(Our Norwegian friend Gorger doesn’t seem to tire of highlighting releases that we have overlooked, and so (with our thanks) we present Part 15 of this ongoing series. To find more of his discoveries, visit Gorger’s Metal.)
Another month has gone by in what ought to be a seminal monthly appearance according to all the shit you navel-contemplating scum washouts fail to catch up with.
Oh well, you’ve already covered some of my favorites, like Glorior Belli, Grimness, Gorguts, Howls of Ebb, Quercus, Vainaja, Luna’s Call, Behexen, Eyestral, Kvalvaag, Deisidaemonia, Grave Desecrator, Black Fucking Cancer, Be’lakor, Light of the Morning Star, Vanhelgd, Cloak, and Der Rote Milan.
So what favourites am I left with from the past five weeks or so, deserving of your time and patience?
My plan is to present five overlooked gems from May this time, and five July releases on the next occasion. Or rather: releases that I managed to process these months. In theory, I should have trimmed down redundant BS and gone straight to the essence, both for your sake and for my own simplicity. Only thing is, I actually spend more time editing my writing than just presenting it full of excessive flaws. Oh, well, I hope you find some pieces of juicy poisonous apples to bite into and choke on.
WARFECT – SCAVENGERS
The thrash trio Warfect from Sweden have just released their third full-length testimony, after the conception some thirteen years ago. The band consists of three men, of whom at least two are experienced folks who’ve done time in Lord Belial and Bestial Mockery.
The Swedish metal scene has fostered a multitude of genres with a generally high level of qualified personnel. I can’t claim to know too many Swedish thrash bands, but they are of course represented. Coming across one of them, it comes as no surprise that the quality is top-notch.
The cover art, one of Andrei Bouzikov’s creations, leads my mind toward bands with names related to nuclear and bio-hazardous waste. Perhaps because of the color usage. But the music has only sporadic similarities in this respect. Warfect’s thrash has a combination of rapid high-octane party thrash and angrier, more aggressive thrash with darker minds and a slight element of groove.
Warfect don’t settle with less than about 53 minutes, but have plenty enough fierce riffing and malignant melody to keep momentum through the speed violation without losing their pep. The chance that many listeners will drop off is probably not high, as the guys offer solid tunes and ditto instrumentation, including slashing solos, with appropriate sound and a singer who eats broken glass between meals, which probably consist of bloody roadkill. The lyrics being spat out by this snarling savage seem to be wonderfully morbid.
Scavengers can lead to increased levels of adrenalin and aggression, but if thrash is your thing, that’s a risk you’re gonna have to live with. And if it should cause a few more cadavers in the wake on your path, you probably always got room for a few more skeletons in the closet. At its best, this is absolutely superb. Though the band could have been slightly rougher with the preferred tools of trimming and cutting. This is a nifty album, and probably one hell of a live show.
Scavengers was released by Cyclone Empire on May 13th.
KILLING FOR COMPANY – HOUSE OF HADES
This band’s name of choice reminds me of bands far beyond my liking (read: metalcore), but when I discovered that they play death metal and dwell in my former home town of Nidaros, my interest increased considerably. That House of Hades was also favored with 5/6 points in Norway’s oldest metal mag, Scream Magazine’s latest issue, only made it more promising.
The first attempt, on a mediocre car stereo, didn’t go as expected. Thus, attempt number two was done with headphones. The difference was, to put it mildly, as night and day. With a headset, another world opened up. Details and nuances were released from the madhouse to play with fire under the full moon’s soft lighting, and after several rounds, pieces of a rather grandiose edifice gradually fell into place.
Death metal might constitute the foundation and framework for Hades’ house, but ornaments and interior decorations are imported from various quarters. The guitar-sound, along with fittingly airy riffing, has a hint of sludgy doom. We are quite afar off Cannibal Corpse here, in other words. Sound and music have a very dynamic and three-dimensional feel, where you can close your eyes and visualize the location of the various instruments in your “mental room”. The band incorporates melody lines of different kinds, including a fairly oriental sort, and a touch of symphonic elements. They never leave the death metal-trail, but they never travel along the middle of the road either. This band rather walks in trenches and along rock ridges parallel to the path, while sharing a case of beer.
Take the track with the old-school-sounding name “Iron Coffin” as an example. After an opening with melody used exclusively for creepy moods, it opens up for stylish harmonious melodies after three-quarters of a minute. This does not last for long, but organ and synthesizer that act as choir and strings squeeze in after just over 3 minutes and just before five minutes, separate Killing For Company from your average straight-forward release, creating a quite idiosyncratic signature. Not as strong a signature as what the band create just by playing their death metal in said sludge/doom method, though.
Towards the end of “Frontal Assault”, a killer death metal song that starts much like a stoner version of a traditional Norwegian lullaby known as “Trollmors Vuggevise” (Troll Mothers Lullaby), we find a mournful sequence reminiscent of My Dying Bride, yet naturally fitted into the song.
There is something about the band and their somewhat progressive rhythmic structures that scarcely is explainable with words, which adds magic beyond the standard to the music.
The band was started in 2004, but things went down the drain, and it took another ten years before they continued where they left off. The three constituting Killing For Company are Tom “Welhaven” Wahl, earlier in Bethzaida, Atrox, and The Embraced (et al.), now in Exeloume, on guitar; vocalist Terje Olsen, who also supplied vocals on Khonsu’s last EP Traveller and who has also been a guest for Bloodthorn, From the Vastland, and Keep of Kalessin; and drummer Terje Kråbøl with long experience from Bethzaida, Faustcoven, and Antidepressive Delivery. The latter actually played drums on Thorns‘ second demo Trøndertun in 1992.
In addition, we find a rich variety of guests from bands like Goat the Head/Atrox, Blood Red Throne, Khold, Exeloume, and Lumsk, well as a few other visitors.
Mixing and mastering was done in Skansen Lydstudio, with Stein “Evil” Bratland behind the steering wheel. It sounds rough and dry, but “present”, if I can put it that way. DR8 is what I, with today’s typical DR6-DR7 and sometimes lower dynamic range, would call “good” (and hi-fi nerds would sceptically deem as adequate). The music has an unusual amount of that little extra, and if I were to complain about something, it must first and foremost be that Killing For Company stand out in the crowd without me being completely able to put my finger on why. I interpret that as a positive sign for the music, and you can do so too.
House of Hade was released by Via Nocturna on April 30th.
TRUE BLACK DAWN – COME THE COLORLESS DAWN
A name like True Black Dawn may seem somewhat arrogant and pretentious, but when some cantankerous American band that hadn’t even released so much as a fart before 1999 threatened with a lawsuit because one band in an entirely different country and a completely different genre had accidentally adopted the same moniker years earlier, Finnish Black Dawn simply put “True” in front of the existing name, not too unlike what Mayhem did many years earlier.
Still, True Black Dawn in any case live up to the name!
The Finns started under the name of Nocturnal Feast in 1992, though, and released a demo, but they quickly changed their name before another three demos were released in the nineties. The debut Blood for Satan was released on both renowned and to some extant infamous Necropolis Records in 2001.
Little has happened since the band altered their name a year after the debut, except for member replacements and a split in 2005. Remaining are founding member Wrath and veteran Syphon, along with three relatively new members with lots of experience from other groups.
Between Intro and Outro we find about three quarters of Hell-scorched black metal that smells like burnt Styrofoam. There’s a lot of Scandinavian tradition to be traced, while the recording method has abandoned the cellar. The band has evolved violently from cliché-filled, archetypal blasphemous off-the-shelf material, into an experienced band with very good songs, full control on their sonic weapons, and adequate raw sound. Their sound is proud and resounding, while the heretical metal has an atmospheric, scary, and unholy misanthropic touch. The mastering was handled by Necromorbus Studio.
At my very first listen, I got a disturbing, close to physically uncomfortable feeling. In my defense, it must be said that it was very late at night and that I was quite overtired. Nevertheless, it shall also be said that Come The Colorless Dawn has a well-above-average terrifying touch when two guitars complement each other with gloomy riffing and haunted melodies, while the singer sounds like he’s suffering from severe pain as he screams like he’s possessed.
Come The Colorless Dawn of course doesn’t revolutionize the genre. We’re not on par with the classics, and True Black Dawn are not as innovative as, say, Watain in songwriting, but they still convey eerie tones in a very persuasive manner. I have developed a strong taste for the pitch-darkened loathing the band portray.
I probably describe bands as “creepy” fairly often, but True Black Dawn have crafted something that belongs among the most sinister and “spooky” in that respect, although I have not quite managed to recreate the magic of my first encounter with this album. Thus, you probably don’t need to keep nerve medicine and nitroglycerin tablets at hand.
Light a few candles and turn the volume close to the pain threshold just over an hour before dawn slowly returns with gray, colorless daylight, and I think you’ll still feel the essence of true black metal knocking on your heart door… from the inside.
Come The Colorless Dawn was released by W.T.C. Productions on May 17th.
HARM – OCTOBER FIRE
Harm are a thrash metal band from Mandal, Norway’s southernmost town. Despite nearly 20 years in the game, they’re hardly widely known quite yet. It’s admittedly only ten years since the first album was presented. I checked out their last album, Demonic Alliance from 2011, after a review in Scream Magazine, but can’t remember having heard or read about the band anywhere else.
Like the cover art of their releases, the band have matured and grown over the years, and by now, I’d say they deserve some recognition among fans of pure no-nonsense thrash, akin to the Teutonic kind.
To the extent that we must relate to any appended quirks, it’s a frenetic whiff of death and a black-scorched halitosis of sulphur that surrounds them like a dirty, drunken aura of blood and gore, but those kinds of spices probably don’t pose a threat (or should I say harm) to a real thrash-maniac. It’s not unnatural to compare this trio with the mighty Teutonic trio of Destruction, Sodom, and Kreator, but you can boost it up with a little injection of Demonical.
Vocalist and bassist Steffan Schulze (ex-Antares Predator, ex-Scariot) seems to be the only remaining member in a band that’s seen its share of replacements. Since the previous record, the two other members have been replaced. New members in this ruthless posse are Kevin Kvåle (Horizon Ablaze) on drums and Nicolay Johnsen (Zerozonic) on guitar.
Harm debuted with Devil in 2006, and the album was re-released by Battlegod Productions last year, with plenty of bonus material in the form of demo material. The band have, as mentioned, gradually improved. They might not take the world by storm with October Fire either, although it is allowed to hope. The music becomes a little bit too ordinary for that.
Harm are of course reasonably devoid of uniqueness. Even the sharp, blackened vowels have been used before. The extreme metal is about as original as the classic artistic statement that the latest album is by far the best, even if that may actually be true in this context. That the band’s got guts and the balls to utter the words “They are not bringing anything to this world, so why bother?” in the song “Executioner”, either witnesses well-developed self-irony or the lack of self-knowledge. Joke aside, the words are of course set in a wholly different context. Besides… what fucking difference does lack of singularity make in a scene where most are in the same boat, when song material, sound, and technical execution hold such a consistent lyhigh level as here?
The Norwegians deliver almost 40 minutes of furious anger with proper exterminating songs worth both time and money if you live and breathe dark, adrenaline-fuelled amphetamine-metal. Harm might not offer a calorie bomb of intricate and sophisticated substance, but the songs have energy and aggression that oozes metal whilst hurling out harsh riffs, good rhythms and transitions, delightful morbid solos, massive punch, a genuine dose of murderous moods, and nice variety.
I was a bit hesitant initially, but October Fire surprises with killer tracks with enough detail to bear the description refined thrash. Ass kicking!
October Fire was released by Battlegod Productions on May 20th.
NARVIK – ASCENSION TO APOTHEOSIS
Who is cunning enough to use the name of a cold Norwegian city in order to attract attention? Well, a band from southern Germany who changed their name from Asgard after one year of activity, when common source of inspiration, Madrugada’s Robert Burås from Narvik, passed away in 2007.
Some would argue that cold, dystopic black metal comes best to its own during freezing, hostile winter weather, but when Redeemer chants “I see darkness in light…” during “Wounds of Aspiration”, it really puts it in an appropriate perspective even on an otherwise lovely early summer day. Besides, red hot fiery rays of sun and icy frostbitten permafrost have in common that both sting like hell on freshly shaved balls, right? Okay, that was a joke.
Through a little over 40 minutes, the Germans balance between atonal and conventional black metal with a small depressive flair. The men juggle playfully with guitar-based peculiarities, where they also borrow a bit from odd kaleidoscopic landscapes. The music even has an inherent post-metallic monotony, but it’s like putting a hedgehog in a gray plastic bag; contours of spines will shine brightly through, and eventually perforate the bag and put their mark on the whole. With steady rhythmic progression and a fairly tangled multitude of melodies and asymmetrical guitar passages, good drive is created, along with a strong basis for a determined demand for attention.
Should the sun’s infra-red rays become too bothersome, you can always cool down with some German black metal where the lyrics are inspired by esoteric transcendental spiritual magic in line with the left hand path. The band’s debut went under my radar in 2013, but Ascension to Apotheosis can be safely recommend if the description sounds appealing.
And just to mention it… no, Narvik by no means sound as radio-friendly as Madrugada.
Ascension to Apotheosis was released by Folter Records on May 27th.
Watch the video for “The Shore”, and enjoy the rest of the album right below: