Posts Tagged ‘Finland’

Sepulchral Curse - Only Ashes Remain

Review by Sandre the Giant

After the crushing embrace of Sepulchral Curse’s 2016 effort, ‘At the Onset of Extinction’, it was only natural to wait with baited breath for the follow up. Well, ‘Only Ashes Remain’ is here at last, and it looks to solidify these Finnish deathlords in the pantheon of excellent modern death metal bands. It is out at the end of July through Transcending Obscurity.

I say modern death metal bands, I mean new really. They’ve been around for seven years, but their sound reeks of an older filth. Opener ‘From Within the Bowels of the Earth is a potent Floridian storm of death metal, reminding me of Deicide circa ‘Legion’. The vocal performance has that almost wind tunnel like roar, while the guitar work is intricate and dense. The cacophonous, Immolation-esque churn of ‘Swarming Blackness’ is a tremendous choice, and while the omnipresent ‘Finnish melancholy’ occasionally lurks in the background, ‘Only Ahes Remain’ is a death metal album that keeps itself fully grounded in brutality.

That’s not of course to say that the band’s sound hasn’t evolved over the past few years. The songwriting is more progressive; guitar tones change and melodic passages pervade more often than not. There is still a subtle black metal influence that creeps in a few places too. But the main thrust of songs like ‘Church of Loss’ and the head caving ‘Dead Stars Drawing Spirals’ are pure death metal, plain and simple. It is almost refreshing to hear a band doing exactly what you’d expect these days. The lumbering death/doom of ‘Eyes Inside’ is a pleasant twist, and the aching weight of the black hearted ‘Maan Tuhkien Uneen’ is a triumphant closer.

If ‘At the Onset of Extinction’ was them finding their feet, then ‘Only Ashes Remain’ is where Sepulchral Curse become champion runners. Labyrinthine, laced with a sharped honed sense of brutality and yet still not afraid to throw in a little something different here and there, this is the sound of a band reaching the higher stages of the evolutionary ladder. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Lantern - Dimensions

Review by Geary of War

Finnish quartet Lantern have followed up 2017’s ‘II: Morphosis’ with a strong and engaging album in ‘Dimensions’ which is out on Dark Descent Records. Lantern are showing real evolution of their style which draws from black and death metal. Moving on from a much more straightforward style showcased in the previous record ‘Dimensions’ finds the band exploring melodic moments, various time changes and some good old headbanging.

Opening track and lead single ‘Strange Nebula’ hits you with dramatic opening bars, suspense, a powerful clean solo and a war like chant. Then we move past the first 90 seconds of the song! If all Lantern opted to do was release ‘Strange Nebula’ I would be simultaneously fine with it and raging as there is a lot of promise here. ‘Beings’ treads a similar path, which is to say excellent however where the evolution I mentioned earlier is put front and centre is with ‘Portraits’. At 2:07 it is very much the shortest track on offer but exposes a side of the band which flexes the boundaries of the genres Lantern occupies. Melodic tones and an almost clean vocal approach (Necrophilous on vocals has too much gravel in his voice to be truly clean) draw you in, you get a quick smack around the head as aggression hits before the softer side returns and now leads you to a sudden yet excellent conclusion.

‘Cauldron of Souls’ and ‘Shine of Revelation’ take the baton of violent intent forward with continued execution of the band’s brand of audio war. The sixth and final track on ‘Dimensions’ is the epic and exploratory ‘Monolith Abyssal Dimensions’. Having highlighted the shortest track previously here I must point out that this is the longest track at 14:17. Between the black metal riffs and blasts, solos reminding me of Death. The band that is, not the soul harvester. Moments of prog wandering like a really extreme Pink Floyd all surrounded by vocals which complete the image of horror depicted on the album cover. A cover, which reminds me of the evil castles and strongholds hosting necromancers as depicted in Robert E Howard’s Conan stories.

‘Monolith Abyssal Dimensions’ has meant that for the best track here it would be a toss of a coin between that and ‘Strange Nebula’. The press release says the band have been “illuminating death metal’s dark passages since 2007”. To quote Sterling Archer, ‘uh, phrasing?’ but I can safely say they have strode forth and now command a position of respect; they can stand tall and proud of the record they have put together.

Astral Sleep - Astral Doom Musick

Originally published here:

Ah Finland. Land of a Thousand Lakes. Home of some of metal’s most incredible and influential bands, particularly in the field of doom. Astral Sleep have been churning titanic riffs for over 15 years now, and their third full length ‘Astral Doom Magick’ is another opus of mournful, marsh quaking doom for us all to sink down into oblivion in accompaniment. It follows the crushing ‘Visions’ from 2012 and the more recent psychedelic EP ‘Subconsciousnesslesskoe’ and is out now through Saarni Records.

Four tracks spanning over forty minutes will tell you a lot, but not all of the tale can be told by length. Opener ‘Vril’ begins our journey with a rumbling, paleolithic riff that is drenched in classic death/doom before a more Reverend Bizarre-esque majesty appears. Melancholic leads churn below growled vocals, skittering gently upon the surface of a lake of pure darkness. ‘Integration’s grand sweep and soaring melodies form a glorious dichotomy within Astral Sleep. You’ve got some serious death/doom weight flowing beneath the kind of massive epic doom melodies you might find lurking on a Candlemass record, where delicate clean guitars can invoke the bleakest of emotions and hefty riffs can crush those same emotions to miserable dust.

The gatefold vinyl edition of this record comes with its own board game, which tells the tale of the album’s mythical world. You could definitely find it easy to become absorbed in this world of light and dark, feuding endlessly through time for supremacy. The album personifies that, with the dense low end and mourning guitar wails battling against an innate sense of melody. The glacial crawl of ‘Schwerbelastungskörper’ is pure misery, howled into a void of painfully wrought guitar leads, while the closing ‘Aurinko ja Kuu’ is more open and spacey. In fact, it wouldn’t feel out of place on some latter day Devin Townsend records, which is not a reference I thought I’d be making at the start of this review. But after a section that nods to the band’s more psychedelic past moments, we delve downward into some heavier territory to close.

In a world where we’re all facing misery, the grim face of death haunting our thoughts and the collapse of society, it is kinda nice to have a record that brings you a soundtrack to it with a little hope lurking in there. ‘Astral Doom Magick’ is a conjuration of grey beauty, where the rawest of sorrowful rage exists besides an emotional plea for a better place. Astral Sleep are magnificent, and this is their greatest triumph.

Demonic Death Judge - The Trail

First published here:

The beautiful artwork adorning the new record from Finland’s Demonic Death Judge gives you a little taste of the mountainous groove contained within. ‘The Trail’ may come from frozen northern shores, but it aches with a Deep South groove that is very satisfying. I have previously enjoyed Demonic Death Judge’s work, particularly the predecessor to this, ‘Seaweed’ It is out now through Suicide Records.

The ghostly, country acoustics of the opener ‘Cougar Charmer’ give a very Appalachian mountain feel, something that remains in the melodies throughout this record. The bluesy ‘Filthy as Charged’ is brilliantly addictive, as is the hardened sludgy doom of ‘Hardship’. The guitar tone is thick and cumbersome, dredging the rivers of groove to find some great licks deep in the endless mud. The vocals are harsh and raw, something that works well against the chunky swagger of a song like ‘Shapeshifting Serpents’, which also contains some of my favourite more tripped out sections of the record.

Modern sludge comes across as kind of soulless at times; trapped in an endless cycle of EyeHateGod riffs and nihilistic screaming misery. And that is all well and good but sometimes you need something to feel a little bit, I don’t know, optimistic? Feel good? Parts of ‘The Trail’ almost do, like the rising melody of ‘Flood’ that leads into a righteous blues groove. Something like that is really hard to feel grim about. It makes you want to bang your head epically slow. The psychedelic wanderings of ‘Fountain of Acid’ lead into a reprise of the opener, which feels even more beautiful now.

By the time the glorious rumble of the title track lumbers into the closing, incredible groove of ‘We Have to Kill’, the infectious riffing and melodies have wormed their way into your brain and will not leave. ‘The Trail’ is a record designed to be appreciated multiple times; the insidious nature of the songwriting becoming more and more apparent with each listen. Demonic Death Judge are a band I initially had preconceptions about because of that kinda awkward band name. They’ve proven to me that they are essential listening.

Antipope - Apostle of Infinite Joy

I do feel like ‘Apostle of Infinite Joy’ is far too cheery a title for a metal album, but then again, what do I know? Finalnd’s Antipope have evolved over the five albums and thirteen years of existence form a more progressive black metal outift into a band that is happy to incorporate many styles into their sound to get their music out there. ‘Apostle of Infinite Joy’ is out now through Fertile Crescent Productions.

Opener ‘Harbinger of Dawn’ is pretty catchy, framed by some galloping riffing in the background while a memorable vocal hook soars above some thrashy goodness. There’s a lot of heavy metal/thrash licks throughout, which really helps some of the songs worm their way into your brain. If you imagine what Cradle of Filth was like without all the histrionics, you may come close to this. Layers of gothic atmospheres soak ‘Intoxicating Darkness’, while the title track opens with doomy melodic riffs, which I really like and then turns a bit prog.

That’s the thing with albums like these; sometimes the genre splicing leads to the songs feeling disjointed or out of place. Antipope avoid most of those pitfalls, and they can definitely hit some good heavy notes, for example in the driving thunder of ‘Red Goddess’ or the blasting psychedelica of ‘Veneral Ritual for Dispersion and Reintegration of the Soul’. ‘Apostle of Infinite Joy’ is a record that will not necessarily blow your mind, but you’ll struggle to not enjoy these well written songs.

Aethyrick - Gnosis

I reviewed the debut of Finnish black metallers Aethyrick, ‘Praxis’, here last year, and found it to be a gloriously atmospheric piece of black metal. Their followup, ‘Gnosis’, looks to build on that strong foundation and skip that ‘difficult second album’ fear. It is out now through The Sinister Flame.

Opening track ‘Will Embodied’ starts strongly enough, with rampant riffing opening up onto a bleak and cold vista. Modern black metal tends to either soar above the blizzards or delve deep into the primordial murk. ‘Gnosis’ chooses the former and is all the better for it. The songwriting is ambitious without pretention, uplifting yet miserable, and the execution is flawless. Fiery riffing sparks across ‘Stellar Flesh’, while the glowing coals of ‘Golden Suffering’ keep us all warm in these cold winter nights. Fearsome and uncompromising, and yet equally fragile and ethereal, tracks like ‘Your Mysteries’ encapsulate an almost iconic Finnish melancholy seeping through every tortured riff and snarling growl.

There’s always been a suggestion that Finnish black metal has a little something extra to its other Scandinavian counterparts. Whatever it is, this intangible, ‘Gnosis’ has it in spades. ‘Gnosis’ may just top its predecessor as Aethyrick’s best work, but this is a band that are slowly becoming an essential part of my musical collection whatever the album. This is evocative, Finnish black metal at its best.

scumripper - all veins cover.jpg

A band called Scumripper. On Hells Headbangers. With an album entitled ‘All Veins Blazing’. A happy romp through a land of wizards and unicorns is unlikely. This nasty, deathpunkcrust blast of violence is out now, and promises to be 20 minutes of nothing but hate.

Opener ‘Colonel Gator’ is just that, crusty black/death metal that sounds like a rabid animal chewing through your flesh. There’s an innate catchiness to it all, a rawkish call to arms to invade your local sewer and batter out some rancid tunes. Every song sounds like there’s been a hefty dose of venom secreted into the riffs, and the insertion of random samples adds to the menace. The grinding bass that opens ‘Eight Rapes a Week’ is fantastic, and it then spirals out into pure Discharge worship. My only gripe is that the songs do all sound very similar, and a little experimentation wouldn’t go amiss. Not too much though, because they don’t want to lose that tone.

‘All Veins Blazing’ doesn’t stick around for long, which means you need to slap that repeat button a few times to really scratch that itch, but the nasty punkish attack gives you plenty to think about. Scumripper need to work on their range a little bit, but they’ve totally nailed the sound.

Vordr - Vordr

Vordr (‘warden’ in Old Norse) are a band difficult to pin down. This is one of many, many releases to be self titled, so keeping a track is a little tough. This ‘Vordr’ is the full length just released this August by Terratur Possessions, and is a collection of riff heavy, minimalist Finnish black metal!

‘Erianoisiv’ opens us up with a meaty, tremolo riff that has a good gallop to it, and that is actually an apt descriptor for most of this record. It is a collection of great, black metal songs that feels like latter day Darkthrone but retaining a more traditional black metal atmosphere. The crusty rasp of ‘Goretusk’, the howling ‘Driftwood’ or the savage ‘Enchanting Fires of Pain’ all blend together into a wonderful, rampant whole of first wave darkness. Vordr have one gear, and that gear is fully engaged throughout.

The minimalist approach to black metal certainly works when executed like this, and while ‘Vordr’ isn’t overflowing with original ideas, it is a record of appealing simplicity; here is how Bathory made early black metal, now go and practice it until you can do it every time flawlessly. Nailed it.

Aethyrick - Praxis

The debut album from Finnish black metallers Aethyrick aims to capture the spirit of black metal’s original, primal flames and yet take it to new and vast regions. ‘Praxis’ is out now through Sinister Flame Records, and is a swirling and savagely atmospheric record.

The opening track has both snarling, traditional second wave-isms and a plethora of sweeping, atmospheric highs that imagine snow crested vistas blasted by howling winds. If there’s one thing black metal does better than everything, it is evoking imagery. There’s some glorious moments on this record where it opens up from furious black metal into soaring beauty, and it is possibly best done in ‘Pilgrimmage’.’Quietude’ pays homage to those slower, darker bits of prime My Dying Bride in black metal form, while the mesmerising flights of ‘Adytum’ are essential listening.

‘Praxis’ is the kind of record that black metal bands try to make to show they aren’t just one dimensional, but few actually achieve. Equally epic and fierce, when the music dives back through the clouds to the blizzard beneath it feels natural, and when it soars above, you never want to leave. Aethyrick are special.

Curse upon a Prayer - The Three Woes

Finnish black metallers Curse Upon a Prayer dropped their hotly anticipated new EP ‘The Three Woes’ back in July on Saturnal Records, and it is a three prong assault of highly traditional black metal hatred from a band that draws attention due to its anti-Islamic themes. However that doesn’t really come across a huge amount in their lyrical content.

‘Let Thy Kingdom Come’ is a howling thrust of classic black metal coldness, where raspy shrieks haunt blastbeat laden riffs, and the second wave gods are appeased. The fiercely melodic and gloomy ‘Thou Shalt be Cursed’ is more reminiscient of the likes of Gorgoroth than their Finnish brethren, and it allows Curse Upon a Prayer to not just be another BM band squeezed from their home soil. Blasphemies reign supreme throughout the closing beast ‘Woe! Woe! Woe!’ as well, bringing us to a disappointingly early finish. It is a masterful piece of regal, melodic black metal that will be a definite mainstay in my best songs for 2018.

‘The Three Woes’ is a superb EP, full of fire and rage, bringing forth fearsome blasphemy that will scald and flay you. Hopefully there will only be a short wait until their next full length, becasue Curse Upon a Prayer are incredible.