Monday, February 24, 2014

Gridlink- Longhena(2014)

Gridlink- Longhena

It's always interesting to hear a band when they reach the curtain call.  Longhena is Gridlink's declaration to the world: they are no more, history is devouring them and all they will leave behind is the resonance of their art through the ages.  They frankly don't give a fuck what anyone thinks, because this is it.  One last shot at codifying their identity into sonic form and leaving it for the masses to judge and disseminate among themselves.  Longhena feels very much like an album made for the musicians who created it, and we all get to bask in that freedom of not giving two flying fucks.

You can probably guess what Longhena is all about.  Grindcore, like much of Extreme Metal(yes, it's Metal), is very much a genre of tradition and paradigms.  Longhena has not need for such things, and both are ripped to shreds in melodic, Heavy Metal riffs and longing ambient pieces.  In fact, it's debatable whether Gridlink were even trying to make a Grindcore record here, or rather just some sort of distillation of their musical taste's and influences which includes healthy doses of Traditional Metal, Grindcore, Prog Rock and Ambient, all vigorously whipped together with a futuristic, Japanese cyber punk flavor and Jon Chang's legendary vocals and powerful, poetic prose.

Jon Chang.  If I can fanboy out for a moment, I need to talk about Jon Chang.  Not the man, as I don't personally know him, but Jon Chang the vocalist.  If the end of Gridlink means one sad thing for me, it's the idea that this might be the last we hear of him as one of the defining vocalists of his generation.  Many love his style and many hate his style.  Others find it unimpressive.  But when Chang provides vocals for a project, everyone know it is him: his manic, inhuman shrieks and throaty guttural grunts are simply unmatched within Extreme Metal in general, and when I was grinding out vocals for some shitty Grindcore band that I really loved playing in(even if we were shitty), I tried to channel Chang in every performance.  I tried to channel the wrath, disgust and complete humanity that Chang gave us on The Inalienable Dreamless.  Often, when praising vocalists, especially Extreme Metal vocalists, we praise them for how they seem to have transcended their humanity and transformed in raging beasts, subterranean demons or longing banshees.  But Chang's gift comes from the overwhelming, soul crushing humanity of his vocals.  This is what makes him special, and for me the greatest Extreme Metal vocalist ever.

It helps Longhena that this is the best Chang has sounded since his time with Discordance Axis.  It was hard not to noticed a down tick in intensity with Gridlink's previous releases and with Hayanio Daisuki, though this can be chalked up to the obvious throat damage of Chang's unhinged style surely has brought.  But like the unhinged and off-kilter style of Longhena the album, Chang is clearly pulling out all the stops, throat be damned.

Grindcore be damned as well.  From the opening sparkly and bouncy riff of "Constant Autumn," to the whirring Heavy Metal dual melody attack of "Ketsui" to the somber, dissonant Prog Metal sections of "Island Sun," Longhena declares itself separate from the classification.  "Thirst Watcher" provides a moment of quiet introspection early in the album, as clean guitars twirl and dance with muted electronic sounds and a howling violin, and it certainly stands out as unlike anything you would have expected.  Longhena does have some solid moments of what's mostly Grindcore: "Chalk Maple" is still highly melodic, but feels like a good Tech Grind songs and features some brilliant guest vocals from Paul Pavolich of Assuck fame(man, this album can't be more awesome.)  "Wartime Exception Law 2005" blasts through a mere 29 seconds of techy, lush Grindcore and dissonant, off axis musical twisting, feeling pretty close to something off of Amber Gray or Orphan.  Takafumi Matsubara is a relentless shred master, which he showed with Hayanio Daisuki, but he also shows a brilliant affinity for technical, metallic Grindcore riffs and discordant compositions.   

There is an undeniable current of beauty that flows through Longhena which gives it a feeling that seems so totally alien to Extreme Metal.  Dare I say, Longhena sounds very... happy at times.  Not that is doesn't have it's dark and somber moments("Island Sun"), but there is a very noticeable positive slant to the entire experience.  Gridlink are having a hell of a lot of fun on with this material, and it's impossible not to smile along with them.  It's all helped by a sparking, crystal clear production, but it feels perfectly appropriate considering the energy and positive vibes of the material.  It's one of the most listenable and enjoyable, and highly addicting, releases I've heard, and without question the best Grindlink album.

Longhena is the musical equivalent of a walk off grand-slam; it's rare, it's powerful and it fucking wins the game.  My love for Grindcore and for Discordance Axis always kept me involved in Gridlink, but I'll  be the first to admit I was not a massive fan of the project.  It felt too much like Discordance Axis to me, just more Japanese and clean, and yet it lacked the massive intensity and wrath of hateful conviction.  This makes Longhena also sorrowfully bittersweet, as it appears in their last moment Gridlink had developed a sound which helped them stand apart from the legacy of earlier progeny and walk a new, undiscovered musical path.  Yet Longhena feels largely complete, as though nothing is really missing.  Gridlink are gone, but Longhena remains and will be heard and appreciated for years to come

i.e. this is how you go out with a fucking bang


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Inquisition- Obscure Verses for the Multiverse(2013)

Inquisition- Obscure Verses for the Multiverse

Inquisition releasing a new album isn't just a big deal among the initiated in the cloak and dagger crowd.  It's a time of furious infighting over Dagon's vocal transformation from early releases like Incense of Rest to more recent releases like Nefarious Dismal Orations.  It's a time when the zealot seeks to destroy "the false"and disinterested, who ask: "What's the big deal?  Now Sunbather, that's awesome."  It's a time of comparisons between different era's, different guitar sounds and different song writing techniques spanning a career of consistent excellence and divisive interpretations.

Obscure Verses for the Multiverse is not just another release.  It's an event.

Don't mistake this for hyperbolic praise for Obscure Verses.  It's merely an observation.  In truth, Obscure Verses is as rock solid and listenable as any release they band have produced, occasionally ascending to something greater.  It's melodic, dissonant, big and ballsy, featuring the cleanest and punchiest sound the band have ever produced, though not quite as sonically massive or warm as Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm.  It's got equal appeal among traditionalists, Black Metal newbies with a hard on for Marduk and those craving walls of atmosphere; this is the most Populist Inquisition release to date.

This isn't a bad thing: Inquisition, newly minted to Season of Mist and releasing Obscure Verses with the biggest budget the duo have ever enjoyed, have every reason to expand their audience.  The fact that they are doing so while remaining 100% true to the sound and style that made them the dark God's of Black Metal atmosphere and intensity is all the better.  This is vintage Inquisition magic: riffs, riffs and more riffs, filtered through a fog of cosmic gas and inter- dimensional diffuse and regurgitated by The Old Gods into sound waves big enough to smother lungs and snap bones.  Dagon rants and raves in alien tongues like an extraterrestrial minister lost in a demonic trance, while a wall of dense sound crashes down upon you.  The budget may be bigger, the guitar sound cleaner and the drums punchier, but this is simply Inquisition rendered in a new light.

Dagon's guitar is a weapon of mass destruction; a mighty axe, crafted from the nucleus of a long dead comet.  It is the lifeblood of Obscure Verses, the center of it's might gravitational pull, and strikes with the force of planetary inertia.  Which is both the most excellent aspect of Obscure Verses and it's biggest failure: this is perhaps the least imaginative and dynamic Inquisition release to date.  Outside of some surprising vocal variety on "Darkness Flows Toward Unseen Horizons," this album feels largely like a complete rehashing of the bands previously ventured paths.  It's hard to argue with the results in the long run, but when stacked up to a discography of almost endless brilliance and consistent redefinition of their sound, Obscure Verses feels like the second time for the first time in the bands legacy.

Yet if Obscure Verses doesn't completely dominate your listening for at least a week, hang up your spurs and buy a Lorde album... or Black Eyed Peas.  Whatever the kids are listening to.  This is such a purely energetic album, bristling with a true love for Metal and what makes this genre so god dame awesome is on full display.  The band are such master technicians, such master song writers and craftsmen, that anything they touch will exude an artistic confidence and listenability few bands can match.  Obscure Verses is more a testament to the artist who created it than the art itself.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bölzer- Aura(2013)

Bölzer- Aura


If you find yourself at a loss for words after spinning Aura, the devastating and fresh EP from Switzerland's resident warlocks Bölzer, you are certainly not alone.  Aura is an album with a sound and sense of style no other has been able to obtain, and stands as one of Death Metal's most unique and mystifying records.  It's heaviness is matched only by the controlled but adventurous creativity, and both are completely dwarfed by the sheer sonic mass of it's riffs; all a galactic force of sheer density and dynamic melody  The second "Entranced by the Wolfshook" begins to soar from your speakers like a comet streaking across a blood red and black sky, leaving in it's wake ominous omens of apocalypse, you'll fully understand what you are listening to hasn't been attempted before.  It's exciting, and even more so worth experiencing first hand.

Bölzer has built the very essence of Aura around brilliant guitar work and flawless song-writing.  I've already described the riffs as monolithic, and to be honest there are a dozen other adjectives I could throw at them: titanic, haunting, oddly beautiful, captivating.  It goes without saying that Aura is the great guitar driven album of the year, and it a swirling mass of Blackened Death Metal which has no real analog in the rest of the scene.  Aura is at it's heart a very old-school sounding album.  Possessing little in the way of blast beats and no ambient keyboard or electronic noises, Aura feels like an album from the early years of Death Metal with it's supreme emphasis on riffs, riffs, and more riffs.  Yet Aura also feels alien; it's creativity borders on dangerous and challenging to the established song-writing in the scene.  Imagine Incantation and Asphyx had launched Onward to Golgotha and Last One on Earth into space, where it was discovered by an alien intelligence possessing the technology to use sound as a way to rip planets into pieces for some demented astrological property management.  Imagine that they wrote their own Death Metal album after absorbing these albums for a decade and added their own utterly inhuman flavor to it, then sent the sheet music to Switzerland in a pod which I imagine both HzR and KzR discovered. Aura seems like their near perfect attempt to translate this inconceivable creation with pathetic human instruments.

I like the space theme here, because Aura has the sort of expansive and riff driven sound which brings to mind early Post-Sludge masters Neurosis and Isis and the thundering and classic domination of Celtic Frost.  There are so many potential influences here, and they are all melted down and folded together to form a steel that cannot be broken; it will slice through your flesh with the ease of the metaphorical knife into the metaphorical flesh-butter.  This is all aided by the perfect tendons which hold the musculature of the album together: the drumming is effective and unobtrusive, and it bears mentioning again how nice it is not being assaulted by endless blast-beats.  The production is expansive, spacey and raw, yet even and incredibly full throated; Aura sounds fucking great, especially on vinyl(this is the kind of record made with wax in mind.)  And the vocals are second only to the riffs in pure power and effectiveness; KzR mixes a solid guttural growl with a strong mid-register scream, but he really shines with his moaning, tortured clean yells.  When KzR starts torturing his throat over this tsunami-sized riffs, it really drives home the Neurosis influence on Aura, though Blackend Death Metal remains the core of the albums sound.  This is an album which can bring together the trve and the false together for some fascinating pillow talk.

Whether listening to the gorgeous "Entranced by the Wolfshook," with its addicting and hook laden riffs full to bursting with dissonance and melody, or being crushed under the massive weight and repetition of "The Great Unifier," an unholy nightmare mash of Deathspell Omega, Incantation and Neurosis, you can feel the weight and power of each track work their way to your very core.  It leads to an incredible gushing of pure Metal-fucking-joy; Aura got me excited about fucking Metal like I was 13 years old again and just discovering heavier music for the first time.  I imagine Aura has that effect on many listeners, including putting fucking in front of Metal every time you say it, write it or think it.  Considering the cynacism of elder-status as a Metal fan, Aura accomplished something that not a whole lot of albums accomplish.  Perfection?  No.  Fucking Metal?  Verily.  Experience it.  I'll see you in the void.

Rating: 9.5/10

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ogdru Jahad- I

Ogdru Jahad- I

A savage and bestial grind from beginning to end, Ogdru Jahad's I is an album which fits comfortably into the mechanically putrid rot and filth of the scene, going through the ritualistic motions for a solid, uninspiring 30 minutes.  Complete with blasphemous artwork and Lovecraftian references, I is an album as predictable as it ugly, minus of course the brilliant cover art, though this is another staple of the scene that shouldn't be surprising, or the limited edition clear vinyl the album comes on(only 200 copies of course).

That's the thing about I that I find far more fascinating; its an album that feels like it was created in some sort of Ross Bay Cult-styled atomic generator which is pushing out filth encrusted, bullet-belted abominations in droves.  I itself couldn't be a more basic album; it sounds like Blasphemy, Conqueror and Archgoat, with hints of Thrash and First Wave Black Metal mixed in for extra credibility.  It features no unique traits to speak of, other than perhaps a  pair of songs which sound like they feature the same exact riff played only slightly differently in "Unholy Blessings" and "Empty Jehovah."  There are some killer tracks to be sure, with the groovy and barbaric "Weeping of Angels" and the utterly uncompromising and blistering "Necromantic Rites" standing out a solid highlights.  "Necromantic Rites" in particular features a hint of dissonance and mildly complex song structure, though it's fleeting and the grind will overwhelm all originality before the end.

What's more fascinating about I is how neatly in fits into the current Bestial Black/Death scene; another "super group" release featuring members of a dozen other bands including the mighty Lucitation and Sadomator.  It features glorious cover art courtesy of Alexander L Brown, whose done the artwork for dozens of other similar albums.  It's released on one of the premiere labels for such albums in Iron Bonehead Productions, and comes in both black and limited edition clear vinyl(it's since been released on CD as well).  You can check the boxes both sonically and culturally with I and neatly place in on the bookshelf in between your Gods of War re-press and your H.P. Lovecraft biography, never to be listened to after a few initial spins again and more than likely to end up on for triple what was paid for it new 5 years from now.

In an of itself, Odgru Jahad's I is an inoffensive album which has some limited visceral intensity, but it's an album so comfortable and safe that it feels stale and bland right out of the gate.  From the very second the opening sample fades out and the opening riff slices through the air, the next 30 minutes is laid out directly in front of you, the bloody puzzle pieces stitched together smoothly.  No bumps, no pauses and no mercy.  And no fun.

Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, July 12, 2013

Vemod- Venter på stormene(2012)

Vemod- Venter på stormene

Ethereal and twisted, Venter på stormene provides a hypnotic back drop of dissonant, melodic guitars and tortured, emotional vocals.  The Norwegian two-piece combine snippets of the primitive Second Wave sound, particularly influenced by Burzum and Ulver but also a bit of Darkthrone, with a heavily modern Ambient Black Metal deluge inspired by the genre's titans.  It's not revolutionary nor is it deserving of exhalation, but fans of the genre will find much to love about Venter på stormene twisting forest paths and screaming dead lost in the fog.

 Above all other adjectives to describe Venter på stormene, hypnotic would be at the top of the list; be careful blasting this record while driving along a sorrowfully alone highway in the dead of night, because you'll likely be coming face to face with a ditch(I nearly did).  A whispering, hollow and noisy production sound combines with inescapable repetition to cast upon the listener an all encompassing trance that is difficult to break.  The vocals are overwhelming, mixing shrieks, moans, guttural growls and effective clean singing to further intensify the atmosphere, while the highly repetitive drumming provides the foundation for this dreamscape of ice and fire.

Those looking for Black Metal which predicates itself on ultra tight, fast moving musicianship and lots of complexity will struggle to find much of value with Venter på stormene, but Vemod do a very good job of adding some Second Wave grime and brutality to their sorrowful, melodic sound.  The title track and second track, "Ikledd evighetens kappe" both feature a strong foundation of blast beats, throat ripping vocals, slithering bass and shrieking, thin guitars to go with the ambient, soaring compositions used to break up the endless, mechanical repetition.

Mechanical, but powerful and emotional at the same time.  Truly the strength of Venter på stormene comes from this facet of it's sound; despite the overall lack of complexity and the bare-bones content of the songs, Venter på stormene is an emotional, profound experience.  It's the very back-bone of the Ambient Black Metal sound, but far too many new artists utterly fail to achieve any sort of real emotion.  Often, they sound more like a boring art-house Drone project for their college performance art class than a truly absorbing Black Metal beast, but Vemod have clearly mastered this concept on Venter på stormene, while developing a sound which should appeal to a more diverse group of Black Metal fans.

That said, "Altets tempel" is a complete waste of track; mostly a collection of various Ambient Black Metal tropes that don't involve any of kind of Black Metal, but instead a grouping of generic melodic leads and keyboard work.  At nearly 13 minutes long, it sucks the energy that the previous two tracks electro-charged the room with.  These incredibly boring, lazy compositions are far to common in the genre and a major black eye for Venter på stormene.  The final track, "A stige blant stjerner" is a stronger ambient piece, featuring more straight up Black Metal and some strong melodic leads, but it likes energy and power overall.

Such as it is, Venter på stormene is still a fine overall album.  The failings of it's second half do little to diminish the raw intensity and profound introspection of the first half, and in the right atmosphere this album will simply cast a spell of confusion and dreams over you that is nearly impossible to break.  Fans of this genre, and purists looking for something more dynamic while still firmly entrenched in the old ways of the Fatherland of Oslo will find appeal in Venter på stormene's rotted, ice-tortured orchards and hard, lifeless soil which glows an unholy twilight across the night sky.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Antediluvian- λόγος(2013)

Antediluvian- λόγος
Few bands receive as much universal praise and are endowed with as many accolades as the mighty Antediluvian, and deservedly so.  The bands last two releases, Through the Cervix of Hawaah and the brilliant split with Adversarial Initiated in Impiety as Mysteries, have set the standard for atmospheric, suffocating Occult Black/Death; terrifying and twisted in ways few artists have been able to match while developing a sound which sits on wholly unique ground.  Its been a truly horrendous transformation for an artist which started out as merely another Incantation-clone, and as λόγος(Logos) shows, it is a metamorphosis which is not yet complete.
Its a very subtle evolution on λόγος from the bands two previous albums; crushing, massive Black/Death riffs, twisted progressions, wild and chaotic drumming tempos and Nabucodnosor's squishy guttural vocals are still the centerpiece of Antediluvian's sound and λόγος is no exception from the bands two previous releases.  The devil is(probably literally) in the details here; λόγος is a more technical, chaotic, avant-garde release than I was really expecting from these Canadians.  While Through the Cervix and Initiated in Impiety had these inhuman, disjointed chaotic moments, they were tempered by plenty of rhythmically un-obtuse sections and lots of Doom-y repose.  Yet these moments have almost completely disappeared from λόγος, and instead the album is dominated by the gnarled and truculent compositions, creating a level of density few albums possess.
Its probably seems insane to think of anything from Antediluvian as "catchy," but going back to Through the Cervix in particular I was struck by just how many memorable many of the tracks were.  The crushing grooves of "Luminous Harvest" and the blistering yet simple assaults of "Turquoise Harvest" could really stick with you well after the fact, and despite the albums truly insane moments and thick atmosphere it was an album which felt grounded in good old fashion neck snapping Death Metal.  λόγος on the other hand is far more relentless and rhythmically chaotic: the drumming of Mars Sekhmet is far more turbulent and disjointed, and rarely is there ever a moment to hang your hat on, while the noisy elements of Antediluvian's sound have far exceeded previous releases.  Her performance on the kit is daunting to be sure, and those looking for neck surgery are the only ones who should even attempt to do anything even close to head bang.
The subtly of this is key here, and λόγος still feels and sounds very much like an Antediluvian release.  "The Ash and the Stars" twists and turns in the hurricane winds, and evokes the nightmares of ancient spirits with dissonant leads and swirling riffs.  "Nuclear Crucifixion(Turning the Spear Inward)" has some of the few remnants of catchiness and memorability left on this album, though it would have been the most chaotic track on Through the Cervix; it has some driving Incantation-style tremolo-picked assaults and some softer, less compositionally dense moments that offer a small reprieve from the onslaught.  "Towers of Silence" is truly an abomination, a bleak and devastating slice of Blackened Death Metal with perhaps the most ironic title ever, as the density and noise on this track is simply overwhelming.
If I can levy any major complaints at λόγος, they lie with the production: the drum sound is very hollow and while balanced with the mix seem loud, especially the snare, and the guitars sound much thinner and uglier than the warmness of Through the Cervix or Initiated in Impiety.  With how chaotic and dense the drumming is, the drum sound can become very obnoxious.  Its not a bad production mix per-se, but in comparison to previous releases this might be my least favorite since the bands early, nearly unlistenable demo material.
But from a song writing perspective, I find λόγος to be a slightly inferior album to Through the Cervix of Hawaah.  I find myself impressed with the bands continued foray to relentless chaos and utter hatred for their listeners, but part of me misses those truly memorable moments of the past.  I get far too much of a Portal vibe from λόγος, and while this album quite easily destroys anything that Portal have ever released on every conceivable level, it still suffers from too much noise and inhuman tempos to be truly enjoyable all the time.  λόγος offers more good than bad to be sure, but be prepared for an album which will quite literally hate you to death.
Rating: 8.5/10

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Consummation- Consummation(2012)

Consummation- Consummation

As if the Australian Death and Black Metal scene was not strong enough, loaded with a veritable All-Pro group of musicians and bands, here comes the mysterious and slithering mass known as Consummation with their brilliant, haunting and dissonant s/t debut.  Featuring a pair of mighty Satanic hymns for truly unclean worship of old spirits whose names cannot be uttered, Consummation is one of those brilliant little releases that despite it's minuscule running time delivers more than many full-length albums.  Everything here works, from the song writing to the musicianship to the production, making Consummation a little masterpiece whose value is diminished only by it's format.

"Heautontimoroumenos" shows off the strongest elements of Consummation's sound right off the bat: hazy, dissonant and mildly technical riffing, thundering and massive drums, earth shattering low end and vicious, tortured vocals which run the gauntlet of shrieks, guttural growls and deathly moans.  Consummation has a sound firmly rooted in the Australian Black/Death style, but flourishes of other influences shine through from time to time, whether it's the squirming and swimming dissonant leads and "pulpit preaching" vocal patterns that bring to mind later Funeral Mist or the Celtic Frost like moments of Doom-laden, percussion driven madness, and all of these elements are present on "Heautontimoroumenos";  The thundering percussion in particular reminds me of the Celtic Frost song "Dawn of Meggido" from To Mega Therion.  A better combination of spine-tingling solos and sheer face melting blackness you will not find, and this track without question the stronger of the two.

"Rend the Ain Soph" has a very strong Orthodox Black Metal vibe to it, featuring a near impenetrable wall of dissonant fuzz and unholy vocal assaults.  The drumming here is phenomenal, absolutely leveling the listener with power and control.  I wouldn't be surprised if many a drum head needed replacing, because each strike of the snare or tom feels like a battering ram demolishing a castle gate.  Everything works in brilliant conjunction to create a dense, foggy atmosphere; a ritual of burning flesh in a desiccated cathedral where nothing holy remains.  "Rend the Ain Soph" isn't quite as catchy or as head-bangingly brutal as "Heautontimoroumenos," but you'll still feel as though you bathed in blood and goat urine by the time it ends.

Consummation doesn't really have enough meat on it to truly transcend into classic territory, but the quality of the limited quantity cannot be denied.  Finding a way to stand out in the Australian Black/Death Metal scene is no easy task, but Consummation stands as one of the more impressive debuts I've heard.  It's serpentine song-structures, effortless atmosphere and commanding, unique sound is refreshing and highly enjoyable, and makes this a demo well worth your time and money.

Rating: 8.5/10

Check The Effect- The Instant Queue Challenge

So my younger brother has his new blog, The Effect, the new version of his old blog The Polibus Effect, and The Great Netflix Instant Queue Challenge is underway.  I'll be writing film reviews for the Challenge, so be sure to check it out and see what's going down.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Knelt Rote- Trespass(2012)

Knelt Rote- Tresspass

Few albums are as relentlessly, appallingly heavy as Trespass, the third album from Portland, Oregon spine snappers Knelt Rote.  A group I'm not intimately familiar with, Knelt Rote apparently started as a Noisegrind side project for a group of well traveled Oregon musicians before metamorphosing into a new, equally savage and noisy though far less avant-garde beast.  With Incantation worship having been all the rage for many years(though this seems to have begun to die down slightly), Knelt Rote have found a far more creative and chaotic way to emulate them: by mixing in and equal amount of blistering Grindcore into the tremolo-and-Doom formula of the Old New Yorkers.  It's certainly an interesting concept, and one that surprisingly works despite what appears to be an oil-and-water mixture.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of Trespass is that Knelt Rote find a way to, for the most part, organically mix the two disparate styles without having songs fall into that "this part sounds like A band, this part sounds like B band" formula so many bands use.  It's always impressive when an artist can instead create a synthesis, combing the essence of both styles into a single uniform approach, and throughout Trespass we see this unholy matrimony in full effect.  The final track, "Catalepsy," is without question the strongest example of this union and the strongest track on the record, a dissonant and blasting track which mixes unholy Blackened riffs with relentless drumming, driving tempo and disjointed, demonic vocals to create that wondrous swirling effect that Incantation so completely mastered while moving at speeds far more reminiscent of Napalm Death or early Carcass.  "Hunger" has a more Grind focused approach, bringing some Pig Destroyer-esque chaos and mildly technical riffing before transforming into another driving, Blackened nightmare.  I was somewhat surprised by the complexities on display here, and like many of their peers such as Adversarial and Muknal, there is some subdued but tangible technical flourishes throughout Trespass which offer a nice contrast to the musty and murky invocations and sledgehammer blasting.

Just don't expect a ton of variety or a consistent atmosphere with Trespass.  Though certain tracks stand out over others, there isn't a great deal here to differentiate the individual tracks from one another, and at times Trespass develops a droning quality that clashes with the chaotic and static-riddle madness.  It's an album which can work you into a lull of concentration without ever finding a way to hook you back in, yet the loud snare often grinds against the backdrop of the coiling riffs and creates a somewhat disjointed contrast.  And all this relentless brutality can at times eviscerate the strongest elements of the record: the atmosphere.  Incantation did not become one of the greatest Death Metal bands, or one of the most influential, by being the most brutal or relentless band.  They did it by creating an atmosphere which truly evoked a dream-like state of demonic possession, one where bathing in the madness and the nightmares made you feel the music on a different level.  With all of it's fury and fire, Trespass can force you in and out of this trance in a jarring way.

Still, it's hard to find much overwhelming fault with Trespass.  The sheer fact that Knelt Rote have discovered a creative and original way to take use those Incantation elements that doesn't fit into either banal worship or occult naval-gazing is worthy of praise if nothing else.  You simply won't find another album which sounds exactly like Trespass, and it's an album of excessive extremes and suffocating barbarity that will not suffer survivors.  If you take this album head on, be ready to search the dirt for your teeth.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cultes Des Ghoules- Henbane(2013)

Cultes Des Ghoules- Henbane

The Polish Necro Warlocks of Cultes Des Ghoules are back, and this time they a more learned, cunning and sadistic force for the dark arts, acting as His(read: SATAN) Unholy Agents on this dying, divided Earth.  Henbane is an album made of equal parts dense atmosphere and classic concepts, drawing equally from First Wave Black Metal, Second Wave Black Metal, Ross Bay Cult styled Bestial Black Metal and thundering old-school Doom Metal to create a sound which no other band can truly match.  And aided by a brilliant conceptual identity which reeks of rot, witchcraft and occultism, Henbane is the perfect mood music for late nights lost in the misty woods, dripping blood upon the altar of sacrifice and preparing one's body to entertain the ancient spirits.

Compared to Haxan, Henbane seems significantly softer at first: the production sound is cleaner, more balanced and far less dense, and the bands more Bestial elements have taken a back seat to a greater focus on riffs, introspection and mystical energies.  But once the incantations of Henbane begin to shake and rattle your very bones, you'll soon realize the massive error in judgement you had made.  Sure, it's a more approachable album than Haxan, Odd Spirituality or Spectres Over Transsylvania, but its also a more fully realized, mature and utterly devastating album than anything Cultes Des Ghoules have accomplished to date.  The atmosphere is tremendous, using a combination of spine-shattering low end, diverse arrangements, ambiance and perfectly controlled repetition to envelope the listener in a shroud from which they might never escape.  Henbane also frequently and masterfully makes use of sounds and samples to further amplify the already over-whelming atmosphere on the album, creating moments of somberness, insanity and suffering.  Whether it's the ringing of a Death Knell, the chants of withered witches or the bubbling of a rusted cauldron, the use of these classic and spooky conventions further intensifies Henbane and gives it a rather charming novelty which is impossible to deny.

Though it's still all about the riffs with Henbane.  It's got more of them than you can shake a crucifix at: thundering, Doom-y, Thrash-y, dissonant, melodic, noisy riffs which give off an equal mix of To Mega Therion, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Angelcunt(Tales of Desecration).  "The Passion of a Sorceress" drips grime and filth, and the bass and drums combine to flatten mountains: at 2:25, prepare to have your skull force-fucked by damnation right off your slender, weak spine.  Vocalist Mark of the Devil is simply inhuman as he moves from yelps, shrieks, growls and moans.  He brays at the Moon and screams like his testicles have been forcibly removed, he chokes on his own tongue and whispers ancient enchantments into your ear.  He simply dominates this album, and his ancient and desiccated style fits perfectly with the tomb-dwelling riffs.  "The Devil Intimate" becomes a truly terrifying sojourn, led through the bowels of Hades by the hand of Virgil, and slowly builds to a horrifying and frozen crescendo in the icy halls of the Ninth Circle.  Once again, Mark of the Devil pulls out every vocal trick at his disposal and acts as the most ferocious and demented barker ever, while the skull crushing riffs and horrifying organ(so fucking wicked) act as a gory and pestilential back-drop to the madness.

Awesome honestly doesn't even begin to describe what Cultes Des Ghoules have achieved with Henbane.  This album is such a fresh and fascinating take on classic Extreme Metal sounds, as well as classic Horror elements, which makes it one of the most enjoyable and charming Black Metal albums I've ever heard.  For an album which creates such an unholy and inhuman atmosphere, Henbane is also an album which, for lack of a better term, is a hell of a lot of fun.  Its an album which conjures up old fears from your childhood, an album which brings you back to the first time you head-banged to a killer riffs and an album which can appeal to all the musical complexity you desire in your advanced age.  All aspects are satisfied, and the Devil will get his due...

Rating: 10/10