Here at Don't Count On It Reviews, you can read reviews from different artists from different styles.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Umbrtka - IVO

Apparently No One Told Them How Black Metal Is Supposed To Sound.

Umbrtka is an avant-garde metal group from the Czech Republic. This band has been releasing a steady flow of albums since their formation back in 2000. This is their sixteenth overall full-length and their second to come out this year.
Like any good avant-garde "metal" band, these guys don't know the meaning of the word boundaries. Throughout this record, these four individuals cease to stick to a single normal structure or style, instead exploring many of metal's sub-genres including death, thrash, folk, and black. Strangely, when the band go metal, in any capacity, the vocalist ends up sounding a bit like Niklas Kvarforth (Shining), which just struck me as being a bit different.
Most songs seem to dwell mainly within the metal genre, which for someone that likes avant-garde metal, isn't really the best thing in the world. There are a few moments on tracks like Nájezdníci or Pivo Ivo where they'll go into a more mellow part or bring in a saxophone, but that doesn't really make it weird, just different. I could imagine a fan of metal wanting to branch into avant-garde, metal at least, trying this out, but besides that, I couldn't really find a lot on this record that couldn't be found on a regular metal record.
Unfortunately, for all odd traits that are on here, it probably has to do with the use of a different language in the vocals as well, most of this album fails to stick with me. Tracks like Popelář and Doudlevce are decent enough songs, but there really wasn't any substance there to draw me back into listening to them again. This was a record that didn't really end up living up to what I might have imagined it to be; coming into this, I was thinking either really off-the-wall songs that were just weird or songs that were somewhat entertaining, I didn't really get either on here. Overall, I have to say that I was pretty disappointed by this album, it didn't really live up to my expectations. This album just didn't live up to what I pictured it sounding like in my head, sue me if you think differently. If you enjoy metal that's a bit different, while still sticking pretty close to being metal, give this a try, but there's better stuff out there.
Overall Score: 4
Highlights: Všechno, Petrohrad, Pivo Ivo

Jute Gyte - Young Eagle

Black Metal's Answer To A Punch In The Face.

Jute Gyte is a solo experimental project from Missouri. Though the project has been active since 2002, records didn't start being released till four years later. Throughout this one project Adam Kalmbach has explored areas of black metal, electronic, drone, and noise music, releasing a decent amount of material each year.
Like a shot in the face, this record opens with blast-beats, harsh distortion, and screaming vocals. This opening song, See The Abandoned Throng, moves from intense blackened noise to more somber drone sounds rather fluidly despite being the shortest track on the entire album, it definitely made me want to listen further. With how little I knew about this album coming into it, I was surprised how engaging it was and how much it drew me in.
I noticed that throughout this record, no matter how distorted or aggressive it got, there was always something to latch onto, whether it be a subtle melody or the atmospheres that make up the background of most of these tracks. There is also more than once when this album slows down to a more melancholic crawl, recalling elements of the depressive side of black metal without all the cheesiness. There is also a odd sense of what I could only compare to jazz on this record, hear The Wine-Halls Are Crumbling and you'll get what I mean. One could also call it a pervasive sense of eeriness that just surrounds all the songs on here.
I found that this record, for what I interpreted it as trying to accomplish, had a good sound for the material that's on here. The production is pretty distorted and harsh sounding, remaining pretty raw for the most part, but able delicate enough for the acoustic ballad What A Bird Bore Away Over The Deep Ocean, even though noise builds up until the end of that track in particular. The raw sound gives this album an even more gritty and aggressive sound that only adds to the overall harshness throughout the entire disc.
However, like I said, there's always a silver lining in these songs, whether it be some electronics in The Might of Ash Spears or a violin in the beginning of the title-track, Young Eagle. The aforementioned What A Bird Bore Away Over The Deep Ocean as well as the closer, The Flower and The Chain, both express the project's more somber sides, ambient music with piano on the latter and acoustic guitar and noise on the former. Both sides actually manage to work together so well on here because, in my opinion, these softer tracks provide a break from the destruction that the heavier, more aggressive tracks bring.
Overall, I really enjoyed this album, and while I might not find it the best album to come out, it's definitely quite original sounding. I can't say that everything on this album was even great, there was a few parts that left me a bit bored, but overall it's quite an enjoyable album. This gets a recommendation from me to anyone that sees themselves as a fan of experimental metal music.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Glory At Hand, The Might of Ash Spears, Young Eagle

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview - Transcending Bizarre?'s Harris

Over the past few days I've had the pleasure of communicating with the main composer and founder of one of black metal's most forward thinking acts Transcending Bizarre?. He's been nice enough to comment on the band's previous work, the loss of a fellow founding member, S.A. Akis, and the newest record, The Misanthrope's Fable. Enjoy!

Ian: I guess the first question is how are you doing now that The Misanthrope's Fable is released?

Haris: We are doing fine actually. The album is really fresh at this moment and we can only say that the reviews so far are more than encouraging.

Ian: How did Transcending Bizarre? form?

Haris: Me and S.A. Akis were the founding members of the band. We used to rent a flat together almost ten years ago and we were both really passionate about music. We recorded our first demo where I was almost playing all the instruments and singing. We were very lucky to find really skilled musicians the years that followed.

Ian: How does Transcending Bizarre? write songs, does a single guy usually write and bring in songs or is it more of a collaborative effort?

Haris: Most of the times, I am the one who writes a demo song in Cubase that contains sample drums, synths and maybe some vocals. I then bring the demo to the rest of the band and we add things, or we repeat parts or delete some parts giving the song its final form.
Ian: How did The Four Scissors come together? To me, that's your sound at it's most aggressive and black metal sounding while still being quite proggy and synthetic at the same time.

Haris: We were much younger and we couldn’t tame our inspiration while composing ‘’The Four Scissors’’ hehe... This resulted in a very experimental and innovative album and we are very happy for it. The main problem of this album is its terrible production. But we have re-released it in digital form through Vic Records and we improved the sound, we remixed it and remastered it. Now it’s much better. This was definitely our most bizarre album.

Ian: What happened in the five year gap between The Four Scissors and The Serpent's Manifolds?

Haris: I had to serve the greek army in 2004 and 2005. After this period we composed ‘’The Serpent’s Manifolds’’ and we tried to search for a descent label. We found a Dutch label but the things didn’t work out between us and we decided to move on and release the album from a friend’s label, Dissonart productions. All these things caused this 5-years delay. And to be honest, I regretted serving the army, I should have found a way to avoid this shit.

Ian: How would you say the band evolved from The Four Scissors to The Serpent's Manifolds? That record is a lot more experimental and progressive sounding than the debut.

Haris: I doubt that ‘’The Serpent’s manifolds’’ is more experimental than our debut. ‘’The Serpent’s...’’ is much more mature, it has a solid production and it is less eclectic. I think that we evolved as musicians after our debut album and we became more experienced in terms of production, composition and arrangements. Our symphonic parts became much more realistic and advanced. We focused on composing darker songs, more symphonic and less complex.
Ian: I know that record was well received upon it's release, did that boost the band's confidence to become even more explorative with their music?

Haris: Well it’s true that the album was really well received and this was a surprise for us. You know ,we didn’t have a big label behind us, however lots of people found about the album and lots of people bought it or downloaded it. This made us more confident, you are right, and encouraged us to start composing the next album.

Ian: How far along was the new record when S.A. Akis unfortunately passed? What did he add to the band before his passing? I know that you handled the synthe on the new record, how did you approach that additional work?

Haris: S.A. Akis death was a real shock for all of us. He was a founding member of the band and he was also the drummer, the producer and the keyboardist. Fortunately, S.A. Akis had finished recording his drum parts for the new album before passing away. But after his death we had to seek for a new producer and I had to take care of all the synth parts myself. This was not a problem since I was a synth player myself. S.A. Akis never composed any song himself but his influence in the character of our music was severe.

Ian: Now onto the new record. How would you describe The Misanthrope's Fable to someone that's never heard the record?

Haris: Our new album combines the experimental temper of our debut and the dark symphonic vein of our second album. It is a concept album, both musically and lyrically, and it’s bit more complex than ‘’The Serpent’s...’’. It is also a bit more bizarre and psychedelic. Definitely, our most complete creation so far.

Ian: I found this record to be the band's most orchestral and theatrical sounding, with a lot of dynamics occurring in every song, from progressive riffs to large orchestras in the background and even the vocals. What was your intention for this album?

Haris: We intended to compose an avant-garde modern black metal album that would sound unearthly, spooky and perverse. The new album was a chance to prove ourselves we have found our own style of composing and arranging music. And I think we managed to produce an album that is fresh, diverse, tries to transcend the barriers of black metal and at the same time carries our own distinctive musical mark.

Ian: How did Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen come into the album? I thought he did a great job on The Empire of Mind.

Haris: Glad to hear you liked Bjørnar’s parts! Some years ago i ran into Vulture industries’ debut album and quickly noticed Bjornar’s voice. When composing this particular track, I thought of his voice and I was intrigued. I decided to contact him immediately, I sent him a rough mix of the track and after a month he sent me the vocal files via mail. I was really excited when I first listened to his samples. By the way, Vulture Industries’ new album is really amazing.

Ian: How did the idea to use a children's choir come about?

Haris: I always thought children voices are really spooky. So, we found a theatre school with its own choir and contacted them through a common friend. Adding them in an extreme metal album was a real challenge. It added an extra soundtrack-ish / avant-garde touch in the music. It was kind of strange having 20 children singing in the studio!

Ian: How did you get in touch with Anetis Goudas? I thought he did a great job with the artwork.

Haris: The artwork is based on the brilliant paintings of Jesse Peper (http://www.jessepeper.com), an artist from the USA. Anestis had to unify Jesse’s paintings and use them in a common context. Anestis has collaborated with famous artists such as Dimmu Borgir and Rotting Christ and we expected something really good from him. The final artwork meant to be unearthly and compatible with the music and I think Anestis and Jesse really managed to realise what we had in mind.

Ian: How has the band enjoyed playing live?

Haris: We gave our first live concerts in 2008 sharing the stage with bands such as Septicflesh, Therion and others. Playing live is an amazing experience and we currently plan a south european tour. But nothing is certain yet.

Ian: What are some of your favourite Transcending Bizarre? songs, in general and live?

Haris: I would say: Irreversible, Cell, The Music of the Spheres, Envisaging the ideal planet, Broad Daylight Misanthropy, The return to Nothingness. But I guess ‘’Infinite’’ is our most popular track.

Ian: I guess that's it, thank you for the interview, the last word's are yours.

Haris: We have to sincerely thank you for the interview and the review. I am very glad you liked our new album. I really like people with their own blogs and ‘zines that want to share their passion for music with others. Well Ian, keep up the good work!
I would like to thank Hakis for allowing me to conduct this interview with him as well as ask some questions I thought might be a bit personal. I sincerely thank him for his honest and kind words. Check out Transcending Bizarre? if you haven't already!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Green Evening Requiem - Decomposer

Refinement, Not Decomposition.

The Green Evening Requiem is a progressive black metal group from Pennsylvania. This is their second full-length record, a follow-up to last years "Bastards of Atlas," which was more of a collection of demos and old songs rather than a disc of new stuff. This is their first album to feature new material since their 2006 demo.
Opening with an aggressive thrash metal riff and drumroll, this album shows that this band means business. TGER is certainly a band that likes to utilize a lot of styles and genres within their music, hence progressive, but make it feel fluid in a similar way to an Opeth or and Ihsahn record might sound. However, therein lies where the band's major problem is, most of these songs lack any real catchiness or intriguing parts that make you raise your eyebrows and want to listen to it over and over. Sure, the band flirts with elements of black and thrash, doom, the occasional venture in folk, and even a bit of psychedelic rock, but the band needs to find a better way to put all these parts together, like in the title-track Decomposer.
I can't speak for everyone, but I saw a better presence of well-structured material on the debut album, which is probably due to a longer time to grasp the material and play with it. This sounds a bit boring, some tracks sticking with one style and not really experimenting with it, which is what I liked about the debut so much, it moved around a lot more. A method of sticking to one style fits with shorter songs like Teneral or The Subtleties of Imperfection, but not in the longer pieces that make up this album.
The production is certainly lacking on here, in my opinion, but that's just me. This honestly sounds like a band that's playing right in front of you, which in some cases actually suits the band, but not in this case. I always saw this band as one that would benefit from a higher production that would clean their music up and perhaps give it a more of a edge or a darker atmosphere.
Overall, this album is alright but the band needs to really find their own sound, and in my opinion, some better production, to really get somewhere. I do know that all three members are also in the rising black metal band Woe, which was reviewed recently as well, so that project may have gotten more attention to writing. If you like progressive music that's pretty stripped down, check this out.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Decomposer, Deprived and Starved, Erosion

Arfsynd - Arfsynd

Satan Commands Me To Play.

Arfsynd is the solo black metal project of Swedish musician Perditor. This is his first album under this name, he also plays in Orcivus. I know nothing about his previous work or other bands, so this is pretty much a first encounter type of deal.
This is a pretty atmospheric record for what's tagged as being a straight black metal project. Sure there are more traditional tremolo picked sections as well as more than a few blast-beats, but this record feels so ambient compared to a lot of records that are usually put under that tag, for one reason or another. It also struck me at how melodic this record was, it wasn't just a kick in the face of pure hatred, it managed to put in a few good lines within several tracks, Prisa Den Fortappade Flamman for example. There are also several flirtations with doom on this record as well, which suits the atmospheric black metal tag usually quite well, it wasn't used quite as a single unit on here, using it sparsely throughout the entire disc instead of using it in every single song at nearly every moment.
The vocals on here separate themselves immediately from what is commonly associated with the atmospheric, and to an extent even the melodic, scenes of which the music is coming from. Unlike a lot of black metal vocalists, Perditor shows that screaming isn't really his thing, though what he's doing isn't all that uncommon, it brings a different vibe to the music on here. Throughout the record you hear his frantic sounding yells, almost sounding out of breath at some points, hear Vid Syndaflodens Mynning for example.
Overall, I found this to be a decent record, it didn't overwhelm me but it didn't underwhelm me either. This is a record that I'm kind of indifferent towards, it was alright, it just didn't do anything for me. If you like black metal with a touch of atmosphere, check this out.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Lifvets Usurpator, Prisa Den Fortappade Flamman

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nocturnal Depression - The Cult of Negation

I Think Their Name Says It All.

Nocturnal Depression are a depressive/atmospheric black metal group from France. The group is one of the longest running groups to come from that scene and yet has yielded a surprisingly small output compared to their contemporaries. This is their fourth overall full-length record and their first in two years, it doesn't seem that long, but their first three albums were released within a year of each other.
Those that know about the suicidal/depressive black metal scene will no doubt have heard and formed opinions about this band, as they are one of the more well known groups from that scene. Personally, I always found this band to stick out mainly due to their actually being a band, to play live, most being just projects, even though the main composed, Herr Suizid, does not play with the band live. Aside from that simple fact, it was also the band's willingness to create epic, atmospheric pieces that managed to capture depression in a way that didn't have me feeling like I was listening to a kid in his basement screaming for no reason but for those to pity him, hopefully that statement gets the message across that I do enjoy vocalist Lord Lokhraed's performances.
This record follows a similar style to what the band has done in their previous albums, but with a bit clearer production, not that that's saying much. This record is still pretty raw sounding compared to many other records to come out in black metal, but compared to other groups from this scene and even the band's older material, this is an improvement. Having said that, like their previous recordings, this lower production adds a sense of darkness and ambiance to the record that isn't attained through pristine production. The guitars maintain a real primal sound that's distorted but melodic, through clean production, the band would not be able to achieve this sound.
But musically, this album sees the band including some more traditional black metal sounds as well as a bit of punk, maybe, than usual. Tracks on this record are much shorter than on any other record from the band, as well the entire record proves to be under an hour in total, as well as including some faster playing. The song We're All Better Off Dead is not only quite a short song for the band, but it is also one of the most melodic songs the band has ever written as well. Home Asylum on the other hand is much faster around it's end, recalling a lot more traditional black metal tremolo picking and more aggressive playing.
Overall, I can't say that I enjoyed this record as much as some of their older material, but it's still quite good for what the genre has offered. This record should definitely please long time fans as well as get the band a few newer ones as well. If you like depressive black metal that has an original sound, check this out.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Dead Children, The Cult of Negation

Sargeist - Let The Devil In

In The Old School, Playing It Right Is All That Matters.

Sargeist is a black metal band from Finland. Throughout their decade, just over now, of existence the band has released three of the most traditionally blasphemic records within black metal to recent memory. Formed as one of the many bands and projects of guitarist Shatraug, this is easily one of the biggest groups he's attached to.
A ten track affair, this is easily one of the most traditionally defiant black metal bands out there today. This band has always stood in defiance of all that is modern and progressive, choosing to instead focus on aggression of violence, as older recordings will no doubt showcase. However this new record begins to include a higher prominence of melody into songs, with noticeable riffs returning that are actually quite catchy and memorable, hear tracks like Empire of Suffering or Burning Voice of Adoration.
But don't let that fool you into thinking that this isn't still a hateful and spiteful recording, as the title says, it's still blasphemic as all hell. I can't say that I'm too much of a lyrics kind of guy, but having read them while listening to this still shows just as much anti-Christian, anti-human, anti-life propaganda as always. Hoath Torog's vocals are also filled with venom as he spits forth these words, cliche as it may be to say that, I found his performance to match what the lyrical subjects are without trying to do vocal acrobatics.
As stated above, this album is blatantly more melodic and straightforward than some of Sargeist's past work, but is also holds a similar amount of variation. There are plenty of full-throttle blast-beating songs on here, but also some more mid-paced pieces that contain perhaps some of the best vocals on the album, hear Nocturnal Revelation. I also have to mention how the production makes this album sound great, it's clean and clear, but it doesn't sound like it was performed by a machine. I know Sargeist albums in the past haven't exactly been the best sounding, but this album totally takes them to the next level.
Overall, I have to say that this is one of the best traditional sounding album, from any genre, that I've heard all year. Most records don't have this sort of intensity and songwriting if they stick to an original sound from yesteryears. If you like old-school sounding black metal, definitely give this a whirl, it's one of the best albums you'll hear from that genre.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: From The Black Coffin Lair, Discovering The Enshrouded Eye, Let The Devil In

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Ocean - Anthropocentric

The Tides Are Changing.

The Ocean are a progressive post-metal group from the Germany. This is the second part of the double-albums that they're releasing this year. Many people may have criticized "Heliocentric," which was released earlier this year, but have praised this new album.
This album features many similarities to the previous sound of The Ocean, recalling elements of post-metal, progressive metal, industrial music, and orchestral backing musicians, but also features some of their most aggressive and unique material yet. While "Heliocentric" was the band's most melodic and soft record to date, turning most fans off by the use of mainly clean vocals and softer instrumentation, this album recalls the band's more metal side. The opening title-track, Anthropocentric, showcases all the familiar traits that were present on the band's earlier material, big distorted guitars with pounding rhythms but also more melodic sections with clean vocals.
There are some tracks on here that should definitely please those that were not satisfied with the softer side of the last album, tracks like The Grand Inquisitor I: Karamazov Baseness or Sewers of The Soul have some of the band's heaviest moments on them, going into pure post-sludge territory. But this is still very melodic, the entire record, with tracks being able to utilize choruses that are catchy and unique sounding as well as being heavy. But fear not fans of the band's softer material, tracks like the instrumental Wille Zum Untergang feature the band's more post-rock side while The Grand Inquisitor III: A Tiny Grain of Faith is an electronic based track with female vocals that provides a good interlude.
It was mentioned by the band that the approach to this album was to give a bit more of a natural band sound as opposed to having their sound filled to the brim with more textures and layers of orchestral session players. The result gives most tracks on here feel very stripped down vibe in comparison to the band's other albums, as well as giving itself to a much heavier and aggressive sound. The band also said that this album was written by other members besides band founder Robin Staps, which may explain why a lot of the riffs on here sound more technical and progressive than on any other album from The Ocean.
Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed this album, though I wasn't the biggest fan of "Heliocentric," I did enjoy it, and I found this one even better. I personally think fans of the band's who can appreciate the more melodic side of the band coming into the band's heavier material will be very pleased with this album. I have to agree that this is one of the band's best, definitely check it out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Anthropocentric, The Grand Inquisitor II: Roots & Locusts, The Almightiness Contradiction

Intronaut - Valley of Smoke

The Smoke Is Actually Clearing.

Intronaut is a progressive/post-metal group from California. Since the group's inception back in 2004, the band have steadily been growing both in terms of their fan base and their style. This album has been praised by critics, saying that this is where Intronaut enter the A-list of prog metal bands.
Anyone familiar with Intronaut will know that they came from the same starting grounds, stylistically, as groups like Mastodon and Baroness, sludge metal, and like those bands, they've grown up into their own sound. This sound carries with it the heaviness and slow moving tendencies of their sludge metal background while taking the more introspective passages of post-metal, the adventurous spirit of progressive rock, and even a touch of the fusion leanings of touring partners Cynic during a few occasions. Most of these influences are blended and mashed together into newer shapes where one never completely dominates another, often shifting from one style to the next without going Mr. Bungle on us.
With stylistic variation also comes a much more fluid sounding band, in this case anyway, where every member seems to have only gotten better at their respective instruments. The heaviness that made up their past releases is not so much forgotten on here as much as it's been put into less of the foreground, allowing the progressive tendencies to move farther up the latter with this album. The band have also pulled a Mastodon by putting clean vocals into their sound as well, which appear on Elegy and only become more prominent throughout the rest of the album. There's still plenty of heavy and groove on here however, Sunderance, it's just interspersed with a lot more prog and experimental tendencies. Having Tool bassist Justin Chancellor guest on the title-track, Valley of Smoke, also doesn't hurt either.
Like mentioned above, the band members have no doubt grown better at their instruments, but the production on here has also brought out every one of their playing styles into the open. Guitarists Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick switch between crushingly heavy riffs to clean and melodic interludes like it's going out of style, but it works. Bassists are often overlooked in metal, and this year has no doubt seen some great fluid playing on records, but Joe Lester definitely takes the cake for his playing, which is not only clearly heard on these songs, but also quite fluid and jazzy, playing a very integral part in the band's sound, listen to Below. Drummer Danny Walker is a beast on the kit, shifting tempos at a constant pace while maintaining an almost 4/4 style of fluidness as well as playing some great fills.
Overall, being relatively new to this band, and being exposed to it from my dad no less, I was blown away. All the good things I had read and heard about this record was true, and I'm glad they were. If you like progressive music, give this album a whirl for sure.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Above, Core Relations, Valley of Smoke

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Withered - Dualitas

Sounds Of Duality.

Withered is a blackened sludge metal group from Georgia. Having released two prior albums that have received critical acclaim from both in and outside of the metal underground. This, their third full-length sees the band moving into even more adventurous territory.
This is my first time listening to this group in a long time, first time I'm actually giving them a chance. I'll admit that I kind of wrote off 2008's "Folie Circulaire" as being another album from a genre that I didn't particularly like at the time. So this is the first time I could say that I'm actually listening to a Withered disc, and boy did I get the wrong impression from that previous album, because this is what I like to hear with black metal and sludge metal, crusty, disgustingly dirty, and filthy sounding songs.
Right from the opening of Extinguished With The Weary this band just lets loose all they have to offer, it's the perfect mix of black metal intensity and atmosphere with the dirge-like riffs of sludge. However, while that opener may epitomize what I see blackened sludge to be, the rest of the album proves to be much more diverse and open to newer influences. Sure, there are moments of blasting and grinding, which are shown in near perfect usage, but within the album there are also elements of more psychedelic rock, crust punk, and even a bit of doom metal. These tracks also move surprisingly fast for sludge metal songs, yes the black metal parts help that, but the length of some of these tracks are a bit long yet never feel as long as they actually are, hear a track like Aethereal Breath.
The production on here is exactly what I like about the sludge genre best, when it's not overly produced, but makes a band sound real and authentic. Interlude on the album is a track that pretty much is given to minimalism with very little actual playing occurring, but loads of feedback and atmosphere piling on top of each other. Actual songs on here however retain that same sort of vibe, with guitars just having a much more live quality to them that can't be faked, and for some reason this band manages to capture that quality while others I've heard this year just haven't.
Overall, I have to say that I really liked this album and I'm glad I gave it a chance. While some might consider the production to be a bit too raw, it's definitely perfect for the music. This is one of the best sludge, mixed with other things, albums to come out this year, definitely give this a listen.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Residue In The Void, From Shadows, Aethereal Breath

Svart Crown - Witnessing The Fall

Somehow The Title Doesn't Seem To Paint A Happy Picture.

Svart Crown are a blackened death metal group from France. This is my first encountered with the group and thus, once again, I can only really comment on this album. However prior to this, they released a debut full-length back in 2008 titled "Ages of Decay."
Once this album opens, it starts something very rare, that I've heard, in black metal. I can't say I've heard a lot of black metal that tackle sounds of technical death metal, or technical music the way these guys have, as it can sometimes move into angular and odd sounding riffs, this is a plus by the way. The way this is done is often with intensity building up within tracks, rarely stopping to break for a breather, songs that tend to utilize this style are full-throttle, petal-to-the-metal, hear a track like Nahash The Tempter.
However, while this album is intense and aggressive, it also has a more melodic streak passing through it as well, often thanks to the more black metal sections that do slow a track down for more open sounding riffs. The death metal sections tend to bring a bit more of the technical aspects of the band out, but both the black and death metal sections work exquisitely together on this album. The riffs on here are also really catchy as well, enough to be memorable after a single listen, hear tracks like Into A Demential Sea or Strength Higher Than Justice. Unfortunately the worst part of this album, for me anyway, is the vocals, which sound a bit too "inhaled" for my own personal taste and is a style that I'm just not a fan of. The other gripe I have with this album is that a few tracks near the end of the album just don't measure up to the high standard of the opening tracks, but the final track, Of Sulphur and Fire, more than makes up for that.
This album is really just diverse while maintaining a constant death metal styled pace, riffs are constantly changing, the drums are blasting, and the bass is actually clear enough to cut through both. The vocals are a little bit behind the guitars, which worked well enough for me as they weren't really my thing, but it worked to put the guitars at the very front. The diversity however comes within longer tracks on here where the band take the opportunity to build on the songs a bit more, adding slower and more melodic parts than some of the shorter, faster songs use.
Overall, this album definitely surprised me, I didn't expect this record to be as good as it is. This is just another great, and actually original sounding record, to come out from the French black metal scene. If you like technical sounding metal, definitely give this album a whirl, you won't regret it.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Dogs of God, Into A Demetial Sea, Of Sulphur and Fire

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Man-Eating Tree - Vine

It's Not As Dangerous As It Sounds.

The Man-Eating Tree is a gothic/atmospheric metal band from Finland. The band was formed by Sentenced drummer Vesa Ranta, this band sort of takes a similar vibe from the latter day sounds of that band. This is their debut album and it has received numerous praises so far this year.
I'll be frank here, I was never the biggest Sentenced fan, throughout any era of their career, what drew me to this band was the presence of vocalist Tuomas Tuominen who used to sing in alternative gothic metal group Fall of The Leafe. I always found his voice to set him apart from not only other vocalists but also when put into the context of his band, made the band's sound have a different vibe as well. A similar effect is also utilized in here as on his former band, thus giving the songs a very unique melodic feel to them that is unlike that of any other singer I've come across.
Musically, I found the term atmospheric metal, that the band applied themselves, to be appropriate for what this is as a whole. Most of this album isn't all that heavy, it has it's moments of distorted guitars and double-bass drumming, but for the most part it relies on large, ambient soundscapes to create a mood, hear The Longitude of Sleep. There are, more often than not, somber sounding tracks that get loud only during the choruses, which works to great effect on here and to their credit, actually does allow them to retain a heavier side while keeping a more melodic background. Even when the band does favor a heavy section over the softer, it always maintains the same atmosphere that gives the band an overall ambient feel throughout the entire disc.
The melodies are, however, what carry these songs more than anything else. Tracks like the single Out of The Wind or Instead of Sand and Stone feature some really immediate vocal hooks that can just get stuck in your head as soon as you hear them. Even the band's rendition of Moody Blues classic track Nights In White Satin goes over quite well, a more than passable rendition, in my opinion at least. I can't say that this album is really guitar driven, so it's likely that you won't find a lot of riffs that catch your ear, sad to say, but to each their own. Check Spelling
Overall, this is a good album with plenty of solid songs and playing. I can't really say I was wowed by this album, but it certainly deserves to be listened to by a lot of people. If you like more atmospheric and melodic hard rock or metal music, give this one a whirl.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The White Plateau, Of Birth For Passing, Amended

Pryapisme - Rococo Haulocaust

Good Kitty, Friendly Kitty.

Pryapisme is an avant-garde metal group from France. This is the quartet's debut album following a demo and cover on a compilation. I discovered the group through the Ulver cover they contributed to a cover compilation.
First off, don't expect this to be in any way an easy listen, like at all. This is an album for people that have diverse tastes, cause this thing goes far beyond experimental and definitely tries to show that it's the top dog, or cat in this case, of the avant-garde/experimental metal right now. I honestly haven't heard anything this weird and left-field as this all year, in fact not in a while, this band actually manages to give Mr. Bungle a run for their money right here.
This album rarely stays on one genre or style for very long, within a single track you'll hear everything from black metal to jazz to dance music to classical piano work, it's not simple in any term of the word. Granted, having a bassist that also plays the cello, a drummer who plays the clarinet, and a guitarist that also plays the mandolin, might have something to do with the outlandish style changing on here, but that's only a guess. However that's just the tip of the iceberg, as just having those instruments would be enough to make this band weird, like mentioned above, the rapid style changing throughout a song is also what gives this band a unique sound, I can't recall a time that I've heard tango music melded together with jazz fusion and classical piano scoring like in Le Doryphone De Kafka or 8-bit electronics with dissonant black metal and orchestral symphonics in Sanglié Par Un Cornid. This is an original, no doubt about it.
Honestly, the only real bad thing I have to say about this is that at times it can sound a bit frantic at times, which may be on purpose. But when the band hit a stride on some of the more mid-paced or slower tracks, or sections to be precise, it really gets good. Even when the band is shifting from style to style, it's crafted well enough to make it not sound like a heap of jumbled noise and mud, it can be seen why it took these guys several years to craft this.
Overall, I can't say enough good things about this debut album, it's just really good. At times it can get a bit heady and tend to wander, but that's all good cause it fits with the album's nonstop pace. If you like avant-garde or experimental progressive music, definitely check this album out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Le Doryphone De Kafka, Darkness Lobotomy Insurrection, Copaing, Le Fuligule Miloin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Woe - Quietly, Undramatically

Unfortunately, The Title Is Not What Is On Here.

Woe is a progressive black metal group from Pennsylvania. This is also the first release to feature a full band, the first album was recorded entirely by band founder Chris Grigg. While this album does tread some familiar ground, it is most certainly pushing far beyond that sound as well.
For those that expect the same sort of full-throttle aggression that the debut album from Woe did might be a little disappointed by the increase in progression, melody, and variety on this album. As the debut album demonstrated an all-out assault of melodic black metal, this album goes into elements of progressive rock, crossover hardcore/thrash, and even a bit of death metal. In a world where black metal is constantly evolving into new shapes and forms, the traditional way is becoming a way of the past, unless it's done well, it's certainly hard to argue that this band hasn't changed for the better.
There's still your melodic black metal sound on here, but as mentioned, it's mixed with a lot more ideas and elements that push it past being just another melodic black metal band. The use of several the genres mentioned above does indeed add a unique flavor to this band, such as the clean, melodic vocals on the title-track, Quietly, Undramatically, or the climbs and falls in A Treatise On Control. Even the more aggressive tracks like The Road From Recovery or Without Logic that have a more traditional black metal/hardcore-thrash vibe to them have a more interesting sound than some of the more straightforward melodic black metal acts to come out. I think that everyone could agree however that the epic Full Circle is the track that sticks out as being the most progressive track on the album, going through almost Opeth-like soft parts with ease before switching back into black metal bliss.
But it goes without saying that the biggest improvement is made in the production, which is no longer just a punch in the face with the guitars ripping your face off. This album is certainly a bit more subdued, with things coming out a lot clearer than on the debut, from the drums to the guitars to even the bass. Personally, I would have liked the vocals to be a bit higher up in the mix, but musically, it sounds fantastic.
Overall, this is a solid record that I enjoyed quite a bit. This may not have been my favorite black metal record from this year, but it's one that I keep returning to for some reason or another. If you like progressive tinged melodic metal, check this out, you won't regret it.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Road From Recovery, Quietly, Undramatically, Full Circle

The Meads of Asphodel - The Murder of Jesus The Jew

Subtlety Is Not In Their Vocabulary.

The Meads of Asphodel is a progressive/psychedelic black metal group from the UK. Throughout their decade of existence, the band have pushed boundaries forward for the genre by working with everyone from Sigh's Mirai Kawashima to Alan Davey of Hawkwind. This is their fourth full-length album so far, and only continues their trend towards the non-conventional.
In a traditionally, nontraditional way, the band start the album with a theatrical opener that combines the aesthetics of spoken word, symphonic/orchestral music, and dark ambiances. Short as it may be, it proves to serve as a fitting introduction to what lies ahead in this album. Following that the album erupts into a blaze that is titled My Psychotic Sand Deity that utilizes all the band's usual tactics such as aggressive black metal, more orchestral backdrops, and psychedelic atmospheres and interludes, but once again, none of that's done traditional to form anyway.
Personally, it's a bit hard to describe this record because it contains everything that the band is known for and a bit more, it's adventurous, aggressive, and weird all at once. There are tracks on here that contain your typical black metal blast-beats and tremolo picking, one of many things in From Eagle to Cross, but also tracks that make use of various other styles, such as dance music, Apocalypse of Lazarus, semi-country/folk, Stiller of Tempests, and experimental doom-jazz, Jew Killer. Overall, if you know the band's older material, you could probably get a vague idea as to what to expect on here. There are some great riffs, cool choruses, and interesting playing, but once again, if you like the band you probably already know all that.
If this album is different from their last record, or their others, I'd say it's perhaps more experimental as a whole, but heavier than their last record. When I say it's more experimental though, I'd say this record isn't so much in the same vein as their last few, with how the Hawkwind influence has come in through more spacey passages or covers, this one has that, but it's not as up front. It's hard to really compare since the band does sound like no one else, but this I have to say that I did enjoy this one a bit more immediately than the previous one, though this one still took several listens. There are tracks on here that aren't so immediately catchy or melodic, but obviously the more you listen the faster the melodies will appear.
Overall, this is a good record from a weird band that certainly sounds like no one else. Honestly, this isn't my favorite record from the band, but it's still a good one nonetheless. Definitely check this one out if you like experimental black metal that goes into all sorts of places.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Man From Kerioth, Genesis of Death, A Canticle For The Lost Amputees of Aelia Capitolina...

Monday, November 22, 2010

worC - When The Day Forms EP

Seize The Day.

worC is the solo project of French guitarist/producer Auré Pereira (Uneven Structure). This EP has been highly anticipated and has only just recently been released. This album is supposed to be the precursor to what the concept of Uneven Structure's full-length album will be.
From someone that's been following Pereira's work for a while now, all I can say is that this album does not disappoint. The tracks and demos that Pereira has released so far have been praised for their unique ambiance and texturing while retaining a heavy, Meshuggah-influenced groove. The cleaner guitar work has also been a unique trait of Pereira's demos, as his lead-work is done mostly on cleaner guitar.
This EP, as stated above, is supposed to be the prelude to what happens in his main band's debut "Februss." The entire five tracks on here all flow together in a way that, obviously, makes it feel like a single piece. This EP certainly demonstrates the all the sounds that have been present on the demos and songs before hand, namely the heavy grooves, opener Grene, to more atmospheric, Polymet, and even the overwhelming walls of sound, Velacit.
Overall, this EP is a total success for myself anyway, and only serves to enforce Pereira's unique spot in the metal world right now. This EP definitely showcases some of the best instrumental tech metal/djent so far this year. This is definitely an album that everyone should check out, it's short so it shouldn't take that much of your time, definitely look into this.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Reion, Velacit

After The Burial - In Dreams

In Their Dreams, Meshuggah Is God.

After The Burial is a progressive metalcore group from Minnesota. Their last record, 2008's "Rareform" earned them a great amount of success for their take on tech metal. This is their third album and has caused a bit of a stir based on the songs released so far.
Personally, I've never been the biggest fan of the band, though I've always respected them, as they played really well and wrote some cool songs, it was just never really something I'd put on if I wanted to listen to the tech metal genre. Personally, most of it had to do with the hardcore vocal style that the band utilized on their records, which to me, never really didn't quite fit how the band presented itself musically, even though there are hardcore elements in there. I had to agree with the majority however when it came to their last record, as it did showcase a lot of potential and evolution from their debut, this new record is not as great a jump, but definitely shows some improved songwriting abilities.
From the opening track, My Frailty, onward, this album proves to be the band's most melodic record. There are more obvious sounding choruses on this record, or at least ones that are easier to latch onto right away as well as a more, I'd call it upbeat, vibe on this record, personally this record just didn't feel as dark as their previous ones, just listen to Pendulum. While I didn't find this record to hold the same sort of dark atmosphere that the riffs on their older albums had, this more upbeat feeling makes this record so much more melodic and catchy sounding in comparison. The vocals on this album also prove to be more melodic as well, as tracks like the already mentioned Pendulum and Promises Kept contain clean vocals during their choruses that aren't used in the background.
However, like always, the thing that attracted me to the band in the first place, the musicianship, is impeccable. I found tracks like To Carry You Away or Encased In Ice to hold excellent playing, mainly guitar playing as these guys are fantastic soloists. In my opinion, I think anyone that enjoys progressive music would be able to enjoy this record based off of the guitar playing alone. The drumming is also well performed, performing technical poly-rhythms with almost ease, similar to how Meshuggah do it obviously, but maybe not that out-there, if you catchy my drift. However the bass is lacking, as it's almost inaudible on most of the disc, only coming out every once in a while.
Overall, I didn't enjoy this album as much as "Rareform" but it's definitely a lot more immediate and melodic. I don't know how others will respond to this, but speaking for myself, this album did not let me down at all. If you like technical, progressive metal take a gander at this, you might be surprised.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Your Troubles Will Cease and Fortune Will Smile Upon You, To Carry You Away, Promises Kept

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Salome - Terminal

Things Will Only Get Worse.

Salome is a doom metal trio from Virginia. This, the band's second album, was released by Profound Lore Records and keeps up with the label's mighty releases in this year, and previous. Besides that, fans of Agoraphobic Nosebleed will recognize vocalist Katherine Katz as being the most recent addition to that band.
For someone coming into this with maybe only a vague idea of what this actually is, depending on what you think it is anyway, you will either be extremely overjoyed or extremely disappointed by what you find. This is doom metal, it's slow, it's songs are long, it can be a bit of a pain to listen to, and it's not really all that friendly a listen compared to even other extreme metal genres. But if you're into doom you probably already know all of that and more, but this is just a short introduction for anyone that might think this has something to do with grindcore.
But onto the record itself, it's all the above as well as being very desolate, barren, and a bit abrasive while being very engaging. Make no mistake about it, this is a doom record, it's not going to suddenly burst out into a death or black metal riff at any point, though at times there are some hints are elements of grind and noise in here, opener The Message. Rob Moore's riffs have a tendency to come at varying speeds but retain that doom feel to them, think how Toni Iommi managed to write riffs that hinted at various styles while all of them only sounded like him playing them. This is certainly one of the band's strengths, proving to be able to utilize several, let's call them non-conventional, riffing styles while still very much having the same heaviness and crushing nature to each of them. It takes a real ignorant person to say that the opening riff on the epic Epidemic isn't both catchy and heavy.
As for Katz's vocals on the album, let's just say that she's no Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy), she definitely has a unique style, and to her benefit, it works rather well. She doesn't quite have the best or most original range out there, but she pulls off brutally low growls as well as throat shredding screams masterfully. Drummer Aaron Deal is also a master of his craft as well, pulling off excellent fills as well as switching up more simplistic, but fitting, slower parts with some almost punk-infused energy.
However, I can't honestly say that this is the best record it could have been, the longest track, the seventeen minute An Accident of History, proves to stand out like a sore thumb on this album. Unlike the rest of the songs on here, this track proves to move on at a droning pace, which by itself would have been fine, but the fact that this song is filled with samples of people talking about things that never really pop out as being interesting or intriguing. The fact that this is an instrumental doesn't really help the track either. With all that being said, this track isn't the worst song to come out this year, but it the song that stands out to be lacking the most on an album that is filled with songs that just pummel you.
With all the above being said, I can safely say that this album has turned me into a fan. Once again, Profound Lore has released only the best, releasing a band that takes doom and just turns it on it's head. If you like slow, heavy, groovy, brutal music, definitely give this a whirl.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Terminal, Epidemic, The Witness

Godless Grace - Уничтожение лживых надежд

Within The Atmosphere.

Godless Grace is a depressive black metal/blackgaze project from Russia. This, as far as I know, is the project's debut recording. I'm reviewing this simply based on the cover alone, I have little to no knowledge of the band itself, feel free to inform me if you know anything.
Let's just start off by saying that this thing is best used as atmosphere or ambient music, but that's just me. I found that this album is very repetitive and dreamy when it's using clean guitars and minimalistic drumming, but can prove to be just a bit more annoying when the vocals and distorted guitars enter. When those two factors enter into a track, it becomes little more than a pale imitation of what genre founders, of depressive black metal, have done. Opener Несуществование starts off well enough with some decent cleans and soft drumming, but soon becomes much more dull when the vocal shrieks appear.
The production, being from Russia, I never expect the absolute best, but for the style that this is, it actually isn't all that bad. The guitars are very atmospheric, with a lot of delay and reverb, and the distorted ones are pretty crisp sounding in comparison, but unfortunately the drums are pretty far back in the mix, which, based on what you think of this, can either be a good thing or a bad thing. The vocals are also quite far back when compared to the guitars, but this proves to be a good thing, as they don't tend to ruin the background ambiance, hear Освободи!.
To put it bluntly, when this album gets ambient, it gets good, when it gets metal, it tends to fade into the grey, as happens with many other artists in this sub-genre. I can't say that this album really ever impressed me with how different it is compared to other records, though it did have some decent moments, none of them that impressed me were ever distorted. Even when comparing this to other records of it's genre, this one is a bit different, as only about half of this record actually contains what could be seen as songs, the other half is just ambient music, which is what hit home with me.
Overall, this album has some really great ambient and atmospheric moments, but the metal moments are far from great. While I can't say this is a record that will please everyone, fans of the more ambient and atmospheric oriented sides of music will definitely find some of these tracks at least decent. If you like the above statements, chances are this album might appeal to you.
Overall Score: 5.5
Highlights: Белые крылья, M., Уничтожение лживых надежд

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dantalion - All Roads Lead to Death

Not A Pretty Picture At All.

Dantalion is an atmospheric black metal group from Spain. From what I understand about the previous two records that this band put out is that they're among high acclaim within the depressive/atmospheric field. This being their third record, the first one I've taken notice of, I can only speak on how this one sounds.
The intro track, Only Ashes Remain, starts the album off with a depressive vibe but is able to create a much different feeling thanks to production that is much clearer and pristine than many other groups within the depressive genre. This song is mid-paced, fairly traditional for the style's boundaries, but filled with some great fills on the drums, something that isn't often heard within the genre. However once this track ends, the band decide that mid-paced tempos and more depressive vibes get boring and they decide to go for a faster black metal sound, mind you it still retains a certain vibe, it is atmospheric black metal after all.
Seeing that most tracks on here are quite epic in length might also give some insight that the band are quite good at taking the depressive atmospherics and blending them with more "accepted" forms of atmospheric playing that doesn't rely on heavy repetition, thus faster tempos, more aggressive tremolo picking, and vocals that don't sound like a little girl wining. The last one can actually be heard now and again, but while it's done in a similar fashion to most bands within the genre, it at least retains a very black metal feel to it. I found that this album is also a lot more infectious and catchy than a lot of albums even within the atmospheric field, as tracks like Walking to Eternity and Thought of Desolation will show that this band is more than capable at writing catchy riffs and melodies.
There's a sense of authenticity on this album that comes through a bit more believably than a lot of other groups and projects in the same field appear to have. As the production on here is cleaner than a lot of other bands/projects for this genre, it's a lot easier to hear what's going on, everyone can be heard, from the horrid vocals, I mean that in a good way, to the flowing bass-lines on tracks like Bleakness. The production also lends itself to adding a darkness that feels more true to what the genre should have, think artists like Shining or Xasthur for this. In my own personal opinion, the vocals also help the band's case with sounding more authentic in that they are varied up quite a bit from the weird, depressive screaming by using more traditional screams, grunting, and even yelling, thus the vocals are able to be used more effectively and not become a parody of what they're meant to represent.
Overall, this is a decent record from a band I had only recently been introduced to and managed to create some of the best sounds within their respective genres. While I can't say this is a groundbreaking album, it certainly is one of the best sounding in the field. If you like depressive or atmospheric black metal, or even melodic black metal, I'd suggest looking into this.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Walking to Eternity, My Last Breath, Scorn

Murmuüre - Murmuüre

Scary Music For Scary People.

Murmuüre is an ambient black metal project from France. This is the debut recording from the project and came to my attention by another blog that reviewed this album. Catching my eye with it's different cover art and unique sound, I soon found myself more than willing to check this out.
If an album that starts with an almost new age sort of introduction bothers you, feel free to skip the rest of this review in favor of something else. The introductory track Primo Vere moves from new age to country-western movie score to raw black metal within it's fairly average length. But with that comes a take on building atmospheres from one section to the next to allow seamless transitions from one part to the next. However each track features it's own take on building atmospheres that, while it might not be the most conventional in this sub-genre, actually harks to more post-rock similarities.
The production also plays a big part in this album, it's very raw, while not being entirely undecipherable. There's enough of a noisy sound to give it an almost vintage feel while still being quite clear as atmospheres and different textures manage to shine through, hear Amethyst. I don't know whether this next part was intentional or not, but the drumming on here lends itself to an almost industrial sort of sound, as it's very mechanical and precise sounding on most tracks.
Overall, this is actually quite a well conceived debut with a lot of really unique sonic experimentation. There's definitely a lot of potential in here and a future release hopefully manages to only expand upon these ideas. If you like experimental, more ambient based, music than you should definitely give this a spin.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Reincarnate, L'Adieu Au Soleil

Friday, November 19, 2010

Solefald - Norrøn Livskunst

Norwegian Pride.

Solefald are an avant-garde metal duo from Norway. The band was formed in the mid-90s and while rooted in black metal, never conformed to it's boundaries. This is the duo's seventh full-length album, following up their double albums back in 2006.
While previous Solefald albums have no doubt been experimental, a trait that goes all the way back to their debut back "The Linear Scaffold" back in 1997, this album contains some of the duo's heaviest material since then. That's not saying this is a more traditional sounding album, cause it most certainly is not that, but several tracks on here retain a more straightforward, if you will, black metal style of riffing that wasn't found on the last couple of records. This is also the first album in which most of the tracks, all but one to be specific, are sung in a Norwegian.
Vocally, this album sees the return of Cornelius' growling and screaming, which have grown to be featured less and less in the duo's more recent work in favor of a more throaty style of singing and talking. Lazare's vocals on here retain his signature style of folk tinged operatic clean singing, which are perhaps more layered here than on previous albums, but still sound completely unique to only him. But I have to say something that annoyed me immensely on this album was the inclusion of a female singer, Agnete Kjølsrud, who also sang on the new Dimmu Borgir album, really ruins the mood on Tittentattenteksti providing a performance that could have been a great scat-singing moment for the band. Having said that, I did find her performance on here to be a lot more fitting than in Dimmu, but once again, her voice is just not to my liking.
But what everyone wants to know is how this album sounds. Like every other Solefald record, there's a variety of sounds, genres, and styles being crossed, mixed, and defied on this album, from more folk tinged melodies on Song Til Stormen to the smooth jazz of Eukalyptustreet or the eccentric electronic-meets-jazz hybrid on Vitets Vidd I Verdi, you get a wide variety on here. This is also the first Solefald album to apparently contain a guitar solo on it as well, provided by Vangelis Labrakis (Mencea).
Overall, this is an album that is just great, maybe not as mindblowing as some of the duo's earlier work, but this continues with the band's standard of releasing only high quality music. I can honestly say that this album is so catchy, progressive, and unique while retaining a completely individualistic style that is only Solefald. This is a must for this year, definitely check this out if you like experimental music in any way.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Transcending Bizarre? - The Misanthrope's Fable

That Name Seems Fitting.

Transcending Bizarre is a post-black/avant-garde metal group from Greece. Though the band are not the biggest out there, with their previous two releases they started to build a cult following around the world. This is their third album and features even more illustrious additions to the band's sound.
Over their previous two releases, the band have blended elements from black metal, progressive rock, industrial and symphonic music, and hints of other genres into their music, this album takes that to new heights. Thus the illustrious title of progressive symphonic black metal is often put on this band, which is fitting, but not entirely accurate. This album still manages to be unique while taking the band's sound to a new level that hasn't been heard yet within the realm of black metal.
This album takes the symphonic elements that have always been used, but brings them more to the forefront on this album, and while it's easy to say this album is orchestrated, personally, I never saw it as being over orchestrated, despite using everything from traditional string to horns and additional percussion. In addition to all of that, a children's choir has also been used on this album. Thus this album takes a much more theatrical approach than previous works, which can be hit and miss, but it is certainly commendable.
The band have not lost their more progressive elements on here though, as orchestration never takes over a song, remaining only a part of the band's overall sound. Tracks like The Beginning showcase multiple solos while still sticking to a formula that is easy to grasp, but there are still tracks like Envisaging The Ideal Planet which are much more adventurous and experimental sounding in comparison. With more adventurous music comes vocals that are more out-there as well, as this album contains everything from traditional black metal screams, death metal growls, avant-garde singing and crooning, to even a guest spot of Vulture Industries vocalist Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen on The Empire of Mind.
As this album progressed forward, I actually found it becoming more interesting and engaging. This album certainly doesn't waver by putting all of it's best tracks at the beginning or the end, but one that only gets better the more you listen to it, as repeated listens showed. This album also has a nice flow to it, where not every track overlaps into the next, but gradually builds on top of one another.
Overall, this can be seen as another step up for the band, with this album taking their songwriting abilities to new heights. This is definitely an album that stands as being an original in defiance to all that is true and kvlt, choosing to progress and explore. If you like progressive or experimental metal in any way, definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Envisaging The Ideal Planet, The Murderer's of The Young Ones, The Return to Nothingness

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Deafheaven - DFHVN Demo

God Certainly Never Predicted This.

Deafheaven is a post-black metal band from California. This is the groups first demo and has made some waves in the underground with it's take on the post-black/blackgaze genre. In a genre that is filled with many imitators and copycats, this demo is supposed to even rival Neige, one of the genre's creators and proprietors.
The four tracks on this rather short demo proves to combine elements of black metal, shoegaze, post-punk, and dream pop, with the occasional bit of doom as well, with a sound that is uniquely it's own. What makes this band pop out within a scene that has proved to be fairly redundant in it's sound and where, really the only ones able to pull of the sound authentically would be the genre's founders, this band manage to use full-throttle black metal tremolo picking, post-rock build-ups, and short dreamy melodies in conjunction with each other successfully. Their unique blend can be seen within the third track, Daedalus, which opens with an almost happy sounding melody and then shifts into black metal throughout it's length.
It becomes easily apparent that this band is sure to become one of American black metal's shining stars when they can create something this unique on a demo, a full-length or EP should be mind-blowing. While there are some moments on here that are a bit average at best, Libertine Dissolves isn't exactly anything to write home about, but still manages to be heads and shoulders above what other bands in the scene, and even in America are doing right now. The final track, Exit:Denied also manages to throw the doom element in there with some more epic moments.
Overall, like everything else that's been written about this band, and demo, I too am rooting for these guys. This demo is simply spectacular in it's boundary breaking and shows no sign as to conform to standards. If you like any of the above genres, I suggest you check this out immediately.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Daedalus, Exit:Denied