Vredehammer – Violator (Review)

VredehammerThis is Vredehammer’s second album. They play Black Metal and are from Norway.

Vredehammer play aggressive Black Metal that keeps the core of the genre alive and well, while merging it with a state-of-the-art blackness that bands like Satyricon, Keep of Kalessin and Temple of Baal do so well. Add a bit of Death Metal in the form of something like Behemoth and even a touch of Aura Noir-esque Thrash and you have a good overview of Vredehammer’s style. Tracks like Ursus even have a bit of the Amon Amarth about them, to my ears.

The vocals consist of dark outbursts that strike a fine balance between legibility and outright harshness. Sitting somewhere between the styles of Black and Death Metal, they work well to provide a focal point for the music without dominating it.

Powerful rhythm guitars form the bedrock of the tracks and these punish and damage for all they’re worth. Interestingly though, the band build on these strong foundations to provide a more well-rounded listening experience than you might expect; Violator is not a one-dimensional album.

Twisted melodics and bright, ethereal leads occasionally add colour and texture to the band’s blackened rhythms, allowing them to explore wider pastures that their brutal tendencies might otherwise preclude them from. This adds a lot to the album and raises it to another level, quality-wise. This is all wrapped around their inherent malevolent nastiness though, which is never too far from proceedings.

Boasting a strong production to round things off, Violator is a very enjoyable album, and at 35 minutes in length it’s easy to get your fill of their blackened aggression.

Recommended.

Temple of Baal – Mysterium (Review)

Temple of BaalThis is the fifth album from this French Black Metal band.

Their fourth album Verses of Fire was 61 minutes of top quality Extreme Metal and was a welcome experience that was a slight change of direction from their earlier, purer Black Metal approach. That album brought more Death Metal influences into the mix, although their Blackened side was still a huge component in their sound.

Fast-forward to 2015 and Mysterium relegates the Death Metal influences to the back seat and their Black Metal roots get to set the direction once more. This is not the more primitive Black/Thrash of their older work though; this is more refined, epic and gloriously sophisticated in its realisation. As such, the songs are generally longer and more involved than their previous averages, and the thick dark aura of the songs is cloying with its aggressive malevolence.

This release is full of Blackened riffs, blasting fury and evocative melodies. There’s a driving majesty that underpins each of the tracks on this album, so regardless of the particular style of music that makes up any given section it’s holistically all brought together by an iron will and a coherent vision. This shouldn’t give the impression of an album that’s “all-over-the-place” or struggling to find an identity as there’s none of that here. Rather, this is sophisticated Black Metal that still takes influences from Death and Thrash Metal, but they’re subsumed into the overarching Blackened style and whatever the band does with these influences is consistent and reasonable within the confines of their sound.

These songs are well-written advanced exemplars of the style and each one brings something extra to the table.

The vocals are dark growling screams, perfectly suited to the environment they find themselves in.

The production of the album is a strong one; it’s huge and powerful yet manages to maintain the feeling of raw, restrained chaos and fettered Blackened evil that the songs exude as easily as breathing.

I was a fan of Versus of Fire, but this is better. The progression of their sound is welcome and it seems that Temple of Baal are one of those bands that are always looking to better themselves and to see what they can do better or different next time. It’s not a massive change in style, of course, but it’s enough to make Mysterium into an extremely compelling and engaging listen.

Overall, this album is a triumph and really, really strong. However, there are times on this release when they really outdo themselves. Sometimes, when the drums are blasting, the rhythm guitars are full of emotive darkness and the leads are exotic and powerful…well…it’s just a hair-raising experience.

Great stuff. I’m very happy with Mysterium.

Temple of Baal – Verses of Fire (Review)

Temple of BaalFrench veterans Temple of Baal offer up their fourth album to the sacrificial gods of Blackened Death Metal.

Having not heard Temple of Baal since their 2003 debut Servants of the Beast, it is an interesting transformation that the band’s sound has undergone. Originally Black Metal; now they give us a combination of both Death and Black Metal with some quite varied sub-styles and influences apparent throughout the 60 minutes on Verses of Fire.

Sometimes brutal, sometimes more laid back, always dark; songs are played at all speeds and tempos, mainly in an attempt to create a gloomy atmosphere for the listener to get absorbed in. For this release the band have emphasised the importance of a good atmosphere and have created one via rich textures of overlapping genres of Extreme Metal.

Moments of Old-School Death Metal are toyed with; elements of discordant Black Metal; Thrash riffs; Doom sections; full-on blasting – a wide sample of extremity is taken and fused into the songs on this album.

Vocals are mainly in a darkened Death Metal style, although screams and yells are used on occasion to add a splash of colour to the sinister emanations of the singer.

Verses of Fire boasts a very well produced sound that shows off everything very organically and gives a very satisfying listen. You could place this next to pretty much any band and not have it sound weak or inferior in quality.

Temple of Baal have taken a risk by changing their style from their Black Metal beginnings, and with risk comes either reward or failure. I think the risk has paid off and they have been rewarded with a much richer and more ambitious sound that will serve them well moving forward from here.

If you weren’t sure about Temple of Baal in the past, or have just been unfamiliar with them, then this is the album for you. An hour long of top quality Extreme Metal.