Thursday, 29 March 2012

Wodensthrone - Curse

Candlelight Records 2012

1.The Remaining Few 2.Jormungandr 3.First Light 4.The Great Darkness
5.Battle Lines 6.Wyrgthu 7.The Storm 8.The Name Of The Wind

The follow up to the bands 2009 debut ‘Loss’ has been highly anticipated, the eager hordes hoping for more of the same, social network sites a frenzy of gossip in anticipation and it’s fair to say that the instant the play button is pressed it is obvious they are not going to be let down. ‘The Remaining Few’ is a soft acoustic guitar intro which guides us gently into the storm that is ‘Jormungandr’, an absolute torrent of malice and hate, scathing guitars are accompanied by well-balanced keyboards which never threaten to overpower as can be so often heard on a lot of BM releases. Vocally, it’s as strong a performance as you’re likely to see from a BM vocalist in the genre, real depth to the vocals and never afraid to add variety by using more shouted/growled vocals. The song breaks out into a very melodic passage, keyboards and acoustic guitars taking the lead and guiding the song to its conclusion. Chanted / sung clean vocals used to end the song and working brilliantly amongst all the melody with almost tribal like drum patterns layered underneath to great effect.
‘First Light’ slows the pace right down, the harsh black metal tremolo picked guitars leading the way, the keyboards and drums set a mournful pace with real atmosphere and tension being built until the song is finally 'set free' in a whirlwind of hateful black metal, a more familiar pace being assumed. The atmosphere created at the beginning of the track is never lost when the pace is upped, the keyboards and guitars managing to retain this and hold it all in place. When a folk influenced section is introduced, it gives the track a whole new feel, with what sounds like a flute accompanying slow, melodic keyboards and acoustic guitars. It’s a great change in direction and adds a whole new dimension to the track before normality returns with the more familiar black metal approach. As the track fades out it begins to take on a really epic feel, the mid-paced drumming and guitar work really guide the song to its conclusion splendidly, and as seen before, the atmosphere being stirred becomes haunting. ‘The Great Darkness’ opens up slightly differently, hateful spoken vocals introducing the song alongside some almost dischordant guitar work. This section almost acts as an intro to the song until the more familiar black metal style is assumed shortly after and when introduced sounds extremely brutal. There’s a real sense of urgency to the faster sections and the atmosphere is never lost amongst the speed which once again makes for a great finale to the song. As the song reaches its conclusion there’s a hint of folk inspired riffing re-introduced which works extremely well and only adds to the excellent ending.
‘Battle Lines’ follows on well, tempos again being mixed from the slow, mournful and atmospheric through to the scathing and hate lead faster end of the spectrum. Twin guitars work really well in this track, one playing higher up the fret board to the other, giving one guitar an almost ‘lead guitar’ feel to it without ever threatening to become a lead in the real sense of the term, compelling stuff. This is an absolute monster of a track, clocking in at over eleven minutes, however, it never feels long or drawn out, the atmosphere more than enough to keep the listener engaged for such a long time. Add to that the structure of the song, mixing melodic acoustic passages with the faster black metal sections there is more than enough variety to hold your attention. The keyboards appear to take the lead as the song ends which only adds to the atmosphere already created. ‘Wyrgthu’ is another master class in writing atmospheric black metal. Melody once again at the forefront, with the hate-filled vocals adding a stark comparison to the music. Devastating is an apt description here, even when the band are playing the more mid-paced sections, it still sounds devastating and when the faster sections are unleashed all hell breaks lose. The keyboards have real impact here, being pushed to the front of the song, leading the song into what feels like utter oblivion. Ending the track is an utterly crushing and suffocating guitar riff, slowing the pace to a (funeral) crawl. ‘The Storm’ is exactly that, blasting open harshly in complete comparision to the ending of the previous track. Scathing black metal guitars leading the way, this is as brutal as the band has sounded so far and there is no let up throughout most of the track. Extremely brutal black metal of the highest order, this cannot fail to impress. The finale to this masterpiece is
‘The Name of The Wind’, acoustic guitars accompany sampled wind effects before a folk/mediaeval passage is introduced, melody again at the forefront of the song, the synths and guitars once again create a bleak atmosphere and when the vocals are introduced create a true sense of desperation and despair. As this final track matures, the tension in the song begins to rise, almost feeling that the “big ending” isn’t far away. However, the band break with what feels like “the right thing to do” and slow proceedings down completely, the pace reduced to an absolute crawl with lead guitars taking over, vocals used sparsely but to great effect, the anguished cries of desperation really cutting through. Wind and wind chime sounds fading out and marking the end of the journey that is "The Storm". It is fair to say that Wodensthrone have produced one of the greatest UKBM albums for a very long time, the atmosphere created throughout the entire album is absolutely compelling and when the band up the pace the final result is utterly devastating. Not only a highlight to the UKBM scene, this will probably a highlight in the black metal scene worldwide. Fans of the band will not be disappointed by this release at all, it shows a band who have matured since their debut release and have improved vastly, showing a more mature approach to song compositions and structures. If you thought ‘Loss’ was amazing, then ‘Curse’ is going to absolutely pummel you into the ground. If you’re into the band and into black metal, you definitely cannot be without this release!

9 out of 10

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Mantarok - Demo 2011

Self Released

1.Wandering Through The Forest Of Madness
2.Excuse All The Blood 3.Burn Down Churches And Kill Your Best Friend
4.Ashes Of The Burning Land

‘Wandering Through The Forest Of Madness’ acts as an intro to this four track demo, with soft acoustic guitars being accompanied by layers of synths and sampled wind effects, all pretty standard in black metal terms, but it works well as an atmospheric intro. ‘Excuse All The Blood’ is next and how utterly horrendous this track sounds. There’s a fine line between ultra Kvlt and downright terrible and unfortunately Mantarok fall into the latter. Sloppy guitars, childish drum programming and horribly ‘croaked’ vocals do not make this an enjoyable listen at all, and certainly does not make this Kvlt black metal. It’s about as amateurish as you’re likely to hear. Even the song titles fit the childish nature and approach undertaken, as is seen with next track ‘Burn Down The Churches And Kill Your Best Friend’. The song structures make no sense, jumping awkwardly from one riff to the next; sounding out of time in places mainly due to the horrible drum programming….it’s almost embarrassing listening to this. It’s easy to understand what these guys are trying to achieve, they sadly fall a very long way from achieving their aim. ‘Ashes Of The Burning Land’ shows some improvement in the guitar riffs, the standard fast tremolo picked guitars start to show some cohesion, with slow and mournful interludes breaking up the ‘fizz’ of the black metal riffing. But that’s as good as it gets. No originality, no forethought and a definite lack of song writing ability. The production is horrendous (but probably meant to be, as the band are aiming to be lo-fi) and as mentioned earlier, the drum programming is abysmal and horribly simplistic (do not read lo-fi here). There is nothing appealing here at all. If you want morbid, lo-fi black metal then there are some great UK bands churning out a lot better than this, the likes of Iconic Destruction and Ulfarr immediately spring to mind. Every band has to start somewhere, but you can’t help feeling that Mantarock have jumped the gun slightly in releasing this demo….many more hours in the practice room needed perhaps and a crash course in programming drums because as it stands, ‘Demo 2011’ is so far off the mark, its disturbing. Maybe I’m missing the concept behind this, but you’ll have to look very deeply to ‘get’ what’s going on here…..Sorry guys!
1 out of 10

Primitive - Into The Void

Self Released 2011

1.Age of Men 2.Slaughterhouse 3.Nothing Remains 4.Into The Void

‘Age of Men’ shows its intentions very quickly, groove laden guitars setting the tone for the entire song whilst a slight progressive element makes this opening track “something different”. Add in a heavy dose of melody to proceedings and things really get interesting. Musically the band describe themselves as melodic death metal, but there’s definitely a lot more than that to the bands sound, the progressive layers something not normally associated with standard death metal and they add an extra dimension to the bands sound, drawing the music away from that standard death metal formula. It’s really the vocals which keep this track just on the right side of death metal, growled yet understandable in places. ‘Slaughterhouse’ is heavier than the opener, less of the progressive element on show, although the time signatures used give the track a very claustrophobic feel, feeling a long way from your standard four four beats. As with the opener, the pace set is slow and never ventures far from that, which is where the song falls flat. For all the proficient musicianship on display, the music is definitely lacking an edge. The guitars may be well played, but never really stand out as anything special, many of the riffs being fairly standard metal, sometimes even rock orientated in nature. As mentioned previously the vocals are once again keeping things on the right side of death metal…just!
‘Nothing Remains’ flows directly into where the last track left off, no real distinction between the tracks and again the pace drags the song along at an almost crawl. ‘Into The Void’ begins to show some real promise, some of the riffing being used is extremely catchy, melody at the core but unfortunately the song returns to the uninspiring riffing seen in earlier tracks. Having said that, the band do re-introduce more catchy, melodic riffing which when use alongside the screamed, almost tortured vocals works really well. It’s just shame the band left it until the last track on the e.p. to up their game and show that they can write a good, memorable song. Pace isn’t everything, but after listening to all four tracks you can’t help but wish that the band had just decided to “let go” every now and again and really “go for it”. Instead each of the four tracks are dragged along at a slow, sludgy crawl which begins to become frustrating and ultimately uninspiring. The progressive elements and unusual time signatures add something slightly different into the mix, but not enough to really grab your attention or make the songs really stand out. If the band could capture what they have created on ‘Into The Void’ in every track they write, then they may be onto a winner, but for now there’s a real way to go!

5 out of 10

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Illusionary Contortionist - Euphoria

Self Released 2011

1.I Have Become 2.The Mobius Strip 3.Euphoria
4.Achroma 5.I Am The Lost Phrophet

No fucking around here, ‘I Have Become’ hits you like hate filled, brutal blasting fist square on in the face, a storm of blast beats and frenzied black metal-esque riffing stream rolls straight into you in a barrage of melodic lead blackened death metal. The band incorporates several styles; the most prevalent being Swedish inspired black/death metal with a dose of Norwegian black metal to give their sound that brutal edge. It’s really compelling stuff, especially when the tremolo picked melodic guitars kick in, extremely brutal and overwhelmingly catchy. ‘The Mobius Strip’ starts by slowing the pace somewhat before all hell is again unleashed in a barrage of hate filled blast beats and furious riffing, again all finished off with an over-riding sense of melody. Vocally things are as you would expect, screamed black metal stlye, full of hate and anger. The pace is again slowed and a cleanly sung passage is introduced over ice cold black metal riffing and when the screamed vocals are added makes for an extremely captivating piece of music. The sense of desperation is exhausting here, the song really beginning to gather pace without any let up in sight, again frenzied drumming accompanies ice cold black metal riffing, finishing in an absolute torrent of hatred.
‘Euphoria’ continues the storm perfectly, once again we see the precise and brutal blast beats accompanying some extremely catchy ‘Norweigian Black Metal’ stlye riffing. To add variety, the song slows to a crawl, acoustic guitars taking over and adding a whole new dimension to the band’s sound. This is almost certainly what the band’s “Experimentalist” description is describing and it works really well, never losing the atmosphere or sounding out of place amongst the black metal which is contained in the rest of the song. No vocals which is interesting, making this instrumental, the music more than enough to keep you engaged. ‘Achroma’ sees the band slow slightly, a more mid-paced affair to kick things off. However, this never last longs, Sage’s drumming a real highlight and setting the pace perfectly with more rabid blast beats. As ever, melody driving the ice cold riffing which again makes for an extremely enjoyable piece of music.
Closing this e.p. is ‘I Am The Lost Phrophet’ and what a closer this is, an absolute monster of a track, raging and as brutal and catchy as the band have sounded so far. The e.p cover has the warning “Human Advisory, Beast Within” which is very apt, there’s a real beast raging here, an ice cold, melodic and brutal black metal beast! Some cleaner vocals once again used to add more variety before quickly returning the preferred harsh screaming. This e.p really can’t be recommended highly enough. Would be great to see this transferred into a pro label release. If these guys haven’t been picked up by a label, then they should be. They definitely have a lot to offer and although the band do have that “Experimentalist” in their description, this really shouldn’t put off hardened black metal fans, That side to their music only adds to their sound rather than distracting it. Well recommended.

8.5 out of 10

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Bloodwrath - The Hate Effect

Rising Records 2011

1.Hyperchrist 2.Served In Silence 3.Existence 4.Organised Genocide
5.Devestate 6.Regression 7.Against The Tide 8.Persecution 9.The Devil's Look
10.Ablution War 11.The Hare Effect

Soft acoustic guitars introduce us to Newcastle based BLOODWRATH before pounding drums and raging guitars open up in a fury of modern thrash tinged death metal. ‘Hyperchrist’ is just that, thrash tinged death metal with a really heavy dose of groove, very reminiscent of Germanys own purveyors of the said genre Dew Scented. There’s a heavy dose of melody introduced through the use of lead guitars which gives the track an epic feel in places. There’s a real sense of urgency to this opener, the band appearing to be in a rush to rip your face off! ‘Served In Silence’ begins in similar fashion as the opener, but with a slightly heavier death metal feel. Obligatory breakdowns are introduced and when played alone are the same as every breakdown ever heard; however, when a melodic lead guitar is introduced over the top it takes on a whole new feel and stops the track slipping into boring breakdown mediocrity. ‘Existence’ is another furious example of melodic death/thrash metal, the urgency returning to the bands song writing. Lead guitars are once again used effectivelly to re-introduce some melody in amongst the frantic proceedings. The ending to the track takes on a very slow, sludgy feel, creeping along at a crawl and with the added guttural vocals really gives off a nasty, but good death metal vibe.
‘Organised Genocide’ is another good solid example of melodic death metal, but for all the excellent musicianship on display the band are not offering anything different from what has already been seen in the three previous tracks, opting for the tried and tested sound, slow-fast song structures repeated predictably. ‘Devestate’ is horribly similar to the last track, it’s all beginning to sound ‘samey’ and very safe and the pace of the songs isn’t helping matters either. Slow to mid-paced with the odd blast beat thrown in to remind you that the band are death metal. The urgency seen earlier in the album has all but disappeared which is very disappointing as this is when the band are at their most appealing. ‘Regression’ rescues the album slightly, more variation to the track, faster drums introduced more frequently which is always a welcome turn of events! The band mention in their bio that their videos have been played on Scuzz, it’s easy to see why. There’s no real danger, or extremity to their music, no matter how much they label themselves as death metal. TV friendly for sure. What seems to be letting this album down, stopping it from truly having that killer punch is the drumming which tends to utilise the same drum beats for the slow riffs, the same beats for the mid-paced riffs and so on. Not necessarily the drummers fault, as a lot of the riffs sound similar, but when it all begins to sound the same it's time to be more adventurous, then the songs would surely punch you full force in the face as I’m sure they are fully intended to.
‘Against The Tide’ thankfully see’s the urgency seen earlier reappear along with a heavy dose of catchiness which all makes for a welcome return to form, melody and groove at the forefront of the death metal assault. The lead guitars extremely catchy here and definitely get the head nodding. ‘Persecution’ hits you in the face with a thrash laced punch, opening up with surprising venom, the band sounding especially pissed off here and definitely sounding more brutal than ever. The album is beginning to rescue itself after the ‘normality’ seen in the last few tracks, seeming intent on ending this disc on a high. ‘The Devil's Look’ is another one of the ‘TV friendly’ tracks, the safe option once again preferred and even introducing spoken vocals as opposed to the guttural death metal vocals used. Seems a strange thing to introduce for just one track and for such a short time span. It feels exceptionally out of place and really uneseccary. 'Ablution War' is a crushing track, the pace really slowed down in places, returning to a really nasty death metal feel. Mixed with some catchy guitar breaks it all makes for quite a god mix and a great end effect. Ending the album is ‘The Hate Effect’, another run-of-the-mill affair, nothing we haven’t already witnessed and sadly ending the album in a mediocre fashion. What promised to be a healthy slab of modern thrash laced death metal actually turned out to be rather a disappointment. When Bloodwrath do ‘it’, they do it well and show real signs of promise. Unfortunately the band seem to lose focus and sometimes settle for the ‘safe option’, maybe intentional to appeal to a wider audience other than extreme metal fans. It’s all extremely well played, the production is excellent and with a real kick, but that can’t hide the ‘normality’ on offer. Promising lots but sadly delivers little extremity. Disappointing but will definitely appeal to some.

6 out of 10