Split Review: Amiensus / Oak Pantheon – Gathering II

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.

Oak Pantheon - Metal SoliloquyThe 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.

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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.

Follow Amiensus:  Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Follow Oak Pantheon: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Album Review: Utstøtt – Járnviðr

Utstott - Jarnvidr - Review at Metal Soliloquy

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.

Utstott - Metal SoliloquyThe 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.

Album Review: Weltschmerz – Illustra Nos

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.

Weltschmerz - Illustra Nos - Metal Soliloquy

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.

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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.

Illustra Nos will be released October 26th via Redefining Darkness Records and can be preordered at Bandcamp.

Follow Weltschmerz: Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

EP Review: Nòtt – Nòtt

a3412940938_16Nòtt is a solo project of James Benson, guitarist and vocalist of progressive/atmospheric black metal band Amiensus. I didn’t really know what to expect from this project, but with the works of Amiensus in mind, I assumed this EP would sound somewhat similar. After listening to the first track I prepared to be disabused, though.

Nòtt sounds a lot darker than anything Amiensus has released so far (except All Paths Lead To Death, maybe). Moving into a progressive, sludgy, post-y, but stone cold style of Black Metal, Nòtt doesn’t mess around with electronic/folk/synth/you-name-it elements, but primarily uses guitars and drums to create atmosphere.

Speaking of atmosphere, this record is overwhelmingly bleak. The pummeling drums and deep guitar riffs, interwoven with unsettling melodies, build intimidating walls of sound that come closer and closer every second. The despairing vocals pierce through the thick atmosphere and only increase its claustrophobic character. Only the fourth song “Sol” gives you some time to rest with its dreamy and somewhat lighter sound that feels like a rock in a raging ocean of darkness.

At times the album reminded me of Departe’s 2016 release Failure, Subside, which in my opinion has a similar atmosphere that cannot be described more fittingly than with the word “heavy”. And like Départe, Nòtt too adds something else to the mixture, an element of lightness that is transported by the very clear production of the music. The discrepancy between the sludgy, heavy music and the clear production is an important element of what makes this album so effective, in my opinion.

All in all, Nòtt is an extremely coherent atmospheric and ice cold black metal record, that no fan of extreme music should miss. If you have any interest in black metal at all, give this EP a listen.

Nòtt was self-released January 17th and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Make sure to visit Nòtt’s official Facebook page, as well!

Album Review: Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж

a3778239288_10.jpgUkrainian folk/atmo-black metallers Drudkh are without a doubt one of the most important bands in the atmospheric black metal genre. With ten full length albums in their back catalog of which the last few weren’t exactly well-received (although they were mostly very good, in my humble opinion), the expectations for their eleventh album Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About The Spring) were rather mixed. I’m glad that I can say they delivered a great album that really makes up for their weaker moments.

On their newest offering, Drudkh continue to defy the cliché of the typical frosty black metal dealing with the coldest of seasons. After crafting multiple albums surrounding the melancholic beauty of autumn, the season of approaching death, they now focus on the other transitory season – spring, the season of birth and rebirth. In regards to the sound of this album, the latter is more fitting than the first. Їм часто сниться капіж can indeed be seen as a rebirth – with a few modifications. Drudkh return to do what they do best and offer a beautifully understated style of atmospheric black metal on this album that evokes emotions and inspires the listener to let their thoughts wander and – dream.

Surprisingly, one of the features Drudkh’s earlier works are known for is completely nonexistent on this album. There are no folk elements to find here, not even in the form of an acoustic intro or outro. Instead of that, the incredibly well-balanced songs are mainly made of rhythmic riffs coupled with tasteful tremolo melodies, blistering drum work and a subtle use of symphonic sound walls that add a very epic element to the aggressive sound. While the general feel of this album is, fittingly for the motif of spring, rather warm and welcoming, almost “Cascadian” in that sense, there is still a coldness in the guitars and vocals which makes the listener think back to the old days of Norwegian black metal.

With Їм часто сниться капіж, Drudkh have proven once again that they are indeed one of the best bands in the genre. Not afraid to experiment and leave behind certain aspects of their popular style while returning others, this album is one of their most coherent and absorbing works so far, and an essential listen for every fan of the genre.

Їм часто сниться капіж was released March 9th via Season of Mist and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Album Review: NONE – Life Has Gone On Long Enough

a3634599611_16.jpgI feel like sometimes everyone of us needs to be reminded that we are not the only ones in the universe. We get so caught up in our own problems and struggles that we ignore everyone else. Depressive black metal can serve as such a reminder. If we are happy, it can remind us of the fact that there are many people out there who aren’t that fortunate, and if we are sad or depressed, it gives us some solace in the fact that we are not the only ones who feel that way.

NONE is a very interesting project, musically. His first, self titled album was released in 2016 and consisted of three elongated tracks that had sort of a Cascadian quality to them, but drenched in negativity and depression. That structure is not given on his newest album, which contains 8 medium length tracks and is a little, just a little more typical for a depressive black metal record. Atmosphere is still the main goal of the music. And it succeeds – the record sounds cold, dark and desolate with some incredibly beautiful moments throughout, but without feeling forced or inauthentic. Lyrically, NONE once again deals with depression and alcoholism and, unsurprisingly, thoughts of suicide.

There is a lot of variation to be found on this album. Typical guitar riffs, blast beats and desolate screams alternate with occasional use of clean vocals, delicate acoustic piano and guitar sections, ambient samples, and recordings of desperate crying or even hysterical laughter. The subtler, calmer moments on the record are what makes this album very gripping and touching. That’s not to say that the more “typical” parts of the songs aren’t fantastic, as well. This is a very well written and well executed piece of music as a whole.

Whether you can relate to the lyrical themes of the album or not, this is a record you definitely shouldn’t sleep on if you are into dark music.

Life Has Gone On Long Enough was released April 11th via Hypnotic Dirge Records and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Album Review: Wesenwille – I: Wesenwille

a2958983577_16.jpgBased in Utrecht, Netherlands, Wesenwille is a two-man band that focuses on delivering black metal with a modern approach. Their self titled debut album was released via Redefining Darkness Records on April 27th.

On their first album, Wesenwille combine influences from depressive and atmospheric black metal with dissonant death metal elements, progressive song structures and an interesting lyrical concept that deals with the development of technology and its influence on human social interactions and values. The result is a dark and captivating record that is atmospheric and coherent, without ever getting boring or predictable.

Wesenwille find the perfect balance between heavy riffs and sections of pure dissonant aggression and more contamplative passages, as well as between technicality and atmosphere. The musical performances on this record are quite impressive. The technical guitar riffs, the groovy bass lines, as well as the ferocious drums and the versatile vocals are absolutely fantastic and perfectly blend together into a dark sonic whirlwind. The songwriting is as good as it gets, leaving enough space for impressive and exciting instrumental sections, as well as for atmospheric spoken word samples and more traditional song structures.

If I had to find bands to compare Wesenwille to, I would probably choose Wode and Drottnar, as well as modern-day Shining, but all these bands have their very own unique sonic identity, and so does Wesenwille. If you like your black metal progressive and atmospheric, you should definitely check out this album. You’re going to love it.

I: Wesenwille was released April 27th via Redefining Darkness Records and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Please check out Wesenwille’s official facebook page, as well!