By on 17 February 2011


Would you believe it? We get sent over 500 albums a month to review, and most of them are killer, and some, well, you can imagine…

Since we only have so much space in the magazine for reviews it’s time we utilised this little corner of cyberspace to introduce you to some cuts that should (or some cases should not) make it onto your Amazon wishlist…

‘Vol. 4’
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Apokalyptic Raids or Warhammer? Despite coming from two distant corners of the world (Brazil and Germany), both acts have the very same mission of resurrecting Hellhammer’s original spirit. This being said, if Warhammer’s template is the ‘Apocalyptic Raids 1990 AD’ EP, their even more retrograde Brazilian colleagues stand more behind the punkish ‘Death Fiend’ demo. Still led by the notoriously Hammer-obsessed Necromaniac and backed up by a revolving line-up of various members of the retro-thrash/heavy Brazilian scene (Farscape, Sodomizer, Atomic Roar), Apokalyptic Raids may now dare to move away from the occult theme – bar ‘Priest Of Evil’, which is all South American joyful primitivism and broken English (“I spit in the priest/I fuck the virgin/Death to the traitor/The slave of Christ is dead”[$itals lyrics]) – and stretch on the verge of blasphemy by proudly claiming that “even death is not real”. Of course, the casual listener will hear nothing other than their purely juvenile Tom G Warrior adulation. And all for the better.

‘Beneath The Frozen Soil/Evoken’
Here, the titanic Evoken offer a re-recording of 2002s ‘Omniscient’, two tracks recorded following 2007s epic ‘A Caress Of The Void’, and a brand new instrumental. Affairs on planet Evoken do not obey modern human time-frames, and any evolution to their trademark sound (massive, reverberating, morose incantations, slowly descending to uncharted abysmal depths) indeed takes as long as geological transformations during ‘The Pleistocene Epoch’, to borrow another song title. That is not a diplomatic way to say Evoken are funeral doom’s AC/DC; that aeon-long descent is constantly demanding and rewarding. Sweden’s Beneath The Frozen Soil, like true doomsters, don’t seek upheaval, but rather elaborate more subtly on the genre’s canon. ‘Monotone Black I’ opens in salutation to Evoken, yet develops to something more ‘rocking’, relatively speaking; not a harrowing dirge as much as a more human-sized, almost Gothic, hymn to the plague of divine melancholy. 

‘Rotten Leaders’
Don’t let the zombie artwork fool you into thinking this is a cartoony death metal effort, because Bloodattack are so much more than that. Yes, there are some deathy overtones to be had here, primarily from the vo-kills, but for the most part this is an ambitious – albeit incredibly violent – metalcore album. These guys wring every last ounce of intensity from every single passage of ‘Rotten Leaders’, and they’re not scared to go off on a tangent either, so there’s more than one or two surprises arrangement-wise. Opener ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua’ sets the guys’ stall out early: a barrage of guttural screams, a slew of insane blastbeats, a crushing beatdown, a smattering of d-beat grind and a metallic hardcore riff that Strife would have took up the booze to have written. They even unearth some (fucking hostile) melody amongst the thrashing chaos, but never fear, it’s all done in the worst possible taste! Awesome. 

‘Fuck You And All You Stand For!’
Stoke-on-Trent’s Broken Bones have been ploughing a fairly even furrow since their 2001 ‘comeback’ album, ‘Without Conscience’; that was a decent collection of angry, thrashy, metallic punk, and 2005’s ‘Time For Anger, Not Justice’ just tweaked everything up a notch. Now, with the release of ‘Fuck You And All You Stand For!’, the band’s ninth album, you have to wonder how many notches there actually are left, as Broken Bones manage to wring even more intensity from essentially the same formula they’ve been using for the best part of thirty years. To be honest, if you put aside the warm nostalgia that might surround their ’80s output, the band have never sounded better: super fast, super tight, and ever-so-slightly more melodic than guitarist Bones’ other band, Discharge. And, just in case that album title doesn’t give it away, they’re more pissed off than ever. 

‘The Black Army Stands’
It’s amazing to think that even though metal has existed for a solid 40 years, it has taken these Kiwis forming sometime last year for anyone to actually name their band Bulletbelt. The sad thing isn’t the collective metal scene’s lack of exploiting the really fucking obvious[$‘really fucking obvious’ in italics]; it’s that this trio aren’t the ones who’ll have the non-bullet belt clad running to beg, borrow or steal for an ammo strap/slice of man-jewellery, so wallpaper ordinary are the New Zealand outfit. Buy ‘em a pint of virgin’s blood for the addition of a little warmth via an audible bass (or ‘depth’ as bassist Tomb’s role is described) and the excellent – though highly out of place – guest solo on ‘Rape The Angel’, but simply aping their Swedish black metal overlords and heroes without bringing any of their own flavour to the table is about as obvious as naming your band Bulletbelt. But nowhere near as cool.

‘Trial By Ice 2002-2010’
Described by the accompanying press release as ‘diverse and highly original’, this compilation of Cold Northern Vengeance tracks spans eight years of treading water in one of the world of metal’s most unforgiving genres. As such there is little unifying presence, as stylistically it ranges from Averse Sefira influenced experimental black metal, through out and out rip-off Norsecore to more atmospheric fare. As for the vocals, lets just pretend there aren’t any as they are so bad it defies belief. Much internet debate concerns the legitimacy of USBM, and it’s sad to say that bands like Cold Northern Vengeance don’t do their countrymen any favours whatsoever. Sure there are some pleasant passages scattered throughout the ten tracks on ‘Trial By Ice’, but just to twist the knife, the whole thing lasts a torturous 70 minutes that even die-hard fans would find a struggle to endure. 

In addition to a couple of full-lengths over the course of seven-or-so years of history, these Poles’ recorded work has mostly consisted of appearances on Manilla Road, WASP, Cirith Ungol and Angel Witch tribute albums. Not hard to see where they’re coming from, eh? Though frontbabe Leather Wych (AKA Marta Gabriel) shuns the notion that trad/NWOBHM is the exclusive domain of pasty, nerdy males (though, looking at her band mates, it’s by a thread), there’s nothing she, or the rest of Crystal Vipers, do to prove themselves little more than a shoulder shrug worthy tribute act that a few handfuls of folks will lose their shit over at the next Keep It True Festival. Keeping it exciting, interesting or somewhat compelling is apparently more difficult than riff recycling with the hope that a tight body crammed into tight leather will help cut the mustard. For the horny hordes it might, but tight bodies and generic heavy metal are a dime-a-dozen

‘Delirium, Dissonance And Death’
Norwegian Kim Sølve has been a member of several other bands, including Swarms, -M- and K100, but is better known for being half of Trine + Kim Design Studio, who have produced cover art for many leading extreme metal acts, including Darkthrone, Mayhem, Arcturus, Ulver and Ihsahn. For Delirium Bound’s debut, in the making since 1997, Kim’s guitar and bass work is combined with the drums and vocals of Bjeima (Yurei, The Ghost Conspiracy). Mannevond of Koldbrann and Urgehal also contributes guest vocals to ‘Death Kings’. Unsurprisingly, given Kim’s design background, ‘Delirium, Dissonance And Death’ has great cover art, its gatefold digipack adorned with shiny black fetish imagery – the music is less adventurous, being no-frills blackened thrash of a kind that could almost be considered trad these days, nodding towards the ‘80s influences of Voivod, Celtic Frost and early Bathory. However, Bjeima’s fluid, untriggered drumming provides a firm foundation for the dissonant brutality of ‘Coronated In Accidents’ and the minatory crawl of ‘Zippermouth’.

‘Blood Of The Pentagram’
The production on ‘Blood Of The Pentagram’ is shit (and not in the charmingly lo-fi, vintage Darkthrone kind of way) but, while the way-too-loud vocals might grate after a while, it’s not a deal-breaker. The album starts weakly, but picks up the pace somewhere around ‘Necromance’, sinking into a properly nasty groove by the time ‘Brought Before The Altar’ rears its ugly head. Gravewurm make the most of these twelve tracks of godless noise; they’ve been kicking around the American underground for twenty years, and have clearly picked up a trick or two since 1992s ‘Bestial Wrath’ demo. Fundamentally black/thrash, Gravewurm’s sound owes quite a bit to the legions of old – Tormentor, Master’s Hammer, Sodom – but are wholly content to mix in death, doom and even heavy metal (see ‘In Praise Of Evil’), adhering to a mid-speed template and churning away beneath Funeral Grave’s lycanthropic gurgle. Die-hards take note; posers, beware!

‘Bloody Pit of Horror’
GWAR’s twelfth studio album packs in as much filth as you can shake a bloody stump at. It also delivers far more gratuity than the original ‘Bloody Pit Of Horror’, a half-assed, 1965 Italian horror-exploitation flick. Lead eight-string guitarist Flattus Maximus penned these focused metal tunes with the intention to craft a now aborted solo album until he realised that he actually wanted to sell some records, and from the first notes of lead track, ‘Zombies, March’, Oderus Urungus sticks tongue through cheek with a quick pastiche of ELP’s ‘Karn Evil 9’. Oderus is singing better than ever, which could be great if not for the constant caricatures and potty humor, but if you’re a GWAR fan, you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Lyrics range from important topics like Joseph Mengele to the misogyny of power ballad ‘You Are My Meat’, but most fun of all is ‘Litany Of The Slain’, which chronologically lists everyone that’s ever been killed on stage by GWAR, from Manuel Noriega to Sharon Osbourne.  

‘Wiara, Nadzieja… Potepienie’
This prolific one-man Polish/Slavonic pride pagan BM band (AKA L.O.N) completes a trilogy that commenced in 2009 with ‘Od Poludnia Na Polnoc’ and ‘Kry’. The final instalment comes with a special bonus CD divided to three twenty-minute tracks, full of extended cinematic motifs, themes and sweeps from all parts. On a range spanning conceptual brothers-in-arms Negura Bunget, originators of the mid-paced, ethnically-inclined epic Bathory, and the occasional Burzum-esque[$itals] echo, Hellveto effortlessly balance primitivist BM, neo-classical ornamentation and folk elements to a convincing narrative continuity. It is especially evident in regards to the folk element; what in the case of countless other bands sounds stuck on top of the metal parts is in Hellveto’s case organically integrated into the composition and more importantly invokes a sense of awe, earnestness and longing as opposed to drunken tomfoolery. ‘Gdy Ogien U Bram Zaplonal’ even possesses a strong neo-folk feel reminiscent of Allerseelen. 

Finland’s Jumalhämärä have been active since 1996, releasing two demos and two EPs (a live album ‘Perkeleen Valta Ja Voma’ came in 2000). Although it took fourteen years, they now offer their full-length debut, ‘Resignaatio’. Ahdistuksen Aihio calls ‘Resignaatio’ “adult-oriented black metal”. This description has nothing to do with pornography, but everything to do with Jumalhämärä’s insistence on throwing the dusty grimoires and other assorted black metal clichés defiantly out the nearest grime-blackened window. Garden variety Christ-raping, goat fornication-embracing black metal purists will find no comfort in Jumalhämärä’s dissonant, topsy-turvy and, at times, sublime world. ‘Resignaatio’ is most certainly an acquired taste, but you will be rewarded – if you are patient – by what is certainly one of the most engaging underground releases this year. With multiple, dense sonic layers, at times it sounds like two different bands, both with split personalities themselves, battling for your attention. Telling more would only spoil the myriad surprises. ‘Resignaatio’s only cliché: Expect the unexpected.

‘Set For Extinction’
Steve Austin wears Kill The Client t-shirts onstage, that’s how cool they are. Even if they got us a bit worried back there. 2008’s ‘Cleptocracy’ was a bit too bland, but ‘Set For Extinction’, their first album for Relapse (who are quickly becoming the main spiritual home of prime grind), puts them right back on the ball-emptying destruction track set by their debut. It’s not a huge departure – only three of the nineteen songs make it to the two-minute mark and it’s all over in less than half an hour, during which Kill The Client basically throw rapid-fire riffs, blastbeat uncontrollably and scream as loud as vocalist Morgan can without puking a lung in the process – but the little things nail it. Riffs that twist and morph naturally into each other, a bit of d-beat creeping up here and there or death metal stompers like ‘The Walking Dead’; all essential details that make this album special and elevate it high above lesser blast dealers.

‘Blasphemes Et Cuites Morbides’
Recovered from the perma-frost winter of the pessimistic Quebecois black metal scene, this compilation of odds and sods of Monarque’s demos and unreleased material is properly frigid. Monotonous, bleak and speaking French with a twang of Norwegian, there is nothing to convince anyone that Monarque will ever shake the natural order. Their aesthetic is cult enough to keep the unwholesome krieg[$italics] division of Terrorizer’s readership interested, but just long enough to actually buy the record. Once you’ve got your hands on one of these (limited to 666), the fog clears and the interest dries over moments of debilitating ennui, inspired by mid-paced toil played by hands in the advanced stages of necro-claw. Fuck it, it doesn’t matter. It’s coming up to the height of winter; here’s hoping it’s a brutal, protracted affair so there is plenty of time to get snowed in and work our way through Burzum’s, Ildjarn’s and, shit, even scene-neighbours Forteresse’s back catalogue before we get to this.

‘Forging the Eclipse’
A serious question for Neaera fans out there: can you even hum a song of theirs in its entirety? Sure, they’ve been putting out a very passable blend of melodeath, metalcore and thrash for a good number of years now, but there comes a time where you have to ask yourself: just how many Neaera albums do I actually need[$itals] to own? On a primal level, ‘Forging the Eclipse’ pushes all the right buttons; the riffs are sharp and concise, tempos range from groovy Swedish death to pure blastbeats and the songs have those well-timed breakdowns that ragers in the pit love. The deeper you get into the Germans’ fifth album, however, the more futile the exercise becomes. Audiences shouldn’t have to try this damn hard to connect to a song. This is melodic death metal, not flippin’ Cryptopsy. Note the root word melody[$itals]. Try as songs like ‘Exaltation’ and ‘Heaven’s Descent’ might, it’s just a waste of everyone’s time.

‘Andromeda Awaiting’
‘Andromeda Awaiting’ is the final chapter in a trilogy that began with 2006’s ‘Nihil’ and what a strange tale it is. This Swiss collective dwell somewhere between neofolk and progressive rock, occupying a tranquil little oasis wherein Jethro Tull, Tenhi, and Vivaldi are worshipped in equal measure. Nucleus Torn construct their songs like classical compositions, in recognisable movements that gently lead the listener from idea to idea. Melancholy, beautiful, and altogether strange, they weave together classical, prog, neofolk, early music and the odd jazzy flourish and relies on violin, cello, piano and flute (lots of flute!) to animate their creations. ‘Andromeda Awaiting’ is very light on vocals, as only a handful of isolated passages feature male or husky female voices to great effect (especially over the slinky, Middle Eastern scales on ‘IV’). The whole album carries an otherwordly, romantic vibe. This one’s for the dreamers.

‘As A Dog Returns’
When Victor Griffin unveiled Place Of Skulls a decade ago, the band’s Christian ideology was something you had to untangle from the standard-issue doom histrionics. Now, it’s more or less front and centre. ‘As A Dog Returns’ is a pretty well known Biblical phrase for one thing (more so than, say,‘place of skulls’), and songtitles on the band’s fourth album include ‘The Maker’, ‘He’s God’ and ‘Psalm’. Oof, our heads – Griffin must be using a hardback copy. It’s unclear whether Griffin’s evangelic streak has widened or he just figures we’re comfortable with it by now but, distressingly, a sizeable chunk of this sounds like Christian rock and actually defines itself as such. ‘Though He Slay Me’ is radio-ready goop primed to break doom lifers’ hearts, while the likes of ‘Desperation’ are only ‘saved’ (geddit) by Vic’s granite guitar tone. That said, ‘Dayspring’ is a well of aqueous purity indeed; ten minutes of luded-out biker doom hailing ex-member Scott Weinrich and Griffin’s former vessel Pentagram.

‘Ode To Obscurantism’
Backlash ought to be around the corner for the once highly influential Norwegian black metal scene and its third generation of bands are now looking everywhere but their own country for inspiration. And even if Ved Buens Ende’s twisted fucked-upness plays a small part in the equation, the eyes of Sjodogg are really set on Deathspell Omega’s most recent works. If two years ago ‘Landscapes Of Disease And Decadence’ was a good yet predictable debut, this new recording sees them thinking largely out of the box. Bereft of any electronic inputs, their music now refuses to apply to standard song structures, all dissonant and curled up around drum veteran Kjetil ‘Hordeolum’ Hektoen’s (Enthral, Crest Of Darkness) performance. The problem is that not everybody rides on the same level, especially frontman Vulnus who struggles to have his foot in the door, not helped by his lacklustre performance or ‘Ode To Obscurantism’s sometimes over-zealous wanderings. 

‘A Columbus Feeling’
Although nowhere near as fast these days given that their classic skate/thrash debut, ‘Something To Prove’, was way back in 1986, Germany’s Spermbirds still possess the twitchy energy and wild eclecticism that helped elevate them above their peers even then, and vocalist Lee Hollis’s demented twang remains as unique as ever. Those who’ve tracked the band over the years will know what to expect – quirky hardcore punk as intelligent as it is listenable – but for those in need of a reference point, there’s only really the (Jello era) Dead Kennedys to compare them to, not just for the sonic similarities and juddering great tunes, but also the unwillingness to be tied down and categorised. So here we get manic banjo intros, filthy rumbling bass lines, groovy psychobilly rhythms and lots of choruses Sick Of It All would kill for, but the overall vibe of ‘A Columbus Feeling’ is of a meaningful punk rock band that are very comfortable in their own skin.

‘Chronicon Finlandiae’
Stormheit are nowhere near as nasty as one may expect given their name and origin, but aren’t exactly choirboys either, as their Pagan Front and Darker Than Black affiliations make clear. Unlike Finnish brethren Archgoat or Satanic Warmaster, this Scandinavian duo are far more interested in refined melodies and poetry than in blaspheming or blastbeating. ‘Chronicon Finlandiae’ is based upon Eino Leino’s poem, ‘Tarina Suuresta Tammesta’, and blends traditional folk music with acoustic and electric guitar, kantele, synth, black metal, rock and a variety of vocal styles, with mixed results. At its folk/black metally best, mainman Stormheit’s clear, airy voice enchants, and the group’s fondness for ‘Nordland’-era Bathory and Nokturnal Mortum shines through. At its worst, ‘Chronicon Finlandiae’ errs on the side of cheesiness and self-indulgence (besides other obvious drawbacks that may turn off those who care about political matters). Fans of Hate Forest, pretty acoustic bits and nationalism – this is the band for you!

‘Sowberry Hagan’
It is claimed, by Ultraphallus themselves, that the name Ultraphallus is a tribute to Michael Jackson’s father Joe, “who raped and educated his children hardly” – their words, not ours. That the band are from Belgium seems relevant somehow. Any road, their sense of humour appears as ribald as the depth of their taste for screwed ‘n’ chopped Melvins-esque[$itals] metal; certainly, Ultraphallus are a band born to release product on the Riot Season label, continuing the sterling work of units like Hey Colossus, Circle and Shit And Shine. You’re as likely to navigate an imposing tower of riffs – ‘Indians Love Rain’, ‘Golden Fame’ – as a depressing and arid field of grey static and broken gear like ‘Cinghiale’. ‘Sowberry Hagan’s longest track, ‘The Red Print’, has its waves of uneasy space-rock vocalised by Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson; he plays a blinder, as per usual, but it’s now getting to the point where it would be more of a novelty for a leftfield metal band not[$italics] to have him guesting.

‘Past Present: Breaking Out The Classics’
Back in 1997, when Revelation Records put out their ‘In-Flight Program’ sampler it shone a much-needed spotlight onto their vast back catalogue. Bands that had been enjoying a modicum of radio airplay, such as Quicksand and Shelter, made Rev #50 a much talked about compilation, but it also introduced listeners of Greg Anderson’s Engine Kid, the pre-RATM Inside Out, youth crew alumni Chain Of Strength and Gorilla Biscuits, essential cuts from Judge and Underdog and pre-“emo” anthems from Sense Field and Farside. Now on their 150th release they’re revisting the format, but this time with covers. Sick Of It All doing Warzone – that makes sense. As does Down To Nothing covering Judge. Damnation AD beef up GB’s ‘Hold Your Ground’ giving it a new lease of life and Scott ‘Terror’ Vogel’s infamous barking over Side By Side’s ‘Friend’s is a near-perfect, even Walter ‘Quicksand’ Schreifels’ acoustic SOIA covers are genius. Contemporary Rev artists digging through the archives – it’s a wonderful statement of intent from such an important hardcore label and a fantastic celebration of their body of work. 

‘Whom The Moon A Nightsong Sings’
Prophecy Productions have always had a very particular sound and aesthetic, which has made previous label samplers unusually cohesive listens. ‘Whom The Moon…’ is much more than a mere sampler – a deluxe double album of predominantly acoustic music, with most tracks rare or previously unreleased. Undoubtedly, most excitement will be caused by the revivified Empyrium’s first release since 2006, although the operatic pomp of ‘The Days Before the Fall’ seems far removed from the sparse Naturmystik of their last album, ‘Weiland’. Another notable inclusion is the Ulver track ‘Synen’, previously only available on a rare 1997 compilation. ‘Kveldssanger’ devotees will lap up its cello-drenched dolefulness. Tenhi, October Falls, Dornenreich and Les Discrets also contribute (Fursy Teyssier of Les Discrets also provides the atmospheric cover art), and Prophecy’s neofolk imprint Auerbach is represented here by Vàli, Neun Welten and Orphic. ‘Whom The Moon…’springs no great surprises, but as music to watch the autumn leaves wither and fall by, it’s hard to beat.


About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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