Ahamkara – The Embers of the Stars (Review)

AhamkaraAhamkara are from the UK and play Atmospheric Black Metal. This is their début album.

This is Black Metal with epic length songs and a windswept feel.

This is the kind of album that’s the soundtrack to exploration. It’s the Blackened equivalent of a map of uncharted territories and frost-worn mountains.

The Embers of the Stars is bitingly cold and achingly sensual in equal amounts. These songs are emotive and expressive, infused with the raw energy of nature and the passion that goes along with this.

Heartfelt guitars and subtle synths provide the rasping vocals with a rich background on which to scream out into the heavens.

This sweeping music is perfect for Black Metal that’s inspired by nature and seeks to channel it via a darkened Metal route. Each of these songs is extremely well composed and gives the feeling of really being in the raw, dangerous outdoors.

This is the kind of epic, atmospheric music that has been characterised well by the Cascadian scene, even though this is from the UK. Fans of Wolves in the Throne Room, Altar of Plagues, Agalloch, Fen, Skagos, Fauna, Wodensthrone, (who share a member), etc., will be very at home with Ahamkara. However, whereas a lot of these bands have Post-Metal qualities to their sound, Ahamkara substitute these for shades of the mighty Emperor and thus are more “pure” Black Metal than not.

Really top quality work like this should always be supported. Listen and become enthralled.

Doom:VS – Earthless (Review)

Doom:VSThis is the third album from Doom:VS. Coming from Sweden this is a one-man project featuring a guest vocalist.

This is bleak and sombre Death/Doom Metal that’s haunting and beautiful despite, or perhaps because of, the misery and anguish it portrays.

The album slowly unveils under a cloud of desolation and heartbreak. Mournful riffs seem to slide out of hidden openings and colossal growls give a solid and forceful outlet for the emotive music.

The guitars are rich and textured, as one would expect from a release such as this. The music works well to evoke the necessary feelings of woe and despair required from this style of Metal and yet also manages to find beauty in the negativity.

There are no weaknesses with the recording and the songwriting is top notch. In fact, unless you just don’t care for this style of music you’ll be hard pressed to find any real flaws here.

Taking cues from My Dying Bride, as it’s pretty impossible not to do for this type of Metal, they also pay attention to other areas of the Metal globe and have hints of bands like Agalloch in the mix.

One of the best things about this album is that it never gets boring, stale, dull or repetitive, which is no mean feat for a genre that’s essentially slow and melodic. This is a testament to the talent of Doom:VS and the album sails by in a blur of emotive dirges.

Along with bands like Eye of Solitude and Decembre Noir, Doom:VS are one of the very best bands in the Doom/Death genre now.

Immerse yourself in their despair.

Obelyskkh – Hymn To Pan (Review)

ObelyskkhThis is the third album by Germany’s Obelyskkh and they play Doom that’s crushing and visceral.

They have an extremely full, heavy sound; like they’re about to birth a special kind of monster into the world.

As well as super-heavy Doom they are also adept at adding a bit of melody into the proceedings to further the depth and richness of their sound. I particularly enjoy these moments in The Ravens where it reminds almost of Agalloch.

Take the Pagan side of Agalloch, mix with some Post-Metal Neurosis elements and wrap in some demolishing Doom and you’re close to the Obelyskkh sound.

The vocals are very impressive; powerful, strong, forceful, full of charisma and with good range and variety – not a weak link to be found.

Importantly these are not just collections of riffs they are actual songs, with plenty of hooks to grab the listener and draw them close. They are, dare I say it, catchy in a lot of ways.

Each track is expertly constructed and well thought-out; designed to create a highly impressive collection of Doom that’s damn near essential for anyone with even a passing interest in this genre.

Compared to most bands this is an album that’s on another level entirely. Prepare to meet one of your new favourite bands.

Amiensus – Restoration (Review)

AmiensusAmiensus are from the US and play Progressive Black Metal with plenty of melody and epic feelings.

Keyboards and other effects transform the already pronounced melodic talent of the band to another level, washing over the listener in waves of atmosphere.

Restoration skillfully blends aspects of bands such as Opeth, Agalloch and Dimmu Borgir into a talented melting pot and adds something of its own personality to the mix to avoid sounding derivative; the results of which have led to this pretty special release.

I usually find this genre of music a bit too sickly and derivative, essentially it’s easy to do but hard to do well. Whatever this magic, secret ingredient is that makes an album like this great without sounding like another clone of the aforementioned bands, Amiensus appear to have it in spades.

Meaty guitars cloaked in wistful mood and dripping with ear-candy dominate this release, while angelic vocals croon and soar alongside harsher cries and grunts. Female vocals are used to punctuate the atmosphere when needed and are a great asset to the band.

The album flows easily from one song to the next; the symphonic nature of the band working perfectly to accentuate every harmony and lamentation into a seamless whole until suddenly the 46 minutes playing time has elapsed and you’re left simply wanting more.

As début albums go this is high quality indeed and quite an achievement for such a young band. If album number one is this accomplished I can only imagine what album number two will be like.

Here’s to more in the future. You should get this.

The Lion’s Daughter & Indian Blanket – A Black Sea (Review)

The Lion's Daughter & Indian SummerI’ve been following The Lion’s Daughter for a while now and enjoyed their previous outings into the world of Blackened Sludge, so when I found out they were collaborating on an album with Folk group Indian Blanket I was intrigued.

I wasn’t sure what to expect upon pressing play, but it wasn’t this. I though it might be good, but this? This is a jaw-droppingly stunning album. In much the same way that Panopticon successfully incorporated bluegrass into Black Metal on their album Kentucky; The Lion’s Daughter and Indian Blanket, against all odds, have managed to successfully incorporate Folk into Sludge. The results are as astounding as they are fantastic.

If only I had heard and reviewed this at the end of 2013 it would probably have topped my end-of-year list I can tell you that now.

The album combines heaviness and softness in equal measure, using the best tools for the job depending on the needs of the song. Regardless of style it’s always dark, always emotionally charged and always tinged with melancholy.

Sludge Metal and acoustic passages; blast beats and strings; raw-throat shouts and delicate crooning; it’s all here. Taking the very, very best bits of bands like Neurosis, Isis, Year Of No Light, Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room then combining them with haunting Folk-inspired orchestration and Dax Riggs-style acoustics and vocals; this is a masterpiece of music awaiting discovery by any Metal fan looking for the best in unconventional heavy music.

To the cynical reader this may all smack of hyperbole, but the simple fact is that I absolutely love this album and it really is just that good. Do yourself a favour and get it immediately. 

Absolutely brilliant.