(Our contributor from Norway, Gorger, returns with the 11th edition of his series recommending releases that we’ve managed to overlook. To find more of his discoveries, visit Gorger’s Metal.)
Sometimes, my mouth has diarrhea. Other times, I’ve got less crap to share. Oh, wait, I’ve got one thing. One of these scrawlings is longer than the others, and so I find three to be an adequate number of presentations this time. I hope it’s not too long, and that you will at least take the time to listen to the music. And so, without further ado, I present three albums that I for one feel deserve your attention.
HYPERION – SERAPHICAL EUPHONY
Brother Sweden, you bloody spawn of scourge. You just won’t cease giving us Norwegians strong competition in the eternal battle, battle in the north, of northern dominance and monopoly to the black throne of Scandinavia. Their latest bred army, Hyperion, presents the Swedes’ latest weapon, Seraphical Euphony.
Hyperion gives us just over 50 minutes of melodic black metal of tremendous quality. I wonder if they haven’t, in addition to hearing their dose of Dissection, also lent their ear to Mörk Gryning, for the strong melodies, the clever transitions, the symphonic structures, and the generally playful touch has a hint of the same flavor.
Parallels can be drawn to many melodic black and extreme metal bands with a certain symphonic approach. A litany of references may not be very imaginative, except for the fact that Hyperion reminds me more of a bygone era than today’s scene, apart from in the sound. I recognize an aura of semi-old albums from bands like Tartaros, Kvist, Naglfar, Mactätus, Limbonic Art, Old Man’s Child, and so forth, without the Swedes in any way plagiarizing others. They have rather been inspired to write real musical works, consisting of various musical components and comprehensive details.
The sextet from Stockholm has written an intro plus eight songs with strong identities and tremendous idea-wealth, where acoustic sections, great riffs, exemplary varied drumming, and blistering solos are peppered with unexpected transitions, choirs, grand piano, and other orchestral elements. The way they constantly lead the songs in new directions, and change the ingredients and proportions thereof without losing sight of the leitmotif red thread, is simply fabulous. Even some exuberant jesting, in line with circus Arcturus is at times incorporated.
Whilst song-writing and instrumental execution is of superb character, Hyperion never get lost in sterile show-off. Thoughtful compositions notwithstanding, Seraphical Euphony never lacks soul or feels calculated, but rather come off as heartfelt and evocative. Hyperion offers both old and new, with new compositions, delightful nostalgia, and modern production, meaning good sound that narrowly balances on the brink of compression. In spite of similarities with others, this band has, guaranteed, spent enormous resources to construct good songs, marked by signature, substance, credibility, and ingenuity. The guys deliver an unrivaled feat, where the final product is truly thrilling!
The album is available on CD through Black Lion Productions, and digitally via Bandcamp where it can be downloaded for an optional fee. If this appeals to you, I suggest you go for the CD or pay full price for the download. It’s definitely worth it!
Seraphical Euphony was released by Black Lion Productions on February 4th.
ALASTOR – WALDMARK
Alastor comes from Rohrbach in Austria, where the land borders to both Germany and the Czech Republic. There, on the border between the two latter, lies the Bohemian Forest (aka Böhmerwald in German or Šumava in Czech) mountain range and national park. Complete with ancient castles, myths, and legends. Waldmark is the woodland around the southern mountain ridge, not far from Alastor’s habitat.
The band turns 20 years and releases their third album, which also ends the wooden trilogy.
The music is melodic but dim and mysterious. Call it pagan, call it black, toss it in your jute sack. There is something close to nature in the music’s atmosphere, without it becoming some sort of “tree-hugger” for that reason. When the album starts off, it’s with a slightly thin sound, but much of the skepticism I feel instantly disappear when the guitar sound thickens after 44 seconds. The remaining skepticism must give way to the feeling of wonder and mystique when the music drags me deep into the dark primeval forests. The moods that prevail have something in common with Nocte Obducta and Zgard without musical similarities beyond that.
Waldmark mixes elements from black and pagan with a primitive spirit of the forest into something that is exotic, yet familiar at a primal, instinctive plan. Whoever likes a bit peculiar and intriguing bands such as The Vision Bleak, Eisregen, Denial of God, or Klabautamann, knows approximately what I’m talking about. Waldmark is my first encounter with Alastor, a band that sounds extraordinarily primitive for having been around since 1996, but that still charms me immensely with bewitching melodies and enigmatic moods. Hopefully, there won’t be another eight and a half years until the next album comes out of the forest below the mountain ridge.
Waldmark was released by Wrath of the Tyrant Records on March 11th.
SULPHUR – OMENS OF DOOM
Some years have passed since this band from Bergen, Norway, released their debut Cursed Madness in 2007, and its sequel Thorns in Existence in 2009. Especially for me, since I missed out on the last one. The smell of sulphuric acid may not be as pronounced as on the debut, but it will still subtly seep into your drafty mind. The band has nonetheless never been the very most infamous representatives of Lucifer’s kingdom of flames, seething lava and heart-rending screams of pain and agony.
The band plays death metal with black borderlines, garnished with technical and proglicious™ twists. They stand out by bringing thorough songs and ditto instrumentation, with an occasional trick up their sleeve, to the table. First and foremost, the focus is on conveying good songs, but behind a veil of fairly intricate patterns that constantly flavor Omens of Doom lies delightful proggy structures which in turn offer unexpected turnarounds here and there.
Øyvind Madsen, known from Vulture Industries, Deathcon, and more, is the mastermind behind Sulphur. He is one of two guitarists, in addition to taking care of keyboards and programming. I’m not going to bore the reader by listing all five members. The information is not hard to find for those who want, and I can always bore you to death using other means. I must nevertheless specifically mention Vrolok, or Erik as he simply calls himself now. Amongst other pursuits, he spent many a year in Aeternus, and he hammered his way through Gorgoroth’s Destroyer…. He’s a highly skilled drummer, but he’s no show-off. My impression is that he provides what the music requires and deserves, without overdoing it, even though he’s among the most proficient drummers in Norway’s extreme metal scene. I’ve always had a taste for his deft rhythms, and this is no exception.
Omens of Doom is an album with many technical antics that need all hands on deck. The entire crew, fortunately but not surprisingly, know the ropes and help set sail, come hell or high water. The, at times, practically orgasmic guitar works must surely also be mentioned. And bassist Vegard does such a good job that he’s allowed to be heard in the mix, something not all bass players can boast about.
The album offers several vocal styles. I don’t know whether or not Thomas Skinlo Høyven does all vocals, but if so, he’s a very versatile man. The primary form has changed somewhat since their debut, and now appears as reasonably hoarse and wheezing. It took quite some time, but I eventually managed to get used to this somewhat quirky vocal form. The vocal style used in the middle of “Devils Pyre” works excellently, by the way.
Pigeonholing Sulphur as death metal is a bit wrong. It is actually very wrong if one thinks of traditional death metal. And how would the pigeons react? The band has a panoramic expression, with some stylistic similarities to Aenaon, Enslaved, and many other good bands that I’m not able to remember.
There’s so much to sink my teeth into that I become completely perplexed just by thinking about trying to convey their essence. Lively, diverse, jazzy, gloomy, eclectic. Nevertheless, comprehensive and orderly. Every song could have been discussed separately, ’cause as said, there’s a lot to comprehend, but it’s time you listen for yourself. Omens of Doom requires many spins to build compatibility between the album’s labyrinthine structures and your mental receptors.
The album is incredibly elaborate, both in complex compositions and performances. Rich and clear sound with great thrust and very good bass ain’t plagued by the dynamics not exceeding DR7. It may have to do with this airy and dynamic music not being as intense in the first place. Enslaved’s Herbrand Larsen has mastered the album, after the recording in Conclave & Earshot Studios with Bjørnar E. Nilsen at the helm.
I feel like I circle like a vulture around this album, without finding the right words to convey what I observe. How do you go about explaining that a carcass in the desert appears delicious? If, like me, you’re a quality-conscious vulture with a taste for intricate and complex extremity, know this; this cadaver is just the right amount of rotten, and it has its own distinctive odor and after-taste.
Try it, but be patient to gain full effect and benefit.
Omens of Doom was released by Dark Essence Records on March 11th.