Review published at Indy Metal Vault.
Review published at Indy Metal Vault.
Gathering II is the upcoming follow up to Gathering, the first split EP between the two US-black metal bands Amiensus and Oak Pantheon, released in 2013. Once again, the two bands collaborated to release a split EP containing one song by each band. Additionally, we also get a collaborative song on Gathering II.
I loved Gathering and was super happy when I heard the bands were working on a second split release. Being a fan of both bands, the expectations for Gathering II were quite high. And fortunately, I can say that it does not disappoint.
The split is opened up by Oak Pantheon with the song “A Demonstration”, which lyrically explores real-world death cults. Musically, it is very focused on the folk side of things, with acoustic guitars opening up the track and leading through the whole piece. The extreme metal elements, harsh vocals and electric guitars, are more of an addition to the folk elements than the other way around. What I love about this track in particular is how far up in the mix the bass guitar (played by Amiensus’ bassist Todd Farnham) is. It adds a unique, jazzy twist to the music and serves as a very refreshing element that makes this song stand out from your typical folky black metal. This also is, on a side note, the first Oak Pantheon track featuring real drums (played by Amiensus’ drummer Chris Piette). A great opnener and probably one of my favourite Oak Pantheon tracks yet.
The second track, “Tanequil”, is a song collaboratively written and performed by Amiensus and Oak Pantheon and serves as a great transition from the folky, rather light Oak Pantheon track to the more atmospheric and heavier Amiensus track. There is one section of this song that stood out to me with its clean vocals that reminded me, of all things, of American metalcore band Demon Hunter. Something about the vocal harmonies and the melody is quite reminiscent of the way Demon Hunter write their melodies. Or maybe it’s just my brain playing tricks on me. Whatever, this is definitely a good song, but also the least memorable and interesting out of the three, in my opinion.
The closing track, “Now Enter Dusk” by Amiensus, is by far my favourite piece on the record. Right from the start, the song builds a freaking beautiful soundscape with a melodic guitar riff that is complemented by an equally beautiful bass line, subtle synths and majestic drumming. When the vocals kick in, you are already completely captivated by the magnificent atmosphere of the song. Amiensus once again showcase what is possible with regard to building atmosphere with this piece. Harsh and clean vocals harmonise in a remarkable way, the instruments merge into enormous walls of sound, while simultaneously shining individually. As a whole, the song is a perfect combination of atmosphere, melody, and impressive musicianship.
Altogether, Gathering II is not only able to match the quality of its predecessor, but it even surpasses it and stands as a beautiful piece of atmospheric and majestic music. Do yourself a favor and check this out as soon as it is available.
Gathering II will be released November 5th and will soon be available at Bandcamp.
JON is the musical alter ego of Jonathan Hayes from Askim, Norway. He is a composer and musician who focuses on dark and romantic music that best fits into the dungeon synth genre, but also exceeds that category. Psalms of Annihilation is JON’s debut album.
Psalms of Annihilation is a dark and mysterious sounding album. The music is a mixture of dungeon synth, dark synth and a great amount of orchestral elements. Obviously inspired by horror film soundtracks, the compositions are streamlined and focused on creating an alluring, albeit spooky atmosphere that evokes images of abandoned castle ruins and dark occult rituals. While most of the songs are stylistically pretty typical dungeon synth tracks with orchestral elements, some of the songs, like “Zalanes – Trouble Bringer” are closer connected to the dark synthwave genre and have an overall heavier, more modern sound to them.
The album is well-rounded, catching the listeners attention from the get-go and keeping him engaged throught the whole playing time. To me, this album seems like the perfect background soundtrack for the reading of a gothic horror novel like Bram Stoker’s Dracula – spooky, romantic, dark and mysterious, otherworldly and all around fascinating.
If you are a fan of synth-driven music, horror films or anything dark and eerie, do yourself a favor and check this album out. Find a good horror novel, put your headphones on, and enjoy a one-of-a-kind spooky experience. Perfect for Halloween!
Psalms of Annihilation was released October 22nd and can be streamed and purchased digitally and in various limited physical editions at Bandcamp.
Oregon-based one man project Utstøtt arrived to the black metal underground in 2013 with the release of his four-track EP Legender Odin. Playing a synth-laden breed of epic, melodic black metal, Utstøtt didn’t bring anything entirely new to the table with the EP, but Navnløs, the man behind the project, pulled off the Summoning and Windir inspired style of black metal quite perfectly and further proved his talents with his debut LP Hjørungavågr in 2015. Now, three years later, Utstøtt, now comprised of two members, Navnløs and Stormning, is back with a second full length album, named after the mythological iron-forest Járnviðr.
From the cover artwork alone you can tell that this album is a little different from his first two releases. Instead of majestic mountains and lakes, the painting “Winter” by Ivan Shishkin adorns the cover. We see a snow covered forest giving off a cold, darker vibe. And indeed the album sounds quite a bit colder and darker than Hjørungavågr.
The album has a playing time of 66 minutes, spanning over six songs, one of which is a fantastic and rather creative cover of Burzum’s legendary song “Dunkelheit”. Each song on the album is its own beast with its own feel and story, but all of them work together towards an overarching cold and dark atmosphere, evoking images of ancient forests and snow covered landscapes.
The compositions on Járnviðr are as grand and epic as those on the band’s previous albums, but they are much more traditional and visceral at the same time. If Hjørungavågr was the musical equivalent to a battle between two armies, Járnviðr represents a one-on-one combat. The production is sharp and clear, adding to the harshness of the riffs and vocals. Stylistically sitting somewhere between atmospheric and melodic black metal with pagan/folk influences, the compositions on this album are written and build around melodic riffs, but focused on the atmosphere they evoke rather than the melodies themselves. It’s an approach more similar to bands like Burzum or Drudkh than, say, Vindland or Windir.
Not only are the riffs on this album freaking righteous, there are enough additional musical elements, like atmospheric synth-driven sections, amazing guitar solos and beautiful acoustic portions, incorporated into the compositions to keep the album interesting and entertaining throughout its duration.
As a whole, Járnviðr is an amazing black metal album, that combines melody, riffs, atmosphere, beauty and harshness into an intriguing, captivating and epic package. One of my favorite black metal albums of the year so far.
Járnviðr was self-released October 15th and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.
Follow Utstøtt on Facebook.
Oh. is the musical alter ego of Greek composer, multi-instrumentalist and sound producer Olivia Hadjiioannou. She arrived to the international music world in 2013, releasing her debut EP Sleeping World, which received positive reactions worldwide. In 2015 she released her debut full-length album Synemotion. Now, three years later, Oh. returns to the scene with her second EP, Metallia.
When I received the review request for Metallia, I hadn’t heard anything about Oh. before. Let me put it like this – all the expectations I had about what this record might sound like were shattered when I listened to it for the first time. Oh.’s music truly is something special.
The terms “progressive”, “experimental” and “avantgarde” get thrown around a lot nowadays (not least by myself), but they are rarely really deserved. In this case however, there are hardly any other words one could use to describe the sonic mayhem presented on this EP. Metallia is one 26-minute long composition in six parts, rich in shredding guitars, time-bending tempo shifts, groovy bass lines, deranged, Middle-Eastern influenced rhythms, haunting expressive vocals and creative synth and percussion elements scattered all over the composition.
At first listen, the EP is one thing more than anything else – overwhelming. The sheer amount of musical elements build into the composition are almost too much to take in, especially since the composition itself is unconventional to such an extent that one almost cannot make out any traditional musical structures. The tempo changes repeatedly, the individual instruments are layered in a way that makes you feel like missing out when you try to focus your attention on only one of them.
The hidden leitmotives and recurring patterns in the compostion reveal themselves only after multiple listens and make this EP a real grower that you will return to over and over again and still be surprised and impressed every time you hear it. With Metallia, Olivia Hadjiioannou has proven to be an incredibly gifted and creative composer and technically talented musician. If you are tired of progressive bands repeating the same old stuff over and over again, look no further – Oh. has you covered.
Metallia was released July 27th and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.
The Unknown Voyage is the debut album of Polish-Spanish power metal band Chaos Over Cosmos. The band members define their music as a mix of heavy and progressive metal with ambient, cosmic elements and name bands such as Iron Maiden and Wintersun as their musical influences. Their lyrics are inspired by cosmic science-fiction and Friedrich Nietzsche (what a promising combination!).
While I don’t listen to a lot of power metal nowadays I still couldn’t resist checking this album out. One of the main reasons for that was the fact that Chaos Over Cosmos is what you could call an internet band. The two members Javier Calderón (vocals, lyrics) and Rafał Bowman (guitars, synth, programming) never met each other “in real life” and only interacted via the Internet to create this album together. What a great example of the opportunities the Internet gives artists to realize their vision.
The outcome of this international collaboration is definitely something the band can be proud of – The Unknown Voyage is a super fun album that contains a lot of great ideas and shows two artists living out their passion for music. The album has a playing time of almost 50 minutes, spanning over five tracks, three of which exceed the ten minute mark.
The album is introduced by “A Hidden Path”, a short ambient and synth driven prelude with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche’s classic Also sprach Zarathustra. I’m not a fan of the way the words are performed in this track, but that’s a minor complain because almost everything that follows after the intro track is pretty great. “Armour of the Stars (Xenogears)” is the first real song on the album and with a playing time of more than 14 minutes also the longest one. Fast-paced and melodious, it is a very solid song reminiscent of oldschool power and heavy metal, with some progressive and ambient elements. The riffs are fast and melodic, the vocals energetic and engaging. Lyrically, this track is inspired by the classic playstation RPG “Xenogears”.
The next track “They Will Fall” is a slower, doom metal influenced epic with a more serious message and a generally more solemn atmosphere than “Xenogears”. “The Compass” is the most “cosmic” sounding track, with a lot of ambience and synths added to the mix. Calderón’s vocal performance on this track is a little more restrained, which harmonizes perfectly with the soothing soundscape of the guitars and synths. Around the middle of the track we are presented an impressive instrumental section that showcases Bowman’s technical and compositional capabilities. The final track “They Sky Remembered My Name” is definitely my favorite one on the record, a very technical, heavy, yet peaceful sounding instrumental track that contains amazing melodies and grooves.
In conclusion, The Unknown Voyage is a very solid debut album that shows a band with a lot of potential and a musical vision. Combining old school heavy/power metal riffing and vocals with modern, progressive sections, ambient and synth elements, creative songwriting and catchy melodies, The Unknown Voyage is an album no fan of melodic heavy music should miss out on.
The Unknown Voyage was self-released September 7th and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.
Follow Chaos Over Cosmos on Facebook.
Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-weariness) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind.
I believe that black metal is such an interesting genre of music because, observed from an outside position, it comes of as traditional and closed towards new ideas and other musical styles; if you really dive into it, however, your perception will soon change and you will begin to see the amount of creativity, experimentation and avantgarde thinking that is to be found in the black metal scene. Black metal has evolved a lot since the 90s and has become a melting pot of ideas, musical styles, artisitic influences and concepts. There is seemingly nothing that hasn’t been tried within the confines of this musical genre, yet many bands still manage to bring something new to the table everyday.
Dutch two-piece act Weltschmerz started their carrier in black metal with works that more or less channelled the black metal of the 90s and they were very good at it. On their upcoming second album Illustra Nos, Weltschmerz doesn’t only evolve as a band, but also create a rather unique and exciting blend of black metal that is at times reminiscent of the 90s, while containing many progressive and experimental elements that make it sound very different and fresh.
The album opener “Until The Bitter End” is a traditional, fast paced, gnarly sounding black metal track with a rock’n’roll groove to it, that will have you bang your head in no time. The drums are definitely my personal highlight on this track, as they are pummeling and unrelenting, yet performed in an organic way with some nice little fills that put a smile on your face.
From then on, the album gets more and more interesting. “Ecce Homo” contains some very nice bass lines, that are higher up in the mix than expected from a black metal record, which I personally love. To my pleasure, this is a reappearing feature of the album. The track’s most surprising element is the cello section at the end, that comes out of nowhere and is so weirdly placed that it’s a delight for fans of avantgarde music. The symphonic/classical elements are a reappearing element on the album and add a lot to its atmosphere.
The album contains lots of great traditional riffs and exciting instrumental sections that reach from acoustic interludes to experimental symphonic segments, as well as many sections that are primarily focused on creating atmospheric walls of sound and suck the listener into a certain emotional state. The whole album is pulled together by great songwriting and a omnipresent dark and brooding atmosphere, and should definitely be experienced in one sitting.
All in all, Illustra Nos is an incredible black metal album that channels all the greatness of the 90s black metal scene and adds a lot of modern and progressive elements to it, resulting in a unique, yet traditional sound that is sure to be enjoyed by fans of oldschool and modern black metal alike.
Review published at Indy Metal Vault.
Formed in 1997, avantgarde metal outfit Dir En Grey are one of the most well-known and important Japanese metal bands. Their unique style, a mixture of death metal, progressive metal, hardcore and basically EVERYTHING ELSE, has been unparalleled and their musical output incredibly consistent.
Now, 21 years after their inception, Dir En Grey release their 10th full length album The Insulated World. Does it hold up to their critically acclaimed previous efforts? In my opinion, it absolutely does.
The album is incredibly coherent, given the amount of experimentation that went into it and the weird elements that it is comprised of. The band experiments with electronic elements a little more on this album, which works really well for me. The song “Keigaku No Yoku” is a great example of a fantastic symbiosis of metal and electronic elements with its doomy guitar riffs and heavy glitch sounds, while the drums on the brutal and technical second track “Devote My Life” are almost breakcore-esque. Every song on the record is its own beast, yet they all somehow fit together, like different pieces of a mosaic.
As on their previous albums, there are tons of groovy riffs, melodic choruses, as well as more atmospheric sections. The guitars are technical and heavy, the bass is fat and groovy, the drums hit harder than ever before and Kyo’s vocals are as crazily versatile and fascinating as always. This guy never ceases to amaze me with his chameleon voice that can switch from nightmarish and demonic to soothing and angelic in the fraction of a second. “Ningen Wo Kaburu” is a great example of the album’s sound in general and especially of Kyo’s vocal abilities with its harsh and aggressive verses and beautiful melodic chorus. If you want to get a sneak peak into the band’s sound, this is a good song to start with.
As a whole, The Insulated World is a great mixture of Dir En Grey’s heavier and their softer side, plus previously unheard elements, resulting in a balanced, yet exciting sound that is constantly surprising and captivating throughout the whole playing time of 50 minutes. Definitely one of the most unique and interesting albums of the year – and one of my personal favorites so far.
Review published at Indy Metal Vault.
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