, while the clean voices (when used) help take the songs the extra mile. Everything is properly done, which is a pleasant surprise in the ocean of half-arsed releases we are drown.

The sound on this EP is clean and powerful. The mix is just right. You feel the balance in every aspect of every song. Everything sounds natural and manages to wake up feelings, which is what music should be able to do as an art form.

The verdict? Give it a spin. If these 20 minutes cannot convince you that Diabolical deserve to be big, I honestly don’t know what can. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

more info:

https://www.facebook.com/diabolicalofficial/

http://store.diabolical.se/

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

Review: GreyAblaze – GreyAblaze (2016)

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GreyAblaze is the debut album of the homonymous Ukranian atmospheric post-black metal band. Formed in 2013 by veterans of the scene (having served in bands like Ygg, Ulvegr, Nokturnal Mortum and more), this is their first ever release, yet it shows their proficiency both in performance as well as songwriting.

The album blurs the lines and easily crosses the boundaries of genres. There is a calmness and a sadness present throughout the five beautiful compositions, and a recurring theme of soundtrack-like melodies. If you play this on repeat, you lose sense of time and it feels like one huge track.

Inventive use of synths and pianos, mesmerizing guitar work, powerful riffs combined with sensational dual solos, elaborate drumming pointing the right dynamics and a distinct bass that ties everything together. On top of them all, vocals that carry an essence of despair that matches the gloomy mood of the music.

The mix is clean and has enough air for the dynamics to unfold properly. The album feels shorter than its actual duration, which is indicative of how good it is. I have spent the past two days listening to it and I am confident I will keep getting back to it for years to come. An absolute masterpiece. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

For more info visit

https://www.facebook.com/greyablaze/

http://shop.ashen-dominion.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=62&product_id=50