Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Hrafnblod - Heathen Psalms

Wodfreca Records 2012

1.Admonition 2.Inhumanity Of The Human Race 3.Ashes Of Tyranny
4.Last Of A Dying Breed 5.The Spirit Of Fyrnsidu 6.Skeletal Skies
7.Tears For The Einherjar 8.Heremaecg Galdr 9.Possessed

Another one man band spawned from the UK underground; this time round we have Hrafnblod, a blackened death metal project from the grimness that is Telford. ‘Admonition’ is a short intro made up of spoken samples and heavy distorted rumblings before ‘Inhumanity Of The Human Race’ blasts open furiously. Insanely fast programmed drums set the pace, the buzz heavy guitars following along with similar lightning speed and precision all backed up with some great vocal work, making use of the black metal standard screams and well as deep, guttural backing vocals. There’s a thrashyness to the riffs which lends itself perfectly to the black metal assault. There’s also a hint of ‘Dimmu’ on display, a very slight hint it must be said. ‘Ashes of Tyranny’ follows on in similar fashion, the pace remaining at lightning speed but the song taking on a more death metal feel, the tone of the guitars keeping the ‘black edge’ to the band’s sound. We even get to hear the bass under the buzz heavy guitars, something not normally heard on the more black metal sounding releases, but a welcome addition to the band’s sound nonetheless. This track gets catchier and catchier the further on into it you delve, finishing on a real high, the ‘Dimmu’ influence again (only very slightly) on show.  ‘Last Of A Dying Breed’ begins in quite a heavy, death metal fashion with the main opening riff taking on a very death/thrash approach. It’s at this point that the programmed drums really begin to sound ‘industrial’ and when they open up at the inhuman speeds really begin to annoy. However, in this track the super-fast speeds are few and far between, a slower more mid pace adopted. The ‘Vinyl Record’ effect half way through this track a nice addition as the rhythm guitar lets loose with a thrashy black metal riff. ‘The Spirit of Fyrnsidu’ suffers somewhat from the outset, the programmed drums being its down fall. The hi-hats sound absolutely horrendous which is a real shame; they are just way too high in the mix, far too precise for the tracks own good. The drums really spoil what is a first rate, brutal and atmospheric black metal song, buzz-saw tremolo picked guitars absolutely seething and etched in a grimness not seen so far on this album. A real shame they ruin this track and a prime example of why human drumming is always favoured over programmed drums, especially in black metal (unless a more natural, organic approach is used).
‘Skeletal Skies’ opens up mournfully, the pace slowed to an atmospheric crawl, the highlight and driving force of the track being the vocal delivery, first rate black metal vocals, a more growled scream used to add real atmosphere. Simple but effective keyboards are introduced, adding a new element to bands brand of black metal. It has to be said that the band are far more effective and a much more attractive proposition when the pace is slowed to a crawl. The drum production jumps out here, sounding much more natural and adding to a sense of gloom and despair…something to think about for the future maybe, slowing everything right down and opting for atmosphere over speed? ‘Tears For The Einherjar’ is used as an interlude, thunderous gloomy samples mixed with dripping water and what sounds like a mouth organ creates a very gloomy atmosphere indeed and works extremely well as a melodic interlude. ‘Heremaecg Galdr’ carries on perfectly form the previous track, fading in with such mournful atmosphere it’s all beginning to take on a DSBM stance which is no bad thing at all. As mentioned previously, the band sound absolutely devastating when the pace is slowed to a gloomy and desperate crawl. The track breaks abruptly with echo drenched spoken vocals taking the lead briefly before the guitars open up again with the effective tortured black metal vocals as an accompaniment. Very effective, very atmospheric and as good as the band has sounded so far. Even when the pace is upped, it is increased slightly into mid-paced territory which sounds so much better and more effective than the hyper-speeds seen in earlier tracks. If only all the tracks had sounded like this!
Closing proceedings is ‘Possessed’, fading in menacingly, the tension and atmosphere and sense of foreboding really begin to build and once again, atmosphere chosen over lightning speed which is a very welcome decision. There’s a real eeriness to this closing track, almost haunting in its delivery, especially when the vocals are introduced, used in an almost chant like fashion. Being the last track it is used as an ‘outro’ for the album, swirling wind samples mixed alongside mechanical, almost industrial soundscapes, it’s a fitting end. A tale of two halves in effect, the first few songs opting for speed over atmosphere and not working as well as the second half of the album. The production on the drums ruining what are actually some decent black metal songs. It’s only when the band decides to slow the pace that they are at their best and most appealling. Everything begins to make sense and musically everything falls into place perfectly. The atmosphere crafted on the slower tracks is extremely compelling and very listenable. Drop the speed and opt for atmosphere, it works so much better. If that’s not an option, get a drummer and ditch the programming, it will work so much better. A lot of very good songs on display which shows real potential for future releases, whatever direction they might take only one man can make that call!

7 out of 10

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Redmist Destruction - Nobility In Death

Self Released 2011

1.Eternity Deprived 2.The Coroner 3.Hell Capitan 4.Strive To Belong 5.Terrorist
6.Only Human 7.The Noble Dead 8.Gefangnisstadt 9.He Who Suffers
10.Herbert West - Reanimator 11.Fucking Destroy

The new wave of English thrash metal has seen a boom of late, many young bands heading up the revival and flying the flag for thrash metal from these shores. Barnsley’s Redmist Destruction are amongst those, but are clearly not happy just to churn out re-hashed riffs and song structures wanked from the first wave. ‘Entity Deprived’ is a clear example of the bands originality and unwillingness to settle for the standard thrash sound. Acoustic guitars act as an intro before the barrage commences, it’s definitely full on thrash but there’s also a heavy injection of melody into choruses which give a really atmospheric, almost epic feel to the track…very catchy indeed! Other influences show themselves readily, dual lead guitars very ‘maiden-esque’ and fitting in well. ‘The Coroner’ is another full on thrash assault, shouted gang style vocals given a good airing throughout the track. A blistering pace is set through the whole of the track which can only be a good thing!. Other influences begin to break through, Testament and Exodus immediately spring to mind towards the end of the track.
‘Hell Capitan’ follows on in similar fashion, no real let up in the pace, each track taking on a really frenzied feeling, brutal thrash metal. More melody is injected into the onslaught, the band actually begin to sound a little like Germany’s own masters of Death/Thrash metal Dew Scented,which is never going going to be a bad thing. ‘Strive To Belong’ is a more classic thrash affair, the shouted gang vocals re-introduced, the pace held back in favour creating heavy and raw thrash metal! ‘Terrorist?’ is another real toe-tapping example of modern thrash metal, real variety in the song and many of the bands influences again on show with variety being shown in the pace, ranging from an almost sludgy crawl through to all guns blazing thrash attack. ‘Only Human’ has a slightly more extreme feel to it, especially in the guitars, sounding once again like a less brutal Dew Scented but with more ‘classic’ style thrash vocals. ‘The Noble Dead’ acts as a short, acoustic interlude and allows the listener to take a breather from the full on thrash frenzy of the previous tracks. ‘Gefangnisstadt’ begins calmly enough before normal (thrash) service is resumed. These guys can’t be accused of ‘holding back’ at all, every opportunity to ‘let-rip’ is taken full advantage of, the catchiness never lost in the speed of the songs. ‘He Who Suffer’s barely allows you to draw breath and opens up the instant the previous track has finished and as you would expect it’s full on, foot to the floor thrash, the riffing becoming really manic whilst managing to retain a sense of melody as well the overall feeling of thrash metal. The production of the album really jumps out at you, especially the bass, having a really heavy thumping air of authority and giving the song that extra something.
‘Herbert West – Reanimator’ see’s the shouted vocals re-introduced “Reanimator, the dead alive” being shouted in good old thrash fashion and giving this track a really old school/first wave feel and sounding typically English (not a bad thing by far!) Closing proceedings  is ‘Fucking Destroy; which is what the band have pretty much done throughout all eleven tracks. As mentioned earlier, this album isn’t about taking old ideas and making them sound a bit different with a newer production, it’s all about appreciating the past masters and paying homage to the genre they created. It’s all about dragging thrash into the 21st century kicking and screaming and creating modern thrash metal music, which RD do brilliantly. Their music is thrash, and shows many of the classic elements but it’s also so much more than that. Influences are a plenty and the band aren’t afraid to have them all on show. Modern thrash metal played flawlessly with a real kick to the bollocks production, ‘Nobility In Death’ comes highly recommended. If the band can pull this off on the live circuit, there’ll be no stopping them! Thrash is back and by this performance; it's here to stay!

8 out of 10

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Prometheus Rising - The Embrace Of Night

Self Released 2012

1.The Embrace Of Night Part1: Dusk 2.Cold And Black
3.Fortress Of Long Forgotten Wars
4.Inciting Hatred From Upon The Papal Throne 5.Ufodte Massekren
6.Bile (Spewing Hatred) 7.The Embrace Of The Night Part2: The Natural Sanctuary
8.Fortress Of Desolation 9.Orgasmatron (Motorhead Cover)

‘The Embrace of Night Part1: Dusk’ begins with atmospheric and sombre introduction, hypnotic and repetitive synths and swirling wind samples set the tone. As the music ‘proper’ begins, there’s a great deal of melody on display, the keyboards featuring heavily throughout, guitars are harsh and typically black metal but still manage to retain the melody and atmosphere perfectly. No vocals, so this first track almost acts as an intro. ‘Cold And Black’ see’s the harsh black metal introduced fully, guitars again harsh, with a thrashy edge to them whilst remaining ultimately black metal and not sounding too black thrash. Vocals are as expected, hateful and scathing. Point to note is that the keyboards are nowhere to be heard, seems a little strange given the previous song. ‘Fortress of Long Forgotten Wars’ drips atmosphere from everywhere, the keyboards re-introduced with an almost symphonic edge to them and definitely adding an extra dimension to the band’s sound. The previous track would have benefited from the addition of the keyboards. ‘Inciting Hatred From Upon The Papal Throne’ is as scathing as the band have sounded so far, especially vocally, Carwyn’s voice really standing out here. Whilst the melodic edge to the guitars is retained, the drums (albeit programmed) really spring to life here, blazing away in a torrent of blast beats and ultra-fast double bass drum work. Again however, there’s a distinct lack of keyboards which once again is blaringly obvious and seems to take the edge off the song. There’s nothing in the song writing hand book to say keyboards should be used in every song, but when they are used, they are used heavily and really do add something extra to the songs, so to omit them is disappointing to listen to. I can only assume that that the rest of the tracks are taken from a different recording, because when ‘Ufodte Massekren’ opens up the difference in production is instantly notable because it is absolutely horrendous. There’s a horrible ‘watery’ feel to the vocals which are barely in the mix and offer a very strange listen indeed. Guitars are ultra-harsh which only adds to the ‘watery’ feel, not good!
‘Bile – Spewing Hatred’ confuses things even more, as a more poilished production has returned, so not sure what the previous track was all about, but it definitely did not work! Returned is the melodic tinged, thrashy black metal, the guitar tone here reminiscent of Mayhem. It’s not very often the songs speed up, but when they do, work very well bringing a real brutal edge to the band. Although the faster sections don’t last long and are few and far between, creating an atmosphere has been chosen over all-out speed. Not necessarily a bad thing either. ‘The Embrace of The Night Part 2: The Natural Sanctuary’ is a return to form, hypnotic guitars and keyboards used under harsh vocals which is all held together by simple, but effective mid-paced drums. The production on the drums does seem to have differed from song to song, the hi-hats on the previous song was abysmal but here we hear a very natural drum sound, very ‘believable’ and when the paced is increased it is as good as the band have sounded so far. ‘Forests Of Desolation’ opens up and instantly reminded me of Vinterland, very harsh yet melodic black metal, and very atmospheric indeed. The drum programing seems to have been stepped up a notch here also. The last of the bands own material acts as an outro as there are no vocals, and to be blunt there’s no need for them, for when keyboards are introduced the atmosphere being created is enough to draw the track to its sullen ending, a fitting end (bar the Motorhead cover) to the bands material.
‘Orgasmatron’ is a cracking song and it’s going to be fairly hard to make it sound bad. PR do the song justice, a good song is always going to be a good song, enough said really! Summing up, ‘The Embrace Of Night’ is dripping with atmosphere and melody all combined with harsh yet (sometimes) orchestral black metal. There is however, a distinct lack of cohesion between the tracks, especially when keyboards aren’t used over some of them which gives the cd a disjointed feel. Differing productions on some of the tracks add to the lack of cohesion, ‘Ufodte Massekren’ being the obvious bug bearer. Having said that, there are a lot of good ideas on this album and it really shows a lot of potential. Things to need to be ‘pulled together’ more and I’m sure that Carwyn (the one man behind Prometheus Rising) will be producing some top class atmospheric black metal. A good first effort, dripping in atmosphere and ideas, just needs a bit more work to fully see its potential.

6.5 out of 10