Friday, 5 February 2016

Metal Bounty Hunter: Volume 3

Glass Shrine – Impurities (2015) / 79%

A fragile shrine to worship
A one man band from the United States, this new project is like a breath of fresh air on black metal, the 3 songs, 8 minutes demo is fast, melodic and almost happy metal. The vocals are super great, there's even a clean break on the first track “Pyrrhic Bliss” and it was a pretty sweet moment, it had this martial atmosphere and it felt surprisingly epic.

The brief tracks are a mix of punk influenced black metal (not as much as bands like Raspberry Bulbs, of course), the more experimental side of Krallice but in a low-key, subtle manner and some more conservative, raw black metal. It's a demo so it doesn't have a Nuclear Blast production and thank god for that, it's a mix of self-assumed lo-fi ness but it's still pretty clean all things considered. The guitars are crisp and the vocals are not too buried, the drums could had been a bit heavier though. I've been doing my best to spread the word about this interesting new project, I know he's working on a full length album and he'll have a bigger internet presence once it's done but in the meantime, check out this demo!
Listen to the demo here:

Black Sword Thunder Attack – Promo 2015 / 84%

Six Minutes of Pure Epicness

Greece really likes epic metal, Manilla Road are gods over there (as they should be everywhere else) and this is no exception. This short demo is composed of two songs from a planned full length (on the ice since some members moved, from what I heard) and it's simply excellent. The biggest inspiration is surely Lordian Guard, the vocals are similar cleans, womanly chanting and they sing those very catchy lines. The guitars are almost in constant lead mode for the duration of these two three minutes tracks and it's tasty as hell. Their epic heavy metal is both atmospheric and engaging. I'm in love with these kind of explosive riffs, it's timeless and perfect for the genre. Recommended for all the fanatics of the olde metal with a theatrical twist.

In the purest Ageless Wisdom, the two tracks demo is fun Greek trad metal. It's smart epicness with the best band name ever. Elric would be proud.

Corman – The Corman
School (2015) / 73%

B movie trad doom
While I'm not familiar with the cult movies of Roger Corman that inspired the lyrics here (I'm not much of a B movie buff to be honest), I'm widely familiar with traditional doom metal and that's what these Portuguese trio play. I really didn't dig their sound at first, I thought it was inexplicably weird but I kept trying and finally found their secret. They have this weird approach to a traditional genre, a bit like Realmbuilder, it's highly unorthodox both in the vocal and songwriting departments.

I thought the vocals were pretty terrible at first but they're really charming and fits the peculiar, insane music displayed here. The clean, operatic approach works well here and I'm totally fine with bad good vocals for doom metal, this is a genre at its best when, deep down, it's made by real amateurs and lovers of the genre. The musicianship is nevertheless quite solid, the riffs are fast and the songs short and to the point. The band leader promised that the future material will be stronger and catchier in an interview so I'm anxious to hear that. Recommended only to true fans of of trad doom who are tired of listening to Pentagram or Minotauri. 

Ex People – Loss (2015) / 82%

Mulder and Scully investigates the doom metal phenomenon

Originality is always a plus as far as lyrics are concerned and this newly formed British quartet definitely understood that. The three songs are all based around episodes from the first season of the X-Files and like many old 80s heavy metal bands, the series just did a comeback so the timing is quite appropriate! Their doom is interesting, it has a woman handling the mic (wonderfully and subtly, I might add) but it's very far from these occult mom doomy bands everywhere nowadays (think of Lucifer, Purson or Blood Ceremony), it's noisy and has this cold mechanical feeling. 

It seems like these guys don't really fit in the metal scene (two members were in this indie pop/rock band called Internet Forever) and just happens to play very heavy and loud music similar to what we know as doom metal since it fits the strange investigations of Mulder and Scully. There's an enjoyable rawness to the heavy guitars and they're not too dissimilar from what an alternative/noise rock band would use. The songs are slow dirges but they're the perfect length to keep us interested and the production fits this sort of urban, ugly doom metal very well.

It's mysterious, dark and like the cover art, it's spooky. This first release by Ex People made me feel hopeful for the British doom scene after being disappointing by the latest albums of With the Dead and Electric Wizard. Some people still care about breaking boundaries.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Metal Bounty Hunter: Volume Two

Khazaddum – In Dwarven Halls (2015) / 75%

By Gimli's beard!
The Wisconsin quintet plays a very cool sort of brutal death metal inspired by the likes of Nile and Suffocation but instead of writing about ancient Egypt or plain evil stuff, they decided to follow the Amon Amarth/Summoning path and accept J.R.R. Tolkien as their saviour. Their songs are slow for the style and they have the epic riffy as fuck approach of Bolt Thrower at times. The guitars are pretty legit and the soloing is quite decent, the drums are competent blastbeats as well and the production is solid as hell for a first independant release. The vocals are not your usual
breee breees”, they're more rooted in traditional death metal, deep manly growls are my favorite for this sort of metal! It would had been cool to get some Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit samples thrown in there for the sake of it though, it would add a fun cheesy side to the band that they already have anyway. Anyhow, that's a well done debut EP for these guys and I think the 15 minutes format works well for this style of primitive brutal death.

Bandcamp - Pay what you can

Pluie – d'Hochelaga (2014) / 78%
Wet dirty montreal black metal
The trio from the Hochelaga neigbourhood of Montréal plays a dirty kind of black metal inspired by their location. The production isn't that raw and it's quite richer than I thought it was at first,
it's also highly interesting. It's not experimental or written to reinvent the genre but there's originality within the confines of their solid riffs and depressive vocals. The tempos are varied, ranging from aggressively fast (“La dèche des ruelles”) to mid-paced heaviness (“Sorcier des rats”). Their music is highly emotional and features vicious but still beautiful melodies played by these incisive guitar tremolos. The bass is also high in the mix for this kind of metal, it's pretty enjoyable and adds a lot to the mix. Formed by musicians coming from many different musical scenes and backgrounds (such as the awesome experimental grind of Expectorated Sequence), Pluie evolves in a different direction than most Quebecois black metal, it's not about winter or nationalism, it's about how disgusting how humanity is and that, my friends, is universal.

Angel Sword – Rebels Beyond the Pale (2016) / 84%

Enter the Court of Chaos
Finland is easily becoming one of my favorite niches for trad metal, their scene oozes badassery and pure 80s fashion flair. Alongside bands like Legionnaire or Lord Fist, Angel Sword really found their sound in old compilations full of German and American bands and they're freaking awesome. Many will argue that the vocals of this band are mediocre but I really love this sort of amateurish, bad good style of delivery, he really fits the heavy metal sound found here. Like most Finnish metal, there's a certain peculiarity even if it's without a doubt traditional metal with the vintage themes.

The songs are all pretty short, super melodic affairs with juicy riffs and the choruses are awesome and well written, they remind me of Accept
or Running Wild (minus the pirate element) with they variety and appeal of Slough Feg (the last track “Witches Never Die” reminded me of the San Francisco band). It's efficient, meta metal of the highest quality with madman vocals. Highly recommended for true fans of true metal. Despite their name, they're far from generic.

Angel Sword on Bandcamp

Yetzer Hara – Demo 2014 / 76%

Dark obscured doom

This young Swedish mysterious unisex duo plays a vibrant form of doom/stoner while keeping only the necessary elements of the genre. Huge ass heavy guitars played by a small lady and loud slow drums played by her manly viking acolyte. The four instrumental songs are slow, thunderous dirges with a self assumed improvisational identity. It feels like they're in a dark smokey room and they're recording themselves play for half an hour before going out in the snowy climate of Norrköping. The theme of the band and their music is mostly related to Judaism but unlike fellow Swedes Meshuggah, they're subtle, introspective and smooth.
While I think some vocals could had been cool (think of High Priest of Saturn), the compositions are well thought out, repetitive but not overly so and the guitar tone is super good for such a recording. The inclusion of a short sample in “Ha” was thoughtful as well. I really like the ending of the demo, there's some sort of little bells resonating in the background and it's special. I'd really like to hear a full length from these guys, they're a bit elusive and slow to release stuff though but I'll be there waiting in the shadows!

Bandcamp - Pay what you can

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Fuath - I (2016) / 86%

Andy trimmed the fuath
Andy Marshall definitely likes to form new projects, release one album with it and then form a new one (I'll ignore Falloch since they were truly mediocre and it wasn't a one-man band). It happened with Askival at first, and then Àrsaidh changed its name after the debut album called Roots. Finally, the newly entitled Saor released Aura in 2014. The thing is that those three projects shared very similar identities, they were all super entrenched in Scottish folk music and had all sorts of folkloric instruments like the tin whistle. I can understand changing the Àrsaidh name since like my fellow reviewer Caspian said, it sounds like arsehead but eh, it's still fun to watch him evolve through his music.

Fuath on the other hand leaves this behind to explore a simpler, streamlined and in the end mostly more rewarding style. While I liked Arsaidh a lot, it was still a somewhat cheesy and jam packed album and I think the writing is more mature and developed. Sure there's not a lot of variety but it's not needed and it's not the point of this style of music. It rarely works when yourself to include as much genres and influences as possible, restraint is a great quality in metal music and Andy used this concept to his advantage here.

This debut album has the same rich sound but Andy definitely simplified his approach, it's basically only atmospheric black metal inspired by the modern acts such as Vemod or early Wolves in the Throne Room (not as “cascadian”, whatever this means). The four tracks are sprawling numbers and they all contain a huge amount of riffs, it's atmospheric because of the natural aura the production has and the sense of grandeur the simplified yet totally epic feel the songwriting is. The guitars are subtle yet incisive and the vocals shadowy yet entrancing and emotional. There's still some remnants of the folky side but it's mostly in the background recalling the days of yore (such as in the second track “Blood” and it's done tastefully. The real difference maker in atmospheric black metal is the worthiness of the riffing combined with the airy ambiance and both are top notch here.

Nowadays, the musicianship and production values of one-man bands can often be exceptional (see The Ruins of Beverast or Midnight Odyssey) and Fuath is no exception. There's nothing unnecessary on this 41 minutes album, everything is produced like it should be, it's not too clean, not too raw and the instrumentation is super good. The people who thought Soar was too pompous (this includes myself) are gonna dig this record, it's less flamboyant but the black metal roots are much much evident and they're used to concoct this potent Scottish potion.

Fuath on Bandcamp

My review for Arsaidh written in 2013: ROOTS

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Tarot – Reflections (2016) / 91%

Reflecting the past into the present

Since its formation in 2011, Tasmania's Tarot (formed by Wil Fried, the frontman of excellent The Wizar'd and owner of Heavy Chains) has been churning quality releases steadily and many people including myself were excitedly expecting their debut full length. Like all the projects of Wil (called The Hermit here), Tarot is quite special in its traditionalism and they're simply top notch. Compared to his other bands, they're more soothing and explores different facets of classic rock music.

Admittedly short at 34 minute, the 7 tracks are all excellent and while the influences are easily perceivable (Uriah Heep, Deep Purple), it's so much more than a cheap throwback. Tarot are mixing the lovely organ found in heavy rock of long ago with the most relaxing heavy metal known to mankind. The two main metal bands I was reminded of during Reflections are Pagan Altar and Lordian Guard. The supple guitar tone and the ethereal guitar leads combined with the high pitched nasal vocal delivery of Wil (not as exaggerated as in his trad doom metal band) recalls the contributions to metal from these two great bands. If you're familiar with Lordian Guard (founded by the creator of Warlord), you'll hear the similarity in the vocals right away, same if you like the late Terry Jones.

Mixing hard rock, NWOBHM, proto heavy metal, prog rock and even folk is not a simple task but Tarot definitely does it well. There's bits where they remind me of the folky side of Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull like the short instrumental title track and I really dig this and I'd like them to expand this side! The tracks are catchy, mid-paced affairs, a track like “Mountain Throne” has these truly memorable guitar parts and the solo rocks. It's streamlined, has no useless moments and has this super expansive instrumentation. Wil plays the guitar, the keys, the organ and sings so he's the cornerstone of the project.

It's mesmerizing and it feels good when you're listening to them. If you're looking for metal or rock that's dangerous or dark, listen to something more edgy and vulgar because this is far from that. The music from this Tasmanian trio is introspective in a timeless way. They have this brillant British medieval influence that's not absent from the aforementioned metal bands but also reminiscent of Genesis' Selling England by the Pound… Their sound is both classy and majestic (an appropriate adjective the band uses itself to describe their music), the guitars are really friendly with the organ and they live together in this rich, grand loft. It's also the best production they ever had, the riffs aren't heavy most of the time but they sound very good and I'd fuck this organ sound if I could, it's so lovely.

I need to talk about the artwork a little since it's freaking gorgeous. Karmazid is currently one of the best metal artists and I'm happy the band picked him for this debut full length. Tarot always had superb artwork but they were lo-fi amateur affairs (except the compilation The Warrior's Spell), they were quite charming anyway but this one is fully detailed and showcases the occult side of the project. The album has been released digitally (and soon on CD) but a vinyl version will follow on the excellent Van Records and I'd say it's worth to own, not only because the art is fantastic but because the music is superb as well.