Epitaph – Crawling Out of the Crypt (Review)

EpitaphThis is the début album from Italy’s Epitaph, only a mere quarter of a century or so after they first formed…

Epitaph play Doom Metal, Black Sabbath-style, with a decent amount of Heavy Metal thrown in. It’s ancient and grand sounding, with mystery and the occult bleeding out of every wicked pore.

Resolutely Old-School, this is nonetheless infused with vitality and interest as if fresh out of the mortuary. You can always tell a good album when you can quickly point out individual songs because each one has its own feeling or unique twist to the formula.

You can tell that some serious time and effort has gone into this album as each song has character and style. The album feels very complete and has a lot of personality to it.

The musicianship is at an advanced level, as is the songwriting, with the tracks being very well developed. Dynamics, pacing, hooks and melodies; all are here in abundance.

Each instrument is represented clearly, even the bass, and the subtle keys add further atmosphere to what is already a strong selection of riffs and song structures. The guitars are heavy and the beats are solid.

The singer has a strong voice that handles the tunes with ease.

Epitaph may have only just produced their début after such a long time, but now that they’re here they have the potential to become a force to be reckoned with in the Metal scene.

Let’s hope that this isn’t the band’s epitaph, and let’s hope album number two doesn’t take as long.

Highly recommended.

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Whore of Bethlehem – Upon Judas’ Throne (Review)

Whore of BethlehemWhore of Bethlehem are from the US and play Blackened Death Metal. This is their début album.

Whore of Bethlehem play Death Metal that’s saturated with Black Metal down to its very core. There is an aura of darkness that pervades everything on this album and it seeps out from every Blackened riff or thunderous vocal.

Said vocals alternate between deep growls and higher screams. It’s a very satisfying performance and both styles do the job admirably.

It’s a pleasure to hear such twisted, Blackened guitars on this release. Straddling the two genres sometimes means choosing between a Death Metal part here or a Black Metal part there; Whore of Bethlehem however have merged the two styles down at the cellular level and their riffs combine the brutality of Death Metal with the evil reek of Black Metal perfectly.

The riffs are evocative and punishing, yet not without nuance. The band work their dynamics well and the guitars have the right balance between feeling and aggression.

Even the production manages to capture the essence of both styles as it’s both heavy and sharp. Everything is perfectly matched against each other, with no one instrument gaining ascendancy to the detriment of any other.

These are very enjoyable songs; I’m quite partial to Blackened Death Metal when it’s done well and I always compare bands like this to Arkhon Infaustus who created in their 2003 album Filth Catalyst what is, for me, an exemplar of the style. Whore of Bethlehem could easily be spiritual successors to Arkhon Infaustus and Upon Judas’ Throne is a very meaty slab of dark Metal if ever there was one.

What a great album! More like this please.

 

Annihilation – The Undivided (Review)

AnnihilationAnnihilation are from Portugal and this is their latest EP. They play Death Metal.

Their début album Against the Storm was a very enjoyable slab of Death Metal with plenty of brutality and top vocals to enjoy.

So what does The Undivided give us? More of the same?

Not at all.

In the years between releases it seems Annihilation have been busy refining and updating their sound. It’s still Death Metal, of course, but now they’ve added in more technicality and dissonant riffing that takes them away from the Deicide influence on their début and moves them closer to a more interesting, Progressive Death Metal style in line with bands like Gorguts and Execration.

This time the songs are more involved and intricate. Dark, expansive melodies dominate rather than the fully brutal riffing of the first album. They still do have a brutal aspect to their sound but it’s now clothed in grimier materials and surrounded by lurking menace and sinister complexity.

The songs on this EP are real growers and have genuine depth and longevity. Seeing a band spread their wings like this and embrace their potential is a very rewarding sight and bands such as this should be supported at every possible step in their journey.

I must say I heartily approve of this change of direction. Although I really enjoyed Against the Storm ultimately it was nothing different, just an enjoyable Brutal Death Metal album. The Undivided, however, sees the band reaching for something different, something more individual. The results speak for themselves.

I genuinely can’t wait to hear what they do next.

Well done Annihilation.

Arroganz – Tod & Teufel (Review)

ArroganzArroganz are a German Death Metal band and this is their third album.

Arroganz play the kind of Death Metal that’s heavy and crunchy whilst also retaining a large amount of atmosphere and emotional appeal. This is due in no small part to the emotive guitar riffs that fall somewhere between the kind of melodic misery that bands like My Dying Bride unleash and a distinct Black Metal malevolence that haunts the songs like a deathly aura.

These two competing sources of darkness are brought together under the rotting umbrella of Death Metal and thus Arroganz is given shape, form and sound. It’s a great combination and the tracks on this release are engaging because of it.

These songs have a real depth to them much more than if the band peddled straight brutality. They know how to play hard and heavy but do so with an emotional connection to the core of their sound and allow the songs the space and time to develop into real entities in their own right, rather than just being collections of riffs strung together.

The singer has an accomplished bark that’s both deep and clear. He uses his voice like a hammer to crush the unbelievers wherever they lie. This rages over the top of a clear, precise sound where all of the instruments shine and even the bass gets to contribute in meaningful ways.

This is for fans of interesting, individualistic Death Metal like Gorguts, Immolation, Morbid Angel and the like. Tod & Teufel is a great collection of songs and the band have done themselves proud.

Have a listen.

Askrinn – Hjørleifsljóð (Review)

AskrinnAskrinn is a solo Black Metal project from France and this is his début album of Melodic Black Metal.

This is Black Metal with mellifluous melodies and a sound like cold water running down a mountain. It puts me in mind of atmospheric/melodic Black Metal bands like Vinterriket and Windir, and although Askrinn don’t sound the same as either of the two mentioned they share the same kind of feeling to my mind.

The tracks on this release seem to roll out of the speakers like a newly discovered fresh spring, bringing vitality and renewed vigour to all that sup from it. The style is an enjoyable one and the constant, rolling atmospheres that Akrinn creates means that it’s easy to like Hjørleifsljóð.

The music is Pagan/Viking theme, with lyrics apparently sung entirely in Old Norse. I say apparently, as the vocals consist of sharp rasps that fit the music perfectly but are completely indecipherable, at least to me. Either way, the vocals, like the music, have a melodious liquid quality that sees them streaming alongside the fluid music and adding bucketfuls to the emergent atmospheres.

This is the kind of release that it’s easy to just fall into and get swept away with, like a fast-running river. The atmospheres and melodies created are easy to absorb but are not lacking in depth despite this. It’s testament to the brain behind the outfit that these songs are well-composed and delivered so competently.

A top quality Black Metal release. It’s time to hunt this one down.

Apostle of Solitude – Of Woe and Wounds (Review)

Apostle of SolitudeThis is the third album from US Doom Metal band Apostle of Solitude.

With a quality album cover I was looking forward to hearing this band and they didn’t disappoint.

This is Doom Metal with an eye on the past and ambitions on the future. Of Woe and Wounds may have an Old-School core but it has a thoroughly up-to-date production that’s warm and organic whilst simultaneously being punchy and in-your-face. It may be Traditional Doom Metal but the recording leaves no-one in any doubt; Apostle of Solitude are a band that are of the here and now and they mean business.

The sound is crisp and crunchy, with the guitars sounding full of vitality and bone-crushing heaviness. Gargantuan riffs rise and fall with the drums sounding immense and the bass being a much more audible rumble than the norm.

Of Woe and Wounds combines the classic artefacts of Traditional Doom with elements of the more modern exemplars of the style such as Down and Orange Goblin to result in a truly wonderful album that combines the best of old and new. I even hear strains of Alice in Chains on occasion and it sounds just great, (Lamentations of a Broken Man, for instance).

The singer has a powerful voice that rings out strong and clear. He effortlessly becomes the focal centrepiece whenever he’s around.

Each song is a first-rate example of Doom Metal and of the depth that it can have. The tracks have a longevity about them that most bands would kill for. Carefully constructed Doomscapes and crawling riffs dominate the proceedings and I couldn’t be happier listening to this.

Apostle of Solitude have produced something special here. Make sure you get in on the action.

Atriarch – An Unending Pathway (Review)

AtriarchAtriarch are from the US and this is their third album. They play Blackened Doom Metal.

Atriarch play a curious mix of Doom and Blackened Gothic Rock. Neurosis-style Doom and dark-Stoner sensibilities combine with almost-Darkwave Pop moments and Blackened influences. The juxtaposition of the two is handled well and is an uncommon approach. The band have certainly developed their own style in this regard and are to be applauded.

Each of the tracks take elements of these influences and blend them together to greater or lesser extents so that the resulting album has a unique character and flavour to it.

Genre-shifting in mid-song is a hard thing to do well and not many bands attempt it for this reason. Atriarch have not completely mastered it but they’re definitely more proficient at it than most. There is a lot of variety, interest and depth to these songs because of how good they are at merging their differing influences and distilling them into something that works well for the listener to enjoy.

An Unending Pathway is the kind of album that is unexpected and abnormal. Some people won’t take to their individuality, of course, but I believe that as long as the music’s good anything a bit different should be embraced and supported.

Atriarch are a bit different, their music is very good indeed and therefore you should embrace and support them. Off you go.

Funerals – Human Ruin (Review)

FuneralsFunerals are from the US and play Hardcore. This is their début EP.

This is caustic, aggressive Hardcore which is heavy and full of contempt. Their sound is thick and syrupy and the guitars hit like hammers.

Fusing Crust Punk and Metallic Hardcore with even a hint of a Blackened influence here and there, these are three songs you wouldn’t want to mess with.

Veins of Black starts with a kick-ass Blackened Doom riff that slowly builds and builds until the vocals start and the chugging begins. The singer shows himself to have a charismatic snarl that fits well with the dark nature of the music. The riffs are catchy and there’s a good amount of 90’s Hardcore vibe lurking behind the contemporary sheen.

Human Ruin has an almost Dillinger Escape Plan feel to it before relaxing and sounding more like Gurd with just drums and bass with less angry vocals taking the stage. The guitars and shouting resumes once more though and the feeling of 90’s Metallic Hardcore asserts itself again.

The final song Sick of Sun continues in the same vein, with Sludge-tinged guitars laying a foundation of heavy riffs and catchy vocals. It’s the longest of the songs and twists and winds to its apotheosis.

Think elements of bands like Vision of Disorder, Earth Crisis, Sick Of It All, Sworn Enemy, etc. all mixed together; then give the resulting concoction a Crusty makeover and add a guitar tone that Crowbar would be proud of. Some Blackened Doom influences round off the package and Funerals have a heady list of weapons in their arsenal to utilise.

This is a decent EP that’s made me quite nostalgic for my younger days, whilst at the same time enjoying the fact that there are a raft of talented new Hardcore bands around these days like Funerals who are taking the template and running with it.

Support this up and coming band and check out their EP.

Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry (Review)

Blut Aus NordBlut Aus Nord are from France and this is their 11th album.

Blut Aus Nord are one of the most inventive and unique bands out there, and you never know what brand of darkness they’re going to unleash. As such, this new album is somewhat of a surprise to me as gone are the Industrial influences and this time we’re back into the realm of Melodic Black Metal, Blut Aus Nord-style.

Atmospheric Black Metal, rousing cleans, muddy-yet-warm drums, windswept melodies; Blut Aus Nord show that they’re perfectly at home with this style of Black Metal as they are with their more experimental/Industrial works. As the third installment in the Memoria Vetusta series this album is a majestic triumph.

This is an epic album, wide in scope yet focused and well-fleshed out. The music and album cover combined evoke feelings of natural landscapes and pagan times. It also harkens back to the glory days of the first Emperor album. If In the Nightside Eclipse is the darkness in the dead of night then Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry is what follows.

But this is not cold, evil Black Metal, although there are certainly elements of frost strewn throughout the landscape; no, this is warmer and pulsating. This is the sound of the frost melting and vigour returning to the forest. Rather than the sound of winter this is the sound of spring just starting to thaw and come alive.

Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry is beautifully aggressive and poetically powerful. Blut Aus Nord have once again proven why their name is a synonymous with quality.

Essential Black Metal listening.

Baptists – Bloodmines (Review)

BaptistsBaptists are from Canada and this is their second album. They play Hardcore.

The band combine violent Hardcore, abrasive Punk and Noise Rock into just over 25 minutes of emotive music.

The vocals are savage and raw, perfectly capturing the intensity and feeling that Baptists wish to convey.

Bloodmines is drenched in feedback, so much so it’s sometimes like listening to Sludge sped up and fed through the Punk grinder. In fact, the Sludge influence/similarity also bleeds through to the band’s sound as it’s dirty, filthy and downright unhealthy. The slower songs cement this feeling.

This is a dark album that does fast, straight-to-the-bone as well as slow-and-malevolent and does them both equally well. Or, if anything it’s the slower tracks that come off even better than the high energy faster ones as the band’s sense of creeping moss-covered horror realises its apogee.

Heavy riffs are the bedrock of this album and there are some juicy dark melodies located among the granite-hard guitars.

This is a very strong release from a very enjoyable band. Baptists are onto a winner here.