Quick update

I have lost a lot of momentum these last few days, but there is more album coverage coming up. In the meantime, I suggest you check out these two songs from the new Ex Deo record coming out this week. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the debut, all those years ago, but the third offering by the band is looking like a heavy hitter. The Immortal Wars is a concept album about Hannibal, the great adversary to old Rome.

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Obitus “Slaves Of The Vast Machine” (2017)

albumart[Hypnotic Dirge Records]
[released February 16, 2017]

Everyone with the slightest interest in metal (should) know about the Edge Of Sanity epos Crimson. Released in 1995, it’s a 40+ minutes long single death metal song that goes through bouts of fast riffing and groovy drumming, interwoven with harmonic slow passages with clean singing. It’s an amazingly coherent mix of moods that drives the dystopian backstory forward. The sequel, Crimson II, continues the story, but does so in a much more fragmented way. Crimson II sounds like a score of single riffs, whereas Crimson (1) really sound like one long song recorded live in the studio. With Slaves Of The Vast Machine, Obitus beats the track length of both Crimson albums, and does so without ever letting their metaphorical foot off your face (from the press release, which says: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever”).

From the get-go, SOTVM blasts forth with dissonant tremolo riffing and insanely fast and variegated drumming. The whole image this album conveys is super dark, super bleak, super aggressive. The screamed vocals on top are doing nothing to light up the atmosphere.

obitus-slaves-of-the-vast-machine-obitus-band

Johan Huldtgren (all lyrics & vocals) and Anders Ahlbäck (all music & instruments) started Obitus in Gothenburg in the year 2000. They appeared on a four-sided split in 2001 and released a three track EP in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2009 that they released their debut album, March Of The Drones. While the debut is solid and also built as a single unit (though, with seven tracks), SOTVM is its own beast entirely. I really hope that Obitus finds the audience that I know is out there with the release of Slaves Of The Vast Machine. This album coulda-shoulda appeal to anyone into black metal, but also noise, industrial, sludge, even doom (although Obitus are not slow) and anyone who likes music with screamed vocals/growling.

There really are no holds barred on the intensity of this song, but when the screaming leads of the guitar breaks through it’s at its best, and especially in the last five minutes of the song where everything climaxes and then slowly drifts away. But be aware, this song will stay with you even after its closing.

TBOJ score: 4.5/5
DR score: 5

Dark Fortress “Venereal Dawn” (2014) [Deserted Island Records – Part 6]

venerealdawn

I first heard this album, the seventh release by the band, as part of a review job when it was released. I was not familiar with the band (shame on me), but at the time I was very affectionate of the melodic black metal style and Venereal Dawn sprung at me, sunk it’s claws and has not let go since.

Dark Fortress have been going since 1994, but only guitarist Asvargr remains from that time. In 2007, original vocalist Azathoth left the band and in his stead came Morean. Morean brought a new depth to the music that after three records culminated in Venereal Dawn in 2014.

The history of the band is not over yet, but I think they will be hard pressed to make such an impression on me again as they did with this release. It’s a slow and monstrous album this, but it reverberates with an atmosphere I have not experienced on any other album. Much of this atmosphere stems from the rumbling ramblings of the vocalist, but the instrumentation is also unique in some ways.

The songs are very long overall, and the total running length of the album is 1 hour 11 eleven minutes, but it never stalls. Even the slowest and most circumspect arrangements has that special edge, and a promise of something coming. And it always does. The album is continuously waxing and waning and I think, among the many albums that in time will turn up in this Deserted Island Records series, Venereal Dawn is among the most well arranged. It’s not just a collection of song, it really is an album. And a stellar one at that.

  • TBOJ score: 5/5
  • DR score: 6

Ignis Gehenna “Baleful Scarlet Star” (2017)

[Seance Records]

Ignis Gehenna is the name of an esoteric group from Tasmania. There is not much information about them, but my guess is that Nihilifer is alone in this band. And if so, he does a great job with all the instruments and whatever production roles he has taken on as well.

Baleful Scarlet Star is an immense album of blackened black metal. Yes, blackened black metal. In my mind, and to paraphrase a quote from Spinal Tap, music can be none more black than this. Push play on this record and you will have to commit fully, or it will eat you up. You will find no pardon and no remorse from this album, and it’s a hell(!) of a ride!

One thing that lifted my eyebrows is the dynamic range of the album. When measured it came back a 12! 12 is a super high number, and even more so for a noisy and dissonant black metal album. The fact that it supposedly is so very dynamic made me take extra care while listening to it a couple of the times. I used my best headphones and tried to raise the volume a little extra compared to my usual settings. And let me tell you, these songs are immense! While I’m usually very much in favor of the bombastic instead of the stripped down and raw, Ignis Gehenna turn things on its head. They employ the basic drum, bass and guitar machinery. It’s simple, but with thick layering and this gravelly distortion there simply would not be room for poseur keyboards or symphonics.

The drums come off as computer programmed, but they still sound pretty organic. Extravagant drumming wouldn’t fit in these songs anyway, so the straightforwardness of them is easy to accept.

Coming to one of the highlights of the record instead. There are few bands that utilize the bass guitar the “correct” way. Marduk, Fallujah and Atheist come to mind. Oh, and The Ancients Rebirth (but I have only heard them live in concert)! Ignis Gehenna are next, however. Whomever is the four stringer (five?) (six?!), he is walking over his thick cords with remarkable gusto and the pulsating rhythm is really driving the album forward with fretful (get it?) momentum. I was jokingly called “bass hater” by a friend for my recent comments on the neglible significance of the bass. It’s just that most bands use it wrong. Ignis Gehenna do it right! Extra points for finger playing!

Baleful Scarlet Star paints a dark tale of demonic terror, narrated by the nefarious snarls of Nihilifer and audified by, yes, baleful riffing and blastbeats. Now, put on your best headphones and dive into the abyss.

  • TBOJ score: 4.5/5
  • DR score: 12

Skyforest “Aftermath” (2014/2017) Vs “Unity” (2016)

Black metal really is the most DIY-packed genre in metal. In no other sub-order of heavy metal can you find so many one-man bands. Is it really a band then? Skyforest is one such… constellation? No, that doesn’t work either. Anyway… From Russia comes B.M. who is behind all the aspects of this band. He’s a young fella who is seemingly very creative. He has his hands in several other groups, most of which lists himself as the sole member, doing everything.

Skyforest falls within the atmospheric black metal category, and contains all the elements you expect from such. Howling vocals on top of a velvety cushion of symphonic elements, mid-paced and captivating.

General information
Aftermath
I have the remastered version of the album at hand. The original was released in 2014, and the new version became available in 2017. The line-up for the album looks like this:

  • B.M. (composing, guitars, synths, mixing, mastering)
  • Tim/Sorrow (drums, vocals, lyrics)
  • Eija Risen (additional composing on “Aftermath” and “Ascension”)
  • Julia H. (additional vocals on” Together In Death”).

The 2014 version featured a different cover.

Unity
On the Bandcamp page it says: “Lyrically, the album is about unity with nature and unity with yourself.” Line-up for the album:

  • B.M. (composing, guitar, bass, drums, lyrics, harsh vocals, clean vocals on “Fading Glow”, other vocals (whisper, speech), other instruments (shaker, naruko clappers), various programming, mixing, mastering)
  • Michael Rumple (clean vocals on all songs, except “A Graceful Spirit” and “Fading Glow”)
  • Robert Bekić (tin-whistle on “Autumnal Embrace”)

Let’s compare the two albums, piece by piece, in a versus battle.

aftermath_vs_unity

Drums
The drums might be slightly better produced on Aftermath, but they are better conceived on Unity.
Draw

Bass
Unity takes this, but it only by a close margin. On Aftermath the bass is more in the background, while on Unity it is really audible and adds some extra flavor to the songs.
Unity

Guitars
The distorted guitars are rawer and louder on Aftermath. On Unity they are more ambient and almost disappear completely at times. The use of acoustic guitars are great on both albums.
Aftermath

Orchestrations
The symphonic elements on Aftermath are like the little brother to the adult Unity. They are very well composed on both albums, but they really blossom on the latter platter. Everything is bigger. And with orchestrations, bigger is always better. Isn’t it?!
Unity

Vocals
The vocals are the biggest winner in this list. The screams on Aftermath are a little bit too shrieky for my taste, and the cleans are not too good at all. A little awkward actually. Michael Rumple is a real star on Unity and I’m really liking what I have heard from his other projects as well at this point.
Unity

Songs
As with the orchestrations: everything is bigger on Unity. There are some really transcendent moments on the sophomore album and I actually bought the Aftermath album only as an afterthought because I had fallen so hard for Unity at the time.
Unity

Winner: Unity

 

  • TBOJ score: Aftermath 4.0/5, Unity 4.5/5
  • DR score: 10 (both)

You really need to go check both these records out. B.M. is even generous enough to give out them both free of charge on the Bandcamp page when he has free tickets left. But even so, the rest of the time the albums are just $1 USD!

Master Boot Record

​I’m definitely not a gamer, but it’s hard to ignore the charm of chiptune music. There are a lot of artists keeping this nostalgic artform alive, and some even manage to incorporate the style into metal. Machinae Supremacy is one such band. They style themselves SID metal, which is a reference to the SID chip in Commodore 64 computer of yore. 


Master Boot Record is taking this all the way, however. No analog instruments are to be found on the four records that got published in September 2016. In true geek style they are all named after more or less common computer commands, and all the songs titles are references to either functions or files available in old DOS environments and whatnot.

The guy behind the MBR moniker is an Italian by the name Victor Love (a.k.a. Vittorio D’Amore). He has been involved in several other bands, but the MBR records are all very well worked through and not at all something just thrown together. Much care has been taken to getting all the sounds in the right place, and the finished products are four very coherent releases.

I don’t know why he decided to release all in the same month (on the 1st, 4th, 11th and 22nd) instead of spreading them out more, but since I am discovering the records after the fact that doesn’t change matters much anyway. The amount of tracks differ between the releases, but the sound is very much alike across the board. The programmed drums are mostly clicking away in mid-tempo, but every now and then they go full force with double kicking aplenty. The bass is the most natural sounding element of the songs. It is was makes a bass guitar so boring: that you can program it in a midi environment and have it sound exactly like the real thing, but it is mostly there for “support” anyway, so that doesn’t matter. Full disclosure: I’m a bass player myself. Or was, anyway.

The “guitars” are a totally different chapter. Victor has created a very cool distortion effect and the computerized buzzing is very cool. They are still just a rhythmic component though, for the leading instrument is the solo guitar/violin hybrid that plays all the melodies. These melodies are really inspired, and while grounded in video game music, together with the buzzing rhythm guitars I can’t help but think what a recording with real instruments would sound like. I figure it would fall somewhere in between progressive/power metal and melodic death metal.

Though very similar in style, my favorite of the four is number four, C​:​\​>CHKDSK /F, which is the most shredding compilation of songs, but number three has the best cover. For the covers are very, well fitting maybe, but also off-putting to me. I think I might have seen the records back in 2016, but didn’t get interested because the artwork is what it is. But now, I don’t know what could have been better?

Take your time and listen to this collection. I think that you would enjoy it, be you a metalhead or a gamer. Or both.

  • TBOJ score: 4.0/5 (on all four records)
  • DR score: 7

In Mourning “Afterglow” (2016)

Every year since a few years ago I have fallen knee-deep in love with one album in what most of the time is described as melodic death/doom metal. October Tide have struck me twice. Doom:VS did a fantastic album back in 2014. When I finally gave Afterglow a chance I hoped that it would be the top pick of the genre of 2016. I guess the fact that I only heard it now in 2017 somehow has automatically disqualified it.

Afterglow is not a total let-down however. It starts off with a great opening track called “Fire And Ocean,” but unfortunately the rest of the songs don’t quite reach the same level of quality. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why, but it makes the album almost mediocre as a whole.

Is it the drumming? No. Daniel Liljekvist (of Katatonia fame) is a great drummer. He’s never static, but at the same time never eccentric. His style fits In Mourning great.

Is it the bass? No. It rumbles on there in the background, and is never off-putting to my ears. Pierre Stam has been with the band since the beginning of the band’s existence.

Is it the vocals? No. Co-founder Tobias Netzell has a great thundering voice that is remarkably deep. It completely envelopes my head at times while listening. It’s almost like an extra bass.

Is it the guitars? No. At least I don’t think so. There are three persons credited for guitars on the album: Tobias Netzell, Björn Pettersson and Tim Nedergård. I wouldn’t say it’s obvious that there are more guitar players than what’s conventional, and maybe they could utilize these extra resources to a greater extent? The riffing is pretty coherent, without any outlandish extravagance.

I have listened to the album several times, and I have a hard time keeping focus all the way through. I have listened on repeat, starting with the latter songs, but somewhere along the way it all starts to sound too much alike. I really like the style, but In Mourning have not managed to get me on my knees with Afterglow.

I will definitely keep playing the album, but right now I need a break from it. I think I will have to do a follow-up review in a couple of weeks/months to see whether it has grown.

  • TBOJ score: 2.5/5
  • DR score: 6

Taravana “Prevail” (2015)

After the discovery of Midvinterblot, I set out on a quest for more awesome folk metal. As it turns out, there is a lot of shitty music out there in general, but especially in folk metal.
The first part of the last sentence is a part of the problem with the Internet and the advancement of technology: too many unskilled “musicians” are able to record music and distribute it to the whole world. The last part, about folk metal, I think could be some sort of reaction to this new world: an urge to go back to the roots, to pay homage to our ancestry.

I welcome well made folk metal like the next guy, and any good music for that matter, but at some point people need to start to critically examine their own work. “Is this something I want to put my name on?”

This lengthy ingress has probably made any reader very off-put towards the album at hand: Taravana‘s Prevail. But you see, this album is so wholesome and well-arranged that it is a great example of a folk metal album done right. It contains an interesting narrative, for anyone who usually listen to the lyrics. I don’t, but I still get most of the story by now. But besides that we also get some inspired instrumentations. Even the completely instrumental tracks are interesting (one of them contains what appears to be a professional cellist).

The title track has one of the best guitar leads I’ve ever heard, between 1:35-2:50, which then continues with a great chorus until past the 4:30 mark. During this lead the drumming is extremely engaging, and an important part of why the lead works so great. During the whole running time of the album stick-man Aaron Maloney (also on bass, vocal harmonies and additional keyboards) does a great job of keeping the album together, but he really shines in the mentioned passage.

Main man Alex Newton together with guitarist Dan Bussells has rounded up a gang of talented musicians for this album. As I understand it, Newton is doing most, if not all of the lead vocals, and he showcases skills at both cleans and growls. The spoken parts sound a bit awkward, but only Christopher Lee is a convincing narrator, so that’s forgiven. All in all, the album is very coherent, professional and thought through. The earlier Taravana releases are nowhere near this level of quality. Only the band logo was cooler before.

  • TBOJ score: 4.5/5
  • DR score: 11

This review had me rambling on so much that I have to categorize it as an article as well…