Verbum Verus – Melkiresha (Review)

Verbum VerusUnholy Black Metal from the Netherlands – this album is a powerhouse of occult music, straining at the walls of reality and communing with the dread beings that lie beyond.

Things start out very promising indeed with the opening hymn The Fourth Kingdom – a 10 minute Black Metal master-class in modern darkness. From here things progress nicely through the album with every song contributing something to the whole. The final song is an ambient invocation that ends things appropriately.

Solid songwriting and an evil atmosphere mean this album evokes the imagery of the underworld and has the musical class to carry it off without sounding like a pretender to the Black Metal throne. A good sound, good playing and impassioned vocals elevate this above the hordes to deliver what is, in essence, a modern Black Metal album that can hold its head up proud and stand tall alongside the Watain’s and Deathspell Omega’s of the world.

Really enjoyable. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys variety and passion – demonic darkness from the Netherlands.

Eye of Solitude – Canto III (Review)

Eye of SolitudeAnd it begins – the start of the apocalypse is soft and gentle; slowly building and eventually giving way to a torrent of Doom so monolithic it’s almost overbearing. The sheer oppressiveness of the deep, deep vocals washing away all resistance to the new world that this depressive, bleak, yet wonderful music heralds.

First comes the Doom, and then comes the blast, but Eye of Solitude even manage to infuse blastbeats with a sense of hopelessness and despair. It may not sound like it, but for this kind of music that’s a compliment. 15 minutes in and the first song has finished. The second starts with no intro; it goes from silence to destruction in the space of a heartbeat. The sense of majesty is terrible to behold.

The nature of Eye of Solitude songs is one of a constant oppressive misery, spiked with the occasional uplifting, hopeful moment, only to have this hope removed and crushed without comment. The songs are long, the emotions deep. There is also a sense of frustration at play here; as if there is a railing and thrashing against the inevitable, before final acceptance takes place.

One of the clever aspects of this album is the simultaneous appearance of uniformity and linearity while at the same time having dynamics that are merely disguised by the highly emotive atmosphere that Eye of Solitude foster. This is a masterful stroke as it adds a layer of depth and complexity to the songs that is not always apparent on first listen – the very definition of discovering something new every time.

Based on the strength of their previous releases this is an album that I have been looking forward to, and I am very pleased to say I am not disappointed. Essential.

Coven 13 – Destiny of the Gods (Review)

Coven 13Well this is an enjoyable romp of an album! Traditional Heavy Metal mixed with elements of Revered Bizarre-style Doom, 70’s psychedelic influences and some good old rock ‘n’ roll swagger for good measure.

Attitude and plain old metal fun is the order of business here. Not to imply that they are a novelty band or “jokey” in anyway. Not at all; rather they have a joyousness to their sound that I imagine would translate very well live and that their performances would be, well, fun!

Traditional song structures and strong choruses abound, as well as some nice fretwork and solid tub bashing. The vocals immediately strike the listener as the most noticeable element of the band as the sheer enthusiasm and character that they have is a welcome change – there’s no way you could accuse this singer of not giving his all. The vocals appear to be imbued with the full force of his personality in a way that is relatively rare these days. In fact the entire album sounds out of place in today’s modern metal climate in many ways as it is a very individual record with scant regard for trends and cliques, etc.

A refreshing blast from the past come to liven up the present.

Warmaster – The End of Humanity (Review)

WarmasterWarmaster play old-school Death Metal in the style of Bolt Thrower, Obituary and the like. This style comes from an era when playing as fast/technical as you possibly can just wasn’t necessary and this really shows in the songs, as songs is exactly what we get. Unconcerned with these added-on extras to the Death metal repertoire, Warmaster play Death Metal as it originally was intended – with menace and skill.

Vocals are measured, good quality and are in the classic Death Metal vein. The drums hammer a steady beat to the relentless riffing and punishment metered out by the guitars. The odd solo or two also adds a splash of colour to proceedings while not sounding out of place. The songs are generally mid-paced with the occasional faster bit, but there is enough quality and variety of riffing to keep you engaged throughout the album.

Challenging all who hear them not to be carried away in a rapture of calls to war and destruction; I can imagine that these songs would translate extremely well into the live environment. Groove, melody and heaviness combining to make the foot tap, fist clench and head bang. And that’s just in the privacy of your own speakers. The more volume the better! Listening to this album it’s easy to get carried away with it. The End of Humanity is a respectable length at just under 47 minutes long bit it seems shorter than this as it passes by in such an agreeable way that I could, (and did), quite happily start it again from the beginning upon completion.

There’s more to Death Metal than just blasting. Discover the banner of Warmaster and let them lead you to victory.

Andramelech/Serpent Noir – Gateway to the Nightside (Review)

AndramelechA rather tasty split release here from two purveyors of dark Black Metal.

Andramelech offer up two largely, (but not wholly), mid-paced slices of exquisite Black Metal art. Speed is used as and when necessary but otherwise these tracks are more about the feeling conveyed and the atmosphere of blackened hellfire. The melodies, especially in The Voiceless Verb of Vovin, conjure up appropriate images and feelings of otherworldliness and tension. For 9 minutes the listener is made to feel distinctly uneasy – something bad is about to happen but who knows what? The songwriting here is first-rate and Andramelech are definitely a band to watch.

After Andramelech leave us with feelings of discomfort and incantations, Serpent Noir ease us in gently with a light chanting and invocation. Surely nothing bad can come of this? What could they be calling out to anyway, really? Whatever it is the next track, the 11 minute epic Shadow as a Portal channels it perfectly. A sense of forlorn longing and hopelessness slowly settles over this track. Something has been taken away and can never be returned. Despondent; what solution do you have except to succumb? Oblivion beckons and it is hungry.

Serpent Noir offer a complex and interesting take on Black Metal, and all the more pure for it. Exceptional drum work, atmospheric riffing and varied vocals make for a song that has more ideas and interest than a thousand Darkthrone-clones.

Two bands that are well worth a look.

Monte Penumbra – Heirloom of a Sullen Fall (Review)

Monte PenumbraA rich amalgamation of Black Metal and Doom; Monte Penumbra’s début album may be relatively short at only 35 minutes, but it is packed to the hilt with texture and interesting things going on.

Slow, doom-laden Black Metal played with skill and passion; Monte Penumbra know their art and know how to get the most out of their songs. Interesting riffs, atmospheric interludes, tempo changes; this is bleak-yet-Black Metal that hits the spot; sludge hijacked by Black Metal and bent to its will.

The vocals are varied – ranging from chants, screams to powerful almost-singing; a welcome change from the generic.

This is an enjoyable album for those times when you’re in the mood for something a bit more brooding and well-paced, thoughtful and introspective yet still drenched in Black Metal’s distinctive colours.

Funeral Circle – Funeral Circle (Review)

Funeral CircleFuneral Circle play Epic Doom Metal. This album is all about the songs, the feeling of Doom, and the weighty guitars.

At 51 minutes it is a decent length and every track is really enjoyable. Harking back to an older time of more traditional song structures and Doom inspired themes and feeling, yet with a powerful production and sound that makes it sound contemporary, without ever sounding too polished or stale. Funeral Circle have a sound which is alive and warm, wrapping their arms around you like a comfy blanket. Only it’s a comfy Doom Metal blanket, of course.

The songs are well-crafted and perfectly judged, never outstaying their welcome or straying into pedestrian areas. The musicianship is first-rate and does justice to the songwriting, bringing each track alive. With vocals that are powerful and inspiring, the singer perfectly fits the music with a great range and depth to his voice.

This is traditional-style Doom Metal played with conviction and power. Along with bands like Pallbearer and 40 Watt Sun this is exactly what this genre should sound like in 2013. Strong harmonies, excellent vocals and everything focused on the song. A win.

Sapiency – Tomorrow (Review)

SapiencySapiency play modern melodic Thrash Metal. I don’t listen to a lot of this style of music as there is a huge amount of mediocrity out there – it seems to be that writing okay music in this style is quite easy, but being truly great is rare.

Their style is similar to bands such as Scar Symmetry, In Flames, Soilwork, etc. – the gruff vocals juxtaposed against the clean, huge soaring guitars and keyboards, epic melodies and punchy drums, etc. Although Sapiency don’t hit the heights of the truly great, they are certainly a cut above the mediocre, and dare I say it this is quite an exciting and enjoyable release.

Having more bite to their attack than a lot of the typical In Flames/Soilwork clones, (which they aren’t), certainly works in their favour. The gruff vocals are a bit harsher than the norm, and the clean vocals a bit more powerful. They dwell on the right side of catchy rather than sounding ‘pop’. The guitars are not watered down and actually have some meat to the riffs rather than just being there to accentuate the vocals, which seems to be a usual failing of certain bands in this genre. In fact, Sapiency are less In Flames/Soilwork and more Scar Symmetry/Dark Tranquillity – heavier and less polished, (relatively speaking of course), than their more commercial kin. Some would say ‘more metal’. Here we even have the occasional blastbeat, which is always welcome. Solos too. It’s good that they are not afraid of speed either; it’s too easy for bands in this genre to lose interest across an album as every song has the same mid-paced tempo, speed and feeling.

Albums like this live or die by their songs and Sapiency have these; energy and catchiness, wrapped up and delivered as molten melodic metal. It’s hard not to feel the enthusiasm inherent in these tracks. There is a genuine love of metal on display here and it exhibits itself in every track and imbues them with a vitality that is otherwise missing in so many catchier bands.

I enjoyed Sapiency more than I thought I would; which is a reminder that it’s far to easy to feel jaded and cynical these days and every band should be judged on their individual merits. A class album – if you enjoy melody with your metal then check them out.