Archive for August, 2016

Vow of Thorns - Farewell to the Sun

The fusion of black metal and doom is a task that can only be achieved successfully by bands who understand the subtleties, the nuances of both. The unbridled darkness and rage of black metal, meeting the gloomy melancholic introspection of doom is something only a few bands have managed to pull off. Mid 2000s Agalloch is a good reference point for Canadians Vow of Thorns, whose ‘Farewell to the Sun’ is a masterpiece.

The gloomy magnificence of ‘Meeting on the Astral Plane’ is obvious for all to see. It soars with blackened glory, and other sections trickle past with melancholic acoustics. ‘Great Abomination’ is a more traditional black metal piece, with scything riffs cutting through the cold misty atmosphere, and a frostbitten aesthetic that rears its bleak head again in the three part title track.

‘Part 1’ is the scene setter; a lonely melody weaving its wintry way towards an icy peak, where ‘Part 2’ takes us upon that journey, high above any of those mere human concerns, to where ancient spirits shriek and the snow falls. This is an excellent, evocative record that brings to mind the naturalist strength of Drudkh, but the weeping melancholy of Agalloch. ‘Part 3’ is the most “doom” section, with a dirging riff crushing those trapped beneath.

Closing with the grey epic ‘Doomed Woods’, Vow of Thorns have crafted one of my favourite record this year. ‘Farewell to the Sun’ is an album that sits perfectly on a rainy day, and with each listen unlocks new levels and subtleties. I love this record, and you should too.

American atmospheric black metallers Ashbringer return after last year’s stunning ‘Vacant’ with the follow up, ‘Yūgen’, remarkably quickly. One of these bands that follow mighty examples like Drudkh and Panopticon to bring emotive, natural black metal epics to the masses, Ashbringer look to be a new, glimmering star amongst the blackness.

Opener ‘Solace’ is exactly what you’re looking for in an atmospheric black metal song. It builds, swelling with emotive string work and a lonely melody, before soaring into the night sky with soaring temolo riffage and a rasping scream. Ashbringer weave folk melodies into each piece, giving this record a very traditional, olden feel about it. Like a message from a day long since dead, where nature ruled us with its primal power and we ebbed and flowed to it. ‘Oceans Apart’ is a melancholic masterpiece, with many evocative acoustic moments.

The enormity of ‘Yūgen’ hits you on the second or third listen, when each delicate moment and raw emotional black metal collide and meld together into a complex and yet strangely beautiful whole. The glorious ‘Celestial Infancy’, or the touching bleakness of ‘Glowing Embers, Dying Fire’ are two highlights within a record that is made almost solely of them. I can’t wait for those misty winter mornings to return for this album to take its place perfectly.

In Obscurity Revealed - Grim Fumes of Revelation

The debut EP from Mexicans In Obscurity Revealed is out in but a month’s time on Blood Harvest Records, and it is a bleak, nihilistic slab of twisted decay. If this is a precursor to their upcoming full length then count me in, because ‘Grim Fumes of Revelation’ is excellent.

The burning hatred that fans the flames of opener ‘Storms Conjured’ blinds like the noonday sun, with scathing riffage slicing through flesh and bone. In Obscurity Revealed are raw, but not incomprehensible. Their material is more of the surgeon’s knife than the frenzied bludgeoning of some black/death metallers. But that knife is coated in disease, leading to the atonal melodies that spiral around the main, barbed riff.

‘Varcolaci’ continues this path, with an opening riff that is as icy cold as anything to come out of Norway 20 years ago, but leading into the twisted offspring of Marduk and Deathspell Omega. Black metal is no longer one dimensional, and these new bands breathe new, fetid life into the black and white corpse that old school black metal has become. By injecting glorious, raging energy into the genre again, In Obscurity Revealed show that you don’t have to buck the blueprint a lot, but if its executed well, it is a fucking delight. ‘Grim Fumes of Revelation’ is that delight, now spill blood in the name of GRIMNESS!

Burial Hordes - Extinction

Greek blackened monsters Burial Hordes have been going for about 15 yeaars, and their latest EP ‘Extinction’ is a continuation of their anti everything message. This four track EP is out in October on Folter Records, and it is going to be a recommended pickup by the time darkness graces our world.

When you think of Greek black metal, you automatically are drawn towards Rotting Christ, but Burial Hordes are a little bit more towards the deathly, morbid crawl than their genre peers. This has more of a Speticflesh feel about it; while the atmosphere is definitely dense and dark in opener ‘Demise’, the riffing is more death metal, more frenzied. Evil vocals spew upon the flailing blackened death metal riffs that crawl and lurch from the underground. The fiery ‘World Ablaze’ has a murky, Deicide-esque feeling about it which is pretty badass too.

‘Dawn of War’ writhes with a blackened energy, and is the most pure black metal track on here, bringing to mind the likes of Gorgoroth and Marduk. It is uncompromising in its blitzkrieg assault, and even when it does, the musical directions are fairly intense. Rampant blasting and horribly dense guitar work finishes us off in ‘Hatred’, leaving us battered, bloodied and ready for more. Burial Hordes are a band to cherish, as this release shows, because their art is true, dark and very very good.

Italian masters of melancholy (EchO) have dropped the monstrous, miserable ‘Head First into Shadows’ on the awesome subsidiary of Solitude Productions (BadMoonMusic), and it is 50 plus minutes of glorious doom with elements of black and even death/doom thrown into the mix as well.

It begins with the soaring ‘Blood and Skin’, evoking Paradise Lost with grey melodies and looming riffs. Gloomy clean vocals mesh croon while a harsh rasp takes over in parts, providing brutality within the beauty. Soulful melodies lie upon the riffs like snow on frozen ground, and (EchO) aren’t afraid of a lighter touch to make their point. ‘This Place We Call Home’ could be a more doomy Porcupine Tree, with progressive acoustics blending with an almost atmospheric black metal feel. It brings to mind Panopticon, Chiral and the like, and there’s also a strong Opeth influence on the powerful ‘Beneath This Lake’.

I love the icy melodies that weave in and out of these songs, peeking out from the enveloping misery that sinks upon you as you listen to it. The monolithic ‘Gone’ is a perfect centrepiece; a dense death/doom masterwork that progresses through soft melodies and dark atmospheres. The triumphantly catchy ‘A New Maze’ leads into closer ‘Order of the Nightshade’, homje of the darkest and most insidious melodies.

‘Head First Into Shadows’ is a monument to misery, a powerful statement of intent and a stunning album. One of 2016’s best doom records, and an example to anyone who wants to know how to make metal records properly atmospheric and emotional!

Godless - Centuries of Decadence

Death metallers Godless are another new band for me to find coming out of the hotbed of quality metal in India. If you want to have an idea of how good these guys can be, know that this was mixed by Joel from Psycroptic who also contributes a solo in there too. That gives you a feeling what undead madness awaits…

While not as technically mind breaking as Psycroptic, Godless have a power about them, where death metal builds with machine gun drumming and an insidious melody that drifts within the growls of ‘Infest’. If you wanted a more accurate reference point, think of Deicide or even the evil looming presence of Immolation. The vocals are dense and potent, with some great extended roars, and the jagged riffing is fucking brutal. ‘Ossuary’ has a number of excellent moments, where the chug meets breakneck speed in a feeding frenzy of riffage, and the aforementioned guest solo is as kickass as you’d expect. Dark melodies infect this broken corpse like life giving lightning, reanimating and reinvigorating the fetid death metal beneath.

Despite the maturity of the songwriting and the interjection of genre luminaries, we must still remember that ‘Centuries of Decadence’ is merely the debut EP from Godless. This fact alone implies that bigger and better things are to come, and if they can improve on the likes of the rapacious ‘Replicant’ and closing savage ‘Oneiros’, then they’ll be doing pretty well. Love it, buy it, support this fucking band!


Another day, another new gem unearthed by the high quality folks at Satanath Records. This time it is Ecuadorian death metallers Epidemia, whose ‘Leprocomio’ album is a scintillating ride through some of death metal’s greatest and goriest hits. Powerful riffs, brutal vocals and an all round nastiness pervades this half hour of death!

Almost any death metal fan will find something here to enjoy. Be it the groaning Immolation worship of the title track to the ferocious Deicide-isms of ‘Redencion del Engendro’, Epidemia keep you coming back for more. The insistent, Swedeath worship that bleeds from the riffs is excellent, as is the old school vibe that every song has. The opening riff to ‘Agonistes en el Inframundo’ is one of the downright heaviest pieces of business you’ll hear this year, and the grinding, Suffocation groove that accompanies the rest of that track is heartburstingly brilliant.

You need well written, excellently executed death metal with guts, gore and massive riffs? Then Epidemia are for you. ‘Leprocomio’ is one of the most assured death metal records of 2016; one I’ve come back to numerous times for the strength of its songwriting and its powerful riffage. I love this fucking record, and there’s no shame to it!

The fourth record from Finnish black metallers Vonülfsrëich, ‘Spell of Thunder’, is rooted in traditional black metal; harsh and raw with definitive old school values. This pulls no punches, dark and malevolent worship of Venom and Celtic Frost.

‘From the Realms of Iron We Were Summoned’ is rampant in its single minded ferocity, bringing to mind the likes of Darkthrone. If you had slotted this album into the dark recesses of 1994 Scandinavian black metal, it would have fitted in perfectly. The raging ‘Barbaric Bloodlust’, and particularly the slower ‘Sepulchral Spell’ are great pieces of traditional black metal without any kind of ghostly, atmospheric flair or melody appearing. This is proper, dark black metal with a morbid guitar tone that cuts through the growing murk of tracks like ‘A Key to the Alchemist’s Diary’, or the grandiose darkness of the epic ‘Kakki Paha’.

‘Spell of Thunder’ could easily be written off as another one dimensional black metal album, but I think that misses the point of this piece. It is EXACTLY that by design, using the classic template with a little variation here and there. It has this blackened punk vibe that later Darkthrone releases have that I really like, and a track like ‘Fucking Frozen’ pays more than a little lip service to Venom or Celtic Frost. It helps add an authenticity to what Vonulfsreich are doing, and it is something I really enjoy.