Posts Tagged ‘Symphonic Black Metal’

Thulnar - Nightfall in Theros

Now if you’re Italian, and you play what is described as ‘extreme fantasy metal’, I think you have a bit of a problem. A vast, Rhapsody shaped problem. Those Italian maestros and their various incarnations have almost perfected what it is to be huge and fantastical in modern metal. What Thulnar face here is attempting to recreate some of that magic within their own particular set of songs, and their debut EP, ‘Nightfall in Theros’, tries to do that.

Overall, Thulnar succeed with ‘Nightfall in Theros’. Embracing more of a pagan metal/symphonic black metal style, they manage to create grand song structures that are full of great leadwork, orchestral flourishes and grandiose male/female vocal duels without coming across as overly ridiculous or over the top. The guitar melodies on opener ‘Wise Men of Hope’ are pretty cool, and the more symphonic moments do bring to mind Rhapsody but not as much as they might have.

The swelling title track lays on the symphony rather thick at the start, and it evolves into a mid paced, dramatic piece with the harsh vocals leading into epic closer ‘City of Golden Halls’, which has more of a gothic feel to it. The female vocals don’t work as well for me on this one, but I like the commitment to the style. While coming close to being slightly too much of a clone, Thulnar’s debut is short enough that you don’t get that grating feeling that sometimes comes with this sort of metal. The orchestral flourishes are well done, the underlying harshness shines through despite the histrionics, and the songwriting is solid. A little more extremity and a little less fantasy, and Thulnar could be pretty good!

https://thulnar.bandcamp.com/releases

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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.

https://diabolusarcaniumofficial.bandcamp.com/

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Cradle of Filth are a band who provoke reactions, both good and bad, in every metalhead you’ll ever meet. For me, they’ve been a band I’ve been quite into for the past few years, but some of their newer stuff hasn’t always hit the spot for me. ‘The Manticore and Other Horrors’ was a step in the right direction, and ‘Hammer of the Witches’ is reported to be a futher return to form.

After the obligatory moody intro (‘Walpurgis Eve’), we are launched straight into classic Cradle fare, with some rampant guitarwork and Dani’s trademark rasp/shriek combo. ‘Yours Immortally’ has some almost Maiden esque galloping leads, and isn’t quite as melodramatically gothic as we’ve come to expect. Yes, there’s a bit of that later in the song, but overall it’s a step back toward vintage early Cradle. ‘Enshrined in Crematoria’ continues this more straightforward trend, accompanying the metal with dashes of symphonic. So far, Cradle seem to have reeled their gothic drama in to a fair extent.

‘Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasing the Goddess’ is one of those Cradle song titles that goes on and on, but its a totally ripping song, with excellent orchestral elements and a refreshingly direct assault. I think this album will turn a few heads in the anti-Cradle camp, as the material is the most black metal the band has been in years. There’s a massive melodic streak that goes through every guitar line on the album, with fluid soloing being a personal highlight, but each song is infectious in its delivery. Cradle haven’t sounded this vibrant and essential since ‘Nymphetamine’.

The ghostly piano of ‘The Monstrous Sabbat’ leads us perfectly into the title track, that looks certain to transfer brilliantly into the live set. As I’ve said before, there’s a refreshing lack of fucking about here. Cradle are focused and by restraining their gothic melodrama and adding a twin guitar attack, they sound revitalised. Fans of classic Cradle will love the vintage dramatics of ‘Right Wing of the Garden Triptych’, while the rich violence of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ just pips the title track as my favourite.

Cradle are back, and making music that befits their triumphant and controversial legacy. They sound creatively reborn, and ‘Hammer of the Witches’ sits up there with ‘Dusk…And Her Embrace’, ‘Cruelty and the Beast’ and ‘The Principle of Evil Made Flesh’ as one of Cradle of Filth’s finest hours.

https://www.facebook.com/cradleoffilth

http://www.cradleoffilth.com/

http://www.cradleoffilth.com/#!order:-hammer-of-the-witches/zoom/mainPage/image_1k8t

http://www.nuclearblast.de/de/produkte/tontraeger/cd/cradle-of-filth-hammer-of-the-witches.html

 

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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.

https://carnivalofflesh.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/carnivalofflesh

http://www.carnival-of-flesh.com/

Bal Sagoth are a band that I stumbled upon just as they released what would prove to be (hopefully only thus far) their final album. ‘The Chthonic Chronicles’ was the closing chapter to a six record concept that baffles the mind. Started with ‘A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria’, Bal Sagoth took listeners across the Multiverse, through space battles and tales of ancient magic and power. It was the kind of high fantasy concept that I love now, but hadn’t quite fallen for yet in 2006. I appreciated ‘The Chthonic Chronicles’ as a record originally; a heady mix of symphonic black metal with dramatic spoken word segments. But, to truly understand the Multiverse in which it is set, you really need to listen to all six records.

I have done so, but never back to back. It’s something I have wanted to do but have never found the time. Each record has their own additions to the saga, and some concepts or narratives cross albums. Frankly, I’m amazed they didn’t disappear up their own arses with it (well, maybe they did and that’s why they haven’t released anything in so long). Influenced strongly by the tales of Robert E Howard and HP Lovecraft, the Multiverse is the alternative reality where vocalist and lyricist Byron Roberts bases his tales of demigods, disasters, ancient battles and other such things.

You can find a guide to the Bal Sagoth universe here: http://www.bal-sagoth.freeserve.co.uk/glossary.html

An interesting interview with the band on the Metal Hammer website here: http://www.metalhammer.co.uk/news/exclusive-bal-sagoth-discuss-20-years-of-epic-highs-and-lows/ speaks of how the next three Bal Sagoth records have lyrics and cover art already done, so that if the band comes back to life we can expect a new trilogy. If nothing else, you have to appreciate the care and dedication with which the band’s mythos is held together and produced. I admire that a lot. Plus the hexology of the Bal Sagoth saga is made up of strong albums musically, even if they don’t all reach the lofty heights of their seminal ‘Starfire Burning Upon the Ice Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule’. Not only is it their finest work, but it’s probably one of the most metal album names ever.

Please come back to us Bal Sagoth. In these times where such fantasy worlds are becoming more accepted in the mainstream, a band like yourselves would flourish. Imagine, digipack records with comic book style renderings of the songs etc? It’d be a sure fire winner. Well, I’d buy it for sure!

I remember when I first became aware of Chthonic. I saw a review of their ‘Seediq Bale’ album years ago in a magazine and was like ‘symphonic black metal?’ ‘From Taiwan?’ What the fuck? So, being the hoarder of rare metal that I was, I was on the hunt. Since then, Chthonic have become much more well known in the Western metal hemisphere, without enschewing what made them great in the first place. Its good to know that those things can still happen.

I was a big fan of their previous release, ‘Takasago Army’, and so looked forward to ‘Bu Tik’ a lot. After a suitably Eastern intro, the record explodes into ‘Supreme Pain for the Tyrant’. First thing it brings to mind is a more focused Cradle of Filth, without all the additional gothic flourishes. It’s suitably harsh, symphonic elements enhancing rather than dominating the sound. Chthonic take this strong start and don’t let up for the rest of the record, sliding in where appropriate use of traditional Taiwanese instruments. ‘Sailing into the Sunset’s Fire’ is another monster, vicious black metal screams meet galloping leads and thunderous blasting. Fluid soloing is also a big plus for this track; its something black metal has not always used to the full potential, but Chthonic do it well.

‘Bu Tik’ is a solid reminder that Chthonic are one of the most reliable bands in their genre. They’ve not produced a bad album since bursting on the scene, and they have progressed naturally into their sound to a point where now each record has a unique yet recognisable sound. ‘Bu Tik’ stands up there with Fleshgod Apocalypse’s ‘Labyrinth’ as 2013’s best examples of how to use fucking symphonic elements properly. Two totally different styles, yet both aligned in their majestic use of strings, choral flourishes and in Chthonic’s case, ethnic instrumentation. ‘Rage Of My Sword’ starts somewhat delicately then turns into one of the band’s most aggressive tracks to date. But it is the closing (other than an outro) majesty and emotion of ‘Defenders of Bu Tik Palace’ that truly makes this record special; the collaboration of emotive symphony and aggressive black metal, flavoured with the bloodstained legacy of the land that spawned them.

‘Bu Tik’ is important as a record in 2013 for many reasons. It brings to light a world, a land that is alien to a lot of us, with conviction and passion. It emphasises that keyboards and strings can be as important a part of heavy metal as guitars and drums. But most of all, it is a great reminder of how fucking essential heavy metal can still be in this day and age. I love this record, and you should too.