Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Owl – You Are the Moon, I Am the Night (2013) | 83%

No regret! No retrospection!”

Christian Kolf is one of the most interesting musicians in the modern German metal scene. Fronting the weird doom/death band Valborg which is constantly releasing strong albums since their inception in the early 2000s and the excellent psychedelic sludge/whatever band Woburn House, he's a busy man. Owl is another project of his and it's still top notch metal, they're at their second full length stage and I feel they improved compared to their 2011 debut. Before continuing, I'd like to warn you that if you don't like long ass songs, just go back to your safe ten songs for forty minutes death metal album and be comfortable in your conservatism.

The approach found on “You Are the Moon, I Am the Night” is rather unique, it evolved from their self titled album into something more refined. It's exploring the realms of death metal but at the same time, incorporating enjoyable, exterior influences. Their basis remains death metal and it sounds like if Morbid Angel found a bigger brain or Nile got kicked out of their Egyptian McDonald. It has a very grandiose concept and an epic sort of riffing with a great guitar tone

The vocals of Kolf are deep and cavernous, akin to Steve Tucker era Morbid Angel, they definitely get the job done even though Kolf is first and foremost a composer, you can hear the similarity found in his other bands but transferred into a death metal setting compared to the mixes of . These rough vocals can be catchy and they sometimes rely on repetitions of lines to prove their point like “I will destroy you!” on the title track. Quite visceral! Outside of the harsh vocals, there's some profound but not cheesy cleans. Furthermore, the title track features a strange semi harsh, sludgey and almost spoken word French, it seemed to be poetry and it felt familiar but it appears to be original lyrics, they're quite good too. A romantic metaphor about the sun and the moon, very adapted to their profound music.

The album starts with two monster tracks, the eighteen minutes title track and the fourteen minutes “Clouds of the Mourning Spring”. Both very intricate and atmospheric songs full of nuances. The release ends with an ambient track just like it did on their previous album but fortunately this time, it's fortunately only fourteen minutes rather than half an hour, thank Satan for that. I like ambient but this was simply too much for me, after ten minutes, we got the message.  Nevertheless, there's still a tendency of being simply too atmospheric. I can't help to think that the last ambient track is unnecessary, Kolf has an ambient band calleGruenewald, I reckon he could keep these influences for this project instead. Still, the ambient influence is incorporated into their sound on the three metal tracks, it's certainly a part of their identity. Structurally speaking, it's not the most cohesive album, there's even a one minute interlude that would had been integrated easily in one of the other tracks. It's a bit too loose and could benefit from a tighter direction.

They can be compared to state brothers The Ruins of Beverast in a sense that they're dissecting their genres while adding instrumental, hypnotizing and emotional parts. They're both using various elements to develop their approach and in the case of mister Kolf, he's not scared of diving into atmospheric sludge/post metal to get what he's looking for. That's reflected by the cultoflunesque production and the coldness of the riffs. There's no place for long leads that are giving their sometimes overpaid place to clean guitar parts that are creating interesting background soundscapes. This mix of hard hitting slow and doomy death with sludge influences is really damn enjoyable and the songs don't feel like they're twenty minutes long.

Owl is for adventurous listeners who have a desire for for a subtle, progressive and atmospheric death metal recipe. It's still keeping the sense of dread the genre is known for but it's making it airy and dreamy. Like an owl, it's living in the dark shades of the night, waiting for a naive prey to appear. Bringing it to its nest to be devoured, lifeless.

It's recommended even though they could remove the fat from their sound but then the project wouldn't be that justified since Valborg already explores a tighter doom/death sound albeit with a twisted behaviour. It's an uncompromising album proving once again that death metal can think outside of the box and be particularly inventive. Owl is fighting the old school death metal scene while also being free from the constraints of a modern and technical sound which is overcompensating with solos and noodling. Comparable to Portal, the Germans are relying on building frameworks made out of unorthodox structures and influences. Owl, on the other hand, creates something with a sense of familiarity, it's not as discordant and unapproachable.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Aktor - I Am the Psychic Wars (2013) | 90%

A reference to Circle's "Katapult" album maybe?

NWOFHM #6 : Films Aktors Guild 

Thanks to my metal god friend Azmodes for the vinyl rip of this release, I owe you big time. NWOFHM is a term coined by Lehtisalo during his career, it's to reflect his love for metal and his country, Finland.

"As the wind blows my breath away, are you listening to me?"

Formed by one of my favourite musical heroes around, Jussi Lehtisalo and, to my surprise, the American extraordinary gentleman Chris Maycock (aka Professor Black of Dawnbringer, High Spirits, Pharaoh). Aktor is another weird Finnish project created by the Circle leader that will probably, to my consternation, go unnoticed. 

Maycock is bringing his awesome and fun voice to Lehtisalo's idiosyncratic song writing  What we have here is a perfect mix of High Spirits (a very pleasant band) with the insane experimental heavy metal approach developed in Krypt Axeripper, a project that if you didn't know yet, I totally adore. While the American is not known for his powerful voice (he's a composer more than everything else), I think he's a very nice addition here. His soft and easy listening voice fits quite well with the great riffs and he's able to transpose the weird vocal lines into something truly tangible.  The choruses are fun and the lyrics are super good and totally understandable.

Their first release akin to another metal project of the crazy Finn called Tractor Pulling, is a short single with two songs but goddamn, I think I pressed the repeat button forty times since I first got it. Perhaps this length seems a bit restrictive in terms of what you can achieve musically but under the flair of these seasoned musicians, it doesn't really matter. It's a great release and one of the best metal releases the Finnish psych/experimental guru has done.

The single is mixing melodic heavy metal with the usual weird leads that you can hear in most NWOFHM with an healthy dose of AOR and hard rock à la Blue Oyster Cult (hence the title of the release, I hope you guys got it before I told you!). Both songs, the title track and “Buried by the Sea” (which is maybe a following to Krypt Axeripper's “Sacrifice the Sea”?) are short three minutes and a half tracks, they're both very catchy with undeniable and mesmerizing hooks. There’s an added poppier sound here thanks to the sufficient amount of keyboards giving an “heavy prog”  or almost electro vibe perspective and the clean vocal delivery of the Professor. It’s more accessible than bands like Motorspandex or Arkhamin Kirjasto, it’s still eccentric but it’s maybe not as bizarre as some other projects. It's a bit similar to the new incarnation of Circle called Falcon which also released their debut in 2013 but Aktor is actually a full blown metal band

This single is highly recommended for fans of traditional metal with a personal and interesting touch. It's very melodic and has nice classic and glam rock influences. Aktor is one of the best collaborations I heard recently and it was a pleasant to hear these two seasoned and respected musicians play together. Lehtisalo proves once again that he's a true underrated metal warrior by delivering yet another solid release. I can't dislike anything that emanates from his creative and joyful mind. Spend seven minutes in good company!

Listen to the whole single here uploaded by yours truly.