Stigmata – The Ascetic Paradox (Review)

StigmataStigmata are from Sri Lanka and this is their fourth album. They play Heavy Metal.

Wow, okay, so here we have a bit of everything from Death to Nevermore to Iron Maiden. The band play technical and involving music that’s as varied as the influences suggest, all within the overarching template of Heavy Metal.

At 58 minutes in length, and touching on a wide-range of Heavy Metal bases, there’s a lot going on here.

It’s clear that the band are Hellishly talented and have grand ambitions for their art. Frequent musical sidesteps are taken so that you never quite know what’s just around the corner. Some of the playing on this release is jaw-dropping.

Full of grand melodies and even grander ambition, The Ascetic Paradox is a wild ride through various corners of Heavy Metal’s map, paying tribute to the greats while also spinning the threads of the Metal fates to their own ends.

The vocals are equally as varied, taking in everything from shouts, slithering screams, cleans to air-raid siren howls.

The production is a little uneven in places – I could do with the guitars feeling a little fuller and larger, but it doesn’t spoil the songs, just doesn’t let them reach their full potential I feel.

This is very impressive, but I feel would benefit from being re-recorded and tightened up in a few places. Don’t let this put you off though as Stigmata have produced an album that wins more than it doesn’t.

A flawed masterpiece.

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True Cross – Pure Divorce (Review)

True CrossTrue Cross are from the US and this is their début album. They play Shoegaze/Post-Rock.

This is an interesting album. The band incorporate elements of Doom here and there and even a hint of Punk in some of the more upbeat parts. For the main though, this is firmly in Shoegaze territory, with Post-Rock filling in the gaps.

Apparently the theme of this release is all about endings, and I can believe that as there’s a definite air of finality about these songs. They’re darkly emotive and heavy on the feeling, creating a despondent attitude without going overboard.

The vocals consist of ethereal cleans that seem to just about have the energy to pull themselves out of the musical melange, adding further layers of emotion to songs that are already thick with mood.

True Cross have created an album full of raw emotion, unfettered by constraint and loaded with negativity. Artful and intense, Pure Divorce is cinematic in scope and shares some of its qualities with that of a soundtrack.

A lot of Shoegaze passes me by as not having enough substance to it, but True Cross have really got their formula sorted out on this album. I’ll definitely be listening to this late at night, in the dark, as I’m sure is intended.

Here’s one to live with and absorb for a while.

Conan – Revengeance (Review)

ConanConan are a UK Doom Metal band. This is their third album.

If you haven’t heard Conan before – think heavy, think Doom, think crushing. They also have the album art to back this up.

Conan play heavy Doom Metal that reeks of axes and old blood. Not content with playing at only one speed, they also throw a bit of groove into the music here and there to keep things spicy, usually before descending into the slow pit of DOOOOOM for a while.

The singer’s vocals have always been slightly unusual; he somehow manages to pitch his voice as a strange cross between singing and shouting. It’s not an unpleasant style, (in fact it can sound quite powerful in places), but it’s one that always took a little getting used to, at least for me. Now that I’m acclimatized to it though, I’m glad it’s a bit different, and even jarring on occasion, as it gives the band a way to differentiate themselves from the masses.

This is a very strong album, as it could only ever be if you call your band Conan, I suppose. The songs are all very enjoyable and feature gargantuan riffs heavy enough to stomp entire cities. It’s the kind of music that you can easily get lost in, which can actually be quite dangerous as the riffs and vocals can batter and bruise if you’re not paying attention.

Another 49 minutes of crushing Doom from a band who are, at this point, experts in what they do.

Highly recommended.

Rebel Wizard – Invocation of the Miserable Ones (Review)

Rebel WizardRebel Wizard is a one-man Black/Heavy Metal band from Australia and this is his latest release.

This is a combination of Black, Thrash and good old Heavy Metal. It’s a rollicking and boisterous listen that boasts a strong sound, a lot of catchiness and plenty of hooks. Think traditional Heavy Metal, only with a Black/Thrash influence.

The music is sleek, energetic and sharp. This is what you’d imagine Iron Maiden sounding like if they were brought up on a staple diet of Black Metal.

Screeched vocals scrape like nails down a blackboard as the music powers along at a frenetic pace. The high-energy leads never seem to stop as the music reaches greater and greater heights of Metal devotion. The riffs are infectious and the music sticks in the mind almost instantly.

These songs are well-written and damn enjoyable. Before you realise it you’re tapping your foot and getting carried away with the tunes.

This EP is only 18 minutes long, so I can’t think of a single reason why you shouldn’t check it out. Off you go.

Mandragora Malevola – Black Flame ov Illumination (Review)

Mandragora MalevolaMandragora Malevola are a Portugese Black Metal band and this is their début demo.

Here we have three tracks of newly-birthed Extreme Metal lasting 15 minutes.

The first track Mandragora Malevola is essentially an intro, setting the scene with dark sounds that soon morph into unearthly incantations and invocations. As is the case with most intros, it’s entirely disposable.

So, first proper song is Arkangelvs Satanis (The Red Moon Wolves). Right from the start we get a lovely, filthy guitar sound that sets the tone in no uncertain terms. My first impression is that it reminds me of Antaeus, although this has a bit more of a Blackened Death Metal feel to it too. Soon after we get some absolutely rabid vocals that are somewhere between a growl and a scream, reminiscent of older Behemoth. The band inject some energetic melody to things almost halfway through and also at this point they reveal themselves to have other, grander influences as the song takes on a powerfully epic feel, all the time retaining its raw, dirty sheen. By the end of the song I’m extremely impressed by their Antaeus-meets-Behemoth-meets-Dissection style.

The second song is Apotheosis (Hvmana Manifestvs), and this initially continues the themes and atmospheres projected by the previous track, but soon demonstrates a more Euro-Metal influence that wouldn’t be out of place being described as Atrocity-meets-Hypocrisy. It’s all still wonderfully raw, and the previous influences can still be heard, but it’s great to see a band not constraining themselves to a one-dimensional approach.

Mandragoa Malevola have revealed themselves to the world, and what a glorious revelation it is! This is an exceptional demo and shows a band with a massive amount of potential and promise for the future. If they can harness the dark energy that seeps from every pore on these two songs then their future place at the top of the pile should be assured.

A must listen.

Lucifer’s Fall – Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall (Review)

Lucifer's FallThis is the latest EP from Australia’s Lucifer’s Fall. They play Traditional Doom Metal.

I really liked Lucifer’s Fall’s début album; it was a definite grower. I was looking forward to listening to this new EP, but also slightly apprehensive as the low-rent cover is in stark contrast to the much better artwork adorning their album.

Of course, this is the classic “don’t judge a book by its cover” syndrome. I was fearful of some under-produced Punk/Doom abomination, (for some reason), but in reality of course the band are still crushing it with their classic take on Doom Metal.

So, apart from the cover, all of the ingredients that made their début album so enjoyable are present and correct – Traditional Doom with hints of the darker modern style, a good sound with an audible bass, loose and mournful vocals, Reverend Bizarre influences…it’s all here and I am very glad that it is.

The songs are effortlessly familiar, enjoyable and seem to roll into your ears with ease.

On this EP the band offer up three tracks spanning 25 minutes and it’s a worthy way to spend your time.

Persecutory – Perversion Feeds Our Force (Review)

PersecutoryThis is the début EP from Turkish Black Metallers Persecutory.

This is ugly music for fans of Archgoat, Black Witchery, Von, Watchmaker and the like. Combining dirty, evil Black Metal with enough Blackened Thrash to give it extra bite, Persecutory waste no time in establishing themselves as true purveyors of darkened brutality and nastiness.

Sometimes Blackened Thrash leaves me a little cold, but this is more Blackened than Thrash and Persecutory deliver a very tasty noise that’s furious and aggressive.

The vocals are a combination of rabid screams and infectious growls, both serving to emphasise the cutting music.

Fast blackened melodies are included alongside some very tasty riffs. It seems that the band have quite a talent for making both riffs and melodies extremely satisfying, and these tracks certainly hit the spot because of it.

I like how these songs are written and that the band know how to inject pacing and energy into them, avoiding the one-dimensionality that can sometimes plague this kind of music.

An impressive first release. Here’s to the future!

Natanas – Eram Numquam Amicum Vestrum (Review)

NatanasA one-man Black Metal act from the US; this is the latest release from Natanas, although at the prolific rate he releases material, it might not be by the time I’ve written this…

I’ve enjoyed watching Natanas progress in the relatively short time since its inception, (here, here, here and here), and it’s always a pleasure to listen to the latest horrorful dirge that the man unleashes on the world.

Eram Numquam Amicum Vestrum is a little different than previous releases. It still shares a lot of the same hallmarks, but this time it’s a bit angrier and more Black Metal. That might sound like an odd thing to say, considering all of his releases have been Black Metal, but I suppose I mean it’s a bit more traditionally Black Metal – although a lot of Black Metal fans would probably still blanch at this as his work remains on the raw, underground, under-produced side of things.

The music is Doom-laden, filth-ridden Black Metal that carries an artistry to it despite the primitive veneer that it wields like a sharp stick. The rhythm guitars somehow find a way to be mournful and rabid at the same time, while the leads add a lot of rich content to the songs and provide a pointed outlet for all of these emotions. The screamed vocals are some of his best to date; understated and low in the mix, but still totally despondently savage.

The tracks are less songs and more essays on how to channel anger and sorrow in musical form in an atavistic and cathartic way.

I think this is probably my favourite Natanas release, actually. Although I really enjoy the more experimentally dark nature of his other work, this album has more coherence and focus about it, resulting in an album that has a lot going for it. Traces of his previous work remain, of course, and these add extra flavour to the album, ensuring that it doesn’t become stale or one-dimensional.

If you’re the kind of person who gets off on raw, underground Black Metal then this is a must.

Illusions Dead – Celestial Decadence (Review)

Illusions Dead

Illusions Dead are from Finland and play Blackened Death Metal. This is their début album.

The style here is based on Death Metal with a Black Metal influence to the guitars, allowing the band access to a wider array of melodics and auras than a pure Death Metal band.

High screams form the bulk of the vocals, although deep growling vocals do appear as the main form of attack on some tracks. The singer’s growls are very well performed and he has the kind of voice that’s easy to enjoy. The high screams are equally competent though, and very enjoyable to listen to, although it would probably be even better if a few more of the growls were used here and there, but that’s just me.

The songs are well-written and there’s a lot to enjoy across these 42 minutes. The band seem to understand pacing and texture, with the songs having a lot more depth than is the norm for the style. I especially like songs such as Revolution (Celestial Spheres) where the band extend the music into almost progressive spheres to add further substance and meat to the music.

Leads and melodies are used well and not overly relied upon at the expense of brutality; there’s a nice balance of the two. When combined with the emotive qualities of the rhythm guitars it makes for a compelling collection of tracks.

The album has a good sound that’s rough around the edges in the right ways. Combined with the strength of the music it makes for a very satisfying package, all-in-all.

This is a really strong release. It offers something more than just straight-ahead Death Metal and is an extremely meaty feast of Metal delights.

Very impressive.

Primitiv – Immortal & Vile (Review)

PrimitivPrimitiv are an Indian Death Metal band. This is their début album.

As the name might suggest, Primitiv play old-school Death Metal that’s on the, (ahem), primitive side.

It’s also on the riffy side, and who doesn’t love a good riff? Actually, the word primitive is misleading, because although it’s true in a way, this is also not your typical old-school Death Metal release either, sounding fresher and more modern than a lot of similar bands. Modern old-school Death Metal? Now there’s a thing…

So what’s different about Primitiv? Well, for one thing, the songs have an energy to them as they stomp all over the place. There’s also a fair amount of variety on these tracks, with different sub-styles and types of riff being showcased.

Some of the riffs have a Sludge/Stoner Metal feel in places, which is quite unexpected, although it should be noted this is not a huge part of their sound. At other times we get a more Bolt Thrower-type delivery, cementing the old-school feel even more. Sometimes a hint of the Swedish style appears…it’s a compelling mix across these 31 minutes and Primitiv show that they can turn their hands to many an influence with the aim of creating their crushing Death Metal out of the most effective weapons available.

Melodies, leads and solos all appear where they’re needed and the songs pound along at a decent pace. It’s all added to by a strong, clear and clean production that allows them to sound absolutely immense. As the focus is very much on the guitar riffs, these have a heavy, precise tone that devastates all around them. It must be noted that the drums and bass sound equally impressive though.

The singer has a formidable roar that still manages to sound legible on occasion and carries character deep within its depths.

The combination of the older style with a newer production and a Sludge/Stoner tinge to some of the riffs allows Immortal & Vile to avoid the accusations of staleness and rehashing of past glories that inevitably accompany most old-school Death Metal releases. This album sounds fresh and infectious, even if the core style is as old as it gets.

Unless your tastes run strictly to the ultra-technical, fast or modern, Immortal & Vile is a must listen.