Archive for May, 2015

Beyond the Dark Forest are a one man dark ambient/orchestral/atmospheric drone band from Clevedon, UK. ‘Mirkwood’ is their new EP, taking its name of course from that dark and evil forest from Lord of the Rings. Quite fitting for what lies beneath…

Opener ‘The Long Trail Across Dagorlad’ is a throbbing, pulsing drone of malevolence and dread. Sounding for all the world like a howling wind, the track is evocative of its name, taken from the desolate wasteland where the Dead Marshes lie. Every so often there is a note, which could be a distant horn that creeps in, like an aural relic of a bygone battle. An intermittent rustling disturbs the gloomy hum, like a dead bush in the breeze.

For an outfit that turns 20 this year, Beyond the Dark Forest have perfected the art of evil through sound. ‘Staring into Dol Guldur, the Darkened Realm’ is frighteningly minimalist. You feel that something is watching you, or that you definitely heard something, but its gone again. That feeling comes and goes a lot during this EP… Like standing on a precipice, staring across to the titular fortress, you feel your blood chill and your skin prickle.

‘Mirkwood’ is unsettlingly sparse at points. Written for discomfort, Beyond the Dark Forest have removed the known from the equation. It broods with the feeling of an inevitable explosion of noise but remains tantalisingly distant from it. It looms like darkness, awaiting its release. ‘Arriving at the Border to Rhosgobel’ captures the feel of a dark and dense forest where one might fear to tread, with birdsong intertwining with brooding drones.

Closing with the folky ambience of ‘O’er the Gladden Fields and Home’, ‘Mirkwood’ is fitting of the theme, creating oppressive dark atmospheres that are immediate evocative of Tolkien’s world. Even the almost jaunty final track works perfectly, accompanied by rain and thunder, it makes for a refreshing break from the gloom. ‘Mirkwood’ is my favourite ambient record of the year by far!

Olden Folk

Taatsi are a Finnish black metal outfit rooted in mysticism and natural elements. The brainchild of Antti Mikonmaki (of Vinoristi), this two man project have just released their second record, entitled ‘Olden Folk’.

It possesses an almost hypnotic, rabid buzz about it, with a thick cloying atmosphere that chokes the listener. ‘Departure of the Olden Folk’ is a beautiful example of their modus operandi. Dense, throbbing drums underpin an incessant droning buzzsaw guitar while keyboard melodies intertwine with a rasping vocal. ‘Olden Folk’ is full of mid-90s BM references, and is rife with menacingly slow sections. The swaying gloom of ‘Nightfall by the High Hill’ is almost like very old Cradle in its delivery, but without all the gothic histrionics. The music feels old, like it comes from a bygone age where the spirits of nature rule. ‘Midsummer Thunder’ is full of soaring pagan melody, while ‘The Airs Carry Beneath the Waves’ possesses the same, light atmosphere.

That is not to say that ‘Olden Folk’ isn’t heavy and blackened. At times, it is as traditional black metal as they come. But Taatsi work to make this worth your while. There’s black metal, slices of trad metal sneaking in places, topped with a delightfully restrained use of the keyboards. ‘Chimes from Konivetsa’ blends some subtle keyboard notes in to enhance the mood. ‘The Beauty That Sighs with the Woods’ has a delightful acoustic intro, before a mournful and majestic black metal riff appears.

‘Olden Folk’ is a triumph for evocative, atmospheric black metal. Taatsi employ great song writing skills to their concoction of atmospheric black metal, which sets this release above a lot of others this year. Taatsi don’t just write black metal, they craft songs that will stay with you. They make songs from the stones and moss of life, cranking up the tremolo as they go. Get yourself some, now!

Mist, Slovenian mistresses of doom who burst onto the scene in 2013 with their classy, traditional doom demo, have returned with their new EP, ‘Inan’. Recorded along with their new guitarist Blaž Tanšek, ending their all female lineup, it keeps up their journey into Sabbathian riff utopia.

The title track starts with a soulful croon and a classic grooving riff. The magic instantly comes back from their demo, the Sabbath and Vitus influence looms vastly but Mist have got that stunning female lead that sets them apart. None of this flouncy folky occult rock doom that most female vocal doom bands do. Mist do it like Mount Salem; heavy and bluesy. An epic start.

‘Frozen Velvet’ is a more mature piece, opening delicately before a swooning riff leads a soulful howl out into the open. Never shying from the vintage of 70s doom, Mist have got as much soul as Blues Pills but are much more traditional in their vibe. It reeks of mournful Candlemass moments, with an evocative vocal smothering the blues with a rich tone. ‘Under the Night Sky’ is a menacing chug dripping with a ritual atmosphere, dabbling in dashes of occult rock to compliment the elephantine groove and the eerie vocals.

Closing with ‘Phobia’, rerecorded from their original demo and still holding up against the beauty of their newer stuff by the sheer groove of its main riff pattern, ‘Inan’ is another wonderful collection of songs. Mist are something very special. Like Mount Salem before them, doom has never sounded so touching, so powerful, so alive. Take Mist to your heart and you’ll never regret it.

German black metallers Urfuchs hail from Hamburg, Germany, and have just released their first record, ‘Richtnacht’, available on Bandcamp for free download!

After a creepy, rasping intro, first track proper ‘Ghul’ is a suitably raw and nasty slice of Darkthronian black metal. It’s unstoppable, cold and merciless in its one dimensional assault. Compare that with the mid paced and more melodic ‘For I Carved This Mountain’, showcasing a variety of styles that become more apparent as the album progresses. I think this is my favourite track, a mid paced gloomy piece that ebbs and flows beautifully.

Mixed in the band’s home studio, ‘Richtnacht’ sounds remarkably clean and crisp, but it hasn’t lost anything of that traditional black metal rawness or grime. ‘Totenwald’ has some folky melodies intertwined with icy black metal, but an eerie hanging riff accompanied by wretched rasps is the highlight. The title track drips with a blackened menace, but is chameleonic with some deft thrash licks while the monolithic ‘Im kalten Morgenlicht’ drifts out of acoustics into a throbbing masterpiece of atmospheric black metal. It soars with ambient backgrounds and razor guitars.

Closing with ‘Malepartus’, a piece that combines that unique touch the band have with the traditional blueprints of black metal, Urfuchs have crafted a fine black metal debut. Each song shows a different string to their blackened bow, from icy rampages to contemplative, almost post metal atmospheres. Great find, and a great album!

The Art of Debilitation cover art

Rats of Reality are cohorts of the instantly lovable Hellripper, and are an Aberdeen based crust punk band specialising in angular, raw energetic crust punk/thrash crossover/grindcore noise. Their new EP, ‘The Art of Debilitation’, was released in May, and is a short sharp shock of aural violence.

‘Shallow Bastards’ is a raw, rusty razorblade to the senses. Roaring forward with nasty riffage and a throat shredding vocal, it’s brilliantly unhinged. The more melodic but nonetheless rampantly destructive ‘Faceless Ones’ continues the relentless beating you are receiving. There’s even an ace solo that shreds like a motherfucker, and the whole venture is very latter period Darkthrone in it’s snotty necro punk attitude.

Following the savage ‘Liferuiner’ is the more, for want of a better word, introspective title track. A ghostly acoustic intro leads into a choppy, atmospheric black metal style riff pattern. A wave of necro riffs then engulf you, with rapid fire drumming and more nasty vocals. An evocative, melodic interlude that rises up from the filth is the highlight, where the rasping roar seeks to leave behind the darkness. Shimering guitar leads assist it along the way, and it is a remarkable change of pace for a band who seemed pretty ok with just shredding your face off in the previous three tracks.

‘The Art of Debilitation’ is a superb EP that warrants attention. Combining the raw energy of necro punk and some black metal goodness, Rats of Reality come out as a band who are not afraid to try and inject a bit of life into crust punk’s currently raped corpse.

One of those records that bares time and reflection on, last year’s opus from the kings of industrial, ‘A World Lit Only By Fire’ is an exercise in pure riff and noise density. Godflesh have always been pioneers in this genre, ever since 89’s superlative ‘Streetcleaner’, but their comeback record is a perfection of everything they’ve ever done. The first Godflesh record in 13 years, and it feels like it was the only thing that could fill the void they left after ‘Hymns’.

Opener ‘New Dark Ages’ is a bulldozing riff workout that grinds down upon you hard and relentlessly. It brings back that memory of the first time I ever heard the uncaring dirge of ‘Like Rats’, a song that will forever be in my top 20 greatest music discoveries. Second track ‘Deadend’ pulses with a similar minimalistic sledgehammer riff pattern. Relentlessly repetitive, each bar comes crushing heavier and heavier. This feels like the end of the world; industrialised armageddon steamrolling humanity into the ground. ‘Shut Me Down’ has almost what you would think is a catchy groove, until you realise you’re banging your head to an anthem of your own destruction.

Jesu was Justin K Broadrick’s vehicle for introspective, dreamy post metal/post rock soundscapes, and with many quality releases under that banner, you felt maybe that nihilistic bent had left him. Not so it would appear. ‘A World Lit Only By Fire’ is a churning, monolithic beast, free of almost all of Jesu’s melodic trappings. Sure, Jesu was heavy, but it was never this morosely bleak, this unforgiving, this dark. ‘A World Lit Only By Fire’ benefits immensely from a clear and crisp production; while losing that grimy and filthy atmosphere that ‘Streetcleaner’ had, it brings Godflesh into the 21st century. Their mechanical end time preachings are now startlingly modern, and Broadrick’s vocals have lost that cavernous roar but to great effect. He comes across as much more flexible since his work with Jesu, and the ghostly fade out of ‘Towers of Emptiness’ is a perfect example.

If one day the world comes crashing down in a twisted mass of industrial decay, be sure that it will be soundtracked by this. Godflesh return with spectacular results. Monolithic riff worship gets no finer than this. Bow your heads peasants, it’s time for your bones to build their roads.


Starless Night have released ‘Lost in Life’s Endless Maze’, their new album on Sixsixsix Music. Now the label head honcho Steve and I have been friends for a while now, and I can pretty much trust his judgment on a band’s quality if he releases their stuff. I also heard the epic ‘Time Heals Nothing When There’s No Good to See’ on one of the label’s Metal Legions free downloads. I’m eager to see what the band can produce in a full length.

Starless Night play a surprisingly heavy form of atmospheric, depressive black metal. Sure, there are soaring melodies within the relentless tremolo riffing, but the underpinning barrage of drums is satisfying thick and dense. The atmosphere is very cold though; Starless Night are all about your more traditional icy riffing, howling like a frozen wind. ‘Deeper in These Realms I Go’ is a perfect example, with a relentless  throbbing assault which makes the sudden drop off into eerie ambience and then return to frigid riffs seem even more startling.

‘Lost in Life’s Endless Maze’ is a full 70+ minutes of cold dead riffs, buzzing with an icy malevolence. Swathes of dark ambient moments compliment the harsh black metal, and hearing the tinkling clarity of the title track’s intro slowly being overtaken by a looming buzz is a moment to cherish. ‘Time Heals Nothing…’ is still twenty minutes of some of this year’s finest atmospheric black metal, and is followed by another twenty minute track that challenges it for pure dark majesty.

‘Lost in Life’s Endless Maze’ is a long listening experience, but it is worth it to hear the grasp of dynamics and aching beauty in some of the riffing. Thoroughly memorable and stunningly bleak, Starless Night will be definitely worth looking out for in years to come.