Gargantua – Avant-Propos (Review)

GargantuaThis is the début EP from French Progressive Metal band Gargantua.

Gargantua play Progressive Metal that combines some quite eclectic influences to produce a 26 minute calling card that shows off what they can do quite effectively.

To give you a flavour of their style, imagine a mix of The Meads of Asphodel, Sigh, The Black Dahlia Murder and Akercocke, among others. It’s essentially a form of melodic Death Metal with added folk, avant-garde and progressive influences, allowing the band a freedom to experiment and be playful with their influences.

The keyboard and accordion aspect of their sound is quirky and endearing. While not as completely over-the-top as some of the stuff that Sigh get up to, this part of their sound can still be demanding and attention-seeking.

The more aggressive Metal that lays the foundation of their music is tempered by their other influences so that the majority of the riffs have a lot of other stuff going on; the avant-garde and more-emotive aspects of their style are never too far away.

Thrash Metal-esque shouted growls, barely-holding-it-together screams, progressive cleans, operatic choral parts, emotive theatrics; there’s a plethora of different styles employed on Avant-Propos via four of the various band members.

A very promising first release. While not perfect, it shows a creative band willing and able to push boundaries to achieve the sound they want. With a few tweaks here and there to tighten the songwriting up, they could become quite a fearsome proposition in the future.

Check them out.

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Furze – Baphomet Wade (Review)

FurzeFurze is a one-man Norwegian Black Metal project. This is his sixth album.

Furze’s Black Metal is not the conventional kind. Full of unusual riffs and strange melodies, Baphomet Wade is definitely not your average release. Stylistically rooted in the Second Wave of Black Metal, it’s as if this take on the genre has been interpreted through a maze of Chinese whispers, resulting in a distorted version of Black Metal that’s still recognisable as such, but isn’t quite right nonetheless.

Riffs are unusual and inventive, taking their Black Metal heritage and filtering them through Doom, Psychedelia and who knows what else to end up with the twisted melodies that are on display here.

The interesting thing, (one of many), is that for all of this unusualness, the songs are still very good in their own right. This isn’t wild experimentalism; there are a lot of standard components, parts and sections to the tracks on Baphomet Wade, it’s just that these standard parts are inventively created and interpreted, resulting in songs that are in many ways standard Black Metal songs, but in other ways are something quite special.

A lot of it is about the guitars. Why settle for something generic when you can put a creative spin on things? This seems to sum up the mindset behind this quite nicely, and it’s one that more bands would do better to adopt.

The closest I can come to a comparison would be the warped offspring of a merger between Forgotten Woods, Tjolgtjar and Sigh – individual, expressive, unusual and inspired.

The end result? 41 minutes of engaging, enjoyable music that’s full of songs that grab hold and demand your attention.

Highly recommended.

Sigh – Graveward (Review)

SighThis is the tenth Sigh album. If you’ve never encountered them before, they’re from Japan and they play Black Metal. At least, that’s what they started out as and they’ve just kind of evolved from there. Avant-Garde Black Metal/Extreme Metal is probably closest to the mark these days, if you have to label it at all.

Sigh are one of the few bands in existence that come even close to being able to be called unique. They definitely have their own sound and identity, even if this has changed quite a bit through the years.

So on to Graveward. This is dense and complex music that features a lot of different parts to the songs. Clearly a lot of work has gone into these compositions.

The Black Metal base is present and correct, as well as the Avant-Garde tendencies. Add to this is a psychedelic influence, powerful cinematic qualities as well as a strong theatrical component and you have an album that’s born to stand out from the pack.

The theatrical nature of the release belies the horror-themed core of the album, but ultimately serves to reinforce it.

As you might think, each track has a lot going on and it’s a lot to take in on first listen. Subsequent spins reveal all kinds of nuances and little things that you didn’t necessarily consciously pick up on first time around.

Choirs and orchestration rub shoulders with Thrash riffs and Blackened croaks. Psychedelic keyboards and operatic vocals join horns and saxophones in backing the distorted guitars. It’s a true melting pot of influences that probably shouldn’t work but it really, really does.

Befitting music that has a lot of different components to it, Graveward features a wealth of guest appearances from well-known members of bands such as Trivium, Dragonforce, Shining, Rotting Christ and The Meads of Asphodel, among others.

Somewhat of a cross between Emperor, Therion, Arcturus and some form of crazy Progressive Jazz, Sigh can always be relied upon to liven things up with their presence and Graveward is no exception.

This is a truly exceptional release that many will probably find overwhelming with its multicoloured assault on the senses. Those who endure, however, are rewarded tenfold for their perseverance.

Essential listening.

Einherjer – Av Oss, For Oss (Review)

EinherjerEinherjer are from Norway and this is their sixth album. They play Viking-influenced Black Metal.

This is an album that has a lot of variety in it. We get melodic, almost martial Pagan-influenced interludes, scorching fury, rhythmic sections, colourful leads, mid-paced workouts, subtle keyboards, lots of interesting instrumentation and experimentation, blistering guitar solos and a cold Black Metal core.

Black Metal screams, shouted group vocals/chants and other vocalisations are included across these 44 minutes.

The band have a quirky, almost jaunty feel to them in places. Some of the rhythmic riffing may have that Black Metal sheen but they also have a more upbeat feel to them as well, recalling bands such as Countess and Sigh being played by Darkthrone or Satyricon, perhaps.

They also have a bit of a driving Rock influence to some of the guitar leads and solos; sometimes it’s just so damn Rocking you can feel the wind in your hair.

I like that each song has its own identity and the band keep things interesting by incorporating a whole plethora of different ideas and sub-styles into their central Black Metal vision.

The album whirls by in a blur and is over before you know it. Av Oss, For Oss is a very strong album and a big achievement for Einherjer.

Give it a try and see what you think.

Countess – Sermons of the Infidel (Review)

CountessWhoa! When the first track Hymn to the Gods of Yore starts you immediately sit up and take notice! This veteran Black Metal band from the Netherlands know how to make an entrance!

This is an insanely catchy release, especially for this genre. There’s a strong Old-School, NWOBHM feel to a lot of the riffs and the songs in general; combined with the raspy vocals and the heavy keyboards the songs just melt in your mouth and saturate the brain.

There is a simplicity of songwriting to these songs that is a testament to how good they are – no nonsense or filler, just pure Metal. It puts me in mind of what Reverend Bizarre might sound like if they worshipped at the altar of, (NWOBHM-influenced), Black Metal instead of Doom. Maybe some form of unholy mix of Reverend Bizarre and Sigh…? Maybe with a dash of The Meads of Asphodel…? Hmm…Either way it’s straightforward, but well-written and effective. And massively fun and satisfying.

The vocals are highly distinctive; Black Metal they may be but they seem to be competing for the role of the Devils Own Croak. Very good show!

I can’t help but listen to this and smile. It’s near-impossible not to. If you include this as part of some random playlist you’ll notice that Countess stand out straight away. The band may have been around for over two decades now but they’re still a much-needed force to reckon with. Give them a listen and prepare to be hooked.