Archive for February, 2020

Paganland - Galizier

‘Galizier’, the fourth album from Ukrainian black metallers Paganland follows four years later from their previous work, ‘From Carpathian Land’, and while the subject matter may appear controversial (it is dedicated to the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) that fought against the Communists in the Second World War), stylistically it pays a melodic tribute to the finest and oldest forms of Slavic black metal. It is out at the end of the month through Blackest Records in Japan. I also reviewed their older release, ‘Fatherland’, here.

First off, let’s get this out of the way. This is not NSBM, despite the potential connotations of the subject matter. Having done some research into the matter, this is more about the Ukrainian struggle against the oppressions of Soviet Russia, and even current day pressures as well. Now, to the music. After the orchestral swell of the opener, first track proper ‘The Legionary’ launches full force into some prime, ice cold black metal riffing while an impassioned vocal performance switches between a snarl and some clean vocals. This retains the epic sweep that their previous work has had, lending ‘Galizier’ a grand purpose, and a more blackened folk metal tinge.

The tremendous soar of ‘In the Heart of Forever’ is truly special, while some wonderful keyboard melodies flow alongside the savagery of ‘Ideology’. Paganland’s work is more and more becoming pagan metal with black metal elements than the reverse, but how anyone can argue with the quality of cuts like ‘Galician Night’ is beyond me. ‘Galizier’ is a grandiose triumph, a passionate and fiery epic that will delight fans of their previous work, and new fans alike.

Live Burial - Unending Futility

The sophomore album from Newcastle’s Live Burial, ‘Unending Futility’, has a fair standard to live up to, as their debut ‘Forced Back to Life’ was an outstanding slab of uncompromising death metal. So, will this latest release from Transcending Obscurity maintain that quality or is it just a ‘futile’ effort? This will see the light of day in April this year.

Great slaughtered Christ, does opener ‘Seeping into the Earth’ put any fear of second album jitters to shame or what? A wandering bass pins down some eerie melodic leads, and when the crusted death riffs kick in proper, it is goddamn righteous. Instantly more thrashy than their debut, there’s an urgency to the delivery that is intoxicating. Something old school death metal that actually has a touch of pace? ‘Condemned to the Boats’ barely slows down at all, while the nasty guitar tone elevates ‘Rotting on the Rope’ to instant classic. The uneasy, Immolation-esque sway of ‘Swing of the Pendulum’ is another choice example of a band not content to limit its stylistic choices.

When you’re labelmates with the likes of Paganizer and Sadistik Forest, you really need to step your game up to compete. Live Burial has infested this record with a despondent gloom; heavy is the air around the cloying ‘The Crypt of Slumbering Madness’ and the pained howls that emanate from the epic closer ‘Cemetary Fog’ are the icing on a fetid, rabid cake. A cake made of nails, broken bones and rust. But it sure sounds hellish good. ‘Unending Futility’ is fucking superb.

New England death metallers Angel Grinder are due to self-release their debut full length record in the spring, and ‘Confessions of the Damned’ is a heady mix of old school brutality like Bolt Thrower or Asphyx, mixed with some more manic acts like Demolition Hammer and Sodom. Sound like a great idea to me!

After the creaking industrial/orchestral intro ‘Overture’, you are immediately struck by thick and complex old school death metal riffing in the title track. There is definitely solid influences from deathly thrash acts, drawing a little more from the Teutonic than the Bay Area, and their death metal side is focused on bringing the density. It shies away from the usual OSDM approach of basically just being Swedeath by souping up the low end. The monstrous chug of ‘Spine by Spine, the enveloping ferociousness of ‘Got Your Goat’ or the thrashy rabidity of ‘731’ are all good examples of what the band are aiming for; a relatively fresh sound in the oversaturated genre.

‘Confessions of the Damned’ is an excellent debut, leaving plenty of riffs for the band to destroy live venues with but leaving room to improve, build upon and ultimately continue to mine this seam of quality old scool death. Thoroughly recommended.

The debut from the crushing death/doom purveyors Bewailer, ‘Where My Demise Dwells’, is a record that skimps not on the crushing misery or riffs. But is it worthy of the pantheon of the great slabs of monolithic doom or just another pretender? It is out now through Solitude Productions.

Christ, does opener ‘Thorngates’ hit you immediately or what? You can immediately feel the monstrous darkness that looms large over this record, as massive riffs lumber forward under a Akerfeldt-esque growl. There’s so much dark melody here though, weaving its way throughout the oppressive gloom. Truly great death/doom isn’t all about the brutality; it is the ability to play with emotion as well as weight. The use of acoustic guitars, female vocals and keyboards assist greatly in this. The soaring melancholy of ‘Nocturnal Sacrifice’ and the crushing ‘An Old Remembrance’ play both sides of this coin superbly, while the more traditional thunder of ‘Endless Fall’ is welcomed too.

‘Where My Demise Dwells’ is a mournful, melancholic monolith that manages to balance the more fragile moments with what feels like literally TONS of metal. If you liked the oppressive growl and crush work of Swallow the Sun but with a little more light, ‘Where My Demise Dwells’ might just be for you.

The return after ten long years for British doomlords The River is very welcome, and their new record ‘Vessels into White Tides’ will have to work hard to follow up 2009’s glorious ‘In Situ’. It is out now through Nine Records.

The first thing you’ll notice about The River is the lush production, that adds heft and poignancy to everything the band produce. Opener ‘Vessels’ still possesses that dense, My Dying Bride-esque misery that I loved on ‘In Situ’, and the melancholic croon of vocalist and guitarist Jenny Newton really adds to the overall atmosphere. I’ve listened to a lot of this kind of music recently, but I appreciate how The River don’t really sound too similar to all the others. Sure, they are slow and at points devastatingly heavy, but they have really grasped a natural melancholic sound that lifts them above the rank and file.

The delicate swells of the acoustic ‘Open’ is a poignant reminder that some of the best doom you can feel isn’t always monolithic riffs. I mean, the preceding ‘Into Tides’ was full of those, but this is a perfect juxtaposition. The soothing build of ‘Passing’ slowly becomes almost Jesu-like in its execution, and the silky flow of the instrumental closer ‘Tides’ is glorious.

I really like this record and The River have become one of my favourite discoveries of this year thus far. ‘Vessels into White Tides’ retains a vast swath of that traditional British gloom and heaviness but there is so much more to it. The River have crafted an album that I found too late for last year’s year end lists but I tell you what, it will be getting a lot of airplay this year. Haunting.