Saturday, 17 January 2015

Entheos - Ototeman (2015) / 84%

Rouyn-Noranda's cold escapism

Québécois black metal is slowly starting to become one of the best scenes in the world. All bias aside, all the bands used to be similar, they were all about the cold winters, traditionalism or patriotism and these subjects while interesting were becoming mundane and unoriginal. Entheos is one of those bands that are succeeding in breaking the boundaries and expanding their genre towards more philosophical and intellectual tendencies.

From one of the metal kingdoms of Québec, the northern industrial city of Rouyn-Noranda (to give you an idea, Entheos opened for Ulcerate when they played there, it's a small city with a big metal fanbase), Entheos are unsurprisingly playing a very cold sort of black metal but they have more in common with the ethereal sound of Sombres Forêts than the likes of Forteresse or Neige Éternelle. That's probably helped by Annatos' involvement, the main man behind the seminal project has produced, recorded the album and he, added some guitar, bass and vocals too. Still, Entheos are not as adventurous as SF, texturally they're not flashy and don't use unorthodox instruments.

Combining many types of black metal like post black (think early Altar of Plagues) and atmospheric black metal. The compositions are intricate but always subtle, there's no grandiloquent nature leanings like in Wolves in the Throne Room and the likes. It's also thoroughly well produced with a clean production showcasing the skills of the musicians (their drummer Jessy Normand is also in the excellent death metal band Pallor Mortis) but they never overdo it. They include some charming acoustic guitar sensibilities like the beginning of my favorite track, the almost 10 minutes “Rêve de grandeur”. While maintaining an atmospheric aura, the band is always conscious about being rifftastic, they're very dynamic and even in the more quiet moments, they come up with interesting guitar licks and moments. It's also important to note that there's many more dissonant moments inspired by Deathspell Omega and the likes, a good example would be the heaviest parts of the final track “Parasite asservi”.

Their lyrics are all in French, it's efficient misanthropic & philosophical poetry, it fits their compositions and it was an enjoyable read. The subjects, themes and art approach combined with their sound are giving Entheos the ability to stand out and we're becoming to see more and more variety with bands like Eos (signed on the great Fallen Empire label) and that's a sign proving the health of the Québec black metal scene.

Here's some parts translated by yours truly: 

“The horizon is wide here
Like the centuries of winter
The men only walk to keep walking
and this earth is filled with our wanderings”

“The windows regurgitate the last soldiers of an infinite army
These dividing walls offering no other issue than these deformed holes in constant ascent”

I'm still ashamed I've missed their Montréal album release gig with the excellent like-minded newcomers Basalte, but I'll be there next time! Entheos are an interesting atmospheric, vibrant and mildly experimental black metal band with an already solid identity.

Free album on Bandcamp

Friday, 16 January 2015

Põhjast - Matused (2014) / 84%

Epic Nordic coalition of lone-wolves

An international project combining members of three Nordic countries, Pohjast's Matused (Estonian for funeral) is the band's second full length and once again features a wolf on the cover art (don't worry, they're better than Catamenia!) Before attacking the music, I feel it's important to decorticate the composition of this band.

Eric Syre (well known for his excellent black/thrash solo project Thesyre and more recently for being the singer of up and coming old schoolers Beast Within) is the lead singer and he's absolutely stellar. The majority of the vocals on this album are clean in the purest Quorthon tradition, but compared to the late Bathory leader, Syre is actually a very competent singer with a good range (please, don't throw me any rocks, I like Bathory as much as the next guy!)

The rest of the band is composed of experienced musicians from the Estonian and Finnish scenes (bands like Metsatöll, Ajattara, Sorts…) and the musicianship is extremely solid. The approach reminds me of the latest two Darkthrone albums but with a powerful and punchy production. It's not really black metal anymore, it's more of an amalgamation of ultra heavy epic Viking metal, pagan metal and even traditional heavy metal. The production, alongside the vocals, is perhaps the best thing about Matused, it's simply perfect for their genre. Everything has the room to breathe, it's crystal clear while never being sacharrine nor sterile.

The album is short and only has six numbers ranging from 4 to 6 minutes, while I think they could slow things up and come up with longer and more intricate songs, this formula works quite well for them and you don't have the time to get bored. The songs all possess this anthem quality (listen to “In the Shadow of the Glass Cross”) due mostly to the simplistic but catchy guitar riffs and the strong, manly vocals. The bass is loud and it compliments the guitar very well in creating a solid wall of sound bordering on doom and Celtic Frost territories. Well played slow leads are also part of their songwriting credo. 

While not reinventing anything, this international project plays an efficient sort of music that is still essential for the well being of the scene. 

Solid stuff.