Strafk – Entomophobia (Review)

StrafkStrafk are a Russian black metal band and this is their second EP.

Their début EP, Phaseshifting, was experimental black metal, all dark, menacing guitars and free-form malevolence.

There are two tracks on this new release, with the entire EP lasting under 10 minutes in total, and it has a different feel to it than Phaseshifting.

Up first is a track named Φόβος, and starts off with a sinister Continue reading

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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.

Thy Worshiper – Ozimina (Review)

Thy WorshiperThis is the latest EP from Thy Worshiper, who play pagan/folk Black Metal.

The band’s previous release Czarna Dzika Czerwień is one that I really enjoyed, so this EP I was eager to hear.

Featuring music that’s heavy on percussion and non-standard instruments, (such as didgeridoo, darbuka and djembe, to name a few), Thy Worshiper continue their individual and characterful melding of folk, pagan and Black Metal influences into their enticing brand of music.

These tracks are rich and layered songs that cover themselves with emotion while providing enough substance and grit to back it up, ensuring that they have produced a real collection of songs and soundscapes, rather than novelty or throwaway music.

Vocally, the female vocals sound even more beautiful and powerful than before, and combined with the rhythmic pulsing of the music are a real highlight. The male vocals remind me of those of The Meads of Asphodel in places on this release more than on their previous album, which adds a different slant for me.

Clearly a lot of work has gone into arranging and composing this EP, and the end result speaks from the heart and burns as deep as fire.

Another sterling release from this important band.

The Meads of Asphodel/Tjolgtjar – Taste the Divine Wrath – Split (Review)

The Meads of Asphodel/TjolgtjarThe Meads of Asphodel are from the UK and play a very individual brand of Black Metal. Here they team up with US one-man Black Metal project Tjolgtjar, who you may remember from 2012’s Kjal Tjormejn.

As such, this is an interesting and exciting split release from two atypical Black Metal bands that succeeds in putting two very individual and different spins on this well-worn genre.

The Meads of Asphodel are up first and contribute 16 minutes to this release.

The Meads of Asphodel always manage to imbue their songs with such personality and character, due in no small part to their charismatic singer Metatron. On this release he’s as expressive as ever and has his performance aided by other vocal styles such as croaking screams, ghostly chants and female vocals.

The music manages to be underground, extreme and catchy all at the same time. Classic Blackened blasting and experimental pseudo-Pop share space on this impressive collection of tracks and whether they’re playing fuzzed-up, dirty Black Metal or synth-heavy atmospheric sections, The Meads of Asphodel are at the forefront of Experimental/Progressive Black Metal.

Oh, and track three is a cover/re-imagining of Candi Staton’s You’ve Got the Love, retitled You’ve Got the Hate. It works.

After this it’s on to Tjolgtjar, supplying 18 minutes of music. It’s an odd, atypical expression of Black Metal, with a more garage, underground feeling than the more flamboyant tendencies of The Meads of Asphodel.

In some ways Tjolgtjar remind more of a conventional raw Black Metal band, but this is only superficially true. Upon closer inspection, the riffs and general composition of the music is unusual. Even when the blast beats are flowing swiftly, the guitars are playing Blackened rhythms and melodies that are almost like semi-distorted Country/Folk acoustics. Almost. It’s as if this music came from decades ago and is a Black Metal version of 70s Progressive Rock.

The vocals are screamed croaks but also benefit from cleaner accompaniments. It’s an added extra that, when combined with the music, reinforces the 70s music connection, at least to my mind.

Black Metal, Classic Rock and Progressive Rock, combined. Nice.

But this is what Tjolgtjar do so well; their music is not your average Black Metal and their contribution to this split is superbly delivered and realised.

This is a very impressive release from two impressive bands. If you’re looking for Black Metal that’s challenging and different from the norm then this should be your first stop.

Very 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.

Crucifyre – Black Magic Fire (Review)

CrucifyreThis is the second album from Sweden’s Crucifyre. They play dark Death Metal full of personality and great songs.

The first track starts in a very unexpected fashion, with darkly melodic Doom riffing and clean female vocals that sound quite ritualistic. It’s a bold start to the album and when the song starts “proper” it doesn’t disappoint.

Calling Black Magic Fire Death Metal is a bit of a disservice in a way, as there’s a lot more going on here than just a straight ahead Death Metal album. Bringing to mind a mix of bands like Usurper, Venom, The Meads of Asphodel, Cathedral, Celtic Frost, Gravehill, Black Sabbath and Dismember this is a strong release that captures an occult feeling and channels it through a Heavy Metal core with a Death Metal exterior.

The band have that Old-School Death Metal style going on but there’s also more than enough Classic, Heavy and Doom Metal touches/riffs to go around. This means that the album is incredibly well-rounded and complete. Back this up with a set of very solid songs and you have an album that is extremely impressive in nature.

When I mentioned The Meads of Asphodel earlier it was because I hear echoes of this band in the vocal department and the vocal patterns/rhythms; Crucifyre have the same talent for catchy rhythms and Blackened shout/growls that have a similar character and personality. Semi-clean vocals even make an appearance and these are just great.

Albums like this are more than just one style; this release has a plethora of weapons with which to ensnare the listener and hook them in. The brutality is rhythmic and this is very song-oriented so that each track has an actual identity rather than just taking up space. The personality and character of the vocals spills over to the music as well and the passion and fervour of the band for all things Metal is never in doubt.

This passion is backed up by talent though and they ably pull off everything they try, whether this is the cleaner sections, the ugly brutality, the catchy songs, organs, sound effects, impressive solos or the female enhancement; it’s all performed and delivered at a masterly level.

There’s enough here to appeal to almost any Metal fan. This is Metal as it should be done. I love it.

Get this.

The Wolves of Avalon – Boudicca’s Last Stand (Review)

The Wolves of AvalonThe Wolves of Avalon are from the UK and this is their second album. The band play Pagan/Folk Metal.

The Wolves of Avalon are the latest incarnation of Metatron from The Meads of Asphodel, who will always hold a special place in my heart; one of the most unique and underrated UK Metal bands out there.

I was looking forward to hearing this album due to this and I haven’t been disappointed. This is as impressive and ambitious as anything he’s done before, (his work that I’ve heard, at least), more so in some respects. Sounding like early Meads only with a heavy Folk/Pagan slant, this is pure ear candy.

The album starts with a light, classical instrumental, at least that’s what I think it’s going to be until Metatron’s inimitable vocals kick in halfway through and then guitars and drums come in shortly after.

The album is heavily orchestrated and features wonderfully diverse instrumentation and female accompaniment. These are hugely impressive and extremely well-done. The band don’t neglect the Metal component of their sound, however.

The dynamics and sense of energy given off by the tracks is strong, and the whole album is a veritable treasure trove of gems and delights. The songwriting is impeccable and Metatron’s voice seems to be getting better with age. Some of the vocal harmonies used, especially when twinned with the female vocals, are just hair-raising.

Some of the best bits are extremely subtle but do wonders for the songs. The barely audible female sighs/noises on Bonded by Blood and Sword is just one example of many; you can only just hear them in the background but for such a small addition the song is enhanced so much.

There are pulse-raising sections, slower atmosphere-building parts, Black Metal rage, Progressive Metal explorations, huge choruses and sublime melodies – there is so much here to enjoy and be spellbound by.

This is an hour of interesting, captivating and unique Metal that everyone should ideally have the privilege of hearing. Do yourself a favour and go and listen to this.

Final thoughts? Fantastic album. This is a contender for the Album of the Year slot.

Favourite Track: Iceni Queen Unfurl’d In A Tempest Of Crows. Fucking Hell!

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.