Archive for February, 2016

Ragehammer - The Hammer Doctrine

Polish fiends Ragehammer, who already have my vote due to that killer band name, are unleashing their debut full length ‘The Hammer Doctrine’, on Pagan Records, in April this year. As promised by the album art and the band name, this is harsh, raw first wave black metal brutality.

The ironically titled ‘First Wave Black Metal’ is exactly like that; a classic Venom-esque track with a thrashy Sodom riff pattern, and a raw energy. ‘Unleash the Dogs’ is more of the same. Ragehammer have got this punkish energy about them that makes their debut feel fresh and yet still rough and ready. There’s nothing overly esoteric or atmospheric, it’s just foot to the floor heavy metal, filtered through a nasty, rusted razorblade filter.

‘Warlord’s Fall’ has this great thrashing opening, and the whole song just slays. You know that feeling when you’re listening to a new band and you’re thinking, ‘I can’t quite say why, but I’m fucking loving this’? I get that vibe from Ragehammer. I think its the enthralling vitality of their songs. They are well written, memorable and inspire the most rapid of headbanging. Ragehammer have got that intangible that make this possibly the best record I’ve come across this year thus far. Swing the Ragehammer at your enemies!

Bangladesh is slowly beginning to approach its larger neighbour India in terms of quality underground metal. Burial Dust are a black metal horde who’ve been in existence since about 2013, and their debut EP ‘Oshubho Ahobaan’ (Ominous Call in English), is now available from Bandcamp.

Bestial black metal with overt Satanic and blasphemous imagery is the name of the game here. The opening title track crawls out with malevolent intent, with a lonely melody becoming a tribal drumbeat, and a nasty grinding riff rises from the gloom. There are moments in the savagery of ‘Where is Your Rahmaa?’ that channel the deepest, darkest moments of the second wave of black metal, entwined with Eastern melodies. The vocals are brutal, howling growls, and the tin dry production enhances that primitive rage.

Burial Dust  have crafted a piece of spellbinding black metal that almost pulses with malice, with evil intent and danger. ‘A Call from Home’ is a clattering piece of raw, rabid black metal traditionalism, with a killer melodic solo, while the lurking fear of ‘Sandshaded Mausoleum’ with its creepy intro, its blasting dums and proto doom riffs appearing in the middle becomes an incredibly varied piece. ‘Oshubho Ahobaan’ is an EP worth seeking out if you are a fan of how that Central Asian sound is progressing, or if you just love raw as fuck, skin flaying black metal that messes with the formula slightly. A melting pot of doom, death and black!

Senescence - Endoomed

Senescence are a two man German doom band who have been around since the late 90s, but have been silent on the release front since 2002. ‘Endoomed’ is the second of two EP releases last year, following the excellently titled ‘In Doom There is No Law’. ‘Endoomed’ is available from their Bandcamp page.

‘Wisdom be Prey’ is the first track, and you feel straight away that this isn’t your typical doom release. Gloomy strums float into view, followed by a mournful clean vocal. There’s an obvious post rock influence here, with a cleaner and less heavy sound to begin with. The drumming gives a bit of heft, but the shimmering, almost glacial sleekness about it is totally different. Sure, there is heaviness here, but it comes more across in the mood, the oppressive atmosphere. The dense riffs build up in the background, until the doom influences shine through more obviously.

While only three tracks, it is a hefty 22 minutes of doom that twists and turns. ‘Vultures Collapse into Sound’ is the longest track, and is a grinding, ‘Like Gods of the Sun’-era My Dying Bride, but with less violin. It is very dark, and the dashes of piano give that little bit extra melancholy to it, especially when the riffs disappear and the haunting clean section appears. It is a very atmospheric release, and thrives on the eerie vibe it produces, like the ritualistic vocals that open closing track ‘Mourner’s Claim’.

Senescence have written something that you have never heard the likes of before. Sure, there’s hefty riffs but the vocals and some of the cleaner guitar parts are very strange. I like it though, and it is a great thing to find a unique doom band in this day and age. Definitely worth a go

Another Italian atmospheric black metal band, Hornwood Fell, have appeared on my radar recently, but this time I am totally unfamiliar with what they have done. ‘Yheri’ is their new record, and it’s out now on Avantgarde Music.

As with many of these atmospheric bands, ‘Yheri’ incorporates a lot of acoustic moments, but it is a lot more metal focused than some are. Opener ‘Walking in the Wood’ is straight to the jugular after a brief acoustic intro. Cascading second wave riffs pour over you in a raging torrent, while the acoustic lapses allow moments to breathe. Hornwood Fell have some eerie moments too, like the ritualistic quieter moments of ‘The Encounter’, or the delicate moments of ‘At His Awakening’. These serve to enhance the mood that the album portrays.

Hornwood Fell are at their strongest, however, with a blackened riff in their hand, bile in their throat and an icy threat to their music. Black metal is a strange genre; in that the most rigid traditionalists can be celebrated as much as those who break the mold and change the formula. Hornwood Fell take the best from both sides, but their traditional game is strong, particularly the mesmerising fury of ‘The Snowstorm’, or the glassy menace of ‘The Other Generated’.

‘Yheri’ is definitely an album that is worth your time. Mixing traditional second wave rabidity with ghostly acoustics and haunting vocal melodies, Hornwood Fell add themselves to Italy’s growing underground scene as a flag bearer for intelligent black metal.

If you follow the Killchain, you’ll know that we are big fans of Italian atmospheric black metallers Chiral. The work crafted on each of the releases, from debut demo ‘Winter Eternal, through the scathing ‘Abisso’ into the pastoral shades of ‘Where Mountains Pierce the Nightsky’ and the ghostly ‘Night Sky’. Each piece has evolved the sound, and it is an evolution that almost mirrors the change of Alcest from black metal into atmospheric powerhouse. New EP, ‘Snow//Heritage’ has a lot to live up to… It’s out March 22nd.

‘Snow//Heritage’ opens with a Woman is the Earth cover, ‘Sage Moon’, which is a piece that oozes a blackened grandeur. It is enthralling in its bleak simplicity, a torrent of vintage black metal riffs pour over a gloomy place, and does justice to the original. The warm acoustics of ‘Now Her Weeping’ is something that Chiral have done before and done well. There’s little thats particularly ‘evil’ or ‘dark’ about it, but there’s a beautiful wistfulness about it that really gives it that melancholic feeling. It’s an obvious tribute to the pagan folk that help to inspire the work that Chiral do.

The gloom continues on the delicate ‘Nowhere the Kingdom Fell’, which bleeds into the frosty ‘Whiteness’, a song that has a huge amount of variety, scale and most important for me, emotional investment. Each haunting chord, every thunderous blastbeast, every buzzing tremolo riff is designed to elicit a response from you, and by Thor it does. It is very hypnotic, with the dense thrumming of the riffs overlaid with murky choral vocals and epic ambience.

Another hit from Chiral for me. For each release, the song writing becomes more complex, the atmospheres grow more layered and the black metal fades a little. Maybe Chiral will leave it behind altogether, or re-embrace it on their next release. Whichever they decide, the talent for penning melancholic, stirring pieces of art will remain, and Chiral will remain essential in the atmospheric black metal wave we are currently experiencing.

Ancient Spell - Forever in Hell

American heavy/doom/thrashers Ancient Spell have returned with ‘Forever in Hell’ their sophomore record folling 2013’s self titled debut. It’s out now of Minotauro Records, and it is thirty seven minutes of bowel rattling groove!

Opening track ‘Under Your Spell’ has a primitive, earthly rumble about it, and the heaviness is amped up by the raw snarl of vocalist Donnie Marhefka. ‘Cease to Exist’ has quite a deathly gallop to it, along with a chugging menace. The rough production job amps up the primal feeling about ‘Forever in Hell’, but I think parts could have benefitted from a sharper, crisper sound. ‘Fall of Humanity’ has this irresistable grooving stomp to it, and is my favourite track on the release.

I think Ancient Spell would definitely benefit from a better production job, because there’s some great songs hidden within that rough mix. The riffs are heavy as fuck, the throat searing vocal job suits it perfectly, and the honest to Satan thunderous groove that comes bellowing from the speakers is great. The savage ‘Eternal Embers’ is a perfect example of how good it can be. Clear it up a bit, and the next album should be fucking awesome. But ‘Forever in Hell’ will tide us over until that point.!ancient-spell/c243p!product/prd2/4239521961/ancient-spell-forever-in-hell-cd

Diabolus Arcanium - Path of Ascension

Indian black metal group Diabolus Arcanium bring the medieval on their debut full length, ‘Path of Ascension’. Their ghostly, bleak black metal sound is definitively excellent, and the record is out now on Transcending Obscurity.

After the haunting, piano led intro ‘Inno Arcanium’, you are drawn into a harsh, black metal world of ancient past. Orchestral flourishes and chanting highlight the sharp riffing and the scowling snarl. The eerie atmosphere of ‘Bloodlines’ feels very gothic almost, as does the melancholic melodies of ‘Ascension’. Diabolus Arcanium do great work in creating this eerie, gothic horror black metal album.

The grandeur of ‘Arrival’ leads into probably the album’s best cut, the spic ‘Of Fire and Ash’. There’s a definite channeling of early Dimmu Borgir, or even a more reigned in Bal Sagoth. The black metal parts are still pretty nasty, and vocalist Hex has a great, croaky Abbath-esque snarl about him. The blasting power of ‘Spiritual Entropy’ is enhanced by just the right amount of orchestral moments, which is the story for the whole record. Diabolus Arcanium employ the keyboards and synths to perfect effect, never overdoing them. Thi is not a saturated orchestral metal album, this is a symphonic black metal album that keeps the BLACK METAL at the forefront.

I like this album a lot. It reminds me of the first time I heard ‘Stormblast’, or some of the earlier Cradle stuff. I think Diabolus Arcanium keep the balance of orchestra and black metal just about right, and everything is enhanced by a crisp production and some excellent riffing. Recommended.

French black metal has always been an area where some of the genre’s brightest and strangest bands have been birthed. Otargos have been centre stage in that evolution, creating some excellent examples of visceral, intelligent black metal. ‘Xeno Kaos’ follows the superb ‘Apex Terror’ from 2013, and is a scalding, burning black metal assault.

Opener ‘Dominatrix’ is furious, writhing and in parts, brutally heavy. I’m getting a big sense of Belphegor or latter Behemoth, where the dark energy of black metal is tethered to the crunch of death metal. ‘The Ruinous Powers’ have a bit more of that otherworldly Deathspell Omega feel, with the brutality of Gojira spliced into the harsh, cold riffing. ‘Dark Mechanicus’ has the eerie, alien industrialism about it. ‘Xeno Kaos’ is a record that sees Otargos focus more on the death metal side, and leave their more atmospheric black metal side on the edge.

‘Xeno Kaos’ is the fusion of black metal and death with all sorts of extra ingredients. You get little bits of industrial, adding a cold, relentless feel to the music. You get a solid deathly chug in songs like ‘Realm of the Dead’, as well as rabid black metal. Otargos have dropped a high quality record here, one that drips with an overt menace and seething rage. A modern, apocalyptic statement of where we as a race are heading. Cybernetic, raging death seems to be the answer to that predicament…


Legendary Finnish death metallers Convulse, whose debut ‘World Without God’ is one of my favourite death metal records, have returned with a new record called ‘Cycle of Revenge’. It’s their second after their long split, with 2013’s ‘Evil Prevails’ preceeding it. But what lies in store is not what you might expect.

If you were a fan of 1991 Convulse, you may be in for something a little different here. ‘Cycle of Revenge’ loses none of its bowel rattling menace, nor its cavernous vocals, but it feels a lot more like almost a progressive death metal record, like Opeth, than Death or Massacre. The opening title track is an expansive piece of metal, with melodic riffs and a definitive sense of space. There’s a bit of early Atheist in there now, and it is actually a bit jarring to think this is the same band that unleashed ‘World Without God’. The rumbling menace of ‘Ever Flowing Stream” or the sweeping ‘War’ hit the spot particularly well.

But that isn’t to say that this is a bad album. Far from it in fact, it is just such a stylistic change from the Convulse I know and love. ‘Pangaea’ is this atmospheric beauty, with some truly progressive moments and some excellent fretwork. The main thing holding this to the death metal side is the guttural bellow of vocalist Rami Jämsä, but other than that, this is a gloriously adventurous progressive metal album that slips into the more brutal side every so often. There’s an almost tribal feel to the drumming that brings to mind the glory days of Sepultura, and there’s some excellent soloing work here, particularly the soaring end of ‘Nature of Humankind’.

If you’re expecting vintage 90s Finnish death, then you’re gonna be disappointed. But give this record a chance, because Convulse will show you just how good their music is, and whether its brutal or not, everyone should be able to appreciate the quality of material here.

In Dwarven Halls cover art

Now I’m a sucker for anything Tolkien based, so a death metal band named after the ancient home of the Dwarves sounds like it could be right up the Killchain’s alley. A bloodsoaked, orc carcass strewn alley with fire and hellish beasts awaiting. Anyway, their three track EP ‘In Dwarven Halls’ is available now!

The uneasy churning of opener ‘The Grey Thus Commands’ brings to mind such luminaries as Immolation, while the ferocity of vocal delivery could be straight from Behemoth a few years ago. There is a great deal of technical guitar parts, and the relentless blasting adds a distinct fury to proceedings. Imagine if Karl Sanders had chosen Middle Earth over Egypt, and you’ll have a fair idea of what Khazaddum do.

‘Durin’s Bane’ is a skull rattling exercise in precise brutality, and is well named for the nameless beast of fire and death in ‘The Lord of the Rings’. The ever present shadow of Morbid Angel lurks above ‘In Dwarven Halls’, and the atonal melodies that open final track ‘Thorin Oakenshield’ are wrought from that same place as Azagthoth’s finest.

Khazaddum will always find an audience with their Tolkien themed death metal, but their EP is well written, the songs have the right mesh of brutality and melody, and most importantly, Khazaddum are heavy as fuck. This is orc crushing brutality at its finest.