Archive for June, 2015

Black Flame - The Origin of Fire

Italian blackened death metallers Black Flame have been spewing their blasphemic odes since 1998, and ‘The Origin of Fire’ marks their sixth full length album since their debut in 2003, ‘The Third Revelation’. It is out now of Avantgarde Music.

‘The Origin of Fire’ is a caustic cauldron of razor sharp riffing and a barrage of blastbeats, rasping odes to the dark places of mankind’s psyche. This is a relentless, savage beating of an album that rages from the word go. But there are moments of melody and variety in amongst the blackness. ‘Unholy Cult of Rejection’ has a melodic solo section that rips, and ‘Under the Bridge of Illusions’ has a great malevolent chugging section that mixes things up well.

But its the more savage parts of the record that do it for me, like the arse tearing ‘On the Trail of the Serpent’ or the seething ‘The Fire Union’. You can see why they were signed to Forces of Satan records, owned by Infernus of Gorgoroth fame. Black Flame possess that same, howling intensity and raging blackened delivery, but underpinned by a thicker, satisfying death metal crunch. ‘The Origin of Fire’ belches fire and brimstone with a conviction that is both impressive and kinda scary. Find this record, light black candles and worship at the altar of Satanic black/death metal rage.

Antonio Pantano - Arcandia

What’s that? Symphonic, cinematic epic metal from Italy? It’s Rhapsody. Or Rhapsody of Fire. Or Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Or whatever they’re called now. But wait, its not, its a one man project by uber talented multi instrumentalist Antonio Pantano, whose debut record ‘Arcandia’ is a vast piece showcasing his skills.

And skills he has. ‘Arcandia’ is a well crafted, modern symphonic metal record with lots of variety and some geniunely thrilling moments. I was worried it might be a bit overblown and dramatic but its relatively restrained. Take the ripping ‘Hymn to Brave’ which pulls out some killer licks, or the powerful ‘Icy Tempest’, which takes off in a roar of guitars and drums, with some truly inspiring soaring orchestral flourishes. This is one of the most melodic releases I’ve reviewed in a long time, and it’s somewhat refreshing to be so uplifted by a metal record. It is largely instrumental, apart from spoken word sections that add an element of storytelling to the record.

The instrumental nature of much of the record actually aids it a lot. We’ve all had power metal records that are just too cheesy because of histrionic vocals, and Antonio Pantano avoids this by concentrating more on the music. ‘Arcandia’ is vast in its scope, from the orchestral ‘Heroes of the Mighty Castle’ to the solo tastic ‘Furia Divina’. ‘Arcandia’ is a true testament to how talented a guy Antonio Pantano is, both as a musician and as a composer.

However, there’s a bit too much on the cinematic orchestral front, and not quite enough metal. When the riffs kick in, the soloing and harmonies are brilliant, but they don’t appear often enough for my liking. ‘Arcandia’ is a great achievement on a purely musical basis, but it’s a bit too melodic for my tastes over a full record. I’m into bits of it, the rest just isn’t heavy enough.

Belgium’s Angakok are an interesting proposition, melding doom, sludge and drone into a chaotic dirging behemoth of a record. Vast riffs loom from darkness, weaving droning metal through the fog.

After the dense drone of opener ‘Perpaluktok Aitut’, the doom starts proper with the slow motion crush of ‘Sacrifice’. Riffs the size of mountains groan under their own weight, while a tortured vocal howls from somewhere within. The torturous gloom of ‘Collapsing’ is the musical equivalent of watching a glacier crush you to death; it is slow but excruciatingly inevitable. It feels like the spiritual successor to Winter’s ‘Into Darkness’.

‘Angakok’ is a bleak, power statement as a debut album. The hypnotic droning of ‘Aksarpok’ leads into the blood and thunder of ‘Samsara’, a lurching twelve minute assault that is equals parts raw sludge and titanic doom. The word ‘epic’ is thrown around too much these days, especially with songs that are ten minutes plus, but ‘Samsara’ is an epic tour de force of primal rage and riff. A true album centrepiece, when the haunting mid section arrives with just a jangling guitar and a rumbling bass, where samples fade in and out.

The throbbing ‘Avioyok’ leads into the menacing smash of ‘Dead Birds’ and the almost wistfully jarring ‘Trust My Scorn’. Mixing blunt, crashing riffage with a sense of foreboding and in parts a genuine sense of dread, Angakok’s debut is a special release. Rarely is this kind of sludgy doom so emotionally honest, so drainingly heavy and so damn enjoyable. Take lessons folks, ‘Empty Cup’ is how you write end of the world music


Rite of Ascension cover art

The cover of UK blackened death monsters Vacivus’ new EP, ‘Rite of Ascension’, kinda sums up the entire release. It looks like a black hole, surrounded by spilt blood, which encapsulates the type of music the band make; it’s savage, it’s threatening and it’s bleakly nihilistic. I first heard them on a rehearsal demo from last September time, and they blew my mind then.

‘Rite of Ascension’ has the three tracks from that demo on it, plus three new emanations from the void. Opener ‘Dark Apoethesis’ is a new one, belching forth with howling guitar and a tectonic rumble. It is rabid, feral death metal with a cavernous growl, aping both Autopsy’s sludgy, filthy take on the genre and the cloying atmosphere of Hooded Menace. The title track is still the clattering, freight train of death metal I loved the first time around, while ‘Ageless, Nameless’ is heavier than a bulldozer enema.

Vacivus mesh all of the greatest parts of death metal into a cohesive, vicious whole. They’ve got the ungodly vocals, their riffing is dense and thrilling while their double bass kick is brutal yet not overwhelming. ‘Hostis Rei’ has some intense, Morbid Angel moments, and closer ‘Vacivus Aeternum’ rumbles forth with some of Behemoth’s blackened majesty, before descending into grinding madness. The solo wails from the depths of darkness and an eerie, hypnotic drone eases us out, sanity left behind.

‘Rite of Ascension’ is a vigorous kick in the face to the UK death metal scene. Up there with some of the best death metal I’ve heard this year, Vacivus do not disappoint and I cannot wait to hear some more of this. Only Death is Real!

Opus Death

Indonesian death metal trio Exhumation have unleashed their second album, ‘Opus Death’, this year, and being of that south eastern corner of Asia, you can almost guess that this will be a particularly rabid slab of raw death metal. Unsurprisingly, I was right in my assumption, and thank fuck because this is goddamn invigorating.

‘Soul Wanders’ roars out of the gate with a rampant buzzsaw riff and a cavernous grim vocal. This is relentless, filthy death metal, vomited from the primordial ooze replete with all the horrifying evil that comes with it. Solos howl, drums thud and vocalist Bones growls and rasps like a man possessed. ‘Upon Our Hordes’ rumbles with a barely contained malevolence, and the slower sections remind me a lot of Obituary at their slow rawest. ‘Witching Evil’ sounds like Sodom crossed with early Swedeath, a raging torrent of death metal putridity.

This is the kind of death metal that you might think has been done a lot recently, but its the kind that should be done more often because it positively throbs with inspiration. All the great bands are referenced here, from early Slayer and Sodom to the kind of war metal you normally find in South America. There is a dense atmosphere of darkness and foreboding, especially prevalent on the ghostly piano led ‘The Sleeping Darkness’. A welcome break from the assault, it nonetheless fits the vibe of the record perfectly. Equally important is the haunting acoustics of ‘Lullabyss’, showing that Exhumation are not your average one trick death metal group.

If ripping death thrash riffs with a thick black metal-esque atmosphere and belched vocals of death are your thing, then Exhumation are for you. Think ‘Hell Awaits’ crashing into ‘Altars of Madness’, with the production values of a murky swamp. It’s dark, raw and fucking awesome.

Ever read something about a band and feel almost embarassed you didn’t know that. Albatross are, according to the press release that accompanied this album, arguably India’s most well known heavy metal band. I’ve NEVER heard of them before now, and I feel that I should’ve. Maybe it’s just me…

Anyway, their debut record for Transcending Obscurity is ‘Fear from the Skies’, 38 minutes of ripping trad metal. I’ve heard a lot of black and death metal from India, but I believe this is my first foray into more traditional metal from the subcontinent. After the intro track, which has a strangely King Diamond feel about it (creepy spoken word, tolling bell etc etc), ‘The Raptorsville Fair’ lurches into a odd, fairground piece before some cool guitar leads finally kick in. It’s certainly a unique way to kick off a record, and it grabs the attention quickly.

The metal kicks into high gear on the ripping ‘Jugglehead the Clown’, with some classic licks and some piercing screams from vocalist Biprorshee Das. This is a record led very much by the storytelling concept, and to their credit, Albatross are doing something unique with that. There’s some seriously cool guitar interplay too, melodies twisting into solos and back again. Taking cues from Maiden, three guitarists linking guitar lines works so well. ‘Children of the Cloud’ showcases some of Das’ vocal range, from soaring harmonies through some slightly maniacal parts while the galloping riffs race to catch up. The musicianship is stellar, and if this is what Indian trad metal sounds like, sign me up for more!

The first part of the record closes with a cyclical outro section linking back to the strange intro. The second part opens with ‘In the Lair of Dr.Hex’, a chugging piece of eerie heavy metal with a killer solo. Albatross write some great, soulful heavy metal with some fantastic licks and a clear identity. Riffs are awesome, vocals can shatter glass at ten paces, and ‘Tale of Two Tyrants’ could be one of my top songs by the end of the year. ‘Fear from the Skies’ is very much recommended for fans of the riff!

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Ukrainain power metallers W. Angel’s Conquest have released their new album ‘Taste of Life’ this year. Ukraine is more often known for some stunning pagan black metal bands than power metal, but W. Angel’s Conquest have been going for almost 20 years now, so they’re obviously doing something right.

This is for fans of Symphony X and Helloween, so you can guess you’re going to find a load of catchy melodies and soaring vocals. I have a bit of a soft spot for this kinda metal when its done right, and W.Angel’s Conquest do it right for me. Opener ‘Revolution’ is full of galloping riffs and huge hooks. It reminds me a lot of Sonata Arctica, especially vocalist Konstantin Naumenko. He has a great range, and his voice is powerful and crystal clear. The music is remarkably fast paced for power metal, taking a more trad metal/thrash approach than some power metal bands. The solos are beautifully written, each matching their song wonderfully well.

Power metal is a strange beast. On a bad day, it can be so overloaded with cheese it makes you wanna puke. On a good day, it raises fists and makes you wanna scream out the choruses. W. Angel’s Conquest lean definitely more towards the latter, with each track being catchy as hell while remaining distinctive. Keyboard use is sparing, highlighting only when required, like in the anthemic ‘Sunrise’. Followed by the epic and glorious ‘Spirit of Freedom’, which is possibly my favourite track, it makes for a strong opening statement.

Sure, there’s the typical power metal ballad ‘Blooming Day’, but even that is handled with a bit of style. It’s at least a bit heavy which is better than most of the piano led dross you hear on albums like these. The title track rocks with aplomb, and that sums up ‘Taste of Life’ pretty well. A well crafted, catchy power metal album that doesn’t outstay its welcome nor have any dud songs. Its metal Jim, just how we like it.

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Canadian death metal squad Fragile Existence have vomited forth their follow up to debut record ‘Departing the Damned’ this year, entitled ‘Cataclysms and Beginnings’, featured ten of some of 2015’s finest deathly riffs and brutality.

From the offset, Fragile Existence present a highly polished machine of brutality and death metal. The riffs are technical but not overly so, the groove on opening track ‘A Malignant Design’ is sickening, and there’s plenty of vocal variations to keep you occupied. The steamroller groove continues into the title track, that hits heavier than the proverbial ton of bricks. There’s oodles of melody in the savage ‘Limitless Genocide’, and dashes of discordance in the thunderous ‘Four Walls of Emptiness’.

There is a misstep in ‘Four Walls of Emptiness’, with the cleaner vocal section that doesn’t quite match up with the brutality of the rest of the record, but its a minor complaint. With the crush of ‘Accomodating Demise’ and the brilliantly titled ‘Clandestine Laboratories of Unbridled Malevolence’ leading the way, Fragile Existence have got themselves an excellent record here. I especially dig the banging ‘Pathogenic Nightmare’ with its wicked soloing.

‘Cataclysms and Beginnings’ is slick, well executed death metal with some great songwriting. Headbanging groove meets raging blasting in a great mix of modern and vintage death metal styles. It doesn’t do anything new or fancy, but who needs that with riffs this good?

I’ve developed quite the fancy of early 90s doom at the moment. It was spurred by reading an old Iron Fist article about the making of Saint Vitus’ criminally underrated ‘C.O.D’ and ‘Die Healing’ records. Having been mainly a fan of the classic ‘Born Too Late’ and the more recent ‘Lillie: F-65’, they were two albums I had kinda missed. I gave them a spin and thoroughly enjoyed them, and I went on a journey…

Between the two, I think ‘C.O.D’ pips it for me, with the gloriously morose title track and the bleak stomp of ‘Planet of Judgment’. I followed this up with Candlemass’ superlative ‘Epicus Doomicus Metallicus’, which is admittedly 80s doom but hey, who’s counting? After that it was Trouble’s ‘Manic Frustration’, and my new favourite; Solitude Aeturnus’ epic and vast ‘In the Depths of Sorrow’. Then I was really hooked.

You know that moment when you look at your music collection, and there is all of a sudden, a vast gap where a classic or essential record is missing, but you only just realised it?. That’s what happened to me. I have, well HAD, no Solitude Aeturnus records. I love this band, yet all I had was some downloaded version from years before. So I scoured the internets and finally, I now own ‘Beyond the Crimson Horizon’ on CD. And it was a very reasonable price too, which is apparently very rare. Hooray!

The important point of this blog piece is that it’s important to revisit albums from the past. You never know what you’ll find, or what place they’ll take you. I always find that listening to a record you haven’t heard for a while, or haven’t heard before outwith the context of its release, its much more enjoyable.


Serbian black metallers Carnival of Flesh have recently been revived after a 6 year hiatus from 2008. Their particular brand of black metal has been honed from their previous work, crafting in equally quantities black metal violence and symphonic melodies.

Starting with ‘The Beginning’ (strangely), you get a sense of the depth of composition that Carnival of Flesh have put into their work. Combining chunky riffing with symphonic dashes and a clean, bass vocal line gives a dose of grandeur. This is not your tin-pot, buzzsaw black metal. This is rich with orchestral flourishes and a cracking production.

‘The Promise’ builds from the start, subtle harmony layers accompanying a Cradle-esque gothic spoken word style. This track is actually very reminscient of some of Cradle’s work, what with the symphonic elements and the eerie gothic touches. It’s a lot less dramatic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. ‘The Horror’ possesses an almost cinematic scope in parts, while slipping in a sludgy vibe in parts. Carnival of Flesh use their orchestral arrangements well, enhancing rather than dominating the metal side of their music.

Be it the sombre sway of ‘The Pact’s opening moments, the propulsive and grandiose ‘The Battle’ or the final invocation of ‘The Regret’, Carnival of Flesh’s debut is a well rounded slab of symphonic black metal that successfully reigns in some of the excesses of the genre to craft a solid and thoroughly enjoyable debut. Proof that bombast and overindulgence does not always equate success, ‘Stories from a Fallen World’ is great.