(Our Norwegian friend Gorger is back with another installment in his series recommending releases that we’ve managed to overlook. And be sure to check out Gorger’s Metal.)
I was rather surprised to learn that neither Diavolos nor Saligia has surfaced on the Nautical Crest Sea, but hey, that’s my cue to drag them out of the waters and bring them in from the cold. By coincidence, another Norwegian act will also be brought ashore.
They might brake this site’s moniker (thumb’ish) rule at times, but they absolutely deserve more attention and a larger audience, and considering the diversity in taste amongst NCS readers, I feel certain someone will embrace them. Finally, a few beached frozen Italian birds tag along.
With Death, Thrash, and Black metal, elements of Doom and Pagan, a few time travelers going off to the ’80s for inspiration, and something remotely resembling uniqueness* here and there, this is another assorted four-course meal. I hope you enjoy at least a few of them.
*Considering Islander’s comment on misuse of the word uniqueness, I better choose my words carefully. But on the other hand, every single snowflake is unique! Then again, they all look like fucking snow to me! (Also, one can never be sure that an album is really unique, as long as one hasn’t heard every single album released, that is, but no worries, folks, I’m working on it!)
DIAVOLOS – YOU LIVED, NOW DIE
At first gaze, there’s something familiar about the artwork accompanying the music of this Greek band. That they’ve chosen to go for a more contemporary version of Exciter‘s debut Heavy Metal Maniac is most likely meant as a tribute, even if Diavolos don’t play speed metal.
You Lived, Now Die is also a debut, but the essentially Greek band consists of five men with experience from a long number of acts. Finn and bassist Taneli Jarva have a background from Impaled Nazarene and Sentenced, drummer K. Savvi has amongst others Nightfall on his conscience, guitarists Nik Angelopoulos and Bill El have been involved with different constellations, while vocalist Tas Danazoglou from Cyprus also takes shelter in Satan’s Wrath.
The death metal these veterans bring to the table has roots so far back in time that it’s practically doomed to contain certain influences of thrash.
Together they play an early form of death metal, from a time before blasting, brutality, rabid growls, as well as blood and gore, was the norm. The music is not meant as a tribute, directly, but rather marks a desire to go back in time and create and play music which lies close to their hearts. Maybe they’ll end up reconstructing a genre that will continue to evolve and form a new style that runs straight into an alternate reality. They’ll risk making a rift in the continuum, the very fabric of which space and time are made. Such may occur when traveling back in time.
When Ave Maria flows from the speakers, I can’t help but laughing while shaking my head. You sick, fucking bastards. It fortunately don’t take long before buzzsaw guitars fill the room. Without going into detail, we can say that this is cool and tough music with elements of heavy, thrash, and proto-death, which could have had its origin in the ’80s. Raw vocals, solos, rough riffs, and force are ingredients in these airy, dynamic, and suitably varied tunes with a rich unpolished sound. Even the dynamic range of the production ain’t too compressed, but with DR8 they have apparently forgotten one important detail from the eighties. Said Exciter album had DR11 when it came out. (Typically, the 2005 remastered only had DR8, however).
You Lived, Now Die is a very ass-kicking and amusing slice of ancient mania, which sticks out a bit in today’s scene.
You Lived, Now Die was released by Hells Headbangers on December 11th.
SALIGIA – FØNIX
From my birthplace Trondheim (formerly known as Nidaros) comes Saligia, here with their sophomore full-length collage, consisting of five merry psalms.
To what church circuit in the bishopric Nidaros Diocese these stalwart young men belong, the press sheet unfortunately don’t inform us. Bullshit aside, the guys of course plays black metal in a stout anti-religious stance. They still stand slightly apart from the prevalent Nidrosian black metal scene.
The name is by the way a mnemonic of the seven deadly sins in Latin: superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira, and acedia.
The duo swear to a more doomy approach, which don’t sound like typical doom/black either. The expression is almost as close to stoner doom as to more typical dsbm approaches. Simultaneously, these fellows have got a whiff of elder Norwegian necrotic Satan worship hanging over them. Try to imagine a sacrilegious, perverted clone of Black Sabbath and Darkthrone if your imagination can cope with such a task.
The debut Sic Transit Gloria Mundi seemed to be well-received in the underground. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t really overly enthusiastic. Portions of Sic Transit… also became excessively staccato in the rhythm section for yours truly. The EP Lvx Aeternae seemed more hypnotic with its slightly more atmospheric feel.
I thrive in the company of the bird Fønix (Phoenix that is, but you already guessed) as well, although it has neither the melodies and riffs from Black Sabbath nor the subarctic temperatures and hostile hatred of Darkthrone. Of course, it also lacks the originality of these. Then again, hardly any band can be said to deliver ground-breaking material nowadays. It should be said, however, that Saligia actually offers about as much distinct character as one can be allowed to hope for these days.
Founder Ahzari has parted with drummer Malach Adonai. Whether this was caused by musical differences or if the latter wanted to focus on Dødsengel is not for me to say. V. hase taken over the drumstick relay baton. One can without problems find staccato beats even this time, but on the current album the drumming is wonderfully varied.
The sound has an organic feel, rather reminiscent of a live in-studio recording. Yet another link to the ancestors of metal. This seems a bit out of place at first listen, but soon helps to build a genuine unique and distinct character.
To be honest, I don’t consider Fønix to be an undisputed masterpiece, but it’s a good album, with a touch of originality. It’s also a grower with variety, hooks, and some very good parts. All in all, I’d call it a good and at times very enjoyable album, and I’m sure it’ll find a safe home amongst several Norwegian Craftsmanship Supporter followers. So fill out your adoption application today.
Fønix was released by Ván Records on December 11th.
CRITICAL SOLUTION – SLEEPWALKER
Critical Solution from southwestern Norway have released their second full-length album, and once again it’s a concept album the guys have embarked upon.
The quartet has recently been out on the roads with W.A.S.P. In 2014 they warmed up for Diamond Head, and at the end of the previous year they conducted a tour with Marduk and Grave. After the Sleepwalker promo had been sent to the media, good news was published about the guys finally being signed, after two independent EPs and an album.
The quartet plays rather melodic thrash of the varied kind, and they call it horror thrash. Besides Carach Angren, who obviously deserves the prefix “horror” due to their ghostly moods, I only remember two bands who have actively used the term horror; The Vision Bleak and Gloomy Grim. (Morgul had some horror-themed stuff, too, when I come to think of it.) I can’t remember having seen much metal defined as horror- this or that in recent times, though. Critical Solution doesn’t have the most
ominous overtones, but their lyrical concept likely has a sinister essence.
It may also be useful to apply a slightly different denomination when one, after all, differs from most current bands in the genre. The music has a dynamic diversity rarely seen any more. The variety is strong both within and between each song, just like what one used to find on classic releases from bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Anthrax, et al. Not entirely random samples, as Critical Solution has elements from all these.
Vocalist and lead guitarist Christer Slettebø has a voice somewhat reminiscent of a certain Hetfield, and the rhythm in the vocal parts of “LT.Elliot” gives associations to Leper Messiah.
Song eight, “Dear Mother,” must be mentioned. This opens with bass and guitar picking, not unlike, for example, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”. After the drums and rhythm guitar have completed some initial warming up, it’s time for twin-guitar harmonies, before Hammond organ and Pink Floyd vibes make themselves felt. We also find vocal harmonies later on, this time with a breath of Volbeat. (With words like “puppet” in addition to the song title in the lyrics, you know what band this makes me think of.)
Critical Solution sews everything seamlessly together, and even though they preserve the legacy of the classics, their music is never plagiarizing in any way. Although 11 minutes long, “Dear Mother” would make the perfect closing track, but Critical Solution don’t surrender quite yet. A couple of songs follow. In closing with “Back From the Grave” they receive a little extra guitar works from the Mercyful Fate guys Michael Denner and Hank Shermann (who released the EP Satan’s Tomb, which KevinP made sure to point our attention at). On the track “LT.Elliot” we also find contributions from Mika Lagrén, best known from Grave.
It must nevertheless be said that guitarists Christer and Bjørnar Grøsfjell do one hell of an excellent job themselves. The rhythm section is also very well attended by drummer Egil Midland and bass player Eimund Grøsfjell. These four lads constitute a solid and tight quartet.
Christer sweeps the board with his voice, whether he sings rough or clean. That Eimund is so prominent in the sound is something that at least I appreciate. And that leads us over to the sonic aspect in a natural transition.
The album has got the high-quality sound that an elaborate concept deserves. I have admittedly not read up on the lyrical theme, but when the music is so thoroughly written and performed, I allowed myself to speculate slightly regarding the elaborate part. Andy LaRocque (King Diamond) produced the album in his Sonic Train Studios. I am actually surprised to see that the album has as low dynamic range as DR5. I guess it’s the dynamics of the song material that compensates. It’s in any case very audible.
Both the spoken voice in the intro, the song structure, and the way the vocals are done, reeks of concept. That’s something you would have picked up on without either lyrics nor any advance knowledge. A father, unable to carry out his murderous schemes himself, uses a serum to get his son, unknowingly, in his sleep, to take revenge on the four men he believes are to blame for the death of his first-born son. (I’m a bit uncertain about the details, but at least it’s something along that line).
It should be said that everything on the album ain’t equally solid, but that’s also the catch with concept albums. You can hardly trim away anything when you have a story to tell. Although all ain’t working perfectly, there’s still very much that does work extremely well. All in all, with its complex songwriting Critical Solution is something of a unique* rarity in the current metal scene, and with Sleepwalker they’ve served a feast that’s not to be missed for fans of thrash with a little extra finesse.
*Consider that a subjective opinion, but I feel that the heavy metal songwriter approach to melodic thrash has in many cases lost something along the way, and also that Critical Solution has rejuvenated this to a certain degree. By all means, many have tried, but they have often forgotten to include good melodies with captivating progress and solid steel hooks.
Sleepwalker was released by Punishment 18 Records on December 12th.
See the band open for W.A.S.P. in my current hometown of Bergen (in metal context better known as Bjørgvin) with the song “LT.Elliot”, and hear the two songs “Welcome To Your Nightmare” and “Back From The Grave” right underneath, the latter song featuring Denner & Shermann.
COLD RAVEN – EQUILIBRIUM AND CHAOS
This album has been out there for a while, but it ain’t long since I gained access to it. I haven’t had the time to hear it as repeatedly as I’d wish to, but I’ve heard enough to know that it’s worth a spot right here.
The Italians started up in 2013 and wisely waited until they’d accumulated enough material for a full-length, and than recorded it in adequate manner, before they shared their infamous vision with the world.
The band swear to pristine black metal, with influences from the originators of the second wave and the bands that followed, but they’re not afraid to use melodic aids to create songwise divergence. The result is a bit pagan and quite moody. Not completely mandatory, admittedly, but Equilibrium and Chaos is a barely forty-minute-long record that is easy to come back to once in a while. The songs have distinct nuances in barren terrains, which makes them easy to follow from the start. Meanwhile, the music seems to be versatile enough to create continued interest through repeated listening sessions.
Their expression is relatively gentle for being black-landscaped, but it’s atmospheric, suitably bombastic, and well-performed. The vocals are grim, and the sound is fashionable, with somewhat dramatic moods and more than acceptable dynamics.
I choose to characterize Cold Raven as “bewitching melodic pagan black metal,” though that sounds almost nauseatingly romanticizing. It emits a few vibes of Dissection, albeit in a more pagan suit, and hell yes, I like it!
Equilibrium and Chaos was released by Sliptrick Records on March 25th.
Now, don’t be shy, shed your opinions for better or worse.
Definitely digging Cold Raven.
Between you and me (everyone else are just eavesdropping), I was/am kind of expecting mostly Diavolos & Saligia worship. Nothing wrong with that off course. I guess lots of studhearted thugs have caught those releases, and I’d sure like to hear their opinions.
Still, it’s nice to see that you embrace something less typical cvlt’ish. I do hope to get some comments on Critical Solution as well, as they are the least typical NCS-segment in this chunk, and hence perhaps the most fresh piece in my ears.
hmmmmm…… that Critical Solution is a tough listen. All the elements are there but for some reason I get the feeling that it was kind of haphazardly thrown together. There is a lot of diversity in the music itself but it comes across like it’s there just for diversity’s sake without really adding any depth or atmosphere. I would be hard pressed to pick this album out of a group of it’s peers.
If I remember it correctly, it did feel somewhat like many loose ends that gradually came together when I started listening to it. As long as it doesn’t feel completely schizo, with just random riffs and licks thrown in a kettle and brought to a boil, I like my god ol’ heavy/thrash with no saving of the assorted gunpowder. Songs do need to retain some coherency, that’s true. But I feel they do. Maybe because I’ve heard the album ten times.
Also, concept albums tend to be colored by portraying a story first, and writing propper songs second, even if I feel that Critical Solution don’t fall into that trap either.
There doesn’t seem to be many peers in today’s scene, and it reminds me of when I got into metal to begin with, which is probably the main arguments to why I initially got into this album.
Anyway, thanks for sharing. Honesty and diverse opinions is always appreciated.