Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inculter - Persisting Devolution [2015]

Norway is a fertile harbor for not only its chief export of black metal, but also for a recent upsurge in bands which claim immunity from being stringently pigeonholed into either one of the black, thrash or speed metal genres, and hence exposing themselves to the market shamelessly as 'black/thrash', drawing their influences not just from such antiquarians of primal evil such as Bathory, Venom or Hellhammer but also younger acts like Nekromantheon, Deathhammer and Aura Noir, also haling from Norway. Needless to say, Inculter is another one of Norway's breed of frolicsome evil, a compelling two-piece running on the strength of merely an EP and a demo, with a new record that hardly eschews the kind of rifftastic profanity purists seek in this niche. And to wit, the Norwegians create an infernal expanse of black and thrash metal that doesn't just scream 'Bathory', but actually secures its position as a record with some identity and simmering infernal magnetism.

''Persisting Devolution'' definitely moves a fraction beyond the 'stock' black/thrash offering as offered through the various records of Force of Darkness, Destroyer 666, Witchburner and the like, owing to the skippy, fraudulent quality of the riffs, at times sounding like a blackened version of Death Breath's ''Stinking Up The Night'' with frenetic, lashing chords and fantastic speed/thrash cutlery, always campy yet also genuinely disturbing. The tone and pace of the album are perfect; it's sufficiently lo-fi, rugged enough cook skewed human flesh on, if you're into some analogy, but still clear enough as to hearing the excellent slew of riffs which the Norwegians propagate, reaching paces fast enough to keep up with one ''Reign in Hell'' or ''Horrified''. Make no mistake folks: this as 80's as you're going to get. The promise of denim, leather, spikes, motorbikes and auditory grime is just the cherry on top of the huge rotten cake of festering flesh and gnarly awesomeness, but unlike so many gimmicks undergoing a similar trajectory Inculter are abstrusely efficient with nearly not one second spared from the the album's razor-sharp array of riff-works and fanaticism. Remi's vocals are serpentine and gruesome to the bone with a clear nod pretty much any other band operating in this niche, but his inflection is ghastly enough to accrue frilly 80's anger and infernal fire at the same time.

Inculter's subscription to the art and literature of the black/thrash niche is more than convincing. The songs are all boisterous, fast and fleshy, from the choppy ''Mist of the Night'', to blistering speed metal rampage of  ''Diabolical Forest'' to the simply excellent ''Traducers Attack''; each track does not necessarily promulgate an entirely original or separate sense of evil or blasphemous delight, but there's so much fun to be had among the jumpy cascade of riffs, mutes, pluggy bass lines and cramped drum fills that one really cannot care all to much, especially with the existence of 2-3 outstanding pieces in the entire compendium. The closest thing I can cite to ''Persisting Devolution'' besides the regulars is probably Deathhammer's ''Onward to the Pits'' or Nekromantheon's ''Rise, Vulcan Specter'', although the former was more engrossed in heavy/black than anything else, and the latter was indefinitely heavier. It only goes on to show that the album is another great addition to the black/thrash vernacular. Even at the finale, ''Envision of Horror'', the dynamic evil is there. There's still plenty of space for Inculter to develop, but ''Persisting Devolution'' brims with youthful, daemonic energy; ignore at you own risk.

Persisting Devolution
Traducers Attack
Diabolical Forest
Mist of the Night

Rating: 80%

Monday, April 13, 2015

Solefald - World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud [2015]

If some kind of annual award for musical wackiness would have existed, Solefald would have trumped its competitors each year it put out a new album. While Sigh would have no difficulty competing against their Norse counterparts, the duo's latest, ''World Metal.'' achieves such levels of imaginative finesse, surrealistic progression, folksiness and unprecedented eccentricities, that it even tops their 2010 opus ''Norrøn Livskunst'' which was already one of the most superior bizarreries I had heard (it still keeps its position). Five years later, with nothing keep the masses appeased in between records besides an EP which struck me as far more mediocre and lethargic than it ought to be, Cornelius and Lazare reassemble for what might be the most astonishing afflatus the year has to offer, abandoning the traditionally 'Norse' aesthetics of their previous Icelandic Trilogy, a veritable amalgamation of epic Scandinavian black metal and the residual avantgarde,  and delving straight into the foliage global music complete with all its oddities.

That's not to say they've entirely abandoned their sound - certainly not - since the dispersion of the band's older niche is far more than piecemeal. You know it's Solefald. Lazare' indispensable cleans are there with all their epic, hovering gloss, interwoven with simplistic, heavy black metal riffing and grandiose synthesizers or organs that beckon such greats such as ''Song Til Stormen'' or ''Norrøn Livskunst''; and Cornelius' inflection is still there, maybe not as indecipherable or raspy as before, but certainly plump with force and carnal power. The echoes of the band's sound yawn and  reverberate with the majestic force of northern waves and huge, pallid Icelandic mountains. Yet there's caveat to it all, one that's all to absorbingly delicious. In retrospect, I remember maybe 2-3 real black metal riffs (aside from the swelling tremolos and richer chord progressions) and the guitars aren't so protean as, say, Dream Theater, nor as significant to the mix even though there are some marvelous, grooving anchorages on the record which owe themselves to Kornelius' riffcraft, so the guitars have given themselves up to other sounds populating the mix. Pianos, synthesizers, saxes, organs, all typical of the Solefald cannon. But this time the Norsemen have integrated even more, from Congolese toms to electronic inclusions that range far beyond the safer medium of samples and minute samples. We're talking multi-layered servings of mind-fuckage and, yes - I hesitate to say - even dubstep if that's what you want to call it. The opener, ''World Music With Black Edges'' is one that completely lives up to its name with entirely unpredictable sequences of oddly euphoric pianos to straight dance/disco scores. This is a rave, and the DJ's are two of Norway's busiest, most ingenious composers.

As much as I hate to admitting the apparent overtones of electronic music, ''World Metal.'' certainly never overlooks the fact that this is still a metal record (albeit one which purists will start to exorcise the moment they hear it) and Solefald seamlessly incorporate electronics - without overcrowding - into their smorgasbord of calculated cultural and musical diversity. There's also a twist to Cornelius' vocals in that they're far more mercurial. He keeps his gnarly guttural inflection, but he does an excellent job of channeling George Corpsegrinder-esque lows into such tracks like ''The Germanic Entity'' which sizzle with irresistible, crushing groove, as well cleaner moments, as in ''Future Universal Histories'' where he speaks through radio broadcast. At any rate, his timbre matches the diversity of sounds that envelope him, capable of modifying the changing environment. And if that piece didn't freak you out there's still ''Bububu Bad Beuys'', where Cornelius' minimalist, almost Darkthrone-ish riff patterns mold with tribal African beats and drums: it's sure to win the award for the most ridiculous song of the year. Yet these Norsemen are certainly not fucking around. ''String The Bow of Sorrow'' is a splendorous and uplifting tune with gigantic choral and instrumental overtures, a Scandinavian avantgarde response to Carl Orff's ''Carmina Burana'', and it's equally angry as it is somber.

It's a grand emotional crescendo, mounting to the moody finale, ''Oslo Melancholy''. I did miss tracks like the superb blackened rockabilly ''Blackabilly'' from the previous record, and I was mildly disappointed for the absence of something in the vein of ''Eukalyptustreet'', but the duo's ability to avoid dullness, interchangeability and nadirs is unbelievable. There are indeed very few artists in today's metal market who could hold up to such levels of consistency, change and originality as these two pariahs. ''World Music.'' is more emotionally gripping than any of the other records in their backlog, not for its sheer epic excellence but because it also feels like the folksiest of their offerings. Indeed, tracks like ''String the Bows of Sorrow'' are good enough to be sung by exiled Scandinavian sailors during long, troublesome voyages. So here's to another album that justifies why Cornelius and Lazare oughtn't acquire any other pastimes besides music, because when they make it, it's simply sublime, and with already some twenty spins I'm salivating at the thought an equally masterful, eccentric follow-up.

Future Universal Histories
World Music With Black Edges
The Germanic Entity
2011, or a Knight of the Fail

Rating: 95%

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Perdition Temple - The Tempter's Victorious [2015]

Armed with the cutlery of ungodly riffs and production values that hearken back to the mid-early 90's, Perdition Temple is another band who channels the vainglory of Angelcorpse, Morbid Angel, Impiety and the like. More than adhering to the now antiquated cavern-core aesthetics of Antediluvian, Motichondrion, Impetuous Ritual or Vasaeleth, there's a more dynamic sound to be sought here and one that can definitely garner some attention. I'd been hesitant enough to dismiss the recent EP, ''Sovereign of the Desolate'', of this Florida five-piece, but the sophomore ensures that any mistakes made in the past (i.e. laziness/trepidation) have a chance of being redeemed through the musical purgatory which they have to offer, and while I do think my actions can be partially justified with the blandness of the band's initial image of pentagrams and blazing temples, there's some truth saying that no matter what, you can't judge a book by its cover, especially if it's Angelcorpse on hold.

That being said, ''The Tempter's Victorious'' is not necessarily the superb splash of profane originality you were probably betting on, but it's still superlatively more distinguished and dynamic than at least a handful of other albums you'll hear of its quotient. Acrobatic and unholy, the riffs are flung endlessly, like charred limbs and body bits being catapulted from the crenelations of some darkly fortress, with beautifully gnarly, serpentine tremolos crawling apace, and while this record does not sound as devastating as anything derived from Angelcorpse's body work, there's a certain, infinitesimal creep to it which I've frankly grown very fond, such that it might easily appeal to fans of a more broad circulation of contemporary death metal a la Putrevore, or if you like your death metal really old school, Funebre, Morpheus Descends or even Demilich. The overgrowth of the death metal portion of this record makes you crave some of the black metal that was promised by the esteemed Metal Archives tag, but in truth the only thing 'black' about this is Impurath's sepelean rasp which adds a rather enjoyable contrast to the seeming transparency of the riffs... and that's fact, because the guitars are hardly doused in any sort of reverb or overripe thickness, which even makes the album strangely technical.

You can even hear plodding, almost psychedelic bass lines grooving behind the systematic tremolo patterns which usually sound like they were ripped out of the cortex of some technical death metal piece and then run through the bowels of Baphomet. Chaos galore. The drumming is spot on, though it largely doesn't stay out of the norm's of this style. Tracks like title track and ''Extinction Synagogue'' are paragons of the album's unmitigated force, sprawling panoplies of black/thrashing and intensity in case you needed any more, and ''Chambers of Predation'' has a great set of chug-oriented riffs which I quite enjoy; ''The Tempter's Victorious'' is clearly not a far shout any Morbid Angel or Angelcorpse record, but its capacity to disturb and penalize are realized well, with suitably heretical apparel to make a name for themselves in the underground. 8 tracks prepared to drill your mind with manic fervor. In the end, the tempter is victorious, and its victory lap revolves around the pillars of a crumbling church, where hopefully, an inquisitive reader would be interested enough to exhume this disc from the debris afterwards, and indulging in all morbid and malicious details it keeps within. Not a terrific record, but as solid as they'll fucking come.

The Tempter's Victorious
Extinction Synagogue
Chambers of Predation

Rating: 75%

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Incinerate - Eradicating Terrestrial Species [2015]

The breeding ground for uncouth 90's death metal has grown more popular than it was during its heyday as a myriad outfits continue their mechanized, bloody advance to claiming their testators' legacy (i.e. Suffocation, Cryptopsy, Morbid Angel, etc.) but fruitfulness in such endeavors has rarely been the case. In other words, enter the dialectic of Incinerate third record ''Eradicating Terrestrial Species'', and the testy death metal listener will instantly realize that he/she has already run the gamut of the band's cadaverous gestalt of brutal/technical death metal, with almost zero new tricks to satisfy the culinary appetite which one may have hoped ravish. Playing like a manic, defunct tutorial for disfiguring ugly extra-terrestrials, this international cooperation leaves much to be desired, (Dave Rotten and Rogga Johansson created some of the most ill-bred sonic abuses of recent history with ''Macabre Kingdom'' in 2012, and we all know what a blast that was) but less to be acquired...

Comatose Music has had the honor of governing such depraved and bombastic retro-90's death metal acts like Incinerate, though the department's been generally running low on originality. Incinerate plucks at the strings of Hate Eternal, Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Florida obscures Brutality and Disincarnate and Immolation more than the cavern-core worship bands these days usually vie for, and even the production values have been altered somewhat to patch in with that gruesome production of the 90's. Before I gone on to scold how much this record lacks proper clinical galvanization, let me point out that the 90's mechanics are perfectly in place, and the riffs are densely punishing enough to come close to the aforementioned groups, with dredged up technical punishment and furious tremolos delivering most of the album's fundamental butchery, and treacly chugs gulping away at the listener's ear with systematic tension and ugliness.The drums contain enough fills and frenetic double-bass convolution to sound tantalizing, at least to an extent; add to that a metallic, grinding base line and everything seems in place to become the bonafide tech-death offering of the year, but the tracks are so interchangeable that it feels like musical equivalent of dull paint job.

I frankly enjoyed the overt presentation of gore, religion and science-fiction tropes, but aside from the few cheesy film sequences sandwiched in between or before some of the tunes, the concepts did nothing for the theatricality of the album. Incinerate is constantly technical, but they obdurately lack the quality to modify themselves throughout the record. Jesse Watson's vocals are the typical growls you were expecting, providing little anguish or trauma. They go excessively deep sometimes, and the cavernous lows mixed with the unsavory technicality generate something of a Demilich current, but once again, pleasure is stifled. Perhaps my favorite track here was ''The Berzerker'', which sounds characteristically similar to all the other tracks but has a intro featuring Shelley's poem ''Ozymandias'' as the only moment which was elevated to auditory limelight in the entire song. This is 30 minutes of unscathed brutality that feels long enough after the first spin. Evocative? I doubt it. Pure calculated ordure, and a fine piece to listen while you're raging over your maths project, I imagine. Yet this scarcely pushes the imaginative expanse of anyone's mind, and I certainly enjoyed some of the surgical guitar work and intensity, I won't hesitate to say Incinerate's got a better compendium of cult horror/sci-fi films than masterful riffs.

Fucking the Rotten Nun
The Bezerker
From Distant Worlds

Rating: 50%

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ketha - #​!​%​16​.​7 (Ep) [2015]

I've not ventured as far deep into this Ep as to understand the meaning behind its affably ungrammatical title, or the artistic nihilism behind the geometric anomaly of the cover art, a full-fledged banner of abstruse, almost kaleidoscopic triangles painted chrome-metal black, but judging by the nightmarish and unique penumbra offered by the music itself, I imagine there is some sort of vague, even philosophical statement about the conceptual preferences of these unfrazed Poles which have come to produce the second most inventive metal experience I've heard thus far in 2015 (first place goes to Solefald's latest). Certainly when you thought you couldn't devote another second to anything Meshuggah-related, these Poles come to seize the day with music more irrationally addictive than the title itself, a masterful performance straddling the straits of death, progressive, avatgarde, jazz, groove and 'math' metal for a price that's cheaper than a pack of cigarettes (€2, yo!) and a run-time that'll be over before you've even had your third fag.

Grooves. With a capital fucking 'G'. Ketha's got 'em, and they're not afraid to use the methodical precision of surgical math metal impetus is certainly immensely riveting, as they're played with spectacular staccato grooves during some of the more percussive moments of the Ep, something of a progressive metal fixation, or just on a more atmospheric basis when they're hoovering above the vocals. Songs like ''Multiverse'' or ''K-boom'' explode with such incendiary tempo patterns and hooking chords and mutes that they make comparisons to Meshuggah at once irresistible and equally difficult because the momentum here is something far more avantgarde in nature. The slugfest of rhythm guitars and bedecked with spiraling, dizzying segments of queer melody and effect-laden lead guitars, but there is an even more compelling feast of sounds and atmospherics manifested through the saxophones which blare vociferously throughout the Ep. The command of the sax over the groundwork is just huge; there is more to them than just arbitrary appearances like on a lot records as they display clear pungency for the majority of the disk, providing some of the best jazzy dissonance you'll hear anytime.

Guitar effects are certainly high in supply, with anything from the convulsive wah-wahs of ''Airdag'' to the fading, algebraic lead riff of the 36 second track ''3C 273'', but pianos, electronic influences, sheer industrialized punishment, saxes, rowdy radio voice-overs and trumpets are exerted at such rates of variety and unabashed playfulness that the Ep reaches Mr. Bungle levels of eccentricity, or CSSABA levels of tension, and that's no easy feat. The tracks are ridiculously short, the longest one being some two and a half minutes and the others ranging typically below the 1-minute mark, and they flow into each other like a meticulously adjoined potpourri of musical freakishness. And yet what a well-rounded offering it is... vocalist Maciej Janas appears occasionally, and harnesses the power of both deep death metal growls and some more distinguished, individual inflections that disperse themselves across the record at his will. And if you're asking about the drums; they're equally impressive, with enough fills and tenacity as any high-brow jazz performance.

12 tracks, each unique, and it's only fucking fault that it's too damn short. And like all other beautiful things, ''#​!​%​16​.​7'' ends up biting its tail much too prematurely. Forget any other musical reservation you've made in recent times and purchase this, since your planned purchases are likely to be dross anyway. Tension. Trauma. Unprecedented, wallowing Lovecraftian evil in the form of the architectural aberrations witnessed by Arctic explorers in At The Mountains of Madness. Ketha don't care if you like Meshuggah or not, and they care less about your lighthearted opinions. There is evil abound; our only reconciliation is to fight evil with evil.

The Sounderiad
Crink Crank

Rating: 88%

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Melechesh - Enki [2015]

Ex-Israel black/thrash pundits Melechesh have managed to create some of the more unique recordings of the 21st century with records like ''Emissaries'' and ''Sphynx'' which sought the desert for a predominantly oriental sound with flavors of occult mysticism and panoplies of preposterously busy guitars, ultimately boiling down to their so-called 'Sumerian Metal': the larger part of the metal community is bound to either gravel a heap full of praise on the enormity of the music, or just simply refer to them whenever the concepts of heavy metal and the Middle-East intertwine. Yet  so much more than simply cramming your head with Middle-Eastern folksiness just for the whole 'Sumerian' effect, these desert roamers make their oblique preferences form an integral part of the ferocious black thrashing frenzy which has always been their main premise... With ''Enki'' the Sumerians conjured another incantatory experience that comes close to the band's peak around the mid-2000's, but unlike the more divisive attitude of those records, it plays out a little closer to the belt.

One of the two philosophies that comprise this album is the image of hookah smoke drizzling slowly into hazy Eastern sky with richly textured ottomans, keffiyehs and Turkish rugs galore, with oriental dancers moving softly, seductively across the sand to tunes of ouds and piping flutes... the other one is an unabashed parade of gigantic riffs thrashing on a ground of uncircumcised black metal, with masterful grooves conducted as effortlessly as spreading wildfire. ''Enki'' is the sort of record which, like its forebears, retains a relatively primal splendor through the manifestation of bands like Absu, Watain, Impaled Nazarene, and even some traditional Swedish black metal (although the clinical force of this record in huge compared to the likes of Arckanum) and of course there is the folk metal texture akin to Orphaned Land and even Austria' masterful Hollenthon. At any rate, Melechesh is providing us with a suitably more atmospheric detachment from Nile's Egyptian brutal death metal hypnosis, and there's certainly nothing that fails to stagger with the percussive power of this album. Ashmedi and his henchmen have more than enough riffs stocked underneath their shoals, be it grooving Arabic death/thrash rhythms, some more technically wrought pieces or straightforward black metal tremolos penned and played with uncanny precision; this is a record which doesn't shy away from pounding the listener with obtuse riffing for a moment (except on the bizarrely folksy ''Doorways to Irkala''). There are traces of death metal here and there, like the chugging mania of ''Multiple Truths'' which remind of some riff borrowed from a Polish death metal outfit but ''Enki'' remains loyal to its blackened thrash roots throughout the majority of the run time, like myriad knives and daggers concealed under the band members' cloaks, ready to be flung.

For a record of its brutality, the figments of melody served in ''Enki'' certainly make one desirous for more, especially like those on ''The Pendulum Speaks'', one of the best which the album has to offer, or the more swerving and pungent innuendos on ''Lost Tribes'', and swaying rhythms portrays a balance between chords and singular notes which make up for perfect devilish arabesques. The drumming and crisp production levels ensure that none of the riffs go amiss, and as long as they have sufficient variation, most of them are memorable enough to elude becoming undone in a pallid sandstorm. Ashmedi's vocals, upfront and granular as ever, emerge as the epitome of what I would hesitantly dub as 'black/thrash' vocals, raw unflinching, yet vigorous enough to appeal to aficionados of both ends of string, so you really can't go wrong with it. In the end, all told, ''Enki'' gives way to 2-3 hundingers in terms of sheer songwriting excellence, and imprints itself into the listener's mind more effectively than other bands who would continue to make new records without challenging the norms of their previous outings, and so while it's true that this is an album that suffers from creative drought, it still kicks ass, it doesn't the keep the band tied to the ground. Of the levels of musical conformity challenged with mystifying, somber choral reverberations the endless philippic slew of riffs, I am a fan. Not to mention the 8-minute oriental instrumental ''Doorways To Irkala'' which is one of the most well-crafted Middle-Eastern pieces I've heard from any artist, a haunting desert swansong to accompany desolate Bedouins and their laden camels... Sometimes the songs dragged for too long, and this may not be the best they have to offer as a whole, but it's clearly one of the finer efforts I've heard thus far from 2015, and one that'll stay with me for a good while. The Mespotamian lyric goodness is just the cherry on top.

Metatron and Man
The Pendulum Speaks
Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged

Rating: 82%

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Délétère - Les Heures de la Peste [2015]

Canada is in no shortage of bile-spewing, frigid, grisly French black metal, and Deletere is yet another one of Quebec's presents to the global scene via Montreal's very own black metal entrapment camp, Sepulchral Productions. The label has consistently delivered some of the most minimalist yet enjoyable black metal records of the past 2-3 years, ranging from the folksy atmospherics of Gris, the frostbitten winter tapestry of Neige Eternelle or the harrowing tides of despair which Sombres Forets emulate; and all these bands produced rather excellent works which appealed to the reductionist quotient of second wave traditionalism, making them one of the main reasons I continue to listen to contemporary black metal. Quebec itself has engendered so many of these primal practitioners of rabid evil that it's almost as through it broke out of Canada to be united with its linguistic homeland far across the Atlantic. Deletere's work on ''Les Heures de la Peste'' (that's ''the hours the plague'' for you, though my French is shaky) is not a far cry from any of the aforementioned bands as it does not try to expand upon its genre parameters as such revolutionary acts like Peste Noire or Blut Aus Nord, but carves a simpler wall of grief, mourning and iciness.

The names of the tracks correspond to various depictions of the plague, and with song titles like ''Une Gartre Venale'' (A Venal Bitch) I'm bound to compensate a few points for the duo's fresh (relatively) take on themes. The frills aside, though, this is a truly uncompromising experience of gritty, grimy guitars, cramped production values and the kind of nocturnal synergy we all look forward to in our Quebecois/French black metal, though there isn't a huge amount of eccentricities here (Darkthrone-worshiping has long lost its hipness) like the kind of folk-induced mysticism of Gris or vibrant acoustic interludes of Sombres Forets, in fact I've found this record to be mostly a stripped down version of what bands like Austere or Drudkh would have produced. Of course the band does move beyond the simplistic barrage of redundant tremolos: it's abound with dissonant torturous notes, like blood running down the walls of an ancient forest cavern under a moonlit sky... not only that but the duo occasionally employs medieval choral chants here and there to espouse the thematic ghastliness of death and disease. The vocals are harrowing, as one may imagine; though they reverberate with satisfactory howling, they're nothing out of the ordinary, I can tell you that. 

Unfortunately the dynamic range of this album is about as comprehensive as its armory of riffs and progressions, which is pretty meager in supply. There are genuinely haunting moments on the album - songs like ''Vepres - '' justify this with shifting tempos and riveting discordance - but this is not exactly on par with Monarque, Gris, or some of the other Quebecois outfits, nor is it as cold as the eponymous Neige Eternelle disc. There was an almost oddly psychedelic take on the songs at times, but they never lasted long enough to establish a proper basis of miasma or spiritual oblivion - Deletere misses out on both the din of winter frost which I would naturally expect from a band of their image to grasp, and on the more heavily bolstered brand of black metal which would have been a fair flee from the woods for the duo, at any rate. It's stuck somewhere in between, and though it has its moments, it didn't encapsulate me the way I'd want a musical grimoire to. So you get the idea. It's still some drowning, pestilential music, if you're into that stuff at all. Fostered by the Bubonic Plague. Can you imagine people's reactions to this if it was released in the middle ages? They'd be receiving all kinds of piss... literally. But enough of that: if you're enamored by any of the classic Scandinavian nasties, this one's for you, a gush of woeful malady, and don't sat I didn't warn you.

Vepres - Architects de la Pes
Laudes - Credo II
None - Le Lait de l'essaim

Rating: 70%

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Keep of Kalessin - Epistomology [2015]

Nestled deep in Norway's forbidden woods (or maybe not so deep?) are bands who actually seek to achieve something further than the genre-standard second wave black metal bound by the laws of their immortalized forebears, and one such act is Keep Kalessin. These Norsemen have been going strong for years now, hot on the wheels of ''Reptilian'' and ''Kolossus'', of which the former garnered somewhat mixed reactions in the public opinion as a desultory exhibition of 'modernized' black/death metal. Keep Of Kalessin is the perfect starting point black metal beginners to rally at, with epic overtures and accessibly hooking voracity eschewing much of the grimness of traditional black metal, and it remains within these boundaries which they've conventionalized that we see ''Epistomology''.  Safe to say that on this record the Norsemen traverse within the well-known paths, hardly straying from the safe harbor, kind of like a bunch of grounded black metal teenagers nicely buckled up and ready to be taken to a trip to the forest... if you don't fancy the notion, never mind, because ''Epistomology'' still delivers the kind of potent black/death wizardry many fans were asking for, just without a whole lot of twists to the tale.

This is a much less opaque offering than most of other Norwegian black or black/death exports I've heard, with walls of generously spasmodic tremolo ascensions and descents weaving up with ferocious percussive backbone, almost like what Behemoth would have sounded like in the mid/early 2000's with a wash of production sheen. Keep of Kalessin have always had some interest in dragons, mythology and similarly fantastical themes woven out of a power metal flair, but these themes work rather deliciously with a background of lunar overtures and choirs balancing the atmospheric adherence of the record. Surely enough songs like ''The Spiritual Relief'' or the title track play out these atmospheric tendencies with some delicacy albeit with exhaustive longitude. The clean vocal delivery is something which went strangely amiss for a guy whose always been a fan of wooing and emotionally powerful cleans in black metal (bands like Enslaved or Nokturnal Mortum with their folksy attitude perfect this trend) but the hovering balustrades of grandiose vocal delivery on the record don't always fall into that category of uplifting glory which the band seeks to channel as a veritable juxtaposition of the taut harshness of some of the more death/thrash oriented riff work, though they still manage to capture a certain degree of luster and aural satisfaction in the listener. In fact, choral sequences like that of ''The Spiritual Relief''' lack very little to remove them from a Dragonforce chorus... not the most desirable of prospects perhaps, but in general it works out because the raspier vocals always induce some level of excitement.

That said, the major selling point for me on this record has been the accumulation of tracks like ''Dark Divinity'' or ''Introspection'' which combine the delectable thrashing ooze of modern Destruction or Exodus with with nearly post-black metal dissonance, making for some listening value if I was to evaluate things so pragmatically. The final tracks are short and fast as fuck, like proper grindcore songs fed power and death metal until their veins overflowed. The masters of the Keep are not just seamless combiners of modern black and death (it's probably a good idea to downplay the influence of the 'black metal' tag since there's as much black metal on this album as there is sunshine in Norway, which shouldn't be too much) but practitioners of technicality with sufficiently athletic riffs to make length of some terribly long songs worthwhile, at least to a degree. This isn't Spawn of Possession or Necrophagist we're talking about, but a far more melodic output redolent of, well, itself. All told, the songs are never good enough to subsume a high proportion of your attention, but there 2-3 individual pieces that will certainly be repeated for some time. At times the redundancy of songs with 9+ minutes of run time can feel like the a long, boring wait at the dental department while someone is rubbing gossamer against your ears. Moments of sheer blandness are very scarce though, and in general, even though this is not on par with ''Kolossus'' or such, it is a good record, yet in remembrance of what I said at the beginning about its accessibility as a black metal record, it will probably get you stabbed with an iron cross if you ever try to show it to your local corpse-painted black metal purists.

Dark Divinity

Rating: 75%