EP Review: Elephant Watchtower – The Church Is At Fault

Elephant Watchtower - The Church Is At Fault - Metal SoliloquyElephant Watchtower is a one-man progressive death metal project from Ontario, Canada. The Church Is At Fault is the band’s debut EP. Had I listened to this EP without any information on the band, I think I would not have suspected that this is a one man project. The music sounds grand and fleshed-out, the many layers of the compositions complement each other and end up painting an impressive musical picture of detailed and massive soundscapes that draw you into a dark and vivid world. Lyrically, The Church Is At Fault can be read as a pamphlet on the current state of “the church”, the hypocrisy and ideological issues within it, and the often negative influence the institution has on our society, seen from the inside.

Impoverished and pained, they live in our waste
Who carries the weight of every cent we take?
Starvation prevails, our calling we’ve failed
The church is to blame for this world that we’ve ailed
Famished by selfishness, Lives have been lost
And it is our fault
Lighting our stages with stolen donations
We taint the name of Christ

These are some of the lyrics taken from the title track. Elephant Watchtower clearly don’t beat around the bush when it comes to preaching truth, as painful as it may be, in their lyrics. And the music definitely fits the severity and determination of the lyrics: Blastbeats, fast and brutal death metal riffs and abyssal growls are consistent elements of the three tracks the 27 minutes long EP consists of. But those are only some of the elements Elephant Watchtower’s music is characterized by. Melodic guitar leads, multi-layered harmonious riffing and stunning synth arrangements are utilized to give the music an impressive wall-of-sound character. Repeatedly, these periods of compositional density are interrupted by proggy breaks, with tempo-shifts and diverse musical elements such as acoustic guitar sections coming into play. The beautiful melodies, in combination with the massive walls of heaviness, give the whole record a very epic atmosphere that is only enhanced by its calmer moments.

As a whole, The Church Is At Fault is a fantastic debut EP that sounds and feels as if it was made by a very experienced band. The compositions show stylistic confidence and creativity, perfectly balancing out brutality and beauty, the production is on point, letting the multiple musical elements of the songs shine, and the overall songwriting makes for a very cohesive, entertaining and engaging listening experience. This band deserves all the attention it can get, as it shows tremendous potential and could easily become the “next big thing” in the extreme metal underground.


The Church Is At Fault was self-released May 1st and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Follow Elephant Watchtower: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp

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Album Review: Starcaller – Perdition

Starcaller - Perdition - Metal Soliloquy

Starcaller is a three-piece death metal band from Mobile, Alabama. That was a quite surprising information to me because the music sounds and feels much more “Northern” than Alabama. Playing a melancholic and at times quite doomy blend of blackened melodic death metal, I would have expected this band to be from Scandinavia or Canada, but limiting genres to certain countries and vice versa is a stupid thing anyways.

That being said, lets get to the album itself. Perdition is the band’s full length debut, and a good one at that. With a playing time of 38 minutes, spanning over 8 tracks, the album has a very nice length. It is long enough for the band to let their ideas and visions unravel and work on the listener and it is short enough to at no point get boring or uninteresting. According to the band, the album is meant to take the listener on a journey through “tormented minds and cursed fates”, a journey from this realm into another, “capturing the dissonance of a soul placed in the wrong reality”. As interesting as this concept is, I am going to be honest with you and say straight out of the gate that I did not pay a lot of attention to the lyrics at all. Not that I am not interested, it’s just that I focused my attention on the music itself, which is what I do most of the time.

Starcaller - Metal Soliloquy

And in regards to the music, I can confidently say that Starcaller succeed in creating a more or less picture perfect melodic death metal album that will please every fan of the genre. The aforementioned black metal elements are not very prominent throughout the whole album, but there are some moments when they really shine and add a lot of character to the archetypical melo-death tropes. Two tracks where the black metal influence are more in the foreground are “Hungering Runes” and “Beyond the Blood and Ash”, two of my favourite tracks on the records.

 

There is nothing about this album that I really dislike: The music is very well-mixed, allowing every single instrument to shine. I especially love how thick and prominent the bass is in the mix and how it harmonizes with the drums. It gives a doomy vibe to the music and compliments the melodic guitar riffs and the fantastic harsh vocals perfectly. The songs are well-written, with most tracks staying below the five-minute mark, making for a well-paced and entertaining listen. The melodies are beautiful and “catchy” throughout the record. And despite being a little generic in its overall musical style, the melancholic atmosphere and the black metal elements are two things that make Starcaller stand out from their peers.

Now that I think about it, the only thing I’d criticize about Perdition is that it could do with even a little more of that certain “something”. You can already see a lot of identity in these songs, but the band clearly has the potential to get even more interesting and stylistically unique on future releases. I am definitely looking forward to it, because this album is a mighty fine debut.


Perdition was released on March 8th and is available at Bandcamp.

Follow StarcallerBandcamp | Facebook

Split Review: Bismoth / Symphony of Heaven / TIMŌRĀTUS – Body of Christ

Bismoth / Symphony of Heaven / TIMŌRĀTUS - Body of Christ - Metal Soliloquy

Black metal has evolved a lot since the early nineties. An album called Body of Christ would have caused an outrage in the early days of the genre when there was such a strong focus on the ideological identity of it. I think it is safe to say that openly Christian black metal bands (if you want to call them “Christian bands”) still aren’t fully accepted by a majority of black metal fans and musicians, but there is definitely a positive development going on with the genre becoming more open and open-minded in regards to both the musical style and the lyrical content and ideologies of the bands involved. As a Christian and a black metal enthusiast myself, I am always happy to see bands who make high-quality black metal with a strong Christian message, thus staying true to both the genre and their faith, proving that black metal isn’t necessarily connected to one specific ideology but is a medium that can basically convey whatever message you want.

Body of Christ is an ambitious split album by three Christian underground black metal projects, namely TIMŌRĀTUS (USA), Symphony of Heaven (USA) and Bismoth (South Africa). The album clocks in at 38 minutes, spread over six tracks, two by each of the three artists.  Each band plays a different style of black metal, from TIMŌRĀTUS’ ethereal, melodic post-black metal, through Symphony of Heaven’s more aggressive, riff-focused blackened death metal and Bismoth’s contemplative, atmospheric and raw blackgaze approach, resulting in an album that from a stylistic perspective alone, is a very interesting and varied work.

TIMORATUS - Metal Soliloquy

David and Courtney Napier, TIMŌRĀTUS

One thing that immediately caught my attention on the album’s opening track, “Brothers, You Are not Alone” by TIMŌRĀTUS, was the multi-facetted vocal performance. What I didn’t realize was that that track alone contains guest vocals by not one, not two or even three, but eleven(!) singers, including members of renowned underground bands such as Taking the Head of Goliath, Shadow Puncher, Abated Mass of Flesh and Mystic Winter. The second track, “The Root of Unity” by TIMŌRĀTUS, features an equally impressive vocal extravaganza courtesy of three female singers besides TIMŌRĀTUS’ very own Courtney Napier. With lyrics focusing on the unity of Christians in the body of Christ, it seems only appropriate that these tracks are the result of a collaboration of so many artists who are united not only by their love of music, but also, and on a much deeper level, by the blood of Christ. Both of the TIMŌRĀTUS tracks, especially “The Root of Unity”, radiate a certain atmosphere of comfort, they are uplifting and beautiful and truly edifying to listen to.

Symphony of Heaven - Metal Soliloquy

Pathos, Symphony of Heaven

The mood certainly changes with the next two tracks by Symphony of Heaven. They are not only a lot darker in tone, but also much more agressive stylistically. Lyrically, too, these tracks talk about the darker side of the Christian experience. The aptly titled “Death of Denomination” criticizes the tendency of many Christians to attack each other over different opinions regarding theological questions instead of focusing on what unites us – Jesus’ sacrifice that saves us from damnation. “For Glory” talks about martyrdom, about Christians suffering and dying for their faith – and for the glory of God. Both tracks are powerful and gripping, dark and intense, with riffs that are as kvlt as it gets.

Bismoth - Symphony of Heaven

Jethro de Beer, Bismoth

The two final tracks of the album are the most raw ones production-wise, while stylistically being the most calm, contemplative ones. Bismoth plays beautiful post-black metal/blackgaze with a clear focus on atmosphere. “Anguish and Agape” has a strong Vials of Wrath or Deafest vibe to it, alternating between sound-of-wall style blast beat sections and clean airy, melancholic guitar melodies. Album closer “In Christ Together” is a rather simple song that rounds the album up nicely.

As a whole, Body of Christ is an amazing and powerful record, both musically and lyrically. It is the result of an ambitious and passionate collaboration of some of the best artists in the Christian extreme metal underground that absolutely succeeds in transporting an important message to Christians all around the world: “Let His light grow us together / May our branches intertwine / With each other, through Him”, for we are one in Christ.


Body of Christ will be released digitally on March 19th and will be available at Bandcamp. A physical release, including a bonus track, is planned for this summer.

Watch an album teaser here:


Follow the artists:

Bismoth:  Bandcamp | Facebook
Symphony of Heaven:  Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram
TIMŌRĀTUS :  Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Album Review: Dir En Grey – The Insulated World

tiw_tsujyo.jpgFormed 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.

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!

Album Review: Impending Doom – The Sin and Doom Vol. II

IMPENDING-DOOM-The-Sin-And-Doom-Vol.-II-Albumcover.jpgFive years have passed since the release of Impending Doom’s acclaimed fifth album Death Will Reign. Now, the deathcore quintett from California is back with another onslaught of brutality.

The Sin and Doom Vol. II offers 35 minutes of relentless war music. Heavy, dark and uncompromising, this record shows the band at their most brutal and leaves the listener no second to rest. That is both a good and a bad thing, as the band’s sound on this album is powerful and effective, but isn’t in any way surprising or innovative.

I’m missing a little variation in the vocal performance and the song structures. There’s a lot of great things about this album, though. Impending Doom stay true to the roots of the genre and offer old school riffs and an overall sound that is more “death” than “core”. There are some fantastic breakdowns and great riffs on this album, the technical drumming is simply fantastic and the vocals, while not very versatile, are more than solid.

If you like deathcore and/or brutal death metal, you will most definitely have a good time with this record.


The Sin and Doom Vol. II was released June 22nd via eOne Music and is available for streaming at Spotify.

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