Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Forgotten Kingdoms - Demo I

The first time I listened to Eternum's Devouring Descent is a memory that will stay with me for a very long time.  That album is very very special to me.  The metal on it is great and the intros / interludes are equally, remarkably enthralling.  Through some internet sleuthery last week I happened to catch wind that Tour-de-Garde was releasing a limited cassette of the singer's dungeon synth project in limited quantities.  So I picked one up and it arrived in a timeley fashion.

Last weekend I was at Costco and I watched a young lady who was employed at the store scurrying to tend to her needs on her break.  She was making an urgent phone call while ordering two slices of pizza and hurry to the break room to swallow the greasy salt bread as quickly as it would slither down her throat between words.  As she collected her things to head to the break room I was sole witness to watching her wanton pizza slices make a run for it.  In tandem they lept from her paper plate and slapped face down on the floor.  I immediately looked upto her face and her conversation was interrupted by the pure honesty of a frown that this particular happenstance deserved.

In one mere moment she had a desire for pizza, she got that pizza and satisfaction was within her grasp almost immediately, only to have it robbed from her by gravity's begrudging grip.  This little story is a perfect metaphor for how my relationship with this demo has gone so far, particularly upon listening to it.

If this tape were ever a kingdom, it certainly would have been better off  remaining forgotten.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mid year wrap-up

It appears that this has indeed become one of those sad sack weblogs.  One where I infrequently write in it and start the entries with sentences like "Sorry I haven't been updating, been busy with _______"  I'll spare you the bullshit and get to what you should really want: my educated opinions on the music that I would bathe in if I could.  The purpose of this entry is just to highlight the noteworthy metal albums that have come out thus far.  I assure you there is a lot more in store for the rest of the year, so my year end list will look starkly different I'm sure.  In no particular order:

1) Arcturus - Arcturian []  Yeah, one of my favorite bands has again reformed and released an album.  I'm glad they're back, I'm happy that they haven't really deviated from their signature style.  That being said, Arcturian gives me mixed emotions.  Half of me feels like this is a "going through the motions" album, much like the dismal, watery and apathetic Sideshow Symphonies was.  The other half of me feels like this is much better than that, it offers a bombastic and entertaining amount of music & variety to keep me interested.  Given my mixed emotions on the album, its a decent effort from one of the best avante garde bands in the genre, and I ALWAYS thoroughly enjoy listening to Simen Hestnaes sing on pretty much anything (aside from Sideshow Symphonies).

2) Fungoid Stream - Prehuman Shapes [] This actually came out early in 2014, but it totally flew under my radar.  Its my party and I can do whatever I want!  I had an intense relationship with their debut Celaenus Fragments about a decade ago and Oceanus didn't do much for me (needs a revisiting though).  However, Prehuman Shapes grabbed me by both arms, thrust me down firmly in a chair and unwaveringly beamed foreboding and ominous Lovecraftian nightmares straight to my inner bone marrow.  Its an intense and brilliantly crafted album.  Definitely pick this up for something different.

3) Ifing - Against this Weald [] I'd say that this band shows a lot of potential, and I might be right, but this debut is nearly as good as it gets.  There seems to be an arms race right now for bands trying to get this sort of genre just right, and there are some clear champions.  Ifing belong right up there among the Gallowbraids, the Falkenbach's and the Irminsul's.

4) Amestigon - Their [] This is every bit as great as I knew it would be, based solely on their excellent Sun of All Suns album that has been rather quietly well received since it was released in 2010.  This doesn't sound anything like the other bands that Amestigon's members are in (Abigor, Der Bluttharsch, Summoning).  Coincidental similarities to Seidr, Falls of Rauros are what I'm  hearing here, and I'm loving it.

5) Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs [] I've already written a fair amount about this band, but this sophomore album is monumentally inspired and engrossing.  This will definitely be on the top of many year end lists.

6) Darvulia / Sektarism - split [] This might be the year's biggest disappointment.  Darvulia are one of my favorite black metal bands and this is their final release.  This isn't even worth writing about any longer.  Buh.

7) Forefather - Curse of the Cwelled [] This is every bit is awesome as I knew it was going to be.  Though I haven't plundered their discography as thoroughly as I should, this is their best effort that i have heard.

8) Gorgoroth - Instinctus Bestialis [] I was about to say I don't clearly understand how or when this band became an utter joke but when I look back, I kind of think they were always floundering near joke-dom.  I really like a couple of their albums, but just having well-known members in your band does not good black metal make.  Anyways, I tried to download this album and my laptop froze in the process.  So I tried it again and the download failed due to a network error.  I tried downloading it on my other computer and it failed once again.  So I haven't heard this album yet but I'm sure it probably sucks, just like everything Tomas Asklund has a part in.

9) Infera Bruo - In Conjuration [] I knew these guys were soon to be a forced to reckon with when I first lain ears on their full length Desolate Unknown.  I wont give too much away because Worm Gear will be featuring my full review in the coming weeks.

10) Sviatibor - Dans la splendeur des dieux [] I'm going to take another opportunity to rave about this obscure french solo project.  Similar to Elderwind and Progenie Terestre Pura, even though his output is already at full throttle, the quality hasn't faltered.  This album should put him on the map and I really look forward to hearing future albums.

11) Addaura - ...and the Lamps Expire [] I waited three long years for a follow up to their brilliant debut, and all I got was 21 minutes of really good material.  Well I'm sated for about another year, haha.

12) Khors - Night Falls onto the Fronts of Ours [] I've only half listened to this a time or two, but I can tell its already an improvement upon their last album whose first half was incredible, and whose latter half left something to be desired.

13) Blood Storm - The Stellar Exorcism [] Let me preface this by telling you that this is the first time I've been able to make it through an entire Blood Storm album without shutting it off.  For some reason this album just seems to hit the right spot for me.  I'd describe it as a thrashier Hellhammer or something.

14) Infernal War - Axiom [] Either their charm has wore off on me or it has worn off altogether.  This kind of black metal is just lost on me anymore.

15) Melechesh - Enki [] This band may seem a bit out of character for me but I have a soft spot for their ultimately decadent thrashy melodies.  I cant get enough of this band and this new album is surely their best effort.  The new / old drummer is band and I'm glad for him, but I'm really going to miss Xul on the skins.  He was a perfect fit for this band.

16) Der Weg Einer Freiheit - Stellar [] It took me a while but I really warmed up to Unstille in 2012.  It was very strong but also showed a lot of promise.  Maybe I pumped them up a bit too much in my head but this new one turned out to be somewhat forgettable.  My initiation with the band was tepid, so maybe I need to put in a little work to warm up to this one.

17) Grift / Saiva - Split 10" [] Another little sample of some top quality Swedish black metal.  Looking forward to a Saiva full length.  That may tends to the wounds of Lonndom's break up.

18) Dødheimsgard - An umbra Omega [] Before I managed to peel myself away from this album, I was all over it like a Baltimore police officer on a jaywalker of color.  I'm going to write a full review of this as well so I wont go into too much great detail.

19) Kres - Na krawedziach nocy []  I havent had as much time as I'd like to fully consume this album, but I have enjoyed it enough to tell you that it is awesome.  In the vein of Wedrujacy Wiatr / Stworz, etc.  

20) House of Atreus - The Ichor and the Spear that Follows [] These guys are super talented and this album is a neck wrecker.  Not really the type of thing I usually go nuts for, but anyone who misses Arghoslent will be pretty happy with this album.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Best metal releases of 2014 Part I

The year treated me well with countless albums that I simply could not put down.  Albums that I would daydream about.  Records that I anticipated showing up at my door like a little kid waiting for a new toy.  A few bands that came out of nowhere and utterly blew me away.  Albums that challenged me to the brink of love.  I hope that you find something here that you love.

My favorites:
1) Falls of Rauros - Believe in No Coming Shore

   A) Falls of Rauros / Panopticon - Brotherhood
2) Panopticon - Roads to the North
3) Merkaba - Bones of the Sacred Forest

4) Eternum - The Devouring Descent
5) Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III Saturnian Poetry
6) Cross Vault - Spectres of Revocable Loss
7) Waldgefluster - Meine Fesseln
8) Taurus - No/Thing
9) Beketh Nexehmu - De Svarta Riterna
10) Dead Congregation - Promulgation of the Fall
11) Nasheim - Solens Vemod
12) Drowned - Idola Specus
13) Darkenhold - Castellum
14) Wheels Within Wheels - Thirty Five Thoughts to Nineteen Elements
15) Yob - Clearing the Path to Ascend

Other great releases:
Animals as Leaders - The Joy of Motion
Annthennath / Quinntessence - Eram Quod Es, Eris Quod Sum
Blood of Kingu - Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon
Caïnan Dawn - Thavmial
Circle of Ouroborus - Kuuhun Kahlittuthe Deathtrip - Deep Drone Master
Diocletian - Gesundrian
Doom:vs - Earthless
Emeth - Aethyr
Encoffination - III – Hear Me, O’ Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs)
Funereal Presence - the Archer Takes Aim
Furia - Nocel
Giant Squid - Minoans
Hypothermia - Självdestruktivitet född av monotona tankegångar IV: Warakumbla
Jute Gyte - Cast Chains
Kermania - Kehre Heim
Krieg - Transient
Kriegsmaschine - Enemy of Man
Menace Ruine - Venus Armata
Messial - Gravitational Dissonance
Morbus Chron - Sweven
Nightbringer - Ego Dominus Tuus
Noble Beast - s/t
Obligatorysk Tortyr - Mork Triad
Old Wainds - Nordraum
Paths - Where the Oakenhearted Dwell
Posthum - The Black Northern Ritual
Primordial - Where Greater Men have Fallen
Rauhnåcht - Urzeitgeist
Saor - Aura
Sargeist - Feeding the Crawling Shadows
Skogen - I Doden
Sons of Crom - Riddle of Steel
Stargazer - A Merging to the Boundless
Stilla - Ensamhetens andar
Stworz - Koło życia
Sviatibor - La Foi Des Ancêtres
Torrid Husk - The Carrion Fields
Ulvegr - the Call of Glacial Emptiness
Urkaos - Rehearsal XIVarathron - Untrodden Corridors of Hades
Vargsang - In the Mist of Night
Venenum - s/t
Winterfylleth - The Divination of Antiquity
Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestite
Zgard - Contemplation

Meh / Forgettable:
At the Gates - At War with Reality
Empty - Etica Profana Negativa
Graveland -Ogien Przebudzenia
Ungern - Steppenwolf
Mannveira - Von Er Eitur

Zorn - Gegen Alles
Tymah - the Past is Alive
Deep Mountains - Lake of Solace
Lantlos - Melting Sun
Insomnium - Shadows of the Dying Sun
Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
Agalloch - the Serpent & the Sphere
Manes - Be All End All
The Morningside - Letters from the Empty Towns
Ripper - Raising the Corpse

Botanist - IV Flora
Murmur - s/t

1349 - M.C.C.
Anaal Nathrakh - Desideratum

Darkspace - III I
Bethlehem - Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia
Midlake - Antiphon
Solefald - Norronasongen: Kosmopolis NordBethlehem - Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia
Empyrium - The Turn of the Tide

Mortifera - IV Sanctii Tristhess

Monday, November 17, 2014

Year End List: Part II

If you chose to release a new metal album in 2014, I admire your cojones.  I don't aim to turn music into a sport here, but the more your audience is occupied with other exceptional releases, the less likely they are to notice yours.  It was really hard to limit myself to just ten featured albums, and since this is my blog, I don't have to.  I certainly don't feel like only ten albums deserve mentioning in today's world where everyone's opinion matters.  So I've changed things up a bit this year.  What I want to do is list my top 30!  Today I'm going to list 16-30, and in a few weeks I will present the creme de la creme, 1-15 + more!

16) Ered Wethrin - Tides of War
At first I just wanted this to be more like Caladan Brood or Gallowbraid, but while some similarities pervade, this album has a decent set of feet to stand on.  A mighty debut!
17) Abigor - Leymotif Luzifer
Yet another cacophonous futuristic maelstrom from one of my favorite bands.  This is definitely a challenging listen but a rewarding one at that.
18) Swallowed - Lunarterial
I've been waiting for a debut from these guys for 5 years at least, and in that time they have gnarled into a differen beast entirely.  I was a little let down but this is still very original.
19) Drudkh - Eastern Frontier in Flames
So odd how this plays like an album, yet its mostly covers.  Phenomenal release nonetheless.  
20) Horned Almighty - World of Tombs
I will never get tired of this band, another rock solid fist banger of an album.  These guys just keep getting better.
21) Mare Cognitum - Phobos Monolith
Oh man, this totally hits the spot.  I liken this to a cross between Wolves in the Throne Room and Darkspace.  Definitely worth your attention!
22) Woman is the Earth - Depths
Its great to hear a new band hearken back to Weakling's "Dead as Dreams" without sounding contrived.  These guys are headed in the right direction.
23) Cauldron Black Ram - Stalagmire
I've always loved these guys but this album really clicked with me.  Everything fell into place here and this record is awesome.
24) Goatmoon - Voitto Tai Valhalla
Killer band with tons of great riffs, always a fun listen despite their questionable repute.
25) Paramnesia - s/t
I was really excited to have discovered these guys.  They take the Ash Borer formula and run with it to great effect!
26) Ahamkara - the Embers of the Stars
Holy hell, who pissed these dudes off?  This is an absolutely killer debut from the UK.
27) Alcest - Shelter
Yeah, I'm just not ready to give up on these guys yet.  This album has absolutely nothing to do with their former genre, but the signature blissful and longing melancholic melodicism is still strong with them.  I still haven't grown tired of it.
28) Falconer - Black Moon Rising
One of my most listened to albums of the year.  Its a monster power metal album with all sorts of catchy and memorable moments.  This album will never get old.
29) Fluisteraars - Dromers
Pretty interesting and solid effort.  I really like the monotonous and grinding repetition they     use.
30) Latitude Egress - To Take up the Cross
I was looking forward to this a great deal, and I'm still getting comfortable with it.  It doesn't help that the very similar Cross Vault album was in heavy rotation all year long.

When I present part 1 of this 2 part article, I will also include a list of honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut of top 30, but are still albums worth giving a listen if your are in search of more metal.  Thank you to all the talented, artistic and humble people that make this world of music more interesting, vital and expressive.  This is our language and this is how we speak.  2014 has been a huge year for metal.  Lets take it easy in 2015 so I can have some time to listen to all this great stuff even more haha!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Falls of Rauros - Believe in no Coming Shore

Album reviews have pretty much become moot these days.  It takes less time to go to youtube and listen to any album than it does to read a total stranger's thoughts on it.  So I try to write reviews only when I feel intensely moved to do so, so that I can create something that offers my personal insight into the music and how I relate to it, in the hopes that you can maybe understand it better after reflecting on my perspective.  This album is enthralling, among so many other things:

"Believe in no Coming Shore" seems almost incidental to me.  Falls of Rauros have come such a long way as a band since their beginnings, that when realizing the vast and elaborate scope of their progression and direction, this album seems like a mere checkpoint upon their journey to being one of the most fascinating and memorable bands that have graced my ears.  They already are that in my eyes, but the path that they are paving with each release is one that utterly disregards boundaries, exudes personality and gently breathes magnificently vivid tapestries that are absolutely unique to Maine's Falls of Rauros.

One of the things that I can be is a bit of a hedonist.  I reluctantly admit that I can often be found basking in something.  So its only fitting that I find myself listening to Falls of Rauros more and more these days, even in anticipation of this album, and especially after the release of the Panopticon split (which is a must own release).  The music of Falls of Rauros is rich and lush, boldly sweet and vibrant.  This album has so much to offer, and I cant seem to get enough of it.  This album is drenched with sweet harmony and so delicately woven with elaborate guitar work, clinging to every astutely composed section is something I don't see myself getting tired of anytime soon.  The slower passages draw me in with sweet harmonious shimmering guitar work, only to be followed by some of the catchiest, utterly melodic sections I have ever heard, all the while lifted generously by intricate and thoughtful drumming.  To me Falls of Rauros is a guitar based band, the vocals are secondary as with most bands of this ilk.  If you ignored the themes behind these songs, you'd be doing yourself a great disservice.  While I may not grasp a unifying subject of the album, the lyrics are intimate and personal, they seem to intend to serve as a mirror pointed at our very being, and a heartfelt word of encouragement.  "We're responsible for the world we belong to, all pity withheld.  We are answerable for the dusk we have walked through and our quiet contempt; hardly permissible."

Last year I was spending time with my friend Austin, who played session drums on their last full length.  We were listening to this album while driving through wintry landscapes in Minnesota.  I told him that what fascinated me about this band was that they can continually wax and wane in intensity in an ever evolving way.  Every part builds up to something else.  Each moment of their music is like following the veins of a leaf to the stem, then the branch to the limb, and the limb to the tree and the tree to ta beautiful forest in Maine.  It just keeps getting better and more luscious and beautiful.  I would say that there is no conceivable way they could ever top this album, were it not written by the best black metal band in the United States.

Though its all we've got, I've often felt like using words to describe music is pointless.  Its like painting basketballs about divorce.  I can tell you what an incredible album this is until I am blue in the face but my words have little ability to accurately portray the power that these songs hold.  I have probably listened to the album 25 times since I got it last week and I though I've had so many of the different parts swimming about my head every second that I haven't been listening to it, it still sounds like the first time I heard it.  Its IMPOSSIBLE to get sick of this.  There is an instrumental section at the end of the song "Spectral Eyes" that is an apex.  A section so brilliant that it makes everything I've ever done as a fan of this music seem entirely worthwhile because it brought me to the point of being able to understand, appreciate and be in awe of what went into what I'm hearing.

In comparison to past work, this album in particular is a lot more down to earth as far as the production is concerned.  I cant say I have ever heard any other album sound like this.  The overall timbre of the instruments in unison is somewhat drab and pallid, it all feels very...within reach and real.  This lends to it being a very intimate and personal sounding record, it also serves to highlight the ornate and lush musicality found on the record by starkly contrasting it.  To even further deliver the realness, this album sounds extremely well rehearsed and live, I cant imagine they spent much time doing punch-ins or edits.  Stylistically speaking, this record is a long progression from a foundation that is black metal, this album is barely black metal by definition.  The guitar playing, the bass playing, and drums are teeming with influences ranging from 70's rock & country to modern post rock and a moderate amount of other US black metal.  Even further removed from this album are other typical elements of your average metal album of today such as barbarity, anger, or really any dark subject matter in general.  Falls of Rauros needn't bother themselves with any of that posturing because they clearly focus on being one thing: GREAT.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What I have come to realize about Minnesota's Obsequiae

Today I am feeling relieved.  My trouble began when I met Tanner Anderson in the winter of 2007 and soon after was the first time I'd heard Autumnal Winds.  Upon loving it immensely (see my review), there was always this distracting itch that I couldn't scratch.  I really wanted to be able to say the typical phrase "Oh, this is just like ______ crossed with ______."  There was such a tangible familiarity that I am usually able to quantify easily by communicating something by describing it as "A thrashier ______" or something to that effect.  This trouble is even further fueled by Tanner and I's mutual and unforgivingly rampant obsession with melodic black and death metal bands of the 1990's.  Knowing that Tanner and I's CD collections are largely interchangeable makes it all the more frustrating that I couldn't easily reverse engineer Tanner's music; be it Autumnal Winds or Obsequiae to a palatable formula that could be stated in a short sentence.

The satisfaction and relief that I have found to this conundrum can be reduced to this article by giving the music of Obsequiae the reverence it humbly commands.  With the recent release of Obsequiae's debut album on the vinyl format, I have been seeing an increasing amount of comparisons ranging from Agalloch to Hammers of Misfortune to Pentangle to Bathory.  Each time I see this I inadvertently stomp my foot down because these associations are lazy, and do all parties a disservice.  What I arrived upon instead of all these pushy accusations is that the familiarity I still feel when listening to Autumnal Winds or Obsequiae is that this has the potential to be every bit as good as Ophthalamia's "Via Dolorosa," Dawn's "Naer Solen Gar Niper for Evogher" or Varathron's "His Majesty at the Swamp."  I am very excited to be able to watch Tanner work to achieve this level of masterhood, though I humbly assure you that isn't his aim.  I think that it is much more satisfying and worthwhile to think of it this way: trying to say what goes into the creation of Obsequiae's music is an impossibility but alternately I think its safe to say that Tanner shares a similar end result as the album's described above.  

In my later years of appreciating metal, I have found a great deal of deserved snobbery in being fascinated by artists who have fully engendered the language by which they communicate their craft.  All too many artists use only known languages to communicate what is in their head.  Don't get me wrong, this is enjoyable and the majority of society ask only this of the art that they allow to enter their mind.  I however, am different than this.  I want to experience new forefronts, new demographics and new realities that will be remembered by myself for ages.  I find that the more unfamiliar the language of art, the more continued enjoyment I can get out of it, because I respect that which challenges me and also due to the mundanity of everything that doesn't do this for me.  Without hesitation I hold Tanner and his music in this esteem and "Suspended in the Brume of Eos" is a clear example of this (as is "Venerari Sacra Mysteria"!)  The demeanor in which this language is offered to the listener is tacit.  Unlike so much other art, music and metal you are not assumed to be an impish headbanging sloth.  I greatly respect this quality about his craft.

The only credibility I seek in speaking about my friendship with Tanner is that I want to offer you my potentially greater understanding of Obsequiae and what goes into and what led up to what you are hearing when you play "Suspended in the Brume of Eos" or the brilliant self-titled demo.  I personally possess the most comprehensive digital collection of Autumnal Winds, and pre-Autumnal Winds music.  I know a lot about the origins of Obsequiae.  The frustrations that Tanner has been through to see his music through to a tangible format are unbelievable.  I dare say that Tanner's resolve to continue making his unique music is equal to Ginger Baker's eagerness to be a total dick; its fucking unfathomable.  His drive isn't only to bring what is in his head to the world, but to inspire a great deal of influence upon us that this somewhat forgotten style is still valid and relevant.  It may have fallen by the wayside due to the technological advancements we have seen since the 90's and our reliance upon these devices to create music is at an all time high.  I was able gain a greater understanding of this recently when Tanner played me demos for the new Obsequiae album.

The new music is instantly recognizable as Obsequiae of course.  Without giving away too much I dare say the new material is armed with more fury, it is more challenging and even more evocative.  I absolutely can't wait to hear what comes next from my friend's mind.  In anticipation of the new album, I invite you to order the LP version of "Suspended..." from 20 Buck Spin for a mere $14 and check out my interview here:.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Otyg's "Alvefard" - An Unknown Classic

I am drawn to things and people that don't sell themselves or put on a show to attract your attention.  I don't need to sell this album to you and its time of relevance has come and gone.  It is kind of weird for me coming to terms with that realization because I have been listening to this album for 16 years, and it has always sounded new to me.  I remember I was working at a deli in Marion, Iowa back then and though I have since become more well versed in the language of fake Swedish, I was just learning at the time, and I would sing these infectious melodies and triumphant soaring choruses over and over as I went about my day.  Never before nor since has an album so infectiously pleased and attached itself to my heart with its catchy and richly melodic stylings.  This album has really found a renaissance with me in the last few months, and I feel like I am enjoying it more than I ever have.  My purpose here is to celebrate this album and give it a well deserved break down, to further understand the reverence it deserves.

In 1998 when this came out, the metal world was bursting forth into dozens of sub-genres and it seemed everyone was trying new ideas, and a lot of it was great.  I go back to this era quite often for new things that I may have missed.  Otyg had tremendous foresight and bravery to take this idea to the hilt, and they were very lucky to have hit the nail on the head with this album in particular.  (I will note briefly that though I liked it when it came out, Otyg's follow up "Sargovindars Boning" falls vastly short of what Alvefard was able to achieve, and hasn't aged well with me.  Maybe in another 16 years I will get around to liking it.)  Musically speaking this album is a metal record, arguably more prog than metal but lets not get caught up in semantics.  Most other forms of folk metal at this point in time had a backbone consisting of the standard ferocious and / or vicious blackened metal with various flutes and violins adorning and dressing it up to be folk or viking metal.  I have to make a clear distinction here, this type of metal I have a hard time considering "true" folk metal, whereas an album like "Älvefärd" I consider to be a more believable interpretation of original Swedish folk songs into this modern heathen foray (* nod to Falkenbach).  Bands like Finntroll or Moonsorrow can play squeezebox pizza metal all day long and I can count on one hand the number of albums I like in this niche, but I think "Älvefärd" champions all of that nonsense.  To further illustrate my perceived authenticity with this record, Swedish folk music is traditionally played on a violin or fiddle, and Cia Hedmark's violin playing and simply gorgeous accompanying vocals are given a great deal more play in Otyg than most other bands.  Additionally there is a fair amount of terrific flute playing throughout the album.

If you take away all the above elements, the core of "Älvefärd" is mostly some sort of 70's prog album with a modern leaning toward the heavy without veering too closely to anything sneering, evil or ferocious whatsoever.  The influence of bands like Saxon, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull, & Focus is probable.  The band's satchel of talent is flourishing with ideas that lay the groundwork for these varied songs.  Furthermore I think it is important to highlight this album in particular because Otyg had three demos prior to this debut, which never quite fell into place, but show that a far amount of carving trial and error went into making this such a perfect record.  Vintersorg's talent is unquestionable as a guitarist and a vocalist.  Knowing that he was a tender 20 years of age when he began the odyssey of Otyg is clear evidence of this.  Singing entirely with clean vocals and writing such stirring and memorable songs are what make this far and away my favorite output of Vintersorg.

Last year I attended a metal show in Chicago featuring several bands from all corners of the earth, and while I'm not too familiar with the themes these bands dwell upon, it was pretty clear that if you weren't into Satan, you weren't welcome at this show.  I was never really into Satan but I tolerated the idea because for most of my life, I would have argued that all metal should be about Satan and at least concern itself with an enjoyable amount of spiritual warfare to counteract the right wing religious upbringing all of its fans had endured.  It took this show to make it clear to me that I no longer had a place in this particular form of heathenry. I'm a much more humble man these days and no longer and I drawn to such reckless contagion of negativity.  The grandest things I enjoy now are in the ways I connect with nature, science, history and art.  As of late "Älvefärd" has been waiting for me at the edge of the forest inviting me into its humble and welcoming world.  In this way I fell a much more fulfilling and familiar connection with it than I ever have.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Norwegian Black Metal (yes, again)

Neseblod records of Oslo Norway recently moved from their original spot to the former locale of Euronymous' infamous Helvete shop.  Over the years Neseblod has become something of a museum of Norwegian black metal and finding a new home right where it all began is a very interesting turn of events if you ask me.  I've been perusing the online museum on their site as well on instagram, and it got me thinking about the notoriety that this scene continues to get 20 years after the fact due to books, movies, and news articles.  I realized that at times its embarrassing to me that the music I devote a major part of my life to, is known largely for the actions of some ridiculous teenagers back in 1993.  A great deal of this notoriety is due to the constant rehashing of the story of Euronymous and Varg Vikernes, Dead's suicide, and Varg's burning of 13 churches.  This behavior not only takes attention away from the amazing and timeless albums that this scene produced during those times, but it also disregards a great deal of what has happened in the international black metal scene since then.

There have been a dozen or so times where I've met someone who has this limited knowledge of what black metal is as "this is Ben, he's a huuuuuuge black metal fan" and I can just hear them saying in their head "oh, that's the angry music where everyone kills each other" as if black metal could be equated with a murderous rap scene in Miami or something.  Well, I would argue that in a lot of ways it could, so I really wouldn't blame anyone for thinking that way, and its because of the fact that media, and metal-heads alike have focused so much attention on these arguably historical (or even "legendary" as some people put it) actions in the early 90's.  I really wish that when a social situation like this arose, the person I am meeting would be thinking "Oh, black metal, that's the atmospheric music where they sing about forests and vikings and stuff."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Best Metal Releases of 2013

Every year it gets worse and worse. I compile my list of potential candidates for my top ten metal releases of the year, then I comb through countless other "year end" lists for albums that I may have missed. This is when I am reminded most that metal media, both online and in print have been ever-spiraling further and further down the shitter for far too many years now. The reasons I feel this way are a trident of misery. 1) The albums that get the top spots are usually unimaginative, safe, derivative, and mediocre. 2) Its pretty clear that these lists should probably be retitled "albums that we generated the most ad / pr revenue from this year." 3) The people that write these lists are surely nice folks, but they just dont seem to be capable of proper exposure to be an authoritarian on this subject! We are trusting these people to tell us about the best music, so that we dont have to listen to all the bullshit releases, and yet they haven't even scratched beneath the surface to find the true gold. I'm not going to sit here on a throne and tell you that I am the underground metal warlord and that I am the one true authority on this topic, you can make your own judgement. I just don't see ANY website, magazine or blogger that defies the miserable characteristics described above.

With that out of my system, here it is.

1) Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle
2) Seidr - Ginnungagap
3) the Ruins of Beverast - Blood Vaults
4) Gorguts - Colored Sands
5) Gris - À l'âme enflammée, l'äme constellée...
6) Horn - Konflikt
7) Progenie Terrestre Pura - U.M.A.
8) Portal - Vexovoid
9) Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse
10) Panopticon / Vestiges - Split

Each album at some point lifted the hair on the back of my neck, gave me tingles all over my body and made my ears gaze in wonderment. These albums gave me what keeps me happy as a rabid music maniac.

Honorable as fuck Mentions:
Abysmal Grief - Feretri
Abyssal - Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius
Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury
Arckanum - Fenris Kindir
Arsaidh / Saor - Roots
Begrime Exemious - Wasteland of Damnation
Burzum - Sôl austan, Mâni vestan
Csejthe - Réminiscence
Coffins - Fleshland
Cultes Des Ghoules - Henbane
Ephel Duath - Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness
Falkenbach - Asa
Finnr's Cane - A Portrait Painted by the Sun
Galdr - Ancient Light of the Stars
the Howling Wind - Vortex
Hypocrisy - End of Disclosure
Incursus - Adaestuo
Kawir - Isotheosis
Magic Circle - s/t
Njiqahdda - Serpents in the Sky
Nocturnal Graves - From the Bloodline of Cain
Oranssi Pazuzu - Valonielu
Paysage d'Hiver - Das Tor
Peste Noire - s/t
Prosanctus Inferi - Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night
Red Fang - Whales and Leeches
Sacriphyx - the Western Front
Skagos - Anarchic
Skogr - In Obscure Darkness
Summoning - Old Morning's Dawn
Thou Art Lord - the Regal Pulse of Lucifer
Ulcerate - Vermis
Vali - Skogslandskap
Voivod - Target Earth
Warlord - the Holy Empire
Wedrujacy Wiatr - Tam, gdzie miesiąc opłakuje świt
When Bitter Spring Sleeps - Coven of the Wolves
Witherscape - The Inheritance

Carcass - "Fart Blood" I cant forgive one of my favorite bands for releasing a mediocre, forced, uncohesive mess of an album to make $, and luckily I don't have to.  This sounds like a Carcass tribute band playing medleys of the worst parts of their past songs at the grand opening of a nail salon.
Germ - "Grief" This band had one redeeming quality to it that made me love the first two.  Its hard to put into words, but whatever it was, its absolutely gone from this hot mess of an album.  What a shame, I was really looking forward to this.
Horna - "Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa" Maybe I need to give this a third chance, or maybe I'm just burned out on this band, but this album seems like the exact same song over and over and over.
Satyricon - "Satyricon" Not a huge fan of this band but I usually find a minute reason or two to listen to their recent albums, but this is just totally out of left field and they forgot to write any cool parts.
Ihsahn - "Das Seelenbrechen" - This is what emptiness sounds like.  I'd rather listen to paint dry.
Morbosidad - "Muerte de Cristo en Golgota" - I was once a big fan of these guys, but this sounds like my entire Revenge collection being flushed down a toilet for 40 minutes.  BARF.
Deafheaven - "Sunbathsalts" - Not only is this band uninspired, unimaginative and a bunch of posers, but they are getting shitloads of accolades for completely ripping off Panopticon.  Fuck these nerds.
Ulver - "Messy Curtains XXX" - I find Tangerine Dream fascinating, but I seriously cannot stand more than 6 minutes of this without being bored to tears.  This is devoid of anything interesting, what the fuck is with all the hype?
Darkthrone - the Underground Resistance

If you've read this and you think I've forgotten or omitted anything...youre probably wrong. I've spent countless hours sampling the heaps of shit that came out this year and that is why I feel a duty to be the voice of reason here. See you next year!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Old Man Charlie "The Absent King of the Earth"

Almost as a metaphorical personification of his human voice, the music of Old Man Charlie teeters a ponderous edge between lovable frailty and a certain "hair stand up on the back of your neck" boldness. Something I haven't heard since Russian Red drove me to the brink of weeping the first time I heard her "I Like Your Glasses" album. His music's fragile mood also reminds me of some of the darker songs by Damien Jurado. Old Man Charlie's allure is delicate and poetic and once your ear is turned you are a captive audience for the vivid, imaginative and sometimes morbid themes swarming around in Arlen Lawson's head. To achieve this poignant of a musical personality with just his mouth and six strings speaks volumes about his ability and potential, yet there is a lot to be said for what a focused and well produced record could bring us from him. His efforts so far have been adorned by other musicians lending additional accompaniment and instrumentation which show that this idea is a good one, but not a necessary one at all times. I find that the most tasteful arrangement of additional instrumentation in this singer / songwriter scenario is when you don't even notice that there is more going on than a voice and a guitar. So while I certainly see the potential in breathing additional life into Old Man Charlie's songs with due tastefulness, the delicate frailty that charms me can easily be toppled by a repetitive awkward drum beat or overbearing synth.
Luckily, in his latest release "The Absent King of the Earth," I am very pleased to hear a less distracting accompaniment and a more focused and tasteful production lifting these great songs where they deserve to dwell. This isn't one of my preferred genres of music because I often get a bit dragged down by the "sad sack" attitude of some singer-songwriters. In contrast however this EP has a comfortable length and enough variety and personality to keep me pretty much glued whenever I put it on. I tend to be a sucker for catchy melodicism and hooky song craft, and I find that the core of Arlen's songs possess a mindfulness of his ability to take advantage of that skill. Though I like the EP quite a bit, the highlight for me is a spoken word track called "I Want a Life" where he speaks pointedly about what he wants out of life. Though not technically a song, I think that the accompanying music, the mixing and recording on this track -clicks- the way I think all of his songs should, and can.
"The Absent King of the Earth" is not only a joy, but also a heap of evidence that Old Man Charlie is clearly heading for brighter horizons. I like to think of this EP as his parting gift to Iowa City, as the talent pool here is severely lessened by his departure to Los Angeles.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hello again followers.  I am checking in again with a brief update and a playlist.  I have been very busy working a new job and travelling a bit here and there.  There are a TON of great albums coming out this year, as well as more on the way!  I recently had the chance to sing on two tracks for the forthcoming Panopticon album.  Very excited to hear the album in its entirety when its all finished!

Whats been keeping me afloat lately:

Suhnopfer - "Nos Sombres Chapelles" Devastating, unrelenting, pummeling french black metal. I havent heard anything this aggressive in a long time. Makes me feel old. This was a great find by my friend Kurt.

Gorguts - "Colored Sands" A maelstrom of whirling and intricate death metal from these legends. This is a monument of human capacity to say the least.

Warlord - "The Holy Empire" Here is an enthralling take on the classic Warlord sound. Its so rare to hear traditional metal done so tastefully well. Its a bit too cheesy at times but hey this is Warlord we are talking about here.

Michael Perkins "Mr. 666 - GA008" This could easily be the score to a eerie 80's horror movie. Akin to Goblin and that ilk but done remarkably well without being too overly kitschy.

Eclipse "the Act of Degradation" Sort of a more symphonic and more adventurous version of what Lord Kaos was trying to do. Very complex and well arranged.

Lonndom "Viddernas tolv kapitel" Fairly ragged and charismatic folk from Sweden by guy from Lik. Very accessible.

Allegiance "Blodornsoffer" & "Hymn till Hangagud" I always overlooked these albums because of my hatred for Peter Tagtgren's lifeless production, but they are actually very good. Kind of hard to categorize even though people often think of them as viking metal.

Alcest "Les Voyages De L'ame" I've had a problem listening to Alcest ever since Les Discrets sorta beat them at their own game. After giving this a second chance I'm really enjoying it. This is an album that I will spend years devouring.

Watain "the Wild Hunt" After the single they released I feared it was the downfall of one of my favorite bands, but if you omit that track "the Child Must Die," this album is impeccable. If you're not expecting another Casus Luciferi or Sworn to the Dark, this holds its own quite well. This is more leaning away from the Dissection / Nifelheim influence in favor of a good helping of Bathory influence. What I find enjoyable about it is that its a near perfect commercial black metal album. This should please a lot of people and with proper touring I think Watain will be tops in black metal for many years.

The Howling Wind "Vortex" This is a great snarling album of straight forward black metal with excellent riffing and memorable songs. I'm really excited about this band.

Arch Enemy "Black Earth" I bought this in a dollar bin expecting to hate it, thinking it would be worth some $ down the road. It really caught me off guard and takes me back to 1998, a time when Swedish death metal was modernizing and commercializing. A sad eventuality, but a few choice albums stood the transition.

The Knife "Shaking the Habitual" This band has never quite done anything for me but Karin Dreijer Andersson has made me a fan with her work with Fever Ray, Honey is Cool and Royksopp. With this album I feel like they finally locked it in place. This has a lot to offer.

Peste Noire "Peste Noire" These guys are really starting to get fun. Its great to hear them further and further abandoning the trappings of the black metal genre and carving their own identity. This album seems to be where they grow their wings and really take off. It has a prevalent Mr. Bungle influence to it that I find addictive.

Supplicium "Magna Atra Missa" Another killer French band that I'd describe as a more raggedy Annthennath. I love this french style of guitar harmony.

What have you been listening to?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hello again friends.  I haven't had anything remarkable fall into my lap since Darvulia, and I haven't felt compelled to write about anything for a while.  I have been putting a lot of work into my site 319Dude.bandcamp.com which is a collection of local music from my area.  I thought I'd just drop in and post a playlist to sate you until the next time I write.

Albums I have been playing a lot lately:
Hypocrisy - End of Disclosure
Blaze Foley - Cold, Cold, World
Horn - Naturkraft
Progenie Terrestre Pura - U.M.A.
Seidr - Ginnungagap (this will blow your fucking mind)
Darkthrone - all the albums with commentary
Bethzaida - LXXVIII
Demigod - the Slumber of Sullen Eyes
Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle
Virus - Oblivion Clock
Erasmus - Alpha demo 1998

Come to think of it, please check out the aforementioned Erasmus demo.  Its extremely rare and infinitely inventive.  Its YEARS ahead of its time.  You are welcome to download it for free here:  http://319dude.bandcamp.com/album/alpha-demo
Demonaz w/ Immortal 1994

Friday, January 25, 2013

To Download or Not to Download (MP3)

First of all, I wouldn't read this post if it were your on your stupid blog, so don't feel guilty for completely ignoring this post on mine.

Sometimes I feel like I can be pretty wishy-washy on this subject but I have a lot of experience and insight on the subject and therefore I have a lot of opinions on this "hot topic."  A friend of mine once said to me "I don't believe in MP3s, they hurt musicians."  I'm not ashamed to admit it: I download a SHITLOAD of mp3s illegally, and I have since the days of Napster in the late 90's.  I would estimate I download around 20 new (to me) releases a month, mostly metal.  A large portion of it is stuff that I will never in a million years find physical copies of.  Should that fact bar me from ever hearing it?  If I went by that logic, then I would have to pay $119 (currently on discogs) to hear Emperor's "As the Shadows Rise" seven inch.  While I think that is a decent price, not a single penny of that money will ever go to Emperor.

Last night I was really enjoying listening to a 7" by the Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud in my car (on my mp3 player of course).  This likely was limited to 267 copies and came out in 1996, years before the wonderful voice of Alzbeth ever graced thine stubborn ears in 1999.  This and other music is worth keeping available, and we have an inexpensive, simple and easy way to make sure that we, and other newcomers are able to enjoy this stuff for years to come.  Its name is "the internet".  The digital posterity of music is important to me because our generation is solely responsible for overseeing the inevitable progression of music technology from a tangible format to a virtual one.  This is arguably the hugest thing to happen in the history of music.  It affects every single musician on the face of the earth who wishes to compile a publicly available release.

Back before the internet, everything hung on an 8-14 word description in an obscure catalog or zine.  In 1998 I knew that Lunar Aurora were an up and coming band because I had seen their debut "Weltenganger" mentioned in a playlist in a magazine, and it was a brief description (whose verbiage eludes me now) but I imagine it was something like "Great atmospheric BM from Germany"  that was enough for me to spend $12 plus shipping on it back then.  We now have the luxury of hearing everything before we buy.  So I take full advantage of that opportunity, and consequently through the years, I have bought easily hundreds MORE CDs, LPs, shirts, etc from bands that I never would have known about were it not for the digital availability of so many releases.  Obviously I am somewhat of an exception to the norm here, but my point here is that just because you download MP3s doesn't mean you HAVE to be a douche bag and never support artists.  its certainly not one or the other.

I fully support bandcamp, soundcloud, and all these other services, they somewhat circumvent the need to illegally download albums.  Ultimately though the days of buying a CD or LP without having heard it first are long behind us and its time to rethink some ideals about MP3s and such.  Lastly I have said it before and it bears repeating.  Music is meant to be heard, enjoyed and shared with others.  The exploitation and objectification of music is what leads to even more terrible music, ALWAYS.  If illegally downloading MP3s means the collapse of businesses that operate to do this, then all hail the new dawn.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Cold Beyond - Promo '99

So I bought this tape in 2003 or so on the suggestion of my good pal Wayne Sarantopoulos with the intent of ripping it to MP3.  Fast forward to December 2012, and I finally got it ripped!  This is a fun four track rager of deathened black metal of a band from Milwaukee Wisconsin.  I've searched for MP3s of it quite intensly so I'm sure this is its first foray onto the world wide web.  Turns out they have been dormant since 2003 but have a new EP out.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Darvulia - Mysticisme Macabre

I am certain that there is no way I'm going to easily sell you on this album.  My goal here is to tell you why I love this band so much instead.  If you can find some intrigue in my attempt, then I wholly invite you to dive into this mind bending and sometimes hypnotic album.

First lets get a few things out of the way to make this easier for both of us.  This isn't epic, melodic, retro, goat-y, necro, and doesn't sound much like any other black metal band I've ever heard..  Musically, this is quite original and scratches an itch that only Lugubrum, and maaaaaaybe Vediog Svaor have even begun to scratch in the past.  Not to toot my own horn much either but the riffing is also reminiscent of my old band "Satan's Almighty Penis."  Of course there are some familiar tenets of black metal found here: varied but frequently blasting drums, fairly typical but notably well performed vocals and a typical overall production value that does the music justice by being somewhat dry and pallid with a bit of snarl to it.  You should be able to dive right into if you've listened to ten or more black metal albums before.

Ok so now that I have cleared all of that out of the way: THE RIFFS!  The guitar work of Darvulia's Kobal is out of this world.  The riffing is HIGHLY imaginative, often grinding, completely disharmonious and dissonant as all fuck.  If you are looking for riffs that make you think about mountains, trees, lakes, pirates, castles, vikings or pretzels, DON'T ENTRY!!  All I can say is that musically this stuff is very obnoxious and therefore insanely hellish and challenging.  Half of what makes "Mysticisme Macabre" so enjoyable and refreshing for me is that it is what it isn't.  The other half is that there is some highly challenging and obtuse music composition found here, and Darvulia have become highly productive within this style.  The composition is about as untraditional as you can get.  The varied ebb and flow of their 5-7 minute long songs keep me enthralled more than a lot of records of this ilk ever do.  Its disgustingly awkward enough to keep me interested and yet not so unrelenting that it gets boring.  I often find myself listening to it three or four times in row.

I haven't been able to peel myself away from this album for a long enough time to check out the rest of Darvulia's catalog, but I really look forward to seeing where else they can take this band.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Favorite Metal Albums of 2012
1. Panopticon - Kentucky
2. Germ - Loss
3. Demoncy - Enthroned is the Night
4. the Kill - Make 'em Suffer
5. Nekromantheon - Rise Vulcan Spectre
6. MGLA - With Hearts Towards None
7. Blood of the Black Owl - Light the Fires!
8. Licht Erlischt - ...and Below, the Retrograde Disciples
9. Wodensthrone - Curse
10. Blut Aus Nord - Cosmophy

Honorable Mentions:
Alcest - Les Voyages de l'ame
Antediluvian / Adversarial - Split
Ash Borer - Cold of Ages
Asphyx - Deathhammer
Autolatry - Of the Land
Avenger - Bohemian Dark Metal
Bestial Holocaust - Into the Goat Vulva
Borknagar - Urd
Bound by Entrails - the Stars Bode you Farewell
Brulvahnatu - Descending Divine Worth
Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity
Christian Mistress - Possession
Coffins - March of Despair
Deathspell Omega - Drought
Desecresy- the Doom Skeptron
Drapsnatt - Skelepht
Ebonylake - In Swathes of Brooding Light
Elysian Blaze - Blood Geometry
Evoken - Atra Mors
False / Barghest - Heavy as a Church Tower
Genocide Shrines - Devanation Monumentemples
Hell - III
Katatonia - Dead End Kings
Love Sex Machine - s/t
Lunar Aurora - Hoagascht
Morbus Chron - A Saunter through the Shroud
Master's Hammer - Vracejte konve na místo
Moss of Moonlight - Seed
Muknal - Muknal
Mutilation Rites - Empyrean
My Dying Bride - A Map of All Our Failures
Napalm Death - Utilitarian
Nefarious - The Universal Wrath
Revenge - Scum.Collapse.Eradication
Sanguinary Misanthropia - Loathe Over Will
Sear Bliss - Eternal Recurrence
Weapon - Embers and Revelations
Worship - Terranean Wake
Yakuza - Beyul

Things I still need to listen to:
Aluk Todolo - Occult Rock - Didnt excite me, formulaic and uneventful
Angantyr - Forvist - Very good!
Anglagard - Viljans Oga
Árstíðir Lífsins
- Vápna lækjar eldr

Azaghal - Nemesis
- Pretty fun if you think all black metal sounds the same.

Black Magician - Nature is the Devil's Church - Not bad, kinda trendy and the vocals really get old
Chapel - Satan's Rock n Roll - Weak production and a very tired, worn out style. ZZZzzz
Coffin Texts - the Tomb of Infinite Ritual - Pretty fun, though not much to hold my interest.
Corsair - Corsair
Dammerfarben - Herbstpfad
Dire Omen - Severing Soul from Flesh - Pretty typical br00tle death metal.  pass
Dordeduh - Dar de Duh - More floaty new age post-Negura Bunget metal.  I'm not often in the right mood for this, but its tolerable.
Drawn & Quartered - Feeding Hell's Furnace - Sorta fun but nothing really special here.
Drudkh - Eternal Turn of the Wheel - Yeah more Drudkh, If its not Autumn Aurora or Forgotten Legends, forget about it.
Dysrhythmia - Test of Submission - This band is great, really interesting in a "look what we can do" sort of way which I'm never in the mood for, but I really admire these guys and they are probably the best prog band in the US.
Elffor -
Heriotz Sustraiak
Eternum - Veil of Ancient Darkness - I really like this, its somewhere between Fullmoon and Vargsang
Hellvetron - Death Scroll of Seven Hells and Its Infernal Majesties - REALLY eerie and twisted, this is great, though not up my alley
Ignivomous - Contragenesis - Another brick of evidence that the bar for brutal death metal was raised significantly this year.  This is great, but again, I just don't really care.
Into Oblivion / Cromlech / Shoor - "Under the banner of the Serpent Sun"
Ketzer - Eindzeit Metropolis - This is awesome.  A tad too ecclectic, but at times it reminds me of Aura Noir
Knelt Rote - Trespass - Super fun unrelenting grind madness.  Love these guys
Les Discrets - Ariettes Oubliées
Maveth - Coils of the Black Earth
Manticore - Behold the Ascension of the Execrated - God, this is weird as fuck and I dont like it at all
Naglfar - Teras - Exactly what I was expecting, there is nothing cool about this.
Necrovation - s/t - This was surprisingly fun.  Lots of variety and innovation here.  I might buy this.
Occultation - Three & Seven - RULES!  This is really intriguing stuff!
Profetus - ...to Open the passages in Dusk - This would be far better if it had anything that wasnt completely boring in it.
Rahu - The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
Svartidaudi - Flesh Cathedral
Testament - Dark Roots of Earth - Killer line-up on this, but this is exactly what I expected.  Fucking party thrash.  Death to the entire bay area and its failure metal.
Urkaos - I
Vemod - Venter pa Stormene - This is really good.  I'll probably be listening to this some more in the future. reminds me of Darkspace / Paysage d'Hiver
Venus Star - ep / full length
Verge / Charnel Winds - Two Serpents
Vomitor - the Escalation
Winterfylleth - the Threnody of Triumph
Vaura - Selenelion - Listening to this album was like holding a great looking sandwich, never being able to figure out which side to take the first bite on, then giving up.

Anticipated in 2013 (somewhat speculative):
Swallowed debut full length
Hunter's Moon full length?!?!?
Nocturnal Graves
Horna (confirmed!)
Inquisition (confirmed !)
Incursus (confirmed !)
Sadomator (This band is currently on hold, but Seventh is working on a debut full length for his other band Odgru Jahad)
Paysage d'Hiver - Das Tor (AMAZING!)
Cultes des Ghoules (RULES!)
Pensees Nocturnes (confirmed!)
Grave Miasma
Front Beast
Manzer "Light of the Wreckers"
Hatespawn "Abyssic conquerors"
Dead Congregation
Gorguts (confirmed!)
Portal (rules!)
Darkthrone (sucks!)
Panopticon / Vestiges split (confirmed!)
Drowned - debut LP (confirmed !)

Big time let downs:
Aura Noir

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Panopticon - Kentucky

Whenever I have the pleasure of waking up in Kentucky, I stretch my arms out to greet the day. Invariably I hear the opening banjo licks of Panopticon's album of the same name. When I climbed the beautiful winding hills of Bernheim Forest beneath gigantic trees last summer with Austin Lunn, I heard the familiar penny whistle melodies and Chuck Schuldiner-esque guitar leads heard throughout "Bodies Under the Falls." When I spent time among the people of Louisville I heard the soaring melody of "Black Soot and Red Blood." When I hear my friends Austin, Adam, and Crow lament upon frustrations concerning how mining corporations have permanently destroyed miles upon miles of their beautiful home's mountain tops, I of course hear the plodding blast beats and somber middle section of "Killing the Giants as They Sleep." I even find myself singing the catchy riffs throughout the album in my head when I'm at work or driving. When I play the album I sing along to the riffs and air drum to the preposterously skilled percussion. This album has stuck with me more than any in the last few years for so many reasons. I find it jarringly apparent that the album's subject matter has given Austin the motivation to weave his most musically effective and memorable album yet.

Two years ago I hadn't been to Kentucky, and I hadn't heard Panopticon's album of the same name. Today, the state and the album represent each other boldly in my eyes, and they both have become some very dear things to me. Such has the friendship Austin and I have found this year. I wanted to finally offer my take on this album because I think I offer a unique and closer perspective on the album than most, and maybe what I have to say will help some folks understand it better if they care to listen to it and learn from it.

Panopticon is a very different band than a lot of people are used to. The ever-trodden path of black metal since 1982 has been to portray a guise that you are not. To use emotions and urges to give a theatrical and exaggerated voice to thoughts. To step outside of the human shell and personify metaphorically certain emotions and ideals that seem somehow larger than life. In stark contrast, Austin lets absolutely nothing stand between his music and who he is. When you listen to Panopticon, you are experiencing the pure unadulterated heart and soul that he is offering you. you can take it or leave it. Austin plays black metal and blue grass because that is who he is, and this is how he speaks to you. Austin and others argue that this fact invalidates the label of "black metal" from Panopticon, but I make this comparison sonically, and not politically. Some reviewers have had the gaul to say that the blue grass isn't to their liking and that it should be different or not present at all. Some have even gone as far as saying that the blue grass should sound more like European folk. Or that the metal sections aren't "folky enough", etc. As fucking outlandish as this is, I won't address it specifically. Asking that of any artist is preposterous. Lets be honest folks, we are all grown ups and you wouldn't know about this album if you didn't have the capacity to fully understand Panopticon's effective language of metal and blue grass.

I am proud of my friend Austin for so many reasons but here I should note that Kentucky is an album Austin should be proud of. It speaks vastly of a place he loves and does so in such a heartfelt way that it evades criticism by standing above it in a place where this type of dialogue contains no dishonesty, or insipid cruel humanity.

Kentucky the album successfully acts as a conduit between you and the topics that Austin holds dear enough to write about. Instead of acting as an end all authority upon the topic, it verily tells a story and then asks you confrontingly "Which Side are You On?"

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The other day a coworker looked at my last.fm page and called me a hipster. I seriously dont mind, but a true definition of this term has always eluded me. It seems like people throw it around only for the effect that they know that comes with it, without the term having a meaning that anyone can specifically enumerate. My belief is that term would describe someone who only likes stuff because nobody else likes it. But the fact that people use it to describe people who look and act like other "hipsters" really defies the sentiment of the term. So either I'm wrong or everyone who uses it that way is wrong.

Without regard to the term's definition I had some poignant thoughts in reaction to its use to label me. If I seek out music that isnt popular, that would mean that I would have to know what is popular, to be able to avoid it. Therefore I would be paying the same attention to popular music as most people are, if not more. So in a way the term accuses me of doing what everyone else does only to portray that I am in fact only interested in everything but that which is popular.

Am I wrong here or what?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Altarnihil - "Terminal"

While some band's demos can wind up being their best recording (Cromlech), the intent of a demo is to lay forth a simple framework upon which a band operates. I try to keep this in mind when receiving a demo from a band. Altarnihil's "Terminal" demonstrates that they have accomplished well what they set out to do and have a formidable amount of momentum to achieve greater things within the trappings of this guise.
As expected the Iowa two piece utilize a murky, indistinct overall tone and production quality to paint the veil between their performance and your imagination. As a black metal listener I appreciate when this is understood and I often require this quality of a band for me to be drawn into a recording (due to my fervent A.D.D. and tendency to listen to black metal bands that I already know are good.) Producing an unfavorable, "necro", or murky black metal sound hard is enough to even achieve, let alone harness and have it enhance everything about the craft of black metal song. This is Altarnihil's strongest element yet. While all too many bands today have taken a reliance upon this much too far, I still believe that teetering upon this balance is where much of the magic of black metal lies.
I do not feel that Altarnihil rely all too heavily on this quality, but I do see great potential for a more musical direction for the band, mostly in the guitars, but I think some synth would work nicely here as well. There is a staunch and unwavering style to the music, and I think some more evocative riffing is where I look for the band to head. The riffing is simplistic and unmelodic but nothing I could draw comparisons to.
Overall I give this a 7 out of 10. The band was gracious enough to give me a copy of the demo, and gracious enough to offer it to you on their bandcamp page http://altarnihil.bandcamp.com as a pay what you want download. Look for a tape release soon, and I will look forward to future output from one of Iowa's rare black metal bands.

Alternately I thought I'd mention that this entire demo reminds me fondly of the last song "Einsamkeit" from Zorn's 2002 demo "Terror Black Metal" which is just absolutely stunning. Tell you what, heres a download link for that entire demo: DOWNLOAD

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sorry for the absence. Ive been making my own music again. If you care to listen to it, its all free for download here: www.fallutin.com There's also an interview for your perusal. I plan on posting a review of the new Mgla album here shortly. Toodles, Ben

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Darkthrone - Transylvanian Hunger

Darkthrone achieved so much in the early 90's with no motivation but to make purely satanic black metal. First they helped germinate the sound known merely by their circle of like-minded Norwegian teenagers with "Goatlord" and "A Blaze in the Northern Sky." "Under a Funeral Moon" was a raw exploration of the catharsis of this new sound and song craft. Having arrived upon "Transylvanian Hunger" and reaching what I believe to be their pinnacle in this journey in just three years is remarkable. This band was gravely inspired and flourishing with productivity, much to the satisfaction of nearly every black metal fan to ever lend the genre their attention since 1994.
The personality of the songs on these albums is so refined and honed that to try to find comparable musical influences has always proven difficult for me. Of course a heavy Bathory and Venom element is there in the forcibly driven pace of everything, but the riffing seems to call upon very noodly and cantankerous buzzing kraut rock. At age 22 Nocturno Culto's style of playing repetitive dissonant chords and harmonizing with lead guitars to achieve a memorable, vivid melody is remarkable in its own right.
The production value on this album mirrors the song writing in this sense. At first listen I'm always forced to take a step back to remember how to listen to this album. Its got an obscure, glossed over and murky hiss to it all. At the end of some of the songs you can hear the instruments all brought to silence, and all that is left is the extreme tape hiss that lends so much to the atmosphere. The lack of clarity beckons you to focus your ears upon the droning subtle melody. The more you tune your attention to its permanent barrage of darkness, the more you enter its despicable realm of utter satanic majesty. One of my favorite characteristics of black metal is the interplay of rhythm and lead guitar to achieve complex harmony and melody.
To think that frantic, buzzing, clashing, racket can be so evocative, enigmatic, ethereal and beautiful is a challenging notion. The fervor that these 19 year old Norwegians found use for over the course of three years will never be equaled again. The greatest black metal albums of all time have already been written, fortunately one of them is Transylvanian Hunger.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


So today I was doing some browsing and I happened upon an MP3 blog and I saw that it offered the new album from Amorphis. I've never really been a fan of this band but I keep reading great things about their albums, and I haven't heard anything current since "My Kantele." So I decided, "Meh, I'll give Amorphis another shot and give this a listen." When I went to download it, I got a message that it had been removed due to a reported violation. I've been seeing this more and more lately as I 'm aware labels are cracking down on blogs of this nature, and some sites follow through with removal requests. Without getting into a whole debate about the whole mp3 argument, I just felt a tad miffed. I wanted to hear Amorphis, and their label Nuclear Blast, was making it so that I couldn't listen to Amorphis. Isn't that a little backwards?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bad Music

I was listening to Death Grips' "Exmilitary" album the other day. This is an album I'm still struggling to decide if I even like, but I keep coming back to it from time to time. If you haven't heard it, let me just say that its really weird and you're probably not gonna like it. Anyway it did manage to get me thinking about how I'm having a hard time describing reasons that I don't like it, and I think its mainly because of how original it is. Thats not to say that I've decided yet that I dislike it, but I can more easily say positive things about it than negative things. If you played me some top 40 country I'd most likely hate it and it would be easy to say how bad it is because I've heard what they're doing a thousand times before. I easily have a frame of reference and I know straight away that I hate it. So its much easier for me personally to say that something sucks because it sucks exactly like something else that sucks. I would guess most people would be the opposite and say "oh I like this, it reminds me of Lady Antebellum." Or at least they would say that its not bad because it sounds like something that they think is good or have heard before. They say people are always afraid of things they don't understand. I think over the years of being a huge music nerd I've grown accustomed to seeking out the absurd, the original, artists that defy boundaries. Artists that do that are the only real catalyst to progression within the art. So I defy you next time you say something is bad. I dare you to ask yourself why you think it is bad. If you had no frame of reference for what bad was, would it still be bad?

So here is Death Grips. I'm impressed by it and I applaud it for it's ingenuity, but I'm still on the fence about the album as a whole.