(In this post DGR reviews the new album by Finland’s Insomnium.)
Taken at face value, the idea behind the title of Shadows Of The Dying Sun is an easy one to grasp. Poetically phrased, yes, but when the opening line of its titular song (and album closer) is, “We’re nothing more than shadows…”, you get a real quick understanding of what lies behind the title.
Very few things in the world can make me as pensive as an Insomnium disc, and Shadows Of The Dying Sun has had me thinking about the passage of time lately. It is a crazy thing to realize, but with this album Insomnium have been a part of my life for almost a decade, as I joined the zeitgeist like so many others did with the masterful Above The Weeping World. Since then, the band have been a hallmark of consistently great music, with Across The Dark representing an incremental jump forward and One For Sorrow feeling like another amazing disc as it grew on me.
I never could have told the past version of myself — who came to see Insomnium as such an important band, one who showed there is beauty in emotions such melancholy, depression, and frailty — that in later days I’d be reviewing their music and getting the opportunity to talk to guitarist (and one of the main songwriters) Ville Friman for a previous website. Insomnium are the band I go to for lyrical gems such as, “You can’t win always/but you can lose every time”, that absolutely take the wind out of my sails. So at face value, Shadows Of The Dying Sun should be more of that for me — another album that would let me roil in my melancholy and depression, allowing the group to overtake me with visions of cold and blue.
Yet this time it’s weird, because as far as messages are concerned, Shadows Of The Dying Sun is a surprisingly straightforward and hopeful disc… for Insomnium.
Those of you who are sharp of eye, pointy of ear, and patient enough to wade through my last rant about Facebook’s business model will have already felt the chill of Minnesota’s Nuklear Frost. But simply using the hair-raising shriek from the intro track “Uranium Censer” to express my own contempt (and to reward the perseverance of readers) was hardly an adequate tribute to an album that I’ve listened to and enjoyed repeatedly since it came out in mid-March.
The album’s name is Subjugation, and I first found out about it through a Facebook link to their music by Amiensus, another Minnesota band who share a member with Nuklear Frost (guitarist Joe Waller). It proved to be a great discovery.
Nuklear Frost deliver riveting melodic black metal that hits like a maelstrom in full fury, yet the songs are so packed with righteous riffs and ominous melodies that the music exerts a strong magnetic attraction. The songs have identity and staying power; it’s an album that will draw you back again and again, and not simply for the pure rush it delivers to all good adrenaline junkies.
(Austin Weber reviews the new album by a band we’ve been following for a long time — Canada’s Archspire.)
When Archspire burst out of nowhere with All Shall Align in 2012, it set a new benchmark for blazing extreme death metal, following in the footsteps of previous speed-, technicality-, and songwriting-pushers such as Cryptopsy and stretching the boundaries of death metal to a place that seemed to make a surprising number of people uncomfortable. Regardless, they impressed a lot of people, and their follow-up, The Lucid Collective, has been greatly anticipated. It certainly delivers, acting as a dream of death mirroring our often collective sleepwalking through existence.
Archspire have always flashed glimpses of a love for Origin and Spawn Of Possession, but they have also made the style their own, giving it brutal legs with which to stand and stomp angrily, and managing to give each track its own unique flow and structure. If Brain Drill was Origin-influenced death metal done to excess (in the opinion of some people), then arguably Archspire are a band who have learned all the things that Origin did right, while not being a rip-off of them at all.
An album like The Lucid Collective is not merely music, but a testament to the human will and ability to achieve incredible and nearly inhuman things through hard work, determination, and focus. Every member of the band performs at an astounding level, not in an effort to impress the listeners with vapid showboating, but with a purpose. Collectively, Archspire form an interlocking mass of arresting malevolence that looms large over the shredscapes and techdreams of noodlers everywhere.
Metal is such a diverse genre of music that you would need an enormous number of axes to diagram the spectra of its manifold characteristics (I’m using “axes” as the plural of “axis”, not that electrified thing you use to shred up a storm of notes or the implements you use to cleave the skulls of your enemies). On one of these axes I imagine two extremes at either end:
At one end there’s deeply somber, glacially paced atmospheric music, with few if any riffs and a pall of gloom and grief hanging heavy like a fog. On the other end — well, that’s where you’ll find Rocket Propelled Chainsaws: the place where you party ’til you vomit and mosh ’til everyone’s on their way to the emergency room with sirens screaming.
I found out about this band because it includes guitarist Sean Corkum, who’s also in a band I’ve written before named Eldritch Flamethrower. Obviously, either Sean hangs out with people who’ve got a gift for coming up with awesome band names or he’s got the gift. Either way, Eldritch Flamethrower and Rocket Propelled Chainsaws are mighty fine names.
(DGR reviews the new second album from Canada’s Unsacred Seed.)
Recently I’ve found myself playing with the idea of opening my reviews and articles with a description of how I found each band. Putting it politely, I’m probably a total idiot for doing so, yet I feel like I’m upholding some sort of noble cause by showing that sites like this one don’t entirely rely on whatever PR an agency leaves on our doorstep. Not to say that it doesn’t help to have such assistance, if not just to keep us from going out in public and looking like fools — but I do believe that by showing that there are other paths to getting noticed, perhaps it will demonstrate that putting a little faith in the universe and casting yourself out there can get you noticed. If not, at the very least it makes the process feel a little less “monied”. Maybe it’s just a sense that surfing the net to try and find music is a worthwhile and rewarding venture, one that doesn’t depend on just letting folks shovel stuff in front of you — although, come to think of it, that notion pretty much undermines the purpose of a site such as this.
In the case of Unsacred Seed, however, I cannot remember for the life of me how I found them. I think it may have been a random forum discovery, one of the many devoted to archiving much of what was released in 2013, where one of the band members was sharing his own work — their debut disc for “name your own price”. Thus, I wound up following the band, not only out of personal curiosity but also because I enjoyed that debut disc quite a bit. When I heard they had a followup in the works, that made things more exciting.
Before we really get to the meat of this meal, allow me to state that there are three things that I absolutely love about Canada’s Unsacred Seed:
Sadhak is a Norwegian band (from Trondheim) about whom I’ve found very little information. I learned of the band through a message from Shadow Kingdom Records, which released Sadhak’s self-titled demo on cassette tape last month (Sadhak originally released the demo on tape and digitally last fall). According to the message, the band is a side project of Andreas Hagen, who is a member of High Priest of Saturn. I’m not familiar with them, but Shadow Kingdom’s message compared Sadhak to Warning and 40 Watt Sun, and that was enough to lure me in.
The demo consists of two long songs, “On the Arrival of Man” and “The Perfection of Wisdom”, and I found them both immensely appealing. They very effectively draw you away from the world around you and into a place where the light is failing and the void beckons.
In both songs, Sadhak employs slow, distorted guitars, gut-rumbling bass notes, and the powerful whump of drums and vibration of cymbals — everything drenched in reverb. Of the two, “On the Arrival of Man” is the more desolate and fatalistic, though the bleak melody proves to be thoroughly entrancing as it loops through the song. With two minutes left, the otherworldly quality of the music is underscored by a mesmerizing guitar solo — ethereal, psychoactive, and rapidly shimmering — and then leviathan-sized riffs will hammer you back to the edge of oblivion.
(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews the debut album by Benevolent from Dubai.)
Islander recommended I check out this album some time ago. I have to admit, I made an ass out of myself by prematurely judging the album before I gave it its just due with a fair listening. What I listened to, at first, sounded like generic djent-infused groove metal. Those are definitely big components of the sound of Dubai’s Benevolent. But the music boasts a large array of modern melodic death metal elements as well — and after giving their debut The Covenant a solid listen, I can now safely say this may be one of the best modern metal bands out there.
I get vibes of Scar Symmetry, Textures, Cynic, Chimaira, and Fear Factory from this record, and even some aspects that remind me a bit of Byzantine. It’s all about low-tuned riffage, lush walls of sound, fusion shred, dimension-opening gutturals, and airy cleans. It’s kind of funny — they embody both things you guys would generally like, and also things most of us have grown tired of (mostly pertaining to djent elements). Benevolent make those undesirable elements work in their favor, though, mostly through an immaculate perception of how to use all their elements in a push/pull dynamic.
(In this post Andy Synn reviews the new album by A Hill To Die Upon from Illinois.)
Sometimes when you’re confronted with unexpected bouts of synchronicity, it’s best to pay attention to what’s being said. You might just learn something.
Case in point, at least three times in the last week, in separate conversations, someone has raised the point to me that A Hill To Die Upon (hereafter referred to as AHTDU) are one of the few bands “who sound like Behemoth… but don’t really sound like Behemoth”. And it’s true. Despite clearly holding the Polish blasphemers in high regard, AHTDU have always managed to remain somehow sonically separate enough to stand as their own entity.
I’m not sure exactly why. It’s maybe a combination of things. A tendency to use interesting, almost baroque chord patterns. A signature riffing style that illuminates, rather than imitates. Little twists and tweaks to their approach, a rhythmic shift here, a touch of esoteric instrumentation there, and a vocal style that heaves with righteous fury and passion. And blast beats. Lots of blast beats. All molded and shaped in a way that remains instantly recognisable and distinctive.
It’s hard to quantify. But it’s clear to me. AHTDU are their own breed of monster, plain and simple.
(Here we have TheMadIsraeli’s review of the highly anticipated second album by Triptykon.)
For my tastes, there hasn’t been a tome of brutal filth as drenched in its own misery and occult sense of violence since Triptykon released their debut album Eparistera Daimones in 2010. Triptykon so effectively epitomize the manifold attractions of metal and why people love the music so intensely. The sound they produce is so dark, so dank, so utterly revolting and devastating, yet so diverse.
I fell in love with the combination of styles Tom G. Warrior started messing around with on Celtic Frost’s swansong Monotheist, and enjoyed Triptykon’s debut immensely, as simply a continuation of the sound found there. Triptykon are the only band I can think of who have managed to mix thrash metal, doom metal, goth metal, and death metal into something that sounds like all and none of those styles at the same time.
Now here we finally have Melana Chasmata, Warrior’s second outing with this band. He had a fuck ton of hype to live up to, given how near-flawless the debut was. He’d have to make a record so utterly suffocated by its own personal demons that listeners could feel the voices starting to creep into their heads and begin wishing for psyche meds — and he succeeded. Listening to this record may make you feel like you’re trying to break your way out of a strait jacket in the most feral and desperate manner possible.