Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs (Review)

ObsequiaeThis is the second album by US Black Metallers Obsequiae.

Aria of Vernal Tombs is the follow up to their first album, Suspended in the Brume of Eos.

The album features a cover that is dear to my heart as it depicts Valle Crucis Abbey, a place I’ve been to many times. With that in mind I happily pressed play and the band didn’t let me down.

Obsequiae return with another round of medieval-influenced Black Metal. They play Melodic Black Metal and have refined their melodic attack by improving on the already well-defined melodies from their début.

The production means that Obsequiae sound bigger, better and bolder this time around, but it’s not just that; the music sounds more confident and sure of itself. Something has clicked somewhere and Aria of Vernal Tombs is even more enjoyable than its predecessor.

Medieval instrumentation adds authenticity to the tunes and it merges seamlessly with the Metal. You can almost imagine this kind of Black Metal being a popular form of music all those centuries ago…almost…

This release is a nice and natural progression for Obsequiae and I hope they continue to develop in the future. The longest song here is just under 5 and a half minutes in length but I can easily imagine them writing involved songs twice that length. Here’s hoping.

For now though, slip on Aria of Vernal Tombs and become immersed.

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Mindflair – Scourge of Mankind (Review)

MindflairMindflair are from Germany and this is their second album. They play Grindcore.

Furious blasting Grindcore with heavy, tar-like slower bits interspersed; Mindflair make this extremely easy to like.

It’s a well recorded 25 minutes with everything sounding clear and heavy.

The riffs are infectious and actually quite catchy for a Grind band. The songs themselves may be short but they’re long enough and contain enough content to make a good impression.

This album is extremely listenable. Their assault has a Punk-aesthetic mixed with a southern Sludge-tang that gives them an easily digested flavour.

The tracks are memorable and have a good mix of blast beats and groove. The playing is tight and Scourge of Mankind ticks all of the boxes for a superlative Grindcore release.

The vocals alternate between static-like screams and blunt shouting. Harsh and unforgiving, just like we like.

Somewhat of a cross between old Napalm Death, FromTheAshes and Soilent Green’s acidic Sludge/Grind, this is quite the treat and I really can’t say enough good things about it.

Oh but this is a good one. Fans of extremity everywhere – you need this.

Gruesome – Savage Land (Review)

GruesomeThis is the début album by US Death Metal band Gruesome.

This is a supergroup of sorts, featuring members of Exhumed, Possessed, Malevolent Creation and Derketa. Gruesome exist purely to pay homage to Old-School Floridian Death Metal, with specific reference to the early work of Death.

It’s clear from the very start that they have everything in place to achieve this.

The sound is an authentic Morrisound one, only polished up a bit and without actually being recorded there.

The music is straight out of the Old-School Death handbook, complete with galloping drums, sharp riffs and leads/solos aplenty.

Savage Land excels in the songs though; without good songs this album would fall flat as being rather pointless. Thankfully though, listening to all of those Death Metal albums from an early age has done wonders for the band and this is a really enjoyable album that almost seems to reanimate the corpse of Death, if only for a little while.

In fact the spirit of Death is felt strongly throughout these 36 minutes. It seems to be lurking wherever you look, the riffs, the drums, the solos, the vocals, the choruses, everything really; deeply infused into the songs.

In another band this might be seen as a bad thing, but in Gruesome it’s so honest, so pure, so well-realised that Savage Land just comes off as a triumph.

Turn the volume up and give this a listen. If you’ve ever been a fan of early Death then I defy you not to enjoy this.

Ecferus – Prehistory (Review)

EcferusThis is the début album by Ecferus, a one man Black Metal project from the US.

This is Black Metal that’s somewhere between the Cascadian type and the more dissonant style of Black Metal.

The songs feature emotive riffing that seems to wind around on a journey, searching for something that was lost long ago. It’s marvellously composed.

The thing that I love about Black Metal like this, (well, one of the things), is the sense of exploration and wonder that it brings me. This is well-thought out music that is more than just a collection of riffs, it’s about atmosphere and feeling in the widest sense.

The pieces of music contained on this 36 minute release provide the listener with a musical framework wrought from the Blackest Black Metal from which they can feel the wonder and awe that the artist clearly feels about the universe and our existence.

A decent amount of variety is incorporated across these 4 tracks and there’s a lot to absorb here. Even the faster sections are dedicated to providing the listener with a thoughtfully emotive experience and taken holistically every song works hard, (though effortlessly), to engage and stimulate.

Ecferus are a great example of all that is right and healthy with the Black Metal scene in 2015.

An essential listen, I feel.

The 69 Eyes – The Best of Helsinki Vampires (Review)

The 69 EyesThe 69 Eyes are from Finland and play Gothic Rock.

This is a pretty epic Best Of album, spanning 28 tracks across 25 years. Most bands will never be that prolific.

I haven’t actually heard The 69 Eyes before but they’re certainly a band I’ve been aware of.

As is the case with Best Of albums like this it’s essentially a greatest hits package, and the quality of the songs reflect this.

It shows a remarkable consistency over the band’s long career. Times, style and fortunes may shift and change, but a good song is a good song regardless.

These are catchy, memorable, Gothic-infused Rock songs with personality and choruses aplenty.

The singer has that kind of deep, charismatic voice that is essential for this kind of music and it’s easy to see why he has captivated so many hearts over the decades with his vocal performance.

There is a lot of music on this release, almost 2 hours in total. But even given the constraints of the genre there’s a decent amount of variety here, with everything from up-tempo rockers, moody slower songs and outright ballads getting a chance to shine. The band have suffered no shortage of inspiration over the years, that’s apparent.

From my own point of reference, they combine elements of HIM, Ashbury Heights, Mono Inc., Paradise Lost, Tiamat, Type O Negative, Moonspell and Sentenced; although I’m well aware that it’s probably the other way around in reality.

With such a wealth of riches in one package, if this is your kind of music then it’s hard to go wrong with The Best of Helsinki Vampires.

I’m sold. Sign me up.

Ataxia – Calignious (Review)

AtaxiaAtaxia are a Canadian Death Metal band and this is their début album.

This is sharp Death Metal with a technical twist.

The band have a well-produced sound that’s tight and focused. Good musicianship means that the band know how to widdle and lots of technical muscles are flexed.

The singer has a decent growl that seems to come straight from the depths of somewhere dark and evil.

Ataxia are a band who are trying to do something slightly different with the Death Metal template. Yes, to the untrained eye this is essentially Death Metal, but to the connoisseur of such things Ataxia have enough of their own personality and ideas that are manifested in Calignious to cause you to sit up and take notice.

The band seem to prefer to embed their technicality into the very brutal essence of the songs as a general rule, as there are surprisingly few solos or leads on this release. Most of the time the complicated fretwork makes up the bulwark of the rhythms and snakes around the blasting drums.

This is brutal, Technical Death Metal which takes its cues from the experimental sides of Atheist and Death as much as Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation.

I think it’s time to support the Metal underground once more and lay your hands on this.

Multinational Corporations – Jamat-al-Maut (Review)

Multinational CorporationsMultinational Corporations are a Grindcore band from Pakistan. This is their first EP.

Here we have 15 minutes of intense, violent Grindcore, with passion and feeling that’s evident throughout.

This is ugly, underground music that has an Old-School style and offers a completely authentic immersion in the style

The riffs are as taut as rope and as tough as battered, leathery skin. The band are equally at home playing fast as they are slowing it down to a heavier groove.

Elements of Crust and Old-School Hardcore can be felt alongside the brutal Grinding core, and the band manage to make the most of short songs to sound relatively diverse for a band that is essentially going straight for the jugular all of the time.

Somewhat of a cross between old Napalm Death and Groinchurn, to my ears; Multinational Corporations sound rabid and ready to attack.

It doesn’t last long, but what there is of it is a great little listen. Be careful though, there’s a real bite here.

Strauss – Luia (Review)

StraussThis is the second EP from UK Stoner Metal band Strauss.

Their début EP was an great listen, and Luia follows up on the promise that their first outing showed.

Once again, this is riveting, rocking stuff. Heavy, fuzzy and with just the right amount of angry drive, Strauss proceed to deliver 5 tracks of involving music that takes in the Stoner genre and adds an extra layer of Metal to it.

There seems to be more of a modern twist to the songs this time, as evidenced by some of the less-typically-Stoner riffs and inventive vocal patterns.

Speaking of the vocals, once again these are a focal point. Whether shouting with passion, crooning with a cleaner style, or anywhere in between, the vocalist hits all the right marks and delivers a performance worthy of the music.

The songs are well written and the band seem to be slowly erring towards longer songs, which is never usually a bad thing in a band as it allows for more ideas to be developed and greater space for exploration.

Two EPs and two wins. This bodes well for an eventual full-length album. Here’s hoping.

Fangs of the Molossus – Fangs of the Molossus (Review)

Fangs of the MolossusFangs of the Molossus are from Italy and play Doom Metal. This is their début album.

This is orthodox Traditional Doom Metal with a healthy sprinkling of psychedelia to add to the charm.

It’s an authentic and faithful take on the genre and the band do it justice.

Their sound is suitably occult and the songs have a jammed vibe that is loose enough to sound natural but structured enough to not be sloppy.

This is slow and ponderous Metal with classic melodies and some quality guitar-work and riffs. The rhythm guitars work up a good atmosphere and some of the extended lead/solo work is exquisite.

The vocals are quite low in the mix and work as atmosphere-enhancers and an extra instrument rather than being the focal point as they are in most bands.

An enjoyably sullen album to stick on and kick back to. Recommended.